Focus on Visibility: Unlocking SEO Strategies for Photographers with Melissa Arlena

I don’t know if there are three letters more intimidating to photographers than SEO, but it’s something we all need to educate ourselves about. Photography businesses often rely on Google searches, among other things, to bring in clients, so don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to SEO.

In today’s episode, I’m interviewing Melissa Arlena, an SEO educator and coach for photographers, who shares what SEO actually is, why it’s important for photographers, and tips for optimizing your website for Google rankings. 

We also discuss how blogging has changed in recent years and how you can use SEO to your advantage, especially if you’re just starting out. 

What’s in this episode:

  • [03:03] What SEO actually is, why it’s important for photographers, and Melissa’s advice to make it more user-friendly
  • [05:17] Where to begin with SEO as a newbie, and the biggest mistakes photographers are making with SEO
  • [12:22] How blogging has changed in recent years, and how to get started with a new blog today
  • [20:07] Tips for making your website SEO-friendly
  • [27:17] The metrics photographers should track to measure the success of their SEO efforts

Tune in to this episode for tips on how to optimize your website for SEO and improve your Google search rankings.

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Want to put an end to awkward moments in your photo sessions and create genuine connection? Download The Storyteller’s Toolkit today, featuring 200+ emotive photography prompts, so you’re never left wondering what to say. 

Meet Melissa 

Melissa Arlena is an SEO educator and coach for photographers looking to show up on Google and book their ideal clients. As a former IT nerd, she has a knack for taking technical things and making them simple and relatable. She’s using that superpower for good in helping photographers tackle their website SEO. Melissa started her photography business back in 2008 and spent ten years photographing weddings. Then she pivoted to newborns in 2018. She’s also moved her business twice, and with each change, she used SEO to climb the rankings to get her to the top of Google and fill her calendar. Now, she’s helping other photographers do the same. When she isn’t behind the computer or her camera, you can find her hanging out with her family and two dogs on their sailboat cruising the Chesapeake Bay.

Connect with Melissa

Visit Melissa’s Photography Website

Visit Melissa’s SEO Website

Follow Melissa on Instagram

Melissa’s blog checklist to drive traffic to your website

Did this episode inspire you to optimize your website for SEO and improve your Google rankings? Check out this episode Get Found with Fuse: Demystifying SEO Marketing with Feuza Reis that offers you even more insight on finding alignment in your business!


[00:00:00] Melissa Arlena So have you ever heard the saying, How do you eat an elephant? And the answer is one bite at a time. Now, I don’t know where that saying came from, but that’s exactly how I approach SEO. I can fire hose people with information and they just come away with a deer in the headlights look. So I have learned that you can’t fire hose people. You have to feed it to them one bit at a time. And so that’s basically what we do is I slowly teach them one stage at a time, starting with something very easy and it’s like building blocks. So we start with the first building blocks, we get that in place and then we work on to the next building blocks. And I always tell people, it’s like when you picked up your camera for the first time, it could do all these things and you could push the button that was about all you knew how to do. So we start off with, okay, you can push the button now. You know, we’re going to take you to that next step. What can you do there? And then just keeping it slow and steady and learning one thing at a time. It’s definitely more of the tortoise and the hare. It’s the tortoise, not the hare. But that’s what’s going to get you results. And so that’s how for photographers I can make it easy because I just break it down and I feed it to you bit by bit. 

[00:01:00] Lisa DiGeso Welcome to the Art and Soul Show, where we dive into heart opening chats on photography, business life, and that messy in-between. I’m your host, Lisa DiGeso, a mom, a photographer and entrepreneur, and I’ll be sharing honest conversations and advice for photographers with insight on mindset, entrepreneurship and creativity. The goal of this podcast is for you to be able to gain insights and strategies that will get you real results. Because let’s face it, having a photography business can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. This is the place you can go when you need a boost of encouragement, a kick in the pants and inspiration to pick up your camera. This is the Art and Soul show. Hello, my beautiful friends. Welcome back to this show today. I’m super excited to dive into today’s conversation with Melissa Arlena. She’s an SEO educator and coach for photographers looking to show up on Google and book their ideal clients. As a former IT nerd, she has a knack for taking technical things and making them simple and relatable. She’s using that superpower for good in helping photographers tackle their website SEO. Melissa started her photography business back in 2008 and spent ten years photographing weddings. Then she pivoted to newborns in 2018. She’s also moved her business twice, and with each change, she used SEO to climb the rankings to get her to the top of Google and fill her calendar. Now she’s helping other photographers do the same. When she isn’t behind the computer or her camera, you can find her hanging out with her family and two dogs on their sailboat cruising the Chesapeake Bay. Welcome, Melissa. 

[00:02:37] Melissa Arlena Hello. Thanks for having me. 

[00:02:38] Lisa DiGeso So tell us who you are and really what you’re passionate about beyond the bio I just read. 

[00:02:45] Melissa Arlena So, yeah, I’m Melissa Arlena and I’m a motherhood photographer and I think really, I mean, those are most of my passions that you listed off, but just helping others kind of thing is a big, big passion of mine. So whether it’s with great photos of their family or SEO for getting themselves booked kind of thing. 

[00:03:03] Lisa DiGeso I love it. Well, when photographers hear the word SEO, we like to take our heads and bury them in the sand and pretend we didn’t actually hear that. So can you maybe share what SEO is exactly and why it’s important for photographers? 

