I know I probably sound like a broken record when I talk about blogging here on EmptyEasel, but I just can’t help myself. It really is a very powerful marketing and promotional tool for artists when used correctly.
And of course, the key phrase there is “when used correctly.”
When I first started blogging, I had no clue how to go about it. I had a passion for writing about art, but not much else. In those early days, I learned everything about blogging from other bloggers—from reading blogging advice AND studying exactly what those bloggers were doing.
Then, as EmptyEasel started to grow and gain some traction, I began learning from my own experiences. As a result, over the last 3 years or so I’ve formed a lot of opinions about what works and what doesn’t.
So today I want to share an opinion that I believe in very strongly. . . it applies to any artist who is interested in blogging, or who is already blogging. Ready? Here it is:
If possible, don’t have a separate blog and portfolio website. Combine them.
However you want to do it, bring everything together into one place. Attach a blog to your online portfolio. Or set up full image gallery for your artwork on your blog.
Blogging is much more effective over the long run when you do it on your own art website—where all your art can be found—and on a domain that YOU own.
Why are a blog and portfolio more effective together?
I’ve got three reasons for you, and they’re all good ones.
1. Easier navigation to and from your artwork
If you only have a blog, visitors who are interested in your artwork will be forced to scroll through long lists of blog posts to see all your images. Without a gallery of thumbnails to browse through, a blog just isn’t the optimal environment for people looking to buy art.
Those of you with both a blog and a portfolio website can always link from one to the other. . . but that adds an extra step. There’s always the possibility that people will never see the link, or just not think to click it.
If there’s one rule to follow online, it’s to simplify things for your visitors whenever possible. After all, it might be the only time they come across your site. The easier it is for them to find their way around and get interested in your art, the better.
2. More consistent branding across both blog and portfolio
Perhaps the most obvious reason not to have a separate blog and portfolio is the lack of consistent design and branding.
Branding is very important, and if you have two different sites, not only will your domains be different—yourname.blogspot.com compared to yourname.com, for example—but the colors and layouts will probably look nothing alike.
In contrast, a single website that contains both a blog and a portfolio on your own domain will almost always look more professional.
3. Better page rank (i.e., more authority) for your entire website
When other bloggers link to your blog it gains a little “authority,” called PageRank. This, in turn, helps people find your blog in the search engines.
Naturally, your portfolio website can gain PageRank too—but portfolios don’t get noticed as much as blogs do, so they tend to get a lot fewer links. Trust me when I say that you’ll do your portfolio a world of good by combining it with your blog.
For instance, let’s assume that your blog is located at yourdomain.com/blog.
If people link to your blog, they’ll either link to it directly, or to your home page at yourdomain.com. Either way, your online portfolio (which is probably located at yourdomain.com/art) will share the PageRank too, since it’s on the same domain.
So how do I get a blog and portfolio on one domain?
There are a few A LOT of paid services you can now sign up for, as well as some free solutions. Here are the ones I’m most familiar with:
1. Foliotwist (my own website solution for artists) offers a combined blog/portfolio for both free and paid users, although the free version is a little more limited. We’ve been running since 2009, and have recently launched some new art marketing tools as well. Check out the link above to learn more.
2. FineArtStudioOnline was, as far as I know, one of the first art website services to offer a portfolio with an attached blog. FASO is a monthly paid service with a limited free option, like Foliotwist, and Clint (the owner) also really knows his stuff when it comes to art marketing.
3. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you have more options. Sean Kane reminded me just after I posted this article that blogspot blogs can be fairly tightly integrated into your portfolio website, with some basic HTML knowledge and a little work. I’m not as familiar with Blogger as I am with WordPress, which is also a blogging program that’s free to use and fairly easy to modify (it’s what EmptyEasel runs on, and I love it) but either option is a good choice.
Unfortunately WordPress doesn’t come with an image gallery installed. . . so it’s not a perfect solution right out of the box. However, there are several free gallery “plugins” (like this one) which you can easily add to your WordPress blog to fill that gap.
The catch? You’ve got to be willing to dive in and learn some things if you want to set up a WordPress-powered blog and portfolio.
For instance, you’ll need to purchase a domain, and pay for web hosting. (So that part’s not entirely free, but it’s pretty darn close. A domain will cost about 7 bucks a year and hosting can be as cheap as 5 bucks a month. Those are GoDaddy.comprices, but there are many other places to choose from, too.)
You’ll also need to use an FTP program like FileZilla to upload the WordPress files (and any plugins you want to use) to your web host.
The process itself is NOT that hard, it’s just that most of us don’t start off knowing these things. :) I didn’t. . . but after a few months I felt pretty comfortable with WordPress, and I’m sure you would too once you put some time in.
And of course, that’s not all.
Nowadays, there are many, MANY more website solutions for artists. I received an email from P. Johnson at PhotoMontana.net who mentioned Weebly.com as a good alternative. I’m up in the air on Weebly (mainly because its gallery options seem a little lacking to me) but they DO offer a free version, so you may still want to check them out.
If you happen to know of a good solution that fits my criteria, please contact me and let me know. The requirements are fairly simple: it needs to offer artists a blog and a portfolio on their own domain, and it can be either free or paid.
If you can find one that includes a payment system, like PayPal, that’s a bonus. :) We offer that at Foliotwist and it’s a life saver for many of our artists.
Now, for some lucky folks, there’s also a 5th solution. . . if you happen to have a computer programmer for a friend, spouse, or family member, they could come up with a custom solution for you. Otherwise, that sort of thing will cost you a bundle.
Anything else to consider?
Yes—if you’re a long-time blogger with an established art blog, it may be better to just stick with what you have rather than switching to a combined blog/portfolio.
My reason for saying this is because the amount of authority (PageRank) you’ve gained over time for that blog is very valuable. It’s not always a wise choice to switch to something completely new, and risk losing that PageRank in the process.
If you can keep your domain for the switch, then it’s probably OK—you’ll take your PageRank with you, and hopefully you’ll be able to transfer your blog posts. Just think carefully before you make any decisions.
And if you have any questions about whether switching would be a good idea or not, feel free to ask. I can’t guarantee I’ll have all the answers, but I’ll do my best to help out however I can.
Whatever decision you eventually make, good luck—and happy blogging! :)