SmugMug via a subdomain

In a previous post I explained why I decided to point my domain to a blog, and put my SmugMug gallery on a subdomain: because that should create better ‘authority’ for my domain, and possibly better indexing and search ranking of my images. And with a pitiful domain authority score of 3, and hardly any indexing, I had nothing to lose.

I’ve now made the change, and learned some things about what it takes to do this.

Changing the target of a domain means changing its DNS zone entries. My domain came from GoDaddy and while I didn’t feel the need to move the registration, I wanted to move control of the DNS to SiteGround where I’d have better tools and support. To do that I changed the nameserver entries for my domain to point to SiteGround’s servers.

To point my domain to my blog, I entered it as the ‘primary domain’ for my SiteGround blog site. SiteGround then automatically modified my DNS records and create some new ones as needed.

I created a “gallery” subdomain via Site Tools/Domains/Subdomains/Create New Subdomain. This also created some new DNS records.

Next I pointed the new subdomain to my SmugMug gallery. I created a new CNAME record with the name “gallery” and a value of “domains.smugmug.com”. And over in SmugMug’s Account Settings/Custom Domain I entered “gallery. jimhphoto.com”. That’s all it took; an ‘A’ record, with an actual IP address at SmugMug, isn’t needed.

Once I had my SmugMug gallery on a subdomain, I added a “Gallery” menu item to the blog, with a link pointing to my subdomain’s URL; and in my SmugMug gallery’s menu, a “Blog” item pointing back to my main domain.

I already had Google Analytics connected to my SmugMug Gallery; I connected it to my WordPress blog by entering my GA tracking code in Dashboard/Google Analytics. Then I could see hits to either the blog or the gallery in GA.

I’d now accomplished my main goal of putting the gallery on a subdomain. But did Google know – or care?

Only Google Search Console can tell me how my pages are being indexed, so I had to make it aware of the new domain structure. And this stumped me for a while. My GSC account already had my main domain as a “property” but I wasn’t able to add the subdomain as an additional property; I couldn’t make any of the ‘verification’ methods work, for various reasons relating to the way SmugMug sets up gallery sites.

Eventually I found the solution. I’d originally set up my domain in GSC as a “URL” property, and my attempts to do the same for the subdomain failed. But GSC has a new thing called a “domain property”; create one for your main domain, and it automatically includes subdomains. That worked, and I verified that GSC’s “URL inspection” facility saw the subdomain as part of my property.

Next, I wanted sitemaps, to further encourage Google to index all my content. Google treats a main domain and a subdomain as separate entities for indexing purposes, and wants a separate sitemap XML file on each host. So I needed to generate a new one for my main domain, and get SmugMug to update the maps for my image gallery to show that it was now on a subdomain.

I created a sitemap for my blog by installing the Yoast SEO plugin. The map is at jimhphoto.com/index.php/sitemap-index.xml.

SmugMug was a little stickier. There was already an automatically generated sitemap covering my 600+ image pages, but all the URLs in it still pointed to the main domain, not the subdomain, and I couldn’t edit it. Eventually SmugMug support told me that it would be automatically updated in 1-2 weeks(!) and there was nothing I could do to make that happen any sooner.

In reality, the update happened in a couple of days. I then requested Google to index my site again, and submitted the new sitemaps. There’s no way to know when that indexing actually happens, but I’ll keep checking to see if Google now smiles upon my image pages and indexes them in their new subdomain home.

I have appropriately scaled my expectations and I doubt anything will change immediately. SEO is a long game…

UPDATE: Some progress, apparently…


Leave a comment on this post, include the URL of your site, and you’ll get a nice SEO-juicy “dofollow” backlink.

2 Replies to “SmugMug via a subdomain”

  1. I will try to figure out this issue. I am flummoxed as to why my own Smug Mug site gets NO searches that I can see, even though my self-hosted blog gets tons and my photos from there are all over Google. I have a huge stock photo inventory of flora and gardens on Smug Mug and do interact through other channels with editorial people (e.g. my photo is on the current Nov-Dec 21 cover of The American Gardener) but I have never had ONE inquiry from photo buyers or art directors via my Smug Mug site. And I am technologically challenged. Sigh.

    1. I think Google just doesn’t like anything that looks like a “gallery” or a catalog – unless of course it belongs to a big player like Amazon, with whom they doubtlessly have a business agreement. And of course Google sees only text – their crawler has no idea what’s in an image, so assigns no value to it.

      At this point I’ve been able to get my top-level gallery pages indexed, but only a few of the individual photos. Maybe having the ‘gallery’ pages indexed is good enough.

      I’m no SEO expert but I think back links are the thing to cultivate.

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