Following up on our Facebook group live series about Debunking SEO Myths for Photographers, we wanted to share our thoughts in one of our favorite formats – the blog post!
There are many SEO myths that impact people and businesses building out their websites.
Like most myths, there is often a glimmer of truth worth taking into consideration.
Many people, and especially photographers, fall into trappings of believing some of the myths we’ll outline in this post – and it can have significant impacts on the performance of their website, SEO rankings, and businesses as a whole.
In this article, we are going to unpack 11 SEO Myths and Facts to help you find the truth so you can implement a better SEO strategy.
What is an SEO myth anyways?
There are a few factors that influence whether we consider something to be an SEO myth or not. They include…
The source of many, many SEO myths come from advice that was once true.
Because of the way search engines (like Google) function – there were methods that once worked well to get rankings that have since been impacted by changes to their complex algorithms.
A simple example of this is keyword stuffing. In the early days of websites and blogging, when search engines were in their infancy, you could put your keyword into a page 100 times and potentially get results.
Today…not so much…
(It could actually have the opposite effect and get your website marked as spam)
People making assumptions that are inaccurate and untested
Every few months when Google releases a major algorithm update (known as “core” updates), everyone from professional SEO’s to business owners with web presences and run of the mill bloggers alike tend to go wild…
The result of this panic, especially when there are negative impacts to your rankings, results in many assumptions being made that can end up being inaccurate.
Part of the problem in scenarios like these is that people are left to their own devices.
Google never really gives a clear picture of exactly what is being changed or how it’s going to influence the SERPs (search engine results page) – so these conversations and assumptions are somewhat necessary evils to help us stay relevant and continue to rank our websites.
With that said, it easily leads to the creation of new SEO myths as these assumptions are rarely supported with hard evidence.
People rehashing opinions of others (that were wrong to begin with)
This point is particularly common in social media groups where everyone is an “expert.”
Discussions on SEO, marketing and business are hugely valuable. That’s especially true for photographers who are looking to find unique opportunities to pave a way for themselves to have successful businesses in an industry that, in most areas, is pretty saturated.
Where these discussions can go wrong is sometimes taking opinions as absolute truths.
There are a lot of grey areas when it comes to running a photography business and implementing SEO strategies.
People who have more experience may be able to serve as better than average guides, but we recommend to constantly ask questions and dig deeper to make sure the things you are hearing will actually make sense with your individual implementation.
A SEO “fact” might be wrong for your specific use case
This is probably the most frustrating of all…for pretty much everyone.
The world of SEO is filled with a ton of objective truths.
You do one thing, and there will be an expected result.
You do keyword research and identify a good keyword for your market, then create content targeting that keyword, and you’ll get results.
The reality is that some SEO facts do not always apply to your specific implementation.
Taking the example above – it is a fact that doing keyword research and writing content around that keyword is a great approach to writing content. We believe in this wholeheartedly and have built out our photography businesses with search engine optimized content that began with specific keywords we found in our planning tools.
However, it’s not the only approach.
Another method for creating search engine optimized content would be to simply write about common questions. In fact, I employed this strategy on a website I created a few years ago and some of my best performing posts simply answer questions without any emphasis on keywords at all.
Debunking 11 SEO Myths for Photographers
1. You need to rank #1 in search to have success.
In our experience, this is one of the biggest SEO myths.
We see regular discussions online about “how to get to #1” and it’s even coming up in inquiries to our business and in our free Discovery Calls.
Ranking #1 in the SERPs is valuable but getting to that position is a byproduct of a lot of work and SEO strategy put into action.
Here are a few reasons why this is a myth:
- Ranking #1 in Google search is meaningless until you clarify what you are trying to rank #1 for. Your website as a whole is not going to rank #1.
- Every page should be aspiring to target different keywords, topics, and audiences. It is not realistic to rank all of these pages #1 because that would assume perfect understanding of search engine algorithms.
- The #1 spot is often taken up by paid ad listings. Often, and this is especially true for higher demand keyword queries, there are a few businesses using paid ads to be in the top spots.
- Google often rotates different web pages in and out of top spots to test out what serves user intent better. This is natural and you should always expect some ebb-and-flow of your rankings.
One other point to consider (especially true for photographers…)
You need to consider how your users are engaging with the SERPs.
For example – if you are creating session/wedding blogs targeting a specific local location – like a wedding venue or state park – your users are going to be engaging with the search results differently than people searching for something scientific.
When I was looking for a photographer for my own wedding, I remember searching for terms like “Pennsylvania Wedding Photographer” and sifting through page after page. I’d open up a ton of photographer sites in separate tabs, then go through them one by one to find those that resonated most with me.
I’m not just some weird anomaly (at least not in my internet search habits…lol).
In reality, I get regular inquiries from couples who found my pages through organic search. Sometimes those pages they found are #1, and sometimes its back a ways.
