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Hierarchy of website priorities: Do you have an unreasonable obsession with SEO?

This is a pet peeve of mine, and it ties into conversations I often have with my prospects.

Photographers already have a partially-formed opinion on SEO, and they’ve spent time and effort trying to understand and learn more about SEO from various articles online.

I just have a bit of a contrarian outlook on the topic. It’s all about priorities.

I’m not against SEO, quite the opposite. I understand the power SEO can bring to your business and the importance of having a technically sound website.

But not at the expense of huge user-experience mistakes.

If your photography website is slow, or it doesn’t work that well on mobile, or it’s just plain ugly, you shouldn’t be worrying about what more keywords to cram into your pages.

Ordering your web-design priorities:

  1. quality of your images (and tightly editing your portfolios)
  2. broken links & functionality
  3. mobile-friendliness
  4. really basic on-site SEO (indexability, SEO titles & meta-descriptions, crawlable content, technical issues)
  5. copywriting
  6. design details (whitespace, typography, colors, alignments, etc.)
  7. poor navigation (not just the navigation menu, but also using internal links throughout the content and CTAs at the end of pages)
  8. performance
  9. advanced SEO
  10. only once you’ve nailed those down, do you focus on other aspects of your business like social media presence, email marketing, client interactions/communication

This list is not set in stone. How you rank them (in your own list of priorities) is hard to determine, it depends on your specific niche and business goals.

A quick analysis of the hierarchy above:

  • if you have poor images, nothing else matters
  • if your site has significant functionality problems, broken links, or doesn’t work well on mobile devices, all other website details become less important
  • also in this functionality “bucket” is to have some basic SEO in place, just to make sure that Google can properly index your site, otherwise you won’t be found at all online
  • once those critical aspects are taken care of, it’s all about your text content and general design of the site, and how people navigate/browse it
  • only when your content is top-notch, and the site’s user-experience is great, do you focus on site speed and advanced SEO tactics, and all the others ways to grow your business

It all kind of makes sense, right? The order might change a bit for specific photography niches, or based on your distinct business goals, so take some time to modify and expand this list as you need to.



1. Having great images is the primary differentiator

I started this blog several years ago with the “Images matter most” manifesto, because I knew it’s the most critical thing.

The website is just a multiplier of your work. No website can salvage amateurish images. But if you have fantastic photos, you can get away with many web-design mistakes.

2. SEO is not as high on the list as photographers think it is.

Read this article to take control of your SEO obsession and focus on the right things instead: Don’t obsess over SEO: 10 things you should be taking care of on your photography site before doing advanced SEO work

I know that my point of view on SEO-obsession is somewhat “contrarian”, but I hope that some of you reading this will still resonate with my viewpoint, or at least that it makes you reconsider the “majority opinion” that SEO is everything.

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