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Photography and Printing for Fine Art and Enterprise … and You!

The Basics | SEO for artists and Small Business | Episode 1

Words and Spelling and HTML… Oh, My!

I was checking out the competition today and came across a site that made me chuckle… well, more than chuckle actually. They spelled their company name wrong in the Header Bar of the site! I checked the name 3 times to make sure their name really was what I thought it was and it was spelled correctly everywhere else. I won’t disclose their name because, well they are the competition after all, but it does illustrate how important it is to get the basics right. So, let’s talk a little about the basics of website construction and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)…

Obviously, something as simple as a misspelled or misused word can leave a negative impression. For example, I once made the mistake of asking my readers to asked my readers to “Bare with me.” Since I wasn’t asking them join me at a nudist camp, it should, of course, have been “Bear…” Another exmple, make sure you use the word “to” correctly. It bugs many grammar Nazis when the word “to” is used when “too” is meant. I like the word myriad. I was first introduced to author Larry Niven through his book All the Myriad Ways. Yes, he uses it correctly. Myriad means infinite. One doesn’t have a myriad of something any more than one would have an infinite of it. So, use your spell check, reread your work, and have someone else read those important posts you are trying to make a special impression with.

But there is an equally important reason to watch your spelling. The words you use are also evaluated by Search Engines… not for esthetic reasons, but instead to determine what your page is about and consequently determine where to rank it in searches. You want to be on the first page of a Google search, preferably in the first 3 “organic search” positions. Interestingly, the top 2 or 3 listings, the ones with the colored backgrounds, are paid for and they don’t rank as well as the 3 top spots without the background. Those are are the top sites ranked by their actual content, also called “organic.”

Words, words, words, words, words.

Why am I so hung up on words? Because, while Google, et al, can read and understand (on a toddler’s level), they can’t really see. There is no search algorithm for visual esthetics, nor for creative design. If you have a page that is loaded with photos and gif captions, search engines see that as a blank page… and that actually hurts your ratings! If you have a fancy Flash intro, well, chances are that’s invisible also!

So what’s the plan?

  • Design your website as if each page is a complete website unto itself.
  • Use Google’s free Keyword tool to choose Keywords that both describe what your message is and are commonly searched for. You should limit each page to 1 or 2 primary Keywords- preferably Long Tail Keywords.
  • Use Long Tail Keywords whenever possible. Long Tail Keywords are very specific search phrases (see my previous post for a description). Find one that speaks to exactly what you are talking about, and use it 2- 3 times on your page. Note: no more than 2-3 times! Google sees an excess of a single keyword as an indication that the page or entire site is simply SPAM and that’s a VERY bad thing!
  • Make a list of (!!GEEKY TERMINOLOGY ALERT!!) Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords and work them into your copy. Essentially we are talking about synonyms. LSI keywords are those that are directly related to your main long tail keyword. I know, it sounds complex, but it isn’t really and there are tools available to help. Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to build a page around a group of paintings of Oregon Coastal Seascapes. If you used oregon coast seascape for your keyword, some related LSI keywords and phrases might be image, painting, explosion waves, beach tides, ocean drawings, coast seascape scene, framed ocean prints, etc. In this particular case they simply add color to the descriptions on your page, but if your keyword is something like “Bar” you would want to make sure to use LSI words that would clarify to the search engine whether you meant a place that served drinks, a long metal rod, or the exam you take to become a lawyer. Here’s a short little video that explains it pretty well…
  • Finally, get under the hood and add a few things to the HTML code. If you’re using a program like Wordpress, there are several free and paid SEO plugins you can instal on your site that will do the grunt work for you. Just fill out the form, update, and it will add the code. So what needs to be done? Well, remember, were talking to something that can read but not see, so wherever there is a graphic element, we need to tell Google what it is. We do that with Alt Text. Again, a program like WordPress will give you an opportunity to add alternative text (alt text) when adding a photo or other graphic element. If you are working directly in the HTML code, look for a line of code that looks like this: blah blah blah Where url is the address of the picture on your site. You may have to add the alt=”blah blah blah” part. The “blah blah blah” part is where you put your text. Let’s say it’s a picture of a flying seagull. You could just replace the blah blah blah with Seagull, but it’s much better to write “Seagull flying over the bright sand of an Oregon beach.” A great place to learn HTML and other web languages for free is W3schools It features full, interactive, and easy lessons for just about anything you could want to do on your site and it doesn’t cost a dime!

