I’ve spent a lot of time over the last week studying Search Engine Optimization and Print on Demand. I’ve collected a mess of information and links, so much in fact that I’ve had to start focusing my efforts. I’ve found dozens of print on demand sites, freelance sites, blog sites, social networking sites, I’ve joined and set up a profile with most of what I’ve found. So many that I had to set up a spreadsheet to keep track of them and I’ve had to divide them into categories, which can be difficult. Is Pinterest a social network or a search engine? Is Tumblr a blog site or a social network? This is how I work, pour it all in my head at once, make sense of it later.
I’ve got an impression of what I’ve read and what I’ve seen on YouTube. It’s stale. Most of it is about hitting keyword niches. The idea being, find a niche, a subcategory, a two or three word search term that’s entered thousands of times a month, that gives poor results. Fill that niche with an on point blog full of useful information and links to useful related tools, so you can get a cut of the sales it generates. Most of the niches are filled. My purpose is to spread the name Anastasia Overton wide, not to make a quick buck. It’s called brand building. That’s not to say all the information from the niche gurus is worthless. Knowing how search engines rank your pages is important, but it changes rapidly.
Ranking on Search Engines
My first goal was easy and it was filling a niche. I wanted the search engines to point to artwork by Anastasia Overton when a name search was entered. Google and Bing are covered, the first page is full of links to the artwork I scattered all over the internet in the first week. Bing brings up anastasiaoverton.art as the first result.
The current trend of advice from SEO gurus is long content. Long blogs, three thousand words or more, hence this unnecessarily long blog post. But that is yesterday’s news. It’s an endless cycle. Long blog posts are working to help search engine rankings today, so millions of scammers and pirates are out there, writing long blog posts and filling up the search results with garbage. In a few months, if not sooner, the advice will likely be to hold blogs to 800 words.
A year or two back the advice was backlink, get other sites to link to yours. The bigger the site that links, the better. The gurus had all sorts of ideas about getting universities and big news source sites to link to yours. Backlinks are still an element in ranking websites, but not worth extraordinary effort. The current thing is to create an infographic that other sites will want to link to. So basically, make something worth linking to and then forget it.
Ranking in an Image Search
This is everything to an artist. People who want to buy art, or prints don’t want to read about it, they want to see it. The SEO gurus have little to say on the subject of ranking images and what they do say is repetitive. Google Image Search shows lots of art by Anastasia Overton in first three rows of images. I have yet to see a single one of these images in a Bing Image Search. I finally found out that Bing has a time element to their image ranking. This should make their image search more stable, less susceptible to whatever is going viral at the moment. Now I know what to do to rank on Bing Image Search: wait!
I got what I wanted almost immediately from Google. If someone does a Google Image Search for Anastasia Overton at next month’s art show, they’ll get images that link to sites where they can order a print. Unless some other Anastasia, Anastasia Baranova for instance, makes a big splash in the press. Then it’s likely all the art images will get pushed below the fold. When I finally do get images by Anastasia Overton on Bing, they’ll likely be stable. Bing is only 30 percent of search engine traffic, but the studies indicate that Bing users are more likely to buy.
I am continuing to improve on my basics for search engine optimization. Getting headings and descriptions worded just right, picking the right terms to include in meta tags, just in case the search engines are interested. Where I can, putting keywords in mouse over image descriptions and alt text.
My advice for those just starting to promote their artwork online remains the same. Use a name that’s unique. I was lucky, there’s only one Anastasia Overton in the country. If your name is George Bush, you are going to have to use something else professionally. Once you’ve got the unique name post your art everywhere you can, especially print on demand sites. Put your name in the filename, description, and keywords for the image. You’ll see search engine results in 48 hours.
The gurus have gone completely off of this one. They seem consider Facebook to be practically worthless for generating traffic. The advice is pretty much don’t bother with social networking. I happen to disagree. The gurus tend to talk in terms of driving traffic to some niche site in order to generate revenue. Artists should think bigger than that. I think social networking has real value for artists. I’ve set up accounts specifically for use in promoting Anastasia Overton the Artist, on Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and about a dozen social network sites specifically for artists, like DeviantArt. I set up an echo site or two as well under a pseudonym, just be sure that everything posted is liked and shared at least once.
I do not spend a lot of time on social networking; less than an hour a day. I concentrate on Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest. I made a lot of connections fast on these sites, hundreds in a few days. I clicked a lot of friend/link buttons. On all of these sites I made connections very selectively. I searched out people using the search term "artist" and only invited those who actually showed art on their profile. The first time I see politics or religion from these people, I cut them out. Now I have social media feeds that are entirely art and art related. My strategy with social media is simple. It’s not to use social media to sell directly to my connections, or to drive traffic to a selling site necessarily. I’m linked up to artists. They’ve already got a bunch of art they can’t sell. The strategy is to play the long game. If someone from the general public gets interested in buying some art, they are going to ask their artist friend, “Have you ever heard of an artist named Anastasia Overton?”.
Facebook is, well, Facebook. Easy to make connections, difficult to connect. Anything posted to Facebook has a lifespan of hours, then it’s gone, making way for Facebook to advertise something to you that you bought on Ebay yesterday. It’s just too easy to get yourself unfollowed on Facebook. So, I post or share something every few days, purely art related. It’s just part of the long game, putting the name Anastasia Overton all over the world in the back of people’s minds.
