Photoshelter & SmugMug SEO Considerations

smugmug SEO

Using SmugMug and Photoshelter As Your Main Site

Continuing our series on websites for photographers I wanted to discuss some SEO considerations for those that are using Photoshelter and SmugMug.  In fact what we’ll be discussing here is actually relevant to a few other services as well so even if you aren’t using one of these two, it’s going to be worthwhile reading it as it’ll add some more foundation to your knowledge of SEO and how it can be used to further your photo business.

Photoshelter and SmugMug are two services that can be used to either create a photo portfolio site, or to add more functionality to an existing one.  SmugMug will allow you to sell prints of your work and Photoshelter takes things a step further and allows you to effectively set up a stock agency and license image downloads as well as print sales.  Out of the box the services will give you a subdomain on their servers which means that my sites might look something like this:

http://www.dancarrphotography.smugmug.com

OR

http://www.dancarrphotography.photoshelter.com

Whilst this out-of-the-box functionality is a useful way to get up and running quickly, it doesn’t look professional and it won’t give you the chance to have a personalized e-mail.  There’s better ways to set this up and I would urge you to do it as soon as you first start your Photoshelter or SmugMug account.

To understand why I’m urging you to do it right away we must understand a little about how Google treats domains and SEO in general.  It’s always beneficial to rank highly in Google because so many people browse the internet these days by starting with a Google search.  When someone enters a search term, the vast majority of people click the link at the top of the results, a smaller number click the second link in the list and a much smaller number click the third.  In fact as you move down the list there’s an almost exponential decrease in the likelihood of the link being clicked, to the point where any results off the front page are nearly worthless.  In the competitive photography industry the majority of people don’t appreciate the power that a little SEO knowledge can give you.  The mere fact that you’ve already read this far into this post means that you have the jump on almost everyone!

So we know that SEO is important and can lead to new clients looking for services in your niche, but how does Google determine the positioning of your site in the results?  The fact is that the answer to this question could fill a whole book but there’s one particular element of their algorithms that we’ll be focusing (pun only slightly intended) on in this article; backlinks. A backlink is simply a link to your website from somewhere else on the internet.  Google’s entire business model revolves around generating more searches and for people to keep returning to use Google they are on a quest to deliver the best search results they can.  In Google’s eyes, a website with more backlinks has more authority and is therefore a better search result.  If hundreds of people link to your website you’ll get lots of extra Google juice because they see that other people must like your site so it must be good and useful.  There’s another element to the backlinks algorithm that we should understand, though it’s less relevant to today’s Photoshelter/SmugMug topic and this is the backlink authority.  What was the authority of the site that linked to your site?  If you get your friend Bob to link to your site from his personal blog, this will carry much less weight in Google’s algorithm than say if DPReview or Petapixel linked to your site (the two largest photography sites on the internet).

This is the basic foundation for the potential problems we’ll discuss in the article but one more thing we need to understand is subdomains.

A subdomain is a prefix to a domain name so in the examples above, www.dancarrphotography.photoshelter.com is a subdomain of photoshelter.com.  What is hugely important to understand though is that in Google’s eyes a subdomain is treated entirely separately of the domain name.  This means that should I start the above website example, I start with zero backlinks to my site and zero authority in the eyes of Google, even though many thousands of people link to Photoshelter.com.  Likewise, www.dancarrphotography.photoshelter.com is entirely different to www.dancarrphotography.com and this is why I urge you to not start your website using the default subdomains because it means that if you launch a new website using www.myname.photoshelter.com or www.myname.smugmug.com but then later switch the site over so that it runs on www.myname.com , you’ll be resetting all of your hard work in SEO terms.  None of the backlinks and authority you’ve built up for mydomain.smugmug.com would carry over to your new site because Google sees them as totally separate!

So that we are clear, a subfolder is a different thing.  A subfolder is in the form www.mydomain.com/mysubfolder.  This very blog post is a subfolder of Shutter Muse : shuttermuse.com/photoshelter-smugmug-seo.  Google DOES treat subfolders as part of the root domain so any backlinks to this blog post DO count towards the authority of Shuttemuse.com.

