SEO for Artists
SEO is a great opportunity few artists are using
It helps you attract the right people to your site without having to pay for ads. If your website ranks your traffic will be constant. You don’t have to be overly productive like on any social media.
SEO can negatively impact your creativity
As for social media, search algorithms are based on previous data. So if you are too much data-driven it will be at the cost of your creativity. It’s a chance today to be able to access those tools, but it would be a mistake to follow them entirely. You will then start missing out on discovering new ways to reach your audience.
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How to get your art on Google Search
Getting the SEO philosophy
Rather than having tips as most vulgarisation articles are writing. You need to get the philosophy of Search Engine Optimisation: Google and other Search Engines are indexing content. It isn’t just about the competition, but about being relevant, bringing the right value to the person who is looking for it.
There are 3 ways to approach SEO:
#1: Technical SEO:
This is about programming, and thanks to WordPress or other Content Management Systems (CMS) you will only need basics for that.
#2: Content SEO:
That’s where the artists shine, well if they can write well too! Images and text (but now video and sound) are the website’s flesh
#3: Network SEO:
“The Internet is a table for two!”
You will need to be in contact with others. The best way to have a link to your website is to know the person behind the other websites. They are actually human and we are social animals (we tend to forget)
Is SEO worth it for artists in 2021
Yes totally, and for 3 main reasons
The easiness of Social Media
Social media is seductive in so many ways to all of us, especially to artists. It’s fun, social and easy to use. It gives instant gratification, with a promise to help you grow your business. After spending hundreds of hours working on social media, do you really own the content you’ve posted? Technically yes.
But in reality, not really:
When the companies decide what to change their terms and conditions, you could only click ‘accept’ and continue. When a social media company goes down, your content and influence could also be at risk.
Organic (Not paid) search drives 1,000% more traffic than organic social media.
Social media posts have a very low shelf life because their goal is for you to constantly post.
That’s why owning your own content is vital. Besides social media, you need to own your own little piece of the Internet by having a domain name and a website. It costs you less than the price of a coffee every month to keep it running. It’s a privilege for you to have this option because not every country in the world allows individuals to run their own websites.
But for that content to be seen, it has to be reaching a certain kind of quality. Of course, you can pay for it to be seen, but it is like sprinting: it doesn’t last.
That’s when we come to SEO, for Search Engine Optimisation. And it suddenly becomes way less seducing than social media…
Why SEO is not for you as an artist
#1: You don’t have a website
… and do not plan to build one anytime soon
SEO is initially designed for websites to deliver the right webpage in front of the right people on search engines. If you don’t have a website, you don’t have a place to apply SEO tools and tactics. It is possible to rank with your social media pages, but only in specific areas. For example, recently the Alt Text can be added on Instagram and Pinterest. It gives better visibility on Image Search.
Don’t expect to make any SEO from your mobile. Although some web builders claim to support this feature, likely you will be frustrated by the limitations they have.
#2: You don’t plan to write about your art
… or to hire someone to write
Even today algorithms can recognize images and voice, text is still the main SEO indicator. Now the algorithms are able to recognize your personal writing style and recognise who is the author. If you are writing, work on improving your writing. If you look for a writer, find a good writer and plan on long-term collaborations.
#3: Too many projects at once
… and can’t choose to focus on one
As a creative person, there is a good chance that you are experimenting with several projects in different directions. To make SEO work for you, you need to prioritize one project. Once you rank on search engines for one set of keywords, you can expand to other areas. SEO algorithms reward websites that are consistent and long-lasting. Do not change direction whenever an opportunity shows up. Stay on your current main project until you see results.
#4: Not willing to study the data from SEO tools
In recent years, search engines have made some of their data available. Based on the data, many SEO tools emerge. Instead of shooting blindly, now you can have an estimation of how your audience will react to your content.
Luckily, some good SEO tools are free (Moz, Ubersuggest…) most are paid and expensive. Like any algorithm, this is just a prediction, not a reality. But without them, you are looking for a needle in a haystack.
#5: Not willing to talk about other artists
Since 2010, Search Engines have been indexing content per subject. Let’s say, you are an urban artist in Boston. You fall into this category of urban artists in this region. To rank high, you need to have some kind of credibility or expertise in it. How to gain credibility? You can write about other artists in your region and put yourself among them, or make a collaboration or a community of like-minded artists. It is a bit counter-intuitive for an artist. That’s why top-ranked search results are from platforms, not artists’ websites. Unlike social media, SEO is not just about you.
