The future is strange.
This is how I stole $70k (and counting) worth of Google traffic per year to my website, Briars Atlas.
I say stole, because frankly, the whole exercise felt like some Robin Hood, middle of the night exercise. And, it kinda was, in a way. If Google is showing your result on page one, then by definition, it’s pushed someone else’s down the river.
It’s a glorious, strange little game of chess that can make a huge difference to your business depending on what your goals are (my goals are to continue to place the primary values on my couples experience and my craft) – and it’s an oddly endearing little challenge.
And behind it all are the questions “are these results serving couples, and could I make something that serves them even more”.
Why Google traffic is important
Getting google traffic by solving someones problem positions you as an authority.
If you want to be on page one in Google for someone searching “New York Wedding Photographer”, you’ll have a tough time competing and it might not be all that useful to your business, because there is no filtering of people searching for that term. By filtering, I mean you have no idea on the venues they like, the size their wedding might be, or any other details specific to the type of work you want to make.
If you are on page one for “quirky New York Wedding venues” as an authority, then that is a back-door into “your type” of couples finding you – since there is a high likelihood that anyone searching for venues you love will also love you – and there will be less competition to compete in Google search results for that search term.
What a wedding photography SEO campaign is
SEO = “search engine optimisation“. Optimising your website so that it’s useful to search engines (where people are going to have their problems solved).
In our industry, it’s simply this: solving one of the hundreds of different problems that people have when planning a wedding, and having Google see it as being so valuable, that it puts our result on page one.
An SEO campaign is a strategic, intentful attempt at doing these things: solving peoples problem, and getting people to our website that way so that they can then see our photography. Because it’s a campaign, it should have a goal: my goal was to solve all the problems that people were having in planning their Melbourne wedding, with the idea that they would also be looking for a photographer.
Specifically, I made sure the problems I was solving were relevant to venues I wanted to work at, celebrants I wanted to work with, and so forth.
And if you’re a photographer with a few years under your belt, you may have heaps of evergreen content that is useful for exactly this.
Similarly, here I have made some wedding photography education that I happen to think is super valuable, but costs money due to how valuable it is. As one way of getting folks such as yourself to kindly invest in those things i’ve made, I also make in-depth free resources such as this page you’re reading right now.
And maybe that will build trust between you and me, and maybe you’ll decide the other things I sell are relevant to you.
Picking up what i’m putting down?
(PS, buy my hat, lolz)
What I mean by $70k of traffic
Above is a screen capture from the SEO software I use, AHREFS. It’s free to monitor your own site, and it tells me everything I need to know about how my website is performing. One of those things, is the equivalent amount I would have to spend if I had not done an SEO campaign, but instead paid google to get the same amount of traffic.
That $6.9k means an equivalent of $6.9k worth of paid traffic per month (Closer to 82k per year but let’s stay with the idea of $70k since it fluctuates), which is roughly 2700 people per month or 650 people per week, just from Google-search (not even including traffic I get from social media or word of mouth), searching for terms relating to wedding planning and specific awesome venues and vendors.
What would it mean for your business if 650 visitors per week, in your own local community, were landing on your website with you solving their problem?
Getting relevant traffic is only one half of a complete SEO strategy
Getting (relevant) eyeballs on your photography website is one thing, but converting those eyeballs into enquiries that pay your rent and lead you to photographing magical humans is another separate, equally important part.
In this post we won’t talk about conversion (turning traffic into enquiries and bookings) at all – just the first half, acquisition (the flow of traffic itself from Google and to your website). That’s all this post is about.
Anyway, here’s how it was done.
1. I wrote a long list of search terms I wanted to rank for in Google
I used Ubersuggest (it’s free) to search “Melbourne weddings” and various other search terms, which shows you who is ranking, and how many people are searching for that query. I also searched other surrounding queries, such as “Melbourne wedding florists” and more. From there, it shows you other “related” search terms: queries that people are searching for that are also relevant. You get 5 free searches a day. I also used Keyword Shitter for the same reason. Between these two tools, I built a library of search-queries that I decided were relevant to me gaining visibility at the right part of peoples wedding planning process.
