Tuesday, September 04, 2007

How to improve your art blog

Teasels #1
7" x 5", pen and ink on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

A year ago I wrote a couple of posts about why artists should blog. A year later this post is about how to improve your art blog.

Recently I gave some advice to a successful artist who wanted to use her blog as part of her marketing of her art but wondered why she wasn't getting much of an audience for her blog. For those of you who would also like to improve your blog profile and traffic and/or use it to market your art, you'll find that this post develops the themes in some of the advice I offered. Some of my advice comes from having managed a major marketing operation in the past and the rest comes from having blogged most days for the last 20 months!

If you're blogging just for the fun of it - that's great too. If you'd like more readers and more people to comment on your blog you may also find some of the following comments to be useful pointers.

How to improve your art blog - STRATEGY
  • Be clear about your purpose in blogging and stay focused
    • It helps a lot if you set out clear expectations for readers and then meet them consistently.
    • You can find an example of my purpose and focus - and how this creates expectations for my readers - in what it says in and under my blog title. In practice this seems to work like meta tags.
    • You can always change your focus if it doesn't work out. I stopped my first blog after six posts and started again.
  • What does the name and description of your blog say about you, your purpose, your interests and your art?
    • The name of your blog can contribute to it being found by search engines - or not - and/or whether people click the link when they see it.
    • People debate whether or not you should use your name. However I incline towards the notion that a blog 'brand' can also be a phrase eg "Making A Mark".
  • If blogging is part of your marketing strategy for getting your art noticed and/or selling art, then make time for developing and maintaining your blog. You also need to be clear how it fits into and links with other marketing activities.

How to improve your art blog - CUSTOMER ORIENTATION

  • Blogs are like Private Views at the opening of an exhibition - an opportunity for buyers to meet and get to know the artist and their interests and motivations. Some will also be interested in how you produce your art. The only difference is this is 'virtual' and you don't know who is watching/reading. Quite a few buyers now seem to think that blogs are actually better than very brief face-to-face meetings at private views!
  • Blogs are not static websites - you need to create posts. Some people will think that making excuses on your blog for not having time to post is a bit like saying "I'm here but I really haven't got time to talk to you".

How to improve your art blog - CONTENT

  • Be authentic. Be real. Be knowledgeable.
    • Blog about what interests you and what your art is about. People who demonstrate a real interest and enthusiasm for a subject are always more stimulating to those who share your interest.
    • Have an opinion. For example, if you talk about other artists then say what you like about their work / why you think they are good
    • Write about what you know about - or what you are finding out about.
  • Content is what gets you readers and quality of content is what gets you subscribers.
    • Create content that other people want to read. That way they come back for more.
    • Word of mouth (or blog) is also very effective. People always want to tell others about and link to the good things that they've found. You may have noticed that it is one of my passions in life - but I know I'm not alone!
    • Content does not have to satisfy all your readers all the time. You can also talk to niche audiences. Commercial set-ups often tend to neglect or miss out the niche interest (unless niche interests are clearly part of and fostered by their business model - as they are with Amazon). Blogs are a perfect form of social communication which address the long tail.
    • An art blog is not an autobiography (although you can have one of those as well - as many artists do). Keep whinging to a minimum and avoid too much naval gazing and talking about the ups and downs of your life (unless relevant to your art or your personal style is to have a very chatty blog - which some people are very good at)
    • Plus if you want to sell art, create content that buyers will be interested in - which may well involve posts about your subject matter as well as your art (eg I like gardens and flowers - and how they are reflected in art - and have had projects about both in the last couple of months).
How to improve your art blog - TRAFFIC
  • What keeps a brand name or a person's name current and ranked well in browser searches is good quality content which both reflects important key word searches and is recent (ie active in the last 6 months). Consequently, a fairly static artist's website (comprising mainly images which were posted some time ago) is usually going to help less at developing an artist's profile on the Internet than an artist's blog.
  • Produce content first and then develop dialogue.
  • Post regularly to attract an appreciable following.
  • Having a series of posts about a topic helps your blog to become associated with that topic.
  • Create but do not force dialogue. Find other people blogging about the things which your blog is about and/or you are interested in and comment on their blogs. Most bloggers look at the blogs of those who have commented and if you offer good content they may comment, may return and may link to you too.
  • Blog intelligently - you need to:
    • Think about headings and how you can help the spider bots crawl your blog
    • Once you've written a good post don't forget to make it easy for people to link to you. Make sure each post has an individual URL (click the blog title or look for a trackback or permanent link function. In Blogger settings, include 'link fields' to create the URL and 'backlinks' to show which posts have got trackbacks).
    • Use words. I'll say that again USE WORDS! The spider bots don't understand images - they only understand the words which are used to describe them. So if you post an image, which is in a gallery exhibition or you are posting on e-bay or you want to market/highlight in some way, you also need to say something about it.
    • Try and include a good synopsis of the post in the first couple of sentences / 100 characters
    • Use keywords and/or tags associated with your target audience AND the content of your post. There are some useful tools to test keywords listed in this post.
    • Use the labels/tags function on a Blogger blog - they are very powerful in getting rankings in Google searches (see this post). Those who use tags which they know are popular but don't deliver content that reflects this are penalized.
    • Feed your blog to different blog directories - but do be careful about these. Feeding your blog to Google is essential.
    • Offer RSS and e-mail subscription services. I use both Feedburner and Feedblitz.
    • Ping your blog every time you post - so that people pick up your posts
    • Consider sidebar widgets which people might like - my preference is for a very few. Good examples include: ClustrMaps; e-bay to go for showcasing your e-bay auction or other discoveries.
  • Do maintain a blogroll but think twice about 'swaps'. A blogroll should help other people find blogs you like reading and/or think are good. Keep yours under review and authentic.
  • If you sell your art, find out about your customers and what sort of places your buyers like to hang out on the Internet and watch and learn.
...and finally - KEEP BLOGGING
  • Blogging does not get instant results. Lots of people give up before the blog is three months old because they can't see the results. However, blogging is the same as anything else you get good at - 90% of it is about turning up to do it! (see my post about The Stickability Factor for more on this topic)
  • You could quite reasonably aim for a very good web presence in about 6-12 months depending on how you work at your blogging and networking with other bloggers.
  • Success delivers on an exponential curve. I noticed a remarkable difference in the way my blog turned up on the first page of Google searches after I passed 50,000 pageviews and again after 100,000 page views. 200,000 is not that far off now so i'm wondering what happens next!
Now - if anybody has got any queries, I can't guarantee to be able to answer them all, but I will have a go or I will try and refer you to somebody who might answer it better than me.

