Portfolio Posts: SEO-Strong Blogging to Display Recent Work
Last Updated on February 20th, 2020
This article is designed to help you create a SEO-strong portfolio blog post. It covers the ten key metrics that should be worked into blog posts displaying your most recent work. If you’re a photographer or artist, this article is for you!
For SEO-strong topical content-driven articles, please see On-Page SEO for Topical Posts.
This tutorial is best viewed on a desktop or tablet. (And with a pen and notepad, and a cup of coffee 🙂 )
Displaying Recent Work: SEO-Strong Portfolio Posts
By portfolio posts, I’m referring to any image-focused post where a photographer or artist displays their work. Before we look at the 10 key metrics required for SEO-strong blogging, let’s talk about keywords.
Any post or article begins with an idea … more precisely, an idea captured in a keyword phrase. That is, if you intend your post or article to perform well in search results.
However, unlike content-driven topical posts which are rich in keyword phrases, displaying your recent work or sessions means your pool of keyword phrases is limited. Why? Because you don’t want to use the same phrase repeatedly. In fact, you should ideally aim to use a keyword phrase just once, or you end up competing against yourself!
The biggest mistake I see photographers make is churning out reams and reams of blog posts all anchored by the same keyword phrase. Not only are they competing with themselves but they run the risk of duplicate, spammy-looking content that Google actively frowns upon. (On this note, don’t add multiple tags with variations of your keyword phrase either. Tags no longer mean anything in terms of SEO, but too many of them can look like spam and count against you.)
What do you do?
It is quite alright to create posts that you don’t expect to rank well, posts that serve other purposes. Personal anecdotal blogs, news or updates and even recent work may be written to serve your existing clientele, or your website’s subscription list. These are posts that need not be optimised and therefore don’t need the full workout we’re about to cover. Simply throw a few words together, add your images (although pay attention to the advice on image sizing below), and press “publish.”
Even in this simple exercise, you achieve some SEO merit. Posting regularly keeps your site active (dynamic) and Google appreciates an active site (over a dormant/static one).
That said, creating posts that are SEO-strong is not just smart, but an optimum use of your website’s capabilities. If you’re up against competitors who have content-driven posts, you’ll have to take this more seriously, but if your competition is less assiduous, you need simply outdo them. For many in the photography industry, aiming at one SEO-strong blog post a month (or every six weeks) will probably be sufficient.
Okay, back to keyword phrases, where an idea finds a hook to hang upon.
Technically speaking, a blog component should be content-driven (i.e. high on content, using multimedia to support that content). That’s what a “blog” actually is.
Blogs high on photographs but low on content won’t rank well. Individual multimedia components, particularly a video or an infographic (or cartoon), has the potential to go virile, but blog posts that merely display a heap of images can actually hurt a blog feed.
This is why WordPress distinguishes between Portfolios and normal blog Posts. Ideally speaking, you should reserve content-focused posts for your blog thread and display your recent work or sessions via the portfolio component. (Not all WordPress themes allow for portfolios, mind). This means that site visitors can get what they expect from a blog feed (i.e. content-rich article posts) and get what they expect from portfolio posts (i.e. showcased session work).
That said, most photographers, who run their own businesses, don’t have the time to create content-heavy posts and therefore use their blog feed for both, mainly displaying their recent work with the occasional content-driven post sandwiched between.
That’s totally fine. At least you now know that there’s an alternative 🙂
Keywords & Best Practice
Get this down for good. First, build your site’s Home page around your primary keyword phrase (and other main pages around keywords pertinent to niche areas). Second, create blog posts around similar but distinct keywords that supports these main pages (rather than competing against them).
For example, if “maternity photography” is the primary thing you do, your Home page should be built around this phrase. (If “maternity photography” is one of your niche areas, you should build a main page, like a focused maternity gallery, around it).
If you now create a blog post focused on “maternity photography,” you’re undermining your own Home page. Instead, create a post around a related or shoulder keyword. “Pregnancy photography” or “expecting mum photography” are two related keywords phrases you could use. “Before the stork arrives” or “what to do while you’re expecting,” are two playful shoulder phrases that would work. (Note: they’re shoulder because they don’t directly reference “maternity” or “photography”.) Got it? Good.
PS. I’ll offer some more suggestions below.
Creating a Portfolio Post with 10 Key Metrics in Mind
For our example, we’re going to pretend that our business name is Panoramic Views and our primary focus is landscape photography. Assume that we’ve built our Home page around that phrase and we also have a main page that is a dedicated image gallery of our best work.
Now, we’re going to create a portfolio post to display our most recent work. We’re going to build it around the keyword “scenic photography,” which is a related phrase of “landscape photography.”