All in all, I came to over 100 unique search terms that I decided I should try to rank for in Google, because the people searching for those queries were likely to fit my ideal client avatar.
2. I identified my competitors
Here, I used the tool AHREFS to see who was ranking for these terms. Other tools I used were MOZ domain analysis, and SEMRUSH. Between the free versions of all of these tools, I gained all the information I needed about who was ranking, and how good their content was (and so where the opportunities were). In total, I had a list of around 20 competitors who had done some sort of SEO work.
I then downloaded SEO Edge, paid for the pro version, and entered those competitors into it (as well as my own website), and all of the search terms I was trying to rank for. This isn’t entirely accurate, but it does give you a really great idea of how you are locally ranking for search terms.
3. I wrote an information post on each search-term that was better than ones google was already showing
Saying “I made better content” isn’t an ego thing, it’s entirely measurable and user-focused:
Better (1): “I solved the problem better for the person who was searching google with a question”.
Better (2): “I made my post that solved their problem more entertaining and interesting to read”.
Strangely, this was the easiest part. We’re in an era of prioritising algorithm-pleasing content at the expense of the human experience. When you pair that with a general devaluing of artful writing or simply being a human being, a tremendously great opportunity is created for your SEO work: writing stuff that people actually want to read.
Most SEO work that folks out there had done, to my surprise, was kinda robotic. It pleased Google – but it did not necessarily please the human who then had to read that content. This is where the radical opportunity was.
Fun fact: humans want to connect with humans!
And they want to read stuff written by and for humans.
And Google rewards content that people read, and it can detect when pages are actually being read.
What does this look like? Here’s an excerpt from one of my venue pages:
These aren’t that crazy – but there was literally no-one in my niche, writing about venues in this way.
And what are venues full of?
So I wrote about my local wedding venues, in the form of stories.
People are less and less used to being spoken to like a human being in search results, and so when they get a search result that has humour and a sense of musicality to the way it flows, you will stand out head and shoulders.
Make it interesting.
And most importantly?
Make sure it is solving the users problem.
One part of the content that you’re creating should be serving this need to connect beautifully with your writing, and the other part is serving the search term for both the person and google: structured content, clearly answering the question with a greater diversity of options to solve their problem (such as finding a great wedding venue or organising a timeline), and a fast loading page.
At this point – if you aren’t a copywriter, then hire one!
4. I got amazing backlinks by being published everywhere
I used Two Bright Lights to submit to 100 publications in a week, and had about 30% of them accepted. I guess this just means i’m only 70% shit, far less than I thought (insert tiny violin). I also submitted to many local publications.
This work took a total of a few full days of hard work, and it elevated the value of my domain briarsatlas.com in the eyes of Google.
This means Google takes it more seriously, and is just one of many useful signals that I also did (others were getting vendors to share the posts on their pages, putting my website into local directories, etc).
5. I adjusted the posts on the fly, and waited
In Sept 2020, the traffic-value of my SEO campaign was around $1800-2400 per month.
In 2021, after a year of sitting in search results, the campaign started skyrocketing again. Blog posts that placed on page 2 or 3, were creeping up to spot #2 or #3 on page 1.
This is a long game.
Results aren’t instant, and so monitoring and adjusting along the way are important. If I saw I was beginning to rank for some other terms, I made sure to produce that term several more times in the post (and in others, talking about Wedding Venue Melbourne to link them all together… see what I did there?).
Then, I deleted SEO edge so that for my own mental health and sanity I was no longer watering my checking-habit, and just looked at my AHREFS report once weekly to see how my campaign was performing.
Do you need $70k of traffic a year? Probably not. A great SEO campaign could be far smaller, and far more impactful. But we’re apparently a numbers generation, so I wanted to share the astounding amount of relevant traffic i’ve been able to gain: me, someone was sure they couldn’t possibly compete in Google. Check the tools mentioned on this page, find out what people are searching for, and see if just a couple of well-written pages paired with a thoughtful strategy for converting that traffic can make a difference for the people you want to work with, and in turn, for your business.
Wanna chat more about this? Hit up the Strange Atlas Facebook group.