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Q&A #22: what it means to be a pro, SEO blog titles, WP plugins, nav menu items

I’m answering your questions about photography websites, business, marketing, SEO, and more.

You can ask me anything. I’ll try to answer within 24 hours, and the most useful questions get featured here on the newsletter too. Need any help with your website? Don’t hesitate to write, I’m all ears.

Thanks to Ariel, Tere, Abel, Scott & Judi for these questions.

Check out my answers below, and jump in with your own thoughts by sending me a message or leaving a comment below.

 

 

“Do I have to be in business to be called a pro?”

That’s an interesting question.

1. I would say that it doesn’t matter what people call you. What matters is what you know about yourself to be true. So you might know you’re invested full-time in photography, and that makes you a “pro” even if other people don’t judge you in the same way.

2. What’s even more important is to act like a pro, to consistently create value for other people, to regularly create and publish content, to put yourself out there with courage and vulnerability. That’s what truly makes you a “pro”, not what other people call you.

3. The word “pro” has started to take on a new meaning. It’s less about you working full-time in this business (and not using it as a side job). But more about the quality of your work. If you have mediocre images and you try to combine multiple specialties in the same portfolio, then you might look like an amateur or a semi-pro. But if you have a very cohesive high-quality portfolio, then you look like a “pro”, even though it might not be your main business.

Hope this makes sense, and feel free to reply if you agree or disagree with anything I said, or if you have other interpretations of the word “pro”.

 


 

“Is it okay to have some blog titles that are bit more reader focused (‘How to coordinate your family’s photoshoot wardrobe’) and some that are more SEO-focused (‘Newborn Photographer in Boston’)?”

The SEO-focused titles usually don’t attract as much engagement and clicks, because they don’t sound so actionable.

I would always lean towards to the reader-focused titles (with “how to” titles, or lists, etc.). If you write an SEO-focused title that doesn’t generate clicks, it won’t gather backlinks or SEO value either, so it backfires.

Plus, such SEO-focused titles sometimes end up competing for rankings with your main gallery pages, and you don’t want that either.

Just use natural language in your titles, something that appeals to your readers, and infuse those SEO-focused phrases inside the content while linking to your homepage and gallery pages.

That way, Google will understand that your pages are the true destinations for those keywords, not your blog posts.

 


 

“What’s the best platform?”

Full question: “I am planning my photography web but I am still hesitant and not sure about what platform is the best… I have seen videos about Wix and Pixieset for photographers, which one would you recommend the best?”

WordPress will always be my top recommendation, because of the power and design flexibility it brings. Not to mention greater control over performance and SEO.

Pixieset or Squarespace are OK-ish, but they do have their limitations. I’m also looking forward to PhotoShelter’s upcoming page builder that could be pretty sweet when paired with their powerful eCommerce features.

I would NOT recommend Wix.

Choosing a platform depends on your specific needs (ranging from a simple portfolio website to a full-featured eCommerce site) and your technical skills. WordPress is best, but it does require a bit of maintenance afterwards, it’s not for everyone.

Check out this article as well: eCommerce for photographers: platforms & tools to sell images & services on your photography website

 


 

“How do you handle overlapping plugin features?”

Full question: 

Any thoughts on how to handle overlapping plugin features when working at a shared hosting provider like Site Ground? Their proprietary, server-level SG Optimizer plugin seems to duplicate a lot of WordPress plugin functionality in your list. What happens when two plugins are performing the same task at different times?

I am using the Foo Gallery and Foo Box Plugins to display a ton of portfolio photos for a remodeling firm. I modified all images in Photoshop as per your guidelines… so far so good. After an “Export As” down to 70% the image file sizes are still between 800 KB to 1.4 MB. The Foo Gallery renders them surprisingly well using WordPress’s native image re-sizing capabilities.

I will add Short Pixel Image Optimizer (for optimization/compression), Short Pixel Adaptive Images (for more responsive thumbnails), and WP Retina 2x (for image size management and Retina support). Foo Gallery actually recommends both Short Pixel plugins, so that’s a plus.

Should I be turning off some/all of Site Ground’s SG Optimizer plugin features? Turning off features among overlapping WP plugins feels a lot like Jenga. Will turning off this toggle switch topple my plugin stack? Will it be faster? Slower?

SG Optimizer wants to optimize images, and manage WebP copies. But Short Pixel Image Optimizer also wants to optimize images and manage WebPs. SG Optimizer wants to control lazy-loading. But Foo Gallery appears to have its own per-gallery lazy-loading engine. I’m thinking more isn’t always better.

Short Pixel Adaptive Images CDN, though cool, would seem to layer over the SG Optimizer plugin’s SuperCacher feature set, and the client’s own Cloudflare account.

Meanwhile, WP Retina 2x (aka Perfect Images) is the only plugin not trying to usurp another plugins features. I am so grateful for plugins that just do one thing well. How do you deal with overlapping functionality among all the different plugins and services? Is it just trial and error?

At some point these overlaps must diminish site performance. I just don’t at what point that is.