The fact is – creating content that is high quality, consistent, optimized for search and serves your users well gives you the best opportunity to rise in rankings.
2. SEO is all objective.
This SEO myth becomes more apparent when you dig in a little more.
There are some objective SEO truths we feel confident in.
A few include…
- You should properly use headers (H1, H2, H3, etc.) on your pages as it provides a solid outline of your page for search engines and your users
- Optimizing a page for a keyword gives you more of a chance to rank for that specific keyword
While we love objectivity when we can have it, the reality for many photographers in particular is that the implementation side of SEO is very subjective in many ways.
I believe this is one of the major reasons that makes SEO for photographers so challenging.
3. Paying a website designer will get you SEO results.
Many website design companies offer SEO services – often as a package upgrade. In our experience, these SEO services are often very limited.
We recommend website designers for photographers for the following cases:
- If you need graphic design services to help with rebranding
- If you need to create a more engaging, higher converting website
- If you are unhappy with the current design or layout of your site
- If you are wanting to migrate from one platform to another
The reasons why website designers cannot (typically) get you good SEO results:
- They do not create content for you, which is a staple of driving lasting SEO results for your business
- Their approach to SEO is often flawed and design forward (instead of SEO forward)
- Fixing a few pages on your website, such as your home page and optimizing it for a keyword, is not going to significantly impact your search performance
If you have an established website and undergo a website redesign, it is possible some of your content may rank better as a result.
But – this is the result of the work you already did paired with some refinements to your website, not anything specifically being done to target SEO by a designer.
4. Your home page should always be optimized for a local keyword.
Many SEO conversations we see in the photography world center around how to optimize a home page.
Some leading SEO education in this space recommend targeting a local keyword (such as [City] Wedding Photographer) on your home page.
How you handle your home page is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Yes, you can optimize your home page for a keyword like this. But – that can have some drawbacks. The most significant? Creating a home page that doesn’t actually help users looking for that particular query.
Another approach would be to focus your home page on your brand and create separate landing pages for these local specific keywords.
5. You don’t need to create content for your website other than a few pages.
If you just have “the standard” pages on your website – Home, Portfolio, Pricing, and an experience page or two…and are expecting SEO results…you are setting yourself up for failure.
Even with a well optimized Home page that lands #1 in Google for a keyword, you’re still going to be limited in how much traffic you can bring in.
If you are wanting to grow your website’s organic traffic and inquiries, you need to create more diverse content to target people at different stages in their buying journey.
Some examples of website content for photographers:
- Venue/location highlights. Higher level conversation about a specific location your audience may be searching for.
- Local market specific education. How to get married in a specific region, wedding venues in a specific region, etc.
- For weddings, create content highlighting other types of vendors (and education on what to look for).
- Broader education content. When your website is optimized for local search, this content will more likely display to users in your geographic area with a higher level of priority.
Another approach that is often underutilized is getting in front of an audience before they need your services.
An example would be creating resources for your local area that are outside of the immediate searches for weddings, portraits or photography/photographers.
For example, if you’re wanting to build more authority to be a photographer in Denver, Colorado – don’t just create content about photography or weddings in Denver. Content like “best restaurants in Denver” or “best jewelry shops in Denver” can also be beneficial to bringing in a wider audience.
As a result, you can target more diverse terms and, in many circumstances, searches that get larger volumes of traffic. With the right content, you can get in front of people at these other points in their journey and there will be some overlap with people who happen to need services like yours (or will need them in the future).
Stuck with your blogging? We can help you create high value content to bring more traffic to your website!
6. SEO is just about the things you do on your website.
Photographers often approach SEO as a series of changes that they need to make on their website.
This isn’t wrong, but it’s also definitely not right.
There is an entire category of SEO focused on things that happen off your website.
This is referred to as off page SEO.
Some examples of things that are done off of your website include:
- Creating a Google Business listing and optimizing it for local search traffic
- Getting listed in business directories like The Knot, Wedding Wire, Yelp, etc.
- Receiving backlinks from other websites
- Sharing website content on social media and maintaining active profiles
- Building your reputation online through guest posts, backlinking, and having references to your brand
7. You need to use the exact version of the keyword you found to rank.
This is an odd little SEO myth that is the result of outdated information.
It’s also made worse by WordPress plugins like Yoast SEO, which comes pre-installed on WP, which checks for exact keyword usage (at least in the free version).
(Side note…I actually like Yoast SEO for a lot of its features like the ability to easily noindex tags and categories, but not the individual blog post SEO review it does)
In the current world of search engine optimization, Google is much smarter and more capable of recognizing the topic you are discussing on your pages without the need for rigid adherence to the specific keyword phrasing.
Search engines recognize things like synonyms and context to better identify what your content is about.
