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CRM Guru, Family Filmmaker, and Host of the Business-First Creatives podcast. I help creative service providers grow and streamline their businesses using Dubsado.
Your website’s content and keywords might be optimized for search engines, but have you built out an SEO strategy that Google will like? In today’s episode, Melissa Arlena joins us to share how you should plan your keywords, best practices for SEO, and what tools you should be using (including AI).
The Business-First Creatives Podcast is brought to you by CRM and Dubsado expert Colie James. Join Colie each week as she discusses how to build a business that brings you joy and a paycheck! From business advice with fellow entrepreneurs to sharing automation tips and tricks, Colie and her guests are sharing industry trends and resources, along with a little bit of sarcasm.
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Melissa Arlena is an SEO expert and educator, specializing in helping photographers get discovered on Google. With 15 years of experience as a photographer and small business owner, she’s used SEO to transform her own business, going from zero inquiries to booking 5+ sessions per month and raising her rates. Now, she assists hundreds of photographers in optimizing their websites, simplifying SEO and improving their online visibility.
If you’ve tried setting up your Dubsado account, yet aren’t actually utilizing all of the features it offers, I want to invite you to check out The CRM Blueprint. My course includes templates for all of the forms, emails, and workflows that you need to get paid in one easy step. Ready to maximize your use of Dubsado, enroll in The CRM Blueprint today! Use the code PODCAST for 10% off.
Here are the highlights…
[2:49] Get to Know Melissa
[9:55] Adjusting Your SEO as Your Business Pivots
[16:20] Off-Page vs. On-Page SEO
[19:10] Tools for SEO
[20:10] Keyword Strategies
[29:31] Timeline for SEO Impact
[31:30] Consistency in SEO
[33:21] Using AI as a Research Tool
[36:59] Biggest Fuck Up
Mentioned in this Episode:
Connect with Melissa:
Review the Transcript:
Colie: Hello, hello, and welcome back to the Business First Creative Podcast. This morning I am chatting with my new friend Melissa, who loves SEO almost as much as I do. Good morning, Melissa. How are
Melissa: Good. How are you doing?
Colie: I’m good. Okay. So we’re gonna talk about a lot of things today, guys, and so I’m gonna let Melissa introduce you and tell you what else she does beyond her love for SEO O before we get started.
Melissa: Yeah, so I am actually a newborn and family photographer. Before that I was a wedding photographer, so I feel like. I think I’ve done everything related to photography, commercial work, all of that jazz. And yeah, so I got started 15 years ago now. Left a corporate IT job, decided to want be my own boss, wear jeans to work every day and sleep in. That was, that was how I picked photography.
Colie: I mean, you put jeans on. I’m in yoga pants or my pajama bottoms all day long. I mean the, listen, I’m not gonna stand up cuz that would be horrifying, but I am currently wearing, pajama bottoms that have hearts all over them. So that’s my outfit for recording this podcast today. But I am totally with you on the being your own boss.
And sleeping in. This morning I had a schedule change. I had another interview before you, she had to reschedule. So instead of doing something super productive, I set another alarm and went back to bed.
Melissa: there you go. There you go.
Colie: mean, you know, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. So Melissa, you do beautiful newborn work.
Beautiful family work, and when you started to make this shift towards seo, I started paying attention because I feel like in our photography world, Not a lot of people talk about SEO O in a positive way. It’s like something that someone told them that they should be doing, and instead of embracing SEO o, everyone tries to think of 50 million reasons why they don’t need good seo.
No, I’ve got, I’ve got a really good Instagram account. No, I’ve got really good word of mouth and I’m like, yeah, but everyone needs a website.
Everyone needs seo. So Melissa, how did you get started in offering SEO services for photographers?
Melissa: So I, it was, I swear, it’s so funny. It’s like more of that photography story, you know, where someone gets a camera and they take pictures of their kids and then they take pictures of their friend’s kids, and next thing they know, they have a business. So for me, I used SEO in my business. I started with weddings on booking weddings, and then when I switched over to portraits, I used SEO to grow that.
And then friends started asking me to help them with their seo. So then that spiraled and then, and then I ended up on a podcast talking about, you know, just business stories. And next thing I know, like people started reaching out to me of like, oh, you mentioned seo, like in passing on that podcast, and now we wanna hear how do you do it?
And from there it just exploded. And then more people started asking me and just next thing I know, like everybody was hiring me and I was like, what just happened? Because my photography business was not like this. Like I, I struggled on that one till I got my SEO in place, but like, this just feels like everybody’s finding me.
Colie: I mean, Melissa, I had no idea that we kind of had the same origin story. I, I think you know this, but I’ve actually been coaching photographers since the very beginning of my business. I used to be a professor teaching other people how to do something. Felt a lot more natural than actually taking photographs.
But it wasn’t until 2020 on my birthday when I was on our Good Friend
Anes podcast. This can’t be that hard. And she wanted me to come on and talk about CRMs for photographers. I mean, I had talked about CRMs ad nauseum. For a very long
time, but I didn’t actually offer it as a separate service. And the moment that we stopped recording, I was like, oh my God, I’m gonna make a course.
