A significant and increasing proportion of your prospective clients are turning to the internet to find service providers to meet their needs. If you run a business, it’s never been more important to have a strong web presence. You are a needle in the haystack but you need to BECOME THE HAYSTACK.
Search engine optimization is all about tweaking your site to rank higher for the searches you think people will enter when they’re looking for a photographer. Because there’s a multitude of factors to take into account, it’s incredibly easy to be optimizing the wrong thing.
For example, the keywords and other meta tags on your site have very little bearing on your search ranking. Spending any time on this is worthless. Another missed opportunity is not optimizing within your geographic area. If your SEO efforts have been directed at optimizing for an extremely competitive and broad search term like “Wedding photographer” and not in any particular location, then you’re set up for failure.
Where should a photographer focus their SEO efforts?
What’s really important for a photographer is to rank well in local search results. This is an area in which the major search engines have been dedicating significant resources over the last few of years. Most photographers’ clients are likely to come from their immediate geographic area so if you’re a photographer based out of Toronto, you want to be on the first page for a query like “Wedding photographers in Toronto”.
The importance of ranking highly can’t be overstated. According to a report by Compete, 87% of clicks for a search are in the first five results and a whopping 53% are on the first result. Focusing on Local SEO will help you rank higher for searches in your area, and will connect you with people who are more likely to become paying clients.
The best part is that Local SEO is largely neglected by most businesses, including photographers. This means there is a huge opportunity to gain a significant competitive advantage by ranking higher for searches specific to your geographic area. Focusing on Local SEO while others neglect it can earn you a pretty solid spot in search results — others will wonder how you did it :)
How is local search different from regular search?
Google treats local search results differently from its regular organic results. The holy grail of organic search results is to appear in the number one position. Local results are even better than that – they regularly appear above the top ranking organic results.
Here’s an example of a Google search for “Toronto wedding photographer”. You’ll notice that the local search results (red) appear above the organic results (green) and are second only to the ads (blue).
Here’s the cool thing – getting in those local search results pages isn’t that hard. Be under no illusion – you’ll still need to work to get there – it’s just not the years of dedication required to earn a top ranking.
In the not too distant future, FotoJournal will be publishing our “Photographers Guide to Local SEO”. We know you can’t wait for that though! Here’s our top five tips for getting your photography business into Google’s local search results.
1. Create a Google+ Business Page
If you refer to the earlier search results screenshot, you’ll see that each result features a commonality – they all feature Google reviews, a Google+ page, or both.
The single most effective single thing you can do is create a Google + Business page and tell Google everything about your business.
Doing this allows you to connect with potential clients over all of Google’s services including search, maps, Google+ and mobile devices. Best of all, it’s totally free.
You should be sure to fill out as much of your profile as possible, paying particular attention to your business address, contact information and website, ensuring that these correspond with other instances of your business’s information online. Be sure to complete the verification steps too.
A really important step is to set your business category correctly. You set categories at two points. When you enter your initial information you’ll chose a primary category and then later on you can select up to 9 sub-categories. Your primary category will be obvious though some specific categories (like Wedding Photographer) exist which would be a better choice than simply “Photographer”.
You also list your business in sub-categories. SEO expert Mike Blumenthal has a great tool to help you identify sub-categories you should list your business in.
Be sure to use keywords that identify your business in your business name. If you’re a wedding photographer, put “Your Name Wedding Photographer” instead of “Your Name”.
Finally, high quality images are a must. You’re a photographer so you should be able to handle that!
2. Ask your past and future clients to vouch for you
If you have satisfied clients (and you should!) then you should ask them to take five minutes and write you a review on your new Google + page. Social proof is key to improving your ranking. Lots of positive reviews means you’re likely pretty good at what you do and naturally Google wants to provide the best quality results for its users.
You should ensure that when you’re sending deliverables to a client that you include instructions on how to add a review. Here’s a fantastic tool from the SEO consultancy Whitespark that helps you generate easy to follow instructions for leaving a Google review.
3. Create a Google Places for Business Listing
In addition to Google +, Google’s social offering, you should list your company in Google Places, which is part of search. There are a lot of similarities between these two Google services and things can get a bit confusing. The main difference is Google Places adds your listing to Google maps and is a place on Google for your business. Google + is your business’s social profile where you’d interact with customers and promote your business within Google. If you’re interested, here’s a comprehensive explanation.
When you’re setting up your Google Places for Business account, the same rules apply as for your Google + account. Be diligent about:
- Using the correct categories
- Having keywords in business titles
- Entering the correct location and company information
4. Build Local Citations
A local citation is a ‘mention’ of your company’s name, address and contact information on the internet and they’re used extensively to help you rank in local search results. They differ from inbound links (to your site) in that they don’t have to be a link, they could simply be a mention in a blog post or online business directory.
What local citations do is offer some level of proof that your business exists, is relevant to a particular industry and is prominent in that sector. The more citations the better. It shows you’re an established player.
It’s important to keep your citations up to date. If you’ve moved your business then you need to be sure that you’ve updated as many of your citations as possible to keep your online presence consistent.
Some examples of where you might want to list your business include your local chambers of commerce, yellow pages or Yelp. A great resource for finding places to list can be found for the US, UK, Canada and Australia in this blog post by Local Visibility System.
Be sure to be consistent with the data you enter. For example, ensure that you always use the same phone number. Don’t have your cell for some listing and your office number on others. Consistency is the key.
If you’d like to see where you currently have citations and where they’re missing then you can use the tool on http://getlisted.org/.
There’s also some fantastic information on best practices for building local citations on Whitespark’s blog.
5. Your Website and External Links
Less critical for local SEO, but still important for SEO in general, is to ensure your own website contains easily parsable information about your business. You must ensure that your contact page has the correct name, address and phone number and that your business name is included in page title tags and headlines.
Inbound links to your site will also help your ranking. An inbound link is considered a ‘vote’ for your site by the search engines. If a large site (with lots of votes of its own) links to you then that vote is more strongly weighted. A really great way to build inbound links is guest blogging.
Guest blogging is really easy to do in theory – just write some great content and nicely ask an influential blog’s author if they’d like to publish your article. In reality it’s a little more difficult than that. You’re really building relationships which can take a little time and any old article just won’t do. An article should be well written, considered and accurately serve a blog’s readership.
One way of building relationships is to write articles that reference other bloggers’ writing. You can then contact them (Twitter/Facebook/Email) with a good reason. For example:
“Hey, John! I recently wrote an article in response to your post on X. Thought you might like to read it.”
There’s plenty of popular photography blogs out there so get writing!
Optimising your site for local SEO will give your online presence a huge lift over traditional SEO. Remember that your website exists not to display your work, but to generate leads for your business – a high visibility in the geographic area in which you work will be a significant boost. Local SEO is still in its infancy so this is a great time to get a jump on your competitors and get those review counts up.