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  • Artist Websites: How to Increase Your Online Traffic

    and Keep Everyone on Your Site Longer





    We live in an amazing age where practically any artist anywhere who has access to the internet can present their art to the world, but of all the artists who maintain their own websites, only a small percentage take full advantage of their online capabilities. Many take no advantage at all; they simply upload images of their art and do little more than wait and see what happens. They may send periodic email updates, have links on their social media pages, hand out business cards, ask people to check out their sites, and that's about it.

    The whole point of having a website is to spread the word about your art and to broaden your audience-- not to maintain a static presence-- which means you have to be more proactive than that. The main reason you're online in the first place is to get your art in front of as many people as possible, not just people you already know or happen to meet somewhere. You've got far bigger options than that. The good news is that any artist can actively increase their website's reach and traffic with some simple adjustments and techniques.

    This means making your website more accessible, welcoming and appealing to all kinds of people, whether they already know you or not, whether they're on social media or not. Using social media to drive traffic to your site is important, but it has its limitations. For one thing, not that many people will click over to your site because they don't want to leave whatever platform they're on. You can do way more on the internet as a whole, especially in terms of reaching people who are wandering around for whatever reason and aren't on social media. We're talking about maximizing the chances that they'll land on your website, and once they do, keeping them there. Whether they know you or not, what they find when they get there and how it's organized and presented is critical to making their experiences rewarding ones.

    Why Having Your Own Website is Still Important:

    For those of you who think websites are no longer necessary and all you need is to be active on social media, think again. Among other issues, problems with putting your content on someone else's platform are that they can change the rules anytime, temporarily suspend or even remove your page completely if you violate the terms of use, require you to format your materials according to their layout and posting restrictions, and so on. Also, no matter how wonderful your page or image feed might be, social media sites constantly tempt visitors with all kinds of options, alternatives, reasons, distractions and enticements to leave your page and go somewhere else. All they care about is how long people stay on the site, not what pages they spend that time on.

    When you have your own website, on the other hand, you run the show and are the only person who decides how to organize, present and position your art. No other platform can even come close to giving you that kind of freedom and control over your content and organization, not to mention the permanency and security of having an online headquarters for your art that will stay online for as long as you want it to, and only changes when you decide, not someone else.

    Unfortunately, the typical artist website of today is still not much different from artist portfolios of 20 or 30 years ago. In other words, it's designed largely for art people who already understand art or know the artist, know what they're looking at, and know how to navigate their way through it all. The art is often presented with minimal explanation and not well organized. Written explanations or introductions about the art are often hard to understand (assuming there's any writing at all), navigating the site is not straightforward, and the overall appearance of the site makes sense mainly to those already in the loop and is confusing to everyone else. As a result, the reach of these sites have in terms of who's able to access, understand and appreciate the art in more than superficial ways hasn't changed all that much from before the internet.

    One of the greatest online advantages, and one artists consistently overlook, is that complete strangers can land on your website or discover you and your art entirely by chance or accident. We're not only talking about art people here, but about anyone! As things stand now, most artists tell me people find their websites not by chance or accident or because they're looking for particular types of art, but rather by typing artist names directly into search engines, once again demonstrating that artist website audiences consist mainly of people who've already heard or read or know about these artists rather than as a result of good SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

    Think about all the multitudes out there who might potentially love your art if only they knew you existed and could somehow find you online. And how about all those people who like the kind of art you make but have no idea you exist? Social media hashtags help to a certain extent, but attracting people outside of social media is different. Here, you have to organize and present yourself and your art in ways that increase the chances for anyone to get lucky and discover you, art and non-art people alike.

    No matter who they may be, the more people who are able to land on your website and see your art, the greater the chances of ultimately advancing in your career, getting invitations to participate in shows, getting gallery representation, being included in exhibitions, making sales, getting commissions, being featured on blogs or art websites, and more. You have to assume that anyone has the potential to become a fan or even a patron, and you want to make sure you're reaching out to those who don't yet know you as well as those who do.

