In this blog post we wanted to introduce a strategy that some of our clients who are photographers used to build high authority backlinks to there portfolios. It's a pretty simple strategy, and one that comes with a host of additional benefits.
By acquiring these valuable backlinks to your photography portfolio, you'll rank higher for your individual keywords. As an example, if you're a wedding photographer in Minnesota, and you have high authority backlinks from many websites, you'll probably end up ranking fairly high for somebody who searches for “wedding photographer in Minnesota” into Google.
This is a vast oversimplification of the relationship of backlinks to SERPs, but in simple terms:
more good backlinks equals more visits to your site, Because Google will rank it higher.
Let's define the two major components of this strategy:
Backlinks: this is simple, it's just a link from a third party website to yours.
High DA Websites: We go over this more in the middle of the article, but a high DA website means that backlinks from it will give your website more credibility in Google's eyes. Basically, it's if you're stopped by a bouncer at a nightclub, but a regular goes “no he's with me”, and you're allowed into the club. Learn more: https://moz.com/learn/seo/domain-authority
This is actually a fairly simple strategy, but one that is extremely effective. It goes like this. As a photographer, you go out and take many high quality photos that can be used in all types of websites. Examples of the photos that you may take could include city skylines, Architectural photos, or models doing things.
Like everything, we recommend targeting a niche. That means keeping your high quality photos to a specific category or two. by doing this, you not only get better with your photography, but consumers will come to know you as the source for that specific category of images.
Once you've taken your photos, you publish them to websites that offer freely usable images. this means that the images can be used royalty free, without attribution.
After a few months, when many websites have used your image in their content (as featured images on blog posts, and things like that), you identify these sites with valuable domains that haven't credited you.
From that list, you do an outreach campaign asking for links/credit to your portfolio underneath the image that you took, which is displayed on the website of the person that you're contacting.
It's a pretty simple strategy, that can easily be scalable because you can publish many high quality images at once. Let's get into the nitty gritty details of how this works. Will be discussing email outreach templates, how to find the websites that use your image, and more.
The main hurdle in this strategy is getting images to become popular, and reach those who will publish them on their websites.
Luckily, this isn't typically a difficult thing to do. If you take extremely high quality photos, and publish them to a website for free, chances are they'll pick up steam. You can compound these chances by publishing many individual photos.
We see a lot of series photos, which use the same model and background, while varying facial expressions and other minute details.
So, you may be asking yourself, where do I publish my photos?
we recommend two major platforms that have made names for themselves by curating free photos from photographers across the world.
The first platform is called Unsplash.com. Unsplash has had photos from its website downloaded almost 2 billion times, so this is a great place to get started offering high quality photos for free. All you need to do is sign up for an account on the platform, and begin uploading your photos. By properly tagging them, chances are they will begin growing in popularity.
If you head over to your profile, you'll be able to see individual download statistics for each image. You can also see aggregate statistics like this on your profile:
obviously, these statistics are for an extremely popular photographer, but you will definitely be able to become popular if you offer high quality images on this platform. We recommend establishing a niche (just like any other content creation strategy) -- from that, more and more visitors will begin to seek your photos out when looking for content in that niche.
As an agency, we have a list of a couple of photographers that we like using images for when building websites for contractors and construction professionals. The photographers are on our list because they publish high quality photos consistently, and for free.
On the topic of your profile, you can also create a link to your website. This is a nofollow link, but could be helpful in giving your profile more visibility and traffic.
Another platform that we really like using is called Pexels.com. it does the same thing as unsplash, and is simply another platform where you can publish free photos and gain visibility. By publishing your photos to both of these platforms, you'll reach the maximum amount of users, which is exactly what you want when it comes to the next step of this process.
This next step requires that you have users who are posting your images (for free, and this is what you want) on their websites as blog post featured images, body images, and more. The more users you have, the better, as this leads to a better selection for our next step.
We've seen websites from Forbes to large WordPress tutorial publications to our own agency website using photos from Unsplash or Pexels.
In this step, you want to find as many blogs that use your images as possible, and then filter them down to the best candidates for boosting your websites SEO.
For the blog to end up on your list, they need to have used your photo (for free, which is what you're signing up for when you publish photos on Unsplash), displayed it in a prominent location, and the blog itself needs to be a authority website.
By authority website, we mean that the DR ratings should be at least 50.
To check backlinks, you can use a free tool offered by Ahrefs: https://ahrefs.com/backlink-checker. In the following example, we checked the domain rating of Forbes.com, which came in at a cool 93 out of 100.
To find the blogs that are using your images, you can simply upload the original copy of the image posted to Unsplash into Google reverse image search.