#6: Only wish to work with institutions
Let’s be honest, institutions in the art world don’t care whether you rank top on Google. This is especially true in continental Europe where branding and marketing in art are seen negatively. As a part of your marketing, SEO does not bring you a headstart in the world of institutional art. Many institutions like museums and foundations in art still follow this moral value:
“Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade”. John 2:13–16
#7: Exclusive contract with an art gallery
Although nowadays fewer and fewer art galleries would demand exclusivity, it is possible that you are offered one. Once you sign an exclusive representation contract, you are likely not allowed to run your own artist website. Your growing influence is often considered a potential threat to the partnership. Our advice is to avoid exclusive contracts if the conditions are not attractive.
#8: Can’t wait for months to see results
Unlike the likes and shares on social media, you will not receive instant gratification on search engines. After applying SEO strategies on your website for the first time, it takes at least 6 months to see the results of your hard work. It takes a month to see some major improvements after each upload or update (trafficwise). SEO is a game for patience players.
#9: You can’t commit to the SEO work over a long period
As we just mentioned, SEO results won’t happen overnight. You need to be prepared to work even if you don’t see any results, ignore the random tidbits and resist the urge to run off to some new promising platforms (e.g. a new social media site, or a new sell art online site). Instead, you need to put one foot in front of another and stick to your plan.
#10: Not very technical
… and not willing to learn IT skills
If you are not tech-savvy at all, you should opt for a drag-and-drop builder (e.g. Squarespace, Wix) instead of a content management system, or CMS, (e.g. WordPress, Joomla). However, drag-and-drop builders are not that great with SEO due to the limited tools and features. You will likely struggle to get results. In this case, just don’t have big ambitions with ranking on top. You can find other strategies that are a better fit for you – for example, starting an art channel on YouTube.
SEO tips for artists
Keywords for artist websites
Keywords are one of the main elements of SEO. Your keywords are words or phrases in your web content that make it possible for people to find your site via search engines. An artist website that is well optimised should contain keywords people search for, especially in the titles.
Out of all that search traffic, 91% goes to sites listed on the first page of search results. This is your goal – your pages being at least on the 1st page of Search Engines.
Questions to ask yourself
- What is your art about?
- What makes your art special?
- How would your audience define it?
- What would they write when searching for your art?
- What makes your art stand out?
“If your art would disappear today from the web…
What would your audience miss,
that they wouldn’t find in any other artist websites?
SEO for artists step-by-step guide
- Think outside the ‘art box’. Talking just about art is less and less relevant those days.
- Do some research. See what others on the Web are writing about it.
- Be specific. Avoid very generic keywords such as ‘contemporary art’.
#1: Know your audience
The way people use vocabulary depends on their social class – their education, workplace and residence. All the factors influence their opinions, values and interests.
The way you want to sell your art online determines the way you speak about it. Getting into the art galleries won’t be the same as selling art prints on Etsy. You need to know the wording your audience uses.
#2: Build your semantics
Building semantics is the process of building more meaning into the words you use in your content. You need to find the collection of meanings you would want to appear on Search Engines.
For example, I’m an artist, and my paintings are contrasted. I want to describe my art using words that are similar to ‘contrasted paintings’. Moz Keyword Explorer is a great tool for this.
Let’s look for the Keyword tools:
My query will be “contrast paintings”. Here I see a list of suggested words with decent Monthly volume. I will select the ones that fit my style:
- chiaroscuro (8915 monthly searches)
- opposites attract (949)
- emphasis in art (298)
- rhythm in art (483)
- line in art (207)
- directional force in art (64)
Those are just suggestions. But it gives me an area of interest and can suggest words I haven’t thought about. I keep those words as leads for my website, combined with the techniques I am using (such as acrylic, oil, watercolor etc).
From that point I need to :
- Precisely evaluate the difficulty to rank on the 1st page
- Get more specific keywords
#3: Find the title of your post
I register on Ubersuggest to check the Keyword ideas (So far the best way to get some data for free).
Ubersuggest keyword suggestion tells you the estimated volume for a specific keyword. Don’t forget, those are only estimations.
So I write “Contrast paintings”:
I can see their 1st result:
- VOL: short for volume. This is the amount of queries per month.
