Blogging seems to be one of those things that all photographers know we should be doing, but it often doesn’t get done. Writing is hard, SEO is intimidating, and writing an entire blog post is pretty time consuming. But, blogging is an important tool, and if you do it successfully, you won’t need to spend as much time marketing on social media (which is what we all want, right?) if you’re getting inquiries from Google! Learning how to optimize blog posts for SEO will save you time and get you more bookings – while you sit back and watch the inquiries come in.
I originally wrote this guide for my blogging clients – so if you want to outsource blogging (which I think is a great idea if you aren’t a strong writer or you don’t have the time), you can hit me up here, and if you’ve already had me write a blog post for you, you can click here to skip to the relevant stuff, since I did some of these steps for you. But, I wanted to make this available for everyone, so without further ado, here’s my complete guide on how to optimize blog posts for SEO.
What's the Point of Blogging?
I actually get this one a lot. “Does anyone even read blogs?”
The answer is yes! I know that when I need to learn something, my first step is to Google it. There are two main “points” of blogging – two purposes that a good blog post will serve.
1. Showing up on Google - what is SEO?
The first reason you should be blogging is to show up on Google, hence the title of this post, “how to optimize blog posts for SEO.” SEO stands for search engine optimization – so you’re trying to land your posts on the first page of Google.
Most people go to Google first when they’re looking for anything. So, when someone Googles “should we elope?” or “how to find a wedding dress,” if your blog post is in the number one spot, they’re likely to click on it. Of course, the #1 spot is the best, but anything on the first page is likely to get you some clicks.
2. Helping your potential clients
The second reason you should be blogging is to provide something that will help your potential clients. If they have questions and are Googling for answers, you providing those answers will, of course, be helpful for them. Even if they found your website through your social media or landed on it some other way, having these blog posts on your website will show your potential clients that you know what you’re talking about, and that you’re able to help them with their problem. Good customer service really boils down to solving your clients’ problems – so your blog posts should do that.
Ideally, here’s what should go down:
- Potential client has a problem (or a question)
- They Google the answer and your blog post shows up
- They read it and see that not only are you a genius and you know what you’re talking about, but you’re also providing incredibly helpful information for free, which is very cool of you
- They inquire with you because you’re the expert on what they need help with
What to Blog About to Optimize for Seo
The first step to figuring out how to blog for SEO should be deciding what you want to write about. There are a few approaches you can take, but here’s how I do it.
1. What Problem do they have?
First, think about what questions you want to answer for your clients. Think about the questions that they have – what are they likely to be wondering?
This will depend on what you do. If you’re an elopement photographer, the questions might be, “how do I tell my family we’re eloping?” or “should I elope?”
If you’re a family photographer it could be “what do we wear for family photos?”
2. What do you want to do?
With this one, I mean what kind of people do you want to work for? Where do you want to work? What kind of photography jobs do you want to take on?
For example, if you want to work with couples who want to hike on their wedding day – write blog posts related to hiking elopements. If there’s a country you want to travel to, write a blog post about eloping in that country. If you love shooting at Mount Rainier National Park, write a blog post about Mount Rainier.
And of course, don’t write about anything that you don’t want to do – if you want to only do adventure elopements, don’t write about the best big wedding venues in your state.
Finding Keywords to Optimize Blog Posts for Seo
After you’ve decided on a blog topic, it’s time to find some keywords.
Now, what are keywords?
Basically, your keyword is what you want people to Google to find your post. It’s the search term you’re trying to rank for.
Keywords should be specific. If you’re writing about the best places to elope in Washington, your keyword isn’t going to be “Washington.” And it isn’t going to be “places to elope.” Those are very broad – which first, makes it hard to rank for them, but it also doesn’t cater to the people you want to read your blog post.
Your goal is to attract people who want to elope in Washington – not people who want to vacation in Washington, and not people who want to elope in Florida. So be specific with your keywords, and make sure your intent is clearly defined. Keywords will usually be more than one word, so you can also call this a keyphrase.
don't spread your post too thin
Trying to hit too many keywords isn’t going to be effective. To use a slightly dark metaphor, it’s pretty hard to literally hit two birds with one stone. Try it, and you probably won’t hit any. But, aim your one stone at one bird, and you’re a lot more likely to hit it. It’s the same with SEO – target one set of keywords per post, and you have a much better chance at ranking.
