A website is like a car. It can be sleek on the outside, but the quality of the parts beneath the hood really makes it go. Tuning the machine to run at its highest performance is what SEO does for a website. This case study follows the SEO implementation for photographer David Murphey’s WordPress-built website. David is a Honolulu, Hawaii-based travel and hospitality photographer. In this case, we sought to get as many search results as possible for those looking for his specialty in Hawaii.
While this case study pertains to SEO for WordPress websites, we recently published another article about optimizing a Squarespace website for Julia Lehman, which you can check out here.
Any hyperlinked terms you see here lead to our SEO glossary, which you may want to read through first or have open in another tab as you peruse this article.
The robots.txt is the first page that gets crawled by Google’s spiders — it is an essential part of SEO. One problem on David’s robots.txt page is that it does not link to the sitemap; this is common practice, meant to make it easy for search engines to index the site.
We then found that not only was the sitemap link missing on the robots.txt, but there was no sitemap at all. There was a missing page message where the sitemap should have been.
We removed a plugin on David’s robots.txt page called SEO Ultimate Link Mask Generator (an overly complicated and challenging plugin to work with). We replaced it with the Yoast plugin, which a free plugin that is considered the industry standard for WordPress SEO. This plugin allows us to add a sitemap to the robots.txt page.
In creating David’s sitemap, we wanted to keep it simple. Complicated sitemaps do not serve SEO well, whereas a streamlined sitemap with a simple list of all the pages on a website is best. Ideally, the homepage for a website should be the first link on this list.
Site speed is very important to Google search rankings. Generally speaking, the faster a site is, the higher it will rank in search results. A great way to fix speed is to find out if your image file sizes are too large. Images are usually the cause of slowness issues on a Photography website.
Overall, this website took less than 2 seconds to load. This loading speed is considered top-tier. Because this site received a PageSpeed score of ‘A’ and a YSlow score of ‘C,’ there is little that we need to improve in the realm of speed. These results are considered very good.
Using Google Analytics is a great way to have your website on Google’s radar. By allowing Google to track the visitors to your website, they can discover if the visitors are staying on the site and how they are interacting with it. It provides useful information on how to improve your site. Also, if your website performs well, it incentivizes Google to promote it within their search results.
We then went into the settings for Google Analytics to ensure everything was correctly set up. We turned on “Demographics and Interest Reports,” which tracks characteristics of visitors to the site, like their age, gender, and location. I moved on to add and link Google’s Search Console — a set of tools for webmasters to optimize their sites and get reports on how well (or poorly) it responds to searches. Having GA and Search Console linked together, we added the URL for the new sitemap into the search console. Search Console can now tell us about any issues with our sitemap by test-crawling it. If you’d like to understand the relationship between GA and Search Console better, check out this article.
To further enhance the SEO of David’s site, we focused on the images. There are 432 photographs on David’s website, and all but a few had unfriendly SEO names like “Lanai-airlines-006.” This title tag is too specific, it only mentions a brand name, and it does not contain general keywords that somebody is likely to search (i.e., “Airplane in Hawaii at dusk”).
Three actions need to happen on all 432 images:
We are done with this task when all three spaces have a searchable keyword in them. A title tag or URL like “A Room at The Beachcomber Resort” seems like a search that a tourist might try, which may potentially lead them to David’s site.
If you want rankings from Google, you have to think in terms of mobile devices first. Page sizes over 1 or 2 megabytes won’t rank well in Google searches. And they will not rank better than pages that are smaller and load faster. Do not assume that WordPress will optimize your images for you.
That said, let me introduce you to the ShortPixel Image Optimizer plugin for WordPress. The free version of this plugin allows the resizing of 100 images per month. With this plugin added, we went into the media folder for the website and found 351 unprocessed photos. We hit, “Optimize now,” and the plugin does the work.
By the time I finished optimizing photographs, the image sizes had been brought down by 50%. Take a look at this image. ShortPixel reduced its file size by 75%.
Let’s start with website speed. Unfortunately, the website is now slower. The slower speed is possibly due to added plugins — an issue when the plugins are complicated or take time to load. This issue happens when plugins search for other servers to get information. It is not ideal, but it can be expected. The good news is the site is still within the realm of fast. A vast majority of the WordPress plugins are free. So, use them at your own risk then find out later if they are slow.
Now let’s dive into the analytics. To understand the improvements for traffic, take a look at the July and August results. I am most proud of getting an improved (lower) Bounce Rate, which essentially means ‘Happy Prospective Customers.’ These visitors stay on the site rather than leave after seeing one page. That number went from 63% to 55%.
These prolonged stays on the site are coming almost entirely from Americans. We’ve gained 155% more American visitors than before we started the case study. Plus, we now have many more visitors coming from the target areas of Hawaii and California.
Finally, the traffic is 181% more likely to hit the homepage, meaning we redirected any ‘bad’ or irrelevant pages to the homepage. The next phase would be to work more on optimizing the internal pages and see if we can increase their traffic as landing pages. Also, redefining pages based on research and keywords proved useful. For the first time in the life of the website, it is two clicks from the keyword ‘Hawaii Commercial Photographer”. One targeted click based on a keyword like this is all you need to get a new customer from the Google search.
If you want to learn more about SEO practices, check out the links below:
If you are a photographer looking for help with SEO, we offer SEO audits and Implementations. If you are interested in any of our services or have any questions, feel free to reach out or call us at 610 260 0200.