SmugMug SEO and Google – An Epitaph

It looks like I have to accept failure in my quest to get my SmugMug gallery indexed by Google. My 600+ photos lie buried in a cold internet grave, never to feel the warm, bright rays of SEO daylight. It’s the end of a road that I started down a couple years ago, and described in a series of posts starting way back then.

Google Search Console now says Google is able to read the sitemap for my SmugMug gallery; the days of “couldn’t fetch” are over. It parses out 600+ URLS for my images and galleries. And it treats the whole thing like a dead raccoon. Here are the numbers:

Discovered-currently not indexed – Google sees these URLS but can’t decide what to do with them. This includes almost all my photos.

Duplicate, submitted URL not selected as canonical – makes no sense, but very possibly related to the issue I described in this post.

Crawled- currently not indexed – a few pages are actually rejected and will never be indexed.

Submitted and indexed – the handful of photo pages that Google actually decided to index, for unknown reasons.

And that’s exactly how it’s been for months, as this graph shows:

So there it sits. Do a search on “discovered-currently not indexed” and you’ll see claims that Google will get to those pages later, or there’s something wrong with them, or that they’re just not good enough in terms of content. But in my case there’s no difference between the pages that got indexed and the ones that didn’t. And months go by without anything changing.

The ashes are cold.

If you have thoughts or ideas on this issue, please leave a comment. If it includes a link to your own photo site, you get a nice SEO-boosting ‘dofollow’ backlink.

12 Replies to “SmugMug SEO and Google – An Epitaph”

  1. Sadly, I was an affiliate for SmugMug – but I signed up only because the affiliate manager and I had been long time friends. I was never impressed with their setup and shopping funnel. Therefore I never promoted their product. Your findings here are another good reason to pass them by.

  2. Bummed to come across this after using SM for the last decade or so. I recently started focusing on SEO for selling and not for “here’s the link galleries.”

    I’m curious as to what alternatives have you found?

    1. I really haven’t found an alternative. I’ve turned off “selling” on SM, which reduces my subscription cost. There are lots of PODs, and lots of ‘galleries’, and some that try to be both, and none that are what I’d call ideal.

      On SmugMug, at least my top-level ‘gallery’ pages do get indexed, so that’s something. For me, it’s probably less important that the individual photos get indexed. Just having people find my ‘subjects’ has value.

  3. Well, you’ve definitely saved me a heck of a lot of my own hassle trying to wrestle with the same exact problem. Hats off to you for all of the investigation and analysis.

    I have considered striking out on my own with a non-smugmug website, but I’ve already invested so much time into organizing and refining my smugmug that I’m hesitant to fully make the leap. Sunk cost and all that.

    1. Gabi, I hear you on the “sunk cost” issue. I suggest putting your efforts into the SmugMug “gallery” pages because they seem to be real pages that get indexed. The individual photo pages will never make the cut because they’re not permanent.

  4. Hello Jim, sadly, I recently discovered that only 83 from 7.321 images on my SmugMug website are found in the google index. Google Search Console: Found – currently not indexed 6.528.

    Just checked site: only 92 images shows up. It is exactly as described in your blog findings.

    After I submitted a complaint to SmugMug technical support that the meta tags ‘title’ and meta name=”description” are displayed incorrectly with the all images in the galleries, I received the following response:

    “To clarify – the meta name description shows your GALLERY DESCRIPTION and not the image description. The image description is located in the meta itemprop description tag instead.
    The HTML code is correct.”

    After what I have read here and on the SmugMug forum, I can only conclude that it is better to stay away from SmugMug when you want your gallery photos to be found on the internet.

    A waste of time and subscription costs. I recently paid 400 USD, SmugMug does not want to give a refund after I requested it.

    1. It is sad because they actually do some things very well – the visual design is good, speed is good, image quality is excellent. But you’ll never get seen unless you have some other site going elsewhere, that gets traffic. I think their target market is ‘event’ photographers, like sports and weddings, where SEO isn’t a factor because the photographer already has the customers.

      1. I agree that speed and image quality is good. The design is sufficient. I have other websites that references to the photos on SmugMug. I will invest more on SEO there.

        I keep hoping that SmugMug can change the code so that each photo gets its own title and description in the HTML code for that specific photopage and no longer the global photo gallery title and description.

  5. Oh, Jim – – thank you, thank you for this series of posts. After receving so many emails over many years from “Google Search Console Team” about indexing on my site ( and feeling powerless to fix the problems, I intuitively typed “google indexing problems with smugmug site” into a search after the most recent one and landed here. So much built up frustration cleared because you went through this effort and took the time to write about it in depth. At least now I know and can stop tearing my hair out. I’m very grateful.

    1. Hi Robin – what I REALLY wish is that someone from SmugMug would comment here, saying I’m totally wrong – and explaining how to get indexed. But I’m not holding my breath.

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