OK, now this isn’t supposed to be a complete exposition on the topic. Books can and have been written on the subject. This is just a starting place for your studies. That’s why I introduce those geeky terms… so that searching out answers and better understanding will be easier. Please give me your feedback and tell me the kind of topics you’d like me to address.

BTW, I really recommend if you really want to get your geek on, check out the Wikipedia entry for
Latent semantic indexing.

The Best Place to Sell Your Art Online

I was prompted to write this post by my artist friend
Clara Berta. Altho we’ve never had the occasion to meet in person, we’ve become friends via Facebook and twitter. Clara asked if I had a recommendation about where to sell her wonderful work online and it got me thinking, how do I answer that question? Bear with me while I digress a bit…

Several good friends have recently had books published by major publishers and it has been interesting to observe the process. One of the most fascinating aspects is how little promotion the publisher actually does on the author’s behalf. In fact, to a large extent, it is left to the author to promote their work, sometimes consuming their entire advance in promotion costs. As I reflected on this I realized that there is a lesson to be gleaned from that experience for artists and photographers… actually anyone who markets a product on the Web.

The short answer to Clara’s question is that, if all the technical aspects are in order- Payment types accepted, fulfillment matters, reporting, etc.- it doesn’t matter where your work is sold. The key to being successful online is bringing people to your product, The more people the more likely one or more of them will be interested in buying it. Ultimately, the responsibility for transporting them to your work falls to you. Here are some tips to making that journey easier:

Create an online community that you can announce new work to. The primary Social Media services are, of course, twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. How much weight you put on each, depends on the nature of your work or product.

Create a video based on your new work. It doesn’t have to be long- 2 minutes max- and tell your audience what your motivations were in planning and executing your artwork. If you can, film yourself in the process of creation and include a little of it in the video. If you work from photos, you could show where your inspiration came from. And, of course, show the final piece and tell people where they can find it for sale. Put it up on your own branded YouTube channel (it’s free, remember)

Create an opt-in email list for newsletters and targeted promotions.

Create a Blog post specifically for that piece. Embed your YouTube video. Include a still shot of the final piece, and write your post optimizing for a specific word or group of words. These are called KeyWords. Be very specific. If you’ve done a painting of a group of horses running, you might try optimizing on the word artwork, but a little research with Google’s Keyword Tool, will quickly show that there are about 2 million searches on artwork but there are also 141 million sites results. That’s your competition. Your chances of getting anywhere near the first page of search results (where +94% of people stop looking) are remote at best, and additionally the term is so broad that of the few that actually make it to your site thru search engines, will probably not be purchasers. How about painting of horses? That’s actually not bad, about 4500 searches there and only 33,000 page results… better but still unlikely that you will rise above the din. What about painting of horses running? 390 searches and under 5000 competitors. A much friendlier scenario. This is what is called a “long tail keyword.” I know, you’re saying “Why don’t I want to be seen by millions of people?” Popular keywords (like painting, or horses) can bring lots of traffic if you happen to be on page one, but it is unfiltered visitors. They may be looking to buy or they may be just looking for pretty pictures. The longer the keyword tail the more “qualified” the visitor is. If your painting is of horses running in a pasture in Walla Walla, Washington, and the visitor finds you by searching for paintings of horses running in a pasture in Walla Walla Washington, chances are pretty good you are going to make a sale. This takes some practice and tweaking, but it is well worthwhile. Make sure you make it clear where they can buy your piece!

