If you’ve been reading recent art marketing articles regularly over the last year you may have noticed an occasional minor clash of ideas on the topic of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Artists. I confess to being one of the culprits in these sparring matches!
My experience from working with clients at Beautiful Artist Websites is that SEO IS very important for artists – just as it is similarly important for any modern business wanting to increase its exposure to potential buyers. It is also a topic that is not well understood by artists and this is why I took several months out of my schedule to write The Artist SEO Success System.
In this post I’ll explain why SEO is important for artists and precisely where it delivers its true value. In Part 2, I’ll give you a brief introduction to the three foundations of SEO so that you can get started on optimizing your own artist website.
So why is SEO so important for artists?
First of all, lets demolish a myth or two.
Many artists say that SEO is a waste of time because Word-of-Mouth marketing is more powerful. Let me say that from my experience nothing else compares with word-of-mouth – a referral from a happy client or partner is undoubtedly the “gold standard” in marketing. It comes with an instant level of trust and positions you much closer to closing a sale.
But if that is the case why do other businesses engage in so much extra marketing and advertising activity? Why would they do that if word-of-mouth is so powerful?
The answer is because they want to grow their business as much as possible (as should you) and they recognize that if they only use word-of-mouth they are missing many potential clients. Do you want to miss out on clients?
Search Engine Marketing is part of what we call the “marketing attraction phase”. This is where you attract potential clients who generally don’t know about you at all. They don’t know your name – they only know that they are looking for art of a certain style. They could be individuals or they could be art dealers or art licensing reps. The point is – they want what you have but they aren’t connected to anyone who knows you so they will never hear about you through word-of-mouth.
The “attraction phase” can include a number of different marketing methods including SEO, Social Networking, Snail Mail marketing to galleries and dealers, networking with local arts organizations, galleries, etc. The optimum mix depends on your art and personality.
You should also be clear that the main goal of any attraction-phase marketing technique, including SEO, is not to create an instant sale. This is where artists often get confused and disappointed. Instant sales do happen, especially in the lower price-points – but what you really want is to lead them into the next phases of your art marketing process where you build relationships and create a customer for life. That is what you should be aiming for!
Just for your reference, the phases of our art marketing model are:
1. The Attraction Phase
2. The WOW Phase
3. The Relationship-building Phase
4. The Sales-Close Phase
You can read more about these phases in our free report, “7 Steps To Sell Art Online“.
But lets get back to SEO and some hypothetical examples of how it might help an artist commercially:
Gillian is an oil painter who lives in Northern New Mexico and paints landscapes, many of which are focused close to the town of Abiquiu. (Note: If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit this town you should mark it on your list of places to go – it is right near Ghost Ranch and Georgia O’keeffe’s desert home – just gorgeous landscape!)
Gillian has a website which she has optimized for search engines. During that process she discovered that many people google “Abiquiu Paintings” and “Ghost Ranch Paintings” and so she optimized her artist website to rank highly for those phrases.
Gillian has opened the door to several big potential opportunities:
– A gallery director scouting for new work of Gillian’s style and subject matter may very likely google “Abiquiu Paintings” and “Ghost Ranch Paintings” as part of their search strategy. When Gillian’s website ranks on Page 1, it means they can find her and look at her work. If Gillian’s work is great and her website does its job she may get a call from the gallery director. This is priceless attraction-marketing for free!
– Similarly, an art licensing rep may be looking for work similar to Gillian’s for a new line of home decorations at Target Stores. Search engines would be part of their strategy.
– Finally, tourists who have visited the area and fallen in love with it often get home and realize that they really want a piece of art to remind them of their experience at Ghost Ranch. What do you think might be one strategy they might use? Search engines – of course!
Now, as I mentioned above, search engines are just one of several attraction-phase marketing techniques you can use – but they are very powerful. So why would you want to miss out on the potential business with a website that doesn’t rank highly for the phrases applicable to your work that are heavily searched? Why would you risk missing out on a serious percentage of your potential new visitors?
You wouldn’t right? That would be plain crazy! But that is exactly what MOST artists are doing with their websites! And the most insane part of this is that SEO is not really that difficult to master, IF you know what to do.
Today I’ve covered WHY search engines are an important marketing tool for artists and WHERE they deliver they strength. In Part 2 we’ll discuss the 3 foundations of Search Engine Optimization to get you started.
If you’re serious about more success with your website you can also check out our “Artist SEO Success System” – a Complete 21 day program to comprehensively SEO your artist website. Created exclusively for artists it lays out a complete plan and can save you $thousands in lost time.
Editors Note: This article (written by us) was first published in Fine Art Views in October 2010.