A subdomain= www.mydomain.mysubdomain.com

A subfolder= www.mydomain.com/mysubfolder

Example:

You start a wedding photography portfolio website for Vancouver and my site is at vancityweddings.smugmug.com.  Over the course of a couple of years I have built up a good reputation and used SEO good practice to get my website showing on Google’s front page when someone does a search for “Vancouver wedding photography”.  This is great, many brides-to-be are searching for this and it’s leading to new clients and new leads!  SEO is awesome and has helped me book thousands of dollars in new jobs 🙂  Now you decide to polish up your business a bit to that you can simply point people to www.vancityweddings.com instead (something that’s easy to do with both SmugMug and Photoshelter) and now you can also use the e-mail address yourname@vancityweddings.com instead of vancityweddings@gmail.com or potentially even worse……. snappyshooter1981@yahoo.com

You make the changes and all of a sudden people stop calling and they stop e-mailing you, you’re back to square one.  Google looks for vancityweddings.smugmug.com but it’s no longer there so it moves on to other sites and puts one of your competitors into the slot on the front page that you once occupied.  That’s funny Google thinks……. there’s a site on page 23 of the Google results that’s called vancityweddings.com, that sounds familiar……. but it’s not the same.

Do not let this happen to you!

As I mentioned, both SmugMug and Photoshelter make it very easy to set your site up so that it’s on its own domain and not a subdomain of their sites.  It’s called adding a CNAME and Photoshelter’s instructions on how to do it can be found HERE whilst SmugMug’s can be found HERE.  If you have trouble, as a paying customer to the services both support teams will be happy to aid you.  In order to have your site on your own domain you will first have to register your own domain and I would recommend using Hover, don’t use GoDaddy…. you’ll regret it I promise you.  Hover is much simpler to use and adding the CNAME to your domain with them is a breeze.

So this is the first big consideration to think about when talking SEO and Photoshelter or SmugMug.  I really hope that people out there don’t set up the default subdomains with the intention of leaving them like that forever, I hope people can see the added professionalism that your own domain gives you and the cost is under $15/year. A complete no-brainer.

Using SmugMug Or Photoshelter As An Add-On To Your Current Site

There’s some situations where you might want to have your website on another platform such as Wordpress but still use Photoshelter or SmugMug to sell prints or offer a searchable archive of your images.  Blogging about your work is a highly effective way to generate business leads and is featured heavily in my popular article 50 Powerful Ways To Drive More Traffic To Your Photo Site.  The problem is that Photoshelter and SmugMug don’t have native blogging capabilities built into them so this is probably the main reason you might potentially run your main site on Wordpress.  Another potential reason is that there are many thousands of potential Wordpress designs but just a handful available for Photoshelter’s Beam platform and “The New SmugMug”.  This leads to a lot of websites that look very similar.  I can tell the instant I land on someone’s site if they are using Photoshelter or SmugMug simply because their site looks similar to many other sites; that’s not a good thing if you’re looking to stand out from the crowd.  Using Wordpress as the base of the site gives you much more customization and access to the amazing power of Wordpress plugins with which you can do so many awesome things.  In one of these circumstances you might set up your Photoshelter account on a subdomain of your own site, so if you have www.mydomain.com you might point Photoshelter to www.archive.mydomain.com and SmugMug to www.prints.mydomain.com thereby maintaining some consistency in your online branding.  In fact this is exactly how I have my personal portfolio set up.