Now, you can be strategic about this – if your keywords are “places to elope in Washington,” you will also end up targeting “elope in Washington,” because your keyword contains that phrase. Search engines get smarter constantly, and Google has gotten better and better at finding synonyms and even related words. You can have other related keywords throughout your post, and it’s totally possible to rank for more than one set of keywords, as long as they’re related to each other and you aren’t trying to optimize for too many different ones.
For example, trying to optimize for “best places to elope in Washington” and “how to elope in Washington” with one post can work – these are very similar, and both contain “elope in Washington.”
But, if you try to optimize for “best places to elope in Washington” and “what to wear when you elope” in the same post, that likely won’t be effective.
Don’t ever use the same keyword twice. This will result in your pages/posts competing with each other, and it’s likely that neither one will do well. When two page (or posts – Google treats pages and posts the same way) on the same site are competing, this is called keyword cannibalization. Be careful here, because related keywords can result in cannibalization too – for example if you make two posts – “best places to elope in Washington” and “how to elope in Washington,” these are likely to compete with each other! Because they both contain “elope in Washington” and have similar meanings. So, it’s not a good idea to make these two posts separate, as it’ll hurt the chances of either one ranking. Instead, make one post and use these as related keywords to rank for both!
searching for keywords
To figure out the best keywords to use and how to blog for SEO, there are a lot of tools out there. My favorite tool for optimizing blog posts is Mangools. It’s easy to search for keywords, and you can see competitors, search volume, and more.
Once you have your topic in mind, try out a keyword. Here, you’ll want to think about the different ways you can say what you’re searching for.
For example, “places to elope in Washington” and “Washington elopement locations” mean the same thing, but one of them gets searched way more often than the other. When you type keywords into whatever tool you’re using, you’ll get “search volume” and “keyword difficulty.”
Search volume is how often that keyword gets searched, and difficulty is how difficult it is to rank for that keyword. So you might think that the best keyword is the one with the most search volume, but sometimes that’s not the case. It doesn’t matter how often it gets searched if you aren’t ever going to show up in the results.
For example, “places to elope” gets searched more than “places to elope in Washington,” but the first is harder to rank for. And like I said earlier, it’s too broad. Sometimes, a low search volume is good – it can mean the keyword is more specific and niche, so your blog post will be exactly what that person is looking for.
The keyword difficulty rating can give you a good idea of how hard it is to rank, but you should be aware that it isn’t super accurate most of the time. Looking at the SERP (search engine results page) overview when you search the keyword in Mangools is a better way to gauge how difficult it will be for you to rank. If all the results are from super popular, reputable sites like Junebug Weddings or Martha Stewart, you’ll have a hard time and it might benefit you more to try for a more niche keyword. Mangools also has a Serp Checker, which you can use to see what your competitors are doing, and it’s suoper hepful for creating blog posts that will be able to outrank others.
So, search some keyword variations, and be sure to look at related keywords. In Mangools, looking at the keyword variations will show you that “places to elope in Washington state” has a slightly higher volume than “places to elope in Washington.” Because of course, Washington can refer to the state or to Washington DC. In this case, “places to elope in Washington state” would probably be the best set of keywords to target.
Finding keywords isn’t a perfect science – sometimes it’s good to write a post with keywords that have very little search volume because you’re more likely to end up at the top, and it’ll be catered to exactly what the searcher is looking for. Other times you want keywords that get searched often so that you attract more potential clients. It depends on your strategy for that particular post.
Writing the Blog Post and Optimizing for Seo
Now that you have your keywords, it’s time to write the blog post. Here are some tips for doing that!
A really common mistake that photographers make is keyword stuffing. Using your keywords as much as possible is not the goal.
Think about this – your goal is to serve your clients. And, Google’s goal is to serve theirs. Google’s clients are the people who use their search engine, which means Google wants to show those people results that are helpful and useful to them. It knows when your post is just full of keywords because you’re trying to be #1 versus when you’re writing good content.
So yes, use your keywords, but don’t force it. Use them when it’s natural to do so. You also don’t have to use your exact keywords every time. If your keywords are “places to elope in Washington state,” using the word “elope,” or even “eloping” and “elopement” by itself will also tell Google that your post is relevant to the topic. Search engines look for synonyms and related words.
The title of your blog post should contain your keywords, but here you should also think about what would make the post “clickable.”
