Like many people, once you’ve accumulated a portfolio of images you’re proud of, you’ll probably want to show them off. And like many, one of the best ways of doing this is to start your own photo blog.
But simply putting your photos online – no matter how good they may be – won’t guarantee you lots of regular visitors to your site. No longer the dark art it once was, search engine optimisation (SEO) has gone mainstream, and with a few simple tweaks to your workflow you can dramatically increase your photo blog’s visibility on the web.
1. In-camera tagging
Did you get a new camera this Christmas? Why not start off on the right foot before you even take your pictures. Most new cameras will come with a CD that includes the camera’s software drivers and applications. You should be able to add your personal information to your camera via this CD, and this will always appear in your images’ metadata.
2. Tag your photos on the computer
Without the correct keywords applied to an image, it’s unlikely anyone will ever find it via search. This is where your image-editing or photo management software’s keywording tool comes into its own. Tagging photos not only makes your images easier to find within your blog, it helps search engines like Google classify and categorise your work – not to mention, ensure you make the most of the headers, keywords and descriptions that stock libraries may give you should you go down that route. Photo management software like Canon’s Project1709 or Adobe Bridge allow you to apply keywords to your images in batches in a matter of seconds.
3. Update your photo blog regularly
We know: easier said than done. When you have kids, a day job, a leaking roof, updating your website is the last thing you want – or have time – to do. But the one hard and fast rule of search engines (and, really, there’s only one) is that they like regularly updated content along a common and consistent theme. Try to make time twice a week to make a post containing an image and about 300 words explaining it.
4. Decide what your photo blog is about
Remember how just above we mentioned that search engines like a common and consistent theme? Think about it as if you were a lawyer; if you are a lawyer specialising in divorce and paternity cases, people might see you as a mixed bag. If you specialise only in divorce cases, you’ll soon be seen as the authority on divorce court procedure.
The same applies to photo blogging. If you blog about one thing, the sooner you’ll rank for that thing than if you blog about several things. This is absolutely crucial for a small photo blog starting out in the world. If you mostly like landscapes, start by posting your landscape portfolio and build up a set of tags tied to popular landscape-related search phrases.
5. Include your keywords in your image file names
Everyone always forgets to do this because, on their own, image file names don’t account for much in Google rankings. But if you are posting a lot of photos, over time these can add up to something significant and give you an advantage over others who neglect to change their image names from DSC_0009.jpg. You see your photo blog as a beautiful page of big images and sans serif text. But Google sees your page as one long stream of text and code. If you and a competitor both have a post on photographing the Jurassic Coast and both have five images within, but your pictures are called ‘Jurassic_Coast_photography_001.jpg’ and your competitor hasn’t renamed his files, your post will be more visible.
6. Don’t forget Alt Text
Most blogging software has a field called Alt Text to fill in when uploading images. This is a description of your photo, and it’s also another bit of text that Google relies on to classify your post. Stuff it (sensibly) with keywords.
7. Don’t go overboard with SEO
Once you see the results of SEO it can be tempting to go overboard and pack every sentence with keywords. But the key to good SEO is subtlety. Many people have tried to game the system, but they always get found out in the end. Relevant content still wins the day, and when your content is relevant for the phrases you want to rank for, your keywords will fall into place naturally.
8. Connect with social media
A good way to drive traffic to your photo blog is via social media – namely Facebook and Twitter. Many photographers will set up an official Facebook page for their photography and promote their latest posts. In fact, you can now set up your photo blog so that it automatically puts your latest posts on your social media channels.
9. Don’t exclusively self-promote
In the early days of social media you might have got away with promoting solely your own work, but not anymore. People are too savvy. People want to follow someone who offers a wide range of content they might not have found on their own. Share other photographers’ work that you like and respect, and soon you’ll build a thriving community. As a general rule, share one of your own posts for about four of others’. When you do post your own stuff, it will carry more weight with your followers because they will see you as an authority on the theme of the content you post.
10. Partner with other blogs
Photographers can help each other out by posting and commenting on each other’s photo blogs. Embracing the blogging community is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your site. Look for photographers posting similar content to yours. Read them, leave comments on posts, and chances are they will check out your own blog. For every 10 times you do that, around three of them will get in touch or return the favour. The more links from other websites you can accumulate – particularly from websites posting content similar to yours – the more visible your photo blog will appear in search results.
11. Reply to comments
When you reach out to other photo blogs and they reach out to you, it’s only polite to respond. Online etiquette is no different than the real world. The more you can build a relationship with readers the more likely they are to keep reading and recommend your blog.