Search Engine Optimization

UPDATE – JUNE 2015  | Click here to read the current, fully updated and revamped post.

So I’ve been contacted countless time by “professional SEO companies” that say they can get me on the top 3 listings of Google for my area. I’m still baffled how 20 something companies can call me promising this, yet I am sure they call every single “company” (aka amateur, hobbyist-who-thinks-they-are-good-enough-for-owning-a-business, or professional) offering the same thing. This is why I refuse to pay anyone outrageous amounts like 3-500$ PER MONTH to do what I can do myself for that PER YEAR (Yes, I realize how horrible that sounds considering people do that to our industry all the time..but I am still paying a decent chunk for it; no silly 5$/month hacks).

How will it help my website?

Anyways, my point is to demonstrate that if you don’t do it yourself EVERY.SINGLE.DAY it affects you. So, if you’re not willing to put in a few hours everyday (minus your off days) then it might be something to consider. Maybe not the 500$/month guys, but a service like Adwords or a similar online marketing and SEO combination efforts might will prove useful.

UPDATE – October 2014 : Adwords did absolutely nothing for me, but paying to boost ads or posts on Facebook and Kijiji (Canadian equivalent of Craigslist) has worked in my favour much better for the same budget.

Below are my Analytics numbers for the month of January 2014, once I really went into everything and optimized for “proper” SEO. You can absolutely tell when I don’t do it consistently.. and especially when I wasn’t doing it right/correctly. I paid for a few books and workshops to learn it properly, and it’s paid off for sure!

Above all: LEARN TO USE GOOGLE ANALYTICS PROPERLY with tracking, goals, conversions, tracking behaviour etc. in order to fully determine what is and what isn’t working for YOU, and to improve your marketing.

google-analytics-for-gatienau-newborn-photographer

Google Analytics for http://stephaniesphotographs.com and subdomains for a one month period, during which SEO statistics were changed, and other important factors were altered, added, or removed. Continue reading for tips and tricks on how to improve YOUR website’s SEO ratings.

Tips & Tricks

1. Renamed all my documents/images/pdfs/etc. to studio-name_service-offered_description. ex: stephaniesphotographs_gatineau-baby-photography_gatineau-newborn-photography_(enter-description-of-doc-here).extension (jpg/png/doc/pdf/etc.) Try to keep the “description” to 3 or 4 keywords.

REMEMBER: Google can’t “see” your images the way humans can, so you need to literally tell Google what they are so that they can make those links/posts show up in human’s searches. Use the ALT descriptions, use the caption field, and make sure you literally describe it so that a blind person could “see” the image.

EX: “sleeping baby newborn in brown vintage farmer’s bowl with pink flokati stuffer and cream mohair wrap” would be great for caption/description, but keep in mind the next step for the alternative (ALT aka hover-over) descriptions..

2. Renamed all my page titles to stay within the 60 character limit, avoiding any use of the “breaking words” such as AND, OR, IF, WITH, PLUS, etc. as GoogleBot end it’s search after those.

EX: “Stephanie explains the use of reflectors” would be cut off to say “Stephanie explains the use”. Kinda screws the point right? HOWEVER, leave them in the 150 character description, but still avoid the word AND if you can.

3. Renamed all of my blog posts to “CITY subject PHOTOGRAPHER | Blog Post Title”. Example: “Gatineau Newborn Photographer | Baby Jack’s Newborn Session” which would change the url to: include gatineau-newborn-photographer which is one of my main keywords for my website

DON’T FORGET TO REDIRECT YOUR OLD URLs if changing them, otherwise you will loose all returning clients/visitors. There are apps for this for WordPress blogs, and I am sure they exist for other CMS’s.

ps: make sure your posts are not riddled with keywords, but make sure they have the basics and that they are consistent across the board (all relevant keywords in all relevant posts).

4. Removed all meta-data and only included my 3-6 most wanted searched terms. For me this was City Baby Photographer, City Newborn Photographer, City Maternity Photographer (or Photography if you prefer), and again for the adjoining city.

UPDATE: I am not saying to simply erase it all and done. You DO want meta-data on your site and images. Meta-Data is very important to include in images, files, etc. when posting to your site, and the actual site’s meta-date is also important.  The thing is, what you DON’T want to do is have them super stuffed with so too many keywords so that google just doesn’t bother to ‘read’ them and might just take the first word of your post. What you want to do is remove it all so you can start from scratch and only include 3-6 of your most important and relevant keywords. Images should have your most important keyword and 2 or 3 descriptive terms about the image (I recommend doing it directly in your editing software), and posts would have the main keywords of your site AND for the specific post. For example, this specific post is about SEO tips, not newborn or family photography, but I will still include that term in my keywords because that it my site’s main content and the real reason I want people attracted to my website.

5. Included my name & contact information at the bottom of EVERY blog post. that way they can just click on email address “mailto” function or on mobile can click on the phone number and it automatically calls me. Give them no excuses not to contact you.

6. Added CALL-TO-ACTIONS on all posts that spoke about booking, promotions, unique products or sessions (images from a particular session) with a specific reason to call/email. Hoping this pays off soon..

