This blog of Portland photographer Dylan M Howell features weddings, portraits, personal work, photography tutorials, and gear reviews. This blog concentrates on telling adventurous love stories all around the world.
The beauty of Oregon’s wine country is somewhat underrated. I knew there were award wining wines, but I didn’t realize how gorgeous the area would be. With rolling hills of pines and long rows of vines going miles in all directions, I was in awe. There were wildfires hundreds of miles away covering the Dundee Hills with a blanket of smoke. Domaine de Broglie (formerly Vista Hills, before being purchased by the Coppola family) was the winery Rhea + Seth chose for their wedding and they couldn’t have made a better decision.
There isn’t much better than a wedding at Loloma Lodge when the the Fall colors are in full effect. This is an all-time favorite venue, nestled next to the McKenzie River near Bend, Oregon. If you’ve never been to this area, it’s awe inspiring. From the unique volcanos to the crystal clear turquoise rivers, lakes, and water falls.
I’ve been a member of the stock photography co-op Stocksy United since 2014. They turned the stock photo world upside down when they entered the market by promoting authentic images, supporting the photographers/shareholders with the co-op structure, and being at the front of trends hitting the design world. It was important to me that they had both artistic ideals in regards to their collections acceptance standards, as well as making sure that the financial benefit made photography sustainable to the contributors. If you’d like to license an image, here are the latest Stocksy coupon codes.
This was a monumental departure from the micro-stock agencies who had taken over the industry and I quickly applied to be a member of the growing collective.
I’ve since also joined the Artist Relations team and consulted on SEO at Stocksy. I jump into the queue of incoming images a few hours per week, with the task of deciding which photos are a fit for the collection. It has been an incredibly rewarding position. Allowing me to see a ton of interesting photography, learn even more about the technical aspects that can make or break an image, and be inspired by the level of talent in the co-op.
Travel images have sold particularly well, allowing me to justify staying a few extra days in many destinations. It also gives me a little extra nudge to bring the camera or try a little bit harder with composition.
Stocksy has removed their 1000 contributor cap and is now permanently open to new artists. If you’re wanting to push yourself creatively and are interested in monetizing your photography without the pressure of client work, this might be a nice fit. Click here to apply!
The last wedding of the year for 2019 and one of my favorites. The simple beauty of the Redwood Deck, as the rain filtered through the tall trees, made for the perfect elopement location. The witnesses for the ceremony were two people who happened to be enjoying the arboretum. It couldn’t have been more intimate. Enjoy <3
2019 is right around the corner and SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. We’ve seen massive algorithm updates and turbulence in the rankings across all corners of the internet. I wanted to expand on how these recent updates affect photographers. Let’s look at the recent changes, diagnose what they’re really affecting, and make better strategies to improve our rankings for the new year.
One of the biggest changes Google has made going into 2019 is Mobile First Indexing. By now, almost all websites have transitioned to Mobile First. Meaning that google is crawling your site using a smartphone instead of desktop computer.
What does Mobile First Indexing mean for photographers?
First, you need to make sure that the mobile version of your site isn’t hiding important text. Some mobile themes or responsive designs hide copy or have different menu structures in an attempt to simplify the experience. Since Google is crawling mobile now, they’re only indexing and ranking pages based on your mobile website.
Second, your site needs to be mobile friendly. This isn’t directly related to mobile first, but is massively important as mobile traffic takes over. If your pages don’t pass this test, you’ll likely see massive decreases in mobile rankings. There are early signs that mobile friendliness can also affect desktop search results.
Machine Learning + Natural Language Processing
Since the early days of SEO, people have concentrated on ranking a specific keyword. It was an easy process. You created a page based around that keyword: using it in the title and URL, hitting a certain amount of repetitions throughout the body text, sometimes even stuffing it into the alt-text of the images.
Enter Natural Language Processing and Semantic Search. Google is using machine learning to analyze the meaning of the individual words. Then taking it further, to the overall meaning of the sentences, pages, and website.
What does that mean for wedding photographers?
