If you’ve followed me on Twitter or Facebook for a while, you might know that I’m a major proponent of Search Engine Optimization being a major part of the typical marketing strategy for photographers. It’s also grown into a consulting business where I help photographers and companies improve their visibility in search engines.
Organic traffic from Google is how I book well over half of my weddings at home in Portland and in places like Big Sur and Yosemite. While SEO can get extremely technical, it doesn’t have to be. Over the past 5 years of teaching these strategies, I’ve found ways to simplify the most important aspects into digestible and actionable techniques. If you’re new to SEO, or don’t even have a clue what that is.. let’s get you started on your journey.
Table of Contents
Google Search Console
Before we start, I need to to go to Google Search Console and verify your website. This verification has to happen before you can start collecting search data straight from google. It will tell you if you have errors or issues with your site, what your organic traffic is, what pages searchers are visiting, what queries they’re using to find those pages, and more. It’s one of the most important tools in your SEO toolbox.
What is SEO?
Simple answer: The art and science of optimizing websites for organic traffic from search engines.
A bit more nuance: SEOs must now have to optimize for users AND search engines. Covering a broad spectrum of disciplines, from technical optimization to content, content marketing, conversion optimization, user experience, and taxonomy. On top of that, Organic Traffic isn’t (and shouldn’t be) exclusive to get from Google, but also Youtube, Bing, and other platforms.
History of SEO
This story probably isn’t starting off quite how you expected, but the band in the photograph below is Jefferson Starship. In 1995, the built a fancy new website. Their manager was excited to show it off to a venue promoter.. but when they searched for it on a search engine.. they didn’t appear until page 4 or 5. The manager furiously called the website builder and asked them what was going on!
The web guy was quickly able to figure out that how many times a keyword appeared on a page greatly influenced the rankings of the search engine. His strategy to improve rankings was quite simple, tiny black text on a black background that repeated the bands name. The band’s rankings skyrocketed and SEO was born.
Search engines have grown much more complex and this type of tactic wouldn’t work in 2020, but it’s interesting to see it’s early start.
Basic Information Retrieval
The hardest challenge for the early search engines was simply crawling the internets’ pages, indexing them, and giving users somewhat accurate results to queries.
There are a few concepts and equations that laid the groundwork for modern search. TF-IDF is one of them. The concept figuring out how relevant a term is to a page and then comparing that to how many times that term shows up across the entirety of pages was incredibly powerful. The groundbreaking TF-IDF equation was first created by Karen Spärck Jones in 1972.
image: Becoming Human
Where Search is Now
Now, you can make a query using your Google smart speaker, it will decipher what task you want to accomplish, and in some cases will try to accomplish it for you. One real world example is making a dinner reservation. It will see if the restaurant is open, what the restaurant’s contact info is, make a call using an AI voice, talk to the person on the other end of the phone, create a reservation for your time and number of guests, and let you know it’s booked.
What SEO isn’t
The example before of Jefferson Starship jamming keywords into their page and hiding them with a font the same color as their background wouldn’t work these days. Search engine algorithms and manual testers are great at spotting this type of abuse and penalizing those sites. Now, you must create actual valuable content for your users. The whole “write for users, not algorithms” mantra is more true than ever.
The rest of this post is being built out at the moment, check back soon!