People are usually more likely to click on something that has a catchy title. Even just calling it “5 best places to elope in Washington state” is more engaging than “places to elope in Washington state”
I see this a lot – people will make their blog post titles something like “Best Places to Elope in Washington | Washington Elopement Photographer”
Please, never do that. It will hurt your chances of ranking because
- Google will see that title, and it’ll think (computers don’t think but you know what I mean), is this blog post about places to elope or is it about a Washington elopement photographer? Google wants to show the most relevant content when people use their search engine – so because “elopement photographer” isn’t relevant to the search, it won’t show your post.
- Remember when I talked about only having one keyword per post, and not using the same keyword twice? Adding “Washington elopement photographer” to your title won’t help you rank for that keyword, but it will hurt your ranking for “places to elope in Washington state.”
The SEO title is what shows up when people search your post on Google, so sometimes it can be beneficial to make this different than your title. Your title will show up on your website, so sometimes giving the blog post a title that caters to people already on your site, and an SEO title that caters to people searching on Google who aren’t familiar with you yet can help with clicks. Most of the time, I use the same title for both – but you can switch it up, and see what works best for that particular post!
Your blog post should use heading tags. The very first one should be your title – which should be an H1 tag.
You should definitely also use H2 tags, and depending on your post, H3 tags as well. You probably won’t get deep enough to need H4 tags and so on. Your other headings should contain parts of your keywords when possible, but remember, don’t force it.
The main purpose of heading tags is to make your post easier to read. This tells Google that the content is well organized, and of course, it helps the readers as well. A lot of people skim blog posts, so this will also help those people find what they’re looking for and keep them on the page.
If you remember anything from English class, think about when we learned how to write outlines for essays – it’s the same idea here. Your headings serve as an outline, separating the subtopics of your post.
You should never have more than one H1 tag – use this only for your title. And, make sure not to separate your post too much – you only want to use subheadings (H2 and H3) when you have more than one subtitle. To explain this, let’s see an example.
This is a good way to use heading tags:
- H2: Subtitle
- H3: Subtitle
- H3: Subtitle
- H2: Subtitle
And this is a bad way:
- H2: Subtitle
- H3: Subtitle
- H2: Subtitle
This example is wrong, because there is only one H3 tag in that section. This means that the information isn’t actually separated from the main topic of that section, and it could have all gone under the H2 subtitle. So basically, make sure you always have at least two subtitles under each main title. You need at least two H2’s under your main H1, and you need at least two H3s under every H2.
There’s not really a magic number for how many words is best. The best thing you can do is write until all the information is there. Don’t add fluff just to make your post longer – make sure everything is relevant to the topic. But, don’t write a quick post just to get it done, either – make sure it’s actually helpful.
Yoast says 300 words is the minimum requirement. But, that usually isn’t enough words to cover a topic, so I’d say 1,000 to 1,500 words is a good goal, as it’s long enough that you should have enough good info, but it’s short enough that people will read it. Don’t stress if you’re a little under or a little over – remember, the most important thing is that the content of your post is relevant, and that people will find it helpful.
There are two types of links you can include in your blog post – internal and outbound.
Internal links lead to other pages on your website. These are great because they help Google determine how your content is related to each other. And, you can use them as a call to action to lead your potential client to read more of your blog, or to inquire with you.
Outbound links are links that lead to other websites. This might seem counterintuitive because you want people to stay on your site, but they can actually help you! Linking to a website that’s relevant and helpful to the person reading it can tell Google that you’re adding value to the post. For example, linking to permit information for a national park. Make sure the sites you’re linking to are reputable – spammy links will hurt you. I recommend making these links open in a new tab, so that when people click them, they aren’t closing your website!
Other Stuff to Optimize for Seo
After you’re done with the content of your post, you’ve got “other stuff,” like the meta description, url slug, and adding your photos.
The meta description is what shows up in the little excerpt for each link that shows up in a Google search. Anything over 155 characters may get cut off, so keep it under 160.
This is what people will see when they’re looking at their search results, so make it interesting so they’ll want to click and read more.
I recommend just using the keywords for your url slug, with dashes between each word. It’s also fine to add words if you want to, but make sure tthe URL still contains your keywords.
For example, annatee.co/places-to-elope-in-washington-state
On WordPress your URLs will look something like that, but on Squarespace you will have something like this: annatee.co/blog/places-to-elope-in-washington-state because Squarespace adds the blog url slug to posts.
Short URLS are generally preferable – don’t stress about this too much, but if your key phrase is really long, shorten it to just the most important part.
Site speed is a big factor in SEO (more about this in a bit), and the size of your photos is a big factor in site speed. As a photographer, you probably have a lot of high quality photos on your site. But, this can negatively affect your load time. Make sure you’re either resizing your photos when you export, or using something like JPEG Mini or a WordPress plugin to reduce the size.
