AdWords for Photographers

One of the most competitive markets at the moment is the photography industry, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out from what is an extremely large crowd. It seems like everyone these days is a photographer and whether you like it or not, you’re all fighting for the same business.

This guide is for the little guys who are currently trying to build up their business, can’t justify the cost of employing an agency for AdWords Management, or just don’t have much budget to play with in the first place.

If you’ve ever looked into AdWords to promote your photography business, you may have seen that a lot of clicks can easily cost well over $5.00 and some of the more competitive keywords going for almost $8.00 – That’s a fairly large cost just to get one person onto your website and could put you off using AdWords to promote your photography all together.

This doesn’t mean you should write AdWords off completely. But being able to be promote your photography business when people are searching for your exact services in Google is extremely beneficial to your business and AdWords is a fantastic way to do it, especially since most SEO requires a lot of content and most photographers want their website clean of words and full of images. And rightfully so!

So how do you compete on a small budget? Simple; Don’t play the same game that your competitors are playing.

Before you start, think, which page are you going to take people to? What do you think people want to see? Make sure you have the following

  • A sample of some of your best work. Immediate proof!
  • Your contact details clearly visible.
  • A contact form – a lot of people prefer this method.

If you’re paying to promote your photography through your website then you need to make sure the website is going to get potential customers contacting you. Ensure your website is up to scratch first before you even consider AdWords or any other paid online advertising.

Step 1: Keyword Research

Now, by using the Google Keyword Planner you’re able to research which Keywords are going cheap. You will have to ignore the high search volume keywords, and that’s okay. We want to make things as tight as possible and get a hold of the search users that are most likely to convert into a lead.

When you start searching for Keywords, Google is going to suggest a bunch of AdGroups for you to select. Ignore these and click on “Keyword ideas”.


Invest time using this tool. It can be frustrating farming through all of these keywords, but it is because not everyone knows how, or is prepared to do this that these little gems exist in the first place.

You’re going to get a lot of junk keywords that aren’t relevant to promoting your photography business such as “wedding cakes” and “wedding venues” clogging up your keyword list.Make your life easier and use the “Keywords to include” tool to help filter these keywords out of your list. It’s just on the left hand side of the AdWords interface.


Work your way through your keyword list, scanning the Suggested bid column for some cheap or keywords, even if there are only roughly ten searches per month around a keyword.


Jackpot. By tinkering around enough, you can find keywords such as these where there is almost zero competition.


Don’t forget to think locally. What are some of the bigger suburbs in your area? Not everyone types in “profession + city” to find what they’re looking for.


Think of where your clients are coming from. If you’re a Product Photographer, it is likely that some of your customers are needing your photographs for the purpose of being displayed on their e-Commerce stores.

Once you’ve got a healthy amount of Keywords together, save them in a spreadsheet.


Step 2: Negative Keyword Research

Once you’ve saved those Keywords that you want, go back to the Keyword Planner tool and start fresh. We’re about to make a brand new list.

What you’re going to do now is add all the keywords to your list that are too expensive and that you DO NOT want to use. That’s right. Pick them all. As many as you can. These keywords are going to be put in a “Negative Keywords” list to make sure no one can ever find your website for these keywords and dodge getting stung by the huge Cost per Click (CPC).


These are the droids you’re looking for. Add them all to your list.

Again, save this in a spreadsheet. It may be an idea to clearly label this “Negative Keywords”.


You will also want to implement a heap of standard negative keywords that filter out non-consumer/research queries such as;

  • how
  • job
  • jobs
  • course
  • courses
  • youtube
  • tutorial
  • guide

Step 3: Create Your First Campaign/AdGroup

Go ahead and create an AdWords account if you haven’t already. It’s fairly straight forward to do.

The way AdWords is structured is fairly simple. You have your Account, and within your Account you’re able to make various Campaigns, and AdGroups.

Let’s create our first Campaign! What we are going to do is create a Campaign for each type of photography service you offer. So let’s say that one of your services is E-Commerce Photography – we are going to call our first Campaign “E-Commerce Photography”.

Now you will be asked to create an AdGroup, make an Ad, and assign some Keywords to it.

Pick one keyword from your list, just one. That is going to be the name of your AdGroup. For this example, we are going to call the AdGroup “E-Commerce Photography”

Before you proceed!

