Over the past few years I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research on SEO (search engine optimization). As a professional photographer and service provider, I welcome new clients. The families I have worked with, thus far, have come to me through referrals, through Yelp, and some come because they find me online. Being found in online searches is simply a necessity for businesses. However, as I and many other discovered it is not as easy as creating a website and setting it free in the world. So I’ve been reading, and experimenting.
For awhile now I’ve also been part of a number of photographer groups. While we provide the same service, I’ve found the photographer community to be far more collaborative than competitive. We lift each other up through shared knowledge and help. I’ve seen requests ranging from “hey how do I respond to a client in this situation”, to “Please critique this image”, to “My second shooter fell ill, I have a wedding this week-end and need help”.
It’s incredible! It was with that collaborative spirit, that I sat down last summer to write a blog post on how photographers can improve their SEO. “SEO for photographers”, I thought.
I sat down and started writing. And writing. And writing. I realized: hey this was going to have to be a multi-part blog series. There was just so much information to share. So much people need to know about and do. And then I realized…. this needed to go beyond a series of blog posts. It needed to become a book! I started talking to ClickinMoms to see if there would be an interest in this content, along with a few photographer friends for their thoughts. Now, six months later I am super, SUPER excited to announce that my book, “A Photographer’s Guide To SEO: Get More Client Exposure Through Better Search Result Positioning“, is launched. It is live, exclusively at the ClickinMoms store. Go check it out!
I worked really hard to make this book work for individuals that are just getting started with SEO, as well as those that have been working to optimize their site for years. It’s over 80 pages, includes some great examples, and if you’re a WordPress user, guidance on where to make changes on your website. I also include a list of really handy (and free!) applications to help you in your SEO efforts. There’s a little in here for everyone. I am speaking to photographers, but anyone wanting to improve their website’s SEO will find this book valuable.
Don’t worry! While it’s kind of a technical topic, I’ve worked really hard to make it easily consumable by anyone.
Here’s a sampling of the topics it covers:
– how to choose the right keywords for YOU that will get you the most traffic
– how to setup your website so that it’s properly optimized for SEO
– writing tips
– how to get the best backlinks for your website
– things that will hurt your SEO, or waste your time
– lots more
Wanna get a sneak peak inside? Here goes. This is from my the section on how to begin compiling keywords.
Before I dive into the nitty gritty of “how to make your website better”, we need to take a step back and consider the context through which potential clients will find you. Looking for your business name is not enough! This is perfect for clients that already know about you, but these aren’t the people you are doing all this work for. It’s important to have a list of keywords that people are likely to use (when looking for a photographer), so that you can work off of that list as you’re building out your site.
So, what does that list look like?
You might want to start with your region. For example, I work out of Belmont, California, which is located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some keywords for me could be “Bay Area photographer.” That keyword phrase is pretty broad, however, and I want to get more granular. People that live here refer to the specific locale I’m in as “the Peninsula”, so I also target “Peninsula photographer”.
I consider cities as well. In the 20 mile area I prefer to work in, there are at least 10 separate cities. So those go on the list:
Next up, start layering in your specialization:
Keep going! Brainstorm all you can think of right now. Don’t limit yourself yet — we’ll talk about how to narrow our focus in a bit. For now, just create that list.
If you’re a little stuck, there’s a second approach you can take to coming up with keywords. You will need some basic phrases to get going — let’s say “child photographer”.
Go to google.com and on that basic search page, begin typing.
As you type, Google will begin recommending some ideas, too. These recommendations come from Google’s most often searched keywords, so you can begin to see what people are looking for.
As with many other things, to be successful, you have to get into your client’s head and think like them. I see photographers copy other photographers’ business strategy and approach all the time. This isn’t necessarily the wrong thing to do, but how do you know that the person you drew your inspiration from had it right to begin with? Moreover, what works for a wedding photographer might not for a photographer specializing in landscapes. So… please consider your audience. Get to know them, how they think, what they’re looking for and most certainly “how” they look for it.
One way to do that? Create a survey! It can be as simple as sending out an email to target customers, talking to people face to face, asking on Facebook, or setting up a survey using a more formal tool (like surveymonkey or polldaddy). What do you ask? You have one primary question:
“If you were searching online for a photographer to (describe your field of specialty here), what would you type into the search box?”
