Wednesday, May 20, 2009

5 more ways of helping your art website to rank well in Google

Following on from Monday's post 5 positive ways to help your art website rank well in Google here are five more ways to have a positive impact on the way your art blog or website ranks in Google.

This is based on the survey done by SEOMoz in 2007 which you can see in Search Engine Ranking Factors v2. What I've done is try and translate each factor into what an artist can do to improve the way they present themselves and their art on the internet.

Victoria - a work in progress #2
coloured pencils on Sennelier HP
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Frankly I'm SEO aware as opposed to being an SEO expert and things may well have changed since 2007. That means I'm not clear as to whether the factors described below are still part of the top ten factors! However in an intuitive sense it seems to me that logically they should still be very relevant.

See what you think. Plus do let me know what you think as well.
In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.
Google - Webmaster Site owners help - ranking
Topical Relevance of Inbound Links to site
The subject-specific relationship between the sites/pages linking to the target page and the target keyword
This factor relates to whether or not the links to a specific blog or website come from very similar/relevant sites. Trusted topical sites with high quality content will carry more weight.

For artists, you need to ask yourself whether any major sites which link to you are similar to your site or not - and whether they are high quality or not. For example, an art forum might be very relevant while I think I'd have to query whether some social networking sites have the same sort of relevance.

Art Societies: Sites with a very high degree of similarity and mutual relevance around a particular keyword tend to be those belonging to an art society and its artist members. This is particularly the case if the art society specialises in some way around a genre (eg portraits) or media (eg pastels) or a style (eg realism).

One of the ways art societies can provide a very nice benefit for their members who have websites is to provide a link to those websites (eg see CPSA's members' websites/blog page ) and/or to have a gallery page on the website for each member which lists that member's website and/or blog (eg see UKCPS Members' Galleries). Similarly, the more art society members that link to their art society website and/or blog the more important each site will become over time. Truly a case of mutually beneficial back-scratching!

Art Societies which run blogs can also be very nice to their web-aware members by
  • providing a link to their website if posting about that member's activities or achievements for any reason.
  • including a blogroll with links to members blogs.
If you're a member of an art society which hasn't yet addressed the issue of links between the website and members (and let's face it some society's haven't yet got round to having a website!) why not ask the webmaster if this could be considered. It can be a bit onerous getting the links to members websites up and running if theer are a lot. However this is an area of the site which isn't going to change much over time so this is essentially a 'one-off' exercise plus a tiny bit of maintenance for new members and any domain name changes.

Blogs are even simpler - it takes me about ten seconds to add in a member's blog to the blogroll of the art society blog which I look after.

If you're an art society member and your art society has a blog don't forget to provide the URL links to your website and/or blog if supplying information for a news item on the website and/or blog.

Art Forums: Many art forums do allow people to post links in a general way to their personal websites in their member's signature area even if they won't allow active marketing (ie advertising!) of members' art. If you are a member of an art forum, do make sure that you take advantage of what's allowed by way of links (check the terms and condition) and posting from time to time can keep that link active and relevant.

Art Marketing sites: Other relevant sites include those which are involved in marketing and selling art on the Internet - particularly ones which categorise art and focus on the same sort of keywords as you do. This is an area where - in my view - a link from an Etsy store is going to carry more clout than a site like eBay which is very generic and where many artists have given up having stores because of the cost.

Etsy: Number of visitors each month (last 12 months)

Cautionary notes:
  1. The people who run heavy weight / good quality sites know that people want links from them. I know I've often felt like I've been measuring the success of this blog by how often I get asked for a link for a new service/product and how many times I get people trying to surreptitiously slip in a link to their site which has got some sort of connection. (Spam is smacked on this blog!). What happens when you run a site which can become subjected to abuse is you start to tighten up a lot of how people can post links. So don't abuse popular sites!
  2. Sometimes a site's marketing can give a very strong impression that it's got more weight than is in fact the case. You can check out how they rate in the USA by checking domain URLs on For example, if you look at all the sites in Resources for Artists - Selling Art Online you'll see that I provide up to date annual charts of the relative importance of different websites - which might be worth checking out. See, for example, Online Art Galleries and Stores - Resources for Artists and Print Art on Demand - Resources for Artists
Link Popularity of Site in Topical Community
The link weight/authority of the target website amongst its topical peers in the online world
The global link popularity factor (discussed on Monday) relates to how many links a site gets from all sites across the Internet.

This factor essentially boils down to how sites rank relative to one another in their own area of interest - the topical community. The link weight of your website depends on the link weight of the relevant/topical websites which link to yours. This is where links from the more popular and relevant sites can help. On average, people agreed that this factor is helpful.

Now the interesting thing for artists is to try and identify what exactly is the relevant topical community they need to think about. Here are a few examples:
  • all art sites
  • all fine art sites
  • all visual art sites
  • all drawing sites
  • all painting sites
  • all daily painting sites
  • all coloured pencil sites
  • all artists living in the UK
See what I mean? I don't think there can be one right answer or a "one answer fits" all sort of approach.

It's highly likely that, as an artist, you belong to a number of slightly different topical communities. For example - I'm an artist who produces fine art and uses dry media - particularly pencils and coloured pencils, really likes drawing and sketching and lives in the UK and likes blogging about art. Now every word or phrase highlighted in that sentence is (I think) a different topical community. So it might be worthwhile to think about which community you identify with most and which matters least.