[00:03:15] Melissa Arlena Yes. So SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. And whenever somebody asked me, like, what do you do? And I say, Oh, I help photographers with their SEO, they’re like, What does that mean? And I’m like, That means basically when you search on Google, they show up and they’re like, Oh. So that’s really what search engine optimization is, it’s just making sure your website is optimized to show up on Google and ideally show up on page one in those top three spots kind of thing. And so it’s important for photographers because that’s how you get found. If you can’t get found on Google, then you have to rely on things like social media and stuff like that, and then it really limits your client potential. 

[00:03:49] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s so funny with SEO because I mean, I’ve been in the game since 2010, I think, and I think SEO has been a buzzword ever since, and I’m just like, it’s still something that I’m like, Ugh, SEO. Terrifying. It’s terrifying. So I think many photographers, we stay away from it because it feels overwhelming and really complicated. So can maybe you share your method of making it user friendly and easy for photographers like me to understand? 

[00:04:18] Melissa Arlena Yes. So have you ever heard the saying, How do you eat an elephant? And the answer is one bite at a time. Now, I don’t know where that saying came from, but that’s exactly how I approach SEO. I can firehose people with information and they just come away with a deer in the headlights look. So I have learned that you can’t fire hose people. You have to feed it to them one bit at a time. And so that’s basically what we do is I slowly teach them one stage at a time, starting with something very easy and kind of it’s like building blocks. So we start with the first building blocks, we get that in place and then we work on to the next building blocks. And I always tell people, it’s like when you picked up your camera for the first time, it could do all these things and you could push the button that was about all you knew how to do. So we start off with, okay, you can push the button now. You know, we’re going to take you to that next step. What can you do there? And then just keeping it slow and steady and learning one thing at a time. No, it’s definitely more of the tortoise and the hare. It’s the tortoise, not the hare. But that’s what’s going to get you results. And so that’s how for photographers, I can make it easy because I just break it down and I feed it to you bit by bit. 

[00:05:17] Lisa DiGeso I think a lot of the times we even don’t even know where to start. Like you start hearing things like, Oh, you should be adding keywords and then just kind of like you just don’t even know what is like step one. So where for someone who’s never done anything with SEO, where would they want to begin? 

[00:05:33] Melissa Arlena So it’s funny because it is keywords. Yeah, keywords is exactly it. I tell everyone that is the very basic building block is figuring out what keywords your clients are searching for. Because if you don’t have the right keywords and I see this with people all the time where they’re like, Well, I have keywords on my website. And then when you go and look at it and you’re like, Yeah, but nobody’s searching that keyword. And so you have to figure out what keywords your clients are actually searching. So it starts with that keyword research. Figuring out what locations are they searching for? What words are they using? And then some words, you know, you could find too that the different clients you get. Some words kind of have different connotations. So somebody might say photos or somebody else might say portraits. And they’re looking for different things. Typically, when they’re just searching photos, they might just be searching for photos of something or they’re kind of more on the cheaper end versus when somebody’s searching portraits, they’re thinking of something much more elegant, upscale. So if you cater to that elegant, upscale crowd, I don’t want you using the word photos on your website because it’s not going to bring in your ideal client. So it really starts with knowing who your ideal client is, what they’re searching for, and then finding the keywords that actually have traffic and putting those on your website. 

[00:06:42] Lisa DiGeso Now, back in the day, I remember it was really important to when you rename your images to make sure that they’re keyworded too. Is that still something that is relevant? 

[00:06:52] Melissa Arlena Yes, because when you use those keywords, they’ll actually come up in Google Image search results. And I used to do this all the time for weddings, so I would put the venue name because that was kind of my keyword for the post into the file name. And then I would go check Google search images area, type in a search, and then you click on images and I would see my photos popping up in there and they would be different photos for a venue, that kind of thing. So I do the same thing now with locations that I’m at. So where I’m at currently, by the time this airs, I will not be here anymore. But if you were to search like Miami newborn photographer, you would see images of mine in there and it’s from keywording. I mean, that’s how Google knows what to show in those results is by the keyword. 

[00:07:30] Lisa DiGeso Interesting. Now, when it comes to like, there’s so many different things, you can use it, different platforms, you can build a WordPress website, you can use, Show It, or Squarespace or Wix or all these different things. Is there one that is more search engine optimized or a better system than others, or are they all about the same? 

[00:07:49] Melissa Arlena So WordPress still reigns supreme. The WordPress is from the get go. It’s, you know, even 20 years later, practically, it’s still the number one thing. Stuff like Show It actually can be built on a WordPress backend, so you can have that WordPress behind it versus things like Squarespace is kind of built on its own. Wix is built on its own, Pixieset is built on its own. So really when people are like, I want to work on my SEO, I usually tell them you want to have some kind of WordPress backend. Squarespace isn’t bad, but if they’re on Wix or Pixieset, if you’re going to invest in SEO, you want to have it’s kind of like I always tell people, it’s like you’re going to run a race or a NASCAR race. Like you don’t want to walk out there with, my husband would laugh, a Ford Pinto, that’s what he used to race and he was a kid versus a current NASCAR car like. So you want to have that high speed car. So WordPress is really where it’s at to start with that. But like I said, Show It, Pro Photo, I believe Flothemes. I can’t remember for sure, but they’re built on WordPress and so you can still get that juice of WordPress as long as you set it up properly. 

