You’ve decided to make the leap into marketing yourself or your work as a photographer. You’ve found the perfect name for your business, created a functional website, and have even added all of your best work to entice the masses with your talent. You look at what you have done, and you think Yeah, I’ve made it, the sales are going to start rolling in! And then you wait some more…
When it comes to being a photographer, the absolute key to our business is getting our names and/or our work out there in front of people. In the “old days”, that meant “pounding the pavement”, so to speak, and having a lot of face to face interaction (which is still important), but in today’s world, everything has gone digital. If someone wants to find the best deal on car insurance, they don’t grab a phone book and call around to all of the local insurance offices, they type a search into google with the keywords of “car insurance” and the location they are searching in – city name, state, county, etc. Well, it’s the same for photography. The vast majority of your clients are going to find you via the Internet. Even if you have managed to get a face to face with someone and give them your business card, they are still going to look you up online, and they’re probably going to do a search to see who else comes up that does what you do. If you don’t show up on that search, whether it’s true or not, the customer is going to believe that you aren’t as good as those who do show up first.
What can we – as photographers – do to ensure that our brand is out there in front of as many people as possible? It’s called “SEO”, or Search Engine Optimization, my friends…and in the interest of not getting too technical, I’ll just say that good SEO strategies are what get you indexed in Google searches and are what will – eventually – get your website to the top of the searches in your area. Wouldn’t it be nice to type in “Wedding Photography in *your home town*” and have your website come up first, or at least on the first page? That’s what we’re all striving for, because not only does it get traffic to our sites, but it also adds to our reputation as photographers – if we’re at the top of the search results, it must mean that we are popular, good quality, professional, well-liked, talented, etc., right? Well, at least that what your clients and customers will think. If you’re a landscape photographer, for instance, you could have the absolute best shot in the world of the Yosemite Valley in California, but if your photo isn’t properly indexed with the right SEO behind it, you can do an image search and find blurry cell phone photos coming up above your amazing shot. How is that going to drive sales?
Taming the SEO Beast
We’re photographers, most of us aren’t web designers or even have the first clue as to what we should be doing to get ourselves “seen” online. That’s why it’s absolutely important to have a website platform and hosting service that is heavily invested in SEO. Two years ago, my name and business were nowhere to be found online – literally, you could type in photography, my city, and my name and I wouldn’t even show up. I was doing fairly solid work, I had happy clients, so why wasn’t I visible? Well, when I switched over to my new web hosting service, I got a crash course in the importance of things like “tagging images”, “using descriptions for my pages”, filling in the “mega data”, creating proper and unique titles for my images and pages, etc. I wouldn’t have known anything about all of this without the help of a very hands on and dedicated service provider who explained things and walked me through them – something I did NOT get with my previous, corporate owned and quite popular, provider. Today, I’m rising in the ranks of Google searches, my name and business actually show up when people do searches…it’s a miracle! Well, maybe not really – it’s just knowing your business as a hosting service – but to me it feels that way.
A few basics… You have to understand what “key words” and “tagging” do – they increase the viability of your subject matter (whether that’s a photo, a blog post, an article, a web page, etc.). If you leave these things blank, you’re probably not going to get very far. You have to understand what “linking” does – when you share an image or your website in general, you get “link juice”, but certain shares are exempt, and sadly, those are places like Facebook – which is where we all like to share our stuff – so you need to go a step further and share to places that will actually link back to your website. Take a little time to research the finer points of SEO and the things that you can do to increase yours, it will help you out in the long run as a photographer more than you can possibly understand.
Shutterforge: A Good Answer
As I mentioned earlier, the provider I was with before I made the move to Shutterforge basically gave me no guidance or help. They were interested in claiming my monthly fee and occasionally adding “updates” to my template and the overall platform that really did nothing for me. The few times that I did have questions, it was a miracle if I received a response in the form of an email or maybe a private message. When I moved to Shutterforge, I saw an intense spike in my viability online as a photographer. Shutterforge was created by a photographer who is also a web designer, so this makes him uniquely aware of exactly what needs to happen in order to get us where we need to be – out there in front of all the other photographers in our area.
The Shutterforge platform is built around good SEO. There are even several things that will help you along the way if you aren’t acutely aware or adept at figuring out all this “techy” stuff. One great feature is the SEO Reports that are generated for each page and photo gallery on Shutterforge. You will actually see a score with suggestions as to where you are lacking, and what you need to add in order to improve that score, and in turn improve your search viability. No other hosting service that I know of has this feature. This has helped me beyond words, because I was never very good at taking the time to tag and write descriptions, and I wasn’t exactly sure which things were most important. These reports follow “Google Standards”, and if you manage to get your score up around 80% or higher on all of your pages, galleries and images, you’re going to be doing really well in terms of setting yourself up for more website traffic. Remember, more website traffic means more clients and more customers!
If you don’t already have a website, you need to get one…and going with Shutterforge is a no-brainer. If you are already with another hosting service, I challenge you to give Shutterforge a try, at least for six months to a year, and see what happens to your viability online and with clients/customers – it won’t cost you anything, because Shutterforge services are currently free! So, whether you’re just a hobbyist or enthusiast who wants to sell a few great images, or if you’re a working photographer, like me, Shutterforge is the place to be!
Written By: Sarah Williams of Mirror's Edge Photography on the Central Coast of California
Sarah is a professional working photographer and a freelance writer in San Luis Obispo County on California's Central Coast