If you’re a photographer, have a WordPress site, and you want to use local SEO to rank higher in Google Maps + localized results for photography-related keywords, this tutorial is for you.
I’ll show you how to use Google’s local search ranking factors to improve rankings by optimizing your Google My Business Page, citations, photos, and how to use Yoast’s SEO plugin for content optimization. No matter what kind of photography you do, it’s actually easy to do WordPress SEO for photographers (local SEO is usually much easier than national SEO). It can take 3-6 weeks to see results (Google takes time to update) but you can use Google Search Console’s search analytics to track your rankings, clicks, and overall traffic from SEO.
Now let’s jump into it…
Understanding Google’s Local SEO Ranking Factors
No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re doing local SEO these are the ranking factors associated with Google. They are taken from Moz who does a survey of Google’s ranking factors every 2 years. This tells us which core ranking factors we should be focusing on.
These are from 2015’s local search ranking factors, but most of them have not changed…
I go over these in my tutorial (drop me a comment if you need clarification on anything), but here is a translation with more practical tips:
- Complete Your Google My Business Page (complete and verify your profile)
- Sign up for generic citations (Yelp), local (COC), and photography directories
- Get reviews on your Google My Business Page, Yelp, others
- Use a mobile responsive and SEO-friendly WordPress photography theme
- Use your primary keyword on your homepage (using Yoast’s SEO Plugin)
- Get links from customers, directories, local websites, relevant photography websites
- Complete your social media profiles, get followers, post updates
Complete Your Google My Business Page
This is the easiest way to improve your Google Maps rankings. In fact you HAVE to have a Google My Business Page to even show up in Google Maps. Make your profile 100% complete.
Add your website, hours, and list “photographers” as the category. If you’re a wedding photographer, list this as your primary category then list “photographer” as the secondary category. Now write a thorough introduction, verify your page, and complete your profile. If you already have a Google My Business page, do not create a duplicate listing.
Improve Directory Listings With Moz Local
Run your website and zip code through Moz Local to get a report on your directories. You will get a score and recommendations to improve some of the most important directories…
Click on the different tabs, view the red notifications to see what items need fixing, then use the “update listing” links to improve those directories. Notice how consistency of information (business name, address, phone, categories) and not having duplicates are important. If you don’t want to do this, you can pay Moz $84/year. However, it’s usually a matter of adding photos and making sure your profile is consistent and 100% complete.
Build More Directories With Whitespark
Now that you have your core directories down, let’s build more. This will further improve your rankings so please don’t think this is a waste of time – it most certainly is not. These are the kind of extra steps that will help you outrank competitors. Notice “citation volume” is a direct ranking factor in the local SEO pie chart (yellow section) – so the more the merrier.
Do It Yourself – use Whitespark’s list of top 50 directories
Hire Whitespark – pay Whitespark one-time fee of $4-5 per directory (worth it)
Ask Customers For Reviews
Google My Business and Yelp are most important. Simply follow-up with customers after the work and ask for a review (leave them instructions with a link to your Google My Business and Yelp page). Make this a priority since reviews are good for both branding and SEO. Sometimes legitimate Yelp reviews get filtered out, so read this post to learn how to avoid it.
Use An SEO-Friendly Photography Theme
Let’s talk about optimizing your website – which starts with your WordPress theme. You want a theme that is SEO-friendly, responsive, secure, and loads fast. At the same time your theme should be built by a reliable developer so it won’t crap out on you down the road.
My list of photography themes is a good place to start. They all have the SEO-friendly features listed above, and they’re all built in the Genesis Framework which is recommended by Yoast, Google’s Matt Cutts, and the founder of WordPress – Matt Mullenweg. If you don’t know what Genesis is then you can read about it on StudioPress’ website. But it is the best way to build a WordPress photography website that is SEO-friendly.
Learn Your Keywords
If you haven’t learned your photography-related keywords, here’s how to do that…
Just go to google.com and type in your keywords using this format. Google Autocomplete will fill-in-the-blank with the most common phrases people are searching, with higher phrases having more searches than the lower ones. Just be sure the last character you type is an underscore “_” so Google will fill-in-the-blank. You can try other combinations too.
Keep in mind your 1 primary keyword (eg. Chicago Wedding Photographer) should be targeted on the homepage. If you have multiple keywords (baby, nanny, maternity, etc) you will need to create a new page for each of those for better keyword-targeting.
This leads me to the next step…
Target Keywords Using Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin
You will use Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin to target keyword(s) on your website. This is where a lot of photographers get overwhelmed. Don’t though, because I made this very easy.
Step 1 – Configure The Yoast Settings
Once you install Yoast, go ahead and download this zip file below which includes the Yoast settings I use. Upload this to your WordPress site using the SEO tab on the left side of your dashboard. You will go to Tools –> Import And Export –> Import. Upload the zip file.
DOWNLOAD MY YOAST SETTINGS (ZIP FILE)
You will need to navigate through the Yoast settings and change a few things…
- General –> Company Info (fill this out with your info, and upload a default logo which should be at least 200 x 200 pixels)
- General –> Webmaster Tools (see video below)
- Social Settings –> fill this out with your own social media links
- Advanced –> Breadcrumbs –> use your own company name
Step 2 – Target Keyword(s) On Your Website
As I mentioned earlier, you want to target your 1 primary keyword on your homepage. To do this, go to Yoast’s SEO tab on the left of your dashboard –> Titles & Metas –> Homepage. You should be able to fill out your SEO title and meta description here (this is the text that appears in Google’s search results), or click the link to view the page where you can edit this.
