Recently I gave some advice to a successful artist who wanted to use her blog as part of her marketing of her art but wondered why she wasn't getting much of an audience for her blog. For those of you who would also like to improve your blog profile and traffic and/or use it to market your art, you'll find that this post develops the themes in some of the advice I offered. Some of my advice comes from having managed a major marketing operation in the past and the rest comes from having blogged most days for the last 20 months!
If you're blogging just for the fun of it - that's great too. If you'd like more readers and more people to comment on your blog you may also find some of the following comments to be useful pointers.
How to improve your art blog - STRATEGY
- Be clear about your purpose in blogging and stay focused
- It helps a lot if you set out clear expectations for readers and then meet them consistently.
- You can find an example of my purpose and focus - and how this creates expectations for my readers - in what it says in and under my blog title. In practice this seems to work like meta tags.
- You can always change your focus if it doesn't work out. I stopped my first blog after six posts and started again.
- What does the name and description of your blog say about you, your purpose, your interests and your art?
- The name of your blog can contribute to it being found by search engines - or not - and/or whether people click the link when they see it.
- People debate whether or not you should use your name. However I incline towards the notion that a blog 'brand' can also be a phrase eg "Making A Mark".
- If blogging is part of your marketing strategy for getting your art noticed and/or selling art, then make time for developing and maintaining your blog. You also need to be clear how it fits into and links with other marketing activities.
How to improve your art blog - CUSTOMER ORIENTATION
- Blogs are like Private Views at the opening of an exhibition - an opportunity for buyers to meet and get to know the artist and their interests and motivations. Some will also be interested in how you produce your art. The only difference is this is 'virtual' and you don't know who is watching/reading. Quite a few buyers now seem to think that blogs are actually better than very brief face-to-face meetings at private views!
- Blogs are not static websites - you need to create posts. Some people will think that making excuses on your blog for not having time to post is a bit like saying "I'm here but I really haven't got time to talk to you".
How to improve your art blog - CONTENT
- Be authentic. Be real. Be knowledgeable.
- Blog about what interests you and what your art is about. People who demonstrate a real interest and enthusiasm for a subject are always more stimulating to those who share your interest.
- Have an opinion. For example, if you talk about other artists then say what you like about their work / why you think they are good
- Write about what you know about - or what you are finding out about.
- Content is what gets you readers and quality of content is what gets you subscribers.
- Create content that other people want to read. That way they come back for more.
- Word of mouth (or blog) is also very effective. People always want to tell others about and link to the good things that they've found. You may have noticed that it is one of my passions in life - but I know I'm not alone!
- Content does not have to satisfy all your readers all the time. You can also talk to niche audiences. Commercial set-ups often tend to neglect or miss out the niche interest (unless niche interests are clearly part of and fostered by their business model - as they are with Amazon). Blogs are a perfect form of social communication which address the long tail.
- An art blog is not an autobiography (although you can have one of those as well - as many artists do). Keep whinging to a minimum and avoid too much naval gazing and talking about the ups and downs of your life (unless relevant to your art or your personal style is to have a very chatty blog - which some people are very good at)
- Plus if you want to sell art, create content that buyers will be interested in - which may well involve posts about your subject matter as well as your art (eg I like gardens and flowers - and how they are reflected in art - and have had projects about both in the last couple of months).
- What keeps a brand name or a person's name current and ranked well in browser searches is good quality content which both reflects important key word searches and is recent (ie active in the last 6 months). Consequently, a fairly static artist's website (comprising mainly images which were posted some time ago) is usually going to help less at developing an artist's profile on the Internet than an artist's blog.
- Produce content first and then develop dialogue.
- Post regularly to attract an appreciable following.
- Having a series of posts about a topic helps your blog to become associated with that topic.
- Create but do not force dialogue. Find other people blogging about the things which your blog is about and/or you are interested in and comment on their blogs. Most bloggers look at the blogs of those who have commented and if you offer good content they may comment, may return and may link to you too.
- Blog intelligently - you need to:
- Think about headings and how you can help the spider bots crawl your blog
- Once you've written a good post don't forget to make it easy for people to link to you. Make sure each post has an individual URL (click the blog title or look for a trackback or permanent link function. In Blogger settings, include 'link fields' to create the URL and 'backlinks' to show which posts have got trackbacks).
- Use words. I'll say that again USE WORDS! The spider bots don't understand images - they only understand the words which are used to describe them. So if you post an image, which is in a gallery exhibition or you are posting on e-bay or you want to market/highlight in some way, you also need to say something about it.
- Try and include a good synopsis of the post in the first couple of sentences / 100 characters
- Use keywords and/or tags associated with your target audience AND the content of your post. There are some useful tools to test keywords listed in this post.
- Use the labels/tags function on a Blogger blog - they are very powerful in getting rankings in Google searches (see this post). Those who use tags which they know are popular but don't deliver content that reflects this are penalized.
- Feed your blog to different blog directories - but do be careful about these. Feeding your blog to Google is essential.
- Offer RSS and e-mail subscription services. I use both Feedburner and Feedblitz.
- Ping your blog every time you post - so that people pick up your posts
- Consider sidebar widgets which people might like - my preference is for a very few. Good examples include: ClustrMaps; e-bay to go for showcasing your e-bay auction or other discoveries.
- Do maintain a blogroll but think twice about 'swaps'. A blogroll should help other people find blogs you like reading and/or think are good. Keep yours under review and authentic.
- If you sell your art, find out about your customers and what sort of places your buyers like to hang out on the Internet and watch and learn.
- Blogging does not get instant results. Lots of people give up before the blog is three months old because they can't see the results. However, blogging is the same as anything else you get good at - 90% of it is about turning up to do it! (see my post about The Stickability Factor for more on this topic)
- You could quite reasonably aim for a very good web presence in about 6-12 months depending on how you work at your blogging and networking with other bloggers.
- Success delivers on an exponential curve. I noticed a remarkable difference in the way my blog turned up on the first page of Google searches after I passed 50,000 pageviews and again after 100,000 page views. 200,000 is not that far off now so i'm wondering what happens next!
If anybody has got any other suggestions please feel free to use the comments function to expand on the above.
Note: My pen and ink drawing is of some of the magificent teasels (top) I've been seeing this summer is at a 'rest and review stage' before final wteaking. I think there's a little bit more to do but I want to avoid over-working it. I expect to offer this as a portfolio work (matted not framed) in the 86th Annual Open Exhibition of the SGFA which opens next week. Views and comments are welcome.
Links to some key Making A Mark posts about Art Bogs and blogging:
- Why it's a good idea to use labels in Blogger (01.09.07)
- How do I find things to blog about? (14.08.07)
- Update: Google and Blogger developments (23.05.07.)
- Google fails to stop theft and abuse by spam blogs (09.04.07)
- Why artists should blog Part - the success of painting a day blogs (24.08.06)
- Wht artists should blog (22.08.06.)