What is Search Engine Optimization? An Intro for Wedding Vendors
You’ve probably heard about Search Engine Optimization. At about the same time, you probably got overwhelmed by big words, decided it was too technical, and retreated back to Instagram.
It’s OK—This blog post is for you, my creative friend.
Let’s talk SEO and how it works for wedding vendors, so you can finally understand why some websites get ranked above others in search.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization is the art of influencing search engine results to get more visibility for your website.
When we talk about search engines, we’re not just talking about Google. Web users search in all sorts of places, including:
In each of those places, a searcher types in or asks a question, and the search engine returns results that it thinks are relevant and helpful for the searcher.
Do you want your website to show up for important searches in these places? You need to use basic search engine optimization techniques so search engines view your website as helpful and relevant.
Let’s Understand Search Engines’ Motivation
The number one thing to realize about search engines is their motivation: Search engines want to deliver great, helpful results so searchers keep using them again and again.
Think about it—Google makes a lot of money on search ads. Each time you make a search on Google, they have a chance to make revenue if you click on one of their ads. If they deliver you great, helpful results, you’ll likely go back to them each time you need to search for something, increasing their chance to make money.
To keep you coming back, they want to make their search results helpful and relevant.
Above all, search engines want to offer you great results that help you answer your question or find what you need.
Let’s say you head to Google and type in “How to fix a clogged drain.” If Google returned garbage about how to fix a flat tire and your nearest donut shop, you’d be frustrated, and you might try another search engine the next time.
On the other hand, if you type in “How to fix a clogged drain” and Google returns the best, most helpful article on the Internet, you’re going to be pretty happy. You’re likely to return to Google the next time you need to search.
What Does This Mean for Wedding Professionals?
You have to convince Google that you are the most helpful, relevant resource when a searcher types in your important keywords.
Tell me this: when an engaged person types “wedding photographer in Cincinnati” or “wedding planner in Knoxville” or whatever your focus keyword is…
- Will she be satisfied if she clicks through to your website?
- Will it be immediately clear to her who you are and what you do?
- Will she be satisfied with how fast your site loads?
- If she’s on her smartphone, will she be able to navigate and easily find what she’s looking for?
- Do you have an useful number of relevant photo galleries for her to look through?
- Will she spend more than 1-3 minutes on your website?
- Will she find helpful information that encourages her to read and stay on your site longer?
- Will she love your galleries or blog posts so much that she’ll share a link with friends on social media?
Since those things are important to the searcher, they are important to Google too.
How Do Search Engines Decide Who’s First?
Here’s the tricky part about search engines: They won’t tell you straight out how or why they rank websites in their results.
That information is secret (kind of their version of “secret sauce” or KFC’s “11 secret herbs and spices”).
Beyond that, how search engines rank their results is constantly changing. They often make small and large changes in an effort to keep improving the quality of their results.
So as an SEO consultant, it is my job to keep up with research, trends, and analysis of search results to know what works today. It’s also my job to learn what is considered spammy to keep my clients from getting penalized.
Today, there are many key ranking factors we’re following that influence which websites get ranked higher than others in Google. As a wedding vendor, here are a few ranking factors you should be aware of. I listed even more in my ranking factors article.
SEO Ranking Factors Wedding Vendors Should Know
Clear, careful keyword use
Google won’t rank your website if they can’t figure out what you do. That means using the term “wedding photographer” on your home page rather than something fluffy and abstract like “capturer of memories.” Don’t make search engines (or website visitors) guess what you do by being too crafty.
However, this does not mean you should force your focus keyword onto every page and every part of your website (see “What SEO Is Not” below). This is a practice that is far outdated, and needs to stop.
Links to your website from other relevant industry websites
A link to your website from someone else is like a “vote” for your website’s quality.
That’s why links from other vendors’ blog posts that show your work are so important. Ditto for links from industry publications and wedding blogs.
Now, hit the brakes before you try to game the system by exchanging links with friends or buying backlinks. You need to be very careful to avoid Google penalties with spammy link creation. Aim to earn high-quality, real links back to your site.
The way searchers interact with your website and your listing in Google are becoming increasingly important ranking factors. You want users to:
- Click on your website’s listing in search results because it looks the most interesting, even if you’re not the first result
- Visit multiple pages on your website (reducing bounce rate)
- Stay on your website, looking around for a few minutes (increasing time on site and pages per session)
Quality and length of content
Multiple studies have shown that pages and posts with longer written content tend to rank better in search. This is for a few reasons:
- More words means you likely used more synonyms and variations of your focus keyword. Google will understand better what your page is about.
- Longer content is often more helpful or entertaining for the visitor
- Visitors likely stay on your site longer if they have more to read
- Longer content, on average, receives more social shares and links (According to a study by Moz, “long form content of over 1,000 words consistently receives more shares and links than shorter form content“)
I know the tendency when sharing weddings on your website is to “let the images speak for themselves.” Here’s my warning (out of love)—This is awful for SEO.
Whenever you post a wedding on your website, I highly recommend writing compelling, helpful content to go along with the images. Share the couple’s story, talk about the venue, describe unique details, include a testimonial if possible.
Page load speed
Other factors being equal, faster websites rank better. This is because website users do not have the patience to wait for your site to load once they click on your search listing.
For wedding vendors, images are often the biggest culprit for slow-loading sites. Make sure your images are compressed and optimized for web before uploading to your website.
Cheap shared website hosting, badly coded themes, and technical issues can also cause slow load speed.
Social shares and activity
When your content is linked to, shared, liked, and commented on on social media, search engines figure it is interesting to users.
I always suggest sharing a link to new blog posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Also, include a link to your website in other social media posts whenever the link is relevant to what you’re posting about.
What Search Engine Optimization Is Not
Years ago (which you’ll see if you read old SEO articles), getting ranked at the top of Google could be done with lots of “tricks.”
These were tactics that pushed websites up in the rankings but did little to help the website user. These short-sighted tricks are no longer what search engine optimization is all about.
SEO Tricks That Used to Work (Please, Please Don’t Do These Now!)
- Stuffing the same keyword into every page, post, post title, and URL (I think we’ve all seen photographers who still write blog posts called “Brian + Tara’s Winter Wedding – Burnsville Wedding Photographer”—Time to stop this!)
- Spammy image naming (no, you should not name an image of flowers “louisville-wedding-planner.jpg”)
- Buying backlinks from other websites
- Getting listed in tons of online directories, even if they aren’t relevant to your industry
Search engine optimization is now more authentic and person-focused, and that’s one of the reasons I love it.
SEO now is all about creating the best experience for the user. Answering the user’s questions. Delighting them with great content and experience. Making sure your site is fast and easy to navigate.
I suggest you reference the ranking factors in the previous section rather than looking for quick and dirty SEO tricks.
How To Do SEO For Your Wedding Industry Website
Want to rank higher in search and bring in more traffic? Focus on making your website as fun to visit as possible.
Write helpful content and share it on social media. Build connections and ask for a link to your website if others share your work. Avoid crazy weird SEO tips or tricks.
The great thing about SEO is that if you do it right and keep a focus on it, you can gain a first-page ranking for your focus keyword for the long term.
You might find these resources helpful:
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