How I Made My Photography Website Super-Fast for Google

I spend a lot of time working on my own travel and photography websites.

And in this post I will tell how I made my photography website super-fast for Google by using a new theme, getting rid of plug-ins I did not need and making my photo files smaller. And yes I do mean super-fast, getting scores in the 90-100 range according to Google for both desktop and mobile sites. I did this quickly and at no cost to myself!

And you can do the same, apart from the fact that you will have to pay for the theme I use.

And speed is a very important factor to Google, so is very important to all of us.

Paxos Travel Guide web site speed

Paxos Travel Guide web site speed

Is website speed important?

As good a place as any to start.

Yes website speed is important. It is one of the many ranking factors that Google uses to assess where your website appears in a search query.

In July 2018 Google announced that “People want to be able to find answers to their questions as fast as possible — studies show that people really care about the speed of a page. Although speed has been used in ranking for some time, that signal was focused on desktop searches. Today we’re announcing that starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.”

And as Googles number one aim is to give people what they want then that is that.

It is important.

And think about this.

If you visit a website and it takes an age to load what do you do?

Move on very quickly. It is a harsh world out there, and people do not have time to wait for slow websites to load, so this is important to me, as I know that I would move on quite quickly if I came across a slow website.

How many websites do I have?

At the time of writing this blog post I have three websites.

Rick McEvoy Photography

Photos of Santorini

Paxos Travel Guide

What platform are my websites on?

Rick McEvoy Photography is on the Squarespace platform, the other two are on WordPress.

The reason for this is that I created Rick McEvoy Photography first, and I am quite frankly rubbish at this stuff. Squarespace is a template website which is easy for people like to me to use to build a lovely looking website.

I got into WordPress when I was writing for Improve Photography, which is built on the WordPress platform. I have learnt how to use WordPress and future websites will all be on this platform.

How do I know how fast my websites are?

Simple. Go to Page Speed Insights, https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

This is a Google page with the heading “Make your web pages fast on all devices”. That is a subtle hint if ever!

Just type in your URL and Google will tell how fast, or slow, your website is.

Google Page Speed Index gives you two scores, Mobile and Desktop.

Basically

  • 0-49 is rubbish, and is coloured red.

  • 50-89 is average and is coloured amber

  • 90-100 is green so is very good!

I like the colours – even I can understand this!

How fast were my websites they before this work?

So my scores before doing anything

Rick McEvoy Photography

  • Mobile - 30

  • Desktop - 83

Photos of Santorini

  • Mobile 63

  • Desktop 78

Paxos Travel Guide

  • Mobile 53

  • Desktop 72

Now I have to say that the desktop score for my photography website is (sort of) ok, as my target market is very much desktop users, people in offices basically.

Not that I am going to ignore the very poor mobile speed of course, which is quite frankly shocking!

But for the other two sites I must target mobile as this is where I expect the majority of my traffic will be coming from.

Knowing all that what am I going to do to make my websites quicker?

I am fortunate to have what is pretty much an experimental website, Photos of Santorini. There is more work to do on this website, meaning that I can use it to test things.

These are the three things that I did to my website to make it a lot quicker.

  • Install a stupid quick WordPress theme - Acabado

  • Get rid of plug-ins that I do not need

  • Compress all my photos

Acabado - the super-fast WordPress theme

I am a subscriber to Income School, and the Project 24 way of creating niche websites.

They have just released a new WordPress theme all of their own with speed a big priority. Speed and simplicity of set up and use. If you are not a Project 24 member you will be able to but the theme once it is out of beta.

If you check out Photos of Santorini now you will see the basic version of this theme.

It is called Acabado.

Now I am not a fan of the name, mainly because I keep forgetting it! But that really is not important here.

It is fast, and easy to set up.

Once the theme was set up, which was easy even for an incompetent like me, there were two other things to do.

Turn off the plug-ins that I did not need.

Yep, plug-ins are the nemesis of page speed. Well they can be. So all bar three plug-ins were turned off.

The theme has all the stuff to help SEO etc built-in, so all that other stuff is not needed.

