Professional photographers face many of the same digital marketing challenges that other businesses encounter — and then some. Competition is plentiful and time is critical for staying up to date with online best practices, especially SEO. One topic of recent concern has been how to optimize website photos to return more fruitful search results organically.
But you can’t ignore search engine optimization if you want to grow awareness of your business, attract new clients, and increase revenue. For your website and your images to appear in online searches, SEO is a must. Although SEO is a complicated discipline requiring specialized expertise to bring optimal results, you can take some steps on your own to improve your photography website’s online visibility. Here are Three Image SEO Tips for Photographers
1. Use keywords in your image file names.
Search engines not only crawl the text on your web pages, but they also crawl the image file names on your website. If you want your website and photos to appear in organic search results, then your image file names should be descriptive and incorporate keywords. This will make it easier for search engines to locate and return them as results in relevant searches.
For example, a file name of “bride-groom-dance-wedding-photography-seattle.jpg” versus a generic filename such as “DSC5734.jpg” will help Google identify that your photo is relevant to searches for wedding photographers in Seattle. Keep in mind that all images on your website should have unique file names. When the subjects of photos are similar, you may want to add a date or some other number (for example, bride-groom-dance-wedding-photography-seattle-02272018.jpg) at the end to avoid duplication.
Doing some keyword brainstorming and research will help you determine which keywords will benefit you the most. Think about the wording your prospective clients would naturally use when searching for photography services online, and looking at the bottom of the search results page for related search terms is a good place to start.
2. Give alt text the attention it deserves.
Alt text (short for “alternative text” and also known as “alt tags”) is descriptive text that identifies the contents of an image. Aim to add alt text to every image on your website. It’s not only a detail that affects SEO, but also one that impacts the accessibility of your website. If a photo doesn’t render properly in the browser or the user is visually impaired and using a screen reader, the image’s alt text will describe it.
Because Google uses alt text for identifying photos that are relevant to what a user is looking for, it’s a good place to include keywords — if it makes sense for the image. Keep in mind, an image’s alt text should be more focused on providing an accurate description of what is in the image than gratuitously including keywords.
For example, you might use alt text of “bride and groom first dance as captured by Jane Smith Wedding Photography” for a photo of newlyweds slow-dancing on the ballroom floor. That alt text shares the contents of the image and follows with some branded keywords. Less ideal would be spammy alt text like “affordable wedding photography by Jane Smith features bride and groom dancing”, which prioritizes keywords over delivering an accurate description of the image.
3. Trim file sizes of images.
Page speed is one of Google’s website ranking factors, and if your website takes forever to load, your visitors will quickly abandon it and go to one that’s faster. According to a recent survey, 40 percent of people will leave a website if it doesn’t load within three seconds. Many factors can contribute to a lagging page speed, and the presence of photos with large file size is among them. Consider reducing the file size of high-res photos before uploading them to your website portfolio.
As you resize, be careful they’re not losing too much image quality in the process. The file type you use can make a difference, also. JPEG is popular for complex visuals on websites. Although it loses some quality with compression, a JPEG file can be quite small before loss in quality is detectable by the human eye. PNG files don’t lose quality with compression, but their file sizes are usually much bigger at the start.
Another reason to scale down the sizes of images is so they render correctly on smartphones and tablets. With more Google searches taking place on mobile devices than on computers, it’s essential that images present well on small screens — not to mention Google considers mobile-friendliness when ranking websites. If your photos are too large to display on mobile devices, it could hurt your website’s ranking on both mobile and desktop searches.
Where to Turn for More Information
You can find more information about rules and preferences for online images in Google’s image publishing guidelines. Besides image optimization, many other factors affect a website’s performance in searches. You can learn more by following blogs such as Moz and Search Engine Land. But to ensure your SEO efforts are in line with best practices and effective at helping you find more customers and make more revenue, consider consulting specialists (such as those at Chicago SEO firm Straight North, for example). Just as photography is part art and part science, so is SEO. It’s a discipline that is ever-changing with nuances that can dramatically affect a business’s online marketing success.
Dawn Mentzer is a contributing writer for Straight North, one of the leading Internet marketing agencies in Chicago that provides SEO, PPC and web design services. As a solopreneur and freelance writer, she specializes in marketing content — and collaborates with clients nationally and globally.
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