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Having separate photography websites or merging them?


Having separate photography websites or merging them? - Featured Image

One of the first topics covered in my SEO guide was about the SEO impact of spreading your photography business over separate websites (read about it here). I’d like to expand on the topic since it did raise a few follow-up questions from some photographers.

Let’s imagine this scenario: you’ve been doing wedding photography for a while, but want to dive into other photography specialties as well. What do you do: build new websites on separate domains, on separate sub-domains, or put everything under the same roof?

Or you might have 2 or 3 old websites but hate having to manage them separately. Is it a good idea to merge them into a single website?

This is a common pain point for photographers (having multiple specialties), so I gave it some serious consideration. If you’re in a scenario like this, I hope this give you some clarity.

separate-domains-or-not

 

A short answer would be to *try*  to keep it all under the same roof (on the same domain, with the various sections as pages aka “sub-folders”: domain.com/wedding/, domain.com/commercial/ etc.).

But such a short answer would be superficial, it’s more complicated than that. In fact, it’s a game of compromises, let me clarify your options:

 

A) One single website

e.g. Using separate pages (“sub-folders”) for various specialties: domain.com/weddings/, domain.com/portraits etc.

This is my go-to recommendation, and has some clear advantages:

  • easier & cheaper to build & manage (dealing with the same admin area, domain registrar etc.)
  • no more SEO “juice” spread between separate domains
  • no more duplicate pages on different sites (e.g. Bio pages, contact forms)
  • simpler branding (all under the same photography business umbrella)
  • simpler marketing (only needing to promote a single site)

From an SEO point of view, keeping it all on the same domain is best. To understand why, look no further than this great video from Moz (it references the concept of “domain authority“). The new areas of the site will inherit some of that existing authority. Other marketing & SEO sites out there confirm it’s a good idea (like here or here).

Examples of photographers doing this:

  • mpbaugh.com tries to combine weddings with architecture (interiors & exteriors)
  • mariankrausphotography.com promotes architecture, travel and fine-art images (plus other things on his homepage, like consulting services and his books)
  • kelsidoscher.com based on her portfolio galleries, she works in different photography fields
  • svendoornkaat.com this photographer has a ton of portrait experience but he loves delving into night photography, so he has that on his site too.

So as you can see, merging different types of photography into one site can be done successfully, and that’s what I’m usually leaning towards (as a recommendation to you).

But it is a compromise (because trying to promote many different things on the same site only “dilutes” their strength).

On a single website, different photography specialties will fight for attention, so it’s all about prioritizing them.

 

B) Sub-domains

e.g. Keeping the main “www” sub-domain for wedding photography, and adding commercial.domain.com and portrait.domain.com

Looks ugly, I don’t recommend it.

Many photographers use sub-domains only when they have no other choice, like having to integrate two different platforms (an image management service for their portfolio & WordPress for their blog). When you can, avoid this option.

 

C) Separate websites/domains

e.g. Having separate websites on different domains: johndoecommercial.com, johndoeportraits.com

This sometimes makes sense with divergent fields of photography (with completely separate target audiences).

For example, if your main specialty is photojournalism, but you shoot weddings on the side, it makes sense to maintain separate websites for each.

Mixing two very distinct types of photography on the same website mixes your audience and makes it harder for serious buyers to determine if your work is relevant to their needs.

Many wedding photographers with a secondary specialty fall under this category. That’s because wedding photography is a clearly defined niche, with little overlap with other niches. Other times, it’s about separating client work from personal projects.

Here’s an example: Steve Greer has been shooting New Jersey stock photography for many years, but decided to re-purpose his main domain for commercial projects while moving his stock images on a separate domain.

 

SEO considerations

From an SEO perspective, it’s easier to focus your SEO efforts into one single domain, so sub-folders are considered better.

That being said, please note that if your current domain now ranks for certain keywords, it’s considered an “authority” in that area. Once you mix up the content (by adding more content for the other topics as well), it might dilute those ranking signals in Google’s eyes.

Basically, Google could start to think that the website is no longer focused solely on one topic, so it adjusts the SEO rankings. No worries, it can’t be a sudden drop in rankings, since you’ll still have all the existing backlinks in place. But some of the SEO “value” will be passed on to your new specialties as well.

When you want to branch out to separate photography specialties, the alternative – to use completely separate domains – is the most conservative: your SEO will remain untouched on the existing site (which might be what you want), but your other new domains will have a much harder time getting traction.

 

An important note on blogs

Whenever possible,  don’t separate the blog from the main portfolio site.

Too many photographers are blogging on a completely different domain, instead of having a blog in a subfolder or sub-domain:

subfolder-vs-subdomain-vs-separate-domain

I was recently speaking with a popular photographer working on his new website. I won’t name him, but he’s one of the 30 most influential photographers out there. Here’s what he said in an email:

“It feels like a lot of commercial photographers like me are looking for hybrid solutions – an all in one site. A place where they can blog AND showcase editorial content.
And also a place they can sell photos and downloads if they want to. The days of having separate photographer websites and blog sites are done!!!
I do NOT want to have to manage a second site. I want a hybrid of sorts so that I am only dealing with one single admin area.”

Some great insights here, which I’m sure many of you can resonate with.

At the moment, you sometimes need to use two different platform to fill in the gaps (like an image management/delivery platform + a blogging platform).

But I feel they’re all racing towards offering more complete services.

We’re not there yet, but WordPress appears to be adding image proofing & selling capabilities faster than how photo-specific platforms are adding blogging capabilities.

 

Conclusion

For closely related niches, keep things on the same site. For example, it’s common to see wedding & portrait photography on the same site (because there’s an overlap, though you should know that best by defining your target audience).

When you add a completely separate niche/specialty: it might need to have a life of its own. So set it loose, give it its own separate domain. It will be slower to rank competitively for it, but, at least, it will have a separate brand identity that you can grow over time. In terms of SEO, it will start from scratch, but you always link to it from your existing site to try to drive some initial traffic.

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