Keyword Research for Wedding Photographers

July 22nd, 2016

Many business owners I’ve talked to have been told ‘keywords are important’. I’m going to clear up the confusion, share specific keywords you should be paying attention to, and (spoiler) I’m going to give you permission to leave keyword worries behind and spend your time on more important things.

What are Keywords?

On the most basic level, keywords are what search engine users are typing in when they’re looking for something online. In your case, it can be anything from “Portland wedding photographers” to “the village ballroom lesbian wedding” to your actual brand name.

When you hear conversations with business owners about keywords, the conversation usually centers on two things. First, is there some magic list of keywords you need to discover? Second, once you’ve chosen some keywords, how do you use them to actually get new clients?

Which keywords matter

I took two dozen top ranking photographers in high competition cities. I looked at which keywords were bringing them customers. I ended up with a list of about a thousand keywords, sorted by how many people actually type those exact words in, each month. Here’s the simple version of what I saw:

There are basically 3 kinds of keywords.

Home page keywords
These are the keywords that people were typing in when they found the home page of the business. These are keywords like ‘your business name’ ‘your business name portland’ ‘portland wedding photographer’ portland photographers’ ‘best wedding photographer portland’ ‘wedding photography’ and so on.

Venue Keywords
Aside from main keywords like ‘wedding photography’ and other words like it, the most valuable source of new clients were searches related to venues. Many of the businesses I looked at had dozens and dozens (hundreds in some cases) of venue keywords that were getting them at least some exposure. A lot of it probably isn’t going to be worth a lot on it’s own (being low on the first page for ‘horning’s hideout weddings’ might only lead a dozen new people to your site a month) but all together? This can be huge, especially if you start having your images appearing in Google image search as well.

Mostly the pages that were showing for these keywords weren’t the business’ home page. It was usually either a category page for all the weddings that photographer had done at the particular venue, or a blog post talking about a particular wedding that took place there.

Miscellaneous Keywords:
I saw a few other kinds of keywords too. Lesbian weddings, destination weddings, best wedding photographers, affordable wedding photographers, senior photographs, baby photography, and so on.

If you have a common category of work that you do, label your posts appropriately and consider making a category page for all the posts you do in that category.

One important special keyword in this ‘miscellaneous’ category: if your business is located in, say, Portland, but you also regularly fly somewhere else to do work and want clients there, make a page on your site about your work in that city. You might be able to get your home page showing for ‘portland wedding photography’ but if you want to appear for Chicago wedding photography as well, you’ll need a new page.

Is ‘Photographer’ and ‘Photographers’ one keyword or two?

Does Google do things differently if you type in wedding photographer vs wedding photographers? Luckily, for you at least, the short answer is: ‘it’s all the same’. You don’t need a giant list of 100 almost identical keywords, keyword areas are what you should be thinking about, don’t get lost in the specifics.

What to do with your keywords?

Google is now smart enough now to be able to tell the difference between different but similar keywords, so don’t bend over backwards thinking of what you need to put in your image alt tags. If you want a page to show for ‘venue + weddings’ then use that rough phrase, but change it however you need to to make it sound right for the actual people reading your site. Use a version of that phrase in your title tag, your headline, your image alt/title tags, and so on, but don’t worry if your wording is exactly right. Now things like how other sites link to that page, how long users look at the page when they find it, and the actual meaning of the content on the page are all much more important.

Using your keywords to do searches, and seeing how your website rises and falls in the list over time can be a helpful way for a photographer with a mature SEO plan to measure progress. However, for most of you keeping an eye on how many inquiries you get every month, and how many people visit your website is enough. Those two numbers will tell you most of what you need to know already.

The Real Lesson of the day:

SEO isn’t just about what you put on your website. Keywords are just a small piece of the puzzle, and there are more important things to spend your time on. In fact, if you’re a wedding photographer, unless you’re trying to figure out how to use Google Adwords, don’t even worry about keywords at all. Just use the venue name when posting your work, and have your brand name and main kind of photography featured on the home page.

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