Step Three: Building a digital audience
Updated: Mar 18, 2020
Simple SEO for artist websites
This is the third article in a four part series on building a digital audience as an artist.
Step One: Define your brand
Step Two: Own your identity and select a platform
Step Three: Simple SEO
Step Four: Simple inbound marketing
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is sort of a catch phrase that generally refers to changes you can make to your website or other digital services that will make your website rank higher in someone's search results. The higher you rank, the more likely it is that someone will click on your website.
You will find many marketing services that will offer to improve your SEO for a fee. I am going to cover six free things you can do to organically improve your SEO. Keep in mind that SEO is a long game. You won't see drastic changes over night, but if you are consistent, over time you should see more people visiting your website without having to spend money on marketing.
Use Key Words
Optimize your website copy
Optimize your images
Check your mobile display
Submitting your site to search engines
Creating a Google Business Page
Extra: How to check your progress
Use Key Words
Key Words are the words people type into a web browser when they are searching for something. For example, If your website showcases your hand-made jewelry, you want to use the same words on your website that people type in when they search for hand-made jewelry.
Try to come up with a list 10 or so words and phrases that you can use throughout your website. (hand-crafted jewelry, locally made, fine art and craft, Chautauqua County jewelry maker, earrings, .... )
You also want to use words that describe what you are displaying on your site and action words that elicit an action from the viewer. (Buy hand-crafted copper necklaces created by artisans in Chautauqua County)
Make sure you use these words in your page titles (the text that shows up in the tab at the top of the browser window), website body copy (more on that below), and meta descriptions. Meta tags are part of the HTML on your web pages that other applications, including search engines, use to identify things on your website. Search engines are particularly interested in meta description tags. Most site editors allow you to edit meta descriptions on your pages. Each page on your website should have a unique meta description. Search engines don't want to see the same one on each page. Here is a screenshot of what meta tags look like on chautauquaartgallery.com/about, which is a Wix.com site.
How are you supposed to know what words and phrases people type in a web search and if they are clicking on your website? Use Google Search Console. Formally called Webmaster Tools, Google Search Console is a free platform that shows you what words people are clicking to get to your website. You can also submit your site index to the search console to speed up they way Google finds information on your site pages, (More in that later). It also does other really cool things like showing you if other websites in the world are linking to yours.
This video does a really nice job of showing you how to set up and use Google Search Console.
Optimize your website copy
The copy on your pages should have a specific structure. (And don't forget to use those key words you came up with earlier when you are writing the copy!)
Only One Main Heading at the top of the page (H1 tag)
One or more secondary headings (H2 tag)
Paragraph copy (the sentences on the page) (p tags)
Search engines look for a heading in the text of your page to understand what your page is about. They identify this heading by looking for an H1 tag in the HTML (coding) near the top of your page. When you are writing the heading on your page, highlight it in the editor and make sure you select the H1 style. You can always change the size and color of this text, but make sure it is near the top of the page and you only use one H1 tag on each page.
You may have your web page divided up into several sections. Use H2 tags for these section headings. You can have multiple H2 headings. In fact, HTML has six levels of headings you can use to organize content on your web page. H1 and H2 tags are really the only ones that count for SEO purposes.
All of the other sentences on your page should use the paragraph tag, (p). HTML only has one paragraph tag. If your site editor gives you multiple options they are just offering different styles for you and it really doesn't matter which one you choose for SEO.
Optimize your website images
Correctly sizing and labeling your website images will preform the double duty of speeding up your site and helping search engines learn what you are displaying in your images. Some website editors allow you to resize images before you place them on your website. If your editor does not have that option, or you need more flexibility, you will want to use a photo editing program like Adobe Photoshop or a free editor like GIMP.
When you are putting images on a website, measure the length and width in pixels. Most website layouts will need an image to between 400 and 1600 px wide. (1600 if you need it to stretch across the entire computer screen.) When you save the image you will have an option to change the resolution, or DIP -dots per inch. Images should have a resolution of 72 dpi for the web. A lower resolution will make your file size smaller so your image loads faster. (If you are printing the image, the resolution should be set to 300 dpi.) When saving, you want the file size of your image to be as small as possible. A file size under 100KB is ideal. Images of your artwork should be saved as jpeg files.
Here is a good example of how to size and save images with GIMP.
Naming your image files with relevant information will help search engines understand what you are displaying on your website. Make sure image names reflect what is in the image. (Examples: 16inch_copper_necklace.jpg, watercolor_painting_of_chautauqua_lake.jpeg)
Use image alt text correctly. When you add a photo to your website the corresponding HTML code will look something like this:
<img id="generatedText" alt="12x16 inch watercolor painting of Chautauqua Lake" src="images/watercolor_painting.jpg" />
Search engines look at alt text for descriptions of what is in your image. When you add images to your webpages, galleries or a website store and the editor has a place to add an image title make sure you fill it in, even if you don't plan to have it appear on your page. It is highly likely that that title is also being used in the alt text of the HTML code.
Check your website mobile display
Search engines will rank your site lower if there are problems displaying it on a mobile device. Most site editors today will give you a mobile preview and even let you edit your site in a mobile view.
Make sure your site menu is easy to find and the buttons and links are large enough with enough space around them so someone can easily touch them with their finger without accidentally clicking on a different link.
Submit your website to search engines
It's a good idea to let search engines know that your site exists so they can start crawling it. Google is the most used search engine but you should also submit your site to Bing and Yahoo. Registering with Google requires creating an account with Google Search Console, which we discussed earlier. This article on Digital Guide has good instructions for submitting your site to all three search engines.
I also recommend that you submit a sitemap in Google Search Console. (Which is as simple as coping and pasting a link.) Sitemaps make it easier for search engines to crawl your site and will improve your SEO ranking. A sitemap is an XML file and most website editors will automatically generate one for you. A simple google search will usually tell you how to locate it. Some website editors will let you submit a sitemap right from their own console. Click here for sitemap instructions for Wix.com websites and SquareSpace sites.
Create a Google Business Listing
A google business listing will go along way in driving more people to your website. Once you've created a listing all of your business information will appear when someone searches for you. Here is a screenshot of what is displayed when I google "Chautauqua Art Gallery". All of the information on the left comes from my business listing.
Creating your business listing will also get your business ranked higher on Google Maps, which is really important if you have a physical location you want someone to come to. Here is a screenshot of what is displayed when I search for "art gallery near me"
Lastly, a Google Business Listing will also give someone a place to leave you a review, which is always a good way to drive more people to your website.
How to check your progress
Once you've had a chance to implement some of these SEO tips you might want to check and see how your site is measuring up. Free tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics will give you a really good idea of how people are getting to your website and what pages they are spending the most time on.
Another tool I really like is Sitechecker. (I use the free version.) Sitechecker will analyze the pages on your website and tell you where there are errors that could be hurting your SEO rankings. It's really difficult to get a perfect score - unless you've programmed your entire website by hand and have complete control over all of the HTML. You really just want to score above an 85.
I hope you'll be able to use these tips and improve the SEO on your artist website! If you have any questions or would like more information please email me, firstname.lastname@example.org