I'll admit it - I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about where I fall in Google's rankings for my search terms of choice. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a key part of what I think about. When I was convinced, a few years back that my site needed a facelift, my concern wasn't how it would look, as much as it was how it's new look might affect my position on page 1 of Google, et al. I have been vociferous in my research for my first website (which was on Compuserve, back in 1995), since the early days of Yahoo (early 1996 for those of you counting), when inclusion was free (but you had to work for it), to Altavista, where, a properly coded (read - white hat) site could win you the entire first page. So was the case, for example, with the search term "concert photographer", I was literally the first 9 of 10 listings there in the early days. As of right now, DC concert photographer places me 1st and 3rd on both Altavista, and on Yahoo. Fortunately, where it matters most - Google, I am first and second. On MSN, I'm #2.
Why should you care?
Because what you spend on SEO, and a easy to navigate, attractive website, will be earned back ten-fold in assignments you would have never gotten a call for. I cannot stress this enough, and it bears repeating - you have to have an easy to navigate, attractive, and professional looking website. As to why Google - 18 months ago, an analyst for RBC Capital Markets - Jordan Rohan, said "We see little to stop Google from reaching 70% market share..."
According to the comScore chart up there, Google has achieved a 58% share of the market, chipping away at Yahoo and MSN. It's insane that Yahoo is only a 22% marketshare competitor, and a distant second at that. What happened?
In short - Google delivered a better product. Their results are cleaner, easier to access, and if it weren't for Internet Explorer built in as the default browser on all new PC's sold, with a default search home page of MSN on many of them, I suspect that their percentage would be even lower.
Further you should care because when I, (playing the role of a a photo buyer/photo editor), want a photographer in Los Angeles, Google's first returned result is Ed Carreon. Now, any photo editor worth their salt has a rolodex of LA photographers, but what if there were (another) oil spill in Alaska? Near Anchorage? Google returns these results, and you can bet that those who appear on the first page - and in the first few listings - will be earning dough. In fact, according to research conducted by Enquiro,
"Well over 60% of the clicks happened in the first 4 or 5 listings ... People generally spent just a few seconds on the [first] page (around 10 to 12 seems to be the average) in which they scan (not read) 4 to 5 listings. There was almost no deliberation. People click quickly, and if they don’t like what they see, they click back."Google IS the World - because they deliver it to us all - and, as the headline says, you're just a small part of it. Hopping to the front of the line isn't easy, but it's worth every ounce of effort, trust me.
Credit Suisse analyst Heath Terry suggests “We believe that search is a natural monopoly business and expect that over time Google will continue to gain share until they have effectively reached 100%,” Terry wrote in a research note to clients. Is Ed the best photographer in LA? Probably not (sorry Ed). Is Marie-Louise the best in Anchorage? Ditto. (Sorry Marie-Louise). But, both are earning a significant amount of money from being first, or among the first few listings.
So, what do you do? First, what you do not do is call someone who makes promises to you about getting you to the top. No one can promise that. You find someone who understands SEO, and put them to work for you. Awhile back, I wrote about how laughable it was for a PR firm to brag in their case study about getting their client - Fotolia (Magically Ridiculous, Oct 8, 2007), where I reported:
"...they tout getting Fotolia placed at #1 for the term "photographer commission", yet, a review of Google's own marketing research about searches actually performed, there would be ZERO clicks per day for this search term."I also show a nice little graphic there illustrating that point. These are the kinds of promises (and purported results) that many use, but which will likely yield little results.
Instead, when you're at trade shows, like PhotoPlus, The NPPA's NSC, WPPI, and ASMP's Strictly Business 2 series, you attend the presentations on the subject. Forget about learning masking techniques in Photoshop - go learn about one of the surest ways to get business from the internet!
Here are some upcoming opportunities for you that I HIGHLY recommend because they are taught by people I respect (and am friends with) and who know SEO from a photographer's perspective:
- Blake Discher - At PPA's Imaging USA (Commercial Photography Track, schedule here) in Tampa Florida, Saturday, January 5th, 2008 from 9am - 11am, the program's called "Web Marketing."
- William Foster - At PPA's Imaging USA (SEPCON Track, schedule here), in Tampa Florida, Monday January 7th, 2008 from 9am - 10:30 am, the program's titled "Marketing Your Photography Business On The Web".
- Blake Discher - At ASMP's Strictly Business 2, January 25-27 in Los Angeles, Workshop D on Sunday, register here, and Friday, the day before each seminar series, Discher is doing private consultations for 30 minutes.
- Blake Discher - At ASMP's Strictly Business 2, February 22-24 in Atlanta, Workshop D on Sunday, register here, (also with Friday consults)
- Blake Discher - At ASMP's Strictly Business 2, March 7-9 in Philadelphia, Workshop D on Sunday, register here, (also with Friday consults)
- William Foster 2008 NPPA Northern Short Course, March 13-15, 2008 at the Hyatt Regency in Rochester, NY. (Last year's program details - "The Business of Getting Business-Web Marketing" (2007 information cached here, and will be new and updated in 2008.)
- Blake Discher - At ASMP's Strictly Business 2, April 11-13 in Chicago, Workshop D on Sunday, register here, (also with Friday consults)
Foster's programs do not include a consulting component to them, but, if you contacted him in advance, he may well carve out some time to do one-on-one's with a few people.
Note - both presenters will give you a ton of information that you can use, but SEO is an ongoing process, it shifts like the tides, so think of your time on this, whether with Blake or William, as the start of an ongoing relationship.
Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.