In today’s digital age, the ability to find and use the right keywords is essential for anyone who wants to succeed in photography. But with so many different terms and concepts to keep track of, it can be difficult to know where to start.
In this guide, we will be covering everything you need to know about photography keywords.
While this guide is tailored to photographers (since I am a photographer), the core concepts and principles apply to all artists and creators looking for keywords.
Table of Contents
What are Keywords?
Keywords are words or phrases that are used in your page or web content that make it possible for users to find your content via search engines.
Every major search engine has keywords — Google, Youtube, Pinterest, etc.
For the sake of this guide, we will be focusing on keywords and having users find your web content through the Google search engine.
Why are Keywords Important?
Keywords allow you and your web content to become discoverable.
In our Marketing Framework Guide, I mention that you can be the best at something, but if no one can find you, are you really the best?
Keywords are important to increase brand awareness, thought leadership, and revenue.
Later in this guide, we’ll be diving into how the different types of keywords can specifically target each of these growth areas.
Before diving into how to choose the best keywords for your photography website, let’s dive into the different types of keywords that exist.
Different Types of Keywords?
There are two types of keywords in every search engine — short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords.
Definitions of words we will be using in this section:
Search term: another name for a keyword
Search volume: how many people type in that keyword on a monthly basis
Keyword competition: how difficult it is to actually rank for that keyword
Conversion rate: the number of users that land on your page divided by the number of users that land on your page and then convert by either contacting you, buying a product, etc.
Short Tail Keywords
Short tail keywords are generally more broad keywords.
These are search terms/keywords that usually only consist of one or two words.
Examples of short tail keywords include:
- Portrait photographer
- Wedding photographer
- Canon camera
- Skin retoucher
Short-tail keywords often have a high search volume which means more people are searching for that keyword each month. With a higher search volume, also comes increased competition which means it will be harder to “show up” for that keyword on Google.
Long Tail Keywords
Long tail keywords are search terms/keywords that contain 3 or more words.
These keywords are often more specific, resulting in lower search volume but a higher conversion rate because they are more targeted.
Examples of long tail keywords include:
- Portrait photography in Los Angeles
- Miami wedding photography service
- Canon camera under $500
- Skin retoucher online service
Now that we’ve covered the two different types of keywords, let’s dive into how to choose these keywords for your photography website and when to use either a short tail or a long tail keyword.
How to Choose Keywords for Your Photography Website?
You want to target keywords that have a good enough search volume where people are actually looking for results but you don’t want to pick a keyword with too much difficulty especially if you have a new website.
We’ll be touching on why this is so when we discuss the factors that affect keyword ranking.
Choosing the right keywords for your photography website is very important.
The four areas you want to measure your keyword/search term against are what stage your keyword exists within the marketing funnel, the search intent behind the keyword, the keyword search volume, and the keyword difficulty/competition level.
1. Alignment with Marketing Funnel
If you have ever taken a marketing class or business course, you may be familiar with the marketing funnel. If not, no worries, I’m going to explain the concept here.
This is the marketing funnel:
Starting from the top of the funnel all the way down to the bottom exists the awareness stage/top of the funnel, the consideration stage/middle of the funnel, and then the decision stage/bottom of the funnel.
The lower you go in the funnel, the higher the conversion rate.
Awareness Stage/Top of Funnel
In the awareness stage, also known as top of funnel (TOFU), the goal is to attract a much larger audience with your keywords.
In most cases, in order to successfully rank for top of funnel keywords, you will need to write blog content that specifically aims at ranking for that keyword.
The goal with this top of funnel content is to educate your audience on a specific topic, pain point, or need. These keywords are great at building brand awareness and thought leadership.
Short tail keywords are often top of funnel keywords and an example top of funnel keyword within the photography space is “headshot photography.” Using a free keyword tool (we’ll be discussing the various options later), we can see that the keyword “headshot photography” has a higher search volume of ~8,100 monthly searches:
If you take a look at what is ranking in the top 3 spots, you can see they are all blog content. This keyword is a perfect example of a short tail keyword as well as an awareness stage/top of funnel keyword.
In order to rank for this keyword, you need to create a blog topic similar to what is ranking here and then understand the fundamentals of SEO to ensure your post has the optimal chance of ranking well.
These keywords often don’t lead to “bottom of funnel” conversions such as a client booking or product purchase because they are so “top of funnel,” but they are great at building brand awareness, thought leadership, and driving that initial traffic to your website.
Pro Tip: As mentioned, these keywords don’t drive the best conversions when it comes to “purchase conversions” such as client bookings, but they can lead to conversions to a tip sheet or an ebook if you have one.
So let’s say you write a blog on “20 Tips for Headshot Photography” and then when users land on your blog you have a tip sheet for how you approach headshot photography, the chances of users downloading that tip sheet is high.