[00:08:50] Lisa DiGeso Interesting. I know because I went through and had a website redo and we rebuilt head on show it. But would I have noticed while I’m also I don’t even know how to use it, number one, I got to figure that out. But then it built for me. But I like, I don’t know anything about SEO really when it comes to because I’ve never really worked on that. It’s always like I’ve always had like a referral based business and I’m kind of on a sabbatical from photography right now. But going back, I’m just like, Well, I’m not ranking. I used to rank number one, and I’m like, I’m not there anymore. Okay, well, I’m a competitive gal now and it really it’s with myself. But this like, you know. 

[00:09:28] Melissa Arlena Right. Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And that’s a lot of times people will switch a website over and then they’re like, I lost all my rankings and it’s. 

[00:09:34] Lisa DiGeso Like, Yeah. 

[00:09:35] Melissa Arlena Well, did you put your keywords back in? Did you update your SEO settings? Because your backlinks will stay the same and your citations will stay the same. But if, if your page title is now your name photography and not your genre or city or location or whatever, Google’s like, Well, this page is about blah blah blah photography. It’s not about Miami newborn photographer or something like that. So it can be overlooking those little things. And web designers, they’re good at designing a website and a lot of my clients hire me after they’ve worked with the web designer to come in and then SEO-ify the site for them. 

[00:10:09] Lisa DiGeso It you’re like the SEO cleaner. Yeah. 

[00:10:11] Melissa Arlena Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Especially I love Show It and I love Show It designers, but they constantly are making everything a header. And so I’ll go in and I’ll have to clean up like 50 header tags. And I’m like, Oh my gosh, I know it’s that font, but please stop. Please stop using it that way. I love it. I love it. 

[00:10:29] Lisa DiGeso So what would you say are the biggest mistakes that you see when it comes to photographers and their SEO? I mean the are not using it like. 

[00:10:38] Melissa Arlena Yeah, so one of the big ones I see is targeting a keyword that doesn’t get any traffic, targeting multiple keywords. So suddenly it’s Boston family, newborn, maternity, senior and wedding photographer all on your homepage. And no one’s looking for that string all at once. I mean, I joke around, somebody might be looking for a maternity wedding photographer, but that’s probably not the type of wedding you want to shoot. So. So you really want to be specific in picking one keyword per page. And I like to call it where a military family. So I refer to them as my little soldiers. And so I assign one keyword per soldier and one soldier per page, because if I give him too many keywords like maternity and newborn and family, he just runs around in circles and he doesn’t know what to do. So instead, I want him to have two buddies and then he and each of his buddies, they go out and they find traffic for that keyword and they bring it back to their own page. So he gets one job. And I will say that that analogy has had to change a little bit over the last like six months. I’ve noticed that Google is treating things like photographer and photography the same. So it used to be those were two different keywords. But now if you do a search for like Miami newborn photographer versus Miami newborn photography, those top five listings pretty much are identical. 

[00:11:50] Lisa DiGeso Oh, interesting. 

[00:11:51] Melissa Arlena So now we’re having to do more of like, okay, that soldier’s getting a second keyword, but only because Google now believes that those are the same. So I’m having to adjust my analogy a little bit. But you still want to. Google is not going to show the same results for maternity and for newborn unless somebody’s trying to really optimize for both of those. And it’s better to have if somebody is looking for a maternity photographer, you want them to land on a page of your website that’s all about maternity. Maybe it mentions some things about newborn, maybe it mentions some things about family, but you don’t want them to land on a page where you’re like, I do everything. Which one do you want? 

[00:12:22] Lisa DiGeso Yeah. So now blogging is is it still relevant? 

[00:12:26] Melissa Arlena Yes, But blogging has definitely changed. 

[00:12:28] Lisa DiGeso Right. 

[00:12:29] Melissa Arlena I always joke around. I’m like, Nobody cares about the Jones family, except I have one client or a friend of mine. She’s in a small town and she’s like, No, but seriously, people care about the Jones family in small towns. And I’m like, You’re right, small towns are a little bit different. I said, But in most cases, people don’t necessarily care about that particular family. But what they do care about is Mom’s got an awesome dress. Where does she find that for that session or that family is so coordinated? You know, how did they plan out what to wear? For me, I always do in home life style newborns. So I focus a lot on the nursery. I love interior design, so I go hog wild. I tell them I’m like, Look, I don’t care if you don’t want pictures of your nursery, I’ll take pictures of the nursery because it’s so pretty kind of thing. 

[00:13:09] Lisa DiGeso I love it. 

[00:13:10] Melissa Arlena And then I’ll do a nursery feature. I have one like it’s I knew as soon as I walked in, I was like, Oh, this is going to go wild on Pinterest. It was Star Wars themed. I did a post like Star Wars themed nursery and showed off pictures of the nursery and then a couple of pictures from the session kind of thing. But more people were interested in her decor. I got like 12 messages about what paint color is that. 

[00:13:29] Lisa DiGeso Shut the front door. 

[00:13:30] Melissa Arlena And I had to reach out to her, I was like, What’s the paint color? Like, I know this was three years ago, but do you remember it? 

[00:13:37] Lisa DiGeso I love that because, like, because you always think, like, with photography, blogging, it’s like you have to sort of reimagine what it is. Yes. Like how it used to be. It’s like when you go like, I love to cook, but I hate recipe blogs so much. I was just like, Please, just give me the recipe. That is it. I don’t even any pictures. I just want to know the recipes. 

