Last week I published a big photography SEO guide, covering a lot of things you can do to improve your photo website and rank higher.
But the one common thread through all of the SEO tips was that the best way to make Google happy is to make your visitors happy.
And I want to build up on this idea because the shift in mindset is important.
Since there were search engines, website owners have been finding ways to game the system and make their sites rank higher for certain keywords. But Google is always one step ahead, continually changing their algorithms to prevent any dishonest or spammy tactics.
How do they do that? They constantly figure out how people make browsing choices, and turn those into ranking factors:
- Do people stay longer on a responsive site because the browsing experience is better? Google will take notice.
- Are people navigating the site easily and browsing more pages? (this related to various Google Analytics stats: pages/visit, avg. time on site, bounce rate). Google will think this site is worth more.
- Are your blog posts useful and honest, and are people linking to and sharing them? Then your site is important in Google’s eyes too.
As you can see, user satisfaction is a huge ranking factor (confirmed here).
About half of the SEO tips I wrote about are, in some way, related to caring about your audience (while the rest are more technical aspects you can do behind the scenes to “please” Google).
How to pay more attention to your audience instead of Google?
- For every main page on your website, ask yourself:
- Why are people coming to this page?
- When first-time visitors land on this page, can they find the information they were looking for quickly?
- What other page(s) should they navigate to after this one?
- What’s the fluff that can be removed from the page?
- When writing page titles and meta descriptions, think about how they would look in search results, how to best encourage users to give you their click. Don’t just stuff them with keywords for Google’s sake.
- Keep learning. Sometimes your preferences are not aligned with what users like. You might be honest in thinking that splash pages and auto-playing music help set the mood, but you might also be wrong. Remember that you’re not building the site for you, but for your audience. So learn who they are and what they like. PhotoShelter’s survey titled “What buyers want” is a good place to start.
- Improve the browsing experience for mobile users, test your site on smartphones and tablets. Can people view your slideshows or purchase your prints from a phone?
- Ask friends/colleagues to test your site and give you some feedback. Notice any common patterns in their answers?
- Browse a few top photographer websites out there. What can you learn from them? What aspects do you enjoy when browsing their sites?
- And obviously, commit to always creating “epic” content: remove the filler images and only publish unmistakable value. Inspire people with your work!
This change in mindset can set you apart & differentiate your online presence.
There are many SEO details you need to work on (and I recommend you go through my SEO guide and spend some time on them). But always focus more on providing value to people. First, figure out what your target audience really is, and then go “above and beyond” in providing useful content to them.
By doing this, it will be impossible not to rank well in Google.