Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of ranking higher on a search engine for a given search query. Few of us really understand how it works, but when it comes to visibility online we all need a bit of SEO. So here are a some simple tips to get you started.
Without a doubt, the most well-known search engine is Google (it’s even become a verb), so we’ll keep the focus entirely on Google.
Check out this graphic to get a sense of the varying degrees of importance Google places on different aspects of your website in order determine its SEO ranking.
Now let’s jump straight into the 4 ways you can best boost your SEO.
1. Page title, meta-description & URL
While URLs won’t make or break your SEO, they do represent an opportunity to enhance it. Though how you achieve this can be very particular.
If your name is Michael and you exclusively shoot nature photography, you might want to consider a domain like this:
If you do all kinds of photography, maybe your domain should be like this:
Thus, consider your work, what you do, and whether you want that to tie into your URL.
If you’re looking to buy a new domain there are plenty of options but we recommend using NameCheap. It’s well known for offering some of the lowest prices for a new domain. It’s also a handy for seeing which domains are available, and which are taken.
At this point you may also be thinking, well I already have a domain, I’m stuck with it.
If you have an old domain that already has really strong SEO (link equity as it’s also referred to), you can actually transfer all of that ‘SEO’ to a new domain!
This can be done by placing a 301 redirect link on your old website that links to your new website. This article here by Pair Knowledge Base outlines how to do that.
Your page title is what is going to appear on Google when your website appears for a given search.
It’s important to note that every page on your website has its own page title.
However, the page of your website typically shown in Google is your homepage, so focus your efforts on your homepage’s page title.
Tips for writing a website page title:
- Put your most valuable and sought after keywords into this field. Think about what really defines your website and what you want to appear for.
- Make sure your page title is coherent. Don’t overload your page title with keywords in the hope of ranking for all of them – Google will penalize your SEO score, doing you more harm than good.
- Page title lengths should not exceed 60 characters. If they do, your title will be cut short.
Bad Page Title: Nature Photography Website. Nature Photos. Nature Images.
Good Page Title: Nature Photography Website | Michael Photography
Your meta-description is a tiny paragraph that communicates what your website is and what potential website visitors can expect to find on it.
It’s important to note, that in contrast to your website’s page title and URL, your meta-description will NOT affect your SEO ranking. Way back in 2009 Google stopped taking meta-descriptions into consideration for SEO.
Having said that, the descriptions are still very important because they are the first thing a potential website visitor will read. If your description does not properly outline what you’re offering and entice someone to click your link, you’ll be missing an important opportunity.
Best practice is to simply outline what your website is and what content you’ll be featuring. Don’t bother stuffing keywords into the meta-description because this content is not used by Google’s algorithm to determine Google rankings.
Tips for writing a meta-description:
- You are writing the meta-description to entice people to visit your website, not for Google’s algorithm. Speak to potential website visitors directly. Tell them exactly what your website is and what value it can give to them.
- Write coherently and succinctly.
- Page meta-descriptions should not exceed 160 characters. Much alike page titles, they will be cut short if you exceed this limit.
Bad Meta-description: Nature photography. Nature photography professional. Best nature photography. Great nature photos. See nature photos. Nature photos.
Good Meta-description: Michael is a professional nature-based photographer who’s been shooting projects across the world. Compiled here is a collection of his greatest works.
2. Your images
Any and all images you upload to your website will be crawled and indexed by Google. They will be listed under your website, so there are small ways you can optimize your images to help your photography website.
There are 2 elements of an image that Google indexes, and you can optimize:
1. Image titles
This is the name of the file as you upload it.
You’ll want to give each image a title, with words separated by hyphens. Ideally, words you want that image to rank for.
With this in mind, you’re missing an opportunity by not titling each of your photos as in the sample below.
Bad image file name: 44543.png
Good image file name: Closeup-photo-of-blue-poison-dart-frog-on-stick.png
2. Image alt-texts
This is the alternative text (alt-text) that describes what the image is.
What is the alt-text used for?
- Helping Google’s algorithm contextualize and index your images properly.
- Helping the visually impaired who are using screen readers.
- Being used as placeholder text if your website cannot load an image.
As a result, regular visitors to your website will very likely never read these alt-text descriptions. But nonetheless, alt-text descriptions represent an opportunity to place in keywords you could be ranking for.
Depending on what platform you host your images on, each should have an option to edit the alt text.
On wordpress you can find it here:
When it comes to writing effective alt-text, consider these tips:
- Be as specific as possible – Describe the image using every detail you have. Instead of “this is a frog on a stick”, try “A blue spotted frog sitting on a stick in the Amazon”
- Don’t start with “This is a picture of…” – There’s no need to contextualize the alt-text itself.
