Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jump Start Your Art Business - Part II

by Kate Dardine

In my last blog I talked about how most artists – at least those trying to start or restart an art career – need a website. Today I’m going to talk about how to optimize your website to be searchable for engines like Google and Bing and create a good first impression once prospective buyers find you.

The most important thing to remember is this: just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come! And the second most important thing: just because they come, doesn’t mean they will buy. So, how do you get people to do both things – come to your site AND buy?

First I’m going to start with what NOT to do.

1. DON’T load your site up with pretty to look at but useless for searching Flash functions. Flash is basically unreadable (for web crawlers) and can be slow to load.

2. DON’T put huge watermarks on your images to discourage people from “stealing” your images. Those who really want to steal the image know how to remove the watermark, wouldn’t have bought anything anyway, and are really just a tiny fraction of the people who will hopefully be wandering around on your website. Do you really want to send the people who are interested in your work and may purchase a signal that says, “I don’t trust you?” If you really feel you must watermark your images, choose a small watermark (perhaps a copyright symbol and your name) placed in the lower right hand side of the image.

3. DON’T upload huge files to your site, or have “pages” with hundreds of images on them. Both will take too long to load up and you will lose your viewer. A good rule of thumb for sizing for the web is 600 pixels per inch (ppi) on the long dimension, set at a resolution of 72 ppi.

4. DON’T use an obscure url for your website. For instance, I call my business “Painted Wind Studio” but my url is katedardine.com. Why? Because more people will know MY name than the clever but meaningless name I’ve given my studio. What if your name is a common one, or someone else (how dare they?) already has a website with your name? Try johnsmithstudio, or johnsmithart, or johnsmithpaintings, or artbyjohnsmith . Be creative, but get your name in there!

5. DON’T just load your site with images and no text. Text is what the crawlers are looking for, and what people search for.

6.) DON’T opt for a “cheap” website, like those offered by Go Daddy, UNLESS you possess the skills to make it look professional. Most web hosting services that are free are only free because you allow them to put banner advertisements on your site. You have no control over what ads appear, and what they look like. If you are going to take the time and put in the effort to build a web presence, you want one enhances your image…not something else.

And now, for things TO DO:

1. DO make sure your name appears on every page.

2. DO make sure the words that people would use to find you are on the pages where those things appear. For instance, the description of a landscape of the rocky mountains might be: “This beautiful winter landscape depicts the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, with the morning light casting deep blue shadows on the new fallen snow.”

3. DO make sure to use descriptive title tags on every page. Title tags are what show up as the description about a page when it comes up in a search. For example, the title tag on the home page of my website says "Land and Animal Spirit Paintings by Kate Dardine." Most template websites do this for you automatically.

4. DO use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to drive viewers to your website.

5. DO put your url on all your collateral materials (brochure, business cards, resume, etc.) as well as in your signature tag on all outgoing emails and in any print advertisements.

6.) DO subscribe to other people’s blogs and post comments frequently – of course entering in your website url along with your name.

7.) DO update your content frequently. Once a day is not too much (that is where having a website from a company like Fine Art Studio Online really comes in handy – with its self contained blog and easy to update pages, adding fresh content is painless!)

So this has been all about getting people to come to your site, wander around and look at all the beautiful images. Now, how do we turn lookers into buyers? Subscribe to this blog so you’ll know when I post the next segment of this continuing series of using a website to jump start your fledgling or flagging art business. Need marketing help? Check out our marketing tips, or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.