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Wednesday
Aug052009

Search Engine Basics: Get More Visitors To Your Photography Blog By Considering Keywords, Key Phrases and Relevance

logo-googleOne of the main reasons why we write our Photography Blogs and Websites is to share what we're doing with other people. We want them to visit our blogs, look at our photo's, read our posts and articles, and maybe even leave comments. The problem is, there's thousands of other similar sites out there, so we need to understand the basics of how Search-Engines, like Google, work, then implement some simple guidelines in order for the Search Engines to list our blogs higher in their results, and send more visitors our way.

We know that most people look for content on the web by using a Search Engine. It could be Google, Yahoo, Bing, or countless others. The Search Engine is a computer program that visits millions of web-pages, catalogues them, ranks and rates them, all so that when you type your search into that little Google box, Google will show the results that should be the answer you're looking for, in order of relevance. So how does it work all this out?

All of the Search Engines algorithms, or rules they use to order websites, pages and blogs, are top secret. They don't want people to know how they do it, because then disreputable Webmasters could "spam" the results, using that knowledge to get to the top slots, which send the most visitors, and can generate the most amount of cash. We can however make some well-informed guesses to how the Search Engines think, then use information to help Google rate our pages more efficiently.

The first thing to say is that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all working towards producing Search Engine Results that would be as good as if a team of millions of human librarians had catalogued and sorted out the web. They're not there yet, but they will be, and probably sooner rather than later, so don't ever try to "spam" or deceive the Search engines with deceitful or "black hat" practices. They may well get you short term gains, but in the long term these methods will not work, and could get your site or blog kicked out of the results altogether, or back a few dozen pages, which is about the same thing.

Google looks at every single web-page or blog post and analyses the content. It looks at the words, phrases, sentences, links, pictures and videos. It looks at which other sites link to that page, and at which site that page links out to. Google looks at what people do when they visit the site - how long they stay, where they've come from and where they go next. Google will then give that page a rank, almost like a score, which will vary depending on how "relevant" that page is to a particular search. (This is different to Google's PageRankn that appears in the Google Toolbar, and can be misleading).

Let me explain. Let's say we've written a review of a Canon Camera, and we want visitors to read the article who are interested in reading a review of this bit of kit, let's say the camera is a 350d.

Google will look at the title. Let's say we've written "Canon 350d Camera Review". That's OK, but if we really want Google to understand the relevancy of this page, we need to think a bit harder and guess what a potential visitor might put in the Google Search Box. It could be "review", with "Canon 350d", or "Canon EOS 350d" or "Rebel XT" or "Canon Digital Rebel XT". We should include as many of these "keywords", or "key-phrases" in our title as is practicle.

The same goes for our text in the main article or post. Remember or imagine what your potential visitors may be typing into Google, and always include those variations in your writing. Don't keep repeating the same phrases or words, mix it up a bit, just like real people do. So if I was writing about HDR Photography, I'd be mixing in "HDR", "High Dynamic Range", "Tone Mapping", "How To", "Photomatix", etc.

Consider generic phases like "I took this HDR photo with my dSLR" and change them to phrases with specific key-words, "I took this HDR photo with my Canon EOS 350d / Digital Rebel XT dSLR". It seems a bit long winded (and you wouldn't repeat the key-phrase too often), but if someone was searching for "HDR" and "Digital Rebel XT", your article could well end up higher in the Search-Engine Rankings, and get more visitors as a result.

Google looks at the links on your page. If you're writing about black and white conversions in Photoshop, do you link out to other articles on other sites about the same subject? If you do, that's good, because you're adding relevance. Is the text used for the link relevant too? Use phrases like "another great article on b&w conversions" rather than "click here".

Probably the most important factor in how Google will rank, or rate your articles is which external sites link to them, what words they use in the link text, and how relevant the text is on that external site to what you've written about. This is hard to control, and I wouldn't worry about it too much. If you concentrate on producing interesting, informative posts, other sites will link to you as a matter of course.

What we can control is the text we use in the links on our own sites. Make sure that in a review of the 350d, we use text like "Canon EOS 350d / Digital Rebel XT dSLR Review", don't undersell the text in your links.

I hope this brief introduction to the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) of your Photography Blog or Website hasn't been too confusing. To summarise, just think about these points:

1) Consider all the the key-words or key-phrases (and variations) that's someone would type into Google, or other Search Engines, and include them in your title, and in the words in your post or article.

2) Include some of those keywords in your internal links, avoid "click here".

3) Link to other, relevant articles, from within your own, use specific, relevant keywords in the link text, and again avoid "click here".

4) Don't get sucked into swapping links, or involved in reciprocal links schemes, with other sites. You don't need to. It's a waste of time, the sites asking for the links will be "spammy", and you're better off concentrating on writing great posts that other blogs will link to naturally.

5) Content is King. Write great posts or articles and you will get lots of visitors - it might just take a while.

For further reading, check out the Webmaster World Google Search Forum, The Search Engine Journal, and The Search Engine Round Table.

Hope this helps, Rob.

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