The best approach for you as an individual artist probably depends on the unique identity of the art that you produce and where you live. The best approach is probably to be aware of all the internet communities and websites which closely relate to your art - and then decide which ones you want to have some sort of formal relationship with. Social engineering for artists if you like?

Remember it's perfectly feasible for an artist's website to outperform the 'recognised' authority website within a topical niche if it has better links!

Keyword Use in Body Text
Using the targeted search term in the visible, HTML text of the page
This is the use of the keyword in the body text and there's average agreement that this is very important.

This is where you need to include the keyword in the text on the webpage - enough so that's it recognised as part of the core message and not so much that you're thought to be a spammer! So don't talk about your art and leave out all the words which should have some sort of priority connection with your art!

text on artists' websites and blogs - The main issue for me about artists' websites is how many of them lack any text at all which talks about the art! Unless your using alt tags on the art - of which more later, that gallery page is probably not earning its keep!

Having tightly focused pages - in terms of gallery pages on your website or posts on your blog - can help a lot with making text very specific and consistent with whatever theme you are writing about. Again and again I see blog posts where people meander around a number of different topics which may or may no relate to the title so it's difficult to see what the post is about. Similarly I see people slipping in a mention of an achievement without really giving it the weight it deserves eg a dedicated blog post using all the relevant words. It's fine about being shy and not wanting to boast - but don't be surprised if people who don't win the prizes but write better copy rank high than you in Google!

Here's a couple of suggestions of things to think about:
  • Do you present your artwork in a themed way - to help make your text focused and relevant?
  • Do you vary the text on each gallery page to suit the theme?
  • Do you write focused posts?
  • Do you signal what your post is about in the first paragraph when it's important to marketing (1) you as an artist (2) your art
  • Try the following exercise.........
  • Think of a set of words which describe your art.
  • Now rank them in terms of how important they are to describing your art and how you want people to think about your art.
  • Now take a look at the text on your blog or website and see how much you use your most important words
Are you surprised?
When posting art think about the words which crop up first and which ones need a specific and accurately described link from another site which has your work. Titling images and how you link to where the art is being sold are both relevant here.

One of the things I sometimes do when creating posts or information sites is to think about what my subject is - as a keyword - and then check out how other people think in words about this. Checking out a search term in Google Adwords takes 10 seconds and can avoid some potential mistakes! Getting the term right can really help with attracting the people who are genuinely interested in your subject. I then try to get the phrase into the first paragraph of body text if I can.

When I do my hyperlinks to text I nearly always adopt a very literal anchor text - so that it always 'does what it says on the tin'. I also try to include that important phrase in the first paragraph of text associated with an individual URL. So, for example, my exhibition reviews almost always provide a link to the art society and/or the name of the exhibition in the very first paragraph.

It's helpful to repeat keywords you're using a title again in the opening and closing paragraphs of the text on the page.

Global Link Popularity of Linking Site

Basically the notion here is that the more popular the site is on the internet (the more links it has) the more impact it has on the way your site ranks when and if it links to you. For example, if the New York Times gives you a mention and includes a link to your website then you're really going to benefit a lot.

However two points are important here. Nobody seems to know anymore how important links from heavy weight but unrelated sites are any more. Plus most sites aren't the New York Times" Hence most people disgree about how important this factor is given that it isn't about how relevant the linking site is.

I tend to think of this as a windfall factor - nice if it happens but not worth spending time on!

Topical Relationship of Linking Page

While it is generally agreed that most links are helpful, getting a link from a website or blog which is focused on the same topic is more helpful. How much more helpful is debateable. This appears to be very much influenced by the other factors such as how heavy weight the site is, how good and relevant its content is.

Some have suggested that topic similarity matters more in some search engines than others.

The next post in this series will be about the factors which can have a negative impact on your website or blog.

Feel free to comment about any aspect of this post.

Note: Victoria continues - and I'm really liking the Sennelier HP paper - which I will on MAM reviews next week. I'm trying to produce the same number of stages as there are posts in this series but may have planned that badly!

Making a Mark reviews......


  1. Thanks, Katherine, for bringing all these issues to light. I am presently redesigning my website and using some of your tips on my blog. It has given me pause to really stop and think how better to market my work. I appreciate your generosity.

  2. Victoria is looking superb, Katherine!

  3. This discussion is so helpful! The funny thing is that three of my most popular posts with 5,000 to 7,000 views each, have been about topics unrelated to art (except that they were the subject I was drawing: a blue glass water bottle, a devils tongue flower, a device I found useful when plein air painting in an area without restrooms).

    People also get there by searching for info about places I've sketched or painted. I just sold a plein air painting to an architect who was searching for information about Mt. Tamalpais, saw my painting of it and bought it.

    Once the niece of a woman who commissioned a watercolor painting of her home as a gift for her husband, searched for the Oakland Federal Building, found my sketch of it, and as she browsed around in my blog, saw my painting in progress, recognized her aunt's house and called her to tell her. How unlikely is that!

    Your portrait in progress is wonderful. I was struck by the beautiful patterns of light and shade and how well they work as an abstract design. What a pretty girl!

  4. Thanks for the comments re Victoria - I've got two more stages waiting to be posted. Apparently Victoria likes it too!

    Jana - it just goes to show doesn't it? I'm a great believer in being precise rather than being 'clever' having watched my stats do some interesting things over the last three years. Also because I know how I write search queries and I tend to cut it down to the words I know should generate what I want to see.

    I know I've gained subscribers and regular readers because people arrived for one reason and stayed because they liked what they read when they got here. That's where the emphasis on content comes in.


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