Fuel Your Photos exists to empower photographers to take control of their SEO. Still, one of the most common questions we get asked is, “Can I just hire you to do my SEO for me?”
For many photographers, SEO is overwhelming. It seems like a dark art, or something that is far too technical for a creative to understand. There are thousands of articles and videos with SEO information (often conflicting), but it is hard to know where to start and who to trust.
Not to mention, most photography business owners wear too many hats already. Finding time to spend on SEO can be really difficult.
So hiring a professional to do your SEO for you sounds like a great solution, right?
Unfortunately, hiring someone to help with your SEO might not be as simple as you think. Let’s take a look at some of the most important considerations when you are thinking about hiring an SEO.
1. SEO is a broad topic
When you think “I need to hire someone to help with my SEO” you are probably really thinking “I need to hire someone to get me on the first page of Google.”
If you don’t know much about SEO, you may think there are some mysterious settings on the back end of your website or places that you can add “keywords” that will rocket you to the top of Google search results.
In reality, optimizing your business to get more traffic from search engines actually spans a variety of activities and specialties.
What practices are included in SEO
One of the most important things an SEO expert can do is find problems that are holding a website back from reaching it’s full potential.
A good audit will cover technical issues, brand reputation, content effectiveness, and more. The main goals of an SEO audit should be to find things that are broken and to find new opportunities.
Be wary of automated audits, or free tools that “audit” your website. Most of these will surface random errors that make no really difference to ranking. They also won’t consider context or your business goals. That is why a human audit is always going to be most effective.
Research & Strategy
A good SEO will have access to industry leading tools to do research on your keywords, topics, and competitors.
Based on this research, they will be able to recommend a strategy for you to improve your rankings across a variety of topics. They’ll be able to make a list of topics, opportunities for backlinks, and tell you exactly what kind of content is likely to rank well for your target keywords.
Copywriting & Content Creation
You may have heard that “content is king” when it comes to SEO. I won’t necessarily agree that it is “king” but it is certainly essential. A huge part of any SEO strategy will be content creation.
Some SEO agencies may have copywriters on staff or work with copywriters as contractors. Some independent SEOs may do copywriting themselves. Either way, just know that writing great content is likely to be essential to great SEO.
Technical & Performance Optimization
Technical SEO covers a variety of specific tasks. One of the most important parts of technical SEO is making sure your site is crawlable and indexable. Google is also obsessed with speed. Your website’s speed and performance are important not only to visitors, but also for ranking.
For photographers, it probably isn’t worth obsessing over getting *perfect* scores in all of the performance tools like GTmetrix and Pagespeed Insights, but if your site is very slow or has thousands of low quality pages indexed, technical SEO will be a very important part of your strategy.
Brand & Reputation Management
For local service based businesses (like most photographers), brand reputation is an extremely important part of SEO. Most photography queries return entity based results, so you’ll need to work hard on building authority for your brand both online and offline!
What Google knows about your brand is also tied strongly to your Google My Business profile. Making sure your GMB is set up correctly is critical. You’ll want to make sure that information stays up to date, and that all other information found online (other business listings or “citations”) matches the information in Google My Business. Making sure you have consistent reviews coming in and finding other ways to establish your business as a local authority are also part of a well rounded SEO strategy.
Networking & Obtaining Backlinks
Don’t be fooled by this item appearing last on the list. Backlinks are still a huge factor that impact ranking. When you are really trying to crack the top 3 positions on Google, backlinks are likely to be a critical part of your strategy if you are in a market with even moderate competition.
Obtaining backlinks happens naturally when you create remarkable content, but there are also ways to be intentional about link building. Manual outreach (asking others to link to you) and guest posting are common items on a solid SEO checklist.
2. SEO requires long term thinking
In general, SEO is a great long term strategy for bringing consistent and passive leads into your business. Even if SEO works extremely well for your business, getting to a point where the majority of your leads come from organic search can take quite a while.
Because of this, SEO should only be one part of your overall marketing plan. If you only have a small budget for marketing and you need more customers fast, hiring an SEO might not be the best way to spend that budget. You may be better off using Google Ads, Facebook/Instagram ads, hosting an in person event, or finding a way to nurture existing/past clients.