7. Removed anything I don’t offer anymore, and no longer advertise for it. I chose to only photograph newborns, babies, and maternity now. However if I am contacted for family or engagement portrait sessions, if I am free and it suits my style, I will agree to do it. It IS still included in my pricing section, nice and small at the bottom, because I would much rather photograph babies, but babies come from families who may want their portraits done too. I also  photograph small weddings, but don’t “advertise” or have the pricing information publicly listed anymore. It’s a hidden link I can send to potentials as I only offer wedding coverage to current engagement clients, or via word of mouth. You will notice my Stephanie’s Photographs facebook galleries have significantly shrunk in the last few months, and will continue to do so as I purge “old services”. I hoping to (re)build my newborn, babies, and maternity galleries this year. New studio, New style.

UPDATE: I decided that I still wanted to photograph families and engagements and weddings, but still wanted to specialize in newborn photography. It was the best thing for my business to branch off the two services to two different companies and two websites. Bonus: Linkback heaven of real, relevant content. I now have a website dedicated to my high-end custom newborn and birth photography services, and this one for my professional family and engagement photography (and weddings). If possible, perhaps have your blog on one domain and your website on the other. It will help. You will also be able to have more chances of being in page 1 on google (each website can only have two spots, but with 2 websites you could have 4–just don’t abuse it).

8. Added my business listings to Google Places, and made a Google+ business page. Google is your friend. Make it happen! It might not technically boost your SEO settings, but it certainly helps with the search engines finding you.. If you want to exchange Google+ follows, post your link below and I will find you. Please do mine too :)

[I have two pages because I have two business, each run in different provinces — two towns across a bridge from one another]

https://plus.google.com/+GatineauNewbornPhotography
https://plus.google.com/+StephaniesPhotographs

9. FACEBOOK IS USELESS! Well, almost. I LOVE it for the groups and forums, but for SEO & getting new clients..not so much. Especially since they’ve been cutting back the amount of fans who actually see your posts if you don’t pay. The best way to utilize facebook is to post whatever you were going to on facebook, on your BLOG or website and post that LINK on facebook. Most platforms will allow you to send that post link directly on Twitter and Facebook, and you can do the same thing for Instagram, Pinterest, etc.. I then manually share it directly from the blog post on Google+ business AND personal page (back to #8). Otherwise you can use services like HootSuite or IFTTT to do so automatically. This way all your followers (no matter what platform) are able to GO TO YOUR WEBSITE to read your post & view your images; increasing your web traffic. In turn, telling Google that your website is interesting and current, and therefore boosting your SEO which can be seen in analytics. And that brings us back to a full circle: do it yourself CONSTANTLY or invest in someone to do it for you. Consistency is key.

Feel free to show some visitor’s love/appreciation by sharing/pinning from my website or commenting on my blog. Thanks.

UPDATE: Facebook now only lets about 1% of your fans see your posts, so it is advisable to boost a few here and there to gain like, website clicks, and INTERACTION which is really what helps get your post more views. MAKE SURE YOU INCLUDE: WHY they should contact you, HOW to contact you, and WHAT is the benefit to them of liking you page or booking with you..

10. EXIST EVERYWHERE! That’s right. Get a facebook account, be on twitter, be on instagram, be on flikr and tumblr, be on google+, be on pinterest, be on myspace; POST EVERYWHERE. Signup for a 411 listing, be in the yellowpages, get a yelp account (great for reviews too), promote yourself (literally YOU, company as your job title) on linkedin; BE EVERYWHERE. However, the trick is to not be the same in all platforms. Consistency is a must, but not the same. For example: if you post a picture on your instagram of your new product, post the same thing but from a different angle on your facebook and another on twitter. Then pin them all to your pinterest page in a relevant album/board. Organized boards are important (we’ll save this for another post).

3 Month Update

Here is a 3 month timeline since the post was published. I also started an adwords campaign for my area on March 3 2014, and just completed a Baby Trade Show (I am a maternity and newborn baby photographer remember) last weekend (May 3-4). We’ll see how that helps.

10. Went into ALL my old blog posts and made sure to add H1, H2, and sometimes H3/4/5 tags. Basically it’s your subtitles (2) and subsections (3+), and not only does it change your font styles to differentiate them, it tells googleBot that those are the topics in your article or blog post, essentially making them mini keywords.

google analytics 3 month timeline SEO working updates

Google Analytics from January 1st to April 30th 2014 for http://stephaniesphotographs.com

7 Month Update

Here is a 16 month timeline, about 7 months since the post was published, covering about a year and a half of statistics.

So this one is not annotated because the specific dates and events don’t particularly matter; it’s the overall rise that we are looking at. Since starting my wordpress website in April 2013, I’ve seen tremendous progress, especially since I’ve been keeping up with my SEO almost daily since this post was originally posted in January 2014. (I notice the dips when I go on vacation and don’t have my posts automatically publish for me–great tool BTW). The graph below is sorted BY WEEK compared to the others which were daily.

Google Analytics Statistics Timeline from April 2013 to August 2014 for http://stephaniesphotographs.com

Google Analytics Statistics Timeline from April 2013 to August 2014 for http://stephaniesphotographs.com

12 Month Update – Full Year Review

[see link at top of page]