Looking to boost your Google juice? Today’s guest blogger is Bill Nixon, the founder and principle of Smart Cabbage SEO for Photographers, a search engine optimization firm specializing in helping small businesses get ranked in the organic search results of Google, Yahoo and Bing. He gives all aspiring photographers an in-depth look at how to get your site noticed so clients can find you.
How to make the biggest impact on your website’s search engine rankings
You wake up on a Tuesday morning and open your email. The typical stuff is there. One company is having a sale, your airline miles statement has arrived and there’s that newsletter that you never read.
Oh but what’s this? There are two other emails that are unread. Last night while you slept, two potential clients contacted you through your website contact form. Two people searched for a photographer in your city, found your site, liked what they saw and contacted you. Does this happen to you yet? If not, read on….
Did you know that in every mid-sized to large city in the US, there are thousands of monthly searches for photographers? Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes. If you were looking for a photographer in your area, you would probably search for something like “Atlanta Photographers,” for example.
Using the Google Keyword Tool, we can figure out that there are almost 10,000 people each month that search for the term “Atlanta Photographers.” How many of those 10,000 people saw your website in the number one, two or three position? If you aren’t ranked in the top three then the answer is none of them.
We know from our research that if 10,000 people search for something, 5,000 will click on the website in position number one, 3,000 will click on the site in position number two, and 2,000 will click on the site in position number three. We also know that we will average somewhere between .05% – 1% rate of response. Thus, if we are in position number one for that search term, then we will receive about 25-50 monthly contact forms because of our ranking.
Without getting into closing ratios, let’s just say that it helps a lot to have 25-50 people contacting you each and every month asking for your services.
Two factors of SEO – On-site SEO & Off-site SEO
Search Engine Optimization is broken into two categories: on-site SEO and off-site SEO. On-site SEO is what you do on your website to optimize the chances that you get indexed by the search engines. Here is a quick run-down of the things you can do on SmugMug to increase your on-site SEO.
- Homepage meta description and meta keywords – Find these in your Control Panel’s Settings tab on the Search Engine line. This will show up in various ways in your search engine listings.
- Name/Keyword your galleries – If you want to increase your rankings for “Atlanta Photographers” for example, you would need to put that exact keyword phrase in your title, description and keyword boxes on SmugMug.
- Caption your images – Each image has the ability to add a caption. This caption, combined with the keywords, title and description above will be picked up by Google in their search engines.
- Add Google Analytics – You can’t know how your SEO efforts are doing unless you are able to track your results. Google Analytics allows you to track your results. You can add your Analytics ID in the “Settings” section on your SmugMug control panel. You can find more information in the SmugMug help files here.
Off-site factors make more impact than on-site factors
Off-site factors of SEO make a way bigger impact on your rankings than any of your on-site work. Both are important, but a full 95% of your ranking increases will be because of off-site factors.
What are off-site factors?
Without getting too deep in the history of search engine rankings and how they have evolved over the past ten years, off-site factors gained their strength due to the high amounts of Search Engine SPAM that occurred to try and game the system.
Unscrupulous website owners would stuff keywords into their sites, make keywords the same color as the background of their site or make them in a 1pt. font size to try to hide them from humans and meet the search engines’ algorithm.
The search engines got wise to their tricks and figured out a way to get accurate and relevant results with off-site factors.
What are “off-site” factors?
Off-site factors are quite simply the links that point back to your website from other websites, the theme relevancy and the quality of those links. Now, don’t stop reading here and go out searching for a link building company. You may find one, but you will never be successful without the right linking campaign.
Links can be broken up into five different categories: voting, reciprocal, blog, content, authority. These may not be “official” categories but they are the categories we use when we are creating linking campaigns for our clients.
Each has its place in an SEO campaign, but some inbound links are much more effective than others in boosting your rankings.
Here is a breakdown of the different types of links that can point to your site.
- Voting Links: These are links from directories or other sites that carry a very low Google Page Rank. If a page contains more than 25-30 outbound links, that page will have very, very little effect on your search engine rankings. (if any) However, they are important in creating a theme-base for your site.
- Reciprocal Links: This is when you place a link from your site to another site in exchange for a link from their site to yours. These links also have very little effect on your search engine rankings, but are similar to “voting links” above in that they can create theme relevancy for your website.
- Blog Links: Blog links come from leaving relevant comments on others’ blogs. The link can be attached to your name as the blog commenter or in the footer of your comment as an html link. In either case, I am not advocating going out and spamming blogs in the hope that you will get links back to your site, but I am saying that if you have something relevant and important as a response, then you can certainly build links back to your site in this way.
- Content Links: Content links happen when other website owners write about you and link to your site. These are the most natural of the link building efforts and certainly have the largest potential to increase your search engine rankings. These also pose one of the biggest challenges to photographers as they don’t know how to get others to write about them. The best way to get content links is to get published on the myriad of blogs on the web that write specifically about photographers and events. Seeking to get published for your work is the single best way to obtain content links. If you are a wedding photographer, for example, a simple search for “wedding blogs” on Google will reveal hundreds of sites where you could submit your work for consideration. (It will also reveal one of our clients in the top five of Google for the search “wedding blogs”)
- Authority Links: In a way, these are “high-powered” content links. Authority links typically come from the highest ranking sites in your category, sites that end in “edu” and high-powered non-profit sites. Getting links from these sites will have the biggest impact on your rankings possible they are also the hardest to obtain.
A quick way to get a ranking boost
Here is a quick way to get a ranking boost on the search engines. Do a search for the keyword phrase(s) that most line up with the ranking campaign you are trying to win for. For example, if you are a photographer in Atlanta, then you might want to win for these three terms:
- Atlanta wedding photographer
Perform a search for each of these terms and create a spreadsheet of the top 10 results from each search. This will bring up 30 different sites.
Visit each of those sites and see if it would be possible to get a link from each one. If they are directory sites, see what it takes to get listed. If they are individually owned photography sites, then see if you can make relevant blog comments on a post or two (no SPAM!)
If you can get links from these sites, then your rankings will increase. As always, I recommend knowing were you rank PRIOR to engaging in this type of campaign so that you can track your progress.
We hope that this great article pulls the veil off the mystery of SEO so you can put these tips to work. Don’t forget to check out our quick rundown of SEO basics and the services over at Smart Cabbage for a helping hand. Happy optimizing!