Zenfolio vs. SmugMug – 8 Months Later

Zenfolio-SmugMugIf you’ve followed my earlier posts, you’ll know that on October 26, 2012 I switched the web hosting provider for my photography business from SmugMug to Zenfolio. At that point I had done quite a bit of research and what I found was that Zenfolio was the most comparable solution to SmugMug when it came to pricing and features.

I’ve written three posts on what my experiences have been since the switch, but am now announcing another change (mentioned below). To bring everyone up-to-date, the posts that I published earlier are (from earliest to latest):

[NOTE: This review was published before the release of SmugMug’s new page design tool which was launched on July 30, 2013. An updated post about the new design tool can be found at NEW SmugMug – 6 Months Later]

Zenfolio is less expensive than SmugMug, but one aspect I’ve liked the best is that it’s much easier to get the look and feel I wanted than it is with SmugMug. Both offer very similar features. Most importantly though, both have plug-ins that integrate with Adobe Lightroom which makes the overall workflow much easier.

The Result?
It’s now been 8 months into the switch from one to the other and I wanted bring everyone up-to-speed on what I’ve found. Now for the bombshell… what I’ve decided to do is to move my hosting back to SmugMug for one primary reason, SEO.
NOTE: Check out my updated posting about the SEO issues with the NEW SmugMug.
For those who may not be familiar with SEO, what it stands for is search engine optimization. SEO is a technique used to push search engine rankings higher so that more people will find a web site. More people, more clicks, more traffic, more prospects.

Why SEO is So Important To Me
I’ve reviewed many of my marketing strategies over the past year. What I’ve found is that the most effective marketing tool I have is my online portfolio. I’ve found several new clients this way and it’s become a much more important marketing channel. To do well with online marketing, it’s important that my photographs are ranking well.

In prior posts, I’ve written how one of the major shortcoming with Zenfolio is the way it handles SEO. This is highlighted in my “Zenfolio vs. SmugMug – SEO” post listed above.

The bottom line is that after 8 months with Zenfolio, all I have to show is a total of 11 keywords indexed by Google, even after following all of the SEO guidelines recommended by them. Again, this is the primary reason I’m making my move back to SmugMug.

When I was with SmugMug before, I had over 250 keywords indexed by Google. In addition, many of my images were indexed and were ranking well on the SERP. It was working well, but at that point I just didn’t want to pay SmugMug 50% more after their big increase in pricing. This was the main reason I started looking and made the switch.

In hindsight though, I need my photography to be more visible online through search and social media. Yes, SmugMug is still more expensive, but it’s small difference and one that I just can’t afford to be concerned about.

In Closing
I hope everyone has gotten something from my prior posts, but now it’s time to get back to my photography. As always, if you have any questions please reach out to me. Be sure to revisit soon as I’ll continue to write about other experiences I have from not only an economic, but more importantly, an artistic perspective!

*If this information is helpful and you’d like to sign-up for a SmugMug account, please use my referral link. You’ll receive a discount on your membership and I’ll get a small referral fee. It would be greatly appreciated. The link is:

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8 Comments. Leave new

I have been searching for a new platform myself and have been comparing smugmug and zen folio. One complaint I heard about smugmug is that it is possible to copy low res photos from an iphone or iPad. So I tried with your site and was pleased to find I could not copy the photos with either my iPad or iphone. Are these low res photos or high res? I noticed you do not use a watermark. Reason?

    Hi SeaScape. I actually do use a watermark, but I think you’re not seeing it because it doesn’t show up for thumbnail views. If you look at the larger images, it should show up. Let me know if it doesn’t.

My big issue with Smugmug is their event system. In order to have clients pick favorites you need to create an event.
the landing page the client gets for the event is so sloppy looking it’s not even funny. It’s such a huge deal breaker for me. All that work on the look of the galleries is lost when you send the cleint the link to their photos.


Thanks for your posts, lots of help, its been coming on a year now with Zenfolio and there SEO is terrible, every image is keyworded and captioned and galleries with SEO, all now have quotation marks with my location embeded within the caption, and yet type photography and my prime location or landscapes for instance and I am nowhere. What puts me of smugmug is the branding, just how much can be removed?


    Ollie, You can remove most of the SmugMug branding by doing two things. First, make sure you have your own domain name… i.e. “www.yourname.com”, etc.. The default for SmugMug is “yourname.smugmug.com” and as a result “smugmug.com” will end up showing in all of your URLs unless you do this. You’ll need at least a “Power” level subscription to be able to do this though.

    Secondly, be sure to remove any mention of SmugMug in your header and footer files. With the new SmugMug just be sure to give your site a unique title and create your own footer file. Unfortunately, there are still other references to SmugMug (in the default page code) that can’t be removed (and the search engines can still see), but these two steps will remove about 90% of SmugMug’s branding.

[…] many well written comparisons are available (like here and here) and its a thoroughly discussed topic on forums, we wrote this post because few have been […]

Very informative. I have been at zen for about 4 years, I come up for renewal on Sept 6th. I have been playing around with the new smugmug site with the revamping of it. I have to say I am impressed with smugmug.

I have been reading alot over the years about how bad the SEO is at zen, read their tips on getting better SEO. My take on it has been that I should not have to do that, my photos are keyworded, I have placed text in pages and I would think that is enough. You are the only one who has identified that the structure of the site may be the problem.

I need to make a decision as to what I am going to do. Thanks for the insight.

If you want to check out my smugmug site it is at http://tjpowell.smugmug.com/ and my zen site is at http://www.tjpowellphotography.com/

The smugmug site does not have many photos on it as I am still playing with it the customization.

    T.J., I appreciate the comments. It’s now been almost one month since I switched back to SmugMug and I can tell you that I’m already seeing an improvement in the number of keywords and links being indexed by Google. My organic search traffic has improved by almost 3x and I’m noticing that many more keywords that were assigned to each photograph are being indexed. Although SmugMug is more expensive, I think you’ll find the increased search engine visibility to be well worth it. Good luck!