“When will people be able to find my art online?” an artist asks. “I’ve been typing in keywords that relate to my artwork, even some of my specific artwork titles, but Google isn’t showing my website anywhere!”
This is a question I get asked about once a week. . . and perhaps it’s the exact question on your mind right now. If so, you’re in the right place. :)
Since there are several reasons why Google might not be showing your website, I usually respond with a few questions of my own. Here’s what I ask first:
1. “How long has your website been online?”
Even though the internet feels blazingly fast (and Google does a great job of showing results in the blink of an eye) Google won’t know about your website right away.
In a week, or maybe two? Yes—Google should know. But it’ll never know about your artwork the very second that you upload it to your website.
So if you’ve just launched your website, go ahead and give it a few days. Maybe work on your artist bio, or take a few photos of your other artwork and upload those as well. You really can’t do much to rush Google’s process at this point.
Now, if it’s been longer than a week or two, sometimes I ask this:
2. “Are you still in the middle of a free website trial?”
This is a super-important point to remember. . . many free website trials allow you to view your website, experience uploading your artwork, customizing your site, etc, but they DON’T push your website live to the world.
This is actually what we do at Foliotwist, too. Artists who sign up with our website service usually want a little time to put things in order, and make sure their online portfolio looks a certain way before people can wander in from Google.
So, like most website hosts, if you sign up for our free trial, we start out by puting your website on a subdomain (it’s sort of like a temporary domain). This makes it possible for us to build your website in seconds.
Then, when you’re ready, we purchase your real domain for you, and your website will be easy to find. In the meantime, though, you can see your website on your subdomain, and you can tell others where it is, but no one will find it without you wanting them to.
So, all that to say, if you’re still in a free trial period, your website may not be “live” quite yet, and you should ask your website host if you’re not sure.
OK. Now let’s say you’ve finished your free trial, you’re on a real domain, and STILL no one can find your website. Here’s my next question:
3. “Has anyone submitted your sitemap to Google?”
Google will typically find most websites online within a few weeks. But, maybe it missed yours (for whatever reason). If you think that might be the case, you can always submit a sitemap for your website directly to Google.
A sitemap is a special HTML document that lists out all of the pages on your website. You’ll need to register your website at google.com/webmasters and then follow the directions to submit your sitemap, but of course, it’s all free and not too terribly hard.
Honestly, submitting a sitemap is a good idea no matter if your website has been online for years, or you just put it up two weeks ago. We submit a new sitemap for our PRO-level artists every day, because it helps Google stay up-to-date on their most recent uploads, new blog posts, etc.
But if you don’t have somebody doing this for you, and you’re concerned Google doesn’t know about all of your artwork, definitely submit a sitemap.
NOTE: You can quickly see if Google knows about all of your website pages by going to Google and typing in “site:yourdomain.com” (except replace ‘yourdomain’ with your actual domain). Google will return all of the pages that it knows about for JUST your website. That should give you an idea if there are pages it doesn’t know about yet.
And of course, keep in mind that even if Google knows about your website, it still might not put your website in the first few pages of its search results. Without being in those top few pages, you can’t really expect a lot of people to find you.
So what’s an artist to do?
Ultimately, the question of “When will people find me?” almost always has more to do with the actions YOU’RE willing to take, rather than anything Google might do.
To start with, check out EmptyEasel’s SEO Tips for Artists, to get some ideas for how to make your website rank higher in Google’s search results.
And just as importantly, don’t forget to use social media! Posting about your new artwork on Facebook, or using Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter to direct people to your website makes it possible to sell your art even if you don’t show up on Google at all!
We’ve had artists at Foliotwist sign up for our free trial and sell artwork their first week! And remember, their websites aren’t even on Google yet!
How’d they do it? They just posted about it!
They literally sent people directly to their free trial subdomain. Our system makes adding PayPal buttons a snap, so within a few minutes of signing up for our free trial, they were able to accept credit cards and make sales.
This is not typical, but it IS possible—and it just goes to show that while you’re waiting for Google to start sending visitors to your website, you can also be doing something about it yourself. :)