You can have the greatest website in the world, but if it’s not optimized for search engines, it’ll get lost in the shuffle. Integrating best practices for search engine optimization (SEO) will not only help deliver your website to a higher number of people — it’ll also get you some new leads that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
What do you want to be known for?
More important than your name or your company’s name for that matter, is knowing what you want to be known for. Are you looking to become a well-known wedding photographer? How about a family and portrait photographer?
For me, I optimized my Squarespace website for corporate and community event photography. Over 90 percent of what I shoot during the course of a year involves events for large, small or community organizations. Just last week, I had photoshoots for a regional foodservice distributor, a local university, a downtown development organization and a local public school. All four of these were events. For all of them, I worked directly with the organizing company or organization to photograph and deliver images in a timely manner.
If you take a look at my website this is clear. The first photo on the homepage slideshow is one of a comedian performing at a local event, and the third one is of our mayor speaking at an event. If you continue scrolling down the page, the first words on my homepage (excluding the top navigation) are “Corporate events.”
So clearly, to any visitor hitting my website for the first time, they’ll know that I specialize in event photography, amongst the other types of photography that I offer. But how does that knowledge become integrated and communicated to the big search engines?
It’s about the text
Back in the 90s, web developers would “hide” text by making it white. This would make it so that search engines would see the text living on your website (remember AltaVista?) and therefore you would become better known for certain search terms and keywords.
Search engines quickly caught on, and that’s no longer a suitable practice (in fact, Google will ding you quite a bit if you do this.) Now there are new ways to make this text “live” on your website.
Focus on your website content
First and foremost, your website body copy should represent what you want to sell. If you’re photographing corporate events, let that stand out and be known. The same thing for weddings, portraits, food…you name it. Whatever you decided you should be known for, make sure it’s clear to the everyday reader what it is you offer.
In terms of structuring your content, use Heading 1, Heading 2 and Heading 3 tags appropriately (often referred to as H1, H2, H3, etc.). These help break up your text so that it’s organized, making it easier to read — and here’s the win — search engines also put more weight into heading tags than opposed to regular paragraph text.
If you ever see a title at the top of your browser window and wonder where it’s coming from, that’s signified by what you determine your page title to be. This should be short and unique to every page and gallery on your website. In terms of best practices, go from unique to general. List your name (or your company’s name) last, separating it with a vertical line or dash.
Why not put your name or company name first? Because if people are searching for something, they’ll be more drawn to the first words listed in your page title. Unless you’re famous, save your name for the end of the page title. Google typically displays the first 70 or so characters of your page title, but the exact limit is 600 pixels in width.
Remember — each page title should be different, too. Think of keywords that go with each page, blog post, gallery, etc. and put those in, always with your name or company name at the end.
With every image you upload, you should be entering some “Alt” text. This gives search engines, as well as screen readers, a text equivalent of the images you’re using on your website. Alt text should be short, and be used to describe the image. While this is most important to search engines, people can also see it when they hover over an image.
Each page on your website should also have a short description, often referred to as a meta description. If you don’t fill this in, search engines will grab it automatically from your page content, but oftentimes, it’s not what you want to display. Descriptions should be limited to 160 characters.
If you blog, blog regularly
It’s great to have a blog, but if you don’t update it regularly, search engines will effectively see your website as “dead.” Try coming up with a schedule and sticking to it, instead of just blogging whenever inspiration strikes. Spreading out content is more effective than posting a bunch at one time and remaining stagnant for a few weeks.
Search engine optimization can be overwhelming and downright confusing. Depending on the platform you use, finding the above options might be tricky, so it’s best to reach out to a web developer for assistance.
By sticking to a few of the rules mentioned above, your website will thank you — and Google will have a better time getting you to the top of your preferred search rankings.
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