[00:13:57] Melissa Arlena My husband’s like, I don’t want to read about your great grandmother and how she brought this over from England back in the pilgrimage days. Like, no. 

[00:14:05] Lisa DiGeso And I’m like, if we reimagined photography blogs sort of in that way on the things that the client actually is interested instead of the fluff that we kind of have been taught to put up over the years. I think it makes blogging sound more fun.  

[00:14:21] Melissa Arlena Yeah. And yes, no. And I totally when I talk to people, you know, they’re like, well, when I have to write about the Jones family, it’s just blinking cursor syndrome. Like, I don’t know what to say. 

[00:14:30] Lisa DiGeso Yeah. Womp, womp, womp.  

[00:14:31] Melissa Arlena Like, yeah. But when they sit down and they think, okay, how do I make this a resource for someone else? Like, how did this client prepared so well for the session? What are three ways to prepare for your newborn session? And then like, then they’re like, Oh, okay, now the juices are flowing. Now I can figure this out. So photographers want to start thinking about their blogs, less about client features, and more about how do I make this a resource for future client. 

[00:14:52] Lisa DiGeso Interesting. 

[00:14:53] Melissa Arlena While still showing off the past clients photos. 

[00:14:55] Lisa DiGeso Kind of thing. So what happened to me, I got hacked. I guess it was two years, two years ago now. And so I lost my original website that I had first constructed on WordPress like in 2010. And then, haven’t updated it since 2015. I was very, very good with that. 

[00:15:10] Melissa Arlena Yeah. 

[00:15:11] Lisa DiGeso So then I had it redone with the Show It site and I currently don’t have a blog. So what advice would you have for like if I wanted to start blogging? How do I even, like, just do I just start and where do I start? 

[00:15:24] Melissa Arlena Yeah, just start. And I tell people, map out 12 post topics. Just map that out to start with and aim for one a month at a minimum. Like if you absolutely hate blogging, one a month will get you going. I would rather you’re doing it than dreading it kind of thing. So you map out 12 topics, you write 12 posts. I don’t care if you write 12 posts in one week or if it takes you 12 months to write them, but schedule them out for one a month. And if you if you get into a rhythm and you’re like, Oh, this isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. And you feel like you can do more than get six months posts, six months worth of post built up and then come back and now start doing one every two weeks and just kind of keep it. That you constantly have six months worth of posts scheduled to go out there. And for people who really want to skyrocket their ratings or their rankings and stuff, posting multiple times a week kind of thing, like to really dig in. When we moved down here to Miami, I pretty quickly hit page two just by updating my main keywords and stuff. And then I got to the bottom of page one because, I mean, there’s a lot of time that you can set things up, but it’s going to take time. And so then I hit a point where I was like, All right, I’ve kind of been at the bottom of page one for a couple of months. It’s not really budging. So I started blogging three times a week for like four months, and I burned myself out. Totally. 

[00:16:35] Lisa DiGeso Yeah. 

[00:16:36] Melissa Arlena But I ended up, like, started climbing up the rankings. And by that fall, I hit number one for, like, Miami family photographer. And my phone was blowing up for fall family sessions and stuff. 

[00:16:46] Lisa DiGeso Wow. That’s awesome. 

[00:16:48] Melissa Arlena So it paid off, like, sit down, do the work, and then get things scheduled out kind of thing. Google prefers consistency over anything else. So writing all those blog posts, then I slowed things down because I was like, I can’t do this. I can’t keep this pace up. But just kind of at that point, being consistent going forward. 

[00:17:04] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, that makes so much sense. And especially like long gaming it like because we are so many times like we just throw something, operating something once and we don’t get the results that we want. And so we’re like, Oh, that doesn’t work right? Where it’s like, with Google, it sounds like there’s a longer like strategy. So what is the time frame to actually have that data that things are starting to work? 

[00:17:25] Melissa Arlena I usually find for clients, so I’ve had some clients that we work together in January and they’ve been now we’re like four months later and they’re on page one in like the 5 to 10 spot for their different pages and stuff. So I would say, and I’d have to look, I’m not sure how much blogging she has done kind of thing with that. But, you know, you can see kind of starting to rank for more keywords fairly quickly because if you’re not ranking for any keywords and suddenly throw them up there, Google is going to be like, Oh, hey, welcome to the crowd, man. Like, nice to see you kind of thing. And you’ll start noticing that trying to climb up onto that first page. That’s the one that takes time. So like I said before, it took me took me probably about 18 months total from when we knew we were going to move here. And I got started right away before we’d even left to 18 months later, like I was in the number one spot and my phone was ringing off the hook. And I have a friend who’s a military wife. She moves every three years and she said, It’s been consistently 18 months. She hits the stride, everything’s going, and then she gets about a year of good stuff and then six months to go. They’re going to the next duty station. She’s got to start the clock all over again kind of thing. 

[00:18:30] Lisa DiGeso I love that. I’m just have I know so many military photographers. Yeah. It’s such a brilliant strategy, though, because out of necessity. Really. Right. Like, you’re like, yes, I was going to do this. I love it. 

[00:18:43] Melissa Arlena Right? Yeah. And once you get up there, then it’s just a matter of thinking, sustaining, getting featured, putting your blog posts out there and stuff. It takes less work to stay where you’re at than it does to get there. So it’s like, once I got to that top spot, then it was no big deal. Now we’re moving back to Virginia. So I started in March switching everything over and I think when I checked today, I’m like, spot number four. 

