Artists always seem to be looking for the next new marketing tip or idea. I’m no different, I suppose—but so far, “new” hasn’t worked nearly as well as the tried and true online marketing I’ve done for years. So today, I’d like to share my best art marketing tips from among those tried and true methods.
Before I get started, let me say that marketing art is as individual as making art. The marketing tips that work for me may not work for you.
Having said that, however, I will also say that the experiences I’m about to describe happened over the course of three or four years and have performed consistently during that time. So I share my experiences with the hope that you’ll be able to glean a few helpful tips for your own marketing. If nothing else, I hope they give you a place to begin your own marketing journey.
My two best art marketing tips
My art blog currently averages around 2,000 views a day. That may not seem like a lot compared to some of the big bloggers, but it’s a milestone to me. I blogged for years just to reach 1,000 average daily views, so am thrilled to be at this level so soon.
A couple of years ago, my blog seemed to be stagnating, so I started looking for ways to liven it up and engage readers more consistently. I listened to podcasts and read articles from a trusted source (Problogger.com) and took their 31 Days to Better Blogging challenge. Among the first few things they suggested was simply learning how people were finding my blog.
I’d already learned that having a post go viral on Pinterest brought me tons of new readers. So it was no surprise to find that my most active referrer overall was Pinterest. It was a little more surprising, however, to discover that the next most frequent referrer was search engines (like Google).
Putting my knowledge into practice
The next step for me was to make the most of those two referrers. In other words, to find a way to maximize them and get more views on my art.
At the time my first Pinterest post went viral, I didn’t even have an account (or didn’t have an active account; I don’t remember which). So for me, I learned that going viral on Pinterest mainly involved 3 steps:
Creating one pinnable image for every post I published
Pinning the image on Pinterest with a link back to the post, and
Repinning other content on Pinterest that my readers and followers would be interested in.
My efforts were rewarded by an increase in followers and monthly views on Pinterest. Those increases on Pinterest also generated increased visits to my blog as well. Not sudden increases, but slow and steady, which is usually the best growth anyway.
I don’t do much with Pinterest anymore, but now I have a substantial amount of followers (17.1K) and monthly views (1.1 million.) On those rare occasions when I post to Pinterest, a lot of people see it. And I’ve pinned 2,707 pins over the years, so there’s plenty to attract new followers, new views, and, you guessed it, new visitors to the blog.
It’s never a good idea to put all your marketing eggs in one basket, so after I was satisfied with my work on Pinterest, I turned my attention to search engines.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the best ways to improve traffic to your website or blog – but it’s also potentially the most complex. A lot of people, myself included, hear the acronym “SEO” and immediately think of confusing algorithms and shifting parameters.
But it doesn’t have to be difficult—there’s no need to dive into the most intricate level of SEO to get big results. Changing just a few key things can yield huge returns. Start by considering how you present yourself to the world. Let’s use me as an example.
I’ve been an equine artist for decades. Search for “equine art” in Google and what do you get? Hundreds of pages of results. Maybe thousands.
The results are mixed, too: all mediums and all styles. You’ll even find some art painted by horses (true equine artists!) There are so many forms of equine art and so many equine artists, that it’s next to impossible to get into the first page of results. It’s like a mom-and-pop store trying to compete with Wal-Mart.
Don’t compete with Walmart. . . find your niche
No matter what type of art you do, narrowing how you present yourself to the world will always help with your rankings. An easy way to identify your niche is to look at the type of art you enjoy making. Consider the medium, subject, and style. Each of those things contributes to making you unique in a sea of artists.
Do you draw historical buildings in pen-and-ink? Then those specific words—historical, buildings, pen-and-ink—as well as their synonyms should be the ones you use when you create your website, write your blog posts, and share your art.
My specialty was oil portraits of horses, so that’s always how I presented myself to the world. It kept me from competing with watercolor painters and acrylic painters, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t rank very high unless I got lucky with a particular post that got a lot of links or exposure from some other popular blog.
I only started doing well in the rankings when I shifted my focus from oils to colored pencils (from a popular medium to a less well-known medium) and from fine art portraits to teaching. I started rewriting old content to match the new focus and wrote new content in such a way as to make it SEO friendly.
I began presenting myself as an instructor of colored pencil, with a focus on horse portraits and landscapes.
Yes, I was writing to a different market (artists who wanted to learn instead of potential clients who wanted a portrait painted,) so I was essentially starting from scratch. But the teaching niche has gained traffic more steadily and more quickly than the portrait niche ever did.
Use the right SEO tools
The best tool I found was Yoast’s free plugin for WordPress. I can’t recommend Yoast strongly enough. The plugin identifies two key areas in which optimization is vital (readability and searchability) and then highlights areas that could be improved in each.
I write my posts the same way I always have (I just start writing). But now I finish by editing them with SEO in mind following the tips provided on each post by Yoast. Ever since I started doing that, there’s been a marked difference in how my individual posts rank.
The Bottom Line
Marketing—like art—is a highly personal thing. As I said at the beginning, what works for me may not work for everyone. But I do believe that most artists will benefit from first evaluating the type of work you do most often, and then building their marketing around that.
In short, the more focused you are, the better your marketing will do. . . and that holds true whether you’re using Pinterest and SEO, or a completely different method.
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