(Toggle the green buttons to open details of each key metric. Then toggle to close before opening the next button so that you can view each metric’s details alongside the example.)
The Post Title is the single most important metric.
- Firstly, it must be wrapped in an H1 header tag. Fortunately, WordPress does this by default.
- Secondly, it must contain your keyword phrase. Ideally, you should aim to place the phrase at the beginning of the title. For example, Scenic Photography: Breathtaking Vic Falls is better than Vic Falls Provides Breathtaking Scenic Photography.
- Thirdly, your title should be informative but an accurate reflection of your post. Use questions, random numbers, quirky statements, specific locations, expressive language or current trends. But avoid click bait—misleading titles that don’t marry with the content. For our example, we used a specific location (Vic Falls) and expressive language (breathtaking). If you do on-location photography, this is a perfect opportunity to possibly rank for the location, too.
- Finally, your title needs to be within 40-70 characters. This is SEO best practice.
One more thing about the H1 header tag…
Every post should only have one H1 header (which WordPress correctly adds this to your post title by default). So, use the H2-H6 headings freely in the body of your post but don’t use the H1 header in the content.
Coming up with a different keyword-rich phrase (like scenic photography) for every portfolio post may prove difficult for some. In this case, you could work to something of a regular structure post title. Say for example, you do wedding sessions, you could do something like this:(Client’s Name) (Adjective) Wedding: (Venue), (Date)
Eg. Bob & Pam’s Stunning Wedding, Sandy Beach, January 2017This includes the phrase “wedding” but in a way that’s unique. You’ll never have another post titled the same way (remember: every post title must be unique). Including the location can also help in search results.You can leave out the adjective (“stunning”) but it makes the title a little more engaging.The permalink (or URL) for this could be:www.yoursite.com/b0b-pam-wedding-sandy-beachThis is the “slug”: /bob-pam-wedding-sandy-beachThe slug shouldn’t be too long. At the most 5-6 dashes. But it must also be unique, so include the location, client names and if necessary, an abbreviated date.In this way, you can have a structure you stick to for your Post Title and Permalink:Post Title: (Client’s Name) (Adjective) Wedding: (Venue), (Date)Permalink: /client-name-wedding-location-
Hope that helps!
After the Post Title, the Permalink is the next most important metric.
The permalink should be both as short and descriptive as possible. A good rule of thumb is to use the keyword phrase and one or two modifying words.
In our example, we’ve chosen this as our permalink: www.panoramicviews.com/scenic-photography-vic-falls
These modifiers, in our case “Vic Falls,” make this permalink unique. If there’s a chance that you’ll write another post related to the topic “scenic photography” in the future, then use apt modifying words to avoid duplicate links. That said, you should avoid writing posts focused on the exact same keyword twice. Or you’ll be competing against yourself. It’s better to update or improve an existing post than write a new post on the same keyword phrase.
So, in our example, we turf out any unnecessary words (breathtaking) and include the keyword phrase along with the chosen modifier.
One more thing about the permalink…
Notice that we’ve used dashes between the words for reader-friendliness and easy identification. This is accepted practice. That said, using more than six dashes starts to make the permalink appear spammy.
Having a keyword-rich Post Title and Permalink is half the battle won, but success alludes those who quit there.
Why? For one, search engines ascribe more value to posts over 300 words. And longer is better. Studies show that posts longer than 1500 words rank higher than shorter posts. Of course, long posts without substance are worthless, but length does count.
That said, for image-driven portfolio posts, getting 300 words can sometimes be a struggle. Adding a quote or two, a few lines from a poem or song, a personal experience, a client testimony, are all novel ways to increase word count. As you’ll see in Point 6 (Optimised Images) below, you can also add to the content quota via your images.
So, follow this basic template:
- Start the post with a short paragraph of 1-3 sentences (so you can get the keyword phrase into the opening paragraph.)
- Add 5-6 feature-width images (see Point 6 below for specific details).
- Add your H2 subheading immediately afterwards, followed by the bulk of your text.
This way your images get prime space but you also fulfill your content quota. Of course, you can also add short captions to each each image to increase your word count.
Keyword density is the notion that an article about a certain topic should contain a certain amount of keywords related to that topic.
And that magic number is between 1-2%.
For example, if your post is 300 words, it should appear around 3-6 times. If your article is 1500 words, you’re aiming at around 15-30 times.
Furthermore, the keyword phrase should be spread throughout the content so that the entire article resonates with it. In other words, the keyword should appear in the first paragraph (most important), the last paragraph, and be sprinkled throughout the body.
As you’ll see in a moment, reaching the 2% mark is made easier by the next three points (related keyword phrases, optimised images and H2 subheadings).
