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Posted on Nov 29 2019 by Jen Kiaba

Why Photographers Shouldn't Ignore Local SEO

Learn how to stand out in search engines when people are searching for a local photographer

If you're a photographer who operates a studio, or acts as a service provider for your area, you already know how important it is that local customers can find you. And while word of mouth referrals are business gold, photography business owners also need to show up when potential clients are looking for their services online. If your business isn't showing in the search engine results for local searches, it affects your business' bottom line.

While many photographers know that investing in Search Engine Optimization is important, few know that there are techniques referred to as local SEO to help you be found locally. There are many signals that you can give to Google to help it understand where your business is located, and the areas you serve. Once search engines know about where your business is, your website is much more likely to show up for local queries when someone is looking for a photographer.

Why is local SEO important for your photography business?

In our article on SEO myths, we discussed a lot of the basics that your website needs in order for search engines to understand its content. But it's also equally as important for search engines to know where your business is located, and what regions you serve. Here are just a few statistics to prove why local SEO shouldn't be ignored:

  • 50 percent of people who did a locally based search on their phone, later went to a store within a single day.
  • 34 percent of those people who did their search on a computer or tablet went into a store on the same day.
  • 18 percent of local searches on mobile devices lead to a sale within one day.
  • 60 percent of American adults conduct searches for local services or product information on tablets and smartphones.
  • 78 percent of local queries that take place on a mobile device end in a purchase being made offline.

While most photographers know that in their sales cycle it's not likely that someone will do a search and show up at the studio to book the next day, these statistics demonstrates something extremely important: locally based searches have high purchase intent. So if someone is searching for a photographer within your city, the likelihood is that they are nearing the end of their sales cycle and are getting ready to book.

The difference between traditional and local SEO

Essentially, local SEO is today what the Yellow Pages used to be. Instead of flipping through a book of business listings, search engines seek to provide that localized listing information, along with other pertinent information like hours of operation and reviews. Many photographers focus their traditional SEO efforts on ranking for keywords. However, local SEO employs tactics that go beyond optimizing for the keyword to capture local based queries.

The search engine results page often look very different for a local-based query versus something that might be deemed a more "traditional SEO" query. For example, a traditional SEO query might be "wedding photography" whereas a local SEO query would be "wedding photographers near me." Traditional SEO efforts will certainly help with local searches such as:

  • Wedding photographers near me
  • Wedding photographers in {your city}
  • Family photographers near me
  • Wedding photographers in {your city}

Search engines assume that the intent of the person searching for "wedding photographers me" is in need of a service provider. Therefore the search engine results page will reflect this need. The intent, however, for "wedding photography" is a bit fuzzier, and search engine result page will reflect that by displaying more varied results.

Let's take a look at a couple examples. The first is for that more generic search "wedding photography." At the top of the results page are the Google Ads. Below that is a Map Pack showing photographers near where Google thinks I am searching from.

Below the Map Pack are related questions, a few organic listings, and YouTube video results. We can see, especially by the related questions and the YouTube results, that Google is not 100% sure of my intent when I search for "wedding photography." The related questions come from people looking for wedding photographers, as well as people who might be interested in getting into the business of wedding photography. The YouTube video results are similarly mixed. One is a behind the scenes of a wedding day, which could appeal to someone looking to book a photographer. But the other two results are definitely geared towards someone in the wedding photography business.

Below the YouTube results are images that Google has pulled, along with more organic listings. The organic listings are also mixed, between a Wikipedia page defining wedding photography, photographer listings from The Knot, and tips for the working photographer:

We can see, just by the different results in this search engine results page, that Google is trying to give us a buffet options to choose from because it isn't sure of our intent.

Now when we switch to a local-based query, "wedding photography near me" things change. Above the fold, we still see that there are four spots for Google Ads and the Map Pack:

Below the Map Pack, we see related questions, but they are much more focused on hiring a photographer. We also see the organic listings, which are directories of local photographers.

In both cases we can see that ranking in that Map Pack puts your business near the top of the search engine results page, and that is one of the biggest benefits of local SEO! Traditional SEO is incredibly important for ranking your business, especially for queries that are earlier in the sales cycle or to answer those "related questions." However, by adding the component of local SEO into your strategy, your website will be able to float towards the top of page for those who are getting ready to book!

What is the Google Map Pack?

