SEO, Canonical links, and sitemap

photoman10photoman10 TennesseRegistered Users Posts: 39 Big grins

I made the leap of faith and moved to SM from another platform which had very bad code and was more client based. I do not do client work as I love scenic, landscape, wildlife photography and SM really looked like a better fit.

As many know, right now google is doing some changes and has flipped back to wanting Alt tags on images and is recommending a comprehensive sitemap so it knows how you want your site indexed. Fact is right now if you see a URL that is not indexed you cannot submit it through the google Search Console as they have that feature turned off.

I had the opportunity to actually speak to an SEO expert working with SM and told him I wanted a comprehensive sitemap as all my links indexed from the previous host are no longer valid and due to the fact i cannot manually submit non indexed URL's until google turns that feature on it is killing me to get re-indexed to SM.

I was more than slightly surprised when he told me that he really does not worry about sitemaps as Google will discover links and to focus on internal links paying attention to Canonical links. I guess my surprise is that in the google documentation they clearly states "highly recommend a comprehensive sitemap. As far as Canonical links, hmmm, if you go to edit the caption text for images there is no way to insert a link with a button so I guess you would have to type in the html code for a link and hope it is compatible? I guess the other way is to start creating individual pages and put links to images within them? As far as the Alt Tags, I was told it is in discussion to add.

I am using the SM style as I like the way it presents the thumbnails on the left and a bigger image on the right but the way that style is setup there is not way to insert a text block anywhere in a manner that looks professional and not a hack thus it is awful hard to add more relative content.

I am really looking for a way to make this move to SM work but all I have successfully done is move to a index on google full of 404 pages, only 12 pages indexed on SM. With virtually the same format and number of images uploaded on my previous host where I showed 223 coverage in google Search console, that has dropped to 63 now on SM and all but 12 of those are 404 pages. Feels like I totally shot myself in the foot and might as well just give up as this is horrific.

Does anyone have a solution as to how to make SM work for me or have I wasted a month plus of time? I'm really having2nd thoughts about my move at this point.

Comments

  • Hikin' MikeHikin' Mike Walkin' like a Penguin! Atwater, CaRegistered Users Posts: 5,318 Major grins
    edited December 16, 2020

    Your "SEO Expert" was correct as far as not worrying about sitemaps. Google is pretty good about finding new content. Sitemaps can help if you have a lot of deep linking pages. Looking at your site, you're only one "level" deep (your Historical galleries). SmugMug does create a Sitemap for you anyway.

    Canonical links refer to pages, not images. Canonical URL refer to duplicate pages and there is no way to add that to a SmugMug site, so don't worry about that either.

    Unfortunately since you've switched platforms, you can't set up a redirect from your old to your new pages because SmugMug doesn't allow us to use an htaccesss file to redirect, so you're just going to wait on Google.

  • photoman10photoman10 TennesseRegistered Users Posts: 39 Big grins

    I agree , google has been good at figuring out things but right now they are doing the re-work and I have been told by others in the industry that discovery is not a high priority at this time, if at all. I totally agree with you you on the Canonical links and was surprised that he kept telling me I had to do this, I try to keep I-2 levels deep at the most to make things easy to follow. Maybe an upgrade that supports that is in the works as well as the blog as well as the alt tags. Sadly I deliberately set up the same basic structure when I switched so I could see how well SM did compared to the my other host and was not aware at the time of the google re-work in progress. In combination of the google re-work and with no htaccess availability it is clear I picked the worst time in history to make a move and killed my website. Heck I even see in my Search console some 301 redirects that are from my home page, when I click on them in the console to see where they go they go to the SM marketing page. That does not help. Guess I'm screwed for lack of better words to say. Thinking I may just have to flip the switch off and give up, no need to waste my time and money for nothing in return as there is no timeline as to when google will kick back in..

  • Hikin' MikeHikin' Mike Walkin' like a Penguin! Atwater, CaRegistered Users Posts: 5,318 Major grins

    SmugMug will most likely NEVER offer a blog. SmugMug does add alt tags. They use either the photo title or the caption.

    It may take some work, but you CAN switch your site to WordPress (the self-hosted version) and then create a sub-domain for your SmugMug galleries. With WP you can then create your blog, tons of free plugins, and you can edit your .htaccess file so you could redirect your old pages to your SM site.

