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5 Essential SEO Tips For Photographers

Pick up some top SEO tips to help improve your photography business.

| General Photography

5 Essential SEO Tips For Photographers: SEO Tips for Photographers

SEO shouldn’t be scary, or confusing.

The only reason it seems that way is that SEO nerds (like me) often write articles for other SEO nerds which means we use a bunch of technical jargon to explain things to one another.

This is just like a veteran photographer giving their niece her first camera and instead of explaining it to her in terms she’d understand (as a newbie), he explains it to her over-using phrases like ISO, Aperture & F-Stop, shutter speed, etc.  

A newbie doesn’t need all of that. In fact, it makes it sound so foreign that she may not even enjoy using the camera. SEO is the same way. I know based on my extensive work helping photographers grow a pipeline of leads on autopilot using SEO.

This article is going to demystify SEO and give you five tips that you can implement in your business and see real returns.


Why Does SEO Matter for Photographers?

Google is both a discovery platform and a research platform. If I’m searching for an answer to a problem I have, I Google it. If I know what I want to find, but want to learn more, I Google it.

According to an Advanced Web Ranking study (and confirmed by many more), 42% of people click on one of the first 3 search results in Google.

In hard numbers, that means that if you rank first for the searches related to “real estate photography in Cleveland,” and 200 people search for that each month, 54 people (27%) are going to click over to your website.  IF your site is awesome and converts traffic to leads, you could be getting 5-10 solid leads coming in per month on autopilot.

Every time I hire somebody, I Google them first.  Even if a friend has recommended them, I Google them.

And you know what? I’m not alone.  97% of consumers check online before hiring you. Even if you’re already 99% of the way to closing a new client, they’re still going to Google you.

Important: SEO isn’t dangerous, but if you go nuts with it trying to game the system, it can backfire.  The advice in this article is evergreen (it will work forever).  These are scammy hacks to game the rankings.  One of my clients was having somebody build spammy links for $125 per month and as soon as I saw it, we put in a plan to fix it and her traffic shot up like a rocket.

Never forget that the goal of SEO is to bring in traffic from search engines (mainly Google) to your website.  This traffic only matters if that traffic becomes leads and those leads become clients.  Otherwise, it’s just a vanity metric like that Facebook page with 26,946 followers that never brings in a high-value client.

Side Note: This is not a “skim” article.  You *can* skim it and learn what you should do, but all I care about is increasing the revenue in your business. You can’t do that skimming articles.  

Read this entire article (it’s not that long, I promise) and ask me any questions you have in the comments below. I read every single one.

5 Essential SEO Tips For Photographers: Know What People Are Searching For

Tip #1: Know What People Are Searching For

You might think that you know your ideal client pretty well, but do you know them well enough to get inside their head and predict what they’re searching for in Google?

Instead of writing what we “guess” they’d be searching for, you can find out and start to increase your traffic and leads.

*Note: For examples like this, I like to use free tools versus paid tools because it makes it much easier for you, the reader. When I do this for clients, I use paid tools to increase the speed and quality of my service.

For example, imagine you’re a real estate photographer in Cleveland.  Here’s how I’d find out:

1. Make A Good Guess

First, I’d put together a list of keywords that I “think” my ideal customer is searching for, like:

  • Real estate photography in Cleveland
  • Cleveland real estate photography
  • Ohio real estate photography

2. Drop Those Into Google Adwords

Again, I recommend Google Adwords because it’s free and since you’re a photographer (and not an SEO expert), there’s no reason for you to pay tonnes of money each month for SEO tools.

Once you’re logged in, go to Tools and Keyword Planner. Drop in those keywords you brainstormed earlier and click the button labelled “Get Ideas.”

3. Get Ready for Ideas!

Click the “Keyword Ideas” tab and download them in Excel format.

From here, I like to delete all of the columns except “Keyword” (B) and Competition (E).

Now, by scrolling down the “keyword” column, you’ll get a myriad of ideas.

Pro Tip:  Filter the “keyword” column by right clicking the top and narrowing it down to only searches that include your keywords or maybe one of your keywords.  Like me, I doubt you have time to go through 600 keyword ideas, so filter them to get the most relevant ones.

What’s super cool about figuring out this process is that, since we can see what people Google for, it’s pretty much the same as interviewing your potential clients.

5 Essential SEO Tips For Photographers: Create Content That Gets Rankings

Tip #2: Create Content That Gets Rankings

This is probably the most confusing things. Most SEO for photographer articles just tell you to make great content and they don’t ever explain how.

So let me break it down:  There are too many conflicting pieces of advice out there about what kind of content to make. Some say make short content more often and others say to write long definitive guides. What ends up happening is that you, the photographer, get a case of what I call “analysis paralysis” and you don’t take any action or publish anything at all. So look at what I do and what all successful SEOs do: We write authoritative content that is genuinely helpful to people.

