SEO is a diagnostic process and the following 19-point checklist will help you identify possible symptoms of why your business is not showing up for related searches. By going through each of these action items, you will be able to establish a strong foundation that will help amplify your online presence.

Once you’ve done these, copy the exact SEO strategy that I developed for a client that has allowed him to get leads from couples even before they were looking for a wedding photographer.

1. Make sure that Google can discover the pages on your website.

A page can only be shown in the SERPs if a search engine crawler can (a) find it, and (b) understand the contents of the page. While rare, some websites have noindex meta tags applied site-wide and this will prevent Google from discovering any of your pages.

To easily check the meta robots for any given page, install the SEO Pro chrome extension by Kristina Azarenko.

Alternatively, I also recommend installing the Detailed SEO extension.

If you suspect that Google is having difficulty crawling and indexing your website, the easiest way to check whether your webpages have been indexed is looking at the coverage tab in Google Search Console.

If you see pages with “Errors” or pages shown in “Excluded” – this indicates Google is having some difficulty and warrants further investigation. I recommend submitting a sitemap in Google Search Console to help the search engine find and index your pages.

Alternatively, you can download a program called Screaming Frog Spider SEO and let it crawl your entire website. The output from Screaming Frog will report whether pages can be discovered by search engines.

2. Perform keyword research to understand what your prospective customers are searching for.

As long as people use words in their search queries, keywords will remain a core component of SEO.

But not all search queries are the same. This is because some keywords are actual questions (.e.g, how many Amps is AAA battery?).

Some keywords can be in the initial discovery phase (e.g., types of batteries).

Some keywords reflect commercial intent (e.g., buy AAA batteries).

While some keywords are comparison based (e.g., Energizer vs Duracell AAA).

Each search query represents a different intent and the answer to each query should be different.

For example, when someone searches for photographer, what are they actually looking for?

Are they looking for a definition of the profession? Are they wanting to hire a photographer? If so, what type? Or are they looking for career information because they’re interested in becoming a professional photographer?

This is what keyword research entails – finding out the search intent of a query and looking at what Google thinks is the best fit for it. This information will then help you decide how to product content on your website to encourage Google to believe that you should be one of its top recommendations for the keyword.

3. Pair each keyword with an individual page on your website.

While it is normal for some webpages to rank for up 100 keywords, you should always assign a single keyword to each page.

Generally speaking, if your content is able to solve search intent, the page will accumulate visibility for variations of the keyword across time.

Keyword research leads into site structure and content mapping

I like to create a spreadsheet with target keywords in one column and the corresponding page or blog post in another column. This allows me to visualise what type of content is needed to target each keyword on my list.

4. Use a fast web hosting service to reduce TFFB.

In July 2018, Google began using mobile page speed as a ranking factor for mobile search results and in May 2020, Google announced another indication that page experience is going to become a ranking factor with Core Web Vitals.

Google released Core Web Vitals in Search Console in May 2020

If your site is taking far longer than your competitors to load, Google may penalise you by shoving you down the results page.

If you’re on Squarespace of Wix, there’s nothing you can do because you have no control over who your web host can be. For Squarespace websites you will have to rely on their CDN setup.

For self-hosted Wordpress websites, however, a managed WP will yield far better TFFB than your regular budget shared hosting plan.

It is important to pick a managed web hosting service that has a server where your visitors are. For example, if you are a photographer based in Utah, you will want to use a hosting service with servers in the United States (preferably in the West Coast).

I have used WPX and Flywheel in the past and while both were pretty good (much faster than shared hosting), renting VULTR and DigitalOcean servers via Cloudways is the clear winner for me.

Disclosure: I get paid a $20 affiliate commission when you sign up to Cloudways via my link

The lowest tier plan (1GB RAM) is more than adequate.

While changing web host is inconvenient, migrating across to a faster server that is closer to where your target audience are will provide you with the most ROI in terms of speed performance.

5. Create a Google Business Profile.

When a user types into their Google search bar photographer, wedding photographer, family photographer, or seniors portrait photographer, I suspect that the SERPs will display a map widget no matter where in the world they are.

A map pack shows up in the SERPs for the keyword ‘wedding photographer’ for users searching within Michigan

6. Create 10-20 citation profiles.

Citations by themselves don’t do much. But having your business details published consistently in multiple directories can help search engines understand your business as an entity.

Doing this has benefits for both your website and GMB visibility.

You can do this yourself or use a paid service such as Citation Builder Pro to save you time.

The Pro package from Citation Builder Pro that comes with 50 citations is more than enough – you really don’t need a lot of citations

7. Use an indexing tool for your citation profiles.

Thousands of new citation pages are created every single day and Google is never going to get around to these. And a citation profile can only help your SEO efforts if it is crawled and added to Google’s index of webpages.