There is one fund-sucking default setting that has to be changed.

Look at your Targeted Locations and click the + button on “Location options (advanced)”.

You want to change “People in, or who show interest in, my target location” to “People in my targeted location”.

If you do not switch this setting you risk your ads being shown to people who are not in your target area. I can only think of very few situations where you would want the default setting and it genuinely amazes me that AdWords not only has this default, but hides it in an advanced box which most people are too intimidated to venture into.


Step 4: Write Your First Ad

Now write an advert for that is relevant for that ONE keyword. The example below is using the keyword “e-commerce photographer”.


You’ll want to eventually create a whole heap of Ads for each of your AdGroups. When you’re writing your Ads, remember why someone would be looking for your services. What is actually in it for them? Are they motivated to hire you? Are they in pain because their products aren’t selling? Let them know how you can solve their problem.

You’ve only got a limited amount of characters to do this so you have to be short, sharp, and creative. Remember that the Headline is the first thing most people are going to see, make sure you’re relevant to what the search user just typed in. One method is to put the keyword in the header. Whilst this is something I test on the ads I create, I also try and have half of my ads with something a bit punchier and that addresses the search users needs.

All of your ads also need to have a strong Call To Action (CTA) to encourage searchers to click through and take action.

Step 5: Keywords and Keyword Types

I like to use something called single keyword ad groups, you can learn more about that single keyword ad groups here.

Now in our E-Commerce Photography ad group we are going to use only one keyword and use three types of matches.

[Exact] “Phrase”
and +Broad +Modifier


Because the keyword and advert are so focused, your quality score on the ad level is likely to be very high which means cheaper clicks.

The way that we have matched the keywords allows for some flexibility and long-tail searches.

Step 6: Inserting Negative Keywords

Now go into your first Campaign and select Keywords, and at the bottom you will see “Negative keywords”. Click on it and paste in all of the keywords on your Negative Keywords list and make sure they are all exact match. We want to negate these keywords on a Campaign level. Do this to every Campaign that you create. You do not want these keywords slipping through the cracks if you add broader keywords, whether that is now, or in the future.


When clicking on “Negative keywords”, you’ll get the option to add the keywords you do not want to the whole Campaign (which applies to every AdGroup in that Campaign), or just to this individual AdGroup (what we talked about at the end of Step 5).


Step 7: Watch Search Terms Report

Watch the Search Terms report for the real keywords that people are searching for.

If you have “phrase match” keywords, they will show clicks and impressions for keywords that match them closely.

By watching the Search Terms report you can easily spot irrelevant keyword strings that you can then add to your negative keywords.

This report needs to be monitored quite closely in the beginning of the campaign. No AdWords account is launched drum-tight and this report is where you will plug up most of the holes in your search campaign.


Step 8: Optimise Keyword Bids

When the campaign initially launches, check on it every few hours. After the first day you want to start checking things on a daily basis for at least a week.

Depending on the keyword prices you may want to purposely aim for position 2 or 3. This way you know someone has clicked on your ad because they’ve actually read it and not just because you were the first listed website.

You’ll find things are more expensive in the beginning. Costs will come down with a healthy click through rate as well, which takes some time to establish. When this happens you want to make sure you’re lowering your bids to keep those slightly lower positions.

Step 9: Cut The Weak Ads

Sometimes it’s tough to say goodbye to our ads, especially the ones that we thought were a bit clever or took ages to shuffle things around and accommodate for those pesky character limits, but if they are getting a poor Click Through Rate (CTR) compared to your other ads then it’s just not working and they’ve got to go.

Writing effective Ad copy is something everyone has an opinion on, but the only opinion that matters is the people you are trying to sell to. Regularly create as many ads as you can, even if the difference is small or in punctuation, let them rotate and your audience will tell you which ones are the best.


This method is designed to outsmart the competition, not outbid them. By keeping clear of the costly keywords, you’re working on small search volumes. Never expect to be flooded with work with a strategy like this. Realise that this setup gives you an opportunity to compete in AdWords and allows you to promote your photography business to search users who are actively looking for your services.

Know the lifetime value of your customers. A lot of photographers get their jobs by word of mouth, so getting that extra bit of fresh work in today could prove extremely profitable in the future.

Did this help you? Have you already started using this strategy? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.