Say goodbye to keyword stuffing and creating content to satisfy a google bot. We can now look at the massive amounts of information Google is telling us in the search results pages and use that info to create content that answers searchers queries in the most complete way. Doing this will create content that has the viewer’s experience in mind rather than hitting a keyword density percentage from the year 2000.
Once they have user intent, they can decide which results will best solve that intent.
The four main types of search intent:
Informational – The searcher simply wants to know the answer to a question or learn more about a topic. Navigational – The searcher is looking for a specific website or brand. Transactional – The searcher is ready to make a purchase and just needs to find the store or product. Commercial – Similar to Transactional, but this searcher needs more information to make their decision. This is typically the largest percentage of intent behind traffic that converts well for photographers. The searcher knows they want photography services, but isn’t entirely sure which photographer they want to book.
Google wants to see that the pages they’re serving are solving the user’s search intent. Pages that do this well will filter up in the rankings as poor performing pages fall. We’ll talk more about this in the next section on User Engagement Metrics.
User Engagement Metrics
The goal here is to improve the Click-through-rates to your pages by creating titles and meta descriptions that are enticing in the search results. This is a mix between creating content that will solve the searchers’ intent as mentioned above and using copywriting skills to grab the searchers’ attention.
Once the searcher is on your site, you want to increase their dwell time. This is by making sure they’re interested in your content, they want to continue reading, and there is enough content to keep them on the page for more than a few seconds.
Google has many patents related to user engagement. They likely keep track of CTR, dwell time, and how long users watch video that is embedded in your page. Likewise, they can demote your pages’ rankings if they see people “pogo” back to the search results page quickly after clicking onto your site.
What does this mean for 2019?
Create useful content that is accurate and covers the subject deeply. Don’t forget to quickly answer the query near the top of the page before diving deeper to give more background information.
Links are Less Valuable
A huge change going into 2019 is the decreasing value of backlinks. The current theory is not that Google is becoming better at ignoring spam links, but that they look at it from the opposite perspective. Google only gives value to a small percentage of links on the internet. These are links that are topical, drive traffic, and come from authoritative sites. An example of an authoritative site would be New York Times or Wikipedia. This authority is then passed to sites linked to from NYT, since they don’t link to a source that isn’t credible. Those sites are then seen as authoritative, though less than the primary source. The tactic for 2019 should be to find opportunities to build a small number of these authoritative links. Look for sites that have received recognition from major national media or are primary sources for information cited on Wikipedia.
Technical Is Becoming Even More Important
SEO is quickly becoming more technical, but there are easy wins for photographers.
Make sure that your images are well optimized by using a compression tool to minimize file size without negatively affecting image quality. Consider prioritizing fewer large images over a slider of many images.
Watch out for 404 errors in Search console. If these pages had traffic or backlinks, it might be best to redirect to a similar page. Keep in mind when we talked about User Intent above. If you redirect a page about sports photography to a page about wedding photography, it isn’t likely going to be relevant information to the user. Google can tell when the links are to a different topical cluster and will likely disregard them. The same goes for redirecting to the home page.
Most of the technical issues seen on photography websites have to do with page loading times, internal site architecture, or improper redirects. There are also the extremely simple things, like title tags and meta descriptions or simply fixing broken links (both internal and outbound).
If you’ve ran your site through a Lighthouse Audit recently, you’ll see that Accessibility is one of the main factors Google wanted webmasters to be testing and improving. With roughly 20% of web users having a disability, it’s important to make your website experience as accessible as possible.
The typical issues I see on photographers’ sites are:
Lack of contrast between background and text
Too small of text
Alt-tags that are stuffed with SEO keywords
Not having unique page titles
Not labeling form fields.
Fixing these issues on your site is going to help your SEO and make a better web experience for people with disabilities.
There is a great chance that the recent algorithm updates were also quality based, specifically the August 1st update.
The simplest analogy of overall site quality is that every page on your site is either seen as high quality or low quality. If you have 75 low quality pages and 25 high quality pages, to even out that ratio you have two options. Either create 50 high quality pages or delete 50 low quality pages.
If you think of this overall quality when performing your regular content audits, you’ll realize the importance of either deleting poor performing content or hiding it from search engines with a noindex tag. This is one of the most beneficial tactics I’ve used in the past year and it seems to be growing in importance going into 2019.
