Basic SEO for artist websites
Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is the practise of optimising your artist website to be found in Google and other search engines. Done well, it is a fantastic way of introducing yourself and your work to a whole new audience. WordPress is a fantastically search engine friendly platform upon which to build you site, so you’re already a step ahead.
SEO is a vast subject and warrants much further exploration, but to begin with, let’s take a look at a few ways to give your new artist WordPress website a great chance of ranking well in the search engines.
How do search engines work?
When someone types a keyword into Google’s search engine, Google decides on what it thinks is the most relevant and the highest quality content to show that person. Ranking number 1 in Google should mean that the website is extremely relevant to the search term and has very high quality content. How does Google know what to show at the top? The truth is, it makes an informed decision based on a number of factors. But here are a couple of the biggies:
- Google analyses the information on your website (text, images, video etc.) to ascertain what the subject of the site is. This determines how relevant it is to a user’s search.
- Google also looks at the other sites that link to your site (both how many there are and how good those sites are) to get a better idea of how well-respected and informative your website is.
Tell Google what your site is about – straight away!
As we discussed in Planning Your Artist Website, your brand as an artist is usually yourself. That means if you type your name into Google, you want your website to be at the top of the results.
Google assumes that the most important content on any web-site is near the beginning of the page. So, to determine what a certain site or page’s main subject is, Google looks to the header of the site. Therefore, if you are using an uploaded logo (as opposed to text) in your header, you need to make sure that the alternative text for that logo is descriptive and pertinent. ‘Logo’ is not good – it tells us nothing about the content of the site. Something like ‘Your name – textile artist’ or ‘Your name – weave and print artist’.
To add this alternative text:
1. Within your WordPress dashboard, go to ‘Media’>’Library’.
2. Scroll through your images until you find your logo image. Once you find it, click on ‘Edit’.
3. Enter some pertinent text in the ‘Alternative Text’ field and the ‘Description’ field. The alternative text is purely for search engines; visitors won’t see it or the description of the logo.
Get your art into Google Images
As artists, images are your main selling point; as the old saying goes, ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ and nothing could be truer when promoting your work. However, Google can’t read images. It doesn’t have the power to look at an image and know what the artwork depicted is made from, the techniques used to create it, whether it is figurative or abstract, the prominent colours etc. So it is essential that you label your images well, in order for Google to grasp this information and show searchers what they are looking for. (If I type ‘Mixed media textile art using print and weave’ into Google Images, the only way the search engine will know what to show me is if somewhere in the title, alternative text or description are words similar to those that I typed).
Use the ‘Image Title’ field to provide just that – the title of the image. You may also wish to add the year it was created, the dimensions, the artist’s name and perhaps a brief descriptive term such as ‘Embroidery art’.
Description and Alternative text:
These two fields (especially the ‘Alternative Text’ field) are very important; the ‘Description’ will be shown to humans and the ‘Alternative Text’ is used to describe images to search engines, but also makes sure the site is accessible for the visually impaired .
So the same information can potentially appear in both fields, but try to paraphrase the content slightly so it isn’t replicated word-for-word. Here are some ideas for what to include:
- The genre of the piece
- The subject of the piece
- The techniques used to create the piece
- The materials used to create the piece
- What inspired the creation of the piece
In WordPress, you can find the fields for ‘Title’, ‘Description’, and ‘Alternative Text’ when you click to edit any image from your media library.
Blog, blog, and blog again!
Blogging is a brilliant way of getting your name out there in terms of people sharing your stuff on social media, but it is also an essential way of widening your audience through being found on search engines. TextileArtist.org gets the majority of its traffic through Google. Why? Because, we have targeted certain key phrases (search terms) in specific articles (or blog posts) that we know people interested in textile art are typing into search engines.
It makes sense right? If you want to be found for more search terms, you need to give Google more content focused around a variety of search terms to show to its users. For example, if you are a contemporary fiber artist working in a mixture of hand embroidery and print, you might write blog posts based around the following key phrases (or search terms); ‘hand embroidery fiber art’, ‘printed fiber art’, ‘mixed media fiber artist’ etc.
How do I know which search terms to target?
Finding keywords (keyword research) and using them well is a science all of its own and something I could write an entire book about, but here are the basics:
- Start by brainstorming a few basic words or phrases that you think people searching for art similar to yours might type into Google.
- Find a keyword research tool you’re comfortable with. Here at TextileArtist.org we use Longtail Pro.
- Use the words and phrases you brainstormed earlier as a starting place in your keyword research tool. Longtail Pro will generate a list of related key phrases for you, and tell you how many people are searching for them and how difficult it will be for you to rank for them (this is based on how many other sites are already ranking for these terms and how strong the sites themselves are in terms of SEO). You can then select the words you’d like to target using this information.
- For each word or phrase you find, write a related blog post and try to include the keyword in its title, in the intro, and a couple of times throughout the article. Also include related words or phrases and synonyms of your main word or phrase in the content of the blog post. This is a very rudimentary explanation of how to use keywords. The free WordPress SEO plugin from Yoast will help you be more specific and make sure you are optimising each blog post.
Attract links from related websites
In basic terms, the more links you have from related and high quality sites, the more important and well-respected Google thinks your site is. Because Google want to show its searchers the best content, it ranks sites with great links pointing towards them extremely well in search results. However, there is no point in attracting links from any old source; in fact it could be detrimental to your search engine rankings.
Encourage your network of art contacts to link to your site to start with and actively seek links from related high authority sites, like renowned galleries or top art blogs. If you work in a very specific medium, try to get links from expert sites that are extremely relevant (if you are an appliqué artist you might target sites dealing specifically with needlework).
A few more tricks and tips for artist SEO
- Get a Google+ page – I know you’re probably screaming ‘Not another social media network!’, but Google+ has SEO benefits. Link to your blog posts from your Google+ page and they’re more likely to rank well. Also, link your Google+ profile to your blog so that your ‘author’ profile appears in search results. Learn how here.
- Get a Wikipedia page – Artists can be profiled on Wikipedia if they tick the right boxes (eg. there are multiple credible sources on which to base a Wikipedia article). Link the page to your website to increase rankings. An extract of the Wikipedia page should also appear in the Google search results for your name. Find out more here.
- Go social media crazy – Yes social media is a great way of networking, but it can also improve your SEO. So create profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram and link them to your website. Of course that’s the easy part – keeping on top of them and posting regularly can prove tricky. A great way of posting is linking back to your blog posts whenever you release a new one. Hootsuite is a fantastic free tool that will help make the process a whole lot easier.
You now have a few easy-to-implement strategies to make sure potential fans and buyers find you in the search engines. As your traffic starts to increase, you’ll want to keep track of it; that’s what we’ll take care of in the next chapter.
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