Examples of other types of awareness stage/top of funnel keywords:
- Wedding photography
- Social media tips
- Photography lighting
- Wedding plan
Consideration Stage/Middle of Funnel
Moving further down the funnel, we have our consideration stage/middle of the funnel keywords.
This stage is often the most complicated because you are trying to cater to the users that are in the middle of the awareness and decision stage.
Often, it is considered that if a user landed on your top of funnel/awareness stage blog and downloaded a tip sheet or ebook if you had one, then they will be moved into the middle of the funnel. As explained in our content marketing guide.
So for example, let’s say you are a wedding photographer and you had a blog titled “10 Wedding Photography Tips” and on that blog, you promoted an ebook to pop up when users landed on the page titled “10 Secret Tips for a Successful Wedding.”
If a person were to download that ebook, they would now be considered in the consideration stage because they would be a “warmer lead.”
In this case, if your ebook downloads require a user to input their email address, then in your email newsletter/nurture campaigns you can segment these users and promote more content that promotes your business.
The content you promote should continue to provide education but also start the process of positioning your product/service as the key that will fulfill their needs. In this case, capturing beautiful photos at their wedding so it can be a “successful wedding.”
In the photographer/artist industry, an example of a consideration stage keywords could be your location + best, such as “best photographers in los angeles”:
The results that show up for these keywords are often what is referred to as “directories,” where they are list-type articles.
As you can see in the screenshot above, the companies ranking for this keyword include Yelp, Expertise, and Peerspace.
While unlike the top of funnel stage where you could produce blog content to have a chance at ranking for those keywords, your best bet when it comes to showing up in the consideration stage for your target audience is to ensure that you are listed somewhere on these directories.
So for example, if I clicked on that Yelp or Expertise.com article, you should be on that list. Now, in order to actually get on those lists, you have to go to the directory and see how you get on it.
For example, if it’s Yelp, just ensure that you have a Yelp business profile and that your location is set as Los Angeles and that you get good reviews. If it’s another site like Expertise.com, then try reaching out to them stating that you are a Los Angeles photographer and that you would like to be considered for their list.
Since the consideration stage is often dominated by these “directories,” it’s best to have some form of gated content (content that requires an inputted email to download) on your top of funnel/awareness stage blogs then nurture them from there into the consideration stage.
To elaborate further, here’s an example of another type of consideration stage keyword that exists within other industries such as the software industries which is a “versus” keyword such as “MailChimp vs Convertkit.”
If you put yourself in this user’s shoes, they aren’t at the top of funnel/awareness stage because they already know who both companies are, but they also aren’t at the bottom of funnel/decision stage. They are “considering” their options, that’s why it’s the consideration stage.
3. Decision Stage/Bottom of Funnel
At the bottom of the funnel, exists the decision stage. This is the stage that is most crucial for your revenue or sales numbers.
The decision stage/bottom of funnel is often associated with the long tail keywords.
These are the keywords that have less search volume, but because they are highly targeted and specific, the conversion rate is a lot higher.
An example of this keyword in the photography space would be “los angeles portrait photographer”:
There is less search volume in the keyword but since it is so specific to a user looking for a portrait photographer in Los Angeles, the chances of client booking conversion are higher.
Examples of these types of keywords in the photography space include your service + location:
- Wedding photographer in austin texas
- Headshot photographer in miami
- Portrait photographer in orange county
Now that we’ve covered the marketing funnel and how different types of keywords related to different stages of the funnel, let’s dive into search intent, which we’ve already touched upon a little bit.
2. Search Intent
Just as it sounds, search intent relates to the intentions behind every keyword search.
It has been found that you can bunch each search query/keyword into one of three buckets — navigational queries, informational queries, and transactional queries.
Navigational queries are keywords entered with the intent of going to a particular website or page.
For example, if you enter “youtube” into the search bar to find Youtube rather than just typing in youtube.com:
Informational queries cover a broad set of topics and they can be associated with the top and middle funnels that we mentioned above.
Informational keywords/queries could be awareness stage/ keywords such as, “what is headshot photography” and consideration stage keywords such as, “best photographer in texas.”
Transactional queries are often appended with the terms such as “buy,” “purchase,” etc. and are also related to the keywords within our decision stage/bottom of funnel.
Examples of transactional keywords include “los angeles portrait photographer” or “buy lightroom presets.”
4. Matching the Intent
When you are performing your keyword research (discussed later), it is important that you identify which bucket that keyword falls under by taking a look at what is already ranking for that keyword.
In order to have the best chances of ranking for that keyword, you need to match the intent of that keyword.
This is especially true for top of funnel and middle of funnel keywords.
For example, if you were to type in a broad keyword such as “headshot photography” into Google, Google doesn’t know if you are looking for tips to improve your headshot photography skills, if you are looking for a headshot photographer, or if you want to know the history of headshot photography.