- Keep the alt-text below 125 characters – Google will stop reading after this amount.
- Use keywords – Use words you want to rank for, but do so sparingly. Don’t put the same keywords into every single image’s alt-text.
Editing the alt-text of every image and adequately describing what is going on in the image will help boost the SEO of your images and subsequently, your website.
We’ve gone over this a little bit in the page title, meta description and URL section, but this section more heavily stresses the value of keywords across your website.
It’s important for us to define here what a ‘keyword’ is.
A keyword is a single word (ex. “Photography”) or a string of words (ex. “How do I get better at taking great photos”) that together represent a single search.
Thus, the word ‘keyword’ is a slight misnomer.
A keyword can be a single word, or it can be an entire sentence.
It’s important to note here, not all keywords are created equal. There is very much a hierarchy of keywords that exists.
This is important because referring back to our previous example, ranking for the keyword “nature photography” is going to be a lot harder than ranking for the keyword “Michael who shoots nature photography around the world”.
Because a lot more people are searching for the term “nature photography” than they are “Michael who shoots nature photography around the world”.
So as a general rule, the more people searching for a given keyword or term, the more competitive it will be to rank highly for it.
As a result, every keyword has a “Ranking Difficulty” which is effectively how difficult it will be for you to rank on the first page of Google for that given keyword.
Thus, if you want to rank high on Google, chasing after the most competitive keywords may not be the most effective strategy.
Instead, identify the keywords that have relatively easy ranking capabilities.
To get to Google’s Keyword Planner you’ll need to setup a Google Ad Account.
From there access the ‘Tools & Settings’ tab, and in the drop-down find ‘Keyword Planner’.
You’ll then be able to search for given keywords to understand monthly search volumes and competition.
Similarly, Google Trends will help give you an idea of the keyword’s popularity. It’ll also provide you with suggestions for other related keywords.
You can even go with a very straightforward approach and use Google’s auto-fill helper to get inspiration for keywords you might want to target. However you won’t get any insight into how difficult it will be to rank for these words.
Now, if you’re particularly tech-savvy and want to do in-depth keyword research, the only tools available to you will be those you have to pay for (albeit you can use them for a limited time on a free trial).
For this we would recommend SEMrush (they have a limited free trial version that doesn’t require credit card information).
Or Moz (they offer a 30 day free trial version though you will need your credit card information).
Or Ahrefs (this is the most comprehensive service, but will cost you $7 to use the services for 7 days).
Tips for generating keywords:
- Consider targeting keywords that are not especially difficult to rank highly on Google for.
- Consider user intent – that is, what you expect people to be actually looking for. If your goal is to sell photos, consider targeting a keyword “buy nature photos”.
- Consider geo-location – according to Google, 94% of users search for located based queries. So you may want to consider including keywords that are location focused ex. “nature photos from Mozambique”.
4. Backlinks, backlinks, backlinks
What are backlinks?
A back-link is another website linking to your website. In website text, it looks a little something like this.
So simply put, if Website A features a link to Website B , then Website B will have earned a back-link.
Back-links are the most important factor in enhancing your SEO. If you want to rank higher, one of the best things you can do is get more websites on the internet linking directly to your site.
Like keywords, however, not all back-links are created equal.
Remember, a back-link is valued purely by the domain it is coming from and some domains are far more powerful than others.
Google calls this “Domain Authority”, meaning how reputable a given domain is.
Think of websites, like Apple.com, Bloomberg.com, BBC.com.
These websites have some of the highest domain authority on the internet.
This means, Google trusts these sites the most, so having these sites link to your website is far more powerful than if GrandmaMarcysJankyWebsite.com were to link to your website.
Having said that, at the end of the day you want as many back-links from as many different domains possible. Though, the higher the domain authority of these websites, the better.
How do I get more back-links?
This is the tricky part, and there is no easy fix.
Because back-linking is the most important factor in enhancing your SEO, it is also the most difficult to achieve.
Tips for generating back-links:
- Create content you know other websites will want to link to – create a page or website with content so rich, other website will want to use it as a reference and want to quote from it.
- Reach out to websites directly – If you know your website is relevant to another website, reach out to that website and ask for a back-link. Ex. An article on the “Top 100 best nature photography websites” may be willing to feature your nature photography website.
- Be polite and courteous – Asking a website, organization, or person to link to your website provides no benefit to them. Find ways to help them out, and in return, suggest a back-link to your website.
Again, this is the most important factor in enhancing your SEO. Doing everything else in this article but having no back-links is going to severely limit your SEO success.
Written By Leighton Emmons
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