The Map Pack on Google comes from Google My Business listings and features information pertinent to locally based searches such as a business name, address, and phone number. In local SEO terms this information is referred to as NAP: name, address, phone.

By optimizing for local SEO, your business not only gains more visibility in the search engine results, search engines will also feature rich information about your business. On desktop searches, potential customers can visit your website from the Map Pack, get directions to your business, and see your hours and phone number. If someone is searching on a mobile device, they could call your business directly from the search engine results page. This means that local SEO can give your business the competitive edge by letting interested parties call you without needing to visit your website.

The steps for Local SEO

Now that you know the importance of local SEO, and how it rolls up into a greater SEO strategy, here are the steps for getting started:

1. Begin with on-page optimization.

These are the techniques that help search engines understand what your site is about. To incorporate a local SEO facet into your optimization, make sure to put your business's location on your website. This information can go in the footer of your template, but it also helps to have this information on a contact page a well. Make sure your contact page clearly shows your NAP. Including your email address is also helpful, and if your template allows for a map on the contact page this can be a nice bonus.

Here are some on-page SEO tips.

  • Where possible, each page should be optimized for a single keyword idea.
  • Where relevant, interlink to other pages within your website. This helps visitors move through your website more easily, and find important pages. This also helps visitors on their path to conversion.
  • Avoid "thin content" by having at least 500 words of text on each page, even on your photo gallery pages.
  • If you're writing blog posts, create long form content. Articles with about 1,500 words or more tend to rank higher.
  • Use natural language in your H2 headings. This helps search engines understand the content and context of your page.
  • Optimize your images by making sure they load quickly, and fill out the alt text for every photo on a page.
  • Use calls to action to entice visitors to visit other pages on your website
  • Fill out your Page Title and Page Description for each page's meta data and make sure you are using relevant keywords.
  • Create URLs that are easy to read and are keyword rich.
  • Make sure your website is mobile friendly.
  • Make sure your site loads quickly.
  • Make sure your pages are easy to share.

2. Localize your keywords.

By taking your keyword list and giving them a local spin you can help search engines know more about where your business is and who it serves. Start with keywords that your clients are already looking for and give them a local focus. So instead of "wedding photography" try "wedding photography in {your city.}" Not only can you use these keywords in your content, but you can also optimize your page titles, meta descriptions and image alt tags with them as well.

3. Make sure your content is optimized for local search intent.

Optimizing for search intent is where you help search engine understand the blog posts, images and videos on your site. When doing your research on customer intent, don't forget local based queries. For example, a potential customer might be searching for "the most picturesque places to have a wedding in {your city}." But creating and optimizing content for local intent and local interest, you can position yourself as an expert in your field and help search engines understand where your business is located at the same time!

4. Seek out quality backlinks with a local focus.

Backlinks are links from other sites that help search engines understand how relevant your site is in relationship to a searcher's query. When coming from a traditional SEO mindset, the authority of the linking website is one of the main focuses. For example, a feature of your photography on a major wedding blog is a great backlink. But for local SEO purposes, that wedding blog might not help search engines understand your location. So think about local publications that could feature your business or link to your website. Local newspaper features and links from nearby businesses or your chamber of commerce are great backlinks to have to boost your local SEO.

5. Set up Google My Business and Bing Places.

Google My Business and Bing Places are free and helps you manage how your business appears on the search engine results page in Google and Bing, respectively. You need to have face-to-face interactions with your customers to qualify. So if your business is run completely online, selling digital products like Lightroom Presets, you cannot sign up. But you don't need to have a brick and mortar studio either. For example, if you use your home address as a business location but don't want it to show up in search engine results, that's ok. You can hide your address but still have a Google My Business or Bing Places listing.

6. Submit your site to local directories.

There are a number of places across the web that can help search engines understand your location. Sites like Yelp, Facebook, Photographer Central and other directories list your NAP and can give search engines relevant information. Just make sure that the information is consistent across sites. While there are some directories that cover all photographers, there are others for niches that photographers serve. You can also look at the Moz Local tool to see where you already have a listing. This is helpful for checking that your listing is accurate, and to make sure you don't have duplicate listings or incomplete. You can also use their citations by category list to see some of their top recommended directories for photographers.