Now step away and listen to (or read) the responses.
I’ve done this twice over the past four years, and the results were fascinating. I got some great search ideas this way — for example, I saw that my clients were not just typing in their city name, but using their zip code instead. “94002 photographer” just went onto my list.
Also, how they referred to my genre of photography was different than how I did. I was thinking “newborn”, they said “baby”. I had “maternity”, they said “pregnancy”. I wrote “children”, they said “kid” and even “toddler”. Same intent, right? But such a broad set of additional keywords to consider. I was so influenced by our industry’s references that I wasn’t thinking through all the possibilities. Surveying my target audience pulled me out of that mentality and gave me additional perspective.
There were some other keywords that popped out in these surveys:
Again, interesting to see what people are looking for. Does this give you ideas, too?
Please note I’ve been careful to say “target customer”. This matters because you want these types of people to hire you. Unless your friends happen to be in your target market, don’t just ask them (although ask for their help if they’re connected to the customer you want). If your current clients are not in your target audience, don’t ask them either.
I need to take a moment and say a HUGE “Thank you!” to my husband and kids. While I wrote this book they gave me the time, patience and quiet I needed to work. I worked on this during the fall, which as most family portrait photographers know is the busiest time of year already with clients. Most of the “free” time I had when I wasn’t meeting with clients or editing sessions was spent on this project. My husband is an incredibly supportive guy, and his final review after he read it made my day. Thank you guys!
Also to my incredible friend, Alison Sonderegger for being my copy editor (and not laughing too much at my grammar mistakes).
Last, but not least, the incredible staff at ClickinMoms (especially Monica Wilkinson) for the arduous process of getting it set-up, review, and what felt like endless emails while we got this live. Thank you everyone!
To all of you reading this book, come back and tell me what you thought!
This past fall, when I last photographed E and Q, E was just getting the hang of sitting up on her own. We propped her back as best we could, and Mom stood by, just off the side of my frame, ready to catch a wobbling baby. She’s moving so fast now, crawling up a storm and taking her first supported steps. We met for this portrait session at the end of January, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s walking all on her own now too. I find it wonderful to see how a family portrait changes over time as more and more little feet get added to the frame. I’m pretty sure I have a photo of big brother Q walking in between his Mama and Dad at this age. Now as his little sister does the same, where in the past we had the serenity of landscaping in the background, I see the silhouettes of the other little people in the family. I love seeing that! Each new person adds a wonderful, hectic, unpredictability which makes these family portraits so much more special and vibrant. Each family brings their own unique dynamic to our session, which coupled with time makes each time we meet different. It’s pretty awesome!
College of San Mateo was our backdrop for this last meeting. It gave us a great space for E to crawl around and Q to hide in the tall grasses with me. Plus benches! Who’d thunk that flat, stone benches would be that much fun to run around on. Well… other than toddlers As a child photographer it’s amusing for me to see kids embrace the most common of objects and make them their own. Really — this job is a wonder!
In a few months I get to meet these guys again. I can’t wait to see what they’ll be like and up to then.
Little E has been one very awaited little man. He took his sweet time to make his appearance, to a point I was proposing rescheduling his newborn photography photo shoot. I usually schedule my newborn sessions at least a few weeks past a due date, but he had us going all the way to the wire. S had gotten to a point where her identity had become “the pregnant lady”. Eh — worthy title for the mama of such a cute nugget. And he really IS adorable.
S, M and (now) E live in Portola Valley. For those of you not quite familiar with the Bay Area — it neighbors Palo Alto on the Peninsula. I’ve never ventured on that side of 280 (except for the one time I got lost!), and my jaw I’m pretty sure was agape all the way to their front door. It’s seriously a slice of heaven. I drove by beautiful roads, with rustic fences, amazing landscaping: from the well manicured to the forgotten tall grasses and early flowers. It’s a photographer’s dream, and I imagined myself trespassing on SO many properties ;p I’m really going to invest some time in finding some public spaces out here because it was seriously beautiful. Oh — and there was the lady I drove past who was taking her horse on a morning ride. S, if you lived closer, I’d volunteer to bring you groceries just so I can drive through your neighborhood, more often! As I said: heaven!
