This blog focuses on the joys, challenges and lessons of living the creative life—and make a living doing it!
Author Gayle Mahoney is an arts marketing consultant and has shown and sold her own artwork for over 25 years.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Artists Portfolio/Gallery Website – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Checklist

(This is a guest article by Richard Wilde, owner of the SEO company SEO Merseyside, and the founder of the artists community website, a website that allows artists to sell their work as giclee art prints, canvas art prints, mural wallpaper and more)

As an artist, you may have a small checklist put together to make sure that your impact on the web is fine tuned for success...

— Great artwork lovingly created over the years – Check!
— Domain name purchased – Check!
— Beautifully put together portfolio website to showcase work online – Check!
— Search engine optimisation well planned and implemented – Erm... maybe not...
Many people forget the importance of optimising your website for the search engines, or SEO as it is more widely known. SEO is extremely important, and if it is not implemented then you will be completely lost on the web. The fact people ignore it is very strange, you wouldn’t write a book, get it printed and then not put it in a shop for people to see and buy, or you wouldn’t organise and hold an exhibition and then block out the windows and lock the door. SEO is about getting yourself seen and noticed on the web, which is just another marketplace like any other space where you show your art, so put a little bit of effort in and reap the rewards... because many artists don’t so you can gain a strong advantage!
SEO is not a dark art and by following this key checklist below, it will be a good start for your portfolio website, or any further reading on the subject you would like to do...

You need to make sure that you are targeting the right keywords for you, your business, or your kind of art. To do this, it is usually a good start to do a brainstorm about what you are about and what people are likely to search for when looking for your products/services.

Once this is done you can think about fine-tuning your keywords and phrases. To do this, type ‘keyword tool’ into Google and choose the top result. This tool allows you to type in any phrase or keyword and get the monthly search volumes for your country and globally, as well as a host of alternative words and phrases for you to choose from. So it allows you to choose the best words to target easily.

Page Titles and META Tags
Page Titles and META Tags help search engines understand what your website is about, so make sure these are implemented in your code or content management system to achieve success. Also, follow these simple guidelines:

Page Title – No more than 70 characters long
META description – between 130 and 160 characters
Meta Keywords – max of 5 comma separated key phrases/words, and no more than 4 words between each comma

Page Content
The wording on your web pages needs to reflect what you want to be found for in the search engines, so make sure you mention the words and phrases you want to get found for in your website’s content. Also, if you have images then make sure you use ‘Alt Tags’ on them to explain what they are. Also, if you use ‘heading tags’, make sure your H1 tag reads the same of similar to your key target phrases.

For many gallery and portfolio websites, images form the bulk of a websites’ content. There are a couple of things that can be done to your images to help Google understand what is on your page, they are...

Alt Tags – Every image has an ‘alt tag’, this is basically an alternative text to the image, and is what a search engine bot reads and interprets to understand what’s on a page. So use your keywords in your alt tags, but don’t over-do it, keep it short!

Image Name – it is also useful to name the image file the same as your alt tag for consistency.
Unfortunately there is no substitute for good old fashioned text to help search engines understand what is on your page and help you move up the search engines. A way around this may be to include a short description about each image, letting people know how it was created etc, while at the same time subtly entering keywords and phrases.

One of the most important things you can do with regards to moving up the search engines is to get links to your site. You should follow some simple steps when trying to get links though, those being...
Relevant Sites: It is pointless to get links from a site completely unrelated to your own, so try to find websites that are suitable and match your own websites content.
Google Page Rank: Generally, websites with a higher ‘Page Rank’ or PR are better to get links from, so make more of an effort when trying to get a link from a site with a high PR.
Text is better than Images: Text links are better to get than links from images and banners.
Anchor Text: If possible, try and make the anchor text in the link to your site read similar to your target key phrases.
Don’t use link farms – Whatever you do, don’t use these and if you don’t know what these are then it should stay that way, forget about them.

Round up
If you follow these steps and maybe do a bit of extra reading if you wish, then this should stand you in a good position against other artists doing a similar thing to yourself.

Finally, if you didn’t understand any of the phrases mentioned above, just type them into Google; there is info all over the web for this kind of stuff and it is not complicated so you can find your answer really easily.

Playing with fire in Atlanta

I went down to Atlanta last week to help Kathleen Plate, of Smart Glass Jewelry, experiment with incorporating enamels into her glass work. Kathleen uses recycled glass bottles as the primary medium in her work. She slices the bottles into rings, then slumps them in a kiln, resulting in smooth-edged, organic glass rings that she then turns into jewelry and home décor items. The work is beautiful, but working in glass limits what Kathleen can do because of  the limited color palettes of the glass bottles and because of the properties of glass as a material.

We worked for two days experimenting with enamels on copper, silver and glass. Kathleen was not particularly drawn to the metals, but was intrigued by the idea of using enamels directly on the glass rings. We had some technical issues in our experiments because the enamels we had on hand were better matched to metal than to glass, but with some experimentation with enamels with different expansion rates Kathleen will most likely get a good result. This will allow her to add new colors to both her jewelry and décor lines.
You can visit Kathleen’s website here:

I also worked with Jen Cleere of Fetching Tags, teaching her enamel basics. She is adding a new line of pet memorial containers to her collection of pet-related crafts. These beautiful, hand-crafted wooden boxes will incorporate customized inset enamel medallions. It was exciting to see how working in enamels opened up a load of new possibilities for Jen’s creations. I can’t wait to see the finished products! The weather was so nice we set up and worked outside, with the kiln sitting on her goat milking table. I had never done enamels with 5 week old kids bleating in the background, but I rather enjoyed it!
Click here to visit Jen’s website:

While in Atlanta, photographer Terry Greene shot some of my newest jewelry pieces for me. I also got a call from the Montclair Art Museum, requesting that I do a trunk sale in the museum store. So it was a very productive week!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

If you make it (well), they will come

I have spoken with several artists lately who are frustrated by being pigeon-holed into a particular style or medium when trying to market their work. Some of this pressure comes from galleries and retailers who have had success selling the work; if it sells well, keep it coming! Some of it is self-imposed, if something sells why make anything else?

In the commerce of art and craft, in order to match potential buyers with products, those products must be put into categories the buyer will understand, and as an artist expands her work the buyer wants it to be done in a somewhat predictable way. From a marketing perspective this makes sense. 

However, I think there is an inherent conflict between the structure and function of the marketplace and the way most artists are wired. We create work out of the need to explore ourselves and the world around us, but if we want to take our work to the marketplace, this exploration can be stymied as we second-guess ourselves and try to predict if a piece will sell. 

I have seen many successful artists fall into creative crisis because they have lost the connection with why they are artists in the first place. They have traded passion for production, which may be preferable financially but not necessarily emotionally.

I think the work and creative process should always come first. If we create good, thoughtful, technically strong work, it will sell. We may need to find a different market if we change mediums, style or techniques, but that shouldn't dissuade us from allowing ourselves to grow creatively.

What do you think? 
Do you think about your market when you start a new painting? If so, is there anything wrong with that? 
How do you find the balance between considering your marketplace and keeping your work fresh?
How have you found a new market when your way of working changed? 

I would love to hear from you!