SmugMug and SEO: crickets chirping

Like many photographers, I have a SmugMug gallery, hooked to Google Analytics (GA) for hit tracking. My photos have keywords and descriptions, in the hope that they turn up in Google searches like “Minneapolis photography” or “Minnesota birds”.  

And for well over a year, GA consistently told me I’m seen less often than Bigfoot.  Basically, it’s crickets.  SmugMug is a solid operation but like any gallery site, it has pros and cons; one of the cons is that you’re not likely to come in view of Google’s all-seeing eye.

Hear the crickets chirping, over at SmugMug…

To silence those crickets, I set out to learn something about SEO and Google Search Console. The first thing I found is that not only were very few of my photos even indexed by Google, but the number had been dropping steadily over time.  Out of about 600 photos, I had only 38 indexed pages; the rest were categorized as “crawled but not indexed”, which is Google’s way of saying “no thanks”. It seems Google decided this content is no longer interesting and is phasing it out of the index. Maybe this is happening to image galleries in general.

Another online tool showed me I had only a handful of backlinks, mainly from posts I’d made on photography forums.  So my domain had no ranking and no “authority”.  

The CW on this is that to get ranked by Google you need significant, high quality text content on pages in your domain – Google can’t interpret images, so they don’t count, no matter how good they are.  And you want backlinks. So you really want a blog, with frequently added content, and links pointing to and from it. But SmugMug has no blogging facility. That means your blog has to be hosted somewhere else. Where should your domain point – the blog, or the gallery?

If your primary domain points to your blog, traffic and links to posts boost the “authority” of your domain, and might eventually lead to pages in a gallery subdomain being indexed. Alternatively, you could host a blog on a big site already having “authority”, like, and leave your own domain pointing to your gallery; then links from your blog posts to your image pages might count as high value backlinks from an authoritative domain, boosting your own domain.  It seems there are pros and cons either way..

I chose the first way: pointing my primary domain to this blog site (currently hosted on SiteGround) and creating a subdomain for my SmugMug gallery.

Update: in a subsequent post I detail how I made this change.

3 Replies to “SmugMug and SEO: crickets chirping”

  1. Interestingly I have gone the other way keeping SmugMug has my main domain with my blog currently in the process of being transferred from to in a sub folder which I understand is the only way this will work with SmugMug.
    Only time will tell of course but on my last photo hosting site Zenfolio I had an in built blog and my site always seemed to be way up the rankings. There was about 8 years of blog posts in there which are now on but like I said shortly to move

    1. Maybe in a year we’ll have some meaningful data to compare.

      At least blogging is fun. I’ll try to have interesting things to post now and then.

    2. I’m now seeing results: my indexing has increased and – for whatever reason – I’m getting more visits. My question now is, can this trajectory be sustained or is Google’s renewed interest just based on novelty, and destined to fade?

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