SmugMug Gallery
SmugMug Gallery

I can feel a BUT coming on…

At first glance this seems like it might be a great solution, albeit a little more work that simply using the built in websites offered by Photoshelter or SmugMug.  The problem is again you’re running into this subdomain issue.  Say you work hard on www.mydomain.com and you get hundreds of links back to your site by doing interviews on photography websites, guest tutorials on photo blogs and following all 50 of the ways I have given you to drive traffic to your site.  When you set up a Photoshelter account on archive.mydomain.com , that archive site is seen as a totally different site in Google’s eyes and receives none of the benefits of your hard-fought SEO juice you’re gathered for www.mydomain.com

The Photoshelter Problem

The problem here is that very few people are ever going to link directly to your archive site so it’s going to be very difficult to build the authority of anything that you have there. Now in this case www.mydomain.com is still there and will catch much of the search traffic for your chosen site name terms but it’s not going to do a good job of displaying your archive images and galleries in search results. In fact it gets even worse because even if you set up the subdomain www.archive.mydomain.com , Photoshelter only serves up the gallery index pages on this subdomain and when you click on a specific gallery or image you’ll find you end up back on mydomain.photoshelter.com (sample gallery: http://dancarrphotography.photoshelter.com/gallery/Crankworx-2013-Whistler-BC-Canada/G00003mdrUWi13Ec/)

This means that in fact your website is spread out over three domains!

  • www.mydomain.com
  • www.archive.mydomain.com
  • www.mydomain.photoshelter.com

Talk about diluting your Google juice!  In a few places I have seem Photoshelter customers wonder why their photos and galleries do not display in search results and ultimately I believe that using subdomains is the biggest reason for this.

Example:

You run a sports photography business and you call your site “Joe Bloggs – Vancouver Sports Photography” and your domain is www.joebloggsphoto.com.  Your main site is a Wordpress site which has a portfolio slideshow and a blog where you write about your current assignments.  You decide to set up a Photoshelter stock portal to help sell sports photos immediately after the events you’ve shot so you set this up and using the instructions you point it to www.archive.jobloggsphoto.com. In the menu of your wordpress site you add a button that says ‘Image Archive’ and when people click this they are taken to your archive which has many large galleries full of hundreds of images, all meticulously tagged with descriptions and correct metadata.

Over time you build many links to to www.joebloggsphoto.com using the techniques I’ve underlined here which has helped you to boost your search ranking and now when someone Googles ‘Vancouver Sports Photography’ your site comes up on the first page results.

Now a magazine or a newspaper is looking for images of a specific hockey player from the Vancouver Canucks from a game last week, they go to Google and they looks for “Roberto Luongo Canucks Vs Calgary Flames”.  You have literally hundreds of images of Roberto Luongo in your archive, all of them with full descriptions and a gallery with a title from last weeks game, yet none of your images, or your gallery appear in the searcher’s results, not even when they switch to ‘Image Search” view in Google.

The reason is, as you’ve probably gathered by now, that all your images in the archive are hosted on a subdomain which has few, if any, backlinks.  Take my own site for example, I have many hundreds of backlinks to www.dancarrphotography.com but just a handful to archive.dancarrphotography.com and even less to dancarrphotography.photoshelter.com.  I’ll often be searching for something on the internet and find my own website and images come up in the search results but ONLY from dancarrphotography.com.  I can’t honestly remember one time when one of my archive galleries or photos has come up in a search.

So What Should I Do About This?

When it comes to adding a stock portal to your site I do think Photoshelter is the best option and unfortunately there’s nothing you can do about the fact that their galleries and images are still linked to a subdomain on their own domain.  SmugMug does a better job of handling galleries since when you set a SmugMug site up on a CNAME the gallery still appears as part of your own site so you the URL of a gallery would be www.mydomain.com/mygalleryname whereas with Photoshelter you end up with mydomain.photoshelter.com/gallery/galleryname/randombuchofuselessnumbers.

You’ve seen the gallery example from my Photoshelter site linked above, for a SmugMug site check out my friend Mark Gvazdinskas’ site at www.silentgphotography.com and a gallery example would be : http://www.silentgphotography.com/Prints/Land

As you can see, with SmugMug his gallery still remains on his own domain and it looks a hell of a lot neater.  If you are just looking to sell prints and not license stock images it’s a definite win for SmugMug.

