The Latest Keywords to Improve Art Sales

GETTING THE TRICKY BIT RIGHT!

 

Metadata for artists
April 2016 Artist Metadata Set 1

 

If there’s one thing that all print on demand artists find difficult, it is the part of the preparation to sell your masterpiece that involves writing metadata tags, and writing a description. I have no doubt in my mind that artists who sell through more traditional methods find the task a challenge too.

Imagine completing a work that you have spent hours creating, and then finding that you still need to spend at least another few hours working out exactly which metadata tags will help your work climb higher in the search results, and then you have to write a description.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have held off from offering a piece as soon as it is completed because I suddenly develop brain freeze. Ask me to describe someone else’s work and I can verbally tell you in less than 500 words what that particular artwork says, and I can give you way more than 500-characters of metadata. I carry out this task for myself, I become completely blank.

Some artists enlist art brokers to do that kind of thing, but for those of us who are unrepresented, it is a task that requires some thought, and those thoughts eat away in to time we could be spending creatively, or at least drinking coffee.

Metadata is critical to get right if you want your work to show up in search results. Imagine it as a series of words that describe the art to then file away in one tiny drawer in a very large room full of drawers. If you don’t have a way to search for it, how will you find it in the future when someone else has maybe moved it in to another drawer, or a million new files have been squeezed in to the same drawer?

Here’s how Google describe it:

metadata

ˈmɛtədeɪtə/

noun

noun: metadata; noun: meta-data

1. a set of data that describes and gives information about other data.

There are millions of pieces of art available on print on demand sites such as Society 6, Fine Art America, Zazzle, and the rest of them, you need a way to be found otherwise you’ll just be consigned to that drawer forever.

There are of course other factors that will help to get you noticed, or more importantly your art, a good description of the art is essential.

This week I took a look at a couple of print on demand art sites, I also took a look at a print on demand site that only publishes books, and I just couldn’t believe what some people were actually writing when they are describing their work.

I admit, the description (and the metadata) are the two things that I most dislike about the whole process, apart from completing a tax return which is possibly one of the worst things ever that an artist has to do at some point in his or her career.

The descriptions I read, I thought about listing in this blog post as a guide to how not to do it, but as an artist myself, I thought that naming and shaming wouldn’t be the greatest idea, us artists need to support each other, but I also hoped that no one would come back after reading some of mine.

However, to give you an idea of what I am talking about, here is one that I read from an artist who I know very well. An artist who just like me struggles, and an artist who I spoke to last week who said, please use this description as an example because I am embarrassed I even wrote it. (Word of note, a week has passed and he still hasn’t updated it).

The artist in question had spent more than 30-hours on this piece of work. Essentially it is a painting that was produced using acrylics, pallet knives, a small flat brush, and depicts Times Square New York at night, in the rain.

The description read:

Acrylic, 36x24 inch on canvas.

That’s all there was. Yes, good to know the size of the original, good to know it was on canvas, but nothing that told me what it was. If I had never seen a photograph or visited Times Square I could have thought it was Kathmandu, a place I have never visited.

There was nothing to describe in what year it had been painted, (1998 is the answer), and nothing that indicated that this was the original painting, and was actually unavailable as a print. Nothing to describe that in fact it was a limited edition 1 of 1, and nothing about the artist.

There was also a lack of metadata, when I say a lack, I mean there was no metadata at all. Nada, nope, nothing. In three years it had been viewed a total of four times, three were probably bots indexing for search engines, where it also didn’t show up in any search results.

One other thing, the title was also a little off, he had called it untitled. Even the word null in every text field would have provided a better result. The only other information was a contact address for the artist, and the price. $2000. Unless you knew the exact web address you would never find it.

THE ARTIST DESCRIPTION

When you sell your art, perhaps one of the most critical things you need to do is to provide information. We are a global population that reads every label on every product, so why leave the label off an item that is as expensive as some artworks?

The question is just how do you create a description that inspires the buyer to buy? I have read so many artist descriptions over the years, and it’s something that I still don’t get right 100% of the time. Artists are generally artists not writers, and very rarely are they PR gurus.

The best artwork descriptions should be looked at as being the salesman. If I could meet the customer, what is it that I would say to make them want to buy my art? There is no magical sentence or paragraph that can be used, but every artist needs to make a connection with the buyer. Be that face to face, over the phone, in an email, in your artists description, one thing is certain that many art buyers like to engage.

There are no hard and fast rules to writing a good artist description for a piece of artwork. My friend has upped his game with new works, I am desperately trying to do the same, but there is a certain amount of detail required. Often I am tempted to just say, created by an original starving artist, please just buy it, and tell friends and family to do the same.