If you do have the budget, it may be smart to start off with an SEO audit or some consulting, but in most cases you shouldn’t expect to pay someone to do some magic and get you leads instantly from search engines.
SEO takes work. It is important to constantly be improving your online presence. Even after you get the technical issues fixed, do some on-page optimization, and write a few epic pieces of content, you’ll still have work to do. Getting new links and reviews, making sure your site stays technically sound during updates, and creating new content to widen your reach are all things that will take constant effort.
Aside from the fact that “SEO” is going to take constant effort over time, you also need to realize that the impact of SEO work often takes several months (or longer) to yield results. We often see that even our best work takes 2-3 months to really “take off” and that “perfectly optimized” sites often take 9-12 months to break the first page of Google results for their target terms.
If you are just getting started with your SEO efforts, you should likely be thinking about how your work (or the work of someone you hire) will be impacting your rankings next year, not next month.
3. Limitations that will hinder an SEO’s effectiveness
If you are planning to hire an SEO professional to do work for you, it may be important to give them enough control to make big decisions about your website.
Photographers often have themes or designs that are very image heavy or that focus on visual aesthetic first. One of the most common things I hear from photographers is “I just want it to be simple and not feel cluttered.”
While I completely agree that simple and clean is preferred, I find that many photographers take this to the extreme. It may be true that your photos “speak for themselves” but words are important to give context, especially for web crawlers like Google.
After working with hundreds of photographers, here are some of the most common objections I have encountered when presenting an SEO strategy:
- Not willing to add more text to the home page
- Not willing to display a physical address on GMB
- Don’t want to include a phone number anywhere on the site
- Don’t want to narrow their focus to one specialty or location (per page)
- Aren’t interested in having informational content on their site
- Don’t want to list or talk about pricing at all
While there are valid reasons for each and every one of these objections, it can be extremely challenging for an SEO to get results for a client when they aren’t willing to implement a proven strategy.
Takeaway: If you tell an SEO “I want you to do my SEO for me” you need to be willing to give them control over making changes to your site and web properties.
4. Up front packages vs monthly SEO services
You’ve probably heard other people tell you that SEO isn’t something you do once and then forget.
Most successful SEO strategies have two parts. The first stage is to fix problems that are currently holding you back, and the second stage is to take advantage of opportunities to move forward.
Up front/foundational fixes
For a large majority of websites we audit, there are at least a handful of things that are preventing them from reaching their full potential in search engines. Often these are technical problems that are typical of a specific platform, plugin, or theme. Other times, the strategy is just completely wrong from the beginning.
Another common issue is that the site needs a good “clean up.” Maybe you’ve been creating pages/posts for years and there is a large amount of keyword cannibalization. Or it could be that you switched from one platform to another and have remnants of the old platform still live and indexable. Either way, this “dead weight” often needs to get cut before you can build forward momentum.
This is a great stage of optimization to work with an expert. Often, an SEO expert will be able to make a plan for you to clean up your site without changing things that are contributing to your current rankings.
A good SEO audit should be able to specifically point out the problems with your site or online presence that are holding you back in the search engines. From there, a bit of initial research should allow an SEO expert to make solid recommendations about which keywords and topics you should target, and what other elements will be critical for your success (like backlinks, reviews, or other local optimizations).
A thorough SEO audit will likely cost at least $500 one time, and the price for fixing any issues that were found will vary with each company. We like to quote this kind of work hourly, because each site will need something different. Be wary of anyone who gives you HUGE checklists of things they will “fix for you” for a low price. These checklists are often inflated artificially, or large portions are skipped over for some sites. Before paying for a “package,” make sure you know exactly what needs to be done, and how you can verify the changes.
Sometimes you’ll find that in order to hire an SEO to help you with these up-front fixes, you need to first work with a web designer or developer to completely re-do your site or switch to a different platform. This is also a great time to consult with an SEO so that you can make sure the entire transition is smooth and painless.
To give you an idea of pricing, we find that when someone doesn’t need to completely start over on their website, they usually need 2-10 hours of help to fix common problems. You could expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $3,000 for this kind of one-time help.
