Kristin Teig is a successful food and travel photographer who works in both Los Angeles and Boston (with the not-infrequent jaunt to New York). Kristin decided in mid-2020 to have her site’s SEO strategy audited, and we were happy to oblige (especially for the opportunity to think about anything other than COVID).
Kristin’s site is hosted by Photofolio and has a concise menu and gallery structure corresponding exactly to the specialties for which she wants to rank. Moreover, the terms she uses for those menu items correspond to the common photography keywords. In other words, Food, Travel, and Lifestyle. Because Photofolio hosts her site, some of the technical SEO concerns that other platforms may leave to the photographer’s discretion (page speed, image downloading, etc.) are already taken care of.
But this last comment might make you ask, what precisely is an SEO Audit?
At Wonderful Machine, the SEO audit is effectively an assessment of 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 both 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 Kristin’s site.
In terms of her search engine traffic, Kristin’s site is doing better than most of her commercial colleagues. Because a photographer’s site is first and foremost a portfolio, they usually get more direct traffic rather than organic search traffic. As it happens, Kristin’s site receives an equal amount of direct and organic search traffic. Moreover, her organic search traffic has a lower bounce rate, which means that the users who find her through a search engine are finding what they’re looking for, to use a certain evocative phrase …
Not unrelated to her search engine traffic is the fact that Kristin’s site has a very healthy domain authority, noticeably higher than many of her contemporaries. The reason for this is in part because of the age of her site and because of the number of backlinks (links from other sites confirming the category, in this instance, commercial food photography, her site is identified with).
As said above, Kristin’s technical SEO is managed by Photofolio, so it’s not surprising that she has a PageSpeed Insights score of 96 and 92 for the desktop and mobile versions of her site. Those numbers are amazing, but Photofolio has one of the best CDNs (content delivery networks) in the business. One of the things this means is that Kristin never has to worry that the images in her site are loading slowly.
With those things said, the primary area in which we found for improvement was metadata. Every site has different kinds of metadata that help Google and other search engines identify and categorize it. One of the most prominent kinds is the page title, which is what a user sees in the tab next to a browser’s address bar.
Because this type of metadata permits somewhere between 55-70 characters before a search engine truncates the remaining, each photographer must be strategic about what information she shall include and what order should be given to that data. In other words, what comes first? Brand name? Specialty? Location? It might be helpful to think of a page title as a highway billboard. If you can only include a few words, what will they be?
The answer to this question comes from the type of photography that one does, and one wants to do, where this person’s commissions are coming from, and even what the person’s name is. Each case is different: there is no silver bullet. Kristin’s page titles all began with her name and the word Photography, which is the name of her business. We suggested that they instead contain her name and the type of photography unique to each gallery.
Another area for improvement came in the metadata attached to her individual images. Like many of her contemporaries, Kristin would prefer that her images speak for themselves. Rather than interrupt a user’s experience of those images with text, she leaves them largely text-free. But Google’s crawl bots seek desperately for text that corresponds to the image content and, in Kristin’s case, largely in vain.
This need can be satisfied by the alt text, which we’ve discussed in an Expert Advice article. The problem with that is that most photographers would prefer not to add alt text and are especially uninterested in adding it if their images have never had alt text. Another way to solve this problem is by adopting a file naming procedure that accomplishes the same thing. A filename is not the same as alt text, but because each is unique to a distinct image, it presents an opportunity to add that information.
Filenames should include a photographer’s name, her specialty (especially in relation to the specific image), and some brief description of the image’s object, as well as an identifying number that may correspond to the original. For Kristin, that might look like Kristin-teig-food-photography-cauliflower-tacos-9382.jpg.
We really appreciated the opportunity to examine Kristin’s SEO strategy. It’s always interesting to think about the decisions photographers make to represent their work and the effects of those decisions. Comparatively speaking, Kristin’s site works well in relation to the state of her business and its goals. We’re excited to see how this audit will influence the decisions she makes now.