And then within like a few months, I had a course,
and then by the time the course launched, I was doing one-to-one services. And so I do feel like that’s very similar to you, but I think that you and I are both coming from the same place in that a lot of photographers, and I won’t say wedding photographers, because I feel like they take the business side.
Of our industry. Maybe I shouldn’t say a little more serious. I apologize if I am hurting anyone’s feelings, but they definitely dump more money into education beyond the creative
and hiring and outsourcing. I mean, that’s true.
Melissa: they make more. per wedding, so they’re like, oh, I’ve got more cash to burn on this stuff and I wanna hit these bigger tickets.
Colie: Yeah, but I mean, just in general, I feel like they embrace the business side of
things, like outsourcing your bookkeeping, hiring an SEO specialist, getting systems in your
business, and so when it comes to family photographers, we have maybe a steeper hill to climb to convince people that, Hey, guys, once you get up here, the view is
Melissa: Yes. Yeah, no, absolutely. I, I agree with that. Cuz when I, I started in weddings, so I have, I have my CRM and like talking to people, they’re like, oh, what do I use for contracts? And I’m like, don’t you have a CR M? Like, what, what do you mean you don’t know what to use for contracts? I’m like, and then like, just having automations.
I love, love, love, love automations. I’m like, no, I just click dropdowns. And emails automatically send, if they’re not even automated beyond that, like sometimes I don’t have to do anything. It just sends it like, why wouldn’t you have that set up?
Colie: So let’s talk about your business
first, like your, your photography business. When you decided, and I guess this was way back when you were still doing weddings, like what prompted you to start. You know, exploring SEO and getting your website in a good place to be found on Google.
Melissa: So I came from an IT background. I spent 10 years doing, uh, computer repair and stuff like that. So I’m, I’ve always been very comfortable with working with computers and explaining things to people who didn’t, who are. Maybe at a higher education level, but when it comes to common sense, aren’t there. So all of that stuff kind of has played in where I felt comfortable looking at, okay, what do I do to get my website found on Google?
Because I don’t know anybody getting married. It’s not like I can just go tell my friends, Hey, I’m a photographer now come hire me for your wedding. So for me, the website was gonna be really important and before I even left my corporate job, I was spending more time working on my website at work than I was doing work work.
So I was like, yeah, this is gonna have to go. But yeah, I just started looking and I came across, this was way back in the day. I don’t know if you remember Zach Perez and like his SEO book. I mean, that was like, That was like 2009, 2010 kind of thing. And that was where I first got introduced to SEO and getting found on Google.
And I was like, oh. And then it just started, I started following his principles, writing blog posts about venues. And next thing I know, I had people finding me for the venues. I had a girl who was planning a wedding from overseas, and she’s like, every venue I’ve looked at, you’ve come up in the top, top page.
With stuff. And I was like, awesome. I was like, that’s exactly what I wanna hear. And so it just, it spiraled from there, you know? It just, I kept doing it and, and kept landing, you know, higher and higher on Google. And so I didn’t have a big social media following. I didn’t have an email list, I didn’t have referral network and stuff like that.
I needed something else that was gonna get me in front of clients and I know that I’m the type that goes out and types into Google whatever I’m looking for. So I was like, other people are doing that too.
Colie: I mean, I also think, I mean, saying that we’re from another generation just sounds really silly at this point, but I do feel like those of us that had businesses like in the earlier two thousands, like late two thou, like you said, 2009, 2010, 2011, It was different then,
like even though we had social media and we had Facebook, Facebook was not being used in the same way that like Instagram and TikTok are currently being
used to like as search engines or
Melissa: Oh yeah.
Yeah, I mean it’s just, it’s, I feel like it’s a whole new world and so a lot of the pushback that I get when I tell people, no, you still need a website.
You still need to be found on Google. People say, yeah, but people, people aren’t Googling anymore. They’re looking on TikTok. I’m like, yeah, but they’re not looking for their photographer on TikTok.
Melissa: looking up how to make dinner.
Colie: me of that.
Melissa: No, I, it blew my mind. My sister, she’s six years younger than me, and she was like, oh, yeah, I searched this on TikTok. I was like, I’m sorry, what did you just say? I was like, you, you searched TikTok for something? And she was like, yeah. I was like, I didn’t even know you could do that.
Now I feel like the old lady who goes uphill both ways to get to school or something like.
Colie: I don’t know what I was listening to. It may have been a podcast episode, or it may have been someone talking about it on Instagram, but what they’re saying is like, now all of the people you know, 25 and younger, 30 and
younger when they want to learn how to do something. Oh, I know who it was. I think it was Angie McPherson.
I had her on my podcast. She was saying that when the young kids wanna learn how to do something, they are going to TikTok and they are looking for a video. That will show them how to, you know, answer their questions,
show them how to do it in less than 30 seconds versus going to Google, which is what we all
did in order to find a YouTube video or a blog post to tell us how to do it.
She’s like, you know, people now don’t have the attention span to search for things and like, read a blog post. And I was like, yeah. But that being said, they are still not looking for the people that they are going to hire on TikTok. That is not a thing
yet. That is not a thing now. So when you did it for your wedding photography business and
it was super successful, and then you decided to pivot your business into newborns and
families, what did you do different for seo, if anything?
