Today (actually, yesterday, as you are reading this) I was traveling with my post-production person and my intern and we were crossing a state-line or two en-route back to DC after an assignment. About half-way back to the office, my post-production person asked "so, explain to me what SEO is." And the conversation started. And continued. And continued. You see, one of the things I am learning as I present at ASMP's Strictly Business 2, is that (at least it seems) more people want to learn how to get their websites to rank first on the search engines, than they want to get their contracts and business paperwork in order, if consultations and workshop attendance are any indicators, and my friend and colleague, Blake Discher has started a business aimed squarely at photographers, called GO-SEO, and he's doing (and has been) sold-out consults at SB2 and his Sunday presentations (Workshop D -- Is Your Website Doing All It Can to Get You Work?) there have been major hits.
We continued our conversation until we were almost back to the office, and we had barely scratched the surface of what SEO is. Don't know what it is yet? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and as you can see from this link , there are far far to many "know-it-alls" out there who don't know anything about SEO. Test #1 - if your proposed SEO person tells you that Flash websites can't rank, hang up on them. Really. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to Loserville (and while you're there, say hi to JDK for me.) It really is the wild wild west, and people like Blake, and also the newly announced upgrades to liveBooks, bring reason and logic to the SEO world as it pertains to photographers.
From liveBooks' ability to read and auto-enter your metadata, to page-by-page statitics of Google Analytics, enhanced improvements to the auto-generated html pages, and so on, this upgrade is a significant enhancement to their already stellar offerings.
For those of you who might think that I'm posting this because they're an advertiser, think again. No other solution gives you this much control over the back-end of your website and how it's seen by the search engines. I previously wrote It's Google's World, You're Just a Small Part of It, and after that, there were some interesting statistics I cited when liveBooks came on as an advertiser (Effective SEO - Please Welcome liveBooks, 2/20/08), that you might have missed.
So, let me direct you to an amazing report on how people look at web pages. This study, (F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content), and the well-respected Jupiter Research reports that the majority of searchers - 62 percent of search engine users - click on results on the first page of search listings. Further, and this is where it gets critical - 90 percent of users never go beyond the first three pages. Where do you fall?
I want to reiterate something that may have gotten lost when I posted it in the comments - we all evolve over time as it pertains to websites and investments in them. I've looked at the underlying code of my friend Mark Finkenstaedt's website. Mark is an amazingly talented photographer - dare I say - more talented than me, and he's got great content there. I gave him a bit of help early on, encouraging him not only to have MarkFinkenstaedt.com, but also, since people naturally have a hard time with his last name, to get mfpix.com. He did that, and he's done the requisite keywords and descriptions metadata, but you can't find him in the first 100 pages of Google for any of his search terms. How do I know what his search terms are? I asked him. (and I asked him if I could put him up as the poster-child for poor SEO, and he said I could.) Further, despite his purchase of a gallery site for several hundred dollars, there's nearly zero coding that is search-engine friendly. What this translates into, is in fact, lost revenue. This is, because, on several searches I performed, the only one where he gets to Google's first page is when I search for his name. While that's good when people are searching for him, the real benefit of being findable on the search engines that the search (and finding of you) will result in revenue because he is findable. To make matters worse, Mark headed into the wasteland of the wild west and spent $500 a month for six months with a "placement agency" without a single assignment to show for it. "money wasted" he said, and canceled his efforts with them.
So many people will set a limit of $500 or $1k for their site, not realizing how much it costs them in lost assignments because they're not being found! I suspect that Mark will (or at least should be!) looking into the new liveBooks offering.
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