The picture above is by far my most viewed picture on Flickr. I’m not saying it’s a particularly good picture, or that it’s my best picture. There’s a little story as to how it became my most viewed picture, and if you’re a photographer, professional or amateur, who wants to get a few more views of your shots by having them show up in search engines more often, then this article may offer you some useful information.
Firstly, a disclaimer; I’m not presenting myself here as some sort of SEO “guru”. I’m interested in SEO from a marketing perspective and, as a copywriter, I’ve spend some time learning about it. This post is not a comprehensive discussion of the subject. It just highlights some things I’ve learned over the years and noticed through looking at my Flickr stats, which are available to anyone who has what Flickr calls a “Pro” account, i.e. a paid account.
Secondly, I’m not affiliated to Flickr in any manner or form, so if I advise you to get a “Pro” account with the photo sharing site, I do not stand to benefit in any way.
Thirdly, you may get better results from other photo services – in this article I’m talking about Flickr because it’s my photo website of choice. Apart from this WordPress blog, I have accounts at other sites such as 500px.com, jpgmag.com, tumblr.com and Google+, but Flickr is what I use 99% of the time. Google+ is also getting good reports from photographers and I’m sure that from an SEO perspective, the fact that its a part of Google won’t do any harm.
Okay, with that background info let’s dive right in. The story of the picture above is that shortly after I posted it to Flickr it started getting hits from search results. At first it was just one or two a month, but eventually it became almost daily and often several hits in one day. I also noticed there was another picture on Flickr, of a similar subject and similarly titled, that consistently showed up higher in those same results. This made me curious about what the other poster had done to “optimise” her photograph. When I checked I didn’t notice anything obvious that should have resulted in her picture coming in higher in the rankings; her picture didn’t even have a description, just a title.
As a bit of fun, really, and also to just see if I could affect the results, I made a small change to the title of my picture and repeated the title in the flow of copy in the description. It wasn’t long before my picture regularly appeared above hers in the search results and, eventually, I stopped seeing her picture at all.
However there is another element in the SEO of this picture that I think help it get a few hits, at least in the normal search results. Obviously, in an image search people can actually see the picture, so this technique won’t have as great an effect as it does in normal organic search. The little trick is in the picture description.
Here is the page title and description for this picture as they appear in a search result:
“For some reason I looked up and thought this could be a page in a medical textbook discussing arteries, veins, and capillaries…” The link, on its own, appears to be just another link to a picture of arteries, veins and capillaries, among many other links to similar info and pictures available. But the description makes the link different to the others. “What did he see when he looked up?” “Why does it look like a page in medical textbook?” These are questions a curious surfer may want answered so they’ll risk a quick diversion from their real search to get answers. The phrase “Dunno if you agree.” is another encouragement to look at the picture.
Anyone stumbling upon this link in the search results knows full well they will not be seeing an actual picture of the subject matter they are searching for. But they are prepared to risk a couple of minutes of their time to satisfy the curiosity the description arouses.
Photography is not my living, so I don’t spend a lot of time figuring out how to optimise each and every picture I upload, but I do it give it some thought whenever I post pictures. The exercise I conducted on this picture was more for fun than anything else. Nevertheless, here are a few pointers that may help you
Firstly – if I were a professional photographer I’d learn everything I could about SEO. These days it’s absolutely essential to have a web presence, but I see many professional photographer sites that don’t make the most of that presence. Images are not enough for SEO, you need text. In fact, for SEO purposes, the text on your site is far more important than the images.
Secondly – if you upload images to web services other than your own website, you should give them captions and titles that’ll help search engines and potential clients find you. Don’t just assume people will find you just by your name…there are many potential clients who don’t know your name – probably they don’t even know you exist – but if they saw your work they just might be more inclined to work with you.
Thirdly – spread yourself far and wide across the web. Instead of just one or other platform, use as many as you can. Every picture you post is another opportunity for someone to find you.
I hope this post helps you land a few more clients whatever your field of photography, be it landscape, portraiture, weddings, travel, photojournalism, or anything else.
UPDATE: Since I started working on this post one of my pictures was selected for the Flickr blog, and that particular picture has now surpassed this tree shot as my most viewed picture, but that’s another story entirely.
© 2013. All images copyright Grahame Hall and may not be used without written permission of the copyright owner. Please respect the rights of others.