Easy Steps to Successfully Grow Your Photography Business Now! / by Erika Sneeringer

I'm hoping the title of this blog post will lure you in with the temptation of gaining more clients.  Follow the simple steps I share with you in this article and you will book more clients, however, you need to bear with me when you see terms such as SEO and marketing.  If your eyes glaze over and your mind goes blank when you see “SEO”, know that you are not alone!  Don't worry, this is not a boring and technical blog post. This is me, a photographer, who doesn't fully understand SEO myself.  I want to share with you my own journey of how a few small tweaks in my attempt to optimize search engine results has led people to my website and new clients flooding my inbox with inquiries. 

What has helped me is only grazing the surface of SEO.  I am not going to bore you with talk of Google Analytics or revamping your entire website with keywords.  Because frankly, who has time for that (and cue Sweet Brown)?  In this article, I am going to share with you one small step after another that I’ve made which yielded surprisingly quick results.

Setting Goals

First, you need to ask yourself what are your goals for your photography business.  Write them down.  Set small goals (such as booking 5 new clients in the next 3 months), a 6 month goal (such as booking your first wedding) and even long term goals (such as booking 10+ weddings in 2017 or shooting 25 family portraits next year).  Not sure what your first step should be?  Ask a photographer friend or mentor that you look up to for some advice.  Ask for advice, bounce ideas off of him/her or even just discuss your thoughts.  This will help you get into the right mindset.  Don’t have any photographer friends?  Shoot me an e-mail, I love geeking out and talking photography!

Photographing a wedding has been on my photography bucket list for years.  In 2016, I booked 4 weddings!  Creating goals is the first step to achieving them.

Photographing a wedding has been on my photography bucket list for years.  In 2016, I booked 4 weddings!  Creating goals is the first step to achieving them.

For a long time my clients consisted only of events that fell into my lap via word of mouth.  That was few and far between.  Recently, I decided I wanted my photography business to grow with more paying clients.  I knew in order to get started I needed to set goals. I needed to network, market my business and work on my SEO.  

Blogging  

When you say SEO you might as well be speaking to me in code.  Learning about SEO certainly is not how I envisioned spending my time when I think about my photography business.  I’ll admit, I never would have guessed that adding one small thing to my workflow has built up my clientele base. Blogging!  Now, don’t roll your eyes just yet.  There is a reason that photographers are blogging. Yes, it is awesome sharing all of those stories behind your photo sessions, but it REALLY does helps improve your SEO! 

Blogging is a great opportunity to share the story behind your session.  Bonus, it helps improve your website's SEO.

Blogging is a great opportunity to share the story behind your session.  Bonus, it helps improve your website's SEO.

In the past, I treated my blog like my own photography journal for my personal projects.  When I was chatting with my photographer friend, Aaron Taylor, about this topic, he pointed me in the direction of this article.  When I started following the advice given in the article, my first step was to start blogging with a purpose.  

Then, I decided to do fall mini sessions.  I put together a flyer for my mini sessions and created a blog post dedicated to details about my fall mini sessions.  I reactivate my dormant Facebook account, in an effort to not only market to that audience, but in order that I would have a place to link over to my blog posts.  

Share your blog posts on social media to reach a larger audience.

Share your blog posts on social media to reach a larger audience.

Apparently, the more sites that link over to your blog the higher ranking your website will be on Google.  While posting on my Facebook page might not make a huge difference, posting links on different platforms will help my blog post reach a larger audience.  The more people that share and click the links to my site, the better ranking my site will be on Google.

After publishing my blog post about fall mini sessions, I shared a link to my blog post on my Facebook business page, my personal Facebook page, my Instagram account, Craigslist and NextDoor.  I held my breath and waited. I started to wonder, what if this is a flop?  Then I got a little bit excited when I started to think, what if it wasn’t.

Seeing Results

See your website jump to the first page in a Google search with a these simple steps to improve your SEO!

See your website jump to the first page in a Google search with a these simple steps to improve your SEO!

This article talks about getting your website to show up on the first page of a Google search.  My website still is not showing up when you search something like “Baltimore Photographer”.  However, when you search “Fall Mini Session”, my website comes up as number 3 on Google.  Most surprisingly, this search yielded about 2,120,000 results in about 0.54 seconds and my website is number 3!