If you’re using Photoshelter though here’s what I believe to be the best way to handle things purely looking at it from an SEO point of view.  Use a Wordpress website as your front end with a Wordpress blog, then use Photoshelter as your archive and set it up as archive.mydomain.com.  You’re just going to have to accept that your galleries and images aren’t going to be found through native search very often BUT here’s the trick….. write a blog post every time you add a new gallery to your archive.  This blog post will reside on your domain say www.mydomain.com/my-latest-shoot and since this is on your main domain, the one that will benefit from all your hard SEO work, this blog post stands a great chance of appearing in search results so long as you follow best SEO practices when creating the post.

Example:

We’ll continue with the sports photography example here.  You go and shoot the latest Canucks hockey game Vs Edmonton Oilers.  After the game you upload all your images to your Photoshelter archive at www.archive.joebloggsphoto.com and e-mail all your past clients to let them know they can log in to the archive and grab the latest shots.  Then you go to your blog on www.joebloggsphoto.com and you write a blog post called “New Images From The Canucks Vs. Oilers Hockey – 3/2/2014”.  In that blog post you include a few photos embedded from your Photoshelter archive using the Photoshelter Wordpress plugin and you make sure to mention important players names in the article and even give a brief synopsis of the game with important information like the score, or any other info that people might be searching in Google for, like a specific player getting injured or involved in a fight.

Now when a magazine or paper goes to Google and searches for something about the game you have a much better chance that they will find your blog post because this is on your main domain that carries all the authority in Google’s eyes.  When they find the blog post in the search results you’ve already told them in the post title that you have “New Images…” so they will click to the blog post where you’ll present them with a link to the real archive gallery.

There’s one final way that you could do things and that would be to run either Photoshelter or SmugMug on the main domain and then install your wordpress blog on a subdomain like blog.mydomain.com.  For a SmugMug site this isn’t a bad idea at all since the gallery structure of SmugMug’s site is quite useable and so makes using their built-in sites more useable.  I’d say for SmugMug it’s really six of one and half a dozen of another when it comes to deciding whether to have either:

a) mydomain.com (the SmugMug site) & blog.mydomain.com (the Wordpress blog)

or

b) mydomain.com (the Wordpress blog) & prints.mydomain.com (the SmugMug site)

With Photoshelter though I still think that it’s better to run a Wordpress site as the front end at www.mydomain.com and then add Photoshelter as a subdomain at archive.mydomain.com

Photo of author

Dan Carr

Professional photographer based in Yukon, Canada, and founder of Shutter Muse. His editorial work has been featured in publications all over the world, and his commercial clients include brands such as Nike, Apple, Adobe and Red Bull.

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43 thoughts on “Photoshelter & SmugMug SEO Considerations”

  1. Great article Dan! This stuff can be really tricky to get your head around, nice to have it laid out so clearly.

    Given some of the limitations of photoshelter and smugmug you’ve mentioned, I thought I’d point out Zenfolio as an alternative for your readers? While its sure to have its own set of drawbacks (let’s face it, no photography web hosting solution is perfect yet!) it has worked well for me so far.

    They recently updated their themes, so they don’t look too bad (although I may move to Wordpress in the future); they have a native blogging system, and you can also set up image downloads as well as print sales.

    Jonharris.com.au

    Reply
    • Hey Jon! Thanks for the comment. Yes Zenfolio is another option and it works in a very similar way to SmugMug so you essentially (as far as I’m aware) have the same considerations in terms of using the CNAME. In fact there’s a few more options out there but I just chose to try and simplify a little with using the big two. It’s nice to hear a good mention of them though. I must ask them if I can do a trial sometime so that I can discuss it a bit better. The problem with native blogging systems is that they lack so much functionality compared to a Wordpress install that I think it’s well worth, at very least, setting up a WP install for a blog alongside like blog.mydomain.com

      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  2. Thanks Dan, great article, Helped me to put name to some big questions about SEO. By the nature of my work, I’m a photojournalist and editorial photographer, I have traveled in the road from Smugmug (much easier to configure and manage galleries, but does not allow me to sell online) to Photoshelter (the value of being able to establish an stock agency and license image downloads is a plus for my business) and now, I’m beginning to walk the path of WordPress. This article is a good partner to start to walk on this way.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge

    Harold

    http://www.haroldescalona.com

    Reply
  3. I have a blog with plenty of SEO friendly content and link backs at mikelastphoto.com/blog/ – when I switched to the PhotoShelter Beam portfolios, I didn’t want to move the blog to a subdomain and deal with all of those redirects. I decided to put my Beam portfolio at portfolio.mikelastphoto.com and someone going to mikelastphoto.com is automatically redirected by .htaccess. Seems to be working fine so far.

    Only dislike so far is the Photoshelter integration of Wordpress. It doesn’t allow any commenting.

    Reply
    • There may be one other potential problem with Photoshelter WP integration. Essentially when you load the page it crawls the wordpress content and temporarily duplicates the content onto the Beam site. That means that Google isn’t actually indexing any content from the blog on the Beam site’s domain. It’s an odd nuance that I’m trying to wrap my head around …..

      Reply
  4. Dan, Thank’s for this excellent post… I’ve been going back and forth for ages trying to work out the best way to set this up… I’m not liking Beam, have lost my pervious GPP integration and unfortunately likely have to start with a fresh new site, but this has made it a whole lot clearer in my head how to structure the whole thing..!

    Reply
    • Glad it helped Reuben. I’m considering changing the way I do things as well so I’ve been looking into all of this pretty closely. I currently have Photoshelter, SmugMug and GPP installs all in testing.

      Reply
  5. Great post Dan. All of what you said about PhotoShelter is true and it can be frustrating beyond belief. An outlier (the internet being the internet) is that most of my print sales come from image searches but I haven’t had even one nimble for licensing stock photography (granted most of my portfolio isn’t suitable for licensing). But my own stats definitely agree with everything you wrote. For example, the phrase “colorado landscape photography” is queried 13,500 times with a CTR of about 10% for my blog. The same phrase has 10 queries with 1 click through over the same time period on my PS site. Nearly the same percentage, vastly different scales.

    Reply
    • Thanks Ryan,

      Interesting that you find print sales coming from image searches. Assume you are using analytics code on the PhotoShelter site but how are you determining that specific sales come from an image search?

      Do you find in general that PhotoShelter is giving you a good rate of print sales through organic search then? It’s quite rare for anyone to say anything positive about online prints sales these days so I’m curious about that 🙂

      Reply
      • Well, there’s the big caveat. Obviously using GA won’t let me see a vast majority of organic searches. On my follow up e-mails with clients, I always ask how they found the photo they purchased and I would estimate about 60% say image searches. Most others say either social media. It’s hardly trackable and I don’t know what they are searching for, so it’s not necessarily helpful. No, I don’t find that PS is giving me a good rate of print sales through those searches because it’s not a high volume (~3/month).

        Reply
        • Believe it or not ~3/month isn’t too bad Ryan. I have many people come to me with less success than that asking for advice on it. Online prints sales isn’t something I’ve experimented with very much though so I’m only just starting to do some more research and find out what’s working and what isn’t. Would you say you are able to cover the PhotoShelter costs with your print sales?

          Reply
        • Reposting as comments are glitching: Believe it or not ~3/month isn’t too bad Ryan. I have many people come to me with less success than that asking for advice on it. Online prints sales isn’t something I’ve experimented with very much though so I’m only just starting to do some more research and find out what’s working and what isn’t. Would you say you are able to cover the PhotoShelter costs with your print sales?

          Reply
        • Believe it or not ~3/month isn’t too bad Ryan. I have many people
          come to me with less success than that asking for advice on it. Online
          prints sales isn’t something I’ve experimented with very much though so
          I’m only just starting to do some more research and find out what’s
          working and what isn’t. Would you say you are able to cover the
          PhotoShelter costs with your print sales?