    FWIW, that's what I'm running. My "main" site is WP, and my SM is a sub-domain.

    Food for thought.

  • photoman10photoman10 TennesseRegistered Users Posts: 39 Big grins

    That is food for thought, I know nothing about wp so I expect that would be a steep learning curve, I assume the self-hosted will be more $$ plus the pro subscription I currently have with SM? Do you still have the integrated shopping cart doing things that way? If so what about offering coupons, doing events, etc? I know, questions I should have asked before I totally hosed my website moving to SM, clearly it will most likely take at least minimum of 5-6 months to get back to the level I was at no matter what I do now. When I screw up I do it good, huh?

  • Hikin' MikeHikin' Mike Walkin' like a Penguin! Atwater, CaRegistered Users Posts: 5,318 Major grins
    edited December 17, 2020

    No cost to set up a WordPress site ( https://wordpress.org ). You already own your domain. Your host (NOT SmugMug) most likely has WP pre-installed, all you have to do is enable it. You set up your subdomain using the tools from your host.

    So the integrate part is that both sites are identical-looking because I have some experience with HTML/CSS. My SM site is only the Galleries. Everything else is WP.

    It sounds like me though. When I do something wrong, I go big...lol!

  • photoman10photoman10 TennesseRegistered Users Posts: 39 Big grins

    Yes i own my domain but would have to get me a host that has wp already in it, right now my domain is pointed to SM so that would have to change. I need to investigate cost and try to figure out how to do it. I looked at your site and it is very clean, what SM plan are you on? Do you use SM coupons or events? Do you have a host that you would recommend exploring? I do like the thought of wp as from what I hear you have much more flexibility as well as many more features. I wonder how long my site would be down to build the wp site, add the subdomain etc. Do you have the ability do do your own sitemap with wp as well? Do you know of any training links I can look at for how to do this the right way?

  • Hikin' MikeHikin' Mike Walkin' like a Penguin! Atwater, CaRegistered Users Posts: 5,318 Major grins
    edited December 17, 2020

    I was given a Pro account. I've used coupons in the past, but never events.

    I've been using https://www.icdsoft.com as my host and domain for over 20 years (I have several websites).

    There are plugins that automatically create sitemaps. I don't worry about them.

    You should be up and running in less than 30 minutes, probably more like 5. Once you've got your host situated, you enable WordPress. Depending on your host, you can easily create a subdomain and point that to your SM site and your off and running.

    Don't know of any training links, sorry.

  • photoman10photoman10 TennesseRegistered Users Posts: 39 Big grins

    I will look at icdsoft, I assume I move my domain to them, set up the subdomain then point SM to the subdomain under the custom domain option. Based on what I see here from your post I should keep my pro account. Does icdsoft have a LR plugin like SM? I see some plugins for wp that say they have that feature. I assume I would turn off search engine visibility on SM so all SE traffic is through the new host. Am I getting this right?

  • Hikin' MikeHikin' Mike Walkin' like a Penguin! Atwater, CaRegistered Users Posts: 5,318 Major grins

    @photoman10 said:
    I will look at icdsoft, I assume I move my domain to them, set up the subdomain then point SM to the subdomain under the custom domain option.

    Yes.

    Does icdsoft have a LR plugin like SM? I see some plugins for wp that say they have that feature.

    I don't own LR. There may be plugins on WordPress to do LR, but if you're using it now in SM, you don't need it for WordPress.

    I assume I would turn off search engine visibility on SM so all SE traffic is through the new host. Am I getting this right?

    No. If you turn that off your SM site will now be invisible. You will basically have two "hosts". One for SmugMug and one for your WordPress site.

  • photoman10photoman10 TennesseRegistered Users Posts: 39 Big grins

    "No. If you turn that off your SM site will now be invisible. You will basically have two "hosts". One for SmugMug and one for your WordPress site."

    Well I was doing so good until this comment. As I understand it I would move my domain to the wp hosted site and set up the subdomain on the wp hosted site to point to SM. I see on the host you mentioned the business site has a 150Gb limit so I am assuming the actual images stay on SM in the galleries as i would max the 150gb very fast? It also appears you are using the SM integrated shopping cart? So basically if I understand this flow correctly the wp site is a front end for all the basic pages, all the galleries and the shopping cart, coupons etc are still on SM and accessed by the subdomain meaning the current pages i see on the web on SM would not be visible to the search engines, just the galleries I connect to the wp site?? Hope this makes sense?