Use the same format in the photo. Write a unique meta description summarizing what you offer while including your keyword in a way that sounds natural. This is very important as it’s the forefront of your SEO. Also make sure you don’t go over the character limit of 156.
This might be all you need to do. You can’t include the keyword in the URL (this applies to any website’s homepage) so that’s OK. Most photographers prefer to have no text on the homepage (in the photo the article heading and content is red with “no”). I understand most photographers prefer let the photos do the talking, but it WILL benefit your SEO if you include text on your homepage. Otherwise Google will only have your photos to go by.
I suggest adding “Chicago Wedding Photographer” (or whatever your primary keyword is) as your title. Then include a short paragraph of what you want to tell your audience, while also including the keyword here. With all the different typography and layouts, you should be able to make this look nice. Here’s a good example of a website that uses text in the design.
How To Target Multiple Keywords
If you have multiple keywords (baby, nanny, maternity, etc) then target the main keyword (eg. Chicago Photographer) on your homepage. Now create a new page for each different type of photography. This gives you a better chance of ranking high for those specific types of photography since searchers will find THAT page in Google – not your homepage. Make sure each page contains unique content since duplicate content is an SEO no-no.
To optimize those pages for their keywords, use the same strategies described above only set “Chicago Baby Photographer” (or whatever type of photography it is) as your focus keyword. Then optimize that page using Yoast’s SEO Plugin. If you need help using Yoast to optimize your content for green lights, here’s a video…
Optimize Images For Keywords
Before uploading an image to your WordPress site, make sure it has a descriptive file name. Instead of using “DSC27272” a better file name would be “willow trees blowing in the wind.”
Optimize Images To Load Faster
A common issue with photography websites is that the images are so large, they take forever to load. Since website speed is a ranking factor in Google, you don’t want this.
Luckily there are a few ways to prevent this…
Serve Scaled Images
If a featured image calls for 150 x 150 dimensions but you use an image that is 300 x 300, you are not using the correct featured image dimensions. This will cause slower like times by 200%. To solve this, learn the correct dimensions of your featured images (or even images in your slider) and resize them in the media section with the correct dimensions.
Another example of not serving scaled images, is when you drag to resize an image in the visual editor. This resizes the displayed image but not the actual image file (this is what “serve scaled images” means). The correct way to resize images is in the media library:
Install the WP Smush.it plugin and go to Media –> Bulk Smush.it –> Run all my images through WP Smush.it right now (screenshot below). That’s it! You can automatically smush images once uploaded under Settings –> Media. I like to also run EWWW Image Optimizer which can catch images missed by WP Smush.it.
If you don’t want to mess with images or you just want more tips on making your site load faster, see my WordPress speed optimization guide. There’s tons of good tips there.
Use Your Business Name, Address, And Phone # In Your Footer
I know, I love easy tips too… and this one doesn’t get easier. This helps with the whole consistency of information thing that Google looks for. In WordPress, you usually find this under Theme Options (look for the copyright area) or in the Editor –> Footer.
Here’s how I list mine:
Online Media Masters | 1324 West Byron Street, Chicago IL 60613 | 847-271-2422
Get Links To Your Website
Looking good so far! You’ve got your directories in place, your website optimized for your keyword(s), and you’ve make some other optimizations to improve your photography SEO. But let’s not forget about links to your website since they are essential! When people link to you, it’s a strong signal that tells Google your website is important and to rank it higher.
So how do you get links?
- Asking customers to link to you
- Asking partners to link to you (eg. you’re someone’s preferred photographer)
- Local directories like the ones from Moz Local and Whitespark
- Chamber Of Commerce
- Getting published in articles (eg. in the Huffington Post)
- Creating useful content on your blog (videos are good for this)
- Making sure you have a nice website design
- Sharing your photography on social media
- Sharing your photography through an email list
- Add social media sharing buttons to your website
- Other publicity/marketing to get your website “out there”
Kick Your Social Media Into Gear
You know that awesome picture you took the other week? Did you post it on your Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Instagram account? You SHOULD! Spend some time creating nice social media profiles and cover images. Add your pictures, write an introduction, and so forth. Now keep updating those profiles with new photos. Then you’re golden.
Ongoing SEO Maintenance
The main “maintenance” involves asking more customers to leave reviews on your Google My Business and Yelp page. It can also mean creating more directories, adding useful content to your blog, and posting on social media. But once you’re setup with all the WordPress SEO tools and tweaks, local SEO should be pretty low maintenance.
I hope you found this helpful! If you did, please share :) or if you have a question about your photography’s WordPress SEO, drop me a line in the comments. Glad to help you out.
One of the best in-depth articles for photographers. Great work, Tom!
Though the process looks difficult, it itn’t. Using appropriate alt texts, descriptive titles/captions and regular updation of blog/content is all that is needed. Once you start putting quality content, it automatically gets shared.
I’ve built my website with Pixpa, and they allow me to define individual SEO properties of each content item including images. The process looks tedious and time consuming, but worth the time you spend on it.
Great article! This is perfect because I’m new to this kind of industry and I’m so happy that I’ve found this very useful blog.