This is one of the reasons I like this theme so much – there is very little that I need to do.

For completeness the ones that are still active are

  • Amazon Affiliate Link Globalizer

  • Really Simple SSl

  • Short Pixel Optimizer. Which leads me nicely to the next point.

Make my photos smaller

My websites are photo heavy, well I am a photographer after all. So compressing the photos has a big impact on how fast my websites are.

I use Short Pixel Optimizer to compress my photos. It is dead easy and quick to use.

And this is the nuts and blots of what I did.

How long did this take?

For Photos of Santorini, I spent an hour doing the things above, and then no more than another hour tweaking bits around.

How fast is Photos of Santorini now?

This is the good bit – does this stuff really work?

  • Mobile 96 (was 63)

  • Desktop 95 (was 78)

Wow. That is right up there in the green. Amazing.

Yep – this stuff really does work.

And then Paxos Travel Guide

I repeated the process a few days later, happy that the theme was stable and produced what I wanted, and that I was confident in making the changes to my nearly completed travel website.

Which I was.

It took more time to get this website right, possibly because of the way it was structured. I would say a couple of hours more, which is nothing in the grand scheme of things.

And this website is important to me, so needed to work.

So I had to check all the links and make sure everything was logical as the Acabado theme is set up differently.

I had to add all my blog posts to a new page called Paxos Blog as the posts weren’t appearing correctly. And it also gave me the opportunity to do some housekeeping and make some logical structural and content updates to my website.

And finally check that every link went where it should.

OK – How fast is Paxos Travel Guide?

  • Mobile 94 (was 53)

  • Desktop 97 (was 72)

Amazing. Super-fast (as I said at the beginning – I don’t make this stuff up you know!

The fantastic new mobile experience

If you check out the websites on your phone then you will understand what I am about to say.

There are three tiles on the home page of each website. I am going to add a fourth.

These link to, well in the case of Photos of Santorini,

  • The Blog

  • Who Am I?

  • My photos of Santorini

On mobile the tiles work wonderfully well – I did not appreciate just how powerful these things can be.

So the new mobile experience on both of my websites is now fantastic. Super quick and really easy to navigate – I am absolutely delighted.

Has this affected search engine results pages?

This is going to be difficult to assess – there are so many factors that affect the rankings, but I will keep an eye on this.

But on a quick initial check they are certainly no worse!

And has the traffic to my websites increased?

Paxos Travel Guide is enjoying rapid growth at the moment, so I might never know. But I do know how long people are spending on my site, what pages they look at etc, so I will keep an eye on this as well.

Photos of Santorini is not finished yet as I said earlier, and the web traffic has been bumbling along at the same level, which is entirely what I expect. And then this week the traffic experienced a little nudge up. Of 80% more visitors.

Check out the Google Analytics screenshot here for Photos of Santorini.

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And here are the screenshots for my other websites for the same period.

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5D466FA1-B37D-42CA-91CD-BB620B086162.JPG

A quick word on web traffic

I am working incredibly hard to increase the organic traffic to my websites. This is a long-term investment in time and effort. One week is irrelevant in the scheme of things, but it was a noticeable discrepancy.

Don’t you have to be a Wordpress expert to do stuff like this?

I am rubbish at WordPress. Seriously rubbish. I bought a theme a year ago and did not have a clue what to do. I eventually got my money back. And then I bought another theme which I could not fathom out, which basically cost me about £80 for nothing.

So the fact that I was able complete Paxos Travel Guide in I would say 4 hours is truly remarkable. When I say complete I mean fully complete to the point where all I need to do now is create more blog posts.

Changing theme was a big job that I was dreading doing but I am sat here now so happy that this is done, and that I am loving the new layout and performance,

What about my Squarespace website?

So what next for Rick McEvoy Photography?

Let’s remind ourselves of the numbers

  • Mobile - 30

  • Desktop – 83

Hmmmmmm.

Not good.

The problem is that there is a lot more work to get this website first onto WordPress from Squarespace, and then to apply the theme and make sure everything works.