For an example, we are going to be using an image published on unsplash by photographer Jonathan Riley. The image shows the New York skyline and was taken from the top of the Rockefeller building. It's a very popular image, and used in many websites.
Under https://images.google.com/, Click on the camera icon, which is titled “search by image”.
You have two options, you can either upload the original image into Google, or you can paste the URL from the image on unsplash (right click, Copy the image address, and then paste it into the input field in Google). We're going to be doing the 2nd method. Once you've added your image, click the search button.
This will then load your image into the default Google search page. To find other websites where your image is used, simply click on the “all sizes” link, which is located under the heading “find other sizes of this image”.
This will load the Google image search results, which will only display websites that use this specific image.
In your case, this image would be taken by you, and offered for free on a website like Unsplash. This is why it would be so widely used among many different websites.
Once you’ve got your list of websites where your photo is used, run through each image entry, and jot down blogs/domains that look to be high quality. Examples of these blog types include known names, such as a news publication, .EDU domains and other popular blogs.
From that list, quantify your hunch by running the domain through the Ahrefs backlink checker and see if it has a high domain rating.
All of this can be automated with tools like Moz API (checking the strength of the domain) and page scrapers, which grab the urls of the sites on which the image is uses.
In our example, we found a .EDU (Columbia blog from their Earth Institute) that used our photo as a featured image above their blog post.
This is a domain that could be super valuable if it links back to your website.
Repeat this research process as much as you’d like until you have a list of highly rated websites that use your image on one of their pages. Here are some other sites that could be great candidates for our next step:
One thing to note: it’s important that you do manual research when it comes to identifying good webpages. This is because some sites will actually credit you for the photo. Unsplash clearly states this is optional, but recommends it. In some cases, the publication will do something like the below image:
There’s already a link there, so there’s less of a chance that they’ll be receptive to your proposal. We’d keep those sites off your list.
Also, you’ll probably have more success with posts, not pages. For example, some sites use images in core pages, like “About Us”. They’re much less likely to link to you as it would add clutter and an unprofessional look to their page.
On the other hand, a blog post has tons of links, and credits the author as well as other photographers. What’s one more link to them?
Now it’s time to do some link building outreach.
Simply ask the website owner who’s used your image to link to your portfolio – after all, you’re the one who took that photo that’s on their site!
You can do this via email or contact form (though if you can find an email, that’s usually the best option).
Our clients have had success with a similar email to this one:
Hi [NAME] 🙂
I’m the photographer behind this image that’s being used on your site:
Thank you for using that photo, it’s one of my favorites. Glad you were able to make use of it.
Noticed that there’s no link under that image – just wondering…
Could you do me a solid and add a quick credit link under that photo, or at the bottom of the post? Something like this: City Skyline by My Name.
You’d really be doing me a solid!
Be sure you’re emailing the person who actually has the power to go into the post and edit that link.
It’s important to note that they’re perfectly fine using the image and not crediting you. You don’t hold anything over them, the image is licensed under CCO:
The first bullet is pretty clear: You don’t need to link to the photographer who took the image.
This is why it’s important to not come off as demanding – they’re in the right, and by linking to you, they’d be doing you a big favor.
A lot of people will outright ignore you, but a few will go in and add a credit link to your site.
You won’t get a lot of responses right away, but stay motivated. Buying a backlink from a domain with a 90+ DR could cost in the thousands (doing this is also blackhat SEO, risky, and against Google’s policies).
This means if you send 100 outreach emails and get one link 90 DR link out of it (assuming a flat $1,000 link value), you’re basically getting paid $10 to send each email out.
The more and more links you're able to rack up from authority websites, the higher your personal portfolio websites going to rank. For example, if you choose to publish tons of free photos of architectural buildings, that means that your architectural portfolio website will rank higher, resulting in more paid clients.
You can easily calculate the return on investment like this:
You'll need to guesstimate each of these figures, but you'll see that the return on investment is pretty huge when it comes to this.
Not to mention, the organic exposure that your free images will bring you from those who organically linked to your Unsplash profile (or any other platform you choose to use) could be pretty huge as well.
So In summary, publish some free images that can be used on many websites. Wait for those images to gain some steam, and be published on websites with high domain authority. Identify those individual websites, reach out to somebody who can add a link to credit your photo, and begin collecting super valuable backlinks to your photography portfolio.
Watch that photography portfolio rise in search engine ranking placement, and begin pulling in more leads and revenue.
This blog post should have taught you how to get valuable backlinks from high domain authority websites for your digital photography portfolio.
As always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them in the comments section below.