  • Hikin' MikeHikin' Mike Walkin' like a Penguin! Atwater, CaRegistered Users Posts: 5,318 Major grins

    @photoman10 said:
    I see on the host you mentioned the business site has a 150Gb limit so I am assuming the actual images stay on SM in the galleries as i would max the 150gb very fast?

    No. Two different things. Like I mentioned earlier you would have two "hosts". All of your pictures will stay within SmugMug and their servers. The 150gb is for anything you create within WordPress.

    @photoman10 said:
    It also appears you are using the SM integrated shopping cart? So basically if I understand this flow correctly the wp site is a front end for all the basic pages, all the galleries and the shopping cart, coupons etc are still on SM and accessed by the subdomain meaning the current pages i see on the web on SM would not be visible to the search engines, just the galleries I connect to the wp site?? Hope this makes sense?

    Correct. I'm using SmugMug ONLY for my "Gallery'. My 'About Me', 'Purchase', 'Blog' and 'Contact Me' is all WordPress. You don't have to don't have to do it like that. You can just use WordPress just for your 'Blog'. In my case I was already using WordPress way before I got a SmugMug account. It made sense for me to just create a subdomain for my SmugMug.

  • photoman10photoman10 TennesseRegistered Users Posts: 39 Big grins

    Well I got feedback from your host, they make it clear I would be on my own. LOL. Here is their response:

    "Hosting the images of a website on an external server is not a recommended practice. We see that you are currently using a specialized service for selling photos online. Unfortunately, we cannot provide advice on integrating SmugMug in WordPress. In any case, you will definitely need to install a third-party WordPress plugin that offers SmugMug functionally. You can search at the official WordPress page at https://wordpress.org/plugins/ for plugins that offer SmugMug integration. Please be aware that not all features may be supported, so you need to check carefully what each plugin offers. As we are not familiar with the SmugMug service, we advise that you contact an experienced WordPress developer that is also familiar with SmugMug and see if it will be possible to both integrate SmugMug in WordPress and still sell the photos. It may not be an easy task, as at first glance these integration plugins offer an option to only embed photos from SmugMug and not sell them."

    Clearly they do not know what you know LOL

  • Hikin' MikeHikin' Mike Walkin' like a Penguin! Atwater, CaRegistered Users Posts: 5,318 Major grins

    You may need to revert back to your non-domain SmugMug site (yourusername.smugmug.com) by removing your custom domain in SM.
    Purchase a host and install/enable WordPress on 'normstokesphotography.com'.
    Create a subdomain, like 'gallery.normstokesphotography.com' and add that to your SM Custom Domain.
    Done.

  • photoman10photoman10 TennesseRegistered Users Posts: 39 Big grins

    That makes sense, once I add the subdomain it should make all traffic to the images only available through the subdomain plus allow me to manage price lists, printing, etc using SM as the back end. This also would leave all my images on SM and allow me to use my LR/SM plugin as I am currently doing to keep my galleries all sync'd. I would then use the wp front end for all other pages allowing me much more flexibility and control. Am I right?

  • jimhjimh MinneapolisRegistered Users Posts: 136 Major grins
    edited December 18, 2020

    photoman10, about a year ago I went through a similar thought process. I ended up doing basically what Hikin' Mike says: point my own domain to a WP blog and create a subdomain for my SM gallery. It's been an up and down road. On the one hand, it's all working fine; on the other, there doesn't seem to be a way to get Google interested in indexing my individual photos. But I've made progress. I get some blog traffic, which I hope is building my domain authority; and I see some views of my photos, as reported by Google Analytics.

    I wrote a series of blog posts about this process, some of which you might find useful. They start here:
    https://jimhphoto.com/index.php/2019/11/28/smugmug-and-seo-crickets-chirping/

  • photoman10photoman10 TennesseRegistered Users Posts: 39 Big grins

    The big issue with image indexing (especially right now with google only crawling sitemaps while they redo the Se's) is we have no way of adding ALT Tags. Right now you cannot even submit a page or an image for indexing if it is not in your sitemap as google has that feature turned off in the search console. There is no time table as to when that feature will be turned back on. In the recent documentation updates in Google they cleary state to have a comprehensive sitemap so they know what you want to be considered for indexing and say straight out to have ALT Tags on every image.