Like, because you don’t have venues to write blog posts
about. So what did you do for newborns and families?
Melissa: so the big thing was, you know, figuring out what keywords are people searching for. And then I just started, I think I lucked out too. I got pregnant with my third kid around that time. So I was like, okay, ideal client right here. What am I searching for? What do I look? What am I looking for? And the first thing was like maternity clothes, like where to shop for maternity clothes.
So then I wrote a blog post on where to shop for maternity clothes. And then I wrote a one for another city and like, and those started bringing in traffic and I was like, oh. And it’s really hard cuz I feel like when you look at SEO, there’s so much out there for weddings and what to write about, but there isn’t for portraits.
And so I was kind of in that beginning of like, I. Giving people ideas and groups of like, well, this is what I’m writing about. What are you writing about? And everybody else was like, oh, I don’t know what to write about. And I was like, why am I the only one coming up with ideas here, man? So I write posts on doulas, midwives, birthing center, like anything that is related to my ideal client, which is gonna be a pregnant person.
A pregnant woman, like anything that’s related to that, I’m gonna write a blog post about like, things that are gonna share, like we share, these other businesses. I share the same client, but we’re not in competition. Like, they’re not gonna say, oh, I hired, hired a doula, so I’m not hiring a photographer.
Like that’s not, I. Likely gonna happen. So I just started hitting up all of those things. You know, nurseries, that’s a lot of features. So instead of doing a venue feature, I’ll do a nursery feature and I’ll talk about how someone decorated their nursery cuz I’m obsessed with home decor and stuff like that.
Uh, and those are really good for Pinterest. So you start.
Colie: you know,
Melissa: about those types of things of like, okay, what, what are pregnant women searching for? What do they need? And even recently, somebody was like, oh, pelvic floor stuff. I was like, oh, hang on, I gotta add that to my list. Cuz you’re right, I’m hearing that now from people that they’re looking for pelvic floor therapists.
Why not connect with them? Why not email three pelvic floor therapists? Ask them a few interview style questions. Have them write the blog post for you. Basically you do an intro, you. Do a little bit about what pelvic floor therapy is like. Here’s these vendors and then send it to them when it’s done.
Now they’re sharing it with their audience. Like there’s so many ways that you can take those ideas from wedding photography and how people connect with vendors and think, what are my vendors for someone who’s pregnant, who is she going to? And pivot it that way.
Colie: I love that you’re not doing it in a bubble. I love that you said to reach out to people in your local
community because, I was reading something by Jordan Gill recently, and she was talking about the fact that automated marketing is on its way out.
And going forward, it is gonna be all about how you connect with other people and other business owners.
And while she definitely wasn’t talking to us photographers, I do think that we can actually take a lesson from that, that sometimes we think that we are more in a bubble than we are. Like, like you said, pe there are lots of people in your community that service your same ideal
client that are not photographers.
They are not in competition with you. And so if you build your network in that way,
While writing blog posts to help your
seo, everyone will benefit.
Melissa: Yeah, I know when I write with some of these small businesses, I’ll even do an interview with them, and then sometimes I come up like above them on SEO results when they get searched, and then I’m like, oh, sorry, but I’m getting in front of their clients, you know? And that’s, that’s the whole point.
I’m like, right now we’re in Miami, and when we went to move down here, It’s a lot bigger city and I was a little bit more intimidated with reaching out to people. But you know, I put those blog posts together, but now we’re moving to like small town Nowheresville back in Virginia and a hundred percent, I’ve already got a list of who to reach out to, to be like, Hey, you know, I wanna write a post and feature you and talk about what you do and stuff.
And then that I like, I tell my clients too, I’m like, Who doesn’t wanna get a message on Instagram that says, Hey, I’ve seen your work. You’ve been referred. I’d love to interview you for an article. And I call it an article cuz it sounds a little fancier than a blog post. And I’m like, Hey, I’m, I’m putting an article on my website about this.
I’d love to interview you. You know, they’re all like, yes, absolutely. I would love that. And then I’m like, okay, hey, it’s published. Go share it. And next thing you know, they share it and I get back links and I get more exposure and bam, there you go.
Colie: All right, Melissa. That sounds like a lot of work. And here’s the thing, I have not blogged for my photography business in so long. I won’t even say it out loud because it’s very embarrassing. I am not currently seeking active clients for that. So I do, I’m I am okay with that. But you just said a lot and it seems like a lot of work.
So I’m gonna ask a few follow up questions. Number one, how often do you blog for your business?
Melissa: So right now I’m getting ready to ramp back up. I, when we got here to Miami, I did all of my on page SEO with my main pages and I hit like page two for my keywords. But I don’t wanna be on page two. I wanna be on page one. So I. I did like a hit the ground running three blog posts a week for I think it was like three or four months straight.
It was a lot, but I had nothing else to do. We had just moved here. I didn’t have any clients like, you know, you gotta get that ball rolling has co takes time. That’s the biggest thing to like tell people, like, it sucks. I know it. You’re doing all this hard work and it’s not gonna pay off tomorrow. It might not pay off six months from now.
It might be a year from now, but then you’re sitting back, your inbox is filling up and you don’t have to worry about keeping up on whatever’s going on on TikTok or Instagram reels and stuff.
