With over 100 billion searches on Google per month and over 900 million unique users, getting ranked on Google’s first page for keywords that are relevant to the right people finding your website is important for your business even as a creative. This isn’t the simplest task to get done but it is also obtainable, especially for searches performed in or for your particular region.
The first problem is most visual creative’s websites simply lack search engine readable content. While a photo may be worth a thousand words; Google, Bing and Yahoo tend to gloss over them like the guy who always thinks the book is better than the movie; annoying but try changing his opinion even once, not going to happen!
Over the last two months I have spent time refining the wording on my website and meta information while still keeping it viewer friendly in conjunction with a new website launch. I have always found the topic of search engine optimization, SEO, to be interesting and have read enough about it to realize there is too much conflicting information on the web about what Google looks for in a page as well as the topic made out to be complicated. Two things continually come up though; good unique content and incoming links from reputable sources (better page rank).
I write this because from the statistics in Google Analytics my search traffic from January to February has more than doubled and within the first eleven days of March I have had more visitors found me from Google and Bing than in the month of January and February combined. Part of this is due to a few important good keywords but also overall optimization of each page and a few articles of good content in the blog. Prior to this effort the only keyword phrase I knew I could be found on that was relevant was ‘retoucher Chicago’ and that only showed up under Google Places/Maps. Below is what I have learned and my understanding of what simply works. I hope it helps someone and as always view this time spent as an investment.
How and Where to Place Keywords
Use a short descriptive URL on pages. This should contain the most important phrase to describe the page’s content. The URL is seen as being the least probably place to be used as spam especially if the keyword used is found in other places on the page. Shorter is better here, keep it concise and to the point.
Google sees the first word as the most important here and the last word as the least. Choose your order based on what reads well and competition for those words. Since the name ‘Brian York’ is not near as competitive as the word ‘Retoucher’ I opted to put my name and branding at the end of every page title. Doing this also gives Google users a better idea of what they will find on the site. If they are searching ‘Professional Retoucher’ seeing that on the SERP, search engine results page, item title before ‘Brian York’ is more useful to them. Use a maximum of 70 characters with spaces as this is all Google will read and display, more tends to read as spammy.
Meta description tag: This is the description of each page shown in the SERPs. Make it human readable with the most important keywords placed anywhere in the description. If you are using WordPress for your site use a SEO plug-in that will allow you to edit this for each page. Use a maximum of 156 characters with spaces as this is all Google will read and display more tends to read as spammy.
H1 heading text
This is generally the page title shown on the page itself. If you are using WordPress or other CMS system this is typically the Title of the document unless altered in the theme. Keep it short with the most important keywords for that particular page used here. Also use the keywords in the H1 tag within the first paragraph. Google pays extra attention to the H1 heading, however only use one H1 heading per page, otherwise it looks spammy.
H2 heading text
This is a sub-section heading. You can have multiple H2 tags per page but keep them relevant to the content directly under and make sure to repeat a few of the words used in the paragraph directly below if they are important keywords. Otherwise they can just be for the user as an organizational element.
300+ words, Google likes content and tend to look at pages with less than 300 words as less important or useful thus giving it a lower ranking. This doesn’t mean every page on your website has to be over 300 words but just keep this in mind and use when appropriate.
Image file name & meta title
As part of a complete SEO’d page when using images name them something relevant. If the image is a photograph of a Ferrari F12berlinetta don’t upload a file name of ’01.jpg’ or ‘img_8345.jpg’ rename the file to something like ’01-ferrari-f12berlinetta.jpg’ as this gives Google and other search engines an idea of what the image may be. If the image name matches text in the content then a search engine will view the page as more complete and relevant to the topic. Remember you really never know what someone will search for as it could be ‘Ferrari photographer’ as opposed to ‘automotive photographer’.
SEO For Your Home Page
Think of the keywords that best describes what users needing your service would search for then use the Google keyword tool, found in Adwords, to find the most searched version that still makes sense. For me it was actually ‘photo editing’ and not ‘photo retouching’ by a difference of several million however both are important. Ensure that in some way those keywords are repeated once in the title tag, meta description, h1 tag and twice in the page text. For the page text think of other words as well people might use to search and write about your business working those in naturally. Consider putting a ‘recent blog post’ on your home page with snippets of the most recent three articles. This raises the word count on your home page as well as keeps it changing. Always remember Google likes updates!
SEO For Pages and Portfolio Items
Use keywords that describe the particular page accurately. When working on SEO for your pages avoid using your main ‘site keywords’ on every page as Google isn’t easily tricked. As a photographer your about page title tag should not be ‘About John Doe Photography, Professional Photographer, Cars, Landscapes, Portraits, Fashion and Product’ but something like ‘About John Doe | John Doe Photography”. The latter doesn’t feel spammy and if all the other words are relevant to your website they are ideally covered well on more appropriate pages. The same goes for the rest of the tags and content. Remember Google has already indexed your other pages and especially your home page and will know what the basis of your website is about no need to force it on Google. Remember the page with the most keywords doesn’t win, the page with the most accurate and quality content does.
Use the specific page keywords in your page URL, title tag, meta description, h1 heading and page text twice as well as where relevant in images. Always speak to your audience and not to Google, the algorithms is very sophisticated at Google, if I were to use the word photo editing on every page in every area several times Google would pick up on this as spam and give you a lower rank. The idea several years back was to just load up every space with the most important keywords, if that worked now you would see that on pages in your search results but you don’t so don’t do it.
Write Quality Content
This one seems like common sense, but it is so easily forgotten. Write quality content and update consistently. Write for the viewers as they are the ones that will come back once they found you, give you backlinks or share your link on a social network.
Don’t Copy Content
If you thought your school teachers were good at catching plagiarism search engines are masters at it. When a search engine detects duplicate content your site gets labeled as the second website to have it and bumped down the ranking due to being redundant.
If you read about SEO you will find a lot about backlinks and pagerank; Google and other search engines crawl the web exploring all different places. The internet is a lot like the world with good and bad ‘neighborhoods’. When you place a link on your page to another website, without the ‘rel=nofollow’ tag, you in a way vouch for that site and tell Google that you think the site is a good source, giving it a virtual ‘+1 from me’. Through this method Google determines if your site is in a good or bad neighborhood.
If Google finds your website through a link on a scam site then Google may see you as possibly being part of a bad neighborhood and if you have a link to your website from a highly reputable site such as the New York Times Google will see that as a good reference adjusting your pagerank accordingly. You won’t get placed in a bad neighborhood over one or two bad links but you shouldn’t do anything that gets you a lot of negative or less than worthwhile links to your website or ‘backlinks’. You don’t need thousands of backlinks but just a few good ones to get started. Quality and original content will get you more overtime without having to do anything.