When I arrived E was napping happily in his swing. As much as I hate to bother a newborn baby during his slumber, I had to grab some photos of E in his amazing nursery. It’s beautiful, and cozy, and perfect! And those Darth Vader throw pillows really show you the sense of style and humor he’ll grow around.
E joins a home already occupied by two four-legged siblings. Jub-jub and Maggie were very eager to join us for pictures. Usually cats are so indifferent to me that I struggle to get them involved. Not so that day: the two were eager to make their household presence known and documented. Actually while I was trying to get some solo portaits of little E, Jub-jub planted himself square behind his younger brother and refused to move. He NEEDED to be in the photos. It’s all good: typically I deal with toddler siblings. I can handle a protective older-brother cat
Welcome, E! Congrats S and M! I’m very, very excited for you. E is lucky to have you as parents, and I’m lucky to be invited to document these moments with you. I hope to see you grow.
I sang this song to our littlest almost nightly. I still do, upon request, to my boys. So this pillow gives me the feels.
Jennifer drew this picture for S: her Fairy godmother. It’s hanging in the nursery, where S gets to gaze at is as she rocks little E. It’s incredibly special, and I’m so glad Jennifer gave her this amazing gift.
Are we having a chilly winter or what? I woke up early for this big family portraits session in Cupertino, defrosted my window (yes, it was frozen!), and drove past the frost-covered grass fields of my local Belmont parks. I was greated by a fantastic sunrise, though, as I drove to Cupertino’s De Anza college. I wore two pairs of socks on top of one another, along with my Beartrap fuzzy boots, a shirt under a sweater, a scarf, and a warm jacket with my gloves and I was STILL cold. Yep, an outdoor session seemed like a great idea at the time when we booked this morning… I guess we just weren’t expecting the 34 degree weather. I guess it was apt that little D wanted to play “Freeze!” with his super powers.
I guess this weather is just a preview of what C and her family are about to encounter. They’re moving to upstate New York. It’s cold there. COLD! 34 is maybe the high of what they get this time of year. I’ll miss her a ton, but I know that pales in comparison to how much her mom, grandma and brothers will miss them. They’re so close… which is a big inspiration for us meeting today. With the impending move it felt right to do a session with everyone. I’m really thrilled that C’s grandma participated too. We covered 4 generations of this beautiful family. I still can’t get over the incredible smiles of C and her brothers. I photographed those smiles a few years back at the Stanford campus, and they still remain beautiful.
I’ll miss you, C! Visit often. Please!!!
Oh — I kind of had to include this one for you guys too: remember how I said D was playing a “Freeze!” game? Well, he was not only trying out his super powers on me, but he was “helping” me with his mom and uncles by getting them to freeze too. He’s good at it, let me tell ya!
What gift should I get? That is the question I am faced with every holiday season and gift giving occasion for my family and friends. Yeah, I keep a list, as throughout the year I get ideas, but even then, some people are harder to shop for than others. What do you get the person that has everything? Or the person that is always so particular?
The type of gift, however, I have never regretted giving (or receiving) is that of experience. An experience that I can build memories around.
P and her sisters decided to give their mom this gift of memories and they booked an extended family photography session with me. We waited until her niece was back in the Bay Area, on break from college. Three generations, and 4 families. It was my last session of 2014, and a fantastic way to close out the year. They all came with their families and we had such a great afternoon together. The weather was beautiful, and surprisingly warm for December, and we had an fun time exploring the College of San Mateo campus together.
P and I met earlier in the fall for her own family mini-session. She, her husband and son have such a great sense of humor. They were so at ease with each other, and me, and we got some great photographs that day. It was wonderful to see that sense of ease and sense of humor extend itself through her sisters and their families too. Some of my favorite images from that evening are of the three sisters together. I love seeing those family bonds, and I find P so fortunate to have such a great family that is so close.
Therre was a point in time where photographing large family groups really intimidated me. And it’s been awhile since I’ve done a large family portrait session. I don’t know what’s changed with time, but doing this felt so natural to me. It was wonderful to see a big family come together for something like this, and I’m eager to do more sessions like this.