Colie: All right. Three blog posts a week. Like, by the way, I think I just had like a internal panic attack. No one can see that
though. That’s a lot because I’m getting ready to like do that for my Dodo services. And so three blog posts a week, that seems like a lot, but I’m also podcasting, so if I could just. Reuse some of that. I think I’m gonna be good.
Melissa: that’s like a NASCAR driver, like going into this type of thing. If you’re like, look, I just wanna start dipping my toes into the water once a month, and I would rather people blog once a month and stay consistent. Then try and do like what I did and I brought in help too cuz there was no way I was doing it.
I had somebody else handle small posts, I handled the bigger posts. But then honestly after I did that, I didn’t blog for like six months or something like, cause I burned out. Like everybody is like, you’re gonna burn out if you don’t outsource that. But it did what it needed to do. It budged the needle for me.
It got me out there, it got me on all those keywords and stuff. And then it was just like maintenance. And so now I tell people one aim for once a month, get six months in the hopper before you start thinking. Oh, let me blog more than once a month because I wanna make sure you’re gonna stay consistent.
Google prefers that. So even for you, I would say once a month, like you don’t have to do Yeah, you don’t have to do three times.
Colie: Yeah, I mean that, that just sounded a little scary. And it’s okay cuz like I blog my podcast every
week. I mean, that’s one, uh, if I just threw in one other Dodo post, I think I’d be
good. But you snuck in a word that I know what it means, but you should probably explain as the audience tell the listening audience what off-page and OnPage SEO is.
Melissa: Uh, yes. So on page SEO is keywords on your website, making sure your headers, your meta descriptions, your page titles, your copy, your alt text, all of that. So when someone looks at your website and Google looks at your website, they know. These key, this is what they’re targeting, these are the keywords they’re targeting.
Off page SEO is gonna be backlinks, citations and things like that. So that’s the stuff you don’t necessarily see. And that’s also the stuff that all of those emails that slide into your inbox that say, oh, your website looks good, but you need help with your seo. Like they’re all pitching off page stuff that, that you really don’t even know what they’re doing a lot of times.
So you gotta be really careful with that. But yeah, off pages. All of that stuff, pinning it to Pinterest and getting a back link, like that’s off page seo, you know, getting, getting put, on a podcast or something like that, that links back to your website. That’s off page. SEO OnPage is the stuff that’s directly on your website with your page titles and meta descriptions and all of that stuff.
Colie: I mean, so technically my gift to you and all of my other guests is that you get a link on my website and you get a link on the Buzz Sprout. Podcast host. Yeah, I mean like, and Apple Podcasts. I mean actually, and Spotify. I mean, that’s so many back links off of one podcast episode. I have never thought about it like
that. So Melissa, lots of blog posts.
Lots of research working on your on page, trying to get some of that off page when you can, but how much time are you spending per blog post? And then let’s just start with beginners. How much time should they estimate it’s gonna be per blog post when they get started?
Melissa: So if it’s gonna be a cornerstone content post, like something that’s really heavy duty where you’re reaching out to other vendors and stuff, you know, I mean, that can be like when I wrote my post on birthing centers and midwives, I was like, I have three C-sections. I don’t know anything about a birth center or a midwife.
So I literally was Googling, what does a midwife do, you know, that kind of thing. But then I put that into the post cuz it was like, well, somebody else might not know what a midwife does, so I’ll do that. So for those posts, I remember I did them while my daughter, she could do two hours at the Y M C A as long as I was there.
So I would, I would work out for an hour and then I would sit for that second hour and then work on it. And I would probably take like two weeks or like four or five hours to write it out and get everything in there. So it wasn’t too bad, but that was my only time, like to really focus on, it was like, this is my job right now while she’s getting babysat.
Colie: And I know that you do fabulous SEO audits. Um, let me just do a little plug for your services here. What is it that, besides hiring an expert like you to do an audit? Like if someone needs to figure out just how bad it is so that they can figure out where to go next, like what is the first thing that they should do when they’re looking at their website in order to see if they’re currently ranking what kind of s e o they currently have for their website?
Melissa: Um, I would say Google Search Console is the biggest one. Set it up, it’s free, and it will tell you all of the keywords you’re ranking for. And now some clients, when I start working with them, they’re ranking for their name. And that’s about it because they don’t have anything else. So I would set that up, see what you’re ranking for, and then look at your homepage.
When you land on your homepage, can you immediately tell where you shoot, what you shoot, and then have the word photographer or photography with it? So when you land on my page, it says, now Charlottesville photographer, it used to say Miami Newborn photographer. Now it says Charlottesville photographer.
So you know, you know where I am. So you know, okay, at least we’ve got a keyword here on this page. But a lot of times people don’t have keywords or. They make it Charlottesville family, maternity and newborn photographer, and no one’s searching for all of that at one time. So you gotta stick with one genre, one location, and then usually the word photographer or photography at the end, and that gets you
Colie: Well, I feel like, I feel like this is when I should ask you now, should I be ranking for the same key word on every single
page of my
Melissa: No, no, no, no. Stop using keywords everywhere. Like, and when I mean that, there is a program called Keywords Everywhere that I use, but not that one. I’m talking about don’t put the same keyword on every single page of your site, or my favorite is when I see it, every single blog post is Jane’s six month session, Boston Newborn photographer, Jane’s, blah, blah, blah, Boston, like every single one.
