Regardless of whether your photography website focuses on marketing your photography services or merely showcases your photos; you'll want to maximise the number of people who visit your website. You may be expecting people to find you in Google or other search engines and if so, you'll need to make sure your website is findable in the veritable haystack that is the internet. You'll need SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
I've been running my photography website for over a decade. I'm also partly a web developer and website search optimisation expert by trade, so naturally, I've experimented a lot over the years with optimising my website and learning from the results.
While there are hundreds of possible technical SEO tweaks, many require a high level of technical knowledge and access that many website owners won't have. For those looking to improve their photography website performance, here's my list of the seven most significant improvements any photographer can make to their website.
Here are my 7 top tips to improve photography website SEO
Reduce image size
We all want our gallery photos to be of the highest possible quality, and therefore we're inclined to upload the most massive files we can to display the detail our expensive lenses offer. However, if you don't keep an eye on the file size, you could be uploading files of 1 or 2 megabytes in size. In a typical website gallery, you'll be showing many of these images on one page. When someone views that page, they'll need to download all those images to their device, think mobile users on 3G networks. Slow load times are a guaranteed way to kill your user experience, and Google will penalise your website for it.
How to fix:
Use smaller images and optimise them beforehand with an image optimisation tool such as ImageOptim or an online tool like JPEGmini. Utilise image optimisation tools such as ImageOptim to compress file sizes down to between 100 to 200 kilobytes and keep your image dimensions below 1200 pixels width, or ideally no wider than the screen size.
Content is important
Photography galleries are usually image-heavy with little or no text content. While this might be visually great for humans, machines such as Google's search crawlers can't understand what pages full of images are 'about'. They need context, and the best way to convey this is with text.
How to fix:
Write at least a paragraph of text about each image you upload into your galley. You could include a description of why you created the photo, how you captured it, or maybe something about helping other photographers get similar images. Ideally, you'll want to show some of that text on gallery pages where there are many images displayed together on one page.
Use image alternative text
Search engines can't know what the subject of your photograph is. They're great at seeing patterns in the image data and knowing that one image looks similar to another on the web, but they can't understand the context.
How to fix:
Use Alternative Text for your images. Alt-text is a little snippet of words that gets displayed on the website if an image fails to load. Search engines use this text snippet to understand the subject of the picture. Write your 'Alt Text' as if you were describing your image to a visually impaired person, ideally with a sprinkling of subject relevant keywords.
Avoid duplicate content
Do you have pages on your website where the content is identical? Maybe you have a default page layout for your photos which uses the same few words on every page, with only the photograph being different. Search engines don't like pages like this, referring to them as Duplicate Content. As a result, they'll usually remove them from search results. Remember, search engines want to show users excellent quality content, and if they think yours are highly repetitive, your beautiful images just won't be shown.
How to fix:
Have unique content on every page. Refer to my previous tip and write some unique text on every page.
Descriptive page titles are vital
As a photographer, I like giving my images unique, sometimes unusual titles. I've previously used names like Recede, and Celestial Ocean, sometimes influenced by songs I'm listening to whilst editing. While I still like odd titles, they don't convey any real, usable context about the image.
Commonly, website image titles end up being the page title for that particular photo, you can imagine, 'Recede' doesn't tell you much.
How to fix:
Use descriptive keywords in your titles. Landscape photographers, for example, might use the location in the title, such as "Recede- Skagsanden Beach". People searching for Skagsanden Beach then stand a good chance of finding my webpage.
Use relevant filenames
One of the most common missed opportunities I see photographers make, is uploading their photos with default file names, such as DSC8632.jpg, or if after exporting from Lightroom they might be DSC8632-edit-edit-edit.jpg. Such file names don't convey any context to what the image is, and therefore won't be used by search engines.
How to fix:
Landscape photographs are always location related, they're pictures of a specific place, in certain conditions. If someone searches for information of a particular location, they will use that location in their search.
Search engines look at the filename of images to help them understand the subject of the photo. Therefore you can gain some substantial optimisation by adding the landscape location in the filename, maybe together with the lighting conditions. For example; quiraing-sunrise-iselisle-of-skye.jpg or llyn-padarn-lone-tree.jpg.
Interlink your pages
When a visitor views a page on your website, you'll want to give them somewhere to go when they're finished. If you don't, they'll leave. They will have found a dead end in your website, which will increase your pages' Bounce Rate' (the number of people that view one page then leave).
How to fix:
Place links to more of your content on each page. If your page is for one photograph, add three links to more pictures on your website in a 'You may also like' section. If you've written blog posts about a related subject, offer links to that post as well. Try and capture peoples interest, and keep them within your website.
There are many more small and large SEO tweaks you can make to your website to get more traffic. My list covers only a few of the everyday things I find lacking on most photographers websites.
If you use any of these on your site or have more tips yourself, please tell me in the comment section below.
About Robert Rhead
Robert Rhead is a English landscape photographer, UX/UI designer, web developer and graphic designer. He currently holds the LRPS certificate from the Royal Photographic Society, has won English and international photography awards and has featured in various high-profile photography and lifestyle magazines.