If anybody has got any other suggestions please feel free to use the comments function to expand on the above.

Note: My pen and ink drawing is of some of the magificent teasels (top) I've been seeing this summer is at a 'rest and review stage' before final wteaking. I think there's a little bit more to do but I want to avoid over-working it. I expect to offer this as a portfolio work (matted not framed) in the 86th Annual Open Exhibition of the SGFA which opens next week. Views and comments are welcome.

Links to some key Making A Mark posts about Art Bogs and blogging:


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a very informative post - just what I needed as I am making new goals and am trying to figure out where my blog fits into all this. I sense a makeover coming up...

Gesa said...

Thanks for this post, Katherine - these how to do posts are very useful ones and I find I really enjoy stumbling upon them

Rose Welty said...

Katherine, lots of good info here. Shows me just how much I don't know. What do you mean by feeding your blog to blog directories? Do you think that one should aim to have the blog and website integrated? Obviously, yours are not, would you consider joining them at any point, i.e. is there a good reason for having them separate? Thanks...Rose

Papierflieger said...

Hi Katherine,
an excellent post again. Thanks for inspiring me to start blogging !
all the best

Michelle said...

Excellent post, Katherine. Nice to be reminded of the things we should be doing on a regular basis. I appreciate the time you took to put it all together for us.

Making A Mark said...

Anne, Gesa, Rose Martin and Michelle - thanks to all of you for your comments.

Michelle - to be honest I give out bits and pieces of the information contained in this blog post all the time. I decided the time had come to try and assemble it all in one place - and then I would just be able to say - go take a look at this blog post..........

Of course as soon as I'd finished and posted I immediately thought of all sorts of other useful things to know - like useful links to other sites. So maybe another follow-up post is needed as well?

Casey Klahn said...

I like your suggestion of Firefox in your header subtext. I'll be copying that one, soon.

On the subject of one's name in the header, I agree that branding a blog can be more attractive and informative to a broader audience with a title rather than one's name.

My website makeover group did get into my blog, naturally, as extension of my whole web presence. They wanted my name in the header somewhere, especially as one more place for Google to find me other than my web site. So, I put my name in my new "tag line", or sub header. That seemed like an important thing, I think, even though my blog attempts to be at least 60-70% art subject and not at all about myself.

While I think it's much, much better to stay off of one's daily life, I then find vapid and self-centric blogs (not art ones, but some others) that have incredible audiences. Good to research non-art blogs, I think.

Making A Mark said...

Oh I do Casey. I think if I only looked at art blogs I'd have a very narrow perspective about life online!