For a good SEO audit + common fixes, normal prices should start around $1,000 USD with most reputable companies.
Once you have fixed the problems that were holding you back, you still need to pursue new opportunities to improve your rankings and drive more traffic to your site.
The most important activities for ongoing optimization will be the creation of new content, and acquiring new backlinks. You will also want to monitor your Search Console and keep your Google My Business up to date.
While I wouldn’t really consider it strictly SEO, you may also want to hire someone to monitor your website or hosting as well. Keeping your site and any plugins you use up to date, monitoring for downtime or errors, and being able to fix problems quickly when they arise can all save you from an SEO nightmare. Some managed hosting plans will do this kind of monitoring for you.
The problem with hiring ongoing SEO help is that if you want quality work, the price tag is going to be high. Even creating ONE piece of excellent content and attracting 2-3 backlinks per month could easily cost $600-800 USD per month (or more). If you are getting quoted a price much lower than this, don’t expect high quality content or backlinks. If spending $600-1000 per month can help you free up 15-20 hours per month, and you know that you can get a better ROI on that time by doing other tasks for your business, you might be a good candidate for hiring an SEO to help you on a monthly basis.
Sure, you could hire someone for $100-300/mo to go in and “add keywords” to your client session blog posts each month or to add alt text to every photo, but this kind of work is very unlikely to have any kind of significant ROI.
Ultimately, having someone who is familiar with your site and who can consult with you periodically is probably a good idea. Looking at Search Console every 3-6 months and looking for glaring problems or opportunities could make a big difference in your site’s long term health. Instead of paying someone to do “who-knows-what” on a monthly basis, consider having a consulting call once a quarter with a qualified SEO expert.
Either way, if you are looking for monthly SEO services, make sure that you know exactly what you are paying for and how you can measure what your money is buying, whether that be tasks completed or revenue generated.
In the end, you may find that it is much more realistic for you to learn how to maintain your own SEO instead of hiring someone to do it for you.
5. How to know if your investment is paying off
When you hire someone to help you with SEO, you need to have an idea of whether or not the work you are paying for is worth the investment.
Most people default to checking their ranking for a few main keywords to judge the effectiveness of SEO work. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to guarantee rankings for any particular keyword within a given timeframe.
It is important to define KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) before you start working with an SEO company or agency. Depending on the current state of your site and the specific goals of your business, there are a variety of metrics for measuring success.
A few methods for measuring SEO success
Overall search impressions
This is a great way to measure the “reach” of your site in search engines. Impressions aren’t aways a great primary indicator of success because you can get impressions for terms that are not relevant at all to your business or rank on page 3+ for terms where people flip through many pages to find something specific.
That being said, when you see impressions steadily increasing, this is often a great indicator of a healthy site, and a good sign that your SEO efforts are making a difference. Without impressions there are no clicks, and without clicks there are no inquiries.
Measure organic search impressions in Google Search Console.
Clicks to your site from Google
This is a great metric to track because it means that organic search is sending traffic to your site. Even if your position doesn’t improve, it is possible to increase clicks to your site by improving CTR (click through rate). It is also possible to rank very high and get almost no clicks. For these reasons, I prefer to track clicks from organic search instead of position for a specific keyword in almost every scenario.
Measure clicks to your site from Google in Google Search Console.
Inquiries from Organic Search
Most sites we work on don’t have conversion tracking properly setup. This allows you to track what marketing channels are successfully driving inquiries.
Number of SERP features you own
Google is dynamic, and includes much more than just the “10 blue links” that it did in the past. Almost every query will include some sort of SERP feature these days.
- Knowledge graph panels
- Featured snippets
- People also ask
Winning SERP features can help increase your visibility significantly. Improving visibility in search is a great thing to track when working with an SEO professional.
Track SERP features owned by using professional tools like Semrush, or by checking queries manually and recording results in a spreadsheet.
Improved site performance
If you are hiring an SEO to help with site performance, a good KPI is likely going to be the time it takes your site to load. Just be sure to agree on which tools you will use to measure the speed, and what other errors or warnings will be eliminated from the report of your choice.
