Your SmugMug Site Passes the Mobile-Friendly Test

If you’ve heard the recent rumblings about Google’s plan to make their search results better for mobile users, you might be wondering if your site meets Google’s new criteria. If you’re using SmugMug, you don’t have to worry about a thing.

Every aspect of your SmugMug site has been put through its paces to make sure it passes the Google Mobile-Friendly Test.

You don’t need to change anything or scramble to meet their deadline. We’ve got your back!

Wait, What’s the “Google Mobile-Friendly Test?” Why Does It Matter?
Think how often you pull out your phones and other mobile devices to perform a quick Google search for something you’re dying to show someone. Ever run into results where pages scroll left or right beyond your screen? Or had to pinch-zoom a ridiculous amount just to see what’s on the page? It’s frustrating. And Google doesn’t want anyone being frustrated with their results.

So Google’s decided to reward sites that display well on mobile devices. They’ll be using a set of criteria to measure the mobile-friendliness of websites. Starting April 21, 2015, sites that meet those criteria may rank higher in mobile search results. You can test your website using the Google Mobile-Friendly Test.

Passing this test means your site could be shown higher in Google’s search results whenever someone searches using a mobile device.

We know how important it is for your website to be found, so we made sure that all SmugMug sites pass the test. You don’t need to lift a finger! (Of course, if you want to keep your site out of search results, you can do that, too.)

What’s SmugMug Done to Pass the Mobile-Friendly Test?
We built flexible site design into every corner of SmugMug. (If you’re a long-time SmugMug user but haven’t upgraded your site, this mobile-friendly feature is worth it.)

It doesn’t matter if you’re viewing your site on an iPod or a 4K cinema display, your design and photos will automagically fill the screen perfectly without any annoying side-scroll or zoom action.

Menu and navigation items adjust to fit the screen and are spaced out to help users avoid any mis-taps when trying to view different pages or photos on your site. Galleries automatically optimize their layout to fit mobile devices. Carousel swipes smoothly for your mobile admirers.

And we long ago overhauled our slideshows to use HTML5 instead of Flash.

New SmugMug sites have always looked stunning on mobile devices, and we tweaked a few things after Google’s announcement to ensure any New SmugMug site will pass the test with flying colors.

Tip: Be cautious when using negative margin values on SmugMug content blocks, or adding custom CSS that moves the margins off the page. This might cause your site to fail the mobile-friendly test.

In short, we did everything possible to make sure your photos always display beautifully at any size on any screen.

How Can I Improve My Search Ranking?
Now that you know you don’t have to worry about your site losing rank because of mobile-friendliness, you might be interested in learning how you can bump your rank a bit. We’ve got some great tips on making your SmugMug site more search engine–friendly and growing your organic traffic:

Keep Uploading and Sharing
We hope we’ve put your mind at ease regarding your SmugMug site and Google’s new mobile-friendly test. Keep photographing and sharing what you love and know that we always have your back.

And don’t forget our Support Heroes are always standing by to help!

Related Links

Using PhantomJS at scale

Did you know that SmugMug has a separate Sorcery blog? From time to time our Engineers will take you behind-the-scenes of something we’ve just built, or share some of the valuable insights we’ve had while investigating a particularly tricky fix. If you’re interested in the technical nuts and bolts of what powers our site or if you just want to hear what’s making our hearts beat a little faster, check it out! Their latest post deep-dives into The Phantom Renderer, or “how to make sure SEO works in the new SmugMug.”

SmugMug Sorcery

About a year ago SmugMug had a dilemma. Our upcoming site-wide redesign and refactor  (aka the new SmugMug) moved all of our rendering code into client-side JavaScript using YUI. We had a problem; SEO is critical for our customers and search engines couldn’t index the new site.

Possible solutions were thrown around: do we duplicate our code in PHP? Use an artificial DOM? What about PhantomJS? Duplicating code would be a monumental effort and a continued burden when writing new features. Initial tests of fake/artificial DOMs proved unreliable. A small prototype Node.js web server that hooked into PhantomJS proved promising. Node.js’ async model would be perfect for handling things that wait for I/O like rendering webpages. We came up with the project name ‘The Phantom Renderer’ soon after.

The prototype

I spent a few days whipping up a prototype proxy server to test with that worked like so:

  • Node.js web server accepts a…

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Small World: How SEO and Social Media Close the Gap Between You and Your Fans

They say it’s a big world, but it’s not always true: Photographers (and anyone, really) on the internet are coming to know that search engines and social media are two extremely important ways to bring the world – and new clients – right to your doorstep.

Please join us for our upcoming podcast and webinar that will help you be a better, more reachable photographer on the web.