    Ways to Maximize Your Website's Visibility:

    * To begin with, every page on your site, including those with images of your art, should have its own title line. Each line should accurately and specifically describe that page's content, much like a news headline summarizes whatever story you're about to read. One major mistake many artists make is using the same exact title line on every single page of their websites. Title lines like "Joe Smith artist" or "Mary Jones art" or "Bill Williams sculpture" are way too general and will likely get you nowhere. At worst, some websites have no title lines at all other than "Home" or "Index" or "Gallery" and don't even mention the artist's name.

    The title line, for those of you who don't know, usually appears at or near the top of your browser window on index tabs or tab bars, not in the content of the page itself. If you're still have trouble finding it, ask your web designer or tech support how to locate and revise them. The title line is one of the MOST IMPORTANT lines on a webpage, contains text that search engines generally spider first, often show up in search results (assuming they contain good keywords and information). Each title line on each individual page of your website should be unique, thereby maximizing the chances, opportunities, and range of keywords for those pages to appear in search results.

    For example, if a page shows an image of your art, the title line should consist of keywords specific to that artwork like your name, the work's title, medium, subject matter, topic, style of art, and so on-- the more specific, the better. If a page shows thumbnails of a series or group of related works, the title line might include keywords like your name, the name of the series, the medium, the theme, concept or unifying idea-- and again, the more specific, the better. Title lines should not ramble on and on, but instead be concise and include the most important keywords describing whatever is on the page.

    If an image of your art has to do with a geographic location, for example, the title line might name the location or any landmarks pictured in the work. People searching for information about that location with similar keywords might see that image come up in their search results, click over to it, and like it enough to email you about it, or tell their friends, or maybe even ask the price. Rather than think only about art people, always think about why anyone else might be interested in seeing your work and what types of search words or phrases might help get them there.

    * Every image page on your site should include either an introduction to the work on that page, captions, descriptions or explanations. We all know art is a visual medium, but unfortunately, Google and other search engines can't search images alone; they can only search text. When image pages have little or no searchable text, one of the main purposes of your website-- to increase your art's online visibility-- is defeated right from the start. This goes for individual images too, so make sure every one not only includes basic information about what it is (title, size, medium, etc), and if relevant, a brief explanation or description ranging in length from a sentence or two to perhaps a paragraph or two at most (but don't overdo it). This assures that images of your art will appear in search results, and especially in image searches.

    * Every image of your art should have its own distinct URL, be individually searchable on search engines, and be individually linkable via social media posts. Surprisingly, numerous images on many artist websites have neither their own unique web addresses nor any text descriptions or information, and as a result are completely unsearchable. If you're not sure about your images, check with your web designer or tech support and ask. Every searchable image you have means one more chance for people to land on your website.

    With effective use of unique URLs, title lines, descriptions and keywords, each page on your website becomes one more way to attract a different type of person or demographic to your art. Every time you pair distinctive text with an image, with specific keywords that relate directly to that image, it's like opening a brand new gallery in a brand new neighborhood because now a whole new subset of people, ones who are using similar or identical keywords in their searches, has a chance to see that page come up in their search results, click over to it, and view that piece of art.

    How to Keep People on Your Site Once They Arrive:

    * Make sure you have a clearly visible link to your homepage on every single page of your site. No matter where on your website new visitors might land, if they like what they see, your homepage is usually the first place they'll go to find out more.

    * The text on your homepage should quickly and clearly answer the following two questions for any visitor who happens to land there: "Where am I?" and "Why am I here?" Typically, you've got about 30 seconds or a minute to state your case in ways people can understand and connect with before they begin to lose interest or get confused, give up, and leave. Do a good job of answering those two simple questions in a compelling, engaging and welcoming way, and in language ANYONE can understand, hopefully in a paragraph or two or maybe even a sentence or two, and visitors will be more inclined to stick around for at least a bit and spend more time looking at more art.

    Even if your art is conceptual, theoretical, has a complex cognitive component or is arcane in other ways, you can always figure out ways to explain the basics in ordinary English pretty much anyone can understand. Give anyone a fighting chance to get a grip if they like what they see and want to know more. They may not all stay; hardly any of them may stay. But all you need is one to appreciate what they read and see, and take some kind of positive action as a result.

    * Make sure the design of your site is straightforward, easy to navigate, your main menu is on every page of your site, and that visitors, especially new ones, can easily locate and click back to your homepage, your gallery page, and other main pages from every single page of your site.

