Search Engine Tools and Tips for SEO

Last Updated: Oct 03, 2012 04:15PM PDT

Zenfolio offers a number of tools for search engine optimization. These tools help you monitor how the search engines crawl and index your site, as well as the relevance of your site to search queries by potential viewers. The following will guide you through the tools to help increase the exposure to search engines.

Search Engine Optimization

The purpose of search engine optimization (SEO) is to make your site more visible to potential visitors searching online. In order to understand the best ways to optimize your site, you first need to know the basics of how search engines operate.

Before a search engine lists a site in search results, it needs to discover, crawl and index the site.

Discovery

The process of being organically discovered by a search engine can be lengthy. A better approach is to explicitly "tell" the search engine about your site by submitting it directly. For example, you can submit your site directly to Google and directly to Bing. Once these search engines know your site exists, they will eventually send web crawlers to scan it.

Crawling

"Crawling" occurs when a search engine discovers new or updated pages using programs called web crawlers. These crawlers follow the web of links from one web page to another. This is why links to your site from other sites greatly increase the chances of your site being discovered by a search engine.

Indexing

When a web crawler finds a site, it scans all textual information and indexes what it finds relevant. This indexed information is used by search engines to process search queries. Since web crawlers can only scan text information, rich media content such as videos and images cannot be indexed.

Search engines determine what text is relevant and important based on how an actual visitor viewing a site would process information. For example, someone might read the title and headers of a page before reading any body content. Some text at the start of a paragraph might be interpreted as useful while other text might be seen as a string of useless keywords and not worth looking at. As a site owner, you need to make sure that your pages have descriptive and relevant text in addition to your photos. Be sure to place that text on the page in a layout visitors will find useful.

Text is King!

It cannot be stated enough how important text is to Search Engine Optimization. Search Engines require your website be filled with useful, well formulated, and organized text in order to be indexed. You can create an amazing website filled with photos, slideshows, and useful interactivity. But without informative text, web crawlers may determine your site is not worth indexing.

We do not suggest you overload your site with an over abundance of text. A large amount of pointless text may do more harm than good. It may even cause pages on your site to be considered pointless and not worth indexing. Think about how a visitor to your site would take in your text information, and determine if any of it was useful or memorable.

Links are Queen!

Filling your site with useful text and submitting it to every search engine for indexing is a small but important part of search engine optimization. This alone will not automatically return your site for every relevant search query.

The larger factors for site ranking relate to statistics such as how many visitors come to your site, number of links to your site, where these links are originating from, and how long your site has been active with relevant content. Many of these factors are out of your control and only slowly improve over time.

One thing you can do to help your ranking is to get well known sites with relevant content to link to your site. If you are interested in having a higher rank in relevant search queries, you should promote your site and work to increase the number of inbound links. However, even if you have all the right content, search engines will not return your site in search results if you currently have a very low ranking. With a very low rank, even direct submissions to search engines may not help. Search engines may simply consider your site irrelevant. Increasing your rank will take time.

Zenfolio Tools and Settings

Enable "Allow photos to be publicly searchable" access control option for your pages

Make sure you have allowed your galleries, groups, and collections to be included in public search results. Every item you want accessible by search engines should have the option "Allow photos to be publicly searchable" enabled under Access Controls.

This option is enabled by default, so it should not be necessary to make any changes. If you do not want a specific item to be found using search, please see the section on controlling how items are found using search.

Use Zenfolio "Search Engine Tools"

Zenfolio provides a set of tools specifically designed to help optimize your site for search engines. These tools help you present your site to search engines and integrate your site using the Webmaster Tools provided by search engines.

Web Site Description

You can set a Web Site Description for your site under PREFERENCES » Search Engine Tools. This description gives the search engines a summary of what your site is about. It is important to provide a Web Site Description. Most search engines will use this field as a short textual preview of your site's Home page in the search results.

Using Webmaster Tools provided by Search Engines

Most modern search engines provide Webmaster Tools. These tools allow you to monitor how search engines crawl and index your site. They also allow you to see how relevant your pages are to different search criteria used by potential customers.

Zenfolio allows you to integrate your site with all three major search engines: Google, Bing, and Yahoo! Search. Each search engine provides Webmaster Tools and it is highly recommended you use them. These Webmaster Tools are available under PREFERENCES » Search Engine Tools.

For illustrated instructions for each site, follow the steps below.

List your site with Google

To get started with Google Webmaster Tools, Google requires you to verify the ownership of your site.

Follow these steps to list your site with Google web master tools at http://www.google.com/webmasters

  1. Click the Sign In to Webmaster Tools button and login with your Google account
  2. Click the Add a Site... button
  3. Type the address of your Zenfolio web site and click Continue
  4. Select the Alternate methods tab from the verify ownership options
  5. Choose Add a meta tag to your site's home page
  6. Copy the meta tag code displayed on the page and paste it into the box on Zenfolio under PREFERENCES » Search Engine Tools. Save the change.
  7. Click Verify

List your site with Bing

To get started with Bing Webmaster Tools, Bing requires you to verify the ownership of your site.

Follow these steps to list your site with Bing Webmaster Tools at http://www.bing.com/webmaster.

  1. Click the sign in to use webmaster tools button and login with your Windows Live ID account
  2. Type the address of your Zenfolio web site and click Submit
  3. Use Option 2 and copy the code displayed and paste it into the box on Zenfolio under PREFERENCES » Search Engine Tools. Save the change.
  4. Click Verify

Submitting a Sitemap

Another important tool you need to know about is a sitemap. Sitemaps provide a structured outline of your site and all its pages. Submitting a sitemap to the search engines is a great way to ensure all your pages are crawled and indexed.

