One of the most common mistakes I see on photography websites is a lack of text to support images on the page. Photographers focus on their photos which is recommended and wonderful but text description gets lost in the shuffle. Lack of text comes at a big cost for search engine optimization (SEO) and contact requests. This post explains why photography homepages, galleries, and blog posts need 300 words of text. I also share ideas for writing that much!
Why is Text Important
Google’s job is to rank pages that people want to see. If it has the choice between two pages on the same topic, more is typically better. Example: Page A has a page name/headline and 5 images. Page B has a page name/headline, 5 images, and 300 words of text before, around, and below the photos. Which page do you think the user wants to see? The obvious answer is the searcher will prefer the one with more text and Google will rank that page higher. The specifics have to do with common sense (more is naturally better) but also due to factors in the search engine algorithm.
Of course Google uses keywords on the page to figure out what a page is about, then ranks it for appropriate terms. Without text, Google only has keywords in the title. Therefore your page is about one topic and you can rank for one phrase. The problem is that people search hundreds of phrases to get to the same topic. For example someone who wants a “San Francisco photographer” might really be looking for “birthday party photographer for Golden Gate park.” If your page about SF photography had text on the page that described a birthday party or park photo session then you could probably rank for both. Within the 300 words you will naturally use a ton of related keywords people may search for.
When someone clicks on a search result, Google times how long it takes for the searcher to return back to Google. Example: user clicks search result A, then 10 seconds later clicks search result B, then 3 minutes later clicks search result C. Which page did the user prefer? Result B where they spent 3 minutes reading the page and Google will start to favor that page in search because users are perceiving more value by spending longer amounts of time there. By including text, users will spend more time reading the page which gives that page an edge in ranking.
Bounce rate is measured by calculating the percentage of people to the page who didn’t click on anything. You can see average bounce rates for photographers in my recent infographic post. Search engines will favor pages where people clicked something. Significant text on the page will engage the user and increase the likelihood they will click something (especially if you add links to the text or images).
First, I want to qualify that 10,000 words is not necessarily better than 300 words. 300 words is industry standard for the amount of text you need on page to make it “substantial” and trusted. That number is supported by Scribe, an SEO plugin for WordPress I’m affiliated with. Google’s basically checking to insure something is on the page, like a few paragraphs. So the good news – no need to write more than 300 words (since I know you don’t want to). Get to 300 words and you’ve earned a check mark in Google that makes it easier to rank.
Second, webpages with little or no text have certainly ranked before. Usually it means they have lots of links from other websites, so Google trusts the page content even if it can’t read it. For the bets chance at ranking, you want lots of text (and backlinks from other sites).
Ideas for Adding Text to the Page
300 words of text is not an easy task for most photographers. I get it – you want to focus on the photography. The emphasis of this post should be that you need more text in order to get more business (keep doing photography). We can maximize that photography time with these simple ideas for getting more content onto your pages.
Captions – I bet you have five-to-ten images on each page. If every couple of photos had text underneath it, that’s huge amounts of text to help Google understand your pages and images. People read captions too. Just think about what you do when you pickup a newspaper – you look at the image first, then read the caption.
Description of the photo, gallery, or entire session – some website platforms like SmugMug or commercial websites have an area where you can enter a photo description. If this text shows on the page, it is a perfect place to say that this is an image of “Newly painted Golden Gate Bridge, glowing red in the San Francisco sunset.” Now search engines (and clients) will be able to find it! The image by itself with no text doesn’t give any detailed information in order to be found.
About you is one of the first things any potential client wants to know before they hire you. Pretty simple to put an author box at the end of blog posts, or at least a section that says who you are (with a photo). Try not to use the same bio for every page. If someone’s looking at a wedding gallery your bio should say that you’re the world’s greatest wedding photographer and you can offer them a behind the scenes tour of their favorite venue. That’s much more likely to get a sale than a general “About” section that says you do weddings, portraits, etc.
Testimonials are a great addition to any page. Not only do they a the potential client you do great work, but it gets a couple of keyword-rich sentences on the page.
Related links help keep the user on your site before they go back to Google, Facebook, or email. Your homepage can have links to 5 important gallery pages or blog posts so they don’t have to hunt around for your best work. A blog post can show 5 similar stories. I don’t use a plug-in to automate the related links because I want to control the links for each individual page to get the best click through. I don’t want a machine to choose what’s related. it only takes a moment to say, “if you’re looking at this post and getting married at venue X, click here to view my gallery that features this venue.”
Contact information is often left out because photographers think that the homepage or contact page is the only place it needs to be. If the user came directly from search, what do you want them to do when they’re done looking at the photos on the page? Call you! Don’t make them hunt around for that info, remind them to “Contact You Now to Book a Session.” Plus, it gets more text on the page and is helpful to have visible contact information for a good Google Places rank.
List of people and places featured in the photos at the bottom of the page. Many wedding photographers will include links to the various vendors from the wedding or a description of the venue. Portrait photographers might mention information about the newborn’s clothes/props, or detail about the park where the photos were taken.
Summary of experience will help a first-time visitor trust you more quickly. Consider adding a paragraph that talks about your experience, awards received, or list of photography associations you belong to. This is perfect for a homepage or splash page as well. No need to link out to the PPA or Wedding Wire and give your reader a chance to see hundreds of competitors. Just mention the official stuff you’re a part of.
The above should be used ALL PAGES you intend to rank, including: homepage, splash page, blog posts, gallery pages, individual photo pages, category pages, etc. Flash pages do not necessarily need more text, nor do informative pages like Contact, Pricing, FAQs.