One of a series of AskMe questions this week, this one a lot simpler to answer than the dreaded “film or digital?” – one for another day! The question in full is:
“How come when I google my name, your page about me comes up before my own website? I added a meta tag in my code with lots of words.”
A series of robots (and humans) do the somewhat hefty job of indexing the whole of the internet so that the search engines (Google, Yahoo, AOL etc) can find us on the world wide web. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the combination of methods used by content management and web authors to try and ensure that their site has the correct ranking. The higher the better, obviously.
The WWW is indexed using text – words alone. For photography websites, and especially for static brochure-type sites based mostly or wholly around photographs, SEO is difficult to manage because there is simply not enough data (words) for the robots to catch.
Things you can do to improve your site’s search ranking:
1. Name your photographs in several places. The file name SaltburnPier01 is far better than IMG00356, and do make use of captions, titles and alt=”” tags. The more words associated with your photographs the easier they are to find.
2. Write about the work. Descriptions, explanatory pieces of prose, critique or even appropriate poetry, anything (See 1). Doesn’t have to be on the same page, but the more text the better.
3. Link to lots of other sites. Traffic is vital for SEO. Visitors in and through your site will automatically add to your ranking. Success definitely breeds success. If you have no visitors, you’ll get no visitors.
4. Keep your links relevant. For photographers, that means linking to other photography sites, and not to a general mashup of your other interests, unless they’re part of your context or genre, or they’re one of your clients.
5. Put your domain name (URL) into your signature on all your emails, and attach to any posts you make in photography forums, and in comments on other blogs. In other words, promote your own site. All the time.
6. Use Web2 social media like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Deviant Art, Lomography, whatever is current, fashionable, and is where the people you want to see your work are hanging out. If you’re not active on these sites, take a couple of days to get around as many of them as you can and register with a name unique to you that will help you stand out or create the feel or buzz you’re seeking to create around your work. If you can engage properly in the ‘community’ on any of these sites, do so. Creating a sense of community around one’s work has never been easier, but like most things of any value, takes time to cultivate.
7. Use metatags. They won’t help much on their own, but put them in anyway.
8. Use a proprietory Content Management System (CMS) which is well known as an instant provider of good SEO. Currently WordPress is streets ahead in this game. If you want to make your own static website using something like Dreamweaver, make sure you do all of the above and keep your content regularly updated and changing.
9. WordPress is great for photographers, but there are a whole host of other content management systems for photographs out there. Look also at Drupal,Expression Engine and Moveable Type, and album and gallery systems likeJAlbum, Banana Album, Simple Viewer, PixelPost and so on. Specifically look for sites made with any of these and see how high they rank by Googling their keywords or titles.
10. If you can’t manage much or all of the above, or still feel you need a static word-free site just for just photographs, like an extended business card, then do supplement your website with a weblog. A how-to of blogging for photographers is overdue here, but is on its way in the next week or so. The most basic key to successful blogging is very simple though: do it and just keep on doing it.