SEO For Artist Websites

SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) is a topic of countless tutorials, PR courses, articles, and books. It’s what publicity/media professionals will tell you what you need to get your content noticed on the web. So what is SEO and how can artists use it to increase their audience?

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We’ve already talked about how to build an artist website, but how do you get people to find your site once it’s live? They don’t call it the “world wide web” for nothing: the internet is a huge place and there are thousands of new artist websites being populated all the time. Anyone with a website, whether they’re an artist or not, has probably heard that SEO is a way to increase their audience.

So what is SEO? SEO, or “search engine optimization” is the series of behind-the-scene tricks you use when building/updating your website to increase its search ranking (in other words, getting your site closer to the top in Google/Bing/Yahoo/etc. searches).

There are many things you should do (and just as many things you shouldn’t do) to increase your ranking on Google’s results page. By mastering SEO techniques, you can increase your audience and sales.

SEO Focus Keywords: What are people searching for to find you?

artist bio_speech bubbleWhen creating your website (or even updating it for SEO), the first thing you need to do is think of what terms/queries you expect people to be searching for to find your site. For example, a pizzeria would want to come up in the search results when people search “pizza near me” and an travel agent would want to be in the search results for “vacation planning,” but neither the pizzeria nor travel agent would benefit from coming up in a search for, say, “quantum physics.” These search terms are your focus keywords.

Needle in a Haystack

While it’d be great to show up on the first page of results for “digital artwork” or “landscape photography” you have to consider that there are thousands of other artists out there in the world also doing work in these fields. Not only that, but you’re also competing with all of art history and every art magazine, website, gallery, museum, and organization out there that specializes in these areas. Unless you are an extremely well-known artist with an immense following, you’re not going to come up even close to the top of the results for these general art terms.

But, don’t lose hope. All you have to do is specify. Multiple-word search terms will help narrow down your competition and bump you to the top.

Your art is unique. So think about what makes it unique, and make that one of your focus keywords. Do you do contemporary Islamic abstract artSurreal underwater photography? Celebrity pop art? Those are all great keywords to focus on when building your SEO. Having an artist name that is unique will also help your searchability.

 Common SEO Keywords to Avoid Try Instead
“Contemporary Art” Your Artist Name + “Art”
” Painter”/”Photographer”/”Sculptor” Your Local Area + “Painter”
“Abstract Art”  “Abstract [Subject] Art”

Can’t pick just one? Don’t worry. Each page on your website should have its own focus keyword. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.

Optimizing the SEO on your Artist Website

Depending on what service you’re using to build your website, you may have an SEO tool already available to help you build a strong web presence. WordPress, for example, has plugins specifically for this. Or, you can just use your browser: Chrome and Firefox each have extensions to analyze the SEO of your website.

Here are our top tips on maximizing the SEO on your website.

1. Content

artwebsite_simpledesignSEO experts will wax on for hours about all the small tricks you can play to optimize your SEO, but the best tip we’ve ever heard is to have good, clear content. If your website is well organized, clean, attractive, and focused, then it will likely already have a good groundwork for SEO.

When you think about SEO, you should understand that the search engines are using a technology that’s always being improved. Their goal is to get a ‘human’ understanding of a website so that they can organize it and fetch the right results for the right people. Therefore, when your website is professional and clear to any human, it will be equally so for the search engines.

Let’s take a look at how your content can improve your SEO:

  1. Does the name of your website have your artist name in it?
  2. Is your artist name clear and visible on every page?
  3. Do you have clear, well-written text that explains the ‘purpose’ of each page?
  4. Are your images appropriately labeled with information?

Remember, the search engine is being trained to understand what looks legitimate vs. what looks “fake.” If your content is unnaturally too repetitive (ie: “John Smith Abstract Artist is an Abstract Artist whose Abstract Art is some of the best Abstract Art in the world of Abstract Art”), then it will get flagged as inappropriate/untrustworthy content. It may not seem like it, but this is also true of poorly-written content. If you are publishing a website in a language that is not native to you, make sure you have it proofread by somebody else.

2. Break Down Pages

When you organize your artist website by categories, you’re doing three things: you’re helping visitors navigate to the information relevant to them, you’re keeping your content from getting overcrowded, and you’re improving your SEO. Each page is going to have its own focus, and as such, its own focus keyword. You may have a “beach landscape” gallery and you may have a “splatter paintings” category: each of these can be organized into their own pages to increase the SEO. webpages_freepikFor this reason, page titles are very important, as they explain exactly what the visitor will see on this page. Use focus keywords, but try to keep the titles short and clear.

There are a few crucial pages to include on any artist website:

  1. Bio
  2. Statement
  3. Artwork
  4. Contact

Stuck on what to include? See our articles on how to write an artist biography and artist statement for guidance.

