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Keyword Targeting for Artists: A Simple Yet Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

If you want more people to see your art via your art blog or art website, you’ll probably be interested in a search engine optimization technique called keyword targeting.

What is keyword targeting?

We all know that if someone searches for a word or phrase in Google which closely matches the information on your website, then your website will be one of those that Google displays in their results.

Keyword targeting is simply the act of researching and then placing specific words or phrases into your website that you’d LIKE to rank well in Google for.

The trickiest part is figuring out which keywords to target. For example, trying to target “Art” as one of your keywords will result in a lot of frustration and very little traffic, since that keyword has a lot of competition from millions and millions of websites.

Targeting a phrase like “Louisiana landscape painter” however, is a lot more do-able. . . and more importantly, keyword targeting also allows you to systematically cover all the possible variations of keywords that relate to you and your art. So in addition to “Louisiana landscape painter” you could also target “Louisiana landscape artist,” “Louisiana landscape paintings,” “Louisiana artwork,” etc, etc.

Since not all people will search for exactly the same keyword, this is a great way to increase traffic to your website by making sure that everyone who wants to find your art actually does.

OK, so now that you know the basics behind keyword targeting, here’s how I’d recommend going about it for your own website or blog:

1. Figure out how to describe you artwork for others

What is your art about? Think about the subject matter you work with, or the style that you use, and describe your artwork it in a few short sentences or phrases. Don’t forget about your medium, either.

Now think about how other people would describe your art, or how they would search for it online if they couldn’t use your name to find it. Go ahead and ask a few friends, just to find out for sure.

Ideally, the descriptions and phrases that you’ve written down will match up with the search terms your friends come up with—because no matter how YOU would describe your art, what’s important is how other people would search for it.

2. See what words you’re already “targeting”

Whether you meant to target them or not, there are probably at least a few keywords that are already bringing in visitors to your site.

If you don’t already use a traffic stats program, you can find out what keywords and keyword phrases are working for you by installing Google Analytics and waiting a week or two as it collects data about your visitors.

Once the data is there, or if you already have Google Analytics, look in the “Keywords” section under “Traffic Sources” and make a list of all the keywords sending you traffic.

Keywords

Keep in mind that some of your keywords might not be related to your art at all—this is normal, and you can delete those words from your list. (If none of your keywords are relevant, then it’s a good indication that keyword targeting is exactly what you need.)

With this list and the descriptions that you and your friends came up with in the first step, it’s time to start doing some advanced keyword research.

3. Research new keywords to target

If you’re like me, there are a limited number of words and phrases you can come up with in a short time period of time without getting a little loopy. Luckily, you don’t have to do all the work yourself.

Google has created a keyword tool that will help you find more relevant keywords to target, simply based on the keywords and phrases you already have. The tool is technically part of Google Adwords, but you don’t have to be an Adwords member to use it. Here’s the link.

In Google’s keyword tool you can enter multiple keywords or phrases, choose “Use Synonyms” if you’d like even more answers, and get a long list of keyword ideas instantly. Go ahead and enter the search terms or descriptions you came up with earlier and I’ll use my previous example to illustrate how it works.

Keyword Research

As you can see below, Google didn’t find any alternate keyword suggestions related to the full phrase containing “Louisiana,” but it did come up with a lot of suggestions similar to “landscape artist” and “landscape painting.”

Google Keyword Tool

If you look at the column just to the right of the keywords, you’ll see a green bar showing the relative advertiser competition. . . you can just skip over that, since it only applies to people using Google Adwords.

The next column, however, may be a little more helpful. It shows the estimated number of searches for each of those keywords over the last month. Some of those keywords were searched for a lot, like “Oil Painting,” while others are less popular.

This means that if you were able to rank on the first page of Google for “Oil Painting” you’d probably get a ton of traffic. . . but is that the right keyword to target? Maybe, maybe not—there’s one more question to answer first. Download your list of keywords to your computer, or copy them to a spreadsheet, and move on to step four.

4. Weed out overly-competitive keywords

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, keywords like “Art” are out of our league—and actually, so are phrases like “Oil Painting,” for most of us anyway.

Here’s the easiest, quickest way to find out if a keyword is too competitive: just head over to Google, type it into the search bar, and see how many results show up.

My search for “Oil Painting” returned nearly 20 million results, which means that trying to land on the first or second page of Google for that keyphrase would probably be a waste of time.

Oil Painting

As a good rule of thumb, if the results are in the millions and your website is new, you should probably pass. Once your website has been around for a while, you can legitimately start targeting more competitive keywords.

But if you’re just starting out, go through the keyword list that Google gave you (minus the phrases that are already sending you traffic) and look for keywords that have fewer than 250,000 results. Don’t forget to add in your own combinations of keywords as well. For instance, I tried “Louisiana Oil Paintings” and the results were much more promising – just 270,000 results.

That same keyphrase without an “s” at the end returned only 200,000. . . so if I were to target one of those phrases, I’d go for the singular form instead of the plural.

5. Finalize your keyword list

The more specific you are with your keywords (like I was with “Louisiana” phrases) the better you’ll do at finding low-competition phrases. Try to keep your keyphrases under five words though, and think about adding words like “buy” or “find” to the front of your phrases occasionally as well.

Even though there may not be a lot of searches for “Buy Louisiana Oil Paintings,” the people that DO search for that phrase will probably be more likely to purchase, so it’s still worth targeting.

You may need to go back and forth between Google.com and Google’s keyword tool until you have a workable list of about 100 low to mid-level competitive keywords. Once this list is ready, the real work begins. :)

6. Create one blog post or page for each keyword

This is where research finally meets real-world application. . . because each of those keywords you’ve collected needs to appear on your site before it’ll do you any good.

So if you have a blog, start writing blog posts. Write real content that people would be interested in, but focus on just ONE keyword or phrase for each post. (If you have a regular website, not a blog, then add new pages with the same goal in mind.)

Your keyphrase should at least appear in the title of your post, and perhaps in bold or italics somewhere on the page. There are other things you should probably do as well, but I’ve already written about most of them in my other articles on SEO for artists, so check those out if you’re interested.

So. . . any way to make keyword targeting easier?

If you want to be a little more casual with your keyword targeting (like I am, usually) there IS a way to go about it. It may not work as well as the comprehensive plan above, but it should only take about 10 minutes per blog post.

Just write each blog post like normal, but before publishing it, pull out a few keywords or phrases that you’d really like to rank for. Run a quick search in Google to see if there’s a lot of competition for any of those phrases, and then place the keyphrase that you think you can manage in your title and throughout the post.

Naturally, you can get additional suggestions from Google’s keyword tool if all of the phrases you originally picked look too competitive.

As with anything SEO-related, it will take some time to see results from your keyword targeting efforts—but I guarantee that the results WILL come if you stick with it.

Good luck!

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

While I'm a die-hard believer that all artists should have an art blog, I do realize that taking that first step into blogging can be a very strange, almost surreal experience.

For example, with blogging, some things that seem simple and natural—like how you write the. . . read more

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