When you search “Baltimore Mini Session” or “Baltimore Fall Mini Session”, my website comes up as number 1 on Google (out of about 755,000 results in 0.49 seconds). Now that is the kind of progress that I like to see!

Keep in mind, this is after only 1-2 months of me blogging on a regular basis (mostly only blogging about my recent photo sessions).  That is impressive progress!  I did a happy dance when I signed my first client that found me through Google. Then, shockingly, more “organic” clients followed!

Blogging Ideas

Being a portrait photographer does not mean that you have to blog only about your portrait sessions. When I decided I wanted to get serious about SEO and start blogging more, I went back and re-listened to the Portrait Podcast Episode Number 60 with Benjamin Turner.  The first time I listened to this podcast episode, most of it went in one ear and out the other because it didn’t really apply to my photography, which at the time had no goal.  The guest host of this episode, Ben Turner, is an SEO expert and offers very helpful advice.  I suggest you listen to this podcast if you are ready to get serious about your photography business.  

Remember when you start blogging that you want content that is well written and geared toward the audience that is your target client.  Don’t slap together a sloppy blog post just for the sake of blogging.  Not sure where to start?  Turner has a wonderful, wait I should mention FREE, crash course on blogging.  The course will teach you how to blog efficiently, having your clients write your blog posts for you (genius), how to create a blogging workflow and free downloadable charts to help you on your journey, which includes over 100 blogging ideas to help you get started!  Did I mention this is 100% FREE

Marketing Your Photography Services

It is important to remember that even with pushing your SEO, not all your clients will come from Google.  First, treat every client the same, starting with professionalism.  Produce amazing results, over deliver and give each client personalized treatment.  Make sure your clients leave with a smile on their face.  It isn't just about amazing photographs but making your portrait sessions a fun experience.  Keeping your clients happy will lead to not only returning clients, but word of mouth referrals.

It isn't only about producing amazing pictures.  You need to make sure your clients enjoy the experience!

It isn't only about producing amazing pictures.  You need to make sure your clients enjoy the experience!

Keep track of where your clients originated so you know what marketing strategies work.

Keep track of where your clients originated so you know what marketing strategies work.

Wait, there is more…. there are even more ways to market your services to a wider audience than search engines and word of mouth. Step up your marketing game!  In an effort to track my marketing efforts, I have kept a list of referral sources of all of my clients in 2016 (so far). I encourage you to do the same, in an effort to keep track of what works and stop wasting your time (and possibly money) on what doesn't work. The graph pictured is a breakdown from where my clients originated in 2016.  Two months ago, the percentage of my clients that found me through Google was 0%. 

I can’t wait to see where these numbers will be a year from now!  I was honestly surprised when I looked at my numbers and realized that a large percentage of clients were from a website called NextDoor.  When a neighbor suggested that I advertise on this site, I had never heard of it.  I looked it up, made an account and posted about my services.  It was completely free and required little to no effort on my part.  If you have not checked out NextDoor, go give it a try.  It is similar to Craigslist but more neighborhood based and people refer things from best restaurants to dry cleaner recommendations, and now, hopefully, raving about your photography services.  I hope you will have as much success as I have from this site.

Now pour yourself a delicious beer, pull up a chair and start making small steps to achieve your goals.

Now pour yourself a delicious beer, pull up a chair and start making small steps to achieve your goals.

Final Thoughts

A year ago if you told me I would write a blog post about SEO and Marketing, I would have laughed in your face.  I know there is a lot more to it than what I have discussed here.  This article is to keep it simple and show how easy it is for people like me (and hopefully people like you) to make small steps and see quick results.  

I want to hear from you!  Being a photographer has opened me up to an amazing photography community out there.  I want us all to share our journey with each other.  We aren’t competition; we’re in this journey together!  Any tips on improving my SEO ranking to get my site on the first page of Google with a more vague search such as Baltimore Photographer?  Have you done anything to improve your SEO ranking on your site?  If not, what are you waiting for?  Thinking beyond blogging, what other SEO tips would you suggest to someone looking to improve their website ranking on Google?  What marketing strategies have been successful for your business?