[00:19:08] Lisa DiGeso Nice. 

[00:19:08] Melissa Arlena Most of my keywords, But I’m also moving to a much smaller area. So I’m a bigger fish in a smaller pond versus when I was down here. 

[00:19:14] Lisa DiGeso Interesting. 

[00:19:15] Melissa Arlena But before that I was in the D.C. area and I was page one two. So like.

[00:19:19] Lisa DiGeso Wow. Good for you. I love that. Yeah, I love that. 

[00:19:21] Melissa Arlena So if you’re in a smaller area, you may find your rankings. You can climb up fairly quickly versus if you’re targeting a bigger city, there’s a lot more people right there with you. 

[00:19:29] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, I love that because I think a lot of the times when you hear of photographers having to move and restart their business, there’s like such a feeling of like sadness and and like devastation for what they’ve built. And I love that you look at it as this opportunity to like reset, redo and hit number one again. I love that. 

[00:19:48] Melissa Arlena Yeah. I mean and especially with a move you can fresh start your pricing fresh start your policies like down here I did more weekend sessions because our boat was back up in Virginia but I already know landing in Virginia, weekends are off the books again, not doing it. We’re going to be on our boat. And I want to I want to spend a weekend. 

[00:20:05] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, I love that. I love that. So what would you say would be the first step to making your website SEO friendly? I know we talked a little bit about keywords and doing it like each page, so how do you know it’s actually showing up in Google. 

[00:20:20] Melissa Arlena So you can check just search results on your own. You know, you can log into an incognito window, do a search for your keyword. What I always tell everyone the first thing you want to do, like like listen to this podcast and then go get on your computer and set up Google search console. It’s free and it gives so much information. So if you set up Google Search console, it now will start tracking your website and it will tell you it used to be. So you might remember this way back in the day, Google Analytics. You could go into Google Analytics and you could figure out what keywords people were using to search your website. And then they took it out. And I was so mad when they got rid of it, but then they came out with Google Search console. So that’s exactly what it does. So you can log in there and you can see exactly what keywords people are typing in to find you. And it’s always a good idea to check that, because sometimes you might have misspelled something and now you’re getting down for something you don’t want to get found for. And I have a few clients who will listen to this and be like, Oh, she’s talking about me. And so you want to be careful on those kind of things. So make sure that everything’s you know, if you’ve got a crazy keyword that you’re like, why am I ranking for that? It may be just that you’ve got something that’s misspelled somewhere on your website. Yeah. So set up Google search console in there. You can see what keywords you’re getting found for, how many times your website is showing up when someone searches for different keywords and stuff, and then how many clicks you’re getting off of that. And I like to tell my clients especially, I mean, honestly, I love it when I start with someone who has no keywords because it’s a real easy win and who doesn’t love an easy win. You know, they’re not getting found for anything. They’ve got like 30 clicks over the last six months and you’re like, okay, we can do this. This is going to be fun. And then you set their website up and then you look at it six months later, and now, you know, their traffic volume has quadrupled. Or I had one client, I think her her traffic volume went up like 300% because she wasn’t getting found for anything. Now she’s getting found for stuff. And so you can I like to tell people you want to see that little the little curve going up, especially if you’re brand new, starting out. And then once you’ve been established for a while, you may find that it’s not going to go up as dramatically, but it’s still going to be you still want it to stay up there. You don’t want to see crazy drops or anything like that. And they also will send you a report at the I think it’s the beginning of the month for like last month. And they’ll tell you, hey, these were the top keywords you were getting found for, or these are your top most popular pages. 

[00:22:32] Lisa DiGeso Interesting. And I’m like, I don’t even know how I would find out how many clicks my website’s getting. I have no idea. 

[00:22:39] Melissa Arlena Like, yes, yeah. I mean, and now Google search console will only show you things from Google searches. So if you’re looking at like how many hits are coming from Pinterest or coming from direct links and stuff like that, you need to go back out to Google Analytics for that. 

[00:22:52] Lisa DiGeso Right. Okay. Now, you mentioned previously about getting featured, so I want to talk a little bit about that and how do you how do you start working on getting featured? 

[00:23:01] Melissa Arlena So one of the big things with getting featured is if you’re a wedding photographer, like everything’s great, there’s all kinds of wedding blogs and stuff like that. Portrait wise, there is not as much. So I like to kind of do more of the old school route of reaching out to other small businesses, things like that. So like, let’s say maybe there’s a doula near you that you guys share a similar target audience. You ask her, Can I write a post on your website about how to choose when to book a maternity session? So it doesn’t even have to like pitch you hardcore on that. But you say, Hey, when should I be booking a maternity session? You write it yourself, you fill it with your photos, and then of course, you pitch yourself at the end of like, Hey, if you’re looking for a maternity photographer, check me out. So now you’re getting a natural backlink from their site because you guest posted There are a lot of times that Google I think Google does not like. They say they don’t like guest posting, but they mean it in the sense of you’re paying to post on someone’s website kind of thing. So there’s a lot of stuff that Google doesn’t like that we all freak out about, but it’s not what we’re doing. It’s what the spammy scammers are doing. so the spammy scammers are like, Oh, I’m going to guest post on 300 sites with this one post to get all these links. And Google’s like, No, no, no, no, no. If you were posting on another local businesses website and sharing information and it’s a valuable post, that’s not what Google means about don’t guest post. 

