Search Engine Optimization is hard. It may be relatively simple, but it is still really hard. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. There are always going to be far more people clamoring for the top search rank than there are useful top search ranks to earn. Thus, you must be smarter than your competition. Don't fall prey to some of the most common mistakes. Instead, let your competitors make it so that you can rise and succeed. Here are three mistakes to avoid.
You Optimize for Your Name
I've never really had a dog in this race as I happen to share my name with an international fashion model; as a result, I never even considered that I'd have a chance at ranking for my name. I'm an abnormality, though; most people rank high in search engines for their name pretty trivially. Ironically, though, when asked to consult on sites, the first thing people usually are worried about is ranking for their name. Think about it this way: if someone is searching for your exact name, you have already won. They are going to find you. In a situation like that, they already know what they are looking for, and even for people like me, it really isn't all that hard to find me on Google. All you have to do is change your search to "Ryan Cooper Photography" from "Ryan Cooper," and all of a sudden, I'm at the top. I'm sure you will be too. If someone is looking for you, they will find you. Instead, the key is about connecting to visitors who don't even know you exist (yet).
You Don't Consider What Your Client Would Search For
The key to getting good search traffic that actually may convert to clients is in predicting what your target market is likely to search for and making sure you rank for those sorts of searches. Part of this involves predicting how your client is likely to describe what you do. For example, you may consider yourself a "lifestyle photographer," but most clients won't be searching for "lifestyle" when looking for someone to photograph their family or an event. Instead, they may search "kid photographer" or "family photographer." If you rank well for "lifestyle photography" since that is the label you put all over your website, you are going to miss out on a lot of potential traffic.
You Consider Yourself International
Unless you have reached a very specific and high level in the industry, you are not an international photographer. Those who truly have an international presence know who they are and are well beyond caring about my advice. For the rest of you, you may get the odd travel gig or you may eventually aspire to be active on the international stage, but in reality, your business must first start where you are located, and to do so, you need to rank well in your area. By including a focus on targeting your immediate region (through things such as mentioning that area in the text of your website or by getting featured by local publications), you have the potential to become a big fish in a small pond instead of being that minnow chasing whales on the international stage. Before photography "whales" such as Peter Hurley became known all over the world, they first dominated their home. Keep this in mind when building your SEO strategy.
Search Engine Optimization in action is actually quite simple. Unfortunately, it's simple in the same sense that professional sports are simple. It's pretty easy to watch something like Olympic diving and think that everyone is doing the same thing and that there is virtually no variation to the sport at all. The truth, however, is that in the simplicity of the most trivial task, there is near infinite room for tiny improvement, and it is those tiny improvements that determine who stands on the podium. The same goes for search results. Be the photographer who orients your strategy for success.