Completed checklist of site improvements
Sometimes you just need to hire someone to get tasks off of your plate. You may already have a strategy or know exactly what you need to do, but you don’t have time to get everything done. Instead of tracking your ranking or the other metrics mentioned here, sometimes the ROI comes in the form of more available time or even peace of mind that the job was done correctly.
6. Our official recommendation
Now that we have covered some of the most important considerations when hiring “done for you” SEO help, we wanted to give some specific recommendations on what we think is the best course of action for most photographers who need SEO help.
These recommendations come from years of experience working with photographers on their SEO. We’ve offered a variety of services and consulting, along with audits and courses. We’ve tried almost everything and we know the pros and cons to each approach.
If you want long term SEO success, here are the steps you should take:
Learn the basics of SEO
If you don’t understand SEO at all, it is going to be nearly impossible to have SEO success (unless you just get lucky).
You don’t necessarily need to become an SEO master, but you should be able to have an intelligent conversation about SEO and you should be able to understand your overall SEO strategy (even if you hire someone to help you create or implement it).
This is exactly why we created our SEO course for photographers.
The course focuses on core concepts that will help you understand the “why” behind various SEO tasks and strategies. Taking this SEO course would be a great place to start your SEO journey whether you are hiring a professional or doing everything yourself.
Even if you don’t start with our SEO course, there are plenty of free SEO resources available. We even have a free SEO guide on our website that is a great place to get started right away. At the VERY least, you should read through Google’s “How Search Works.”
Find someone you trust
If you decide to take SEO advice from someone or hire them to work on your site, it is important that you trust that person or company.
The truth is, there are loads of bad SEO’s out there. Plenty of people giving SEO advice who shouldn’t be. So how do you know who you can trust?
Google actually has a great support article about whether or not you should hire an SEO. In that article, they give tips on interviewing an SEO, and also some warning signs that you should avoid a particular person or company.
Ultimately, you need to have proper expectations about what exactly will be done, when it will be completed, and how you can verify or track the tasks or results.
Start with an audit
An audit is a critical step when working with an SEO because it allows for a custom plan of action that will take your site’s unique needs and goals into consideration.
There are various levels of auditing, but we highly encourage you to stay away from any kind of audit based on an automated tool. If you get a report back as a PDF that lists errors and broken links and missing tags, this is probably auto generated by SEO software. Sometimes these checks can reveal a few important issues, but in our experience they are a very poor indicator of your site’s “SEO health.”
Ideally, your audit should come with some sort of “recap” to go over the findings and explain the various issues and their impact. This should provide a solid foundation to start setting up your SEO strategy.
Hire an SEO consultant to help you develop your SEO strategy
We believe that you should be involved in developing your SEO strategy. However, you may not have the expertise to do this all on your own.
This is a great time to consult with an SEO who can look at your audit, do some initial research, and help you put together an action plan.
This will include things like helping you figure out which keywords to target, helping you with a smart site structure, and telling you what it is going to take to rank higher than your competition.
We offer this kind of consulting on an hourly basis, and give a 50% discount to all of our course community members.
Hire an expert to complete specific tasks
Now that you have a basic understanding of SEO, you have a site audit, and you have a strategy to improve your SEO, you can start to think about outsourcing specific tasks.
- Improving your site’s performance (we recommend WP Speed Fix)
- Citation building (Brightlocal is fine)
- Installing + Configuring Google Analytics
- Basic SEO Plugin Configuration (Yoast or similar)
- Keyword or Competition Research (Using professional tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush)
- Content Strategy
- Website migrations or permalink changes
- Copy-writing (titles, meta descriptions, new content)
- Clean up of old content
It is possible that you find a company who helps you from start to finish, everything from education and auditing to strategy and implementation. However, you may decide to hire completely different people to help with specific tasks.
Knowledge is Fundamental
The key is that when you understand SEO enough to understand your plan, you have control. THIS is the key to long term SEO success.
You don’t need to become an SEO professional. You don’t need to spend 20 hours per week on your website.
A base level knowledge of the overall tactics being used will keep you from being taken advantage of. It will allow you to judge success of any paid efforts. It will give you the ability to understand the tactics being used by the hired SEO and continue implementing them into the future.