[00:24:17] Lisa DiGeso Interesting, because I mean, we get emails about that all the time with Milky Way about people like them, and they’re just like, oh, no spammy spammers, No. Right. No, thank you. Right. 

[00:24:27] Melissa Arlena Oh, yeah. I get them all the time too. I get them all the time too, because it’s where people don’t need a place to link on your website to their website because especially if you’ve got a valuable domain ranking. Yeah, they know it and they want, they want to post from it. Even going out to websites to like to get backlinks of like commenting, you know, reading an article and leaving a thoughtful comment. Oh, if that website allows or gives back links, I’ve gotten back linked from places just because I read an article and I left a comment and I left my website on there. 

[00:24:54] Lisa DiGeso Interesting. Oh, it’s putting these strategies. 

[00:24:56] Melissa Arlena There’s a lot of different ways. 

[00:24:57] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, absolutely interesting. 

[00:24:59] Melissa Arlena And then there are places that do feature portrait photographers. I think the Motherhood anthology, Kindred Path and a couple others that still do portrait features. 

[00:25:10] Lisa DiGeso Hmm. Interesting. So AI generated content is becoming a huge thing in the photography industry. So does AI content affect SEO? 

[00:25:19] Melissa Arlena Yeah. So Google has already said that it will penalize sites using AI, but before everybody freaks out, that means don’t ask ChatGPT to write your blog post for you and then just copy and paste. 

[00:25:29] Lisa DiGeso Yes. 

[00:25:30] Melissa Arlena And you can totally do that. Like you can ask it to write it and you’re like, Wow, But it’s not going to sound like you. And it may not necessarily answer the questions the way you answer the question. So what I like to think of is use it like a virtual assistant. You can ask like what questions might someone have about booking a newborn photographer? And then it’ll pop out questions and it’ll pop out answers. I just say ignore the answers portion of it, but look at the question and then answer the question how it pertains to your business. So maybe it says, What do I wear for that session? And you have a client closet. And you say you don’t have to worry about what to wear because I’ve got this closet you can pick from versus someone else may be like, Oh, I’m going to give you a guide on how to shop your closet, or you can work with this person that helps plan outfits for you, that kind of stuff. So keep it, keep it like that. To ask it about a topic it to help you figure out an outline for your post. I think I had asked it What do I need to plan for? Like how do I prepare for a newborn session or something like that? And it gave me like some different topics for a client that might come up for a client. Obviously what to wear time of day. Who should be there? What do I do for the baby? And so then you just basically answer those questions. So think about it like that. Use it for brainstorming, but not to do your work for you. 

[00:26:41] Lisa DiGeso I love that it’s so true, because, well, my son especially, he’s 13. He’s grade eight, and we’re hearing a lot more about it with like like, don’t use ChatGPT, kids. Like you’re going to get busted. Right. 

[00:26:53] Melissa Arlena Yeah. But even for him, I would be like, okay, well, if you’re writing a research paper, have it help you figure out an outline because it’s going to come up with ideas and then you may spin off ideas from that. 

[00:27:03] Lisa DiGeso Yes. And I think that’s what I love the most about it, because I’ve used it for a number of things, and I think it gets my creative juices flowing. Yes. Versus like just relying on it to like just be the write the answer. Yeah. We need to outsource our thinking. 

[00:27:16] Melissa Arlena Yes, exactly. 

[00:27:17] Lisa DiGeso Yeah. So what metrics should creatives and photographers track to measure the success and effectiveness of their SEO efforts and how often should they be doing that? 

[00:27:28] Melissa Arlena So like I said, Google Search console is going to have all kinds of information for you. And I like the once a month type thing of looking at it once a month. In my Facebook group, I had someone the other day, they were like, Oh, my site took a dive, a nosedive like 30 or 40 spots, you know, And then it was back up the next day and I was like, You have to think of SEO like a diet. And that if you are checking your rankings every day, that’s like getting on a scale every day. Any time you go up or down, you’re going to have some kind of huge emotional reaction versus if you just wait until the end of the week and see what the average ranking was, You won’t stress out over the ups or ups and downs because I don’t know why Google will drop us like 40 spots and then the next day put it right back up there. But it does it and there’s no one to yell at about that. So like I said, I like to look at overall impressions. I just want to make sure I look at like the last three months compared to the previous three months, which you can do that all in Google Search console. And as long as I can see traffic’s increasing and click through rate is increasing, then I know I’m good. If I see traffic’s decreasing, then I’m trying to figure out, okay, why is it decreasing? Did I lose ranking on a keyword? Are the overall searches just down because it’s January and people aren’t looking for a family photographer versus in October? It’s going to be off the charts because everyone’s looking. 

[00:28:38] Lisa DiGeso Now, if you and someone else are like they have all the same keywords, how can you get ahead and how can you put yours to number one? 

