Guest blog editor Chris Cummins, owner and chief photographer of Glow Imagery, a wedding and portrait photography studio based in Kansas City, shares his top tips for increasing the search engine visibility of your clickbooq portfolio website.
So you have your clickbooq website up and running. The portfolios look awesome, you’ve customized your website with your very own background and the whole thing is sizzling.
The problem is your website still sucks. Why? The people who want and need your service still can’t find you. Now is the time to learn about search engine optimization, often called SEO, and how it works with your clickbooq website.
Getting listed by search engines at or near page one for important keywords should be a crucial goal for your business and website. It means new and better clients which of course means more money in the bank. So how can you accomplish this with your clickbooq website?
Since investing in a clickbooq website in 2007, I’ve encountered a stigma from other photographers and search engine marketing “experts” about using a flash-based website and how difficult it is to improve search engine rankings for these sites. Some insisted I had wasted my money and that mirror HTML was seen as “black hat” or illegitimate by search engines and such websites would be punished in their rankings for using such techniques.
I knew it was hooey. While there are very real limitations to how search engines interact with Flash content many Flash websites using mirror HTML are ranking very well.
Promoting your business with a Flash-based website like the one offered by clickbooq can be a unique challenge… but my experience proves it is possible. Clickbooq provides each of its users with a mirror HTML web page that opens up some powerful possibilities to enhance your rankings on Google, MSN, Yahoo!, etc.
Disclaimer:, The material I am sharing has been acquired through research, trial and error. I am merely a wedding and portrait photographer in the trenches with a clickbooq mirror-HTML website who has managed to rank on page one or near page one for a few keywords important to my business and potential clients. My guidance here comes from my experience, research and success using these tips to advance my own online marketing. That learning process is ongoing.
Good SEO isn’t being listed No. 1 for your name:
O.K. So this one isn’t a tip as much as a reality check. Too many photographers are content getting listed on the first page of results when someone searches for their studio’s name or their personal name. This isn’t where the growth potential for your online presence is. The people you need to grow your business don’t know about you and are searching for generic terms such as “Portland photographer” or “Miami fashion photographers.” They are not searching for your name.
Effective search engine optimization seeks to place your website in front of an audience seeking your services who do not know about you nor what you have to offer.
Understand how search engines work and how they “see” your clickbooq page:
I love my clickbooq site, but Google could care less about those wonderful image transitions, big pictures and clean design. Why? Google has virtually no ability to “see” Flash websites and index their content. Therefore Google has a very hard time telling what your site is about and who is your intended audience. It’s computer brain cannot see what a human sees so it relies heavily upon text, coding and links in a website to discover what a website is about, how it compares to others and who needs to see it when they search for certain keywords on Google.
Research your keywords:
This is a crucial early step for building an effective search engine marketing plan. Keywords will form the basis for much of your work. What are your keywords? A good bet is to make them multiple word phrases unique to your location. Avoid the ultra competitive keywords.
For example, a Texas wedding photographer will have a much easier time making the first page for “San Antonio wedding photographer” than he/she will for “wedding photographer” not to mention reach a much more local and more likely to book clientele. A good place to check the popularity of keywords is Google Adwords:Keyword Tool. Enter in your keyword ideas and it will show the popularity of those words plus related keywords and their popularity.
Write these keywords down and keep them close, they will be critical to your work.
Use keywords in your title:
Log into your clickbooq toolbox, click on the “Settings” tab and click on “Search Engine Settings” on the far left of the toolbox. There’s important work to be done here.
Let’s start with the “site title” field. For search engine purposes, there’s a few good titles and a thousand bad titles you can use. A website title should be informative to the visitor and helpful to search engine rankings. A Utah child portrait photographer will get better rankings if they title their website “PB&J Photography: Salt Lake City children’s photographer” rather than just “PB&J Photography”. They will achieve even better results if they use “Salt Lake City children’s photographer | PB&J Photography”
Search engines like each page to have unique titles so vary your webpage titles where possible. If you have any HTML pages hosted on your domain be sure and vary the titles from your clickbooq’s website titles.
Write a brief and informative description:
Next you need to fill in the “Meta description” field. The importance of page descriptions to SEO is debatable but they are very helpful to potential visitors. The description is listed below your website title when potential visitors see your listing on a search engine. Usually limited to about 150 characters, this text is an important means to pique the searchers interest in your website.
Make your description 150 words or less and make it useful and informative. Do not pack it full of keywords and gibberish. Such practices are considered spam and it will not help your rankings. Put your keywords and phrases in the Meta Keywords field. The meta keyword field is not all that crucial to your SEO but fill them in anyway.
Every picture on your clickbooq site should have a title and keywords:
Since Google relies heavily on text to index a webpage use your targeted keywords in your clickbooq images’ keywords and image titles. Every image should have a title and use important keywords in those titles. If “Atlanta fashion photographer” is an important keyword phrase go ahead and name some images “atlanta-fashion_01.jpg,” and “atlanta-fashion_02.jpg” and “atlanta-fashion-photographer_23.jpg” Do not use non-descriptive filenames like IMG_3456.jpg.
It is also wise to vary your use of keywords phrases. Don’t repeat them too much, that’s called “keyword stuffing.” Google knows when you are trying to game their results, they will punish your rankings for getting too cute with your SEO efforts or repetitive with your keywords. I try to limit my use of a keyword phrase to no more than twice a page.