What you do with at that point is Google has to make a decision. Someone searches for Boston newborn photographer. And Google has all of these websites to look at and it has to look at them and decide which 10:00 AM I gonna show on the front page. And if you say, Hey Google, I’ve got 50 pages for you to choose from to show on the f the page, Google doesn’t think, oh, thank you so much for all of that variety.
That is so amazing. Let me go do the homework for you. No, Google’s like, I’m not even gonna show you cuz I don’t wanna sift through 50 pages. It’s like going to what? Cheesecake Factory. And their menu is like 50 pages long and you’re like, I don’t know what to do. Google’s like, no, no, I’m not doing that job for you.
If you can’t tell me which page you wanna rank here, I’m not gonna figure it out for you. So you want one page?
Colie: Side note, why does everyone pick on the Cheesecake Factory?
Melissa: Well, I have one go to there. I always get the miso salmon. That’s it. I’m like, I’m not even looking at the menu.
Colie: Exactly. Now I will say though, I’ve been eating at the Cheesecake Factory for, oh my gosh, at least 20 years. And every time I go in and I have this one favorite
dish, like after a CO a few years, I go in and one server has to tell me, oh, I’m sorry, Miam. We don’t serve that anymore. And I will never forget, I was at the Galleria in Houston.
I hadn’t had Cheesecake Factory for like. Two and a half years. I sat down, I ordered my dish and he goes, I’m so sorry, ma’am. We don’t have that anymore. My sister-in-law was like, back away from the table. Back away from the table because I was like, I’m tired of coming and you guys change it. But no, I mean, You don’t wanna do everything for everyone.
I think people understand that when it comes to their photography, but then they don’t translate that into their seo. And they’re just like, no, I really wanna rank for like bold newborn photographer, so let me just slap that keyword
everywhere that I possibly can. And they don’t realize that they’re actually hurting their SEO by not telling Google which page is most important
and will give the best information for that particular keyword.
But Melissa keyword, How in the hell do I figure out what key words I need as a photographer?
Melissa: So, yeah, it really starts with your genres, your location, and then photographer photography. So that’s where I tell everybody to kind of start off with. So you figure out, and I tell you for your homepage, Pick, what is your favorite? If you can fill your calendar with that type of session, that’s what needs to go on your homepage.
And for some clients, I’ve had, it’s maternity. For me, it’s always been newborn. I love newborn and I could shoot it all day long. So that’s what’s gonna go on my homepage. But then my portfolio page is I target family, I tar a family keyword, I target a maternity keyword. Then I target a different location that’s nearby for another newborn keyword.
So it really starts with that. And then keyword research. I mean, it’s one of those things. Go into your Google search console, see what you’re already ranking for. And then there are tools out there like keywords everywhere. Google Ads has their keyword tool where you need to go and figure out does this keyword get traffic?
So here in Miami, Newborn photography gets like 260 searches a month. It’s beautiful. Now, when I was in Northern Virginia, that thing is getting like four or 500 searches a month, which is even more awesome where we’re moving to. It gets, it gets 20, 20 searches a month. So I was like, okay, well I’m not gonna target, I.
Charlottesville newborn photographer with my homepage because 20 searches a month is not enough. So I’m going to the next bigger city and trying to target that keyword for newborn. So that’s the reason you have to do the research because you could think, yeah, I’m gonna target my city and it’s gonna be great, and it gets zero searches a month.
Versus if you targeted a city 30 minutes away that you serve anyway, you could get 300 possibly. I mean, that’s a big city, you know, if that’s the case. But that’s, you know, the research is what, what you’ve gotta do and like, I have a keywords research course that like walks you through how to do it in bulk because with all of these tools, you’re doing it onesie, twosy, you’re just plugging in keywords and getting ideas.
So I have a course that walks you through, list in all your locations, all your genres, and then how to like search it all at one time and so you can like knock it out in an afternoon and be good and know these are the keywords I need to target with blog posts, with my pages, and go from there and know all the traffic volume.
Colie: Yeah, because I would feel really bad if anybody thought they had a really awesome keyword and they put forth all the effort to try to rank and raise their SEO for that keyword. And then they realized that only 10 people a month are looking for that keyword. I mean, that’s why it’s not just about the keywords, guys.
You also have to. Consider the traffic volume of people searching for that keyword because it’s great if you rank. It’s great if you type in Boulder newborn photographer and you’re on page one, but if no one is using those search terms, you are on page one for nothing.
No one is still going to see your amazing s e o and ranking on that page one.
So that’s a great tip, Melissa.
Melissa: Now, and I will say the only caveat to that is I had a small city in Northern Virginia, Alexandria, where like 99% of my clients came from there. But it only got like 20 or 30 searches a month, and so I made sure I had a page dedicated to that even though it only got a small amount of traffic. I knew when someone landed on that keyword, they were gonna hire me because they, that was what all my clients were.