          There are definitely some limitations with the big print store
          services though when you compare them to standard shopping cart systems.
          With a proper shopping cart system you’d be able to tie in accounting
          software, CRM and set up goal tracking in analytics. Then you would
          actually be able to track conversions from campaigns. Life would be a
          lot simpler but the problem is that it seems most people who use those
          services look for one sale “here and there” and they’re happy. They
          don’t treat it like a viable income source for their business.

          Reply
          • Yeah I’m able to cover my PS costs with print sales. There are definitely other variables too, size and finish/mounting come into play. Last weekend a client bought a 40×60″ print on metal. A few weeks before that, a 20×30″ on paper.

            CRM and goal/revenue tracking in analytics would be awesome! I do a very basic CRM manually in Excel and I really wish that PS’s system would allow for goal and revenue tracking in analytics. If a shopping cart had tie-ins with say Salesforce.com and Analytics,, that’d be a beastly system.

            Reply
            • Exactly, in this day and age having to do things manually in Excel is really weak. If you were just in the market for a shopping cart system in general, you’d never pick a service that offers the limited range of connections that PhotoShelter and SmugMug offer. I wish they would build robust APIs that you could use with services like Zapier. Then you could automate everything into Salesforce, FreshBooks, QucikBooks,…. you name it.

              Do you do a lot of SEO optimization for your site?

              Reply
  6. Super post. I really like the idea of grabbing some SmugMug link juice as a subdomain, then migrating it over. Quick question… With SmugMug, how would I setup a subfolder for my gallery? Currently I use WordPress as my CMS and have placed my SmugMug gallery in a subdomain. In the SmugMug settings, do I just tell SmugMug that my site is at http://www.[mydomain].com/gallery? Would the gallery resolve correctly to this subfolder?

    Reply
    • I’m not sure you’ve quite followed my post correctly. You can’t grab any link juice from SmugMug. That’s really the whole point, a site that is yourname.smugmug.com won’t get any juice from anyone linking to smugmug.com as sub-domains are treated separately. There’s also no way to have SmugMug in a subfolder because your CNAME has to point to a domain and not a folder.

      Reply
      • Dan, I guess I was reading between some non-existent lines too much. What I was envisioning was something more along the lines of starting out with the default subdomain on SmugMug, and then after several months creating a 301 redirect to a new www site… and then passing along a little juice with that redirect. Probably wouldn’t be worth the time and effort though..

        Reply
        • “after several months” …… actually my first example in the post explains why waiting is a bad idea and I urge people not to do that. You also can’t do a 301 redirect because you don’t have access to SmugMug servers so what you do is to use a CNAME. Again, in the post I have linked to the instruction they provide on how to do that. Mark’s site that I linked to is entirely a SmugMug site, nothing else, front page and galleries.

          Reply
  7. Great post Dan – have been wondering this myself for ages. I’m a Photoshelter user and want to move to WP as the main site but keep my PS archive. Photoshelter have not been very helpful when I’ve asked them about doing this. Do you know anything about the Graph Paper Press Stock Photography Theme or Woo Commerce Photography Extension to sell stock photos instead? To be able to use some of the PS pluggins (ie GPP integration with Photoshelter) they also force you to upgrade to become a standard user it seems.

    Reply
    • Hi Meli, I’m glad you found it useful!

      I don’t have direct experience with the GPP stock theme so I can’t really comment. I can offer you a 25% discount code for GPP though if you need it! http://shuttermuse.com/deals/graph-paper-press-coupon/

      I also don’t have any experience with the Woo commerce option. In time I plan to try them all, simply to be more knowledgeable, but at the moment I’m testing the SmugMug platform.

      One thing I would say is that it looks like GPP integration with Photoshelter is a thing of the past. Yes their old themes work together but none of GPPs new ones do and AFAIK none of the old ones that are compatible are mobile responsive so it really ought to rule out using them for a savvy photog. I suspect that GPP quietly decided not to continue that integration after that launched their new Stock theme so I wouldn’t let this sway your decision. It’s limited to only a tiny number of their older themes.

