Kevin Titus is a portrait and fashion photographer located in Wilmington, North Carolina. Kevin’s site is kevintitusphoto.com, hosted by Squarespace, and has an accessible and simple design, with three galleries, a blog, an about, and a contact page. Like all savvy photographers, Kevin recognizes that his website should not simply be a collection of his favorite images — as a strategic marketing tool, it needs to act as a carefully curated space designed to resonate with a particular type of client.
As we will see, Kevin’s site has already been pretty successful SERP-wise (search engine result page), with him well located in the Wilmington and North Carolina photographer listings. In fact, he recently gained one of his biggest commissions after they found him using Google. Stephanie Avilés recently wrote about Kevin’s project with Light Wave Dental. This is a pretty good reason why it pays — literally — to optimize your website for search engines. As I put it frequently in conversations with photographers, you have to have a website as your online portfolio, so why not exploit the free advertising the website offers.
At Wonderful Machine, the SEO audit effectively assesses a site’s present SEO strategy or how a site draws in a specific type of search engine traffic. A host of different factors affect that strategy, and our audits typically contain 12-15 unique metrics. Before we begin, we ask a photographer to complete a questionnaire and have a short conversation about the site.
In this case study, we address just a few of those factors bearing on Kevin’s site.
When I began the audit, I frankly wondered what suggestions I would be able to give him. So much of what I saw as I first reviewed it seemed well-conceived and effective. As I wrote above, Kevin has an enviable position in the SERPs for “Wilmington NC portrait photographer” and a strong position for “North Carolina commercial photographer.” Part of the reason for this is that Kevin is an active blogger and has developed a lively readership. So much so that Kevin’s blog is actually a large draw for his site.
This traffic has overcome the low domain authority that he and most commercial photographers struggle with. Few commercial photographers’ sites that I’ve seen have DAs above 30, and most are lower. This is because a commercial photographer’s site is, first and foremost, a portfolio. Therefore it lacks lots of the text search engines use to categorize a site in its indexing. For the same reason, these sites lack backlinks that normally accrue over time and raise the DA. So even though Kevin’s DA is low, he is still bringing in a fair amount of traffic.
Kevin’s site has a reasonable number of backlinks for the age of his site (he’s had it for more than five years), and some should be from solid sources. For example, Kevin has some traffic from fstoppers.com, which should be a reputable source. However, for whatever reason, fstoppers.com has high spam scores according to Moz, and if Moz is flagging these links, that is reason to believe that Google may as well.
One of the first concerns that drew my attention was inconsistent speed scores from Google PageSpeed Insights and the Lighthouse tool in Google’s Chrome Brower. According to PageSpeed Insights, the desktop and mobile scores from Kevin’s site were 58 and 9. Since the scale for these scores is between 100 – 1, neither of these scores is acceptable. Although 58 still indicates reasonable functionality, 9 is very low and means some basic problems need to be addressed.
With that said, the Lighthouse tool provided more reasonable Performance results of 72 and 66 for the desktop and mobile versions. These results are also calculated on a scale between 100 – 1. These sorts of results are more what I expected and indicate at the very least that while there is room for concern, it may not be as dire as first suggested.
At the very least, these numbers mean that Kevin needs to look at what Code Injections his site may be using and the sizing of his images.
When I was writing this article in my head, I immediately came up with “The Case of the Runaway Blog” as a subtitle (I grew up reading Encyclopedia Brown mysteries). This is because Kevin’s blog is one of the most interesting parts of this audit. One of the categories we examine is if a photographer has a blog on their site. A blog can be a good way to indicate to search engines that a website is alive and being updated regularly. What’s more, it’s an opportunity for a photographer to create the textual complements of the images on the site in ways that are meaningful for potential clients.
As I wrote above, Kevin’s blog is very successful, bringing in a lot of traffic to his site. However, an SEO audit should answer if that traffic is doing what Kevin wants it to. And the answer to which we arrived is no. This is a shocking answer. The blog posts that bring the most traffic to Kevin’s site do not reflect on his photographic specialty so much as they do on his technical knowledge.
It is not shocking to reveal that most photographers are gear geeks, and Kevin is no exception. This would not be an issue if these blog posts were converting or leading users to the site’s galleries (even the about and contact pages). But many of those blog posts have high exit numbers. The majority of Kevin’s users are coming to read his articles on gear and then leaving. To be clear, conversion usually refers to the behavior flow by which a user comes to a site and makes a purchase. One of the important conversions on a photographer’s site is getting a user to view the galleries and then make contact.
We appreciate the opportunity to review Kevin’s site, which was just as educational for me as it was for him. It’s always edifying to see what decisions photographers have made for the sake of their business goals and how their sites express that.
The next project for Kevin is an implementation in which we make the changes to improve his performance numbers and start converting that blog traffic.