- CPC: Cost Per Click. Literally, how much investments are on ads for this keyword. A keyword with a CPC 0 usually means it is searched for information and people don’t search for it with buying in mind.
- PD and SD: Paid difficulty and SEO Difficulty (from 1 to 100). Those two difficulties are better for you when closer to 0. If your website is new, this is good not to target high difficulty keywords.
We won’t choose “contrast paintings” to start with, because their difficulty is too high.
Instead, among the other choices, this keyword is easier:
Small SEO tip:
14.1% of search queries are question keywords (source: backlinko.com/google-keyword-study), such as ‘what is’, ‘how to’, and ‘why’. A great way to find them is the Answerthepublic website.
#4 Use your Keywords in your content
Once you find them, you need to use them on your URLs, your images (Alt text), and Headings (titles). We will develop this step in another chapter later on.
#5: Create the content on your artist website
At this step is where the trap lies. Because you as artists will be the targeted audience by website platforms (Wix, Artwork Archive, SquareSpace). It’s not that they are bad, but as for Social Media platforms you have to follow their rules: the simplicity of use they provide fences for controlling your content.
We really advise content management systems (CMS). The best for most people today is WordPress.
#6: Link your content
This is where artists are the best and possibly, the worst.
The worst: Most artists are just about themselves (me, me, me) and their work. But if you want to exist on the Web you need to link with others, speak about others and others need to do the same.
Backlinking is not easy, we will develop that now:
Link Building for artists websites
What is a Backlink? How to get them?
Backlinks are hyperlinks from a website to another. While the content of your website (images and text mostly) represent its value, backlinks are the validation of it. It’s like a recommendation letter to your future employer. It gives trust, opportunity and validation of your skills and qualities.
Backlinks quantity and quality
In January 2016, we wrote an article about David Bowie’s paintings as a tribute. His visual art talent was rarely talked about even when he was on every news portal. Our article received and continues to receive links from the New York Times, the Guardian and Vice magazine! Thanks to this, our article was recognized and ranked 1st on Google. Our website was also appraised by Google after reviewing other articles we wrote. In this era of Fake News and trolls, credibility is more important than ever.
#1: Find good quality websites
Would you rather get a backlink from a big website or from a random blogger? Are they serious websites that are worth your time? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. You can use Moz SEO Toolbar to get a brief idea:
#2: Website authority
You can find out this way if a website has a fair Page Authority (PA) or Domain Authority (DA). DA and PA are expressed on a scale from 1 to 100, the higher the better. Don’t forget to check if it also has a low Spam Score (express in percentage).
#: Secured website
The website needs to be HTTPS (SSL secured, with a ‘lock’ icon next to the URL)
#4: Subject Matters
Would you rather have a link from a curator’s blog or a beauty magazine? It will have more value if it’s related to art or the subject matter. For example, if you are a feminist activist artist fighting for equal rights with your art, the backlink doesn’t need to be from an art site. The link can be from any website article talking about politics, social studies or legal studies.
#5: DoFollow link
Even if it is not as important as before, ask or check for a DoFollow link. A NoFollow link isn’t great. You can use this Chrome extension to check.
#6: Links from Social media
Links from social media do not provide any value for your SEO. The only benefit they provide is traffic to your website. Search engines like Google will not take the links into account if they are from a social media post or story.
#7:Links from galleries?
Links from galleries are great, but few galleries will agree to make a link. After all, they are the middlemen. If they embed a link to your personal website, they could potentially lose business. You need to convince them, or even switch to a more open-minded gallery partner. And if you have a catalog of prices on your website, you will need to be on the same page as your galleries. You could not price your art cheaper on your own site than on the gallery’s site.
#8: Search Your Niche
Whatever kind of visual expression you are making, someone else in the world could have been working in a similar direction. When you search for your kind of art, you can also find out what others are doing and how they are perceived. For example, if you are in abstract art, search for the galleries and artists in this niche. Contact them, learn from them. Make a search on Google Image to learn about how people view abstract art in this country or language. It might inspire you in many ways.
#9: Human Link
Would you like to be a reference in your niche with lots of great links? You can’t do it all by yourself. You need to connect with others who are sharing the same interest. “Internet is a table for two”. However, we tend to forget that they are real people on the other side of the screenwriting to request a link from ourselves (and vice versa). Forget about links for one moment. Ask about the person you are contacting, his/her projects, future plans, even life stories. Invite him/her for a video chat. Once you establish a human connection, everything else should just unfold naturally.