[00:28:46] Melissa Arlena So that’s where backlinks, citations, some of it is longevity of your website. So if you are brand spanking new and you’re competing with someone who’s been around for 15 years, it’s kind of like a credit score. The longer your website has been around, it’s very much like you have a better credit score than someone whose website is brand new, ironically. So like I have Melissa Arlena Photography for my photography website, but then I just started a website for Melissa Arlena for the SEO stuff. And so my domain ranking for my photography site is fantastic. It’s like 25 or 26, which is great for a small business. And my new sites like .02 or something like that, like, yeah, it has nothing on it. And so right now I’m like, All right, well, it’s just that’s kind of how it is. It’s just going to take time. But making sure you’ve got your business name out there on places like Yelp, Facebook, all the social media channels, getting those citations, which is name, address and phone number. I tell people citations are kind of like everyone in town knowing your name. So they don’t necessarily say, Oh, I refer this person, but when someone’s like, Oh, hey, have you heard about Melissa Arlena photography? Oh, yeah, I know that name. That’s what a citation does because everyone knows it. Now, a backlink would be that same person being like, Oh yeah, you should go check out her website. Here’s the link kind of thing. 

[00:30:00] Lisa DiGeso Right? Okay. 

[00:30:01] Melissa Arlena So both of them are important. It’s important for people to have brand awareness, which is what citations give you. And it’s important to have referrals basically, which is what backlinks give you. And all of that helps create juices for Google. Plus any time you are writing blog posts and stuff, even if it’s not necessarily straight up photography related, but it’s related to your clients and your small town and it gets a lot of traffic. It builds authority with Google that Google’s like. So like for family photographers, I tell them, write a blog post on the top five ice cream joints in your area. Take your kids to the five. They’ll love that assignment. Take pictures of your kids at the different joints, take a picture of the outside, and then write a blog post about the top five places. I have a friend. She’s in Virginia Beach, and she did this top five Places for Ice Cream in Virginia Beach. So anyone who’s traveling there wants to check that out. Like I would do that with my kids. And then she gets a lot of traffic from that. And Google’s like, Oh, well, this site’s getting a lot of traffic. People are hanging out on it. It’s giving her more authority because Google’s like, Oh, people trust this, then I’m going to trust this and it’s trusting it for her local area. So those are the types of things that even if you can’t fix the fact that your domain is only two years old, you can start getting traffic to it and showing Google that it’s trustworthy. 

[00:31:12] Lisa DiGeso I love it. We do things that other people aren’t doing. 

[00:31:14] Melissa Arlena Yes. 

[00:31:14] Lisa DiGeso That smart. All right. You ready for our lightning round? 

[00:31:18] Melissa Arlena Sure. 

[00:31:19] Lisa DiGeso Okay. Coffee or tea? 

[00:31:21] Melissa Arlena Can I say neither? And go with Coke?

[00:31:22] Lisa DiGeso Yeah. 

[00:31:23] Melissa Arlena Okay. 

[00:31:24] Lisa DiGeso Ooh. Like real Coke or like..? 

[00:31:27] Melissa Arlena Yeah, like Coca-Cola. Yeah. Coca-Cola. I am not a I don’t. I don’t drink coffee. I’m so weird. I know. 

[00:31:34] Lisa DiGeso I love it. I love Coke Zero. I love Coke Zero so much. 

[00:31:39] Melissa Arlena I’m currently trying to break up with Coca-Cola for a little while or, you know, reduce my intake.

[00:31:46] Lisa DiGeso I know. Most luxurious vacation you’ve ever been on? 

[00:31:48] Melissa Arlena Oh, we just came back from a one week cruise on Norwegian, and my husband managed to score us like a VIP like section of it. So we had a butler and a concierge and the kids had M&Ms and gummy bear bowls filled up every day, so. 

[00:32:03] Lisa DiGeso No way. 

[00:32:04] Melissa Arlena Yeah. And I would say I didn’t have to cook or clean. So that’s what made it luxurious for me. 

[00:32:10] Lisa DiGeso Totally. I love that. Favorite TV show as a kid? 

[00:32:12] Melissa Arlena Golden Girls.  

[00:32:14] Lisa DiGeso That was good. Which is crazy because I’m 45 and I was like, I think Blanche was like 55 and I was like, This is terrifying. Yeah. 

[00:32:20] Melissa Arlena No, they. You know, they were. Yeah. Yes. And what they got away with on that show is amazing. 

[00:32:27] Lisa DiGeso Good gravy. Yes. 

[00:32:28] Melissa Arlena Especially when you think like this was out in the 90s. Holy cow.  

[00:32:33] Lisa DiGeso I know. So true. What did you want to be when you were a kid? 

[00:32:35] Melissa Arlena I wanted to work with animals, so it was like a veterinarian or later, I wanted to be like an animal rescue and rehabilitationist. 

[00:32:41] Lisa DiGeso What’s your favorite comfort food? 

[00:32:43] Melissa Arlena Mm. I would say probably like tomato soup and grilled cheese. 

[00:32:49] Lisa DiGeso Nice. That’s a good one. Like real grilled cheese with, like, real cheese or like the processed cheese? 

[00:32:55] Melissa Arlena No, like sourdough bread with, like, I actually just got an every plate recipe recently. It was like fig jam with sour dough bread and, like, cheddar cheese. And now I can’t have a girl cheese sandwich without fig jam.  

[00:33:10] Lisa DiGeso Yum. I’m going to try that. What three things do you want to be remembered for? 

[00:33:12] Melissa Arlena Of course, the first answer is like, Oh, I want to be. I want my kids to be like, Oh, she was a good mom. But no, I just got my mother’s Day cards for my kids and they were like, My mom’s good at work. And I was like, Oh, all right. It did change my life a little. 

[00:33:25] Lisa DiGeso Well, you know, you got a card. That’s more than I got.  