Every article I write takes over 5 hours from start to finish.  Most, like this one, take over 20 hours. I love my family a lot more than I love writing about business and I’d rather be playing lightsabers with my sons or doing pull-ups in my backyard, but I know what it takes to rank, so I do it. I don’t make content not worth making, and neither should you.

So let me lift the veil and show you exactly what I do:

  1. I research keywords (just like I told you how to do above).
  2. I make sure my on-page SEO is perfect (more on that below in #3)
  3. Write in a way that people enjoy reading
  4. Write about things that people would enjoy reading (and sharing!)

Continuing with the example above, I think that the real estate photographer should definitely write articles about the incredible homes that she has photographed, but she also needs to write articles that get shared in social and get linked to.  What if she found the five most expensive homes in her city and took photos of those and make it into an article titled “Behind The Curtain of the Five Most Expensive Homes in Cleveland.”  Or, maybe just one article on the most expensive home in Cleveland.  I bet that would get the attention of Google and the real estate agents that want to hire her.

I love giving simple, tactical advice on things so here are three ways to write articles that people will share on social and link to from their websites:

  1. Infographics - The Top 10 Most Expensive Homes in Ohio
  2. Guides - A Behind the Scenes Look at the Life of a Real Estate Photographer
  3. Case Studies - How to Get Photos of Your Listing That Sell it in Days

These will build trust in the real estate agents who are going to pay you $10,000+ to photograph their listings over the next year, so don’t look cheap in your writing.

Tip #3: Make Sure Your On Page SEO Is On Point

For a services page on your site, we want to tell Google that the keyword is important. Do that by including it in:

  • Your title
  • An < H1 > tag (WordPress does this automatically with the title)
  • An image title
  • An image alt tag
  • A few times throughout the content
  • The URL

I use Yoast SEO’s plugin to shortcut this and make sure I’ve done it right.  Here’s what that looks like for one of my clients:

  • Keyword (purchase): Chicago wedding photographer
  • Page Title: Chicago Wedding Photographer – Shane Cleminson
  • H1 or H2 tag: Hire the Best Chicago Wedding Photographer
  • Image Title: chicago-wedding-photographer-1
  • Image Alt Tag: Shane Cleminson Chicago Wedding Photographer
  • Content: Wrote out at least 750 words on Chicago wedding photographer services.  Not only should you be using the main keyword in there a few times, but also variations like: “wedding photographer in Chicago” and “photographing weddings in Chicago.”
  • URL:

You can also use the Sitechecker tool. This tool will help you perform an on-page SEO audit and find all the errors that affect rankings and, consequently, website traffic.

Bonus Tip:  Photographer Blog Post Formula

Title - Use your main keywords and the location. Lots of photographers use the names’ of people in the session, but since those aren’t going to pull in any significant traffic, there’s no reason.  With Keyword + Location, Google knows what kind of session you did (such as Aberdeen Manor Wedding in Valparaiso, Indiana).

Content - This is where you talk about your subject.  Explain your relationship with them and tell a story about something that didn’t go according to plan (doesn’t that always happen?).  Elaborate on how you overcame the potential derailment.  In the mind of your potential client, this positions you in their mind as “the expert” who they can trust with a photo session.

A link to get in touch - I’m a big fan of a link to your contact page, but I’ve also seen a few photographers have success with a phone number link (auto-dials in on mobile devices) or a link to join a mailing list.

5 images from the session - Why only five images? If a potential client can’t decide to hire you after seeing five images, fifty images aren't going to sell them.

Another link to get in touch (yes, I’m serious) - Don’t make them scroll back up after they see your images. The fewer steps a client has to take before hiring you, the better.

5 Essential SEO Tips For Photographers: SEO Tips For Photographers

Tip #4: Investigate Your Competition

Since photography has a high demand of people searching online and a large cost of service, competition is going to be fierce.

SEO for wedding photographers won’t be as competitive as the plastic surgery industry (SUPER high demand AND cost), but will definitely be more competitive than local art gallery SEO.

I’ve looked at over 500 photographer’s websites, links, tags, etc. and just by reading this guide and implementing it, you’re going to be in the top 1%.

BUT, if you have somebody in your niche that’s also in that 1%, you need to know what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Don’t worry, they’re doing it to you, too!

I’m a huge fan of using Moz and Majestic plugins in the Chrome browser. Install them and do a quick signup and you’re ready to go.

If you prefer to use one over the other, no problem.  But it’s like using only one of the tigers of Voltron, you don’t get the full effect.


