SmugMug photo sharing websites offer tons of search engine optimization features to that are sure to help give the beginning SEO photographer a head start in Google positioning.
SmugMug captured my interest when its co-founder Chris Macaskill purchased my first ebook: Photographers SEO Book. I reached out to him and we discussed the incredible things SmugMug did for search engine optimization (SEO) on its platform. It intrigued me that at the senior level of a big company, all of the guys there were into SEO and out there learning as much as they could about it and bringing that knowledge back to its photographer base. They understood like I did that better search rankings would explode growth and potential for new and experienced businesses.
I explored the SmugMug system with the intention of translating all the SEO capabilities into a How to Guide so Smuggers wouldn’t miss any cool features. When it comes to search, every bit of leverage is needed to compete in the photography space on Google. Download the 10 page guide for free below, and later you can help me out with a link to this page or purchase of one of my ebooks: Photographers SEO Book and Blog SEO Zen. The ebooks discuss overall search engine strategies that reach far beyond SmugMug features and help you really take advantage of them.
If you’re not using SmugMug yet I can provide a quick SEO features review to prove that SmugMug templates can definitely rank in search.
You can control the titles of the pages. And for beginners, or those deep pages where you don’t want to spend the time to create a unique page title, the system does kind of a dynamic title. For example an image page title may automatically use your custom title + image caption + your account name (site title). Basic user accounts need to upgrade to a Pro account to remove “powered by SmugMug” from the title.
SmugMug allows users to edit the text of their homepages (including HTML tags) very easily through its “Bio Box” feature. The homepage is pure HTML allowing Google to read all the juicy text for rank consideration. I’ve seen photo website templates that are 100% Flash and without readable text those sites will be extremely difficult to rank.
Google and other search engines continue to add more weight to keywords in the URL (that includes image filenames too). SmugMug’s NiceName feature allows photographers to choose the URL paths of their galleries and images with great detail. You can name your main category, sub category, and image name, aligning all of them with the right keywords for your users and search engines. I have seen other website systems allow photographers to do this, only to hide the naming behind Flash which is invisible to search engines!
Alternate Text Control for Photos
Alt tags and title tags for images help search engines interpret what the image is about, since they can read this text when they can’t read an image. SmugMug homepages and gallery pages uses alt and title tags in the HTML code for photos. If you look at the code, I’m talking about <img src=”/golden-gate-bridge.jpg” alt=”Golden Gate Bridge Black and White Photo on 4th of July with Fireworks” title=”Golden Gate Bridge Fireworks” />. You know a lot about my Golden Gate Bridge image without being able to look at it, and do does Google.
SmugMug allows for tagging images with keywords, similar to blog tags. These tags create new pages to display all images with the same tag and the main SmugMug site links to them from smugmug.com/browse/. The linking and new page creation add dynamic content that can potentially rank in search.
You can see how many pages Google knows exist for a website by typing site:comesite.com in a Google search. I was amazed to try this with a couple of SmugMug sites to see 10x or more pages found by Google then other photographer website templates. The reason is SmugMug’s system creates unique URLs for each image and each gallery, plus additional dynamic pages for each keyword, plus pages for the iPhone, and links them all together so search engines can find them.
For example I typed this into Google site:http://cmac.smugmug.com/iphone/ and was amazed to see that for this example SmugMug site there are 75 iPhone pages alone that Google has indexed. That’s 75 chances to rank in Google. In truth, the iPhone pages are probably not going to rank, but but the typical SmugMug site has hundreds if not thousands of searched pages which gives it a huge advantage with SEO when a typical photography website has about 50 webpages.
Like the iPhone pages, pages are created automatically that aggregate photos with similar tags. These additional pages have similar meta information that when combined can build a powerful page for search.