      Reply
    • How’s it going Meli? You sound like me 2 months ago. I hear great things about GPP and WP is a must ahh the learning curve! I’m a new Photoshelter_er too. Up and running http://joshuasolsonphotography.com No WP yet though. Great post on @shuttermuse:disqus by @DanCarr:disqus Thanks Dan!

      Reply
      • Hey Joshua, haven’t changed anything yet mainly as the thought of moving all my images from Photoshelter to one of the other sites is not appealing! I still do want to set up wordpress however as Dan outlines here..

        Reply
  8. This post was really helpful Dan. I have been trying to decide whether to integrate wordpress and photoshelter or just switch to photoshelter. Thanks for the info!

    Reply
  9. Thanks for the post Dan…very useful! I do have a quick question regarding your final conclusion that with PS it’s better to run WP as the front end and PS as a subdomain. Is it because the greatest opportunity for generating back links will be through the blog and therefore this should be located at the main domain? PS does offer ways to boost SEO for galleries and images, but of course that’s on a PS subdomain. Currently I use PS for my front end (www.cafemokagallery.com) with a link to WP at cafemokagallery.org. I’m concerned about diluting search, but still a little unclear about the right strategy to use for domains.

    Reply
    • Yes Graham, you’re most likely to get sharing and backlinks through your blog posts I would imagine. That’s certainly be the case for me. People rarely, if ever, shared my actual PS galleries or images. There are ways to “boost SEO” on PS, but though it’s hard to quantify, I’ve never seen good results from it. I continually come across my own images in Google search when they are on my blog, but not sure I’ve ever come across one of my PS ones. I can’t tell you why it’s not working, but it doesn’t seem to be as effective for some reason.

      Reply
  10. Hi Dan, very interesting and useful post!

    I’m a wedding photographer and my front domain is a smugmug site (new legacy). My subdomain (where’s my blog)) is a wordpress one.

    Do you really think is exactly the same as you write in the article

    a) mydomain.com (the SmugMug site) & blog.mydomain.com (the WordPress blog)
    or
    b) mydomain.com (the WordPress blog) & photo.mydomain.com (the SmugMug site)

    or the best solution is to do my front domain with WP and use smugmug site for the other things ( uploading the galleries for clients, my portfolio and my images for blogging)? In this way If I need to delete something in smugmug site (my subdomain) or I don’t want to use it anymore, my front domain in WP will be still benefit for SEO… isn’t better?

    Thank you,
    Francesco

    Reply
    • You’ll have the greatest SEO control over you blog which will mean that it’s probably going to be easier to rank your WP blog higher in search engines. For me personally, I would want people to land on my front page of my website and not go directly to my blog. So I think option B is better. That’s how I have things set up.

      Reply
  11. My deal is as you describe with the exception it is Zen and not Smug. Zen running on cname. I get no love from the search engines whatsoever for Zen pics. I do link back to the portfolio often and all of the images are fully tagged including ALT tags. I’ve changed almost all of the gallery URLs to have real names like eagle_photography and I’ve been updating the galleries with SEO friendly text and link outs back to my main wordpress site. I was thinking of jumping over to Smug, but I don’t see any advantage after reading your article…

    I am now considering having the zen site standalone with a complimentary domain name. However, the thought of switching all of the links is a bit daunting.

    Your experienced advice would be welcome.
    Jeff

    Oh and thank you for writing about this. It has been bugging me for a very long time…

    Reply
  12. Dan,

    Great writeup and sharing of your experience…much appreciated! Was just working on some long overdue website tweaking and started wondering just this…I’ve used PS and SM in the past and have years of “SEO” that is largely wasted due to the way PS (my current core photo archive) handles the redirection to their domain for all my photos…something I have complained about to them for literately years but seems to fall on deaf ears. At this point I’m actually considering ditching the “convenience” of the hosting platforms for the SEO power of having it all under my own domain using something from Graph Paper Press…just not sure I have the time… Always a time versus reward calculation.

