The photographer SEO interview series gives insight to individual photographer experiences with implementing search engine optimization. I find it insightful and helpful to learn from their growth and mistakes.
Michael and Rebecca Bielat’s Michael Alan Bielat Photography have captured chic, modern weddings and relaxed, lifestyle portraits since 2006. Michael also teaches photography via his inLIGHTin Workshop, with online learning and articles for photographers of all skill sets and disciplines. I asked him some questions about how his growth with search engine traffic and how SEO impacted his business.
What does SEO mean to your business?
Michael: SEO allows me to keep generating new clientele from month to month so it really is the life of my business. You have probably heard that word-of-mouth is the best way to advertise but how do you get clients to come to you in the first place? You can only do jobs for friends and family for so long hopping that they tell others. There are amazing statistics out there in regards to how the internet and web searches are becoming more of the norm so you have to utilize it to its fullest in order to succeed. Having the best SEO possible ensures that you show up when people are searching for your specialties.
Zach Prez: That makes me laugh. I saw a note from David Jay on Facebook about how SEO takes a photographer’s focus away from word of mouth. I don’t agree. Maybe for someone who is already VERY successful, it can be a distraction. My good friend was brand new to the area and started her business largely in part because of search. I think SEO is a great way to build that initial client base, then those satisfied customers can help you grow from word-of-mouth.
Did something happen that made you realize that your SEO efforts needed an overhaul?
Michael: When I started my business in 2006, it was called “Michael Alan Photography.” My wife was always helping out though and even was my associate shooter. I always thought that is was selfish to have the business under my name only so we made the decision to rename the business to “Paramour Photography” (Paramour translates to “With Love”) at the end of 2009. When we did this it was like we had to start all over to get new business. SEO was now more important than ever so I really read up as much as possible and implemented everything I could.
Zach Prez: I would add that you can never sell a business named after yourself and the keywords of that name won’t help you in search.
How do paid listings compare to non-paid SEO?
Michael: I would drop $25-50 here and there for Google Adwords and Facebook Advertising. I did only a couple paid link exchanges but those were never more than $6 a month. I just went with the top link exchange websites that showed up at the top of keywords that I wanted my business to be associated with. “Buffalo Wedding Photographers”, “weddings in buffalo” stuff like that.
The only real results I saw was they they were very good at deducting money from my account! Google Adwords was beneficial in showing me “hot” keywords that my ads were showing up under. I looked on the ones with the most impressions and the ones with the best click rate and really ran with those for my personal SEO endeavors. So I think using Google AdWords for a tiny bit may actually be helpful to get some information on juicy keywords.
Zach Prez: Interesting point… Google AdWords can be a useful keyword research tool. But traffic always stops when you stop paying them, so it always goes back to building organic (free) placement. Too bad you didn’t have my How to Build a Photographer Master Keyword List Video Training available at the time. It would have saved you some dough.
What percentage of your new clients come from search?
Michael: 50% or more come from the web. Being primarily wedding photographers, brides are always new to the scene. They get married and then they are out. So when new clients come to us, it is either because a friend referred us to them or they seen our work online. Portraits are the same way for us but we strive to create relationships with everyone and that helps generate repeat business with them.
What’s your best SEO tip?
Michael: Besides your ebook that caught TONS of little things I was missing in my SEO, get a blog and get one now! I learned over the years that Google is sort of like one big popularity contest. It likes seeing that reputable people are linking to your site, you are linking to other reputable sites and that you are updating your site! Having a blog is great because you can do a lot of SEO magic with it. There are great WordPress plug-ins to make things easier as well. Plus, you don’t have to be a web designer of Flash guru to make a real cool website. Flash sites look cool and they are well, flashy, but they are horrendous for SEO.
With blogs, search engines can see all your text and content which is awesome. Plus, making new blog entries is a breeze and it has a great user interface as well. With my flash site, I never update it so it is pointless. I would definitely recommend going with an external hosting provider to keep your WordPress blog rather than just using the simple one that you can make on WordPress.org’s site because you have a lot more customization that you can do with it.
Zach Prez: Excellent advice. I talk about that exact point in Photography Blog SEO Nirvana: Plugins & a Theme to Get You Ranked
Do you have a favorite SEO Tool?
Michael: A few, actually. Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and there are a ton of plug-ins for the Mozilla Firefox web browser that I love and use all the time. Firebug and Rank Checker are my favorites.
Zach Prez: Yeah, Rank checker is great for checking where you are ranked for a list of keywords that you have in mind. Google Webmaster Tools is excellent for seeing where you rank for everything (including things you may not know about). I have a products on that as well: Video Training: How to Track Keywords and SEO for Your Photography Site
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