The “Destination Wedding Photographer” Dilemma

destination wedding photographer

Let’s chat today about an issue that we often see when looking at client and competitor websites. Too often, we see people targeting keywords with their homepage that are greatly harming their SEO efforts. 

Not to be confused with this issue: Why the Destination Wedding Photography Scene is Not Sustainable.

By making a small tweak to your overall SEO strategy, we can improve not only your organic reach, but also the number of inquiries and bookings you receive.

When auditing a site, the first thing we often check is the homepage title. This will quickly tell you what the site is targeting as their main keyword. If they’ve done a bit of keyword research, it’s likely going to be the best mix of high search volume and low competition.

Most often, the homepage title will be:
“{{City}} Wedding Photographer – {{Brand}}”.

This is typically a perfectly fine title and will rank well for their home market.

The issue we’re talking about today is when photographers want to target the international crowd with “Destination Wedding Photographer – {{Brand}}”
or the adventure elopement market with “Adventure Elopement Photographer – {{Brand}}”.

A problem occurs when people don’t do proper keyword research. Another common cause is when they use research to target a high volume topic, with low competition, but the term’s searcher intent isn’t a fit for their site.

This misstep is wasting the potential of often the strongest page of their website. Let’s change that.

Destination Wedding Photographer

This was a very common title up until a few years ago. We definitely still see it, you can do a quick google search for the term or “intitle:destination wedding photographer” to see the results yourself.

destination wedding photographer keyword research using ahrefs

This term has decent volume and low competition, but you have to then think about who is making this query. It is almost never a bride/groom looking for a photographer, but often other photographers. When planning a destination wedding, the couple is much more likely to search for the exact city/state/country or venue when looking for vendors. 

Adventure Elopement Photographer

This is the new “destination wedding photographer” and a perfect example of keyword research gone wrong or missed opportunities.

adventure wedding photographer keyword research

This term has become extremely popular in the past few years as “adventure elopements” have gained popularity with photographers and couples.

The sentiment behind trying to rank for this term is great, but the market isn’t there yet. There simply isn’t enough volume for search tools to even show. From our own data, it looks like there are roughly ~150 searches for this term per month (worldwide/google). The overwhelming majority of these are photographers looking to get into the space. The payoff for ranking for this hard difficulty term simply isn’t there.

This again comes down to thinking about the potential clients wedding planning habits. Most couples aren’t going to use this term, they probably won’t even use “elopement” if they are in fact looking to plan a small wedding or elope. A term like “adventure wedding photographer” has significantly more volume, but is likely still too precise.

Until there is more widespread promotion of “adventure elopements” and “adventure weddings” in major publications, these will be extremely niche terms. 

What we recommend

Our recommendation here is to build out pages for these terms if they match your business goals, but concentrate your efforts on topics with more volume.

If you want to be a destination wedding photographer, consider making a list of your most important destinations. Prioritize locations where you have already worked, but also consider places you want to work next.

Then, start creating cornerstone content for each location. Do a search for the location and see what is ranking, then see if you can add unique insight that will be even more valuable than what is currently ranking. This may be a venue guide in a specific area, a list of wedding planners to help plan a wedding in that area, a roundup of weddings that you have photographed in the area (along with things you’ve learned about the area by working there), or anything else that would be helpful for someone looking to get married at that location.

An overview of what to include on your page:

  • Helpful Travel Information
  • Best Hotels / Restaurants / Activities
  • Local Wedding Vendors
  • Wedding Planning tips for that location

If I want to concentrate on adventurous elopements, I can target more traditional “wedding photographer” terms. A portion of that traffic is already going to be looking for an elopement photographer and others might realize that a small wedding or elopement is more their style after seeing the content on my site.

When doing keyword research, think about more than pure volume and competition metrics. Remember to put yourself in your potential client’s shoes. Do as much research as possible on their potential search terms throughout the buyer journey. Aim your efforts at topics that provide information as early in the process as possible. Don’t blindly target keywords because well known photographers are, they often haven’t done the proper research. 

A Few Examples

Let’s take a look at a few sites doing this well. These are both pages that could have easily targeted the terms we mentioned above, but have chosen a more precise approach. The content itself is also bringing more value to the searcher than the traditional wedding blog posts, with information that is helpful during the planning process.  

“Cabo Wedding Photographer”

Sean Flanigan from A Fist Full of Bolts has been a destination wedding photographer for quite a while, but didn’t have great success with SEO when targeting “destination wedding photographer” specifically.

We narrowed down on locations he really wanted to shoot in, that had ample search volume, and weren’t overly competitive.

Here is a page he built:

cabo wedding photographer cornerstone page

It includes his favorite venues, hotels, and planners. It also links to two wedding blog posts from that area. It quickly ranked #2 for the term and was bringing inquiries from the first month it was posted. The combined volume for that page and the related blog posts is over 4000 searches per month (based on actual impressions).

“Yosemite Elopement”

Another example would be an older blog post that I recently turned into a guide targeting “Yosemite Elopement”. Before, it was just a simple few sentences introduction and about 60 images. I built it out with ~1000 words of text that do a much better job explaining the process of planning an elopement in Yosemite.

yosemite elopement guide

This guide has only been live for two months, but has seen ~2500 impressions and 122 clicks. I am not happy with its current ~2nd page ranking and will start tweaking it in order to break into the first page.

google search console performance report

Even with its current status, it greatly outperforms any page purely targeting “adventure elopements”. I’m letting the location do the work for me, since it’s rare for a full-size wedding in Yosemite and nearly every wedding/elopement in the area will be somewhat “adventurous”.

What We Learned

  1. Be precise with your keyword research, overly broad topics can be a wasted effort.
  2. Create useful information for potential clients and you’ll see improved rankings.
  3. Don’t follow the masses, search for overlooked opportunities.

For a more in-depth guide on keyword research and creating cornerstone content, check out our full SEO course.

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