Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the tricks that webmasters and content producers do to get their websites and articles to rank as high as possible in sites like Google, Bing and Yahoo when people put in words and phrases to find content. Some people consider it an art form, others voodoo, but its magical, its technical and its ever changing.
My photography site, http://www.robmiracle.com is one of my prides and joy. My day job is building websites and the company I work for spends a lot of energy making sure our sites and content have great SEO. I have the pleasure to work with people who know what they are doing; and as a trainer, its my responsibility to know this stuff so I an instruct the people who are producing content and sites. So while I don’t want to label myself as an SEO expert, I know what needs done and how to produce content and code sites that should rank rather well.
Yet for my photography site, my SEO sucks. I decided one day to search for “Raleigh Wedding Photographer”. I didn’t expect to be on the first page or realistically the 2nd. I don’t do weddings full time and I would hope those shooting full time should rank above be. But I would hope to show up by page 3 or 4 or 5 or 10. Nope, didn’t even make it there. In fact, I gave up looking for my site after I got 20+ pages deep. I just wasn’t there.
After doing a little research and using Google’s “Webmaster Tools“, I quickly isolated a few problems. I have very few backlinks (where people link to me). That’s something I will have to fix over time. Not all backlinks are created equally. Higher rated sites that link to you are more valuable than less rated sites. In fact, having a very high ranking site like CNN link to you is more valuable than a dozen personal blogs that link back to you. So if I want to be seen, I need to join more directories. But that’s hardly the problem.
I’m being burned by “keyword density”. Basically for good SEO, you need to have your keywords show up on your page, in your headers and in your content. One of these pieces of information, your pages <title> tag (some hidden code in the header) is one of the most critical parts of the page. My title was: “Rob Miracle Professional Photographer”. At no point does that title tell you where my area of focus is (Raleigh-Durham, NC) nor does it tell you the type of photographer I am (Wedding, Fashion, etc.).
Likewise there is a <meta description> tag also located in the page header provides a text description about your website or that particular page. My description contained Raleigh and Wedding, but it wasn’t written all that well and didn’t have other important keywords in it. Keep in mind, this is what shows up on Google as the text under the title, so it should be something people will read, just not a list of random key words!
After that, my home page had no text on it, well, the menu and footer links were there. I’m a photography site, so my site is all about pictures. Photo sites like this are going to have a harder time than sites with some text on the page because there is little the search engines can extract from the page. I spent a weekend editing every photo to make sure there was a caption in the IPTC meta data and changed my site’s program code to extract that caption and add it as the “alt” attribute on each <img> tag which greatly increased the “keyword density” on my front page. It was important while writing these captions to make sure I got the right keywords in the captions.
So after providing better titles, descriptions and text on my page, I would think I would fair better….
My site still sucks. Using the Webmaster Tools, I see that Google has seen the increase in keyword density. Raleigh is however, still the 81st most popular keyword on my site occurring 29 times. “Wedding” shows up 14 times and is the 166th most popular keyword. Wedding shows up 8 times on my front page, which seems like a lot. Until you discover that “Kentucky”, “Model”, “twitter” and “tutorials” all show up well over 500 times!!!!
I’m being killed by my blog and photo tutorials. These posts make up a bulk of the content on the site. They are things I feel that are important to my photography friends as its how I give back to the photography community. So it looks like I will be moving my blog content to another domain.