If you’re adding photos to your blog post (you should :)), make sure to name them correctly. Use the keywords for this too, with dashes in between each word.
My favorite way to do this is to decide which photos I’m using, import them into Lightroom, and then export all of them. The export screen will pop up and give you the option to rename your files. Use your keywords for this too, with dashes in between. I resize my photos here too.
If you’re exporting more than one photo, you’ll end up with file names that say my-keyword-1, my-keyword-2, and so on. This is fine!
In Squarespace, you can rename your files after you upload the photo, which is handy.
For WordPress users – rename your files before you upload. The “Title” in WordPress is misleading, and doesn’t change your file names.
You don’t need to do alt text for every single photo – just one or two per post will be fine.
When writing alt text, think about how you would explain your photo to a blind person – this is actually what alt text is for – accessibility.
Don’t keyword stuff here. You wouldn’t describe your photo as “best places to elope in washington state ruby beach elopement washington elopement photographer,” right?
A better description would be, “A bride wearing a wedding dress is standing on a piece of driftwood at Ruby beach in Washington, holding a bouquet.”
Make sure to be specific and descriptive. Use your keywords if it’s natural, but don’t force it.
Categories and Tags
Categories and tags can hurt your SEO if used incorrectly!
They should only be used to categorize posts on your website – for example, categorizing elopement blogs as “elopement” and engagement session blogs as “couples.” This can help users navigate your website and filter which posts they want to see, which is great! I recommend using categories over tags, and keep things simple.
You don’t want to add too many tags or categories, because this will impact the user experience on your website, which will hurt your SEO. If your blog post is tagged with “ruby beach,” and someone clicks that tag, if only one post comes up, that tag isn’t really helpful for them. If your site has a bunch of these tags that lead to only one post, it’s no good. Stick to only using them to categorize your posts.
Optimizing Your Off Page Seo
Off page SEO is exactly what it sounds like. Optimization that happens off of your web page. This is really important, because even if you write the best blog posts, if your overall SEO is weak, you won’t do as well. There is a lot that goes into this and I’m not going to go too deep into it, but here are some of the most important things to keep in mind. For a deeper look at all this, I really recommend rersources like Fuel Your Photos, Moz, and Yoast.
It hurts my heart when I see websites that are gorgeous on desktop, but look a mess on mobile. Did you know that about 80% of people are browsing the internet on their phones? Which means if your mobile site is hard to use, or looks funky, you’re probably missing out on a lot of potential clients, and the hard work you put into your desktop design is going to waste!
This is basically how trustworthy your site is. Increase domain authority by getting backlinks from reputable sites!
Site speed is super important – people have short attention spans and if people are clicking off your website as soon as they get to it, this will hurt your SEO.
And, people are impatient – so if your website takes more than a few seconds (3 seconds!) to load, you’re loosing a lot of people. You can check your site speed here. One of the most common issues for photographers is large file sizes – make sure your photos are optimized!
Check for broken links
Broken links, or links that lead to a “this page is not available” message are bad news. Luckily this website makes finding them super easy!
think about the user experience
This is the overarching theme of all things SEO. Google wants to show people search results that help them – so if your website doesn’t do that, your rankings will suffer.
Make sure your website is easy to navigate, looks good on mobile, loads quickly, all the links work, and you’re putting out content that people want to read!
Checking Your Seo Rankings
Just Googling your keywords won’t give you an accurate picture of how you’re ranking, because search results depend on your search history, where you are, what websites you’ve visited, and a ton of other kinda weird the-robots-are-watching-me things. And no, doing it in an incognito tab isn’t enough.
There are a lot of ways to check your rankings – Google Search Console is a tool directly from Google, which will tell you which keywords people are searching to get to your posts, and how well they’re doing. Mangools has a rank tracker that’s absolutely amazing – you can put in the keywords you want to keep track of, and it’ll show you where you’re ranking and if your post is improving. This can help you figure out how to optimize blog posts for SEO and update them when needed!
Don’t worry too much about getting all green marks on Yoast or checking every single SEO box. The most important thing when it comes to blogging is that your content is useful, relevant, and good quality. That means quality writing, and quality information. Don’t force anything – sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to have an outbound link in your post, or to include keywords in every heading. Make sure your overall site SEO is strong, and that you’re writing for people, not algorithms.
And if you want to outsource blogging, I’m your girl.