I’m a bit frustrated! We have two new initiatives to launch but we can’t get either out until next week, so I thought I’d try and clear up a few misconceptions about SEO…
SEO comes to mind for two reasons. First, in Ian’s 14 Tips post a while back he said (rather carelessly!),
“10. Link to the venues, florists, dressmakers and other vendors who were connected to the event – another Workspace feature. They’ll love you for it, and linking is great for SEO.”
Someone commented, “Yes, linking is great for SEO, but for the [site] you are linking to, not for you… I’m always wary about linking to…vendors’ sites unless there is some reciprocal linking back to my website.”
That’s absolutely correct, but I think Dad’s point was basically about paying it forward and giving the other guy a reason to reciprocate. It’s hard to negotiate your cross-links!
Second, I’ve been following with interest the discussion on Linkedin about the new Smugmug which has turned into a conversation about how Smugmug is bad for SEO, some of which I think is misinformed.
My basic point is that SEO is not something a site has, it’s something you do – or your web host / software does for you.
Google treats stephenbaugh.smugmug.com and stephenbaugh.com exactly the same way. Pages within those domains are also treated the same way. (It’s not true when people say the home page of a sub-domain is found but nothing else is.)
(BTW “www.” is very normal but it’s a subdomain too!)
The real difference between them is that stephenbaugh.smugmug.com belongs to Smugmug , but stephenbaugh.com belongs to me, and I can take it anywhere.
(That’s why in Workspace anyone can create their own “custom domain”.)
Having said that, having your own domain is only the start. You have some work to do!
Search engines are in the business of trying to solve problems for the searcher. They therefore want to return the most useful page to the searcher, and they make that decision on lots of parameters. Those include the obvious, like Keywords (search engines see text not images, which is why Flash pages rank badly), the age of the domain, the amount of traffic, who and how many links there are to the site etc. There is an argument that pages with video or other features get extra points over ones with just text, but that largely depends on the category.
How well you rank in Google is not just about how well you set up your site, but how well you do this relative to other sites returned in the search result. If for example, your competitor starts focusing on SEO you might find you fall from your number one position, just because you are no longer relatively as useful.
The problem with photo hosts and the sub domains on them is simply that, on the day you join with them, your new domain eg stephenbaugh.smugmug.com is only one day old and not very authoritative. If I had brought with me my stephenbaugh.com domain it would be more authoritative in Google’s eyes due to it’s age and existing reputation.
Second, Google doesn’t return domains in search results, it returns pages, and the page part of your new URL is also new. Smugmug, Zenfolio and other sites like Workspace (http://workspace.queensberry.com) have different URL structures. You need to redirect pages as well if you hope to keep your previous page rank.
If you don’t do this stuff the search engines won’t even know you exist, will not know about your updates and certainly won’t find galleries that are not connected with your home page.
Google will punish you if it thinks you’re gaming the system, so tread carefully with any SEO expert who suggests using black hat methods to get fast and dramatic results. It will be you who suffers in the long term if you get caught.
Finally, lots of photographers innocently undermine their own efforts with unhelpful website structures, such as:
Google sees all these as separate and probably low traffic sites. Ideally you should be trying to get everything under one domain, like this.
More traffic, more social mentions and more links back to you are like gold to Google. They say people care about and visit your site, so Google will return your pages in its searches.
BTW you can customise your Workspace URL for free. If you need help please ask!
Bottom line… You should prioritise having a beautiful site that people want to use and share. One that allows you to be proud of your images. You need text on pages or in URLs that support your keywords but not so that it looks stupid. You need links back to your site and you need to network (Ian’s point) and finally make sure you do all the set up I’ve mentioned. It’s not easy but it’a worth the effort. All the set up in the world won’t work if you’re not delivering content and creating a response.
If you need assistance just send me an email and I’m happy to help.
PS Edited to correct an error with my example URLs pointed out by a commenter (thank you).
PPS Here are some useful links
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