Zenfolio automatically creates a sitemap for your site, it is located at:

http://your_Zenfolio_site/sitemap.xml

Be sure to replace the 'your_Zenfolio_site' part with your actual site address. You can then provide this sitemap to the search engines using Webmaster Tools.

To submit a sitemap to Google:

  1. Login to Google Webmaster Tools
  2. Click to select your site
  3. Under Sitemaps in the right column select Submit a Sitemap

To submit a sitemap to Bing:

  1. Login to Bing Webmaster Tools:
  2. Select the option to Submit a Sitemap to Bing
  3. Follow the instructions provided

Enable and use text fields on your pages

It is very important to provide textual content on your pages so the search engines can index them. Search engines only process text information. Rich media content like videos, images, and Flash objects cannot be indexed by web crawlers. Pages with no text information cannot be indexed.

Zenfolio provides several ways for you to add useful textual information to your pages.

Display Name and Home Page Title

You can set the Display Name for the Public Profile. The Display Name that you set will be used as a page title for your site's Home page and will be included in page titles of your site's other pages.

Another great tools is to set the Home Page Title. When Home Page Title is set, it overrides the Display Name as a title for the home page. This allows you to add more detail about your site.

Welcome Message and About Message

It is highly recommended to add a Welcome Message for your account. Make sure that your Home page is configured to show the Welcome Message. When enabled, the Welcome Message is shown on your Home page and can be indexed by search engines.

Providing the About Message is another way to provide descriptive text for your site. The About Message could either be enabled on your Home page or referenced in your site menu. In both cases, the About Message will be indexed by search engines.

If you do not enable the Welcome Message and About Message in Page Options for your Home page, they will not be used by search engines.

Use titles for your items. Enable them on your pages.

It is highly recommended to assign Titles to your photos, galleries, groups, and collections. These Titles are used together with your Display Name to construct page titles and will be indexed by search engines.

It is also beneficial to enable showing Titles for thumbnails in the Visitor View. You can set that under Page Options for thumbnail pages. This will associate the Title text with the thumbnail link and helps search engines to associate the title text with the referenced pages.

Use captions for your items. Enable them on your pages

It is recommended to assign Captions to your photos, galleries, groups, and collections.

This will add more textual description to your pages that can be indexed by search engines.

Use Friendly Links

It is highly recommended to assign friendly links to your galleries, groups, and collections pages.

Friendly links will become a part of the URLs for those pages and will be indexed by search engines. The words used within the link with have an impact on search queries.

Usage of keywords

Zenfolio imports keywords from your photos' IPTC data when the photos are uploaded. You can also edit Keywords for all the photos and galleries in the Edit View. Furthermore, you can customize Visitor View to enable photo pages to show those keywords.

If you enable your photo pages to show Keywords in Page Options, the keywords will be shown on your page and can be indexed by search engines.

Using Title and Caption fields for your photos is recommended. If you have Title and Caption assigned to your photo, having Keywords displayed would have minimal additional impact. However, if the design of your site allows displaying Keywords and you find those keywords useful, it might be worth enabling them.

If you don't enable showingCategories & Keywordsfor visitor pages of your site, the Keywords will not be indexed by search engines.

Organization of your site

A well-organized web site has a better chance of being indexed by search engines. Here is a list of features that will establish internal links between your site's pages and increase its visibility for search engines.

Site menu

It is recommended to use a site menu for your site. This will help search engines index your site and at the same time help viewers navigate the site. Having a site menu will also enable the use of built-in pages on your site such as the About page. Pages such as the About and Contact pages provide additional textual content to be indexed by search engines.

Page header

It is recommended to use a page header. Enabling a page header under Site Settings for your site allows simple visual navigation for both viewers and search engines from any page of your site to your Home page.

Enabling showing a Title

It is recommended to assign a Title to any item. In conjunction with this, it is recommended to enable showing the Title for thumbnails in a gallery, group, or collection pages in the Visitor View. This will associate the Title text with the thumbnail link and will help search engines to associate the title text with the referred pages.

Breadcrumbs

It is recommended to enable Path to Gallery (Breadcrumbs). Generally this is enabled by default. This will allow viewers and search engines to navigate quickly to previous sections of your Home page.

Assigning categories

Zenfolio provides a directory of photos and galleries and your photos and galleries are automatically added to it if you enable "Allow photos to be publicly searchable" access control option for those photos. The directory is linked from the Zenfolio Home page and both people and search engines can access it. It is highly recommended to assign a Category and Subcategory for your photos and galleries so your photos will be listed in the directory under the correct category and search engines will be able to associate the reference to your site with the correct category. Categories and Keywords must be made visible on the page for search engines to use categories and keywords.

Ranking of your site

To make your site more visible to potential visitors searching online, you will need a high ranking in relevant search results. Optimizing your site text and submitting it to every search engine will help to ensure your site is crawled and indexed. But these are smaller factors in determining your search result ranking.

The larger factors for site ranking relate to variables that are generally out of your control. Some of these variable you can assist, others will improve over time.

Links from reputable sites to your site is an excellent way to improve your site's rank. You should promote your site and work to increase the number of inbound links. Promotion can come from reviews from other sites, recommendations, and your own references within forums, message boards, blog comments, and social networks.

You can find more information on how to improve your site ranking in search engines by looking at the following:

  1. Google SEO Starter Guide
  2. Google Webmaster Tools
  3. Bing Webmaster Tools
  4. Google Webmaster Central Blog
  5. Google Webmaster Help Center
  6. Bing Webmaster Center Blog
  7. Google Analytics