  • Trust Flow (TF) - How good the links are that point to the website
  • Citation Flow (CF) - How big of a site the links are coming from


Since we don’t care about the specifics of any of these, we just want to see how high each is compared to our site. Here’s what we’ll do:

  1. Google your main keyword and look at the top photography sites that rank for that.  Jot down the four things we want to monitor (TF, CF, DA, and PA)
  2. Organise these into a Google Sheet (I’m so in love with Google Drive)
  3. Look at the number of backlinks each one has.  Having more than your competition is the difference between a six-figure photographer and one that’s about to quit from lack of work. Typically, the best links for a photographer are from other photography sites and other local sites.  Look at ones your competition has and reach out to those sites to get them, too!

Is this a lot of work? Of course.  Is it worth it? Absolutely! But, it’s also the reason a lot of people hire professionals to do it for them.

5 Essential SEO Tips For Photographers: Social Media

Tip #5: Out-link Your Competition

This used to be the easiest part of the process, but things have changed since I started on the web in 2010.

Here’s how to prove Google can trust you:

  • Sponsor blogs to support your content and link to you
  • Write for other websites and link back to your own website in the post
  • Craft your own site so that every post tries to drive people to your contact or services page
  • Share links on social media, on forums, Reddit, Quora, etc.
  • Reach out to other websites to link to your blog posts

This can be a full-time job if you let it (it is for me!), but doing this WILL work. Here’s how to pull it off:

Sponsor Blogs and Websites

While buying ads on Wedding Wire, The Knot, etc. can be helpful for traffic and SEO, a better option is looking at local blogs in your area.  If you’re a photographer in Philadelphia, a link from Billy Penn would be amazing.  Wedding photographer in Chicago? Get a sponsored link from the Chicago Sun Times would be extremely valuable, and cheap considering the added benefit of traffic and Google rank in bringing in new clients.

Writing For Other Sites

I saved this for last because guest posting is my favourite.  You get to provide value to somebody’s readers and you get a link (and maybe some traffic) in return.

Here’s how I find the best sites to write for:

I define three keywords: the type of photography you do, the type of client you want and the location where you primarily operate. So that may be “portrait photography” “CEO” and “Austin, TX” or is could be “wedding photography” “Brides” and “New York City.”

Then, I search Google for these types of opportunities:

  • Keyword “Guest Writer”
  • Keyword “contribute to our site”
  • Keyword “Guest post”
  • Keyword “guest blog”
  • Keyword “Submit a post”
  • Keyword “Write for us”

Sending them an email with sample headlines based on posts they have that already do well (find these by dropping their site URL into Buzzsumo), is the best way to get on their radar.

Linking Within Your Site

In the most simple terms, everything within your site should point toward your contact and services page.  Every blog post, about page, etc.

Everything.  We want to drive as much traffic as possible to a place where leads can become customers.  If you’re super savvy and are building a mailing list (the #2 thing I see photographers neglect behind SEO), directing them to join that list via some sort of lead magnet (a wedding day checklist or portrait outfit guide are perfect) is also a great idea.

Forum Links and Social Media

Back in 2010, this meant posting to your fan page and personal profile, but in 2017, this means writing things for your ideal clients, and also your peers.

Re-read that last line and don’t forget it. You want other photographers sharing your posts AND your potential clients so alternating between topics is super important.

Since you already know you should be on social media: Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram (Twitter is pretty optional now), I’ll share my two gold mines for traffic and links:  Quora and Reddit.  Search for your keywords on each and leave helpful replies with links to your site at the end.  I’ve pulled a ton of traffic to clients’ websites from Quora posts like “Who is the best photographer is San Francisco?” and questions like that.

5 Essential SEO Tips For Photographers: Social media

E-mailing Other Sites to Link to You

Building an honest relationship and making it a win for both the site owner and you is key here. They get amazing content that helps their goals (traffic, subscribers, etc.) and you get things that will help you rank in Google.

The Most Essential Part of SEO for Photographers

Every single photography Facebook group, LinkedIn group, and forum is plagued with posts about photographers lamenting all of the newbies jumping in and stealing their business.

It makes me think that we’ve forgotten that this *is* a business we’re running.  None of us are promised clients just because we do good work.  We have to learn to be great at business as well.

SEO is hard, but only as hard as it has to be to keep crappy photographers and “dabblers” from putting in the work.

But you’re a pro and if you’re willing to implement everything that I’ve written above, clients are going to be beating down your door.  Some photographers have even made an extra five-figures this year using these tactics.  The best part of SEO is that we can track that, and prove it in their analytics!

SEO is the most important investment you can make in your business.  Good thing you have an expert here to help. I read every single comment (I promise!) so if you have a question about ANYTHING, just comment below and I’ll reply!

About Author: Brendan Hufford

Brendan Hufford is a marketing and business veteran who is absolutely in love with photography. In 2016, he founded Photo MBA, where he teaches photographers how to charge more, land better clients, eliminate business headaches, and bridge the gap between their current reality and photography business goals.

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