Use captions on each and every picture:
Again, it’s all about text. Regardless whether you feel captions are an important aspect of your work as a photographer you need to have captions on each of your pictures. If you don’t have captions visible on your website (usually marked “info” on the flash website) you need to change that immediately. Log into your clickbooq toolbox, click on the “Settings” tab, click the “Website Features” field on the left, on the far right under “Portfolio Settings” make sure to have “Display image captions field” marked.
Make unique captions for each of your images. Use a keyword phrase from your research in the captions. Once again, do not overdo it. One keyword phrase per photo is sufficient. Use the other keyword phrases you have researched for the other text fields like “title” and “keywords” for your images.
Blog, blog, blog:
If your clickbooq site is your showhorse for your business, a frequently updated blog with lots of content is the workhorse. Your blog is loaded with text such as captions, headlines, descriptions, not to mention backlink opportunities from other places on the internet. These are very valuable in building your entire site’s search engine ranking.
Blog everyday, make a weekly plan and stick to it. Write articles that showcase your knowledge for your relevant audiences, tag the posts, keyword them and watch them attract visitors and links.
When showcasing your work, create sub-domains with your keyword terms and stash the images in those sub-domains. Use the “ALT” term within your IMG tags to add other keywords. Again, beware of keyword stuffing.
Blogger is not your friend:
Clickbooq websites allow you to host a WordPress blog on your own domain. Use it, it is crucial. (edit: not available for plans after June 2011; blogs can only be hosted on a subdomain)
Early on I made the mistake of using a blogspot blog hosted on the blogspot domain and not my own. That meant all the posting, tags, comments and backlinks I earned through blogging were giving search engine credit to blogspot and not my domain (glowimagery.com). Transferring all that stuff over to my wordpress blog was a big pain. Request clickbooq to install a wordpress blog on your website and start blogging now.
Creative places for links:
Did you know you can publish links on your website through the “Copyright Holder” field? You certainly can. The possibilities are pretty neat considering there’s a limited number of content pages and links you can publish on the navigation bar of your website. You can link to your own text-rich, Google-lovin’, HTML content with a mission statement, bios, FAQ, a sitemap or an about page. The linked-to HTML page will be indexed by Google and is yet another opportunity to use keywords and build backlinks.
Most people don’t know you can also place links in your captions. In my captions I have links to other wedding vendors, photographers and articles I have written.
Get backlinks, get backlinks, get backlinks:
Most of this post has dealt with on-page SEO through keywords, captions, URL structure, blogging, etc., but a major factor in you achieving first-page listing for your keywords will be off-page SEO. Namely who’s linking to you in the vast internet universe. It’s pretty clear Google favors websites that are popular and trusted in search results. A key judge of a website’s popularity and trustworthiness is the quality and quantity of links back to that website.
It helps to think of your clickbooq website as a town out in the desert, the more roads and highways you have going into that town the more visitors you will receive.
How do you build links to your site? This will be the central challenge of effective search engine marketing. It can be grueling and unglamorous work but it is the lifeblood of getting and keeping a page one search engine listing. There are a myriad of ways to build links but it should be a constant effort on your part.
Provide tips and advice through a blog for people relevant to your niche. Serve others by sharing what you know. Are you a fashion photographer? Write a blog post about how to work with stylists and make-up people. Did you develop a cool Adobe Photoshop action? Post it to your blog.
Do a guest blog for your affiliates and professional contacts, of course make sure you put a link back to your website.
Give and you shall receive. Start a links page on your website and begin putting other people’s links on neatly categorized lists. If you give someone else a link they are much more likely to return the favor.
Enter contests, donate to a local charity and get a link on their thank you page, submit to directories, participate in forums.
The good news is building links fits exactly into the practice of old-fashioned, press-the-flesh offline marketing efforts which you should constantly be doing as well as your SEO. Asking for a link back should be as regular a request as handing out a business card.
To help you get started, I am building a new link page to my website and would love to help your search rankings by furnishing a link to your photography-oriented website. In return all I ask for is a link from your website or a blog. Contact me at email@example.com to provide your linking information.
See how it works? I’m not kidding either, shoot me an email.
Oh, and stay away from link farms. Build incoming links naturally and organically with people and websites that are relevant to your service.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint:
Good things in life don’t come easy and they don’t come without sacrifice. If they do come easy and painlessly they tend to disappear just as easily and quickly.
This is especially true of SEO. You’re not going to be on page one for “Los Angeles photographer” after only a few days of working on this stuff. SEO is just like regular, old-school marketing. It’s a slow arduous process that is best accomplished by working on it a little bit each day. No matter how busy you are, set aside an hour each day building links, blogging and tinkering with your keywords.
Use Google Analytics to track your progress. I keep a journal with weekly goals and a weekly evaluation of where I am ranking for my most valuable keywords. I also track offline marketing goals and efforts. They are all to service the same goal: more visitors and more business.
Stay focused and don’t give up. I hit the wall a couple of times but kept tinkering, learning and trying until little victories became bigger ones.
A portfolio showcased through clickbooq is a powerful presentation tool so you already have a competitive advantage. A quick scan of your competitors will reveal most photographers who are accomplishing high search engine rankings do not have websites with the clean, intuitive and impressive design of a clickbooq website. The challenge is to wisely implement a strategy using the tools available through your clickbooq website to rank highly for keywords important to your business.
It is possible, it just takes commitment and work.
Chris Cummins is the owner and chief photographer of Glow Imagery, a wedding and portrait photography studio based in Kansas City. Chris has been a clickbooq user since 2007. Newly married himself, Chris enjoys writing, reading, cooking, good cinema and giving belly rubs to his beagle, Opal. Want to ask Chris a question? Swap a link or two? Drop Chris a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.