How to find the best keywords for photographers

(Last Updated On: June 2, 2019)


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There are a lot of photography websites. It’s not easy to fight through all the online noise. You know that Google and the other search engines can deliver the traffic you need. How to earn the traffic is not always clear. How do you know which keywords to focus your attention? What keywords will attract the most quality traffic?

Developing your keyword list is the first step to success. There are many tools that can help you make good decisions when you develop your list. However, be careful to not let your opinion get in the way of the data.

It takes more than just keywords to rank, but keywords are your starting point. The keywords you focus on are your address in a crowded city. The search engines need a starting point for ranking consideration. The easier you make it for the search engines to understand what your website and pages are about, the better your chances of ranking well for your desired keywords. The goal is to not confuse Google.

One of the biggest errors I see photographers make is focusing on their name or company name. Unless you’re a big brand photographer or household name, it’s a rookie mistake to focus on your name. Don’t place the name of your company at the forefront of your keyword campaign, honestly, it’s a waste of resources. As long as you mention the name of your company on the website, the search engines will figure it out.

The goal of search engine optimization (SEO) is to attract people who don’t know your name and are seeking the services you offer. This is where you start when developing your keywords.

long tail keywords
Long tail form

You are a photographer. Unfortunately, the single word you do not want focus on is the word photographer (alone). You will not win that battle. The keywords most photographers must focus on are called long tail keywords. The head or a short tail keyword is Photographer. Long tail keywords are more descriptive. Words (or phrases) such as, Detroit Michigan Food Photographer or Chicago photojournalistic Wedding Photographer. The competition is still high for these keywords, but you have fighting chance to reach the front page. The smaller your town or niche, the greater the opportunity you have to rank well.

For most photographers geography, such as your city or state, is the second most important keyword next to photographer. If you can rank in the top five for your city photographer, you’re in good shape.  This should be your a top goal for your SEO campaign. Before you get there, you need to start with more descriptive longer tail keywords.

Before you begin playing with keywords on your website, it’s important to see what Google already thinks about your website. What keywords does Google currently attribute to your website for ranking consideration. Finding the answer is easy. Google tells you on their website called Webmaster tools under the listing Content Keywords Below is the list of Google keywords for my food portfolio website

Food keywords

*Note as of November 2016 Google removed the content keyword feature from search console (webmaster tools).

The list of keywords Google finds significant on my website suggests I rank well for Food Photographer Detroit or Food Photographer Michigan, and I do.

Stay away from jargon. People don’t necessarily search for your profession, products or services the way you think they should. Make sure your keywords truly represent the traffic you want. I learned early on that the keywords Michigan photography generates a lot of traffic. Unfortunately, it is traffic I didn’t want. People typing Michigan photography are looking for photographs of Michigan, not a Michigan photographer.

Each webpage is an opportunity to be found. Don’t place too many different keywords on a single webpage. I go as far as creating completely different websites for each category of photography for my business. Separate pages will work well enough as a starting point. If you are a family style photographer create custom pages for weddings, seniors and newborns. Don’t lump them all on one page.

The best keywords for your website are a balance between your website authority, the competition for your keywords and the traffic your keywords generate.

Domain Authority (DA) or how much the search engines trust your website weighs heavy on your rankings. A good place to check your website authority is at via  their open site explorer tool.  Your competition is not the photography business next door or your cross town rival. It’s the photography companies located in the top five Google search result slots for your keywords. If your competition has a DA 45 average and your DA is 19, you have a long road ahead of you. If you are within 5-10 points, you can make the front page with hard and smart work.

More than one photographer has made the mistake of trusting the results Google is showing them on their own computer. If you are logged  in to Google, it shows you a custom search result. This result is often not in line with what the rest of the world is seeing. When reviewing your keyword positions, make sure you sign out of Google and clear your cache. Even better, use a service such as or to track your keyword rankings.

Understanding your competition involves more than knowing that their rank. It’s important to know why they rank so well. Review your competitions keywords with a little insight from websites like The more you know about your competition the better choices you can make to catch up.

Another factor to consider is how much traffic does your keyword generate. Miami underwater squid photographer may not generate as much traffic as other options. Compare and estimate the traffic your keywords generate using tools such as semrush,  keyword spy and Google trends. Below are example volume results for the keywords Detroit photographer using Keyword Spy and SEM RUSH.

Keyword Spy:



Knowledge is power when it comes to SEO and developing your keyword plan. Once you figure out the best keywords for your photography website it’s time to develop a campaign around them.

Remember, each page on your website is an opportunity to be found using different keywords. Consider relevant and local keywords related to your business. These keywords are the name of your town, landmarks, halls, parks, local foods and locations that you use as part of your photography. Dedicate pages to them and write about these topics on your blog.

Become an expert on the topics related to the keywords you target. Use your social media to spread the word. Surround yourself (within reason) online with the keywords related to your business. Don’t worry, the search engines will connect the dots.

Keywords are your starting point. The rest requires you to be active in your community and earn your rankings.

What tools do you use? (share in the comments)

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