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Why Doesn't My Photography Studio Website Appear in Search Results?

by Joel Hooks
Photo Credit: Rhys Asplundh

This is a series of post examining why our Fort Worth photography studio website performs poorly in Google search results, and why it fails to convert the visitors it does get into new clients. The first post sought to analyze Google Analytics data and get a clue as to how users arrive to the site via search. The short story is that they typically arrive via image searches for very generic terms such as “4 month old baby” and other similar searches. Even amongst these searches, actual clicks through to the site are abysmally low. I’m working on a book about conversion optimization for photographers, and our studio is the first case study in the process.

VE Home Page

Let’s start at the top, with the page title:

Visual Empathy Portrait Photography, Dallas Fort Worth | Modern Lifestyle Portraiture | Fine portrait photography | Children’s Portraits | Portrait Photographer

These are some interesting phrases. I can almost remember writing them. First, the business name. The site does really well when searching for “Visual Empathy”, which of course nobody does. It has “Dallas Fort Worth” in the title, which is definitely where we are at, but they are in isolation. I thought these two were interesting:

  • Fine portrait photography
  • Modern Lifestyle Portraiture

Why are they interesting? Because they’ve both been searched for by nobody ever. “Children’s Portraits” and “Portrait Photographer” are ok, but it is a bunch of disjointed keywords that gives Google’s robots no specifics to hone in on. Robots really like specifics.

Walking down the page, we get to the header. The logo is actually a background image, which misses an opportunity to use the alt text to let the robots know what the page is about. Image alt text is actually important, and was something that I never even considered when I put this page together in 2007. Sliding across the header is the navigation, which isn’t egregious, but is also extremely generic and vague, targeting pages that have extremely generic and vague titles. Again, missed opportunity to turn on the bright blinking lights about what this page is for Google.

Next down the page is the gallery. My wife takes truly wonderful pictures of people. The photography is beautiful, but it is also hidden behind now dated Flash image gallery. While this isn’t really hurting us in terms of SEO, it probably isn’t helping either. We are definitely missing another opportunity to use the alt tags on the images. The worst part about this presentation is that it totally excludes mobile phones. Visit the page on an iPhone and you get a big white field of nothing. Not cool.

Down below the fold is a mishmash. To the left is an area that uses a special catagory of blog post to show a special. It isn’t helping with SEO at all. No keyword phrases, no image alt text. The picture is nice, but otherwise…

Now to the right. 6 paragraphs of me being “clever”, using flowery phrases and a smattering of keywords. The last paragraph has the potential to actually harm our SEO. Google robots hate keyword packing. The same word, photographer in this case, repeated over and over again.

Digging into the blog…

Blogs have a ton of potential for capturing the long tail of SEO. This is where we can really produce some content, using keywords that highlight specific terms and phrases that potential customers might search for. For a photographer the blog can also serve as a gallery that uses posts as a way for clients to pin, like, and share their pictures with family and friends.

I’ll use the latest post at the time of this writing that highlights some beautiful wedding photos. The title is J&J Wedding- Dallas/ Fort Worth Wedding Photographer. Looking down the page, they all follow this pattern. Client Name- Dallas/ Fort Worth _________ Photographer. This is where we start to see the origins of the image search results we talked about above. The post titles are definitely affecting search results, but not a way that is useful for the site’s SEO. I suspect the repeated use of the exact same Dallas/ Fort Worth Photographer in the titles is adversely affecting search results too. That is just a suspicion, but given the objective results (or lack of results), the post titles aren’t helping. The image alt tags are also not contributing here. They are the filenames. Nobody is searching for specific filenames when they search for a local portrait photographer.

Kristina also got into a “blog circle” this year. This is a good idea. Their implementation of the concept could use some work, but it could be a good thing. The drawback here is that it effectively turned the blog into a personal blog, akin to a Tumblr. I love my children, but rule number one of your photography website has to be only post your best, and these once a week posts border on snapshots at times.

And in conclusion.

The only redeeming aspect of the website is the photography. Period. Which is great news. Given awesome photography, we can build something on top of that. These first two posts are a little boring, but I wanted to deconstruct the site to understand exactly what was wrong.

The really interesting bits are in the fixing, and that is what is coming next. I’m terribly excited to start the process. Stay tuned!

Want to chat about this post? I'd love to hear from you.
You can find me on twitter , , or via email joelhooks@gmail.com