I tend to place everything I need to write in to two categories. Inspiration, which needs to engage and invite the customer, and it should also reflect you and your personality. There is some debate on whether this should be written in the first or third person, in general though, I have had equal success and failure with both. To be honest it all seems like smoke and mirrors and you may want to alternate depending on your audience. Using third-person can come across in a way that feels like an impartial and independent endorsement, whereas in the first person it can be much more personal and engaging. One caveat that needs to be considered carefully is when writing an artist’s biography, for the most part third-person works much better for this.

Whatever it is, however it is written, it will need you to get across your passion for the work, and be representative of your personality.

Useful things to add might be, what was your inspiration to create the piece, and if there is a story behind the work, all the better. You might also want to add a little around the techniques used to create the piece, what the piece means to you, and what it represents in terms of your overall artistic work.

When print on demand sites feature artwork, it is also good to have a useful description of the art in place already. Many of the sites will be looking at the descriptions as part of their selection process, it then makes it easier for them to write a feature.

Then there is a second element. This is often the bit we do manage to get right. What materials were used, the medium such as pastels, digital, oil, watercolour, and obviously the dimensions are important.

It is also necessary to do some math at this point. When listing dimensions you need to cover centimetres and inches, maybe even millimetres. When I buy artwork online I always look at the dimensions, but if I buy from a gallery, I must admit I tend to just think, that’s nice, I think it will fit.

It is also useful to indicate how the item will be shipped. How will it be packaged, do you offer to ship artworks both rolled and stretched, and point out that many POD sites now offer local and regional shipping to avoid surprise customs costs.

If you are selling on print on demand, generally most POD sites will be offering a 30-day money-back guarantee. Although this will be evident on the POD site itself, it doesn’t hurt to reinforce the message. It is a good selling point when buying online.

It is also good to give the buyer a way to contact you via email at least. Encourage a buyer to get in touch, because this is where you get to practice your sales pitch. Whenever this happens to me, I do tend to view each contact as a possible sale for an original multi-million Dollar purchase of an original Matisse, even if it’s just for a greetings card or a T-Shirt. I’m all about the experience.

VERBAL DESCRIPTION

Verbal description is increasingly important in today’s society. We are far more aware of the needs of others in terms of disability and accessibility, and increasingly verbal description is used before, post, and during gallery tours, even to those who do not have disabilities. It is a way to verbalise the key points.

It’s a similar concept to a successful PowerPoint presentation, but one that can be talked through. Now let me set one thing straight, I do not recommend that every artist description is written in PowerPoint, and it should never ever be written in comic sans font.

But it should follow the principle of tell them what you will be telling them, tell them what you want to tell them, and tell them what you have just told them.

Verbal description should include standard information, the artists name, the title of the work, key dates, mediums, dimensions, nationality of the artist, giving the viewer/buyer, quick, relevant, facts that they can easily recall.

Whilst we are on the subject of verbal description, it is also important to remember that a general overview of subject, form, and colour are also essential. A general overview of the work that clearly explains a work piece by piece, followed by what is represented in the work, and then include the colours and tones, even mood and atmosphere. If this is coherent a viewer can assemble the entire piece in their mind. They are much more likely to remember this.

Also it is really important to remember that there are actually art buyers and collectors who are visually impaired. One of my clients has only partial sight, but she is able to describe the piece to anyone, and she has a picture in her mind of what the art and the subject actually are. When I describe old masters, she can recall with striking detail the colours and detail in each painting. The reason for this is that she has a memory of colour recalled from days when she had full sight, now she has lost some sight, it has never stopped her enjoying art.

Whenever this lady buys my work I always ensure that specific information is given to her, referring to the positions of numbers on a clock, I am able to point out that at 6 o’clock there is a white sandy beach with darker tones where the tide has broken on the shore. At 11 o’clock, bright white rays of sunshine beat down to 5 o’clock, washing the beach with sunlight. Adding in some historical concept of where the landscape is geographically also helps to build the bigger picture.

Whilst this level of detail is not necessarily important in a 500-word description on a print on demand site, it does allow the artist to study the painting from a different perspective, helping to prompt ideas for a more general description.

Artist metadata
Artist Metadata Set 2

Describing the importance of the technique used is also something that I am guilty of not doing. For me, 99% of my work is digital. The 1% of work I do on board and canvas needs more explanation.

Oil paint is suspended in a viscous oil medium that is slow to dry. It is easily manipulated by the brush, and allows the artist to blend colours easily. This makes it easier to form the paint in to layers of thickness that give the work depth. By doing this you can use the technique to produce light and shadows.

Explaining the style of the work is also important, here we refer to the features that identify a work as being produced by a particular artist, movement, school, or period, and even geographical region.

If everything else is covered you will be able to focus on how the many elements of the artwork contribute as a whole.