Plus, read to the end to see how you can use social media to win $50 of SmugMug subscription credit!

Social Media Basics with Aaron Hockley

We’ve recently recorded a podcast all about social media. In it, we define what social media is, discuss how social networking can help your photography business by meeting your mentors to finding new clients. From getting started to becoming a pro with social media– we cover everything!

Aaron Hockley is a professional photographer with a strong tech background, and founding organizer of a conference for WordPress bloggers. He knows the detailed ins and outs of social media for photographers, and we sat down with him to hear his thoughts on common social media questions.

We ask the following:

  • How can social media help a photographer?
  • What do you think the first steps are in jumping into using social media for a photography business?
  • Can you rank some of the social media platforms you use in order and how often you use them?
  • How do you integrate social media into your work day?
  • To share or not to share?
  • What mistakes have you made along the way with social media?
  • How do you measure success?
  • How do you stay current on social media changes, news, research and methodologies?

Download the podcast and listen on iTunes!

Essential SEO for Photographers with Jason Grubb

What is SEO? Why is it essential for photographers? View this free webinar to learn the bare essentials for becoming findable by your clients on search engines like Google. This webinar will cover the basics of SEO and what you need to know to get started.

Jason Grubb is a Denver-based wedding photographer who developed a niche SEO consulting firm serving photographers around the world. We’ll talk for an hour about SEO and why it’s important, and answer your questions, too.

April 25, 2013 at 8:00 PM ET
Duration: 1.5 hours
Register now at GoToMeeting

During this webinar you’ll learn:

  • What search engine optimization is and why it’s important
  • How search engine ranking works
  • The bare essentials to implement on your website/blog for solid SEO
  • How to develop strategic content on your site for SEO
  • Simple off-page SEO, what it means, and how to do it

Jason will be giving two lucky photographers 25% off an Advanced SEO for Blogs Package from his site, Be Findable. All you have to do to enter is to join the webinar! We’ll announce and contact the winners on April 26, 2013.

And a SmugMug Giveaway! Share What You Learned and Win

Tweet @SmugMug during the webinar and tell us about one cool thing that you learned. We’ll randomly pick one person to win a $50 credit towards a SmugMug subscription (new and existing SmugMuggers are welcome). Winners announced April 26, 2013 on Twitter.

Are you ready to close the gap? We’ll see you online!

New URLs = Better SEO

We love making you famous. We started out giving you NiceNames, then we gave you tons of other great tips on how to get found on search engines like Google.

We’ve rearranged your direct image URLs so that your filenames get tacked on to the end of every direct image link. (These!) This means your images will be more user- and SEO-friendly, but no less secure than before. As long as you remember to give your files descriptive names, you won’t need to do anything to get a little extra Google Juice.

Take a look at the address bar in the example below:

What does it mean?

Here’s what the old image links looked like:

And here’s what they look like now:

As you can see, your domain, Category and Subcategory are unchanged. Now we throw in the Image Key, version number (incremented when you make changes using various our photo tools), then size and the filename.

Your gallery URLs will remain the same (for now!) and any images you’ve ever embedded in forums or blog posts will still work. You’ll only see these minor changes in any new images that you upload and share from here on out.

Find Your Files Fast

We also did this to simplify photo downloads, because now they’ll keep their original filenames. Previously, files were saved under their Image IDs and Keys… which made them difficult to locate if you had a lot of files on your computer.

But now, instead of searching for 964725586_ddnfJ-O.jpg you can scan your desktop for mist-forest.jpg .

How do I know my images are secure?

Look at your URLs and you’ll see the Image Keys. They’re the jumble of random letters and numbers you see in the middle of that link (like “i-3sVwdJM”). Chances of anyone guessing that combo and coming up with a link to your secret, private photos are rare.

Remember that if you don’t want anyone to find your site via your image link,  set your gallery settings to “Hide Owner”. This feature removes any identifying information like your nickname and the filename from that URL. More about using Hide Owner.

Making your galleries unlisted or passworded will, by default, foil Google from finding those images in search results. More about privacy options.

Can I still make custom sizes for my blog?

Of course! You’ve always been able to type in your own dimensions and get a custom image size to fit wherever you’re posting the pic. Now, just be sure to change it before and after your filename, like this:×200/mist-forest-400×200.jpg

As always, we won’t smoosh your pic even if you didn’t get the exact dimensions. We’ll make it fit on the longest side and adjust the other as needed. More info here.

Remember that if you have any feedback or questions about these changes, speak up! We love listening.

SEO on SmugMug

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 photographers
  • Atlanta wedding photographer
  • photographer in Atlanta

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!

