Tips for SEO and Taking Great Photos from Shop Marketing Pros

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As a result of the economic issues related to COVID-19, many shops are experiencing reduced volume. Industry experts recommend shops take advantage of the downtime by working ON their business, instead of IN their business.

Shop Marketing Pros released two videos to provide tips for Search Engine Optimized (SEO) writing and taking great photos.

Sharing a template he uses when writing SEO content for clients’ blog posts, Brian Walker, who co-owns Shop Marketing Pros with his wife, Kim, said he’s a “big proponent of teaching the how.”

“This is something you can learn to do, instead of having someone else do it for you,” Walker said. “This template is a starting point for on-page SEO to help people who want to know how they should use a keyword or phrase, where to use it and how often to use it.”

The title at the top of the blog post should use an H1 heading and begin with the keyword.

Next, an H2 subheading should begin with a modifier that describes the keyword, followed by the keyword. An example of a modifier would be “best,” turning a keyword of “collision shop” into “best collision shop.”

From there, sections of content should be broken up by H3 headings, some of which should include the keyword.

In the post’s content, the keyword should be included in the first sentence and repeated in the second paragraph, along with an internal link.

“Don’t always link to your homepage because that becomes redundant,” Walker warned. “Instead, link to another post talking about a related subject that’s mentioned in this paragraph.”

When it makes sense, Walker recommended including an external link to an authoritative, non-competing website, such as SCRS or Wikipedia.

“It’s not important where an external link is placed within the content, and it’s not absolutely required,” Walker said. “Don’t force external links; just use them where they make sense, placing them here and there throughout the website.”

Bulleted lists should be preceded by H3 or H4 headings when logical, and the keyword should be reiterated in the last sentence.

When optimizing a page, a post of 500 to 750 words is a good place to start, according to Walker, who acknowledged, “A higher word count may be necessary for shops located in highly competitive markets.”

“Again, these rules apply if they make sense. You’re writing for a search engine, but more importantly, you’re writing for the people reading your website,” Walker added. “SEO is a very easy thing to do for yourself, and it will definitely help you impact on how your website ranks.”

Walker’s video and a link to the SEO template are available here.

Shop Marketing Pros’ Vice President J.R. Portman taught the webinar on “Taking Great Photos for Your Shop,” covering the basic principles behind taking a good photo, what types of photos entice people to do business with a shop, and which online platforms will benefit the most from adding photography.

A 22-year veteran of photography, Portman is a professionally trained photographer, as well as a Google Trusted Photographer.

“You need great photos! They’re useful for social channels like Facebook and Instagram, as well as online directories like Google and Yelp,” Portman said. “You can use them for your website, sales collateral, shop software images, magazines, billboards and direct mailings.

“If you don’t have awesome photos, your website looks cookie-cutter, and your local listings look barren because you’re not showcasing the work you perform, your shop’s culture or your customers,” he contnued. “It seems like you don’t understand technology because your social content is lame, and as a result, you may lose business to competitors with better imagery.”

Exploring the equipment needed to take great photos, Portman insisted a smartphone is all that is needed. Optional accessories for those who want even better photographs include a baby tripod, a clip-on zoom/wide angle lens and a gimbal, a tool that helps stabilize the camera when taking video.

“What’s the best camera to take a photograph?” Portman asked. “The one you have with you all the time. Forget all that other stuff—we don’t want any barriers to taking photographs.”

The “five rules for taking photos like a boss,” according to Portman, include taking control, using depth of field, implementing the rule of thirds, keeping lighting easy and changing perspective.

Taking control simply means staging a better photo by moving or cleaning items, changing the lighting as needed and telling people how they should be positioned.

To use the depth of field, the photographer should get closer or use various filtering techniques, such as the portrait mode on an iPhone. The iPhone’s portrait mode also allows users to take pictures with selective focus, meaning the important part of the photograph is a clear image, while the background is less focused.

Portman defined the rule of thirds.

“An image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections,” he said.

Using a photo to demonstrate the tech’s head was placed along these imaginary lines, he clarified, “If you drew a grid over your picture, with two vertical lines and two horizontal lines, the eye goes where those lines meet.”

Portman cautioned against using a phone’s flash feature or overhead lights, recommending “easy” lighting, such as the light through an open shade.

“Never use flash, never ever,” he stressed. “Flash is very hard to control and rarely looks appealing. You can use the glow from another cell phone or a work light, but the very best light is natural, though you should avoid direct sunlight. If you can position your image near an open bay door, your lighting will usually be perfect.”

Changing perspective is a fairly simple concept. Get closer or farther away. Climb on a ladder, or kneel on the floor. Don’t be afraid to crop a photo. Portman also recommended horizontal shots as the photos with the most versatility.

The types of photos most appealing to consumers, Portman said, are interiors, exteriors, portraits, products/services and shop culture photographs.

Interior photos should depict well-cleaned, welcoming areas, including the shop and waiting area. Bathroom photos should be skipped unless the bathroom is special in some way. Portman suggested including interior photos of “anything that separates you from the competition.”

The purpose of exterior photos is to ensure customers are able to identify the shop from the road, and these photos should be as welcoming as possible.

Portraits of employees in action and happy customers are great for social media content.

“Customer photos are akin to asking for a review, and when you post them, tag your customer so they share them too,” Portman advised.

Close-up images of products and tools demonstrate the technicians’ expertise.

“We’re used to what we do, but it’s a mystery to the average customer. Many people don’t even know what a bolt is, let alone how to turn one,” Portman said. “It’s a cool job, a great industry. Customers see shops doing mysterious things to their vehicles, and these types of images allow you to pull back the curtain and reveal the magic of what you do.”

The final type of photo Portman discussed depicts the shop culture.

“These are photos of any sort of action or fun times,” according to Portman. “This shows your shop’s personality and what doing business with you actually feels like.”

These types of images perform well on social media, but they can also be used for other platforms. On any of these platforms, unique photos receive better engagement than stock photos.

In addition to Facebook and Instagram, shops can use photos on their Google My Business page, on their website and in their email newsletter. A course on managing Google My Business is available here.

Portman added a list of bonus tips: Default to horizontal orientation. Avoid using zoom on the phone camera; shoot big because it can be edited down. Candid photos are often better than posed. Shoot in the highest resolution available. Try camera apps. When shooting for a website, plan for text to be visible across the photo.

“If you need inspiration, check other shops’ social media accounts for idea,” he said. “Shoot more! Digital film is cheap, so just shoot. This is not the time to stop posting on social media. Discuss the steps you’re taking to protect customers, or photograph techs with gloves on. Show them what you’re doing instead of telling them.”

The session concluded with questions about the extent of staging shops should engage in when shooting photos.

“Everyone craves authenticity and genuineness, so I think when you post a raw picture of your techs with dirty hands, it reminds people why they’re paying you to work on their car—they don’t want to get down and dirty,” said Shop Marketing Pros co-owner Kim Walker. “These posts can also demonstrate the enormous amount of tools and equipment you have, showcasing an authentic environment.”

“Don’t try to pretend to be something you’re not,” Portman added. “Sure, clean up the area, but you should be proud of your shop, and if you don’t want to show it off how it is, there may be a bigger issue that you need to address. You should be real. Be the shop you want to be.”

A replay of Portman’s presentation is available here.

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