Excellent questions, let me try to tackle them one by one:

Siteground’s SG Optimizer (“SGO” from now on) plugin does indeed do a lot of things that other performance plugins cover. In fact, SG Optimizer it will notify you that it automatically disabled some features when it detects conflicts, but that doesn’t always work well.

So there’s no blanket answer here, it’s on a case-by-case basis.

In my experience, the features brought by ShortPixel are better than what SGO can do, so I would indeed disable that image optimization feature in SGO.

With Perfect Images (WP Retina 2x) it’s all clear, there’s no overlap there.

With Lazy Loading, I always recommend keeping the one that’s closest to the actual output on the page. If lazy loading is implemented by your WP theme, keep that. If lazy loading is brought by the plugin displaying the image grid (Foo Gallery in this case), keep that, because the implementation is usually better. So disable lazy loading in SGO because this can be a nasty conflict.

ShortPixel Adaptive Images (SPAI) is a good solution. You’d think that the plugin loading images from their own CDN servers (to achieve its functionality) would be a bad thing for SEO, but that’s not true. SPAI is properly telling search engines (via HTTP headers) that the original image URL is on your website, so it does not affect SEO. (Read more about this here)

Hope this helps.

Overall, yes, overlapping features can affect performance, or even worse, can invalidate each other’s features or event break some of the site’s functionality. So for any feature, never let two plugins do the same task, it’s a recipe for problems.

Obviously, with so much granularity, thorough testing is required. Testing tools will tell you if something’s not working well.

And at the very end, don’t forget to use Google Search Console to validate things in the relatively-new “Core Web Vitals” report.

 


 

“Which is better: NextGen Gallery Pro vs WooCommerce for print sales?”

Full qustion: 

I am curious of your opinion on something – with SEO/ranking being the priority in this specific instance – would you recommend NextGen Gallery Pro or WooCommerce for self-fulfilled print orders? This would be for prints of landscape images that are hopefully discovered in searches, not for, say, high-volume client photo shoots and galleries.

I currently use NextGen Gallery Pro and am not overly satisfied with my SERP performance, though overall the plugin works fine for client galleries. One nuance regarding SEO is it uses the image Title for the Alt text, which is seemingly a missed opportunity. I plan to do more testing but it struck me that NextGen may be better for my client work and WooCommerce may be better for getting my landscape work found.

WooCommerce seems to have some advantages, such as the ability to have an additional image of the “product,” like showing a print of the image on display in a room, and then there’s the built-in ability in SEO plugins to add the product schema markup for Woo products. However, it would also require additional plugins (such as Jetpack for tax calculations), and possibly other add-ons to achieve desired customizations – all of which could adversely affect site speed (UX), and thus, ranking.

What are your thoughts?

Excellent question and I think your intuition was good.

For low-volume custom self-fulfilled products, WooCommerce gives you much more control, both in terms of design and SEO.

With NextGen you can’t really change a lot about the checkout process, and the title/alt tag issue is indeed a bad limitation on their part. From using NG a lot over time, I’ve grown “out of love” with it. A lot of bugs here and there, the admin interface is bulky/cumbersome to use sometimes, searches work really slowly, some hosting providers struggle with NG, etc.

So I recommend going with WooCommerce. Besides SEO benefits, the ability to show extra product images is really useful for custom products like this.

Here’s an example (this was recently changed to just a “send an enquiry” button, but it uses WooCommerce in the background)

Or another site which loads all possible sizes and finishing options in a table.

Or another example.

The trade off is indeed greater complexity. You might need extra Woo extensions for some features, depending on your needs (taxes if they can’t be covered with the default Woo functionality, table rate shipping, product add-ons and custom fields, etc.). These don’t really affect site performance or UX (if they’re designed well, of course). Extensions (and plugins for that matter) work on the server side, so if you have a good performance plugin in place, all of that gets cached and delivered quickly to the public.

 


 

“On my menu, what should I call the link to my online Shop?”

Full question: 

Hi Alex – here’s a deceptively simple question. On my menu, what should I call the link to my online Shop? I’ve toyed with many options, but it was hard to separate out their performance from seasonal variations. I’ve tried:

  • Shop
  • Buy Art
  • Prints

I come from a country where self-promotion can be a negative thing, so I’m concerned that the overt “Buy Art” or “Shop” is a turn off to some potential customers.

Would appreciate your thoughts.

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not a professional copywriter, and English is not my main language, so I don’t pretend to know all the nuances behind each word.

But the way I see it, the one you landed on (“Buy art”) is very good.

All the other options have “problems”:

  • “Prints” is straightforward, but it doesn’t really tell the whole story, because you also offer other things besides prints.
  • “Shop” makes me think of other philical non-print products (like calendars, magnets, books, etc.). Same with “Store”.
  • and anything else like “Images” or “Galleries” doesn’t really tell visitors that your offer stuff for sale

So “Buy art” is actually quite good, and it contains a verb to make it actionable. And it’s shorter than something like “Purchase art”.

 


 

Your turn: ask me anything :-)
Send your questions to me via email or on my social media channels (links in the footer), I’d be able to help.

Off-topic or inflammatory comments may be moderated.
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