Photographers need to think about AI search.
For many photographers, search engine optimization (SEO) has been a core piece of their online marketing efforts. Wedding shooters, portrait photographers, and other genres depend on SEO to help bring some leads from the search engines that act as our digital yellow pages.
Most recent conversations around artificial intelligence and photography center around either generative AI technologies (and the related copyright kerfluffle) or the AI-powered editing capabilities in applications such as Luminar Neo or Photoshop. But photographers should also consider how AI-powered technologies are being integrated into mainstream search engines. Bing is in partnership with ChatGPT. Google is now offering its Search Generative Experience (SGE). What’s one of the examples Google cites for using SGE?
I want to know what people think to help me make a decision.
Within a couple years (if not sooner) these AI-powered search experiences will move from being experimental features to being a core part of the search process for most folks. When that happens, the world of search engine marketing will shift. And that shift will hit photographers in one big way. Let’s walk through an example of how that conversational AI search experience might go:
Searcher: Who is the best family portrait photographer in Boise?
AI tool: There are quite a few photographers in the Boise area that do family portraits. What’s most important to you in a photographer?
Searcher: I’d like a photographer who has been around for a while and has good reviews.
AI tool: I will narrow it down to photographers who have been in business for more than five years and whose reviews are at least four stars out of five. Are you interested in wall art, digital files, or both?
Searcher: I’m interested in both.
AI tool: Great. So I can help you find the right style, are you looking for a more traditional formal portrait or something more modern?
Searcher: I think I want modern. What are my options?
AI tool: Here are several images from different photographers. Which ones do you like best?
Searcher: I like numbers 2, 3, and 5 best.
AI tool: Great, those are from these three photographers…
Many photographers have indicated they don’t want AI tools crawling their imagery. The argument here is the protection of intellectual property and that they don’t want their photos to be ingested into machine learning algorithms. If you block all AI crawlers; you’ll exclude your website (and images) from the generative search experiences from Google, Bing, and other tools. Much like we have to allow the traditional Google bot to crawl our website for traditional search results, we’ll need to allow the AI bots to crawl our website to be included in the AI-powered results.
There’s not a “correct” answer; there are pros and cons to blocking AI bots from your website. That said, if your photography depends on search engine traffic as an essential source for new business, the benefits of being included in AI-powered results will likely outweigh the concerns of having your work indexed.
Are you conflicted about letting AI bots crawl your site for search engine visibility? Please drop me a reply below and let me know.