Once upon a time, exact keyword phrases were vital to ranking well. Trying to squeeze your exact keyword phrase into the content to ensure adequate keyword density made for clunky writing. Search engines have become smarter and this has made our task easier, and more natural.
While your exact keyword phrase should still feature predominantly (especially in the Post Title, Permalink, Images, H2 heading, in the first paragraph, etc.), using related synonymous phrases makes for better writing and easier reading while maintaining keyword density.
In our example, we included “natural wonders” and “rural photography.”
However, don’t just use any synonyms. If you did your keyword research well, you should have a bundle of related keyword phrases that surfaced in your homework. You can also cheat by using LSI phrases. Latent Semantic Indexing, or LSI, refers to the synonyms Google offers in suggestive search.
For instance, if you type in variations of your keyword phrase into your search browser and add a space, Google will suggest several options … called LSI phrases. Try “photography”…
Furthermore, if you press enter to get a list of search results, Google will often add a list of LSI phrases at the bottom of the search results, under a sub-heading, “Searches related to [your search phrase]”.
Not only is this an easy thing to check, these LSI terms are actual phrases people are actively using in their search queries.
So, sprinkle a fair share of synonymous phrases into your content in place of the exact keyword phrase to hit around the 2% marker.
Want me to be even more specific? Aim for 1% for exact-match phrases and throw in a few related phrases for good measure.
You don’t need a social media guru to tell you how important visual media is to engaging readers. And while video is growing in importance, images are still crucial to engage an audience, break up and space text, and to add colour and personality to our content.
It goes without saying that Google cannot “see” an image. However, it does “read” it. And not only do you have the luxury of providing the script, this is a perfect place to tell Google what your article is about.
Ideally, you should save the image under a name that includes your keyword phrase before you upload it to your site. For example, “Vic Falls Scenic Photography” is a better Image Name than “IMG_025,” which is meaningless to Google.
But even more importantly, make sure your Image Title and the Image Alt-Text field includes the keyword phrase. For the Image Title, you can simply use your Image Name: “Vic Falls Scenic Photography.” No need to worry about full sentences or punctuation.
The Image’s Alt-text, or “Alternate Text,” is the most important. Alternate text is the text that appears should the image fail to display on a viewer’s device (typically, if their image reader is out of date). And it is important on devices used by the visually impaired. It serves to identify what the user cannot see. Along with the Image Name and Image Title, it is how Google reads an image.
For the Alt-Text, it is advisable to not only include the keyword phrase, but also to write a short full sentence that is correctly punctuated to describe the image. “The wonder of Vic Falls captured in scenic photography.” Notice too, an image gives us the chance to increase keyword density. Yes, this counts towards your content quota. But resist the temptation to stuff this field with too much text.
Image sizing plays a big part in page-loading speed. It goes without saying that a slow-loading page is not a good user experience and therefore, bad SEO.
So, when it comes to image sizing, follow these guidelines.
For feature-width images—images used for displaying your recent work, diagrams, graphs, and the like…
Image Dimensions: 1200px width by 800px height for portraits and 800px wide by 1200px high for landscape.
Image Size: between 300KB-400KB (lower is better while preserving quality)
In displaying your recent work, you’re no doubt going to use more than one image. However, stick to no more than 5-6 pictures (or use a slider if you want to display more). Too many images slows down page-loading speed. Plus, too many images gives your audience image fatigue. Rather operate on a less is more approach: leave them asking for more, then they’ll hang around to peruse more of your site.
At the risk of redundancy, 5-6 images gives you 5-6 opportunities to increase your word count and increase keyword density (via the Alt-Text field). As a guideline, add the keyword in 50% of the images (not every single image), and remember to keep these sentences short, punctuated and descriptive of the image. Use it to actually help a site visitor who cannot see the image.
See 6. Image Optimisation in On-page SEO: 10 Key Metrics for Topical Posts for advice on in-content images.
Using sub-headings helps to space text and make block content more readable. Plus, it affords us the opportunity of sneaking in another keyword phrase.
Use at least one H2 heading in your content and include your exact keyword phrase.
Make sure that your H2 heading is not a word-for-word match with your H1 Post Title.
In our example, our Post Title is: Scenic Photography: Breathtaking Vic Falls. For a sH2 heading, we tweaked that slightly to create a new, unique sub-heading, Spellbound Scenic Photography: Victoria Falls.
You can freely use H3-H6 headings, although they have no SEO benefit. Just don’t use them for text; they are heading formats.
Search engines seek to return the most trusted/reliable sites in search results to satisfy their clients, web searchers. Thus, “popularity” (cyberspace interconnectivity) and “authority” (association with reliable sites) are important concepts to Google and co.
