Joe Schmelzer is a Los Angeles-based architecture, travel, and portrait photographer. Joe shoots lots of beautiful residential interiors for editorial clients, as well as provocative portraits of well-known individuals (a perk of living in California!). Around the end of 2021, Joe decided to take advantage of Wonderful Machine’s SEO consulting services, which begins with an SEO audit.
Joe’s website, www.joeschmelzer.com, resides on the Photofolio platform, utilizing all of the best features it has to offer.
An SEO Audit examines how well a website is promoting a business’ goals. It tells the site owner 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 these goals. In short, it’s not unlike a physical, the yearly appointment you have with the doctor just to check in and see how everything’s going. These days, no business owner can go without a website. And before long, a website will need that routine maintenance that allows it to connect with its audience.
Now finding someone to perform an SEO audit isn’t difficult. Just go to a coffee shop and say the word “metadata” audibly and see who pays attention. What is distinctive about the audits that we perform at Wonderful Machine is that we specialize in photography and consistently look at photographers’ websites. Our audits examine a website according to 12-15 different categories, resulting in a report between 17-25 pages and capped with a list of recommendations for implementation.
In what follows, I’m just going to touch on three features of Joe’s audit: his site’s domain authority, gallery names, and meta-descriptions.
Domain authority is a metric, between 1-100, judging how well a site ranks within its own specific internet niche. Most commercial photographers have what may seem like low DAs because they are between 10-30, whereas 100 would be the highest. Google and the New York Times, to take two different examples, have DAs in the upper 90s.
Joe Schmelzer’s site enjoys a very strong DA of 32, which is excellent and is probably the result of incoming links from the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, among others. I have never actually seen a photographer’s website with a DA above 40. If you find one, let me know and break open a bottle of your finest imported wine to celebrate this achievement.
A strong DA means that a site should rank well for searches in its niche, but it especially means that a site has lots of incoming links from other reputable sites (with high DAs). So for a photographer, that might mean links from sites like Wonderful Machine, FStoppers, APA, ASMP, or even Aperture.
Although Joe’s DA is quite strong, he does not rank as well as we might like for his specialties. This is, of course, the most important issue: How do we increase his ranking for appropriate keywords?
Sadly, SEO encourages neither creativity nor — and this will be shocking — innovation. This statement is a tad hyperbolic, but in terms of the language that one uses to name his galleries, SEO rewards consistency with current trends.
Thus, although “Spaces” may be an excellent way to describe the two galleries of interior photography in which Joe excels, it doesn’t help the art director or photo editor who’s trying to find a new interior photographer. Instead, “Interior photography” or even “Interior architectural photography” would fit the bill more aptly.
As I put it in my report for Joe: “Lyrical, it ain’t. But there ain’t no romance in SEO.” So what’s in a name? That which we call a keyword by any other name would not optimize just as sweet.
Meta-descriptions are the text that appears in the search engine results (SERPs) beneath the linked blue text (on Google). The blue texts are the meta-titles.
Meta-titles are taken to be the “money texts,” if you will. That is, Google and other search engines take this text directly from a website’s code and use them in the SERPs. In short, the website owner has full discretionary power. As well, the Google user is more likely to read that text than the meta-description because the meta-title is what they are actually clicking. Lastly, search engines sometimes do not use the meta-description written into a site’s code. Sometimes they draw it from elsewhere. That means less than full discretionary power for the website owner.
Now some might say, if it’s not a direct ranking factor why bother writing meta-descriptions? To such cynics I say, darest thou eat a peach? Or to use the parlance of our times, you gonna do everything they tell you?
Meta-titles are neither romantic nor semantic: they deny creativity and do not usually form complete statements. But meta-descriptions are to be written in natural language — that is, how you and I talk.
In other words, meta-descriptions are one of the places in which search engines permit creativity. Meta-descriptions are the lone sites in the wilderness of the internet where a search engine implores us to “speak, human!” With that impassioned plea made, I should remind you not to get too creative (you should use the keywords included in the meta-title, most probably).
More seriously, if you’re a photographer, there is no written content in your galleries. This means that if you leave the meta-description blank, the search engine will populate it with the menu text. This was the case for some of Joe’s galleries. Others were duplicated meta-description that described the site as a whole, not the content of that individual gallery. Duplication is another sin in the SEO world.
So write an accurate, unique, and pithy meta-description! Users will flock to your site! And you’ll be a paragon of worldly virtue.
Wonderful Machine: Expert Advice: Search Enginge Optimization (SEO) for Photographers
Wonderful Machine: Expert Advice: SEO Terminology
Wonderful Machine: Expert Advice: Google Analytics Setup
Check in next month when we review the results of Joe Schmelzer’s SEO Implementation, following his SEO Audit.