Even if you outsource the citation profile creation to Citation Builder Pro, not all of them will be added to Google’s index. This is why you should invest in an indexing tool such as Omega Indexer to make sure that your citation profiles actually add value to your SEO.

8. Use search engine friendly URL structure.

A permalink is the full URL that users and search engines see when navigating through your site.

Which of the following links are you more likely to click on?

A. danielkcheung.com.au/?p=123
B. danielkcheung.com.au/seo-for-photographers/
C. danielkcheung.com.au/2016/11/seo-for-photographers/
D. danielkcheung.com.au/archive/123

Answer A doesn’t provide you with any clue with what the content is about. Neither does answer D.

Both answers B and C have descriptive keywords in the URL slug. However, C has a date stamp and if you are wanting up-to-date SEO tips, B conveys a more evergreen vibe than answer C.

9. Keep URLs short.

SEO-friendly URL slugs are a good start but overly long descriptive permalinks tend to perform poorly in the SERPs.

Therefore, set your own URL slug and follow these rules:

  • Insert the target keyword into the permalink.
  • Keep subfolders within subfolders to a minimum.
  • Try to summarise what the content is about in less than 9 words in total.

10. Minimise reliance on third-party plugins.

The more plugins running on your site, the slower your site will load.

As handy as WordPress plugins are, having too many installed on your site can lead to poor user experience.

Before installing a plugin, ask yourself if the same result can be achieved with relative ease via hard coding.

As a rule of thumb, try to keep the number of active WordPress plugins to less than 30.

11. Remove unused scripts.

This task falls under the umbrella of speed optimisation and technical SEO.

One of the easiest ways to speed up your website is to remove any unnecessary or unused scripts. The following video from Google Chrome Developers on YouTube will show you how to complete this step.

Speed optimisation is very technical and requires a lot of trial and error. This is why I recommend moving to a faster managed web host over tinkering with code and breaking your website.

July 2021 update: I recommend using WP Rocket (paid tool), Nitropack (paid tool) and Prefmatters (paid tool) to optimise the delivery of CSS and defer non-critical JS to improve core web vitals.

12. Assign each page with one target keyword.

In the initial stage of your SEO campaign, it is best to keep things simple.

This is why I always recommend assigning a single primary keyword to each individual page or blog post on your website.

As you can see from the below image, webpages that rank well do so for many keywords.

Ahrefs is a paid SEO tool that allows you to spy on competitor’s SEO

Every single page on your website must serve a purpose. If it does not help bring in new customers, the page should not exist. And the best way to give a page purpose is to assign a specific keyword to it and ensure that the content on the page is 100% relevant to the keyword.

From the above example, we can see that this particular webpage provides information on photography packages and pricing. There’s over 1,500 words on the page and from a quick glance, all of it is relevant to the topic of Susan Stripling’s pricing for her photography services.

Since your homepage will typically have the most amount of inbound links from directories, roundup post and editorial mentions, it has the greatest chance at ranking for competitive keywords.

These include:

  • wedding photographer + {city name}
  • family photographer + {city name}
  • senior portraits photographer + {city name}
  • newborn photographer + {city name}

For this reason, I recommend that photographers assign their primary keyword to their homepage in the initial phase of the SEO campaign. Later on, as you develop your SEO strategy can you move away from this tactic but for now, this is the best course of action.

13. Use the target keyword in the page title and H1.

Some themes are set up with the page title being the same as the H1.

These situations are not ideal as you want fine control over every single element that can help Google understand what your webpage is about.

In the above example, you can see how the target keyword wedding dresses Sydney has been incorporated into the page title, URL slug and H1 tag.

For Wordpress sites, install either Yoast or Rankmath to be able to customise your title tags.

To customise each page’s title tag in Squarespace, on the left hand side menu click on the settings cog > Page Settings > SEO until you see the following:

14. Check for duplicate/similar content.

When a search engine comes across two or more pages with identical content it will have difficulty knowing which page to serve to its user. The page that it picks may not be the one that you want.

If you have HTTPS enabled, check that the HTTP correctly 301 redirects to the HTTPS version.

If you changed your root domain from www to non-www (or vice versa), check that the old version correctly 301 redirects to the correct version.

15. Upload appropriately sized images and apply suitable compression.

July 2021 update: Wordpress 5.8 now supports the webp format and the good news is that so do iOS devices. The webp format will help you achieve even better core web vital scores by serving a better compressed image to your web visitors.

One of the easiest ways to achieve faster page speed is by correctly resizing your images prior to uploading them to your site.

Websites owned by photographers tend to be slower than your regular website on the Internet. This is because photography websites have a lot of rich media to display.

