Photographers have it tough when it comes to achieving decent rankings in search engines for the very simple reason that search engines are not yet smart enough to understand images. However, they don’t really understand language either (if you ask me). But after years of having decent rankings for my key phrases, I can give you the following bits of advice:
Figure out what your primary keyword phrase is. You can’t even begin to think about achieving your goals without knowing this. And don’t even think about going for something very general to begin with. For example: PHOTOGRAPHY is not a phrase. DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY is a phrase, but think of your competition. No – don’t think of your competition – go to the search engine of your choice (probably Google) and enter your keyword phrase and see who comes up on the first two pages.
I really don’t think many people go beyond the first two pages before they find something that attracts their attention.
The more narrow your keyword search, the great chance you have of ranking well. But your keyword phrase also has to be accurate. There is just no point in getting people to your site by faking them out since they’ll immediately see this isn’t what they expected, plus your site is going to be designed around your keyword phrase. So make the whole thing honest. If you photograph nature, you are going to have to narrow it down somehow.
In my own case, I went after two phrases from day one: BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY (which is fairly broad) and NEW YORK PHOTOGRAPHY which is narrower. And then you begin to think of all the permutations: B&W Photos of New York, Central Park Photography, NYC Photos in Black and White etc. etc.
And no – your company name is not your keyword phrase. If someone promises you a number one position, and you find out that it’s for YOUR NAME PHOTOGRAPHY – that’s idiotic. Anyone can do that. That’s for searchers who already know you. You want searchers who never heard of you before but know the product they want.
Again, once you come up with your phrase – test it out and see what you get in the search engine. Then pick the top sites that are similar, or in the same league as your own – and study them. They didn’t get there by accident. When I say study them, I mean:
1) In your browser, go to view source and do a search for keyword phrases
2) Check out the page title (very important) not only for the home page, but for all the pages
3) Meta tags are not really used very much – but the DESCRIPTION META TAG is super important as it will hold the text that is displayed in the search results (usually)
4) Google is basically a popularity contest. On top of the content that you have on your site and how keyword phrases are used, they are looking at the links that come to your site AND the quality of those inbound links. It’s not enough to have someone promise a hundred links to your site if they come from pages that Google doesn’t consider to be related to your subject. As a matter of policy – I haven’t used link farms at all. If I honestly like a site, I will link to it. I don’t want to send people off to links that have nothing to do with what my site is about. And generally, I don’t even ask for a reciprocal link. If another photographer reads this and wants to link to it – great. But I generally won’t trade links.
5) Another issue for photographers is that it is common for them to use Photography Sites. I’m not going to mention any names, but even when you have your own domain name, and are hosted on a service that has many photographers, it’s unusual to have complete control over the names of your links, and pages and titles etc. In other words, the actual words in the URL make have meaning to the ROBOT that searches your site.
On my own site, there are galleries and individual pages with images.
Here’s an example of a gallery link: http://www.beckermanphoto.com/category/new-york-city-photography
I’m not sure whether it’s better to separate the words with hyphens or underscores but a real SEO expert could tell you.
Here’s an example of a link to a page with a photo: http://www.beckermanphoto.com/blurred-turnstile.html
The point is that they aren’t filled with numbers or the actual service name or anything that could throw off the search engine.
I think this is a good start. Part two will cover actual content and the relationship to your keyword phrases and some other stuff like the “title” tag and the “alt” tag and whether