Tag Archives: website

Search engine optimistion for artists’ websites – the challenge!

Yes – even the world of art is waking up to why search engine optimisation (SEO) is a good thing.
My fundamental perspective is – you can strive to get your work accepted in galleries, you can set up as many exhibitions as you have energy for, you can network in person like a greasy salesman, but you’ll never reach even a fraction of the potential new customers you can online.

But to achieve that, you need to be found. And that means getting indexed in Google and the other search engines.  And for artists, this represents a greater challenge than for many small businesses or individuals.

This post was prompted by an excellent blog post from Nikki Pilkington examining why being searchable (indexed highly is what we’re talking about) for just your name is not nearly enough!
Incidentally, Nikki is well worth following for info on online marketing, social media and blogging.

Nikki talks about how being indexed for what you do is far more important (and harder to achieve) than being found for your name. That’s easy. But it relies on the prospective website visitor knowing who you are. And frankly, we’re all looking to attract web traffic from people we don’t already know – that’s how we grow our audiences and potential customer bases, right?

So if we assume you want to be found for your work, your tuition practice, your exhibitions or your public speaking, why do I say that’s harder for artists?

A lot of it comes down to the common features of many artists’ websites.

  1. a lot of images, not much text
  2. images handling using a java plug-in or Flash features
  3. lack of keyword research to inform the written content
  4. use of frames and other architectural issues
  5. poor navigation and menus

Let’s look at these in order:

1 – a lot of images, not much text

Artists’s websites are often very image-heavy. That’s great, but it often means that there’s not much written content. This means there’s not much text for Googlebot and the other search engine spiders to  use to figure out what your site is all about. And often what text exists is a bit vague and artisty, rather than reflecting what potential visitors might be looking for.

Instead, consider how to use text on your site to build up a word picture of what you do, and what the owners of your work might be interested to read. (This is part of what I mean by keyword research.)

And for your images, make sure you use the ALT tag to help search engines work out what the images are. You can use quite a few characters – so you could say Joe Bloggs watercolour painting of a boat, available to buy and give Google something to index. With an ALT tag like this Google can return your image as a result for searches including Joe Bloggs, boats, watercolours and paintings. Oh, and use filenames for your images that Google can make sense of, like boats-in-the-harbour-joe-bloggs.jpg for example. Google et al treat the hyphens as spaces.

A great way to overcome the ‘not much text’ issue without moving the focus of your website from the pictures is to start and develop a blog. This is a subject all on its own, but for now, let’s agree that with a bit of lateral thinking most artists could create an interesting blog that could drive visits to the main art website. And blogging is largely without financial cost when using WordPress – like this blog does.

2 – image-handling using a java plug-in or Flash features

Another issue commonly found on artists’ websites – Java or Flash is used to display images, perhaps in a scrolling gallery, or with pop-ups or other cool-looking gimmicks. That’s fine because it can enable a nice user experience, but the search engine robots (spiders) can’t make these work like a human can, and may not find those images at all.

There are alternatives that can be partially indexed by spiders, but the best route of all is to make the image available as a file from the web server just like your web pages. And if you include a watermark with your web address on the image this will help to stop image theft and give extra visibility for your website.

3 – lack of keyword research to inform the written content

There are plenty of keyword research tools available (including excellent ones at Google) to help you identify what’s being searched for and how often. We’ve already looked at why a lack of text will limit your search engine visibility, but not doing research to reveal which keywords matter is hardly any better! The fundamental point here is that your text content should reflect what people are looking for, so that search engines return your pages instead of someone else’s.

It’s a challenge for us all to think in terms of what our web visitors are looking for rather than what we might look for, but this is a vital part of the process of creating and updating web pages.
Now that tools are readily available, I urge all ambitious artists and website owners to ensure their content benefits from this kind of research.

4 – use of frames and other architectural issues

Most web designers gave up using frames a long time ago, but many hobbyists still do, without being aware that Google will ignore most of the important content. If the frame carries the navigation (menus) and the page carries the content, because the frame is what Google sees, it will only find your menus. Your content will go un-indexed, which is not good!

Another issue, perhaps more contemporary, is that some websites are designed using Javascript-enabled navigation systems. Many of these now can be navigated by search engine  spiders but many others created a few years ago can’t.
So make sure there is a text link navigation alternative on your site so spiders can crawl your site even if the Javascripts don’t respond to the spider’s gentle silky touch!

5 – poor navigation and menus

Related to point 4, make sure your site has a logical navigation, that makes sense to human visitors. A website should offer a sense of exploration, and it should be possible to find one’s way round the site without a lot of back-clicking.
Navigation that presents a clear sense of where the visitor is, and how that page relates to others is essential for a good visiting experience, and it also works for search engines too.