Use that social media network to promote your blog post and the location of your work. Post a photo on Facebook and include the link in the caption. Same with Flickr, and twitpic. Spread the word with twitter by linking to your blog and all the other places you’ve created content.

Finally, it’s perfectly OK to feature past blog posts later. Let’s say you decide to go through this process once a week. After a couple months, you will have quite a few posts that feature your work, go ahead and promote them again to reintroduce the work to you previous contacts and to show the breadth of your abilities to new additions to your network.

To sum up: Pick a service that can do what you need in terms of the technical nuts and bolts of online sales then take the initiative to create and execute a promotional strategy to drive interested potential customers to that site.

If you need help in creating that strategy, be sure to give us a call or email. We’re happy to help!

Are Websites Passé?

Are Websites Passé?

Lately I’ve been struck by how much attention (and money) is being spent on online - but non-website - marketing. As a matter of habit I devour magazines such as
Internet Retailer and Website Magazine and have found that much of the emphasis has been shifting to Mobile and Social Media - primarily Facebook.

First- let me encourage everyone to subscribe to both magazines. Both are free (Website actually has two subscriptions - one quarterly that’s free and one monthly that has a small cost).

Second- If you’ve been putting off getting involved in Social Media, it’s time. In fact, you’re coming to the game late, so be prepared to put in some extra time and effort to make up ground.

  • You should be on at least the three cornerstone services - twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
  • Video is becoming an essential element in Internet Marketing - Make friends with YouTube!
  • Share your work where ever you can. Exposure is everything.
  • Register your work with the US Copyright Office.
  • Start and maintain a Blog.
  • Spend time everyday visiting other peoples blogs that are in your field, and leave comments! Make sure you provide your website address where they ask for it, and when appropriate, provide a link to something you’ve written on your blog.
  • Connect with other bloggers to share ideas, cross promote your sites, even become guest contributors on each others blogs.
  • If you can’t or don’t know how to update your website yourself, it’s like not having the keys to the door of your shop. There are lots of programs that are easy to learn and maintain- RapidWeaver and iWeb for the Mac are good examples, and of course, the darling of SEO gurus everywhere, Wordpress. Creating your own site isn’t that hard, take a little time to learn!
  • It is relatively easy to get a large following on twitter. It just takes some daily tending. Use that time to make new friends and explore some of the other opportunities we’ve discussed.
  • Write articles describing what you do for some of the article syndication services. These can actually make you some money as well as help people find you.
  • Content is the new coin of the realm. You don’t have to be a great writer or film maker just share something valuable.

Third- Start thinking about how you might structure your online presence to be attractive to people on the go, or using tablet devices.

  • Create a version of your website that is Flash- free
  • Remember smartphones have very small screens, make sure you optimize your message for the format.
  • Consider making an App or having one made for you.
  • Think about using location sensitive advertising on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Facebook. All of these services will only display your add to people who are within a certain distance of your shop, gallery, or show. Great little reminder, don’t you think?

The place of the website has changed, In the dim past (10-15 years ago), we thought of the online marketplace like the shopping district in a quaint little village. Shoppers wandered from store to store marveling at the displays in the window, listening to the music coming from inside, and perhaps spending a little time browsing through the merchandise. Today, it’s more like entering a giant warehouse, going to the front desk, putting in your request and waiting while the minions scurry into the dark recesses, returning with a large stack of items. We usually choose from the top 3 or 4 in the stack, and the rest go back. What does this mean?

  • Getting people to you site is much more important than how it looks when they get there.
  • Getting involved with and developing your own online communities is crucial to your success. Period.
  • You are going to need to adjust your lifestyle, but the good news is that it can be a lot more fun than watching TV.

In other words, building a website today is like erecting a billboard in the middle of a farm… far from the nearest road. You have to find a way to somehow bring the people to it. Whether you provide maps, build roads, hire helicopters, walk in with them, or all of the above and more, will determine how successful your message and, ultimately, you are!