Depending on your business services, some of the top Local SEO directories are:

  • Google My Business
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Yellowpages.com
  • Yelp
  • Local.com
  • WhitePages.com
  • Manta
  • Photographer Central
  • Wedding Wire
  • The Knot

Your listing on these sites can also show up in the search engine results page! So, take some time to claim your listings on relevant directory sites. As always, remember to keep your name, address and phone number consistent!

7. Seek out online reviews.

In our search engine results examples, you'll note that there are reviews next to some of the business listings in the Map Pack. Google pulls this information from reviews left on your Google My Business page. The intent here is to help potential customers understand how trustworthy your business is. However, reviews can appear in other places, not just the Map Pack. Social media pages and directories that allow for reviews can display ratings for your business in organic listings:

When someone searches for your business, reviews can get pulled into the Knowledge Graph about your business sending positive signals to potential customers:

Get your photography business set up on Google My Business & Bing Places

Google has the largest market share of any search engine, so claiming your Google My Business listing in their directory is extremely important. However, don't discount Bing because it is still the default search engine for some browsers. By signing up for Bing Places, your business will be eligible to show up in Bing's Map Pack. To sign up for Google My Business go here, and to sign up for Bing Places go here.

When signing up for each of these services, they will walk you through answering several questions about your business. Once you have filled our your business profiles, they will send you a postcard with a PIN (Personal Identification Number) that you will need to verify your business. Once you verify your business there will be a waiting period before your listing goes live.

Not sure if you already have a Google My Business or Bing Places listing? To check your listing, Google yourself on https://www.google.com/maps and check https://www.bing.com/maps. Make sure that there aren't duplicate listings for your business. If there are, contact Google or Bing support to correct the information.

Once you've created your listings, use the following as a checklist to ensure your listings are complete:

  • Make sure your address and contact information are correct and consistent with what's on your website.
    • If you don't have a public physical address, that's okay. You can sign up with your personal address and request to keep your address private.
    • If that's the case, make sure to tell Google and Bing that you don't serve clients at your physical location.
  • Choose your area by selecting a radius of your current city or by listing the cities and towns you serve.
  • Add your website so that people can click to it from your Google My Business or Bing Places listing.
  • Write an up-to-date description of your business and services.
  • Add photos of your place of business, and related imagery. Google and Bing will pull images from your listing when people search for your business, so having good images uploaded can be a bonus for your branding!

How to get reviews on Google My Business and Bing Places

The businesses that rank at the top of the Map Pack in both Google My Business and Bing Places tend to have reviews. Whenever you have a great client experience, make sure to ask those clients to give you a review on Google or Bing, because future prospects will be able to see that information. Once you have created your listing, you can send that link to your customers asking them to write their review and share their experience. Google will look at the content of the reviews and create categories, making it easy for future customers to click on topics and read relevant reviews:

As a bonus you can also get friends to ask common questions in your listing. When they do, you'll be able to answer it, creating a mini FAQ:

How social media can impact local SEO

Both Google and Bing have confirmed that Twitter and Facebook profiles influence SEO results. This means that the more your business is talked about on social media, or the more your content is shared, the better it is for your visibility in the search engine results page. For example, when customers search for your brand, your social media profiles can also show up in the results!

Your social media profiles also give you another opportunity to tell the search engines about your location. For example, you can fill out location data for your Facebook page much in the same way that you were able to for Google My Business and Bing Places. As always, make sure that your NAP is consistent. Last but not least, you can use location keywords in your bios and descriptions!

Connecting the dots between the online and offline world

Now you know how important it is that local customers can find your photography business online and just how easy it is to teach search engines where you are located. But while submitting your website to various directories and keeping your listings consistent, don't overlook one of the most important aspects of local SEO: how you interact with your surrounding community. By connecting with other local businesses, both offline and online, you will find opportunities to boost each other's online visibility. For example, featuring each other on your blogs or on recommended vendor pages is a great way to boost each other's local SEO signals. The more other local businesses share about you on their social media or link to your website, the better it is for your SEO! Not only will customers be able to find your business more easily when searching for your services, but your efforts will also create a solid business network to help your company thrive in the years to come!

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About the Author

Jen Kiaba
Jen Kiaba is an award-winning artist, educator and the author of Perfect Facebook Ads. As a former Director at Dragon360, a New York Digital Marketing Agency, she brings her background of working with both small businesses and Fortune 500's to creative business owners looking to improve their digital presences and strategies. She also blogs about art marketing and licensing at jenkiaba.com
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