The complex art of search engine optimisation (SEO) might be a curiosity more easily driven by the written word, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a raft of clever tricks a photographer can employ to see their site as high as possible among the ranking results. Many of these are conjured up by plugins; those ingenious widgets that solve online life’s little problems, often without us lifting a finger. But what wordpress plugins help with photography seo? That is the question!
So while photographers do need a good theme, you can also select from a list of plugins that make your site attractive and unique in terms of both appearance, but more importantly, search engine visibility.
Of course WordPress is the most popular tool for building websites, and WordPress plugins tend to be free and are easily accessible via the plugin depository. They are also easy to install. This article is not an advert for WordPress plugins, nor any plugins in particular; we are merely assessing the different types of SEO jobs they do. We will reference some specific plugins as examples, but in truth there is a huge choice that can assist with SEO for photographers, and it is always wise to research a few and see which suits your site best.
Plugins that generate traffic
We will start with an easy one. Any website for photographers needs to be a visual feast that engages visitors. It needs to promote repeat visits, referrals and shareability. This in turn generates traffic and popularity that is picked up by search engines.
We won’t waste too much time explaining how plugins can make your site look amazing, because that is not primarily what we are looking at today. However, needless to say plugins like NextGen Gallery and Slider Revolution are aimed at creating simple yet comprehensive image galleries. Both plugins display images via an impressive array of options, including adding templates and slideshows that you can customise yourself, providing tools to organise galleries into accessible albums that are easily manageable, and for editing thumbnail images. Of course these are basic requirements for your site but also assist with SEO for photographers.
What is also important in generating traffic and increasing your ranking is ensuring your images load sharply and professionally. This is where plugins come into their own and do the hard work for you.
Impatience is rife on the internet and with such competition about, a website for photographers cannot afford to lose visitors with buffering images and a static blank canvass. The visual impact your photos make is critical. Plugins such as WP Minify, WP Smush.it and WP Super Cache, in essence, take a snapshot of a page and load that instead of waiting for your WordPress databases to process all the information on your website.
Some of these plugins are easier to configure than others, and they all work slightly differently. WP Minify edits code so that only the vital information you need to load images is retained. In other words, it cuts out the waffle.
Photography SEO is undoubtedly aided by ensuring your work can be seen quickly by as many people as possible, and WP Smush.it manages this by saving bytes that can slow the loading process down. Smush.it reduces bandwidth usage during the loading process, and allows images to load faster by allowing you to manage the image sizes. This also maintains a professional feel to your site. Smush.it works with your images and with WordPress to professionalise the process for you.
WordPress SuperCache also works to make images load much faster. A site in WordPress for photographers is inevitably image-heavy, as you attempt to carry and promote an ever-expanding portfolio of your work. WordPress SuperCache loads a static HTML file that is ideal for an image-heavy site, rather than a standard WordPress php script. Advanced users have a number of settings that use different methods for caching files, but most users can use the php caching, which is perhaps most suitable for the beginner.
While WordPress plugins that create traffic are taking an indirect route to serving SEO for photographers, there are some that are specifically designed for optimising search engine rankings. WordPress SEO by Yoast and All-In-One SEO are two plugins that are so advantageous that no right-minded website builder should be without at least one of them. Yoast helps judge posts and pages for headings, keywords and descriptions, which even for a photography site are easy to implement. Yoast carries out an analysis of a post or page and gives a green light if the SEO is of a certain standard. Even then, it offers advice as to where it can be improved, ie. by using keywords more frequently or including them sooner in a paragraph or heading. All-In-One SEO has a very similar feel in that there is no excuse for not making your posts and pages as search engine-friendly as possible.
Another SEO-specific plugin is called Google XML sitemaps, which again is becoming an essential tool for all websites, but works particularly well with photography SEO. It is crucial that search engines can see what content you have on your site and how they can index it. A sitemap enables this. Sitemaps are a list of pages on your site that are accessible to search engines and therefore search engine users. Google XML sitemaps ensures that all your pages are linked to menu items, and as search engines start with menu items as they sift through HTML code, it makes your pages more visible. Despite the name, this plugin does not just serve Google, it works with other search engines too, such as Bing and yahoo.
Our favourite SEO plugin which works alongside Yoast and All-in-One is Easy WP SEO – this premium plugin (which means that it does costs a few bucks) looks at your chosen keyword and analyses the current ranking factors that your competition for that keyword is using and then measure the effectiveness of your blog post against the competition – if you can get your Easy WP SEO score to 100% then you at least know that your site’s on-site optimisation is matching your competitors – highly recommended.
Plugins that add tags and descriptions
The key to much of what can assist with photography SEO is that words, or meta data as we should call it here, attached to images can make a huge difference. A plugin like SEO Friendly Images makes sure that you optimise your ‘alt’ and ‘title’ tags for each image you upload. When you are uploading hundreds or even thousands of images it can take a lot of time to add individual tags and descriptions, and when the task is very repetitive mistakes often result. This plugin is very effective because if you give each file a meaningful and appropriate file-name when uploading it from your photo management software, SEO Friendly Images will create a tag for you. This immediately and painlessly gives you great visibility to search engines.
Every photographer that displays his or her work online will be aware of Flickr and its attributes, but Flickr Photostream is a neat and attractive-looking plugin that manages to create a link between galleries or posts on your WordPress site and the galleries in your Flickr profile. But like SEO Friendly Images it also deals with the meta data for you. Flickr Photostream adds captions and titles when creating your galleries.
Similarly, SlideDeck is a plugin that can create great-looking slideshows and, as a fully responsive plugin, it works with any device, making it adaptable to tablets and smartphones. But SlideDeck also manages your SEO by allowing you to add descriptions including keywords that are picked up more easily by search engines. In tandem with something like SEO by Yoast, this would be a huge benefit in improving meta descriptions for visibility.
Plugins that enhance your social media presence
Most search engines have now adapted their algorithm to give social media more importance when ranking a website. Therefore ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ are now picked up by search engines and taken as a measure of popularity and hence, ranking. This means that not only does your photography need to be better, it also needs to be easy to like and share, and there are lots of plugins to help with that.
WP Social adds buttons to the top and bottom of posts and Digg Digg adds a floating social media bar on the left hand side of your posts. Flare is a highly customisable plugin that allows you to share your posts on the full range of popular social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Stumble Upon, Reddit, Google+ and Pinterest. Flare also offers a widget that allows the reader to ‘follow me’.
So if you were wondering what wordpress plugins help photography seo, now you know. So prioritise your goals, have a play around and take your pick from the feast of WordPress plugins that can take the effort out of photography SEO, and leave you time to do what you do best. New to WordPress? Or New to SEO? Grab your free copy of our simple 10-step guide to photography blogging success.