An output from Google’s PageSpeed tool – don’t be like this website

As a general rule of thumb, the majority of your images should be no larger than 1400 pixels on the long side. From my experience, most WordPress themes are configured to display content at 960 – 1200 pixels wide. Given that the majority of users are on smartphones, images that are 1400 pixels wide will render crisp images on most devices.

For full-width background images, 1920 pixels will be good enough.

Do not upload full size images. It may look great on your 27″ iMac but the majority of website visitors are not going to be using a 27″ iMac!

I know many photographers use JPEGmini for compressing jpeg files for client delivery. The problem with JPEGmini is that the file compression is not strong enough. This is because JPEGmini is for reducing filesizes without affecting print quality. When it comes to meeting PageSpeed Insights and Core Web Vitals, you need something stronger. But this does not mean that you should compress your images until they look like blurry messes.

I recommend two solutions:

  • ShortPixel, or
  • Exporting in Photoshop with an output quality of 6.

If you don’t want to pay for an ongoing subscription with Adobe Creative Cloud, ShortPixel has the option for you to buy individual credit bundles.

ShortPixel has a plugin that integrates with your Wordpress backend. So all you will need to do is upload a correctly dimension image and ShortPixel will compress it automatically when you upload the file.

If you don’t run a Wordpress website, you can use the ShortPixel website to bulk upload up to 50 JPEG or PNG files at a time.

For photographers, I recommend using the Glossy option as Lossy is a bit too aggressive for my taste

FYI, when you sign up to ShortPixel using this link, I receive an affiliate commission.

You should also enable lazyloading of images that are below-the-fold.

16. Link to important pages from your homepage.

Your homepage will be one of the strongest webpages. This is because your homepage will tend to receive the most amount of website traffic and have the most amount of incoming links.

Because of this, you should link out to your important pages from your homepage. This will allow search engines to easily find your important pages and going back to the basics of SEO, our primary goal is to ensure Google can find all your pages that can help you get more photography clients.

17. Implement organization and localbusiness structured data

I have found no evidence that structured data influences rankings. I do, however, have plenty of data that supports the notion that structured data can help improve click-through-rate (CTR).

For this particular task, your goal is to implement relevant schema to your homepage, about page, and contact page.

18. Get industry-level links.

Getting links from other websites to your is one of the most difficult tasks in SEO. This is because it is not natural to link out to a product or service unless there is a very good reason to do so.

For example, I pitched JPEGmini a guest post:

And this was their response:

Links help Google assess how trustworthy your website is as a source of information. However, don’t make the mistake of getting hundreds and thousands of links. Instead, aim for quality links from relevant sources.

The easiest links you can get are from your peers.

What you can do is create your own recommended suppliers page on your site and link out to them. Let them know you have done so and ask them to do the same.

19. Make sure incoming links are pointed towards live pages.

When you make a change to your URL slug or delete an old blog post, this can have serious ramifications for your SEO.

Screaming Frog or Sitebulb can help you identify inbound links that are pointed to 404 pages. For pages with links that on longer exist you can implement a 301 redirect from the 404 page to an existing page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I create a separate page to target my primary keyword (e.g., Sydney wedding photographer) or use my homepage to target the term?

For most wedding photographers, using the page authority of your homepage will give you a better chance at ranking for high competition keywords such as [location] + [keyword].

What this is is having a variant of the primary keyword in your page title, in your h1, and in your body content. In addition to this, you’ll want to use the keyword as the anchor text to link to your homepage from other pages on your website. Doing these things will make it clear that you want your homepage to be associated with that particular keyword.

Does every page on my website need to target at least one keyword?

Not all pages need to be created with SEO in mind. For example, your about page and contact page should exist because they help provide useful information about your business to potential customers.

Every website should have a few pages that are not strict about keywords. Instead, these webpages should exist to increase expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness – something Google refers to as E-A-T.

How do I check my keyword rankings?

You can use Semrush, Nightwatch, Ahrefs, or SE Ranking to track keywords that matter to you. Most of these tools also allow you to track competing websites.

All keyword tracking tools cost a monthly subscription although some may have a free trial period.

As a free workaround, Google Search Console offers “average position” of queries. You can use this as a proxy for keyword position.

In my experience, all keyword tracking tools, including Google Search Console are inaccurate.

How important is core web vitals (CWV) for a photography website?

Scoring well for CWV is very difficult and I have not seen any evidence that poor core web vitals lead to a website not ranking well in Google Search.

In my opinion, it is better to focus on creating useful and engagement content than trying to get green LCP, FID and CLS scores.

As long as you are uploading appropriately sized images to your website and minimising the number of plugins on your website – you will be fine.

Want to learn how to apply SEO like this?

For years I have recommended clients to invest in customer education to showcase their expertise. So watch me practice what I preach by showing you the exact process I deploy for my clients.

No login, no credit card, no sign-up required.