What is SEO for Photographers? | Building Your Photography Business

by | Jan 28, 2024 | Brand Photography, Business, Photography Mentoring

As Photographers… we wear a lot of hats.

As photographers, I feel like the biggest goal EVER is securing those elusive Google Search inquiries. And I have to admit, at the beginning of my business, that’s not quite where my inquiries came from. I was working with a Squarespace website (which admittedly got me SUPER far, I just outgrew it at a certain point) and I wasn’t really making intentional choices about what went on my site and when.

I knew I wanted to show up high in the search rankings, and I knew I wanted to not have to rely on social media for inquiring clients. It didn’t take me much looking around to realize that the magic solution I was looking for was “SEO” – or “Search Engine Optimization”. I call it a magic solution, because when done RIGHT, it will do all of that work for you. But when done wrong… honestly it’s just a great way to spend a lot of time writing blog posts you don’t like.

Before we get into a whole series on ACTUAL steps you can use to optimize your website as a photographer, we should talk about the basics, and the biggest basic? WTF even is SEO, anyway??

Jessica Strobel eating doughnuts for her brand photoshoot

So Without Further Ado: What is SEO, Anyway?

Like I said, SEO is “Search Engine Optimization.” Essentially, it’s the data that Google (and other search engines!) use to catalog pages to return for search queries. Which is a fancy way of saying, it’s how Google learns what it needs to know about your website, and then shows it to your potential clients.

This data is made up of a TON of things, and it’s almost always changing. What Google calls their “core metrics” get an overhaul every few months right now (it seems) and keeping up isn’t always straightforward. The good thing, is that when changes take place there’s almost always enough time to adjust your strategy to match the shifts. So if you keep up with what they’re doing, you won’t fall behind!

Google Page Experience Metrics illustration for SEO for Photographers

SEO Can be Thought About in Three Parts

Largely, SEO can be thought about in three parts. Two of these are things you’ll need to actively think about when you’re optimizing your site. Those two are your actual page content, and your website’s interaction with OTHER sites online. The third, is more behind the scenes, and it involves the actual stats on your website’s hosting. As we go through this series, we’re going to break down how you can use all three of those elements to your advantage, how you can build up your stats to boost your Google page rankings, how to track those things on the back end of Google (it’s not rocket science, I promise!!) and more. But like I said – right now? The basics.

And the next basic? How do we actually USE search engine optimization as photographers?

How do you use SEO for Photographers?

Firstly, the idea of “using” SEO isn’t 100% correct. Search engine optimization should be built into the website you’re working with, and it should be built into your content strategy.

So really it’s less that you’re “using” it, and more that you’re “doing” it, actively, every time you add something to your website. But as a photographer, how can you use SEO most effectively? There are tons of ways to make it work, and I’m not going to sit here and tell you that there’s one master plan you can put in place to reach SEO perfection and rank first page for all of your keywords. It would be a lie, and I’m not here to lie to you.

SEO takes time. It takes work. It takes analysis, and strategy changes, and content development. But OH BOY can it be worth it!!

As a photographer, using search engine optimization standards on your pages can be as simple as making sure that you’re including your focus keywords on your primary webpages, or as complex as creating a large-scale keyword authority tree that Google uses to learn about the whole suite of things you do for your clients. It’s definitely an area where you get out what you put in, and it’ll take some time to arrive at a process that works best for you. The overall goal, is getting those sweet, sweet Google inquiries!!

Jessica Strobel seated in a cafe while wearing rollerskates

Can you Search Engine Optimize if you don’t blog?

It’s time to talk a little bit about the elephant in the room here. For years, Search Engine Optimization kind of broke down to just meaning creating blog posts on your site.

Like I’ve mentioned, there’s a lot more to it than that (especially now!). And there are definitely niches where you’re not going to NEED to blog to get Google inquiries! For example, if you’re in a super specific market, and you’re the ONLY boudoir photographer there… you might rank on your best keywords in your area the moment your site is indexed by Google. And that’s great!

But… that’s not going to be the situation for MOST photographers, as much as I hate to say it. Most photographers are living in densely saturated areas, competing hardcore for clients, and let’s face it – the people you’re competing against have probably been doing this for YEARS. And because of that… they might have YEARS of blog posts on their site, boosting their rankings for their primary pages.

So does SEO for photographers automatically mean you have to blog? Technically no. You *can* set yourself up with really well-keyworded primary pages, and hope for the best. But… if you’re not in an undersaturated market… the reality is you’re probably going to WANT to blog, to speed up the results you see from your website as a whole.

How will SEO actually help your business?

“But Jessica, I don’t WANT to blog! It takes so much TIME!”

Yeah. I know. It does. But… the benefits WILDLY outweigh that time, and you might even find yourself getting to a point where you can outsource your blogging tasks and then you don’t have to take the time out of your day yourself!!

The overall benefits of SEO for photographers, whether it’s blogging, or making sure your keywords are well-utilized on your primary webpages are HUGE. At the end of the day, you don’t own your social media platforms. And even if you get a large volume of inquiries from there, there’s no guarantee that those inquiries will keep coming in. But we as a collective of humans aren’t going to stop using Google anytime soon. Inquiries that come to your site from Google prequalify themselves, they’re more likely to have looked at your pricing than inquiries from social media are, and are all around a more solid strategy for recurring income from photography than relying on fickle social media algorithms is.

Having a solid SEO strategy will help you get clients. Plain and simple. So will it help your business? Yes. It absolutely, 100% will.

Jessica Strobel eating doughnuts for her brand photoshoot

(P.S. If you’re also looking to change the game for your client guides, check out my Etsy shop!) 

I’m offering a few mentoring spots for photographers who want to set themselves up for success.

This year, I’m putting out a WHOLE SERIES of these posts, designed to help photographers get themselves set up for success online (and in their businesses overall). We’re going to go WAY more in depth than I did here, this is just an intro taste tester!

Obviously these posts are free to read, and you can do with the information in them whatever you want! But if you want some one on one hand holding in getting yourself to the next level… you should reach out. I have some mentoring spots available for photographers who want to see SUSTAINABLE success in their businesses, and I’d love to talk to you about whether we’d be a good fit!

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