So you’ve gotta know that too. You’ve gotta know like, where are your ideal clients? Because maybe they’re not necessarily the big city. There’s something a little bit smaller and you wanna have a, a landing page for them that is dedicated to them, that maybe talks about the maternity, uh, stores in their town talks about the doulas in their town, and so it gives them all of this information that’s specific to them.
Colie: All right. Let’s talk about just for photographers, because I feel like even though we have been talking about, you know, focus on your genres for your keywords, that kind of thing, we’ve left out like the big elephant in the room for our industry for seo, and that’s
pictures. So what are we supposed to do with our images in order to help our S E O?
Because I want everyone to know that where it is not at is for you to export all of your images at Meet Sasha oh one, meet Sasha oh two, and upload your images just like you would deliver them to your client. Don’t do that.
Melissa: I was gonna say we’re like DSC 0 0 3 jpeg.
Colie: I, I hope people are renaming their images. Melissa,
come on. No one is still de.
Melissa: Nope, Nope. I see it all the time. All the time, all the time. I’m like, at the very least, like give it a location or something, you know, give it something. So yeah, usually what I tell people is when, all right, so you’ve figured out your homepage keyword, what you wanna target. Now you need to go through and pick out the images that are gonna go on your homepage, and then you wanna rename them with the keyword for that page.
So my homepage, it used to be they were Miami dash newborn dash photographer, dash one dash two dash three, that kind of thing. So you wanna rename ’em for that. And then when you upload ’em, you’ve gotta write in your alt text and you need to think about the alt text as describing the image. So it might be headshot of a Miami newborn photographer, Melissa Arlina.
I might have put that in there. I try to work my keyword into those. There can be some back and forth on like, ah, don’t stuff your keywords into your alt text. It’s not like every keyword is just just my alt text over and over or location text. I just weave it in like, you know, hey, that’s what this is a picture of.
Or you know, it’s a newborn baby and a crib photographed by Miami newborn photographer, and I’ll throw those into a couple. You don’t wanna put, your keyword on every single alt text. You wanna keep it like around 60%. So, but you can also use keywords for your other pages. So maybe another one would’ve been Miami Maternity Photographer that I would’ve used, that kind of thing.
But describe the image, what’s going on, couple on pregnant, couple on the beach, you know, something like that. Don’t leave it just blank. And don’t leave it as DSC 0 0 1.
Colie: Yeah, I mean I, I think, I think a lot of people do, I think a lot of people do talk about alt
text. I don’t think that’s left outta the conversation, but I think making sure that you have renamed your images before you put them on your
website is like a big piece that people are missing.
Melissa: Google will scan that and then they can show it in the Google image results. Cuz I used to rename my photos like for weddings, you know, it would be fall wedding at blah blah, blah venue. And then it would pop up when you would search fall wedding at the, and you go over to the images tab, then you would see photos of mine from that blog post.
Colie: Yeah, and that was what I was gonna say. Like here in Boulder we, you know, it’s beautiful
outside. We all know I don’t photograph anybody outside, but it is beautiful
outside. And so if you can put your locations into the pictures
and it can get picked up by Google Images. If someone knows that they want their maternity session, for example, at Chatauqua, and they’re searching for like some inspiration, they could be on Pinterest.
But they could also be on Google, depending on how old they are guys.
And so if your image is popping up in the Google images for that location and they haven’t hired a photographer, maybe you’re gonna get hired off of that cuz then they’re gonna go look for your website and then they’re gonna see what else you had to say.
All of your other work, all that good jazz.
Melissa: Yep, exactly.
Colie: So Melissa, we’ve talked about like a lot and so. The one thing that I want people to walk away from this conversation is that this is not a short term game. Like you are not going to get immediate results from doing your s e o. And while you mentioned a six month timeframe, like is that the average for people to start seeing a difference once they have actually started working on their s e o?
Melissa: Uh, no. I would say 18 months is probably closer to like, hitting, like, if you wanna get to page one, I would say 18 months now, I, and especially for bigger cities and stuff where there’s a lot of competition. I’ve had clients who have hit page one in much shorter timeframes than that. Some of them are more established.
They’ve been around for a long time. They’ve gotten featured in other places. So now that they’ve got. So they’ve been working on the off page SEO for a long time, not realizing it by getting features. So once we get the OnPage set up, it’s just now it’s like, oh, well that was the part they were missing for them to come up.
But if you’re like brand new and you’ve got a website that’s less than two years old kind of thing, you, it’s kind of like a credit history. You know? The longer you have your domain name, the longer you’ve established credit. And every time you know, like you get a backlink, it’s like getting a new credit card and building that up.
So you gotta think. If you’re competing with a photographer who’s been around for 15 years, they just have a longer credit score than you have, you know, credit history. And so you’ve gotta take that time to build yours up. You can still build it up, right? But it’s gonna take time. It took, I have a friend, she’s military wife, and she moves every two to three years, and she has been consistent about every 18 months, she gets 18 months into that new location, and now she’s page one at Google.
Inquiries are coming in and usually within about six months to a year. Yep. She gets the notice. Okay, here’s the next location. So even for here, with us moving to Charlottesville, I pulled my keywords and changed them in March. We’re moving in June. I won’t even take clients probably until September, but starting in March cuz I’m trying to like go ahead and say, Hey, I wanna get that clock started sooner.
