If you rely heavily on organic search for photography website traffic, the Google speed penalty could send your business into the dumpster.
I don’t want to sound alarmist, and I usually don’t get too involved with SEO. But this is a real problem affecting quite a few sites. If you have an image heavy site, like most photographers do, then you’re more likely to run into this.
As the majority of people now access Google on mobile devices, Google is taking the speed of your site into account when it comes to your page rank. For photography website traffic, this is problematic as typically what slows a website down most of all are images. Google now ranks your site based partially on the speed it loads on a mobile device over a 3G network, rather than looking first at how it works with a desktop or laptop computers. If you test poorly, you could be facing the Google speed penalty.
You might have received an email from Google if you’re a Google Analytics customer saying you’ve been approved as mobile ready. That’s good, but that doesn’t mean you pass the speed test. They don’t congratulate you on that, nor tell you that you’re failing. But your analytics will.
How much of an impact does the Google speed penalty have on photography website traffic?
So far in worst case scenarios I’ve seen up to half of all visitors, and 30-35% isn’t uncommon at all.
Is it fair?
Of course it is. Google isn’t in business to give you customers for free. You’re not their free advertising customer. Their customers are people looking for an answer to a question, and their business is delivering the sites they believe have the best chance of answering that question. Research has shown definitively, the longer it takes your site to load, the less likely the visitor is to stick around. So by pushing you to follow their guidelines, they’re keeping people on your site longer.
What does Google want from you?
Google does want you for a customer. A customer of their paid advertising program. A natural consequence of the Google speed test penalty is to push into that program.
If you want to stay out of that, then you have to play by their rules, which means speeding up your site to make their bread and butter customers happy. It’s up to us to deliver content quickly to our photography website traffic, not for our visitors to wait on us.
So what does mean for photography website traffic if you have a SmugMug or WordPress photography site?
The good news is if you have a WordPress blog, it’s likely already ranking higher than your SmugMug site. Make no mistake about it, the Google site speed penalty is applying to WordPress sites as well. But there are things you can do to speed up those sites, and get around the mobile first issue. Depending on how you want to handle it, it can be free, you can pay for more speed and/or you can devote a good amount of time to doing it right.
But as the penalty is being applied now, the first thing you need to do is get your site up to speed, by whatever legitimate means possible.
When it comes to SmugMug, or other sites I’ve tested such as Zenfolio, there isn’t much you can do. Photo website hosting platforms don’t allow the kind of tinkering with the site that WordPress does. All we can do is hope that SmugMug tackles the issue system wide, and soon.
The danger of putting all your photography website traffic into a one basket
We’ve all heard the horror stories of people who built their business on free advertising from Facebook, only to lose it when Facebook changed its algorithm to force them into paying to reach their followers. The lucky ones were those who had hedged their bets and had a website and worked it to pull in organic search traffic.
But the consistent factor in running a photography business online is things are always changing. When I started my first SmugMug site about a decade ago it was by far the best option of photography websites available. Within a couple of months of launching the site, I made my first sale and from that first year it was profitable. But as the internet has evolved, those sales have dwindled. It’s not that what we did before no longer works. Those tactics still do.
Instead more work is required to stay ahead of your competition, which is always growing.
Turn the Google speed penalty into an advantage
So yes, you might be taking a hit in site traffic now, or could be in the near future. You can either accept it and bemoan the fact, or look at this as an opportunity. It’s likely hitting your competition as well, so you have a chance to be among the first to respond, and finally shoot past the competition in search results.
And remember, this algorithm change is for your own good. By speeding up your site, you keep more people on your site, and have a better chance of making a sale.
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