I recommend writing content that is more natural in tone as a result.
It’s also likely that as time goes on, human made content will be valued more in search in light of poorer quality AI writing.
Here is an example:
The search term “weddings in Colorado” will attract the same audience as “Colorado weddings.”
This can be confusing, especially if you’re new to keyword research – since both terms appear to be independent and capable of bringing in a large volume of monthly searches.
In practice, using both term variations throughout your page is a better solution. Search engines read them as virtually the same because they can view the text in reverse order and skip words if needed to get better context.
All of the ways this term could be varied in your text and still rank in search:
- Weddings in Colorado
- Colorado weddings
- Colorado wedding
- Weddings Colorado
- Wedding Colorado
(There may be other versions we’re not capturing here, too)
8. Working on your SEO will get you inquiries.
I see this sentence (or some version of it) almost every day in Facebook groups for photographers…
“I’ve been working on my SEO and am not getting any results!”
When people “work on their SEO”, they often are referring to technical and on page ranking factors. These would be things like…
- Working on getting a better page speed score
- Optimizing the core pages on their website
- Scaling down image sizes
These are, of course, very important – but they only form a baseline foundation of your SEO performance and very rarely will get you the results you’re looking for (ie: more inquiries and bookings for your photo business) without a strategy and creation of content.
If this sounds like a foreign language to you, we recommend checking out our in depth guide to SEO for photographers. We also have a great illustration over there to help better understand where what you are working on fits into the marketing effort you are doing by working on SEO.
9. SEO should be viewed as a single marketing channel.
When you think of marketing for photography, you probably think of your marketing channels looking a lot like this…
- Social media. Maybe you even get down to a specific platform like Instagram, Facebook or Tiktok.
- Word of mouth referrals from past clients.
- Wedding venue and vendor referrals.
- Paid ads and directory listings.
- Real life networking at expos
It requires a shift in perspective to see SEO as a significant part of your marketing strategy that has the ability to influence performance of all the other channels.
A well optimized website will perform better in organic search – bringing in new leads naturally while you sleep.
But! All of the work you are doing, even now while you struggle to get new inquiries, can be leveraged to get better results through other platforms.
Here are a few ways I’ve used my SEO and content creation efforts to influence my other marketing channels:
- Make a website that is easier to navigate and convert any visitor who comes in. This includes someone who finds me through social media, word of mouth, etc. Working on your SEO has the potential to improve conversion of other lead sources!
- Share blog content with my social media audience. One of the problems with social media is it’s easy to not keep people engaged with you for long. Providing opportunities to redirect people to your website with high value content can help improve conversions.
- Share content with wedding venues/vendors. I’ve used content to help kickstart networking and building relationships in the industry. In return I’ve landed on referral lists, received backlinks to my content, and more.
10. Your choice of website platform will impact your SEO performance.
This one is probably going to be one of the more controversial myths we’re wanting to debunk.
What is the best website platform for photographers for SEO?
Is it WordPress?
How about Showit?
Or what about Squarespace?
In practice, you can have success using any of these platforms. Despite what you may read online, they all have their pros and cons.
A major consideration I look at when recommending a particular platform over another is how the user is going to engage with the platform and what the skill ceiling is to make changes.
If you have strong opinions about a particular platform, I’m open to hearing why.
As I observe and participate in discussions around this topic, there are many cases where the “recommendations” of a particular platform come with a heavy amount of bias – someone has a WordPress template to sell, a Showit design course for you to buy, and so on.
11. SEO is a one-time activity.
To get real results for your photography business, you will need to work on your SEO over the long term.
At its core, the foundational SEO items should not require constantly revisiting (if they’re done correctly). Getting things right like properly using headers on a page, adding meta descriptions to a page, and similar actions are pretty much one-and-done.
The ongoing creation of content, now that is something that requires more of the time and effort.
Creating new content consistently should create new inroads for your business. Opportunities for new users to find you based on specific terms they are searching for.
In my experience, there is a tipping point to all of this SEO effort – one that’s hard to truly recognize but you’ll know it when you see it – where you can start to downshift your efforts.
In my photography business, I started to really experience this 2-3 years ago. I started to slow down with creation of new blog content (especially the longer, more in depth ones) and started getting adjusted to a consistent stream of new inquiries.
12. SEO can’t be offered a service for photographers.
There is this strange belief that SEO can’t be offered as a done for you service to photographers.
We’re here to challenge that and are actively booking new clients who want to maximize their SEO marketing channel.
We have designed a completely unique process that allows us to work with photographers in a manner that builds trust in the process and can get results.
One of the best first steps is to contact us and schedule a Discovery Call to learn more.
Chris is a SEO professional with a passion for helping photography businesses succeed online. With years of experience in the industry, he has a proven track record of increasing website traffic, improving search rankings, and driving revenue growth for his clients.