    * Update regularly. A website that stays the same month after month or year after year give the impression that little or nothing is happening in your artistic career. So regularly add new works, keep your news or events page current, and generally give the impression that you are actively advancing with your art and career.

    * Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. More and more people are browsing the web on their phones, so your website should be as easy to access and read on the small screen as it is on larger ones. Plus the fact that Google ranks mobile-friendly websites higher, especially when on cell phone searches.

    * Always use language anyone can understand on main pages of your site. You can have more complicated, complex or detailed descriptions or explanations too, but those should generally be on secondary pages where people who want in-depth information can click links to read more. You don't want to drown visitors in torrents of words, especially complete strangers who are usually way more interested in getting up to speed fast and seeing your art than reading on and on about it.

    * Have an "About the Art," "About My Art," "Artist Statement" or "Art" page to serve as a basic introduction to your work. The length should be no more than 300 to 400 words. That's plenty for most people, and 150-250 words is even better. One or two concise paragraphs can be more than adequate in most cases. Think of this page like the introduction to a book, a movie trailer, or sampling a song on iTunes. Use it exactly the same way-- like a teaser or enticement to get people to want to see more. The object is to interest and engage visitors as quickly and effortlessly as possible, to make them curious, and to get them into your gallery or image sections fast, because in the end it's all about your art.

    * When describing your art, always write so even people who don't know you or have never seen your work before can get a sense of what it's about fast (don't worry about boring those who already know you; they'll be fine). You are probably familiar with the most common questions new viewers have about your art and how you usually answer them. A great strategy is to answer these basic questions on your "About the Art" page just like you do in person. That way, new visitors don't have to waste time trying to figure your work out because you preemptively clarify it for them, thereby getting them to your gallery pages faster.

    * Have an "About the Artist" page. One of the greatest benefits of the internet is that people can not only get to know the art but also the artist behind the art. Artists have more opportunities than ever to introduce themselves, talk about their backgrounds and inspirations, interact with their fans, and generally provide insight into the personalities behind the art. The truth is that many people buy art not only because they like it, but also because they like and respect the artist who made it. By making yourself accessible, you increase the overall understanding and appeal of your work.

    * Organize your art. Don't simply have page after page of unrelated images or thumbnails of every work of art you create-- especially without explanations-- and then expect people to figure out how it all fits together. You know your work perfectly; most people who visit your site are far less informed. Not only don't they have the time to sift through everything, but even if they try, they'll likely only get confused or overwhelmed and leave if you don't guide them.

    * If you make art in series or if you produce several distinct styles or types of art, have a separate gallery for each one including a brief introduction to the work in that gallery. Well-organized galleries instill confidence in viewers, make them feel like they have a grip on what you're doing and what they're looking at, like they truly understand your work (and as we all know, nobody buys anything they don't understand).

    * Use specific descriptive words and phrases whenever you write about your art-- whether you're talking about all of it or particular individual works-- and avoid vague or general terms or descriptions. For example, let's say you paint urban scenes. Rather than describe them in general terms like "Big City Life" (useless to search engines), describe distinct aspects of every composition like who's in it, what's happening, the weather, location, street names, events, time of day, vehicles, buildings, and so on. Don't ramble on and on, but keep in mind that the more specific details you provide, the greater the probability of attracting people who may be searching for either similar kinds of urban art (or even something totally different like travel information about a particular city, but who happen to be using those same keyword search terms). Your goal is for images of your art to come up in multiple search results, art and otherwise. You never know who might click on them, find themselves on your website, and like what they see.

    * When writing about your art, include words and phrases that people who like your work regularly use when they talk about it, tell you how it affects them, or express what they like about it the most. Words, phrases and descriptions that your biggest fans regularly use are most likely to appeal to potential future audiences as well.

    ***

    Artists hire me on a regular basis to review and make recommendations on how to improve the organization, structure and functionality of their websites. If you'd like me to review or make recommendations on how to maximize the effectiveness of yours, I'm always available. Call 415.931.7875 or email me at alanbamberger@me.com and let's make an appointment. A typical website review takes half an hour and only costs $75.

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