LinkedIn has been a pleasant surprise. It is not just a bunch of execudroids looking for a higher paying job. There are a lot of serious professional artists. I get a message or two every day along the lines of “look at this article some unknown art rag published about me” or “check out my art featured in some out of the way gallery”. That’s fine. It’s what I’m after with social networks. Sharing ideas, seeing what’s happening with other up and coming artists, getting the name out. I just hope they are better at remembering names than I am.
The exception is Pinterest. Pinterest is an image search engine more than it is a social network. And it’s a soft sell which I like. Every image carries a link. It carries that link with it when it’s shared. If someone likes the image, they can grab it and pin it to one of their boards, a sort of categorized thumbnail bookmarking. If they want to follow the link they can at any time, even years down the road.
I’m putting everything on Pinterest. The serious works carry a link to the homepage of anastasiaoverton.art; simple designs link to a print on demand page. I have boards filled with other people’s work. I have boards that are just the work of Anastasia Overton. I have shared boards. I have a board just for this blog. I’ve been a little slow figuring out Pinterest. There are videos about gaming Pinterest to gain a following, so your postings will be seen. Such is folly. The way to gain an audience on Pinterest is to create boards and pin other people’s work to them. It’s like a little mini gallery of art I like. I think people like to see what other works theirs are associated with.
My daily routine for social media is to visit the three I'm concentrating on at least once a day, the rest once a week. I get on a few minutes, log some clicks, accept friend/link requests, send friend/link requests, maybe do a search to find some people to link to, respond to messages and requests, ‘like’ any good art that pops up on my feed. On Pinterest I’ll add pins to one of my existing boards or make a new board. Because I have a business account with a Chrome plugin, I can pin anything I find on the internet without even opening Pinterest. If I’ve done a Google search for a term I’d like to rank for and a Pinterest board comes up in the results, I’ll send a request to be allowed to pin to that board. I also have to take out the trash. I just simply delete anyone posting controversial subjects.
If search engines still favor 3,000+ word content, blogging is simply a necessity to get the name and the art in front of people. It’s just part of getting people into a portfolio site. A site that the search engines will never rank for any search term other than Anastasia Overton, because the index page is all images without distraction. Honestly, I don’t care much for the format, the activity, or the name ‘blogging’. However, I think I might be able to get this blog on the first page of Google under a couple of long tail search terms that are used a few hundred times a month. This isn’t the only blog I’m working on either. There are a couple of ideas cooking for blogs that might also get first page results for searches carried out a few hundred times a month. Actually, of all the ideas, this blog will be the most difficult to rank. “Promoting Artists” is a likely term to steer this blog onto, but there’s some little money to be made in promoting artists, so the competition to get on the first page of result is non trivial.
I started this blog simply as an article on LinkedIn. I really like their article platform. Creating really nice links to outside sources works just like Facebook. It reads Open Graph Tags to create a link box with image, title, and description. All that’s required is typing in the url. The problems are that links in a LinkedIn article are no-follow links so search engine spiders won’t count them and there’s no way to optimize for search engines other than the content.
I’ll likely keep up posting a copy of this on LinkedIn, but I’ve settled this blog on the back pages of anastasiaoverton.art. I share this blog on all the other social media sites. It’s a lot more effective for search engine optimization to drive traffic here. where it counts, rather than to LinkedIn where it becomes something of a dead end
Print on Demand
The point is to make a living as a artist, so money has to come in somewhere. The first step is to continue with Print On Demand sites and get them working. There’s a lot of non-informative information on various art blogs, which consist largely of artists sharing their opinions of several print on demand sites. Admittedly, hard information is hard to come by. All these sites seem to be privately held, so that aren’t required to make financial information public. What is available is traffic data, so I present My POD Picks
Traffic is not everything. I have complete profiles on smaller gallery and print on demand sites for a very simple reason. Anything new that I post shows up on their homepage and their homepage is getting a lot more traffic than mine right now.
I will be narrowing down and concentrating on developing Anastasia Overton as a presence on three or four of the print on demand sites. Redbubble is a definite because it has high traffic, it is more artist oriented, and the pain-in-the-ass factor is really low. I have a full profile and portfolio on FineArt America which is more art than housewares oriented. I’d like to use CafePress due to the large range of items they sell, but right now the PITA factor is huge. Nothing on the artist side of the site works. I can’t even get it to upload a small profile picture.
I seems that the way to deal with print on demand is to find sites that match your style in some way and upload a mass of high quality photos and put them on everything offered. You just never know what’s going to be popular on any given site. What I’ve seen posted from sellers on these sites confirms that it follow the Pareto principle. Eighty percent of income comes from twenty percent of the work. Which is fine. It doesn’t cost anything to post an image, an image can be posted to all the print on demand sites. Something may sell well and earn hundreds a month, or only a dollar a year, or nothing. That’s fine because that’s what a lot of it has been earning for years tucked away in a closet. One thing that is in the works is creating works specifically for individual items in print on demand.
Lisa Irby is an entrepreneur who sells designs through print on demand and has videos about the whole process. Her YouTube channel has been a good source of information for me. She’s full of good first hand advice and she’s not opinionated.
It looks like the next couple of weeks are going to involve filling up the portfolios on several print on demand sites, starting a second blog, and continuing to build up the social networks.
I’ll also be doing some reading on freelance sites for artists. I already have accounts and portfolios on several, but I’ve made no attempt to use these sites to find work.