Celebrities in the world of SEO are people who rank highly in competitive searches. One of the most popular photography searches is for food photography — and arguably the most competitive location for photography is New York City. So when I learned that New York City-based food photographer Evi Abeler is #1 for “New York food photographer,” I was like someone seeing their favorite actress across the street: “There’s Angelina Jolie!”
Despite her celebrity, Evi is very personable, even charming. She came to Wonderful Machine for an SEO audit and, after the audit, some implementation work. Like so many photographers, Evi’s site uses the Squarespace CMS, and she’s had her domain (eviabeler.com) for nearly twenty years.
Photographers — any website owners for that matter — can find someone to perform an SEO audit anywhere. What is distinctive about the audits that we perform at Wonderful Machine is that we specialize in photography and look at many photographers’ websites. Our audits examine a website according to 12-15 different categories, resulting in a report between 17-25 pages highlighting a list of recommendations to be implemented.
An SEO audit shows a photographer how and how well the website promotes their business. It tells you how well the site functions, what kinds of keywords the site is (and is not) ranking for, and what changes need to be made to achieve the business’ goals.
Since Evi was #1 in searches for “New York food photographer,” I expected this would be easy work but was eager to learn how Evi had done it — how she’d achieved this glorious position on the interwebs.
One of the first things we look at for each website is domain authority, a metric initially developed by the online marketing company Moz.com. Each website is assigned a numeric value between 1-100. Many factors influence this metric, but one of the significant contributors is the number of links to a website and the relative value of each of those links. EviAbeler.com’s DA is 29, which only sounds low if you don’t know anything about photographer websites.
Most commercial photographer websites have DAs below 40 because they (1) primarily function as portfolios and (2) don’t generate the kind of content to which users will link. Most commercial photographers have DAs between 20-35, which means that Evi’s site is relatively healthy DA-wise. Evi’s site receives several quality links, not the least of which are from Forbes and the New York Times (both with DAs of 95).
Another contributing factor to the success of her site is the consistency with which she identifies herself throughout as a “food photographer.” Evi has case studies of projects that she’s completed (if you’re not doing this, get started!), and each of them has the term “food photographer” appended to the object of each case study. For example, pages are titled “Holiday Feasts—Food Photographer” and “Kombucha—Food Photographer” und so weiter [etc.], as the Germans say.
When you have multiple pages with unique content but keywords like this, you are providing Google’s (and other search engines’) robots with the repetition directing them to the conclusion, “Food photographer!”
Evi’s repeated use of this keyword is not keyword stuffing because these keywords are used in different data fields where the content is demonstrably unique. That is, the keyword needs to be situated in meta-titles, meta-descriptions, alt text, H1 tags, body text, and so on.
Keyword stuffing was a strategy in which website creators exploited the HTML meta attribute of keywords (which has been largely abandoned over the past decade). In that category, they would include all possible search terms (and their distinct permutations) that might bring traffic. So, for example, Evi, if she were an unrepentant keyword stuffer, would have “food photographer, food photography, photographs of food, food photos” — and many, many more included along these lines.
Given all of the brilliant features Evi’s put to work on her site, I was surprised — nay, scandalized! [okay, I’m hamming it up a little, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true] — to learn that it had one serious technical problem. Namely, Evi’s site was not automatically redirecting all users to the HTTPS version of her site. This means that users of her site were not protected from the intrusion of third parties observing their interactions. In fact, if a user tried going directly to the https:// version of her site, frequently, the Chrome browser would confront them with the warning and discourage them from proceeding.
The HTTPS version of a website means that the site is using the SSL security protocol. An SSL certificate is frequently provided gratis by domain registrars, hosting platforms, and certain CMSs. Evi’s site uses Squarespace as its CMS, and Squarespace offers such certification.
Now practically, it may not have been a concern that Evi had not properly implemented the SSL certificate for her site as she does not conduct transactions on her website. However, like so many other little details, ensuring that your site correctly implements the HTTPS standard becomes a ranking factor for search engines. Not to mention the kind of thing that might make users anxious about time spent on the site.
After submitting the completed SEO audit to Evi (25 beautiful pages), she reviewed the nine recommendations and decided to have us take care of a few of them. They were principally making the changes to enforce the HTTPS security protocol properly.
We waited until the weekend when site users would ebb before conducting the work. When that time arrived, the first thing I did was disconnect Evi’s domain from Squarespace.
To be clear, the domain is www.eviabeler.com. The absolute first thing that happens when you start a website is that you register the domain. In this case, you are letting the world know that this particular location is occupied. This is why it is frequently described as “parking.” A domain is actually just an address. Evi has both registered and hosted her domain separately from Squarespace.
After I had disconnected her domain from Squarespace, I then reconnected it with Squarespace — this time making sure that the SSL certificate had been properly applied, following the platform’s directions through the process. Squarespace, to their credit, makes the entire process very easy. Sometimes the process may require going into the DNS settings and adding a specific set of CNAME and A records with information from Squarespace.
When that was complete, I just needed to make sure there were no snafus and that everything was working correctly. The process can take up to 72 hours, which is part of the reason that we waited until the weekend to do it. However, in this case, it ended up only taking a few hours.
Here’s what Evi had to say about the project.
I had a sense that my site was ranking well for the term food photography and my goal was to improve the ranking for my other specialities (still life & lifestyle) as well. I hired Wonderful Machine to analyze my site and give some pointers on how to achieve that. I was very impressed by the deep, thoughtful, and entertaining report I received. It was a shock however, to hear that there were serious security problems with my site. Fortunately, Wonderful Machine was able to remedy those issues right away. With their expert list of suggestions I am ready to do the behind-the-scenes SEO work to get my site in a higher search position on my other key words. It was a joy to work with Ashley who dissected my site and helped me understand how to work on my SEO.
Wonderful Machine (and I) learn a lot when photographers invite us to audit their websites and then implement the changes we’ve recommended. I say this in emails to photographers and have in the conclusions to these SEO audit case studies, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
On top of that, the opportunity to meet an SEO celebrity like food photographer Evi Abeler (bear with me while I swoon) was terrific. If you happen to see her on the streets of New York, try not to stare.