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What is Search Engine Optimization (And How Can Artists Use it?)

This SEO tutorial was originally published for our foliotwist artists, but I decided that an overview of SEO would be helpful to EmptyEasel readers as well. Here it is:

SEO, or “search engine optimization” is a term that encompasses all the different techniques you can use to help your website become more visible in Google, Yahoo, or any other search engine.

For example, if someone searched for the word “art” in Google or Yahoo, and your website popped up as the #1 search result at the very top of first page, you’d have more visitors to your website than you’d know what to do with—hundreds, if not thousands per day.

Naturally, ranking that high for a search term like “art” is impossible—the biggest (and presumably best) art website in the world will have that spot. Go ahead and try a few searches in Google with extremely competitive words like “art” or “painting” and you’ll get a better idea of what kind of websites appear on page one or two for those terms.

However, by using SEO techniques intelligently, you can begin to rank very well for 2- or 3-word phrases, or more unique single words that are related to your art. And there’s really no need to be #1 for “art” when you can appear on the first page for hundreds of other phrases and keywords.

Four factors for great SEO

1. Optimized website structure and programming

Surprisingly, not every website is programmed with search engines in mind. Some are just unintentionally difficult for search engines to index, like those that have more images than text or websites made completely with flash or javascript.

The best websites for SEO, on the other hand, will be programmed with human-readable URLs, XML sitemaps, keyword-rich alt and title tags, deep-linking architecture, and W3-compliant code, among other things. (That’s how we programmed our foliotwist websites, by the way.)

And of course, the type of website makes a difference too—for example, blogs are generally more search-engine friendly than a traditional portfolio sites. This is mostly because there’s more text, but also because bloggers tend to use a lot of links (which is how the search engines travel from page to page in your site).

2. On-page search engine optimization

As long as you have control over your own website, on-page optimization is where YOU can make the biggest difference in where search engines rank your website—and it’s pretty easy, too.

On-page optimization is simply all about words. . . if you have a blog, it’s the words you use when you write a blog post (and also how you title your blog post), the words you use when you enter a description of your artwork, and of course, the words you use in your site title, tagline, and description.

The main thing to remember about on-page optimization is that it ONLY works if you consciously use words that are descriptive and accurate.

I’ve covered this subject more in some of my other SEO tutorials for artists, so make sure to read through those as well.

3. Inbound links for SEO

When another website (or blog) links to your website, that’s called an inbound link. These types of links do more than you might think—not only can people click that link and go directly to your website, but to the search engines, they also act as votes in favor of your site.

So if a lot of websites start linking to you, Google and Yahoo will start ranking your website higher and higher in their search results pages. (This is one reason why you may want to start a blog and link to other websites yourself. Getting more involved will mean more links back to you.)

Obviously, not all inbound links are created equal. Links from very popular websites—in other words, websites that show up on the first page of Google themselves—count as a BIGGER vote.

And one other fascinating aspect about inbound links is that the words which make up those links are important too. If someone were to review your artwork and link to your website with the words “click here” as the anchor text, you wouldn’t get very much benefit from it.

If they link to you with the words “amazing oil paintings” or “wood sculptures” (depending on what your artwork IS, of course) then you’ll get a much bigger boost in the search results when people type those same terms into Google and Yahoo.

For those of you that own multiple websites or blogs, you have a unique opportunity to add inbound links from THOSE sites, and choose the appropriate keywords that you’d like to point to your main website.

4. Internal (self-made) links for SEO

Unlike inbound links, “internal links” are links that you create which lead from any page of your own website, and point to OTHER pages on your site.

Sometimes referred to as a deep-linking technique, this method of linking to yourself isn’t as effective as getting other people to link to you, but it still helps quite a bit with SEO and it’s definitely worth doing.

For example, if you place several links in your sidebar that point toward your favorite blog posts, those blog posts will begin to rank better than any of the other pages on your site—and better other webpages on the same topic that are out there, too.

Internal links can appear inside your blog posts as well as in your sidebar. If you have a piece of art that you’d really like to promote (let’s say it’s a painting of a cowboy’s gear) then you could write a blog post about it and link to it with a phrase like this “Cowboy Hat, Boots & Saddle Painting.”

That type of link covers all the basic keywords, and anyone searching for a cowboy hat painting, a cowboy boots painting, or a cowboy saddle painting (or just a cowboy painting in general) will be much more likely to come across your artwork in the search engine’s results pages.

SEO is not difficult—it just takes deliberate thought

The most important thing to remember when it comes to SEO is to be deliberate with the words you use. . . whether those words are in your blog titles, your links, or even in the domain name that you choose.

Start developing good SEO habits now, and I have no doubt that you’ll find search engine optimization to be much, much easier than you ever thought it could be.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

If you're an online artist and you're interested in search engine optimization (SEO for short) you should probably also know a little bit about PageRank.

PageRank is simply a scale from 0 to 10 that shows how much "authority" your website has compared to other sites online. It was created by Google as a quick and easy way for webmasters to see how their sites were. . . read more

If you're looking for something else. . .
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