In order to actually understand the intent behind a keyword, you need to type it in:
When we type that keyword into Google, we can see that the pages that are ranking successfully are all Informational queries.
In other words, if you wanted to rank for this keyword, you would need to write a blog article similar to what is currently ranking well.
Here’s another example, if you wanted to rank for “los angeles headshot photographer,” you would first type it into Google to see the intent behind the keyword:
Once you type it into Google, you will see that it is a Transactional keyword and that the best way to rank for this keyword is to actively target a service page on your website with this specific keyword to have the best chance of being discoverable for this key term.
Now that we’ve covered search intent, let’s dive into search volume.
3. Keyword Search Volume
The third area you will want to look at when choosing a keyword is the keyword search volume.
The search volume is the approximation of how many users search for that keyword on a monthly basis.
I’ll be showing where to find the search volume when we discuss the tools you can use to find the keywords.
Lastly, when choosing a keyword, you will also want to look at the keyword difficulty/competition level to see how difficult it would be to rank for that keyword at your current website/domain authority.
After taking into account these four areas, in order to go about ranking for these keywords, it’s important that you have a website and understand the pages you need on your website.
Then when deciding what keywords to go after and what page to target them on, some key questions you can ask yourself include:
- What services do I provide and what makes me unique from the competition
- What location do I service
- Who are my competitors
- What keywords are my competitors showing up for
- If I was my customer, what would I be searching for in Google (covering all stages of the funnel)
Now that we’ve covered the areas you will want to look at when choosing a keyword, let’s dive into how to find the keywords.
How to Find the Keywords?
So you know the difference between short tail and long tail keywords and you know the four areas you want to look at when choosing a keyword — so how do you actually find the keyword metrics?
Luckily, there are keyword research tools that will allow you to find all of these data points.
When it comes to keyword research tools, there are paid and free tools. I will list the most popular paid tools but focus on the free tools for the sake of this guide.
The keyword tool I was using in the screenshots was Keyword Surfer which is a Google Chrome extension.
I’d recommend trying all of the tools out and seeing which one you like.
Some are trial versions of a paid option so there may be a daily limit.
Once you’ve played around with the tools and found a few target keywords you want to rank for, let’s dive into where you need to insert your keyword to have the best chance of ranking optimally.
Where to Put Keywords?
There are 6 areas where you want to insert your keyword on the page. I also touch on this in our SEO Framework Guide.
It’s also important to know that you do not want to try and target the same keyword on two or three different pages or you will run into what’s called “keyword cannibalization.”
Each page should have only one target keyword.
So for example, if you were a shoe store and you sold shoes and shoelaces, you would want two separate pages — one targeting the keyword shoes, and one targeting shoe laces, because they are two separate keywords with their own search volume and competition level.
For the following areas, I will be using the example of my old Fullerton Photographer page which targeted the keyword “fullerton photographer”
The first place you’ll want to include your keyword is your URL.
2. Meta Title
From there, you’ll want to ensure it’s also included within your metadata which consists of your meta title and meta description.
Depending on what content management system (CMS) you use such as WordPress, Squarespace, etc. depends on what it will look like on the backend to edit your meta title.
Since we are using WordPress (which I recommend), you can download an SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO or RankMath to add it in.
We use RankMath so there is a section to edit the metadata that looks like this:
3. Meta Description
Similar to the meta title, you will want to include your target keyword within your meta description:
The fourth area you’ll want to include your target keyword is within your heading structure (H1, H2’s, H3’s, etc.)
The most important heading to have your target keyword in is the H1 header:
5. Alt Text
The fifth place you’ll want to include your target keyword is within your image alt text.
The alt text is a text alternative provided for search engines to understand what an image is since they can’t look at images visually.
6. Within Content
The last area you’ll want to include your target keyword is within the content itself.
You’ll want to ensure your keyword exists within your page around 4-6 times.
Be sure you do not “keyword stuff” your keyword into the page or it can actually harm your SEO.
Back in the day before Google released the Panda Update, people would stuff their target keyword into the page every chance they could get. Google’s algorithm became smarter and was able to detect if you were trying to game the system.
Since then, it is important to incorporate it naturally while also being cognizant of the fact that it should exist within the content.
Factors that Affect Keyword Ranking
You may insert your target keyword into all of these areas and then not see any keyword movement or you may not show up on the first page for that keyword like you thought you would.
Well actually, there are other factors that affect your keyword ranking, and that is where the art of SEO comes into play.
If you could just stick your keyword into those six areas and then rank #1 for that keyword, it would be too easy.
Now that we know the main areas to include our target keyword, let’s dive into the factors that affect keyword ranking.
1. Domain authority
The first factor that will affect your ability to rank for a target keyword is your website’s domain authority.
