Today's guest post is by Mike Hartley, a website developer and founder of bigflannel, an online photography template. Mike has been building websites for photographers for 12 years. His commendations include PDN competitions, an American Photo cover, an ID Magazine Annual Design Review, Communications Arts sites of the day and the Webbies.
SEO and Web Design For Photographers
Photographers get a return from their website when 1) people who want to buy photos or photography find the website and 2) when they do find the site, it makes them want to choose and use the photographs or photographer they have found.
These two things are equally important.
Google says “Googlebot's got no eyes” and there doesn't seem to be much chance of that changing soon. What they mean is it's difficult to index anything other than words. They don't pay attention to fonts, colors, shapes, movement, images, video, just the words around them. They don't pay attention to the things that add value in a visually literate society (have impact) or to the very item we're hoping someone will find and pay for.
So photography websites are stuck between being found, which requires words, and having an impact, which requires the use of images, to be successful.
Web addresses, page titles and the text on a web page are within our control and in part determine the words a site is indexed on. Unfortunately, the deeper we get into a site, the less important these become (pages deep in a website are indexed less highly than a home page).
Links into a website, and the text of the link, are perhaps as, if not more, important than the original site itself (remember George W Bush's resume was once the top hit on a search for “miserable failure”). The more links in a page has, the more important it is on a search for the words used to link to it. So whether or not people can find a website depends on a few things, not just what's on the site, but how people link to it.
Again we're managing the balance between words to be indexed and images for impact; impact both encouraging the visitor to choose to use us and encouraging links in. Alongside this, people are competing with us for attention and the words people are using to find what they need are changing and evolving all the time (people use more words in a search these days then they ever used to, for example).
For this reason, I think the best website set up for photographers is a combination of an online portfolio and a blog. The portfolio indexes on basic words (name, location etc.) and is used to create impact; to display images beautifully. The blog indexes on many words and is used to position a site in search and to build relationships.
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