For this example, we will use the free chrome extensions (also on Firefox):
- Moz Bar for checking Domain Authority
- SEO Minion for checking broken links (links on the website that leads to a non-existent page)
And I will be an “outsider art” artist. The idea here is:
- to find website owners who are in love with outsider art,
- check if they have any broken links,
- contact them to suggest your website instead.
#1: Google search: “outsider artists + links”
#2: Find a website with good Authority
Thanks to Mozbar I can see the domain authority of every website. I try to find one with a decent authority (at least higher than my website)
#3: Look for broken links
I go to the page and try to check if there are any Broken links with the SEO Minion extension. Broken links are in Red, and there are 3 of them. For example, this one (in red):
#4: Find the contact
I can find their form on their website or their email address. Likely on the contact page.
#5: Contact the website owner
Here is a script that can give you an example for contacting. Because some of their links are broken, if you manage to get in contact with them, a link to your website will be a natural consequence. You obviously don’t really need to find a broken link before contacting any website, this is just a plus.
(You should introduce yourself a bit) I’m a visual artist from [region]. I was searching around for articles on [Topic] [Outsider Art] when I came across your page: [URL].
I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your content and going through your site. I would have never found it without your page. Would you be interested to discuss it on Zoom or SkypeI also published about this [Topic] last month? It’s [Brief Description].
Here it is in case you’d like to check it out: [URL]. Either way, thanks for putting together this content!
Domain Name for artists
A Domain Name (DNS) is the keystone for your website and has to be chosen wisely.
In order to check if it’s available, there are websites like Domize.com or Namegrep.com
Why a Domain Name is so important
- This is almost a mandatory way to rank on Search Engines.
It represents 1000% more organic (not paid) traffic than all social media together.
- This is a right that might disappear or cost higher in the future.
- This is yours, and you are responsible for it.
It will obey international laws instead of the private social media or platforms laws.
Domain name for artists Dos and Don’t
- The name is more creative and poetic than generic. A generic name kills the trust.
- Less than 15 characters (even if technically the max is 63)
- Not to exceed 2-3 words
- Easy to type
- Easy to pronounce
- It is a .com (“.com” is the most familiar and easiest to remember.)
You can get a .org only if you can’t decide otherwise. And a .io if you make digital art.
- Check the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or on Knowem.com
(Registering a domain name does not protect you if another company files a trademark infringement claim. Noncommercial, nonprofit, and satirical websites do fare better in trademark disputes than for-profit business sites)
- It includes at least one word related to the value you propose or your niche
- Re-use it for your social media accounts
- Take the domain for 3 to 5 years. It will show more stability and credibility to Search Engines.
- Redirect (called permanent redirection 301) your other domain names (for example yourname.com or the same domain name with “.org”) to your primary domain name.
- Using hyphens (People will forget it)
- Using numbers (it looks spammy)
- Being too commercial (the value of your art isn’t selling but itself)
- Being too straightforward (Those names are likely to be taken already and it feels like a commercial trap: example abstractart.com)
- Taking your name with art or artist at the end (Boring… be creative, everybody does that)
- Take a “.art” domain name.
- It’s really complicated (and be misspelt)
- It’s too common (will be forgotten or people will think about someone else)
You might not need a domain name if
You plan solely to work within the art world (1st range art galleries and art fairs, museums) They don’t really appreciate you have any commercial or branding approach to your art.
When to use your real name
Use your full name if you plan to work within the contemporary art world (top art galleries, art fairs and museums). Many don’t appreciate you for having a commercial approach to your art.
Your name is relatively easy to remember and is an important brand asset.
When to use .org or a country extension
Use .org if you are registered as a non-profit organization or an association.
Use “.co.uk”, “.fr”, “.es” country extensions if you focus on making a local business.
Watch out for those uncommon mistakes
Do not use domain name generators like the one from Wix. They are just making poorly automated word associations. You can do better using your own imagination.
Do not settle for a free name like yourname.shopify.com, or yourname.wix.com, or yourname.wordpress.com. Those subdomain names provided by other companies are usually free but terrible for branding. You don’t look professional and put together in front of your customers.