And I am already page one for my area up there, the new area. But I’m like floating at like six or seven. So I still have some work to do to try and get up there to that top spot, but I’m, I go for it. I’m always gonna go for the top spot if I can, but it takes
Colie: So, It. It does take time, and I know that people don’t like to hear that,
and especially if you decide to outsource it and you put a lot of money into
it, it’s like money that’s gone and then you can’t actually see results for quite some time, but just know that they’re coming. Also, as you said, Melissa, consistency is probably the most important thing that you can do.
I mean, in your business in general, but especially for your S E O.
Melissa: Yeah. And when we came down here, um, I’m trying to think it was about, it was probably in like a 15 to 16 month timeframe where. I hit that point. It was, it would’ve been like last August when all of a sudden like constant influx of inquiries, like constantly booked and then coming up this January. And that’s the thing with SEO is like once you hit those top spots and stuff, and once you get to page one, like those inquiries start coming in and you, it, it’s like on autopilot you didn’t have to do anything.
There they are because you already did all the work ahead of time.
Colie: Mm-hmm. So if you were a brand new photographer and you decided that SEO was where it’s at, besides doing your key res, your keyword research, is there anything else that you would suggest to someone to kind of get the ball rolling?
Melissa: It starts with the keyword research. So you get that going and then it’s, and then it’s blogging. You know, it’s working on your OnPage, SEO and blogging and then working on your off page. Cuz to me, there’s no point in working on your off page unless your OnPage is ready and on point, because otherwise then, Yeah, you’re getting links, but nobody’s gonna find you cuz you don’t have any keywords and you haven’t done any work.
So I would start with on page, getting those keywords onto those pages in the right spot, getting the right keywords there, then blogging, then getting those blog posts shared, and then working more on features and back links and stuff like that.
Colie: I mean, I just thought of a very weird question to ask you, and so if you don’t have an answer, that’s okay. What do you think about using AI to help you with your writing and or with your SEO keywords and titles and headlines and all of that jazz? I feel like everywhere I turn now I’m hearing about, you know, AI and helping writing and the one thing that I say is, guys, please don’t, please don’t type these questions into chat GPT and just paste them
on your website, cuz that’s a big no-no.
But do, I mean, do, have you used AI for yourself?
Melissa: Yes. And in fact, I’ve been taking, I’m trying, like anytime someone pops in my inbox right now that’s like, Hey, I’ve got some prompts for you to use for chat G P T. I’m like, let me open that up because it’s so fascinating, like what you can do. So what I tell people now is don’t just, you could tell chat g p t, write me a 2000 word blog post on doulas in Charlottesville and it will spit out the whole thing, but.
It’s not gonna sound like you, and it’s, you know, it’s one of those things, it probably will get flagged by Google at some point because they’re looking into that. So instead, you wanna think of chat G P T as like, okay, I’m gonna write this blog post about doulas, but I don’t really know anything about doulas.
So I would type in a chat. G P T. What questions do pregnant women typically ask? Doulas? And then bam, it’s gonna pop out, you know, five, 10 questions, something like that. And then I go through and I pick a few of those questions, and then those are the questions I send to the doulas to ask them to get them to write the post for me.
So use it as a research tool, use it to figure out how to brainstorm ideas instead of sitting there and coming up with, ugh. What are four questions everyone should ask their photographer before they book a session? I don’t know what, I mean, I’m a photographer, but I don’t wanna think about that. Just type that in.
Next thing you know, 10 seconds later, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And you may be surprised, you may be like, oh, I didn’t, I didn’t realize that was a question people had. Um, so yeah, use it for that kind of thing. I’ve not used it for keyword research. I would have to play around with that. But I have used it to write meta descriptions and so I will, and that, that was one of the things I was looking up prompts.
Like what? Because. I hate writing meta descriptions. They’re like writing the book, you know, the back of the book excerpt that you’ve really, you’ve gotta summarize what the book is about. You have to make it sound sexy, that somebody wants to read it. That’s exactly the same with your meta description.
You have to summarize what you do and who you serve and why you and why they wanna hire you and click on that link. And so it’s a lot of pressure cuz you can only do it in 159 characters. So,
Colie: I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’m typing and then it goes red, and
I’m like, okay, no. Too many characters backspace.
Let’s try this again.
Melissa: know. And you’re like, hold on, did I change all the ands to ampersands? Like let me save like a four characters there by two of those suckers. So I’ll type it in there and I’ll say like, write me a meta description that’s 159 characters or less using this keyword for this website, and it’ll spit something out nine times outta 10.
It’s not 159. And I’m like, make it shorter. Make it shorter. Make it shorter until chat. GPT’s. Like, look lady, what do you want? You know? But. It gives me like a little meta description. Then it’s like, okay, perfect. Let’s pop that that sucker in. And instead of me sitting there like, you know, telling everybody to be quiet, I need to think, I need to think cuz I’m trying to write.
I can just get something from there. So I would say using it for that type of thing. Using it to give you outlines, like blog posts. I make this sound super sexy, but blog posts are a lot like research papers when you do it the right way. I know, I know. It sounds so fun. This is why everyone who works with me is like, when are you gonna offer blogging?