There are lots more ways to improve a website’s ranking in search engine results, but we’ll cover these in another blog.

In the meantime, if you think you need help, or advice, get in touch or visit my website!
Happy selling!

Mike

Domain Renewal Scam – Artists on alert

If you’re like me, and you have several domain names under your control, or if you’re (also like me) just a bit vague about dates, then you may not be all that sure when your website domain is due to be renewed.
An example of a domain is vitreus-art.co.uk – the domain for my stained glass website www.vitreus-art.co.uk.

Sadly, there’s a scam out there that exploits this, and I wanted to bring it to you so you won’t get suckered.

Companies with names that usually include the words ‘domain’, ‘renewal’, ‘services’ etc are sending letters (yes, you remember – on paper) to domain registrants advising them that their domains are due for renewal, and requesting payment (usually by cheque).
The letter is laid out like an invoice, and is written to suggest that the company is authorised to carry out domain transfers and renewals.

To encourage you to act and not ask questions, the letter is worded to convey a sense of urgency – your domain will expire, making it available for one of your competitors to use, and your children will be possessed by the devil, etc etc.

The data on who a domain belongs to is public, although non-corporate domain registrants can opt to have some of their personal details left invisible. This public data shows when a domain is due for renewal, so it’s easy to check on yours (or someone else’s).

So what happens if you get worried that your domain is about to expire and send off a cheque in a panic?
Nothing – except they bank your cheque! They’re not authorised to renew or transfer your domain – that’s done by the registrar – who will contact you before the domain expires anyway.

What should you do if you receive a letter like this?

Firstly – check your domain using a domain tools provider like Demon (link here) to see if your domain is indeed about to expire. If it’s not, then throw the letter away and certainly don’t respond to it.
But do tell your web-savvy friends in case they get a letter too…

Secondly, if it is about to expire, contact your domain hosting company or the registrar for the domain shown on the WHOIS record and follow their renewal process. If you use a third party for your web services, get them to do this.

Thirdly, do not pass on your domain EPP key – used to transfer a domain – if you have it.
And don’t be pressurised into requesting it from your current domain registrar and then forwarding it!

Despite the threats usually contained in these letters, there’s a grace period when a domain actually does officially expire allowing you to re-register the domain, and you’ll get several weeks notice from your registrar in which to act before that.

And if you do want to transfer a domain for good reasons, do it through the current registrar.

So, please, watch out for this scam and make sure you’re in control of your web presence.
If you need help with this sort of stuff, or if you’re not online yet, do get in touch!

Happy online marketing!
Mike

Social media – can it work for artists?

A highlight of my week is getting my hands on (metaphorically, because I read it online) Mark Ritson’s Marketing Week article.
Ritson takes a distinctly ‘the emperor’s got no clothes’ stance on many things to do with marketing, and the newer or more fashionable it is, the more his hackles rise. He provokes comment, he makes me laugh, and most of all, he causes me to think. What a writer!

This week, he’s been examining if social media (although he really focuses on Twitter) works for big brands. And his conclusion is – no. He cites the examples of some of our biggest brands – BP, Vodafone and BT. It turns out they have a pitiful Twitter following, and he concludes this is because we’re just not that interested in these faceless organisations.

You can read his post here…I recommend you do!

He goes on to say that, by comparison, celebrities attract huge numbers of followers, all intent on vicariously living the life they lead. Ritson offers the observation that ‘Celebrities are people and social media works on a person-to-person basis.’

So, the point I am meanderingly groping towards (keep up dear reader) is that artists are people too. And people are interested in people who do things they wish they could, like make or paint or photograph beautiful things. That’s you, my artist friend.

So should all artists use social media to promote themselves?
I’d say they should, if they feel confident in having a conversation with their public.

They definitely should if they have something to say. A major chunk of the volume of Tweets clogging up our internet are trivial to the point of tedium, so the value is down to what you have to say.
If you can talk eloquently about what makes your art special, in a way that others will be inspired by, or if you can invite people into your world by being engaging, charming, insightful or just plain interesting, then go for it.

But please, make sure what you say isn’t just about you.  Because, if you look at how those big brands Ritson castigates ‘communicate’ with their audiences, you’ll notice that it’s all about them. Yawn.

Next time, I’ll talk about some of the marketing techniques I’m working on to promote my own art and that created by others I work with.

Until then, if you want to know more about marketing for artists, get in touch via mike@artcraftweb.co.uk or have a look at my website – www.artcraftweb.co.uk.

Oh, and have a look at Mark Ritson’s post about the 2012 London Olympics mascots and tell me if you agree with him.  (Note – it’s not for the easily offended!)

Happy selling,
Mike