From here on you can focus on the vivid details of the work, focussing on different parts of the artwork enables you to help the buyer build up an image that is easy for them to picture and remember. This also helps you as the artist to look at the work from another perspective and by doing this, it really does help when creating the description, it opens the mind.

You do need to be very clear when describing art. You also need to remember that not everyone has a compelling understanding of language, particularly where English or whatever language the description is written in is not the viewers/buyers first language.

You must be careful to avoid ambiguous and figurative language, and you need to avoid making assumptions about the viewer’s knowledge of the process involved in creating art, and art terms and pictorial conventions such as perspective, focal point, picture plane, foreground, and background should always be defined for your viewer.

Of course if you follow all of the above, firstly you will be spending as long writing the description as it took to paint the work, and secondly, some online art sites and services limit the amount of text that you are able to type.

But one thing is certain, by following the basic principles outlined above, and making sure to utilise the spell checker, eventually art descriptions will become second nature.

SO WHY IS METADATA SO IMPORTANT?

If you have ever worked in information technology for more than a couple of years you will know that the entire concept of metadata is nothing new. In fact, we owe the honour of introducing metadata to librarians around the world. The term emerged in the 1960’s and has been used since the dawn of the Dewey Decimal system used in libraries for classifying and categorising books so that they can be easily located on shelves.

A point I put to the test recently at the local library, when I asked the librarian where to find a particular art book, she immediately responded aisle three, fourth bookcase along, third shelf from the bottom and it will be next to a much larger book called The Art of Disney (I already own that one, it is phenomenal), and it will be to the left. At this point I wasn’t sure if she was a librarian or Rain Man. She certainly knew her stuff. As I walked away, she called me and said to put it back in the exact same spot when I had finished it.

Libraries present metadata in a physical form, but in our virtual world the principles remain the same. To quickly navigate across huge data repositories and efficiently find, manage, and track information. Metadata controls what would otherwise be chaos, and it is used for everything.

HOW TO USE METADATA TO INFORM

There are of course other uses for metadata, not only can it be used for searching for and finding pretty much anything, for me, it is a tool that can be used to see at a glance, a real time update as to what other people are searching for. No point in me spending 20-hours creating a piece of art knowing that actually no one is interested in a portrait of a donkey knitting a woolly hat. Maybe they are, but they’re not showing up in any search results I have seen.

I generally use a number of tools to keep me informed of current search trends, it really is useful when you are a blogger or an artist to keep ahead of the game. Using some of the Google search tools also allows you to view historic trends, of course future trends are more difficult to ascertain, but by understanding key words, metadata, and search terms in general, you can start to at least predict in the short term. By using https://www.google.com/trends/ you can see what has recently been searched for, and you can even break it down in to categories. The history of search is somewhat telling, and compelling viewing when trying to figure out what’s hot and what’s not.

You really don’t have to be a professional data analyst anymore to do this, there are so many simple tools that can be freely explored on the web, and indeed, Saatchi, and Fine Art America display their most searched for keywords making the job so much easier.

Fine Art America have a dedicated page for discovering search terms that can be found here: http://fineartamerica.com/artworktags.html

Saatchi Art also have a dedicated page that can be found here: http://www.saatchiart.com/popular-searches

Rather handily, I have produced the two following graphics that show the search terms from April 2016.

Art sales metadata
FAA top data from set one

 

Art sales metadata set two
Saatchi Metadata

 

The entirety of the most searched for terms from both sites are also written below. It might be worth copying these across to your own spreadsheet so that you can quickly utilise them when uploading relevant art, and you'll be able to apply the usual Excel or Numbers on Mac filters to sort them.

Remember though that search engines will penalise you if you incorrectly use metadata tags, if they are not relevant, they get picked up as spam and you will drop down the results quicker than a fireman sliding down a greased pole.

Fashion,landscape,documentary,abstract,aerial,panoramic,dada,fine art,digital photography,realism,art deco,pop art,oil paintings,on line photography,surrealism,nature photography,impressionism,children photography,drawings pencil,painting acrylic,expressionism,cubism,fashion photography,tile mosaic,erotic photography,lo fi,camera obscura,sports photography,drawings children,cartoon drawing,photography landscape,children painting,photography business,abstract paintings,photorealism,wood sculptures,watercolor paintings,photography india,photography fine art,street arts,installation wood,bronze sculpture,astrophotography,erotic paintings,glass mosaic,photography people,photography panoramic,drawing architecture,people drawing,celebrity photography,drawing animals,photography animals,abstract expressionism,sculpture metal,business installation,painting china,india paintings,photography still life,chalk drawings,charcoal drawings,paintings impressionism,ireland photography,photography documentary,business painting,stone sculptures,georgia painting,realism paintings,nature painting,photography urban,sculptures clay,erotic drawings,paintings still life,installation metal,photography