My name in the tag line is something I could probably live with - so long as it small letters! My 'deal' is that I say more about me on my website and provide links to my 'about me' page on all my other sies.

Making A Mark said...

Sometimes people make good points - but do so in a way which also indicates they FAILED TO READ THE POST /COMMENTS FIRST. If they do, this could mean they run the risk of appearing rude.

I'm unable to edit comments and my comments policy means that if part of a comment appears rude or disrespectful to me and/or others then the whole comment will either not be published or will be deleted.

Anonymous said...

I'm a "just for fun" blogger, but I can see that this is good advice. What I really want to comment on, though, is that drawing...it is WONDERFUL!

Making A Mark said...

Thanks Dave - come and see it in person at the Menier Gallery next week!

Anonymous said...

I might just do that...I'm going to be in London on Monday 10th for a meeting. Will the exhibition be open then?

Making A Mark said...

I'm afraid not. Private View is the evening of Tuesday 11th and then it opens on Wednesday and closes on the 22nd.

Making A Mark said...

Rose - you need to feed your blog to different places. To be honest it's probably all changed since I set up mine.

Just put blog directories into your search engine and see what comes up (what comes up will vary depending on where people are located).

For example - this is one site which is useful (accessed via Google)

...and this is what comes for me via yahoo

To be honest I now tend to think some of the blog directories are the source of quite a lot of spamming so I'd have a very good look round before registering.

This Google page lets you submit your site to google. Lots of interesting things to look at there. Have a good look round.

Right down the bottom of the Yahoo site is a tiny little link which allows you to submit a website to Yahoo for free. Always worth doing - takes a bit of time for it to come up though.

You generally find these pages by looking down the bottom of the page of a search engine or clicking on their 'about us' link. They certainly don't make it obvious.

Jana Bouc said...

This is such a helpful post. I especially appreciated that you focused on content before traffic. So often advice on blogging is all about HOW to get people to your site, not WHY they would want to come. And I always look forward to visiting here. By the way, the teasel drawing is magnificent. I was sorry that when I clicked on it didn't get much bigger--I wanted to see all the details. I'm going to go look up what it means to "ping" your blog when you post. I'm not familiar with that concept.

Jana Bouc said...

P.S. I just checked WordPress (my blog host) to find out about pinging and they say "When you post we send a ping to Ping-O-Matic which then distributes it out to 15+ different services, all automatically...it’s another thing you just don’t have to worry about." Cool!

Jana Bouc said...

PPS - Today a co-worker told me that her husband did a Google search for a neighborhood oil change place. He typed in "oil" "Berkeley" and "Gilman". The first item on Google's list was my blog. It took him to a post that started, "This morning I took my neglected car in for the “Wacky Wednesday” oil change and car wash special...." with a sketch of the Gilman Street Grill in Berkeley.

daveterry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Making A Mark said...

Good point Dave - I was going to do site statistics and different webware on offer in a subsequent post - but it needs mentioning here too.

daveterry said...

Katherine: The only thing I'd add it use Google Analytics. It's free, it's simple, it's expansive. You can see what pages interest folks the most as well as frequency and referrals. All of this helps me to understand what my readers enjoy. Although that doesn't always dictate what I write.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Wow! There is so much to keep up with.
Since I added Feedjit to my blog I can view the Google search page and the query that was typed into the search engine. It also shows what number I am in the results.
I think that I'm using good descriptive labels on blogger and getting traffic out of it. I also, read my commentor's blogs and comment which is a good ways to draw visitors.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for putting this up :D these tips are very helpful for newbie art bloggers like me! more power to you, ma'am :)

Unknown said...

Good points. Thanks for helping your fellow artists.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate all your information,20 years as a fulltime artist and only 2 months experience on a computer. I have a lot of catching up to do. So THANK YOU

Tracey Mac said...

Such a wealth of information, thanks so much, this has been so helpful, really appreciate such awesome advice.

La Culebra said...

This has been really helpful as I am researching how to maximize the use of my blog/ website. I find myself doing a mix of posts about my art work and fellow artists in the New York metro area art scene that I interact with. Being consisent with updating is key!

Si Ying said...

Hi, this is a very useful information in this post. I am intending of creating one, now I am looking for guidance from people like you that have knowledge in this area.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this Katherine. I recently started blogging about my art, but have been put off posting images, even at low res, as I'm still trying to work around blogs whilst gaining new audiences for my art, they also risk being another platform to have work lifted and copied (have already experienced both), but still be shown at the best quality it needs in order to generate interest and sales.

Making A Mark said...

If you're concerned about your images you can always use a watermark on top.

Unknown said...

Great practical and useful information. Great post and blog thank you!

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