    The other day I ran 4 SEO audits on my site and all 4 had the same results "Alt Tags Missing" Grade "F" (fail), they also reported that my gallery pages are lacking content but the way the Galleries are set up they use the meta title and description on the page and have you blocked from adding a text paragraph in the logical spots to add relative content. I would rather see them NOT use the meta title and description or at least give you an option to turn that off for viewing in the galleries and allow you to add a text block where you can use H1, H2, tags, maybe add a link to another page or image. Basically allow you to build a content rich page that google will index and give ranking to.

    I tried to make my own gallery page but discovered you cannot add a gallery into a self made page and have the gallery show with the style like I am currently using, all you get are the high level gallery icon and there is no way to apply a style.

    Basically the only option right now is to do as Hikin' Mike says and to do a wp front end where you do have control over your pages and hopefully get them to rank high to get traffic to your site as the way SM is doing things a basic site with mainly PHOTOGRAPHY galleries you are hosed. Then make a subdomain to the galleries knowing they will not be indexed or ranked as they do not comply to the Google recommendations. I get a chuckle out of the fact SM makes a big deal out of adding good captions to images, you can have up to 65,000 characters and how great that is for SEO. NOT, if the image will not be indexed no caption in the world will help ranking as it will never be seen.

    I won't even address the lack of a blog on SM or the ability to have visitors tag favorites unless you are on a pro plan and make events. that is another rant that really upsets me, how can you build a site with good content the way SM is doing things?

    Sad part is, not only will the photographers not be making money SM will not be getting nearly as much in service fee's (15%) as if you are not seen you will not be getting sales.No sales, no service fees, a lose lose.

  • pekrpekr Big grins Registered Users Posts: 54 Big grins
    edited January 2, 2021

    I am not sure it is worth the hassle to move to WP just for a blog itself? I have created (though not using it) a simple Blog system just by using SM. Basically a folder with subfolders and pages and a naming scheme:

    /Blog
    /2017
    11-30 | This blog article

    ... you can use semi-automatic setup - just create a Blog page and place there a Folder container. SM CMS is nice and mostly sufficient, for a blog article, just create a page, add a content, add a chat below that and you are pretty much good to go.

    Will you miss some things? Of course - e.g. a word cloud. All those years with SM, I also miss the bullet points. Created them myself using HTML / CSS, but it is a real PITA. Here's an example of custom bullet points, using a heart pictogram from my wife's logo. "Cenik" = a price list:

    https://www.markova-photo.cz/Cenik/Svatebni-foceni

    You can look into my simple Blog system here. Yes, it is old, not being utilised. But - you might find it being useful. Between the simplicity + consistency and missing some features, I choose the former.

    https://studio.2zone.cz/Blog
    https://studio.2zone.cz/Blog/2017
    https://studio.2zone.cz/Blog/2017/03-27-Some-nice-article

    Cheers,
    /Petr

  • photoman10photoman10 TennesseRegistered Users Posts: 39 Big grins
    edited January 3, 2021

    @pekr said:
    I am not sure it is worth the hassle to move to WP just for a blog itself?

    I totally agree, I will look at what you did for sure to see if that would be of benefit to me. Based on everything it appears I will need to move my entire site when the yearly fee I paid expires as SM just does not appear to be a good fit. I thought the previous host had more than enough code issues preventing higher ranking. I did not think I could do worse but my site ranking has plummeted from the mid 20's (avg) down to mid 60's since moving the same basic structure to SM, never has my site ranked so poorly.

    Google still is not doing discovery, you can now submit 10 pages every 24 hours but they all have a rank of 0, that does not help at all. The site map created does not include everything plus you never know when or if it will be updated. In a meeting with SM they said "don't worry about the site map it is really not needed" which is opposite off the Google webmaster tools documentation. Every SEO suite tool reports no ALT tags which is now a requirement by google.

    Appreciate the feedback, like I and I will look and see how I can implement, in reality I have pretty much resigned to the fact I made a huge mistake moving to SM and am shut down as i do not work with clients and with a site that does not rank well, is missing required tags that google can read, and have a built in blog to add content there will be no business. Thanks for the feedback.

Sign In or Register to comment.