3. Images

The focus of your artist website is to show off your artwork, so it will obviously be very image-heavy. Therefore, it’s crucial that you’re using the right SEO practices when uploading and editing your pictures. Here’s the trick: search engines can’t see images. Sure, they know that there are images present, but they don’t know the difference between a watercolor vista and a photograph of a baby kitten. The search engines can only see the words associated with the images.

For this reason, always save your artwork images with appropriate titles. By putting your artist name and the artwork title in the file name, you’re not only helping your website’s SEO, you’re also making sure that these images come up as results when people do an image search of your name. Having your artwork visible on a Google image search goes a long way in proving your legitimacy as a professional artist.

Before you even start uploading the images, you need to make sure that the pictures are high quality and web-ready. For a simple website, you don’t need print-quality images: your pictures should be no larger than 300 pixels per inch (or DPI), and shouldn’t be larger than 2,000 pixels on any side. If they’re too high quality, they’ll slow your website down.

Related: How To Take Great Photos Of Your Artwork

AltTextOnce you upload the image, you should add something called alternative text (or “alt text”) to further optimize the SEO of your image. Alt text is used to describe images to search engines, and it is also the text that appears on the page if for whatever reason the image isn’t loading on your viewers’ browser. (There are a few reasons this may happen: the image may become broken if there is ever a problem with your server, or if the visitor has a slow internet connection.) Keep your focus keywords in this alt text and, as always, include your artist name!

Either your site builder will prompt you to add alt text when you add an image, or you may have to code it in. Don’t worry, the HTML is pretty simple. Your uploaded image will be visible in the source of your code, and will look something like this:

<img src=“pic_mountain.jpg” alt=“alt text” style=“width:304px;height:228px;”>

The “img src” tag tells the web browser where to find the image (short for “image source”). Don’t change this, or else the image will not show up. The “style” tag can specify a few things; here, it’s just saying what the dimensions of the image are. Finally, the “alt” tag: this is your alt text. You may have to add this manually: just type alt = “YOUR ALT TEXT” within the img tag. Easy!

If you’ve never coded before, you may want to leave this to your web developer or download a plugin to help you with these things. But, if you’re adventurous and want to save some money on a web developer, then you can find a lot of the information you’ll need to make updates to your website at w3schools.com.

4. Diversify

Whenever somebody searches your name, each of your social media pages will come up as a result. So will your YouTube videos, any news/interviews written about you, your Wikipedia page (if you have one), and any groups you belong to. The more there is of you on the web, the more results will show up on the first page when people search for you. For social media, you’ll want to keep your profile pictures attractive and professional, because they will often come up in search results.

You can have:socialmedia_freepik

  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. Google+
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Twitter
  6. Pinterest
  7. Tumblr
  8. Flickr (for photographers)

Though Google+ isn’t a very popular social media network, your profile will be ranked very highly in Google searches, as Google continues to try to encourage people to use this site. Therefore, you want to be sure you’re keeping your Google+ page relevant and up to date, and you’ll definitely want to link to your personal website right at the top of your profile.

Agora Gallery has several guides on how to use social media to promote your artwork. Just check out our Social Media tag and browse our tutorials, which include How to use Pinterest to Promote Your ArtworkHow to Promote Your Art on Instagram, and How to Create a Facebook Business Page for your Art.

The most important thing for any social media platform is to keep it current and interesting. Do not create a page and abandon it: make a point to schedule fairly regular updates/posts (they don’t have to be elaborate and needn’t take more than 5 minutes out of your week). These pages should each link to your artist website, should have your artist name in the title, and should have attractive, current images of your artwork.

5. Stay Active

The more activity on your pages, the better search engines will know that your page is a legitimate result and not just a spam site. And staying active doesn’t just mean updating your website, it also means making an effort to form connections in your everyday life. Your business card should have your website on it. You should have a mailing list that sends updates to your followers and links to your website.

Further, you should be attending art events whether as a guest or an exhibitor, and making connections in the art world. Do these events affect your SEO? Yes, absolutely. By getting your name out there more and more, you’re increasing how many people search your name. And every time they click on your website from a Google search, your search rank improves!

Additionally, every time somebody else links to your website, your SEO will improve. That means every news article written about you, every friend’s blog that links to you, and every time a complete stranger posts, “I just saw Jane Doe’s artwork at ArtExpo and am in love!” your search ranking is getting better and better. So ask people to link to your page whenever they write about you.

