What is the role of an online photography portfolio?
What does it mean if we talk about photographer portfolio SEO?
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks musing over these questions after seeing a couple folks speak at an event about how they altered their online portfolios in order to better show off their work to Google. These folks weren’t photographers, but were in a different industry where they needed to show their visual work.
As photographers, our online portfolios serve two purposes:
- If someone has already found our website (we handed them a business card, a friend referred them, or they followed a link from another site) they may want to check out our work to learn more about us and our style.
- We hope that folks might find our website through search engines if they’re searching for our sort of work.
There’s an oft-repeated adage when it comes to search engine optimization that one should write for Google in the same way that one writes for their site’s visitors: that is, one piece of writing should serve both needs.
Most photographers create portfolios containing a bunch of images, and few words. This is the default we see from plugins such as Envira or NextGEN or standalone services such as SmugMug. These portfolios will satisfy the first set of folks above (those who have gone to our website) but those image-centric portfolios will do little, if anything, to meet the needs of the second group of website visitors.
At the event I attended, the presenter was explaining how they show off their website design portfolio. They had previous done so in a way very similar to how photographers feature their images… they’d captured screenshots of the design work, put them in galleries, and let folks browse around to see their work product. But this solution didn’t really meet the desire to bring in new folks via search engines… a search engine can’t learn too much about one’s web design portfolio from screenshots of said designs.
Just like a search engine can’t learn much about your skill as a photographer and a businessperson by only having access to your photos.
The web design agency rethought their portfolio and made the following changes:
- They reduced the number of designs shown overall, focusing on key pieces of work that reflected their current focus
- For each of those designs, they created a dedicated page on their website that showed off not just the visual aspects of the design, but also included 300-500 words that explained the concepts, process, and how that design best met the needs of their client.
What if we did the same as photographers?
What if we stopped focusing on showing a ton of our work, and instead focused on less images, but with more explanation as to why those images are representative of our work and how we’re serving our clients?
Imagine a page that showcases an image (or two) at the top of the page, followed by a few paragraphs that discuss what the image means, how it’s important to the client, and how it is representative of the services you offer. This text will be the key for Google picking up information about you and you’re photography services.
Instead of one page with a dozen photos, you could have a dozen pages with a narrow focus on each. Link between similar images to make it easier for visitors to browse similar work.
It’s an idea that’s crazy enough (and rooted in what we know about SEO in 2019) that it just might work. It might be about time to make an update on my personal site, tweaking my photographer portfolio SEO plan. I’m going to try this…