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Written by search engine optimization consultant Blake J. Discher.

Google Square Logo1. Keep Your Content Fresh
The search engines love, love, love fresh content. Change your site’s content as frequently as possible. This doesn’t mean have a blog as your home page. Doing so will bounce you up and down in the rankings since your copy is constantly changing as your new posts bump off the older ones and the amount of keywords changes with each post. One photographer I know puts up a “picture of the day” each morning. That’s a great way of changing up the page’s content without altering your body copy.

2. Create a Search Engine Friendly Website
Using a website that is based entirely in Flash and has no body copy does not provide search engine spiders information about your site. Google relies heavily on body copy to determine what a site is about and if a site has none, all things being equal, your site will not rank as well as a site with descriptive body copy containing your keyword phrases.

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Written by search engine optimization consultant Blake J. Discher.

keywordWhen writing body copy for your website’s home page, it’s important to keep three things in mind. By now most anyone who is working on optimizing their website for Google and the other search engines knows that excessive placement of the keyword phrases for which they are optimizing can hurt their ranking in the search engine result pages (SERPs).

That’s known as keyword stuffing or keyword spamming.

Keyword Density

Put simply, keyword density is the ratio (or percentage) of the number of times your keyword appears on the page of your article, versus the number of words on the page. For example, if your home page has 500 words of body copy and your keyword phrase appears 5 times, your keyword density is one-percent. No one knows for sure what the search engines consider ideal — the number changes with every algorithm update — but conservatively, two to four-percent is probably in the correct range. I wouldn’t exceed six or seven-percent under any circumstances.

Keyword Prominence

Keyword prominence refers to how prominent your keywords are within key elements of your web page. Specifically, how close to the beginning of the page’s TITLE tag, heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.), and meta DESCRIPTION, your keyword phrase is placed. You should always put your most important keyword phrase at the very beginning of your TITLE, DESCRIPTION, and H1 and H2 tags. Also try to begin your first and last sentences of body copy with the important keyword phrases.

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One of the basics in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the content of a website’s TITLE tag which end up being displayed in the top-most bar of a browser window when someone is looking at your site. The tag is given significant weight by search engines in their effort to figure out exactly what a site is about.

Sounds super simple and you might think everyone already knows this, but as I speak to photographers around the country about SEO, I notice quite a lot of studio names (such as “XYZ Studio”) or the photographer’s own name (such as “John Smith”) in the tag.

Unless your name is nationally recognized by photo buyers, you’d be better off thinking about what keyword phrase potential clients would use to find a photographer that produces work such as you create. So for example, your TITLE tag might better consist of “Seattle Editorial Photographer John Smith.” Place the most important keywords toward the left of the sentence. About eight to ten words is good.

It is important to make certain your TITLE matches your page content, the “Description” META tag actually describes what on the page, and is unique for that specific page.

Good luck!

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While most everyone knows by now that Google is (in 99-percent of cases) no longer penalizing duplicate content on web pages, on April 9th Google announced it would begin measuring page load speed and use it as one factor in its search algorithm. Google’s studies have shown that when a site responds (or loads) slowly, visitors spend less time there.

I recall creative consultant Leslie Burns telling an audience at ASMP’s Strictly Business 2, “That loading bar or circular graphic on a website’s home page is the art buyer’s blood pressure gauge.” In other words, the longer the site takes to show the first bit of information, the more likely the art buyer is to skip your site altogether.

If you are a site owner, webmaster or a web author, here are some free tools that you can use to evaluate the speed of your site:

  • Page Speed, an open source Firefox/Firebug add-on that evaluates the performance of web pages and gives suggestions for improvement.
  • YSlow, a free tool from Yahoo! that suggests ways to improve website speed.
  • WebPagetest shows a waterfall view of your pages’ load performance plus an optimization checklist.

I did a test on my own site’s home page (Firefly Studios) using the Firefox/Firebug plug-in “Page Speed” and this is the result:

Page Speed plug-in for Forefox/Firebug

As you can see, the overall score for the page is 86/100, not bad. The plug-in placed a green check mark next to items (and there are many, many more items it checked beyond what’s shown in the screen grab) that are OK. But what’s best about the plug-in is that it shows you with either a yellow caution icon or a red exclamation point icon what needs to be improved. And, if you click on the arrow to the left of the icons, it gives you detailed information on what specifically needs to be improved.

If I expand the first item: “Leverage Browser Caching”, I see the following information.

According to Google: “… site speed is a new signal, [but] it doesn’t carry as much weight as the relevance of a page. Currently, fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal in our implementation and the signal for site speed only applies for visitors searching in English on Google.com at this point.”

So what does all of this mean to a photographer?  It means that it probably pays to (at least on your home page) keep image size (in kilobytes) in mind as you’re selecting what JPG quality to save them at, and to be mindful the overall size (again, in kilobytes) of any Flash elements on the page.  I didn’t want to single out anyone’s Flash-based template or non-template site, but if that loading bar is visible for any amount of time, you’ll likely have page load speed issues in the eyes of Google.  And if Google is using this metric, Yahoo! Search and Bing will likely follow suit.

By the way, the page you are reading had a Page Speed score of 71/100 and when I clicked on the red exclamation point icon at the top of the report it read: “Significant improvements can be made to this page.”  Ugh!

Good luck!

Photo by: Robbert van der Steeg, licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Free whitepaper: “Five Easy Steps to Take Now to Optimize Your Website” available here. If you liked this post, please click the “Share” button below to share it on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t miss a post, subscribe to Groozi in the upper right corner of the page!

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