6. SEO Titles & Meta Descriptions

This one’s more technical, and is something that your web developer can help you with. The SEO title and meta description are what appear in the search results, and controlling these not only helps you rise in rank, but also helps visitors know what they’re getting into before they click your link. If you’re using WordPress, Yoast is a great plugin for this, as it lets you very simply change your SEO title and meta description.

SEO Elements

  1. Include your artist name in both the SEO title and meta description.
  2. For specific pages, make sure you’re including your focus keyword in the title & meta description.
  3. Keep these texts short and clear – don’t try to fit too many focus keywords in there.
  4. Place your keyword and the most important information at the beginning of the description and title.

Following these simple tricks will be sure to help you with your SEO and will also make your site look more professional and organized.

7. Old Content: Improve, Don’t Deletetriangular42

If you built your site before reading this tutorial, you may have some pages that don’t follow the right standards for search engine optimization. It’ll be tempting to just delete these pages and replace them with brand-new, SEO-ideal pages. Don’t delete these pages: improve them.

Established webpages have more legitimacy, even if they’re not great. The older the page is, the more people have probably clicked it, which means that its search ranking has been slowly improving over time, even if you’ve never updated it. Take advantage of the presence the page already has and build on it by improving the content. 

8. URLS: What’s Your Site’s Address?

Another tech-heavy tip, but it’s important. Look at the address of each of your pages. Is your abstract gallery in a page ending with “.com/abstract-art” or is it ending with “.com/39221”? (Guess which one is better for your SEO.)

Did you know that there’s a difference between dashes and underscores in a URL? There are. Search engines read hyphens as spaces, but underscores as one word: “abstract-art” means “abstract art” whereas “abstract_art” means “abstractart.” It seems trivial when looking at it, but this does affect your search ranking.

9. Don’t Cheat the System

blackhatRemember, the people who work at Google and the other search websites are very smart people. They know when you are cheating and lying, and if they catch you at it, your site can end up being banned from search results. This is called “black hat SEO.”  While it sounds fashionable, getting your site banned from search results is definitely not.

As long as you are keeping your website user-friendly and focusing on the user experience above everything, you won’t violate any of the “black hat” rules. However, if you are creating “fake” pages specifically to trick the search engines, if you are found “link farming,” keyword stuffing, link buying, or producing plagiarized material to improve your SEO, your site will suffer for it.

When in doubt, follow our very first rule: keep your content organized, clean, attractive, and focused. Build your website for your user, and more than likely, you’ll be building it for SEO, too.

Happy site-building, artists!

12 comments

  • Great Article, Dear my website is on maintenance, so I want to use your idea of Yoast plugin. and your all ideas are great about seo.

  • There is so much about SEO out there and to find it specifically for artists is a treat! Thank you! Frances

  • Hey,
    even though I don’t have Artist websites, I found the information very useful anyways. Many of these rules or ideas apply also to other websites and I definitely learned a bit 🙂

    Thank you very much
    Marc

    • Dear Marc,

      We are glad we could help!
      Thanks for stopping by.

  • Very useful information and understandable. I have to go back to my site and make some changes now. Many thanks, Janet Davies

  • Hi guys,

    Great articles, very insightful. I’m starting my career in digital marketing focusing specifically on the creative industries. Been working for 6 months for an agency with bigger clients but Im curious about your results in terms of developing SEO campaigns for artists. Since they usually have very small websites, almost no content because they want a clean very minimal design, the question is how successful or not have you guys been working artists?

    Thanks a lot.

    My best,

    Rafa

    • Hi, Rafa. Currently, we do not work on artists’ personal websites. We do provide advice and occasionally consult our artists on SEO, especially if they approach us with questions. But the topic you bring up is very interesting and is definitely a very important one to all artists with small websites. Would you like to collaborate on an article dealing with that issue or maybe guest blog?

      • Hello,

        Sorry for the late response. I usually don’t feel too confident with my writing as English is not my first language but fear aside I think this might be a great opportunity. I’m starting a personal project with a known artist. Building a full SEO campaign for him and depending of the results this might be quite an interesting case study to show others in our industry what we can achieve for the benefit of other artists.

        Feel free to drop me a line to my email and we can further discuss it.

        Keep the good work.

        Best,

        Rafael Lopez
        Inbound, AdWords & Google Analytics Certified

  • Optimizing SEO can make a huge difference in the increasing the audience and sales of an organization.

  • I would like to be part of the discussion here. I am the curator of an online art gallery called EWAG or The Early Works Art Gallery. I would like your views on our site and also your assistance in promoting our venture because we aim to encourage student artists and also be able to bring to the buyers genuine and meritorious art at affordable prices.

    • Thank you for your comment. We’ll reach out to you directly by e-mail about potential promotion and collaboration. Have an amazing day!

  • Great SEO article! Thx for sharing.

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