Everything, Everywhere

Introduction: Every now and then, we have the pleasure of featuring guest blog posts from members of our wide community of users.  We’re always delighted to see and hear about the ways you’re using SmugMug to share your picture memories.  We’re excited to feature Gary Arndt from  Four years ago, he decided to leave his job to travel around the world.  He’s been globetrotting, photographing and writing ever since.  Here’s his incredible story.

By Gary Arndt

In March 2007 I sold my house, put my possessions in storage and set out to travel around the world.

I also thought it would be neat to someday cover a wall of my house with photos taken from my trip. So on my way out of the country I purchased a camera which was way over my head: a Nikon D200.

I didn’t know my aperture from my ISO. Like many people new to photography I shot everything in full auto mode, saved everything in jpeg (because it saved space on the memory card) and uploaded every image to Flickr without any post processing or selection. I had never taken a photography course or workshop and had never read a book on the subject. I knew absolutely nothing.

This is a five exposure HDR image taken in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Unlike most HDR images, I let the motion in the photo blur. I like the effect and the impression it gave of movement. Jerusalem is perhaps the most photogenic city I’ve visited in the world. It seemed that no matter where I turned my camera, I could capture a good image.

The first stop on my trip was Hawaii, where almost four years later I’m writing this article. You can still see the first photos I took in all their horrible glory. The composition for most of them is unspectacular and the exposure very sub-par.  I’ve decided to leave them visible to the public as a reminder of how far I’ve come since the start of my travels.

Over time I started to read photography blogs and listen to photography podcasts. I began to look at my travel photos with a more critical eye and tried to understand why my good photos were good and my bad photos bad. I eventually picked up a copy of Photoshop and the readers of my website noticed small, but consistent improvements in my travel photography.

This photo was taken in a moving motor boat. I visited Rennell, one of the more remote islands in the Solomon Islands. The village I visited didn’t get too many western visitors, so the kids had a great time following me around. When I left the village, the kids got in a canoe and started to follow my boat. This is the resulting photo.

In November 2007 I made the decision to start posting a photo every day on my travel blog, something which I’ve been doing every day now for almost three years. This was huge step for me because I had to come up with something reasonably good every day. Not every photo was going to be a home run, but I certainly had to try to not strike out.  Every. Single. Day.

As photography became a bigger and bigger part of my site, I began to look for alternative photo hosting and sharing solutions. I didn’t want to be limited with the size of photos I uploaded, I wanted to fully customize the look and feel of my galleries and I wanted an easier way to integrate photos into my blog.  In addition, I wanted a site that was easily searchable, public in nature and could help drive traffic to my official website.

I eventually decided to move my photo hosting from Flickr to a Gallery2 installation, which I could host myself. This turned out to be a disaster. I didn’t save any money because of the additional storage costs from my web host. Trying to customize Gallery2 was a nightmare and extremely expensive. Worst of all, there was no real SEO benefit to hosting my own images. Self-hosting photos turned out to be a a bigger challenge than I was willing to deal with.

This photo was taken at the Indian Holi festival in Singapore. Much of the festival involves throwing colored dye on other participants. Keeping my camera clean and dye free was a challenge as most of the participants had no problems throwing dye on a man holding an SLR.

I had heard many photographers talk about SmugMug on some of the photography forums I read, and so decided to give them a try. It turned out to be incredibly easy to import all my photos from Flickr, even with a bad Internet connection overseas. I could use my own domain name, which was the main reason why I wanted to host my own images in the first place, and with SmugMug’s many sharing options, I could create images of any dimension just by modifying the URL of the photo (something I couldn’t do on Flickr).

Of all the decisions I’ve made in blogging and photography, moving to SmugMug has been one of the best. Every week or two there are new features being released; the SmugMug elves never seems to be resting on their laurels.

Since my move I’ve become a personal evangelist, telling everyone I know in the travel blogging community about SmugMug.  I know I’ve been responsible for more new SmugMug customers than my referral code would suggest! I wear my SmugMug camera strap wherever I go and make sure to tell everyone about it when they ask me what it is.

I was in Bangkok in 2010 during the redshirt protests. I went out several times to photograph the protesters. I managed to position myself one day between several thousand redshirts and several hundred police officers. The photo of a young boy with the protesters really stuck with me.

There’s still a lot I want to do with my SmugMug account. My system of categories and subcategories needs some tweaking, I need to go through and properly tag my photos and at some point I’d like to hire someone to professionally customize my site.  In 2011 I also hope to redesign my blog to allow readers to order prints of all my daily photos.

I can’t really envision having a serious photography website without having SmugMug as the back end.

To see more of Gary’s daily images subscribe to his blog and visit his SmugMug gallery.  You can also get his free ebook “50 Favorite Travel Photos” by subscribing to his email newsletter