    If I dive into the cost savings/SEO reward calculation on this I’ll make sure to share…

    Reply
    • Yes please do come back and share again in the future! We love it when you guys take part in the conversation. I don’t think WP sites have to be that time consuming in the long run. Initially there is some setup, but even keeping things running smoothly and performing updates can be simplified with services like ManageWP, which costs about $2/month (a service I like and use myself).

      Reply
  13. Hi Dan,

    This was a huge help for me. I have just started on SmugMug and have a front end site on Squarespace. Your suggestions for subdomain and blogposting and gallery hosting are extremely relevant to the dilemma I am currently in for creating my site properly the first time. Thanks a lot for taking the time to write this.

    If I understand this correctly, I can still host my gallery on sub.mydomain.com and as long as I make a blog post and embed the photos from my gallery in that blog post then direct link to my gallery at the subdomain, then SEO will still work out ok?!

    Thanks again for your help! Rarely is an answer exactly what you need and this was so I really appreciate it!

    Matt
    http://www.awhistleandalight.com

    Reply
    • What you are describing makes the most sense yes, as long as you plan to make a blog post every time you add a new gallery to SmugMug. I would also advise against embedding the smugmug images into your blog post. There’s little benefit to that as far as I can think. You’d be better off uploading a select few images to your blog and heavily optimizing them by keywording the ‘alt’ tag and the file name. Then just link to your gallery “to view more images”.

      Reply
  14. Great reading Dan,

    As a wedding photographer, relying on Google, I have a Wordpress site (scotwedphotos.co.uk) and a (bolt on) Smugmug, CNAME gallery.scotwedphotos.co.uk I rank on page one and two of Google for my main search terms, as gallery.scotwedphotos.co.uk.

    I should point out that I’m self-taught when it comes to SEO and certainly no expert.

    Recently, I decided to try Zenfolio, which I like and it’s cheaper than Smugmug. I obtained the domain scotwedphotos.COM (which is hosted by a 3rd party along with my .co.uk domain).

    After serious SEO considerations, not wishing to lose my current ranking but not wanting a sub-domain, I pointed scotwedphotos.co.uk, with a 301 direct, at scotwedphotos.com (the new zenfolio website). Now, I’m not sure that this is the best way to go.

    My options seem to be:

    1) Keep scotwedphotos.co.uk (Wordpress) with either Smugmug or Zenfolio as a sub-domain (gallery.)

    2) Keep scotwedphotos.co.uk (Wordpress) but use either Smugmug or Zenfolio as main domains (using DNS) and by-passing the Wordpress sites – which both companies allow me to do.

    3) Separate .co.uk and .com and set them both up with two separate Wordpress websites and attach either Smugmug or Zenfolio (or use both) as sub-domains. I live half way between to major cities (Edinburgh and Glasgow) I have considered using one domain for each city!

    My head is now spinning … ultimately, I want to make use of the good SERPS which I currently enjoy but target two cities (equally) and ideally on Zenfolio which I prefer (I think)

    Any advice would be much appreciated.

    Reply
  15. Great article, Dan. I have been really frustrated with the problems Photoshelter creates for SEO. I wish I had seen this before I switched.

    Reply
  16. This a a great article Dan, it really explains everything very thoroughly. I have a Beam Photoshelter site and use Wordpress.org for my blog. I did try your suggestion using Wordpress as my homepage and blog and just utilising Photoshelter as my archive and galleries but felt I was missing out on the dynamic impact of all my images coming through on the Beam Homepage.
    By just using Photoshelter Beam and a Wordpress blog I have been able to find my images in my Photoshelter galleries in Google images by typing in the name of the subject even though as you mention the sub domain address comes up -paullovelace.photoshelter.com
    I then tested the same method with a Wordpress blog post which I had done and this time the image appeared under my domain name paullovelace.photography as you mentioned in your article. I have not yet used the Photoshelter/Wordpress plugin and I guess this would give even better image search results.
    Thanks again Dan for such an in depth explanation.

    Reply

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