If you’re interested in my guide to performing a full SEO audit, click here.
I’ve created a tool that imports data from many sources (like google analytics, a site crawl, and SEO tools) and quickly organizes it so you can easily make these decisions.
The overarching theme is that they want to improve the searchers’ experience by returning more useful and relevant content. Using AI, they’re aim is to have the search experience be less of a question and answer ordeal and more of a journey through related information. They’re even trying to eliminate the keyword with their new “Discover” feature.
“We’ve been able to do this in part thanks to advancements in computer vision, which help us extract concepts from images. We model hundreds of millions of fine-grained concepts for every image and video that we have in our index. For example, an image of a tiger might generate concepts like “feline,” “animal” or “big cat.” This lets us identify a picture by looking at its pixels, without needing to be told by the words on a page.”
They’re using AI to return better results for a given query. This will hopefully mean less time inputting alt-text in an attempt to give Google more information about an image.
Tapping the power of the web page
“When you come to Google Images for help on a task, the page where an image lives is important. Whatever page you visit should help you take the next step in what you’re trying to do. Also, with many visual searches, there may not be one right answer, so you want to scan a lot of images and information before you find what you need.
Over the last year, we’ve overhauled the Google Images algorithm to rank results that have both great images and great content on the page. For starters, the authority of a web page is now a more important signal in the ranking. If you’re doing a search for DIY shelving, the site behind the image is now more likely to be a site related to DIY projects. We also prioritize fresher content, so you’re more likely to visit a site that has been updated recently.
Also, it wasn’t long ago that if you visited an image’s web page, it might be hard to find the specific image you were looking for when you got there. We now prioritize sites where the image is central to the page, and higher up on the page. So if you’re looking to buy a specific pair of shoes, a product page dedicated to that pair of shoes will be prioritized above, say, a category page showing a range of shoe styles.
Starting this week, we’ll also show more context around images, including captions that show you the title of the webpage where each image is published. This is critical to help you understand the page behind the image.”
There is so much new info to unpack there, but at its core this is the same goal any content creator should have when making content.
Quality text, large images, content freshness, topical authority, and domain authority. These have already been the pillars of SEO and now it will hopefully update the image results to return more relevant images than before.
Previous to this, image search was pretty easy to game. Do an image search for “idiot” if you need any proof.
Suggestions going forward:
Large static images on the page. I’m a definite believer in static images over slideshows for photography home pages. (Feel free to have a slideshow portfolio page instead.)
Take more care with the text content on the page that is near the images. Write a great paragraph of information above or below the images you’re trying to rank.
Topical Authority. Don’t just write one stand-alone page or post about a subject. You need to prove to Google that you have a depth of information on the topic. Write supporting pages or posts for every main topic of your site, it can make a huge difference in overall rankings once you have 3-4+ posts on a topic.
Domain Authority. Build quality links. It’s cliche.. Create content that will attract links. Don’t stop there, do the outreach that will get people to link to your site. Links from other websites that are about the same topic as yours or in the same city/area are pure gold. There are few better links than a local site in the same niche.
Alt-text. This is something that you shouldn’t spend all of your time on. If you have a 100 image blog post, please don’t spend a day typing alt tags. Grab a handful of favorite images, put your main keyword in a couple of them and explain the image in sentence form with the rest.
Image filename. This can be a nice nudge up in the rankings. There is a definite correlation between including your target keyword in the filename and better image rankings. This is another one where it’s probably only worth your time to go back and change a few images.. especially large images on important pages (homepage!).
Optimization of the page the image appears on. I recently doubled the image search traffic of a big site by optimizing the URL structure of the pages that the images appear on. Simply adding the target keyword to the url.
Time to make sure you’re embedding copyright metadata with your images. The IPTC standards they’re referencing are: Creator, Copyright Notice, and Credit Line. Lightroom makes this super easy, just fill out these fields (you can make a preset that applies on import):
It’s been a while since my last SEO for Photographers blog post, but you can find more of this content on my Patreon.
That’s it for now, let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about image search!