Those of us who have our own artist portfolio websites are probably familiar with the concept of SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization. This is marketing jargon for the dozens of techniques we can use to help search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo find and categorize our website content so that people out there who are searching for what we’re offering have an easy time finding us. SEO is what helps your artist’s website appear at the top of the search engine’s list when people search for whatever type of fine art you create. It may sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.
I first started digging in to SEO techniques a couple of years ago, and one thing I learned is that search engines change all the time. This means that we website owners need to change our SEO techniques along with them or we’ll get left in the cold. So I decided to research the current SEO techniques for 2015, and as I suspected, they’re different from what I learned a couple of years ago. Of course, there are a lot of techniques for very sophisticated website programmers, but there are quite a few easy steps that average people like us can do to attract more visitors to our artist portfolio websites through search engines:
- Get focused with your keywords. Your keywords are the words and phrases most often associated with you and your work, and they’re one of the most important SEO tools around. It used to be that you wanted to identify a long list of all the related keywords and sprinkle them in the headings, text, and—if you’re really tech-savvy—image and text coding of your website. But SEO experts are now saying that you should instead focus on a few specific keywords and use more variations of them. So if you paint big watercolors of flowers, avoid vague keywords like “paintings” or even “watercolor paintings,” and be more precise with “floral paintings,” “flower fine art,” “flower watercolor paintings,” and so on. Also, because people now tend to input complete questions into a search engine (such as, Where can I find big paintings of flowers?), you should try to think in terms of conversational phrases that would lead to your website. Once you’ve developed a list of varied, yet specific keywords, build them into your website. Consider writing or revising your bio, artist statement, blog posts, and descriptions of your works to incorporate more of those keywords.
- Get faster. These days, the time it takes for your website to “load” onto a visitor’s screen when that person clicks a link to your site impacts your ranking on search engines, so do what you can to make your website’s load time as short as possible. Use low-res jpegs, limit the number of images you include to only your best works, and embed relatively few videos. Lots of big photos and videos slow down your load time.
- Get mobile compatible. If you set up your artist portfolio website a few years back when nobody thought much about designing for mobile devices, it may be time for an upgrade to a mobile-friendly design. Recent statistics show that an ever-growing number of people are accessing websites through smartphones and tablets—currently nearly 50 percent—so search engines only want to promote websites that can be viewed on mobile devices as well as computers. Without that, your website may drop in the search engine rankings.
- Get social. Another new wrinkle in today’s SEO techniques is the importance of social media. Search engines now look for social media “signals”—meaning connections to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and so on—and use those to help rank your website. The more active you are on social media, the more brownie points you’ll earn with the search engines. And by the way, Google pays special attention to Google+ users, so that may be a platform to consider adding to your strategic plan if you’re not already a +1.
- Get mentioned. One last update for 2015: inbound links. Inbound links occur when someone else on some other website mentions you and includes a link to your artist portfolio website. Inbound links have been an SEO factor for some time, but a lot of people tried to game the system by, for example, agreeing to exchange inbound links with each other when their two websites had no relation to each other. So now, when a search engine finds an inbound link, it considers the source. You only get credit for inbound links to your site when they appear on credible websites that are related to your website. Just to be clear, if your brother-in-law mentions your floral watercolors and embeds a link to your website on his blog about repairing motorcycle engines, it won’t really help you because the two sites' subjects aren’t related. On the other hand, when your local art club mentions your work and URL in its website announcement about your upcoming lecture, it will help your rankings. Look for opportunities like this to gain credible inbound links.
Even though we’re artists and our area of expertise is fine art and not website programming, we can still make some smart moves that will improve our search engine rankings and help more people find us. And if you’ve got more great SEO tips, please share! Let’s connect.