And I’m like, uh, I don’t know about that, but we’ll see. When you think about a research paper, you’ve gotta write out what are those subtopics? And that’s really, those are the questions you’re answering with a blog. And to be honest, if you treat it like a research paper and you figure out what your subtopics are gonna be, it makes writing the paper easier, like, We all wanna go back to our, our high school English teacher and be like, I know you were right.
You were right. It’s way easier to sit down with an outline and fill that out than it is to just stare at the blinky cursor and be like, and just shut your computer and walk away and be like, I’m not doing it, you know?
Colie: Yes. I mean when you, when you said the research paper, I mean I gotta chill cuz I’m having like flashbacks,
so like college. Yeah. No, no, never again. I will never again. Melissa, this has been an awesome conversation. I am going to close this out by asking you a question that I ask every single one of my guests, and that is, what was the biggest fuck up in your business?
What did you learn from it and how did you grow?
Melissa: Yes, so I like when I was in weddings and making the switch to newborns and stuff, I ran my business into the ground on debt, like on taking courses to become like the best newborn photographer, all that kind of jazz with no income coming in. And so I hit a point where it was like I had to go get a job.
And what was interesting is I got a part-time job and during that timeframe I had gotten all my SEOs set up, but like I told you earlier, it’s like 18 months that before it really sets in and you’re on page one of Google. So I ended up, I had done all my SEO, I went and got a part-time job for a while so I could pay off the business debt and then we had a point where my husband was like, you gotta quit the part-time job because it’s holding you back on the photography business.
Like you’re getting so much business now. Because my SEO had finally paid off that. He was like, you’ve gotta go back to work and stuff. And so I ended up, I quit that job, like right when Covid hit.
Melissa: I was like, well, alrighty, guess this works. But honestly, I mean, I had a huge year with that. You know, we, I took that one month off where no one could work, but then all my clients were like, Hey, we had our baby and we want you to come photograph ’em.
And so from there it just, it built up and stuff. And so I just, I lucked out. And that I knew how to do the SEO portion and then I was able to find something else for the temporary time being. Because changing genres is hard. Like if anybody’s gonna change genres like that, start it early. You know, I probably should have kept more weddings on the books instead of just pulling the plug.
But I had babies at home and I wanted to be home on the weekends. I didn’t wanna be shooting weddings anymore, so I just flipped that switch and then it was like, oh, wait a second. Yeah. But then I look now at all of the lessons I learned from that. Kind of have set me up to where I am now. So that’s the biggest life lesson there.
Like I use Profit First in my business, so I never worry about running into debt again on it. I use SEO for everything and then that has ballooned up from my experience on that to ending up on podcasts now and talking about it. So, and even my IT career, I feel like the 10 years I spent in IT and learning how to talk to people about technical issues and make them, relatable.
I use that in SEO all the time. I use analogies all the time. I call like keywords, my little soldiers, and they get to go out and find me traffic and all of that. And people tell me, they’re like, you just make it sound like so down to earth and stuff. So they, that’s like my unique selling position, I guess, is that I can take that really technical stuff and make it, make it, you know, easier for people to understand.
Colie: Melissa, do you outsource anything in your business?
Melissa: I have a virtual assistant for my email right now. I have another girl who’s handling like social media graphics, and then I have another girl who helps me with keyword research. So I went from like being a one woman operation the first week of January to having like three subcontractors helping me out.
So, uh, and then Emmett, you know, editing and stuff. I do, um, I use, imagine I use AI for that. So like, I used to outsource editing, but.
Colie: Okay, wait. Let’s back up because you, do you dove. Okay. How, okay. Are you still finishing them? Like, well, first of all, do you do any extensive, I guess, Photoshopping,
because maybe that’s just Ah,
okay. Nevermind. I was thinking that you did stuff with the newborns and,
Melissa: I mean, just a little bit of like, you know, cleaning up faces here and there, but I’m lifestyle. So, you know, that’s, that’s just, it is how it is. Like I don’t, you know, I’m not gonna have your baby have absolutely plasticy perfect skin. I don’t use props. I, you know, that’s, and that’s a big thing on my website.
No props, no crazy poses. And it’s just, you know, mom and dad naturally at home kind of thing. I mean, if they ask me to clean something up a little bit, you know, anything, cradle cap or stuff like that, you know, I’ll help do that. But most, for the most part, You know, it’s just baby as baby is. So,
Colie: the most part, the AI is working for
you. That is amazing.
Melissa: So the, those are kind of the things that I outsource at this point.
Colie: Awesome, Melissa, in case the listening audience happens to be located in Virginia and needs a newborn photographer, or it happens to be a photographer who could use some SEO help, where can the listening audience find you on the internet?
Melissa: Yeah, so you can find me on Instagram at Melissa Arlena. My photography website is Melissa Arlena Photography, and then my SEO site is melissa arlena.com. So you can find all the different services that I offer between those two guys.
Colie: Yeah. And depending on when this airs, guys, she is gonna be having a group coaching program for photographers to help you with your SEO. That sounds amazing.
Melissa, thank you so much for being on the podcast this morning. I have enjoyed every little bit of our conversation.
Melissa: Awesome. Thank you so much for having me.
Colie: All right, guys. That’s it for this episode.
See you next time.