[00:33:27] Melissa Arlena Well, they have to make them in school. Like mine are still little things. Yeah. I mean, I would like to be remembered as, like, having a successful business, being a good friend, and, you know, and obviously being a good wife and mom kind of thing. But it’s hard to balance all of those. I feel like. 

[00:33:45] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, there’s no such thing as balance. Like, whatever. Like just some things get more attention at times. It just is what it is. 

[00:33:50] Melissa Arlena Yeah. 

[00:33:52] Lisa DiGeso What’s your go to karaoke jam? 

[00:33:54] Melissa Arlena Oh, this is funny. I am not like a music person. Like, my daughter thinks that the radio in our truck doesn’t work because I only listen to podcasts. 

[00:34:02] Lisa DiGeso Oh, I love that. 

[00:34:03] Melissa Arlena She’s four and she’s like, Oh, in my friend’s car, her mom has music and Daddy’s car has music. And I’m like, Oh my God, she thinks the radio doesn’t work. I don’t really have a karaoke jam. I’m more of a podcast person. 

[00:34:18] Lisa DiGeso I love it. What kind of podcast? 

[00:34:19] Melissa Arlena Oh, everything. Like a lot of true crime and then photography business stuff and then some very, very dry SEO marketing stuff that I tell people I sacrifice and listen to it so you don’t have to because, Oh my God. it can be boring but interesting too.  

[00:34:36] Lisa DiGeso You’re right. I love it. What’s been the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? 

[00:34:40] Melissa Arlena Read Profit First.

[00:34:41] Lisa DiGeso A good one. 

[00:34:42] Melissa Arlena Yes. So if your listeners don’t know, it’s a book about setting up your finances and accounting in your business. And I’ve been on other podcasts where I’ve talked about my story, where I literally, like, ran my business into the ground with debt and then brought it back out and started implementing Profit First. And now, like I don’t stress about when tax bills are due, I don’t stress about operating expenses or paying myself. So I tell people I’m like, it doesn’t matter if you don’t make any money right now, just go ahead and get in your head that first check you get. These are the places that it’s going to go. And then that way, you know, you’re set up for success. 

[00:35:15] Lisa DiGeso I love that. That’s great advice. It’s a good book. I need to go back and read it. 

[00:35:20] Melissa Arlena It’s a short one. Luckily so. Yep. Yeah. So they can check out my SEO site is I also have a Facebook group called Raise Your Ranking. And then my photography site is 

[00:35:37] Lisa DiGeso Well, I love to end my interviews just with this last question. And it is what are you currently curious about or artistically curious about? 

[00:35:45] Melissa Arlena I really think we are in the heyday of AI right now. Like Photoshop just released their beta this past week. 

[00:35:52] Lisa DiGeso It’s so cool. 

[00:35:53] Melissa Arlena I’m like, and I’m seeing it pop up in photography groups of like what people are doing with it. And I have this one photo of this beautiful couple with the a lighthouse on the beach, but the beach is covered in seaweed because we had a big, huge storm that had, I think a hurricane had come by our tropical storm, and it dumped all this seaweed. And the mom and I both were like, no, when we got there. And so now I want to see if I can get it to clean up the beach for me. So I don’t know, because there really wasn’t enough for me to, like, clone it out. It was so covered. But I’m like, All right, People are like turning people into mermaids. 

[00:36:25] Lisa DiGeso Like, seriously. 

[00:36:26] Melissa Arlena I just want you to clean up the seaweed. So checking that out. And then I would say AI also for, like, figuring out how to make things in my life easier. So like not sitting down and coming up with ten questions people want to ask their photographer, I’ll just type that in activity and let it start get that ball rolling kind of thing. 

[00:36:42] Lisa DiGeso Yeah, I love it. I’m exactly the same. I took I took a picture because I just download it last week and I’ve been playing it like I’m nuts over it. And I had forgotten to take change this little boy shoes. And he was like, in this vintage outfit was super cute, but his shoes do not match. I lassoed it and told generative AI to put like an old fashioned pair of boots on. So it’s perfect. 

[00:37:03] Melissa Arlena Wow. 

[00:37:03] Lisa DiGeso It’s perfect. Like my mind is blown. 

[00:37:06] Melissa Arlena Yeah. So we were showing like a wedding image where they were sitting in like a stadium and there was a plastic bench, but then they were like old wooden stadium seats and they just said replace like at stadium seats. And they were like it matched the stadium seats in the photo. They said, I thought it would just add like red ones or something, but it matched the photo. I was like, Holy cow. So it’s going to be interesting.

[00:37:26] Lisa DiGeso It’s pretty remarkable. It’s remarkable. Yeah, Pretty cool. Well, Melissa, thank you so much for chatting with me today. 

[00:37:31] Melissa Arlena Yeah, this has been so much fun. Thanks for having me. 

[00:37:34] Lisa DiGeso Oh, my beautiful friends, I hope you have enjoyed this conversation just as much as I have. I’m sending you so much of my light and my love today and every single day. We will see you next time. Thank you so much for listening to the Art and Soul show. If you’re the kind of person that likes helping others, please share this podcast with your photographer friends. Sharing is caring, and it’s our mission to help as many photographers create a business and life they are truly passionate about. I’m here to support you on your journey, and if you have any questions, topics, or guests we would love to hear from, please shoot me a note at, and we may even feature your question in an upcoming episode. 

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