Your domain authority is a ranking score developed by a company called Moz that is a logarithmic score that takes into account factors such as how authoritative your site is based on how many people are linking to it.
AHREFs in another company and has a similar ranking score called Domain Rating but they are the same for the most part.
If you have ever heard of “link building,” this is the process and strategy of getting more links to your website so your Domain Authority/Domain Rating score can increase which will make it easier for you to rank for your target keywords.
The Domain Authority/Rating score is based on a logarithmic scale which means it’s easier to go from 20 to 30 than it is to go from 60 to 70.
You can check the current domain authority of your site with this free tool.
If you want to see your score in real-time and the sites that are linking to you as well as their domain rating/authority score, you will have to use paid SEO tools such as AHREFs or SEMrush.
2. Quality of the Content
The quality of your content is another factor that will influence your ranking position.
The better and more engaging your content is on your site, then the longer people will stay on your page and they may even link to your page from another site which will also increase your Domain Authority score.
Google can see the average session duration people stay on your page and if they proceed to check out other pages on your website.
If your site/page is engaging, that will help boost your chances of ranking for your target keywords.
3. Health of the Site
The third factor is the health of your site which can be broken into having no technical errors as well as a fast site speed.
No Technical Errors
In our SEO Guide, I dive into the different errors you can have on your website.
The most common ones are 301 redirect errors, 404 errors, and 500 errors.
Google can see the errors on your website when it crawls it. If you have a lot of errors on your site, Google does not like this so it can ding you in terms of your ranking potential.
Be sure to check if you have any errors using Google Search Console.
Fast Site Speed
Having a fast site speed is also important for your ability to rank optimally for a keyword.
Similar to having technical errors on your site, if you have a slow site speed, Google can detect this and ding you in terms of ranking potential.
A slow site speed also affects user experience which can affect your site’s bounce rate (if people land on your site and leave immediately) and average session duration.
You can check the site speed of your website with Google PageSpeed Insights which is a free tool provided by Google.
Once you enter your website and see your score for both mobile and desktop, then you can scroll down and see the opportunities to improve your site speed:
Often, your mobile score will be lower than your desktop score due to the mobile responsiveness of websites and due to the fact that mobile devices have smaller screens.
It’s important that you focus on your mobile score, however, because Google is configured to index through mobile-first which means the score and optimization opportunities you have on mobile are the ones Google will focus on.
List of Keywords for Photography Websites
We’ve gone ahead and pulled some example keywords and the search volume for the following categories so you can see some examples of short and long-tail keywords of the highest searched keywords.
Portrait Photography Keywords
- Portrait photography – Monthly Search Volume: 40,500
- Portrait photography tips – Monthly Search Volume: 1,000
- Portrait photography background – Monthly Search Volume: 260
Nature Photography Keywords
- Nature photography – Monthly Search Volume: 9,800
- Nature photography tips for beginners – Monthly Search Volume: 40
- Nature photography ideas – Monthly Search Volume: 70
Wedding Photography Keywords
- Wedding photography – Monthly Search Volume: 11,000
- Wedding photography tips – Monthly Search Volume: 350
- Wedding photography packages – Monthly Search Volume: 1,100
Landscape Photography Keywords
- Landscape photography – Monthly Search Volume: 18,000
- Landscape photography tips – Monthly Search Volume: 400
- Landscape photography southern california – Monthly Search Volume: 20
This was an in-depth guide discussing photography keywords. I hope you enjoyed this guide and learned some new insights.
It’s important to take action and take any new concepts you learned and apply it to your own business. Good luck!
Frequently Asked Questions
What keywords should you use for your photography website?
When creating a photography website, it’s important to use keywords that accurately describe your work and are relevant to your target audience. This can include terms related to your photography style, subject matter, location, and any niche markets you specialize in, as well as broader terms related to the photography industry as a whole.
How can you add keywords to your photos?
To add keywords to your photos, you can use photo editing software such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop to add metadata to your images. This metadata can include information such as title, description, and keywords, which will help search engines and other platforms to better understand and categorize your images. You should also add keywords to your alt text when posting them on your blog.
Why would you need to add keywords to your pictures?
Adding keywords to your pictures is important because it helps search engines and other platforms to understand what your images are about, making them more likely to be found by potential viewers.
Nate Torres is a portrait photographer servicing the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. He specializes in portraits of individuals, couples, groups and headshots. Nate Torres is also a photography writer and content creator and educates other photographers on portrait photography, composition, editing, gear, and business. You can find his content on his personal website, social media, and YouTube Channel, as well as on blogs such as Fstoppers, Photofocus, and Imaginated. Being a former SEO consultant, Nate also teaches other photographers how to use SEO to grow their own photography business on his educational blog, Shutter SEO.