By linking to trusted sites, you not only strengthen your own credibility but like all good journalism, you’re backing your content with good sources.
In our example, a quote from Ken Duncan’s website is a big hit. And as a last resort, even Wikipedia is a valid source.
So link to sites that authenticate your product and services (brand names from whom you source or buy), sites that verify your facts and claims (research-based sites), sites that confirm your topical views and news (news sites), and sites that validate your credentials (government and educations sites, for instance).
Aim for two to three external links, also called outbound links, to authority sites per 500 words.
You’re not finished a post until you’ve added at least two internal links. Unlike external links that point to other websites in cyberspace, internal links connect your post back to your own site’s important pages.
Google’s algorithms crawl the internal links on your site to determine the priority of your pages. While it is smart to submit an XML Sitemap to Google via Google Webmaster Tools (informing Google of the structure of your site), the way you interlink your site goes a long way to confirming this structure.
Naturally, you want your home page to have the highest priority, your main pages to have a high priority, and pages like Contact, Terms of Service, and the like, to have a much lower priority. By pointing your post back to the home page and the main page that it’s associated with, you’re confirming your linking structure and reaffirming those pages as priority pages. Plus, you’re directing your site visitors to important pages on your website.
In our example, our final paragraph includes internal links to our home page (Panoramic Views) and one of our main pages, our gallery. I linked to the Contact Form to encourage visitors to make contact. Also notice, I snuck in the keyword phrase into the final paragraph, too.
Customising your Meta Data is the final step. Most websites allow you to determine how your page appears in search results. And this is more important than you think.
What people select from the search results presented depends very much on which result’s Meta Data grabs their attention. So, you should think of this as your post’s advert and you have customise two fields…
The Meta Title
In the Meta Title field, you’ve got between 40 and 70 characters (not words) to add your post title, and if you can, your brand name.
Things to ponder…
1. Tweak your Post Title to include your business (or brand) name.
In our example, we didn’t need to drop any words to include the name of the company, which is important to keep building our brand identity. So, we chose the following:
Scenic Photography: Breathtaking Vic Falls | Panoramic Views
The Meta Title is 60 characters. Perfect.
2 .Avoid the dreaded ellipsis.
Don’t exceed 70 characters (in fact, aim at around 60-65 characters), or your title dribbles off the page.
In our example, if we kept the entire Post Title and added the full business name, it would like this:
Scenic Photography: Breathtaking Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe | Panoramic V…
See how the title’s cut down and the final word morphs into a hideous ellipsis? (Note: While 70 characters is the stated limit of the Meta Title, too often Google cuts it off at around 65-68 characters.)
The Meta Description
In the Meta Description, you’ve got 156 characters to grab your audience’s attention. And if you can, include a gripping call-to-action statement: “See it here,” “View now,” or “Don’t miss out.” Anything that encourages a potential client to click your link. WE chose the following in our example:
Natural wonders don’t need hype to get our attention. Visit the breathtaking Victoria Falls via our scenic photography and experience the wonder today!
The Meta Description is 151 characters. Voila!
Studies have shown that the following words increase the chance of your site being selected from search results: Today, Right Now, Fast, Works Quickly, Step-by-step, Easy, Quick and Simple. Yes, these may not be relevant to every industry, but they should at least provoke some thought.
That’s it! I hope this example proved helpful. (I chose landscape photography for two reasons: first, to avoid competing with many of my clients, and second, to prevent verbatim copying of the example, which would lead to duplicate content problems.) I do recommend viewing the related post on creating SEO-strong topical posts. It will give you a second example from which to learn.
How often must you blog? Short answer: more frequently than your competition.
If you want to do this properly, portfolio posts aren’t sufficient in themselves. You will need to create topical posts too.
A topical post can take a lot of work to put together but it has a better chance of ranking well. (Why? Because it’s based on richer and better keywords and contains more user-friendly content.)
So, ideally speaking, if you’re creating one topical post a month, creating one portfolio post a month should be sufficient. (i.e. two blog posts a month). This portfolio post could be a monthly highlights post which would offer more variety and more potential unique content.
Post your portfolio’s link on your social media platforms with a short but punchy excerpt in order to drive traffic back to your website.
This brings up the need for having a strong social media strategy and thinking through helpful tools that can grab the attention of a new site visitor. Using pop-ups, targeted info displayed in a sidebar, giveaways and specials, and the like, seek to engage your audience and turn visitors into fans and ultimately, clients.
You can get our 43-page PDF, How to Write a Blog Post that gets Google, along with two other crucial guides (including building a social media strategy), as part of our 3-in-1 product bundle. [As a client, you’ll get this product bundle free.]
With more tricks than a Swiss knife … and multiple screen shots, it covers on-page SEO far more comprehensively.