I am going to do it – I just need to plan this and make sure that I have time available to do this properly.

There is a lot of content and this website is my business after all, so time spent now on planning is absolutely essential.

A word on hosting

I use Bluehost for my hosting. I have registered with another company who provide the fastest web service.

I won’t say who they are, as they have done nothing wrong, but I am staying with Bluehost.

Bluehost provide fantastic customer support through online chat, which is the only way I want to get help on my websites as this all the work is done at my PC.

I have become an affiliate for Bluehost – if you want to use them for your hosting and you click here then you will be taken to their website via my affiliate link and I will get a commission if you buy anything.

How do I track the performance of my websites?

The last thing I want to cover in this post is how I track progress with my websites.

Google Analytics

This is the thing that I use the most and is the base data that is used for anything and everything – this is the actual data recorded by Google so if you do not have Google Analytics installed so this right now!

I use the web-based version and also the App on my iPhone – both are fantastic in their own ways.

A word of warning though – Google Analytics can be highly addictive. Especially the real time reporting of how many visitors are on your website at that immediate moment in time!

SEO Edge

And to see how a keyword is doing I add it to an iPhone App called SEO Edge which is excellent. I have one keyword in a blog post title, and when I publish that post I add the keyword to the App and check on it weekly.

I also use YouTube Studio on my iPhone and iPad, which is Google Analytics for YouTube.

It is well worth using these excellent free tools from Google, as they are the people that we are trying to please with our online content, so people find what we are writing and talking about.

If you study these Google tools you will see what Google is recording, and what is important which is of course of interest.

And for the future

Getting Rick McEvoy Photography onto WordPress and onto the superfast Acabado theme is the next job.

Once I have done that I will provide an update on my photography blog.

I have a couple more posts to do for Paxos Travel Guide, and once they are done all I have left to do now is edit and upload all the photos to make this website complete. And then sit back and wait.

While I am waiting I have more work to do on photos of Santorini to get it to the same state as Paxos Travel Guide.

And after that who knows?

I will continue to add regular content to all my websites including weekly posts to my photography blog. And there will be more websites in the future no doubt.

Summary

Apologies for the change from what I said I would be writing about. This was such a significant thing that I have done to two of my websites that I wanted to tell everyone all about it as it was happening.

Oh yes before I forget the video will be published tomorrow that accompanies this post, which you can view on my YouTube Channel.

Please subscribe to my blog which should be back more to photography next week, although you never know what is going to happen between now and then!

Rick McEvoy ABIPP - Photographer, blogger, website creator

How much work goes into a single page of my photography website? Find out on this post about my brand new Poole Photographer web page.

How much work goes into a single page of my photography website?

More than you might think. Now this is not a complaint. No one has asked me to do this – this is all my own fault for wanting my web pages to work the best they possibly can for me. I am just saying……….

I have finally updated another page on my website. Check out the new set of 12 pictures of Poole on my brand new for September 2017 Poole Photographer page.

Honestly you’d be surprised how much work goes into a single page of my website. I was just thinking it is no wonder it takes me long to produce a new web page.

I thought I would share with you all exactly what I have to do to completely update a page on my photography website.

Firstly, I have to select 12 images (from several thousand in my Lightroom Catalogue), which is a nightmare. I take too long about this, overthinking things, and struggle to get down to 12 images.

No I am not saying that I have hundreds of fantastic photographs of Poole. Not at all. I am saying that I struggle to produce a coherent set of 12 images that represent Poole to me.

In this post I will describe the proceeds and tools I use to come up with a selection 12 images from several thousand.

I should have called this post "How to select 12 images in Lightroom from thousands".

I select my set of 12 images using the excellent Collections in Lightroom.

I create a new collection called, erm, Poole in this case, and add all the pictures I have taken in Poole into this collection. When I say all the pictures in Poole this is non-commercial work, or more precisely not pictures of buildings, construction sites, architecture etc in Poole.

I figure that people searching for Poole Photographer might actually want to look at photographs of Poole rather than commercial work taken in Poole. There is a big difference.

I have other pages for my commercial photography work which are

Architectural photographer

Commercial photographer

Construction photographer

Construction product photographer

Interior photographer

Industrial photographer

Property photographer

So back to my Poole collection in Lightroom. I make sure that none of the images have a pick against them, for reasons which will become obvious, by using the keyboard shortcut Control A, then hit the U key (U for unpick – surprisingly logical). Then I go though the images one by one, and press P when I like something. P for pick – equally logical. Don’t worry – there are keyboard shortcuts that do not make sense – after all there are much more than 26 keyword shortcuts.

Once I have done this I filter out only the picks, and hope to have a perfect set of 12 images, which of course I don’t. So then I go through what is a much reduced set of images and keep removing the flags until I get down to the 12 images I want for each web page.

I filter the Lightroom Collection to only show images which are picks, and as soon as I unpick an image it disappears from view. This is so simple but so effective.

So that is the culling process – as I said this can be a long and painful process and one which I need to get more efficient at.

I use the same process for every commercial shoot, with a few tweaks which are caused by the way I take photographs these days.

This process can take a number of days to complete, depending on time availability, and happens over my iPhone, iPad and PC with big monitor, all through the miracle that is Lightroom Mobile.

Once I have 12 images then I have to edit some, if not all of them.

The time this takes varies enormously from one photo to the next. Some are edits I am happy with, and some are completely unedited, which is always a good thing as this means a brand new image on my website, which is always an exciting thing. Most of the editing work is done in Lightroom, with additional work carried out in Photoshop as and when required.

Once I have edited the 12 images there is more work to do in Lightroom.

This is boring but important.

I add text to the metadata, namely the image title and caption fields, as well as adding up to 30 keywords, and then rename the file. This is also all done inside of Lightroom. Interestingly enough I can change the titles and captions in Lightroom Mobile, but not the file name or keywords?

No I can’t work that one out either.

Why do I do this?

Simple – Google might be clever but it can’t read pictures (yet), so the text makes the pictures visible to Google, and gives them SEO value, which is very important to me.

It also needs to accurately describe each photograph, so is quite an involved task. The good news is that once it is done the keywords are with the image for good. (I don’t do Facebook with it’s metadata stripping).

Next I have to write text all about me and why you should commission me to take your photographs in/ of Poole, and some words about the images. I like to describe the images within each web page.

All these different fields of text need to have slightly different words, as Google also does not like duplicate text, which means I can’t just copy and paste everything everywhere. This is why every blog post is written individually too.

The text needs to be significant (in terms of quantity of content), and relevant to the subject, which in this case is me as Poole photographer to provide value to my website in terms of search results, SEO etc etc. There is after all no point having a website if no one is looking at it, if no one can find it.

It is like having a shop that no one can find.

After all that I have to do the inevitable bad spelling/ bad grammar check (which sometimes reveals some dreadful gaffes) and then it all needs uploading onto the particular web page using my website provider, Squarespace. I also need to add text to the title and description fields on my Squarespace website editor for each image – the Lightroom Metadata does not get there for some reason. This I do by copying and pasting from the Lightroom fields to be honest.

And then I have to add the external and internal links within the page – very important in SEO terms again.

So why am I going though all this pain?

Simple.

On some of my web pages the images are quite frankly rubbish. They are years out of date and do not reflect the standard of work I am offering right now.

And this makes me sad.

I would hate for someone to visit my website and look at one of my awful old galleries and come to the conclusion that I am not what I say I am, and that the standard of my current work is what it was 3 – 5 years ago. Which is certainly not the case.

No that will not do.

Which is why I am just getting on with this long process – the sooner it is done the sooner I can get back to those pictures of Santorini.

I also need to keep track of all this work. I have come up with a simple way of doing this, keeping track of the changes to my website. I have a single spread sheet which I update every time there is a change. I do this on my iPad, which is much quicker than using Excel on my PC for some reason.

Next page for the updating treatment is my construction photographer page – I will moan about this In another post shortly I have no doubt.

There is a positive side to this – I don’t do this often, every couple of years I guess, and I have got rid of some old irrelevant pages which has reduced the amount of work.

And another positive – my pages look a lot better, and all that time and effort only happens once on a page, and should provide benefits for years to come.

So as painful as this work is, it is important and is going to continue around the mass of other things I have to do.

I have decided that the sooner I get them all done the better so I can get back to the things I want to do, in addition to earning money that is.

Rick McEvoy - Poole Photographer

Attracting the right visitors to your photography website – an introduction. Well I started writing about Google Analytics but this is much better.

Attracting the right visitors to your photography website – an introduction. Well I started writing about Google Analytics but this is much better.

OK so not the most interesting subject…

But important for any photography business. If you are in business in photography, then you have a website. This is your shop window. And if no-one goes into your shop you don’t make any money.

When you have a shop you know how many people visit your shop. Obviously.

But with a website it is of course different.

How many visitors do you get to your website? Of course the physical number of visitors is only part of the story – are the visitors the right visitors for your business?

If you have a shop selling clothes for teenagers you aren’t going to get much trade from a coach load of pensioners are you?

Web traffic is like I say just the beginning. And you must not fall into the trap of thinking that the number of visitors to your site alone is good.

Of course if people are finding you online that is good. But you need to attract visitors that want what you are offering, whatever that may be.

So how do we do all this? I am working on this……

And this is where my post changed from the analytical side of things to what I realised was much more important than tracking who comes to your website.

The subject of who you want to come to your website.

So here we go with the actual beginning of this subject, not the end point. That’s better. Makes much more sense.

Shall I continue?

OK. To start with, who are you looking to come to your website? Forget the numbers here – who is your ideal client? Your target customer?

I am trying to attract, well I will extract part of my home page text rather than paraphrase in this post

“High quality architectural photography, commercial photography and industrial photography by Rick McEvoy LBIPP.

Photography of building exteriors, building interiors, construction sites, refurbishment projects, commercial spaces, completed developments, construction products.

Sectors covered – public, private, commercial, retail, industrial, residential, education, plant, utilities and infrastructure.

Experience working from heights, access platforms, scaffolds, boats, confined spaces and other controlled environments. Aerial photography by drone.

Clients - architects, builders, developers, consultants, designers, agents, property owners and house holders in both the public and private sectors.”

Quite specific.

I heard a great analogy on a podcast the other day. If you are going to have heart surgery, you would go to a heart specialist. Not a chiropodist. Nothing against chiropodists but you get the point.

So am I the best person to photograph your wedding? No of course not. I could do it for sure, and no doubt make an excellent job of it, as the fundamentals of photography and digital imagery apply to all genres, but no there are people better placed, better equipped and more experienced than me.

Am I the best person to photograph your building?

No. Not the best. But look at my website. Look at my work, and read about me.

You will learn that I might be a good fit for you. Do you like my style of work? The images I produce? If so then I am a contender. If you are looking for a wedding photographer and you go to my website you will have no idea what I might be able to do for you. I might just be fantastic! But you will not know.

If you are, however, one of my target clients, you will be able to see what I can produce. And potentially what you might get. And also if you like my style of work.

And then there is me…..

One final point on this post, is about these posts on my blog.

Why do I blog? Why do I post every day?

Well for a better internet presence of course. That is one reason. But the main reason is this;

So people can get to know the real me. I write as I speak. Websites can be boring. Look at me, look at my work – I am fantastic blah blah blah…… When you hire me as your photographer you are hiring me the person. My personality. So I better make sure you know a little more about the personality you are getting, which is where my blog comes in to the equation. You can read as much or as little as you want, but hopefully you find my posts interesting and even entertaining once in a while.

Writing also helps me make sense of things, get things in order.

And I enjoy sharing my learning with others online, hopefully someone somewhere has learnt one small thing that has helped them.

Thanks for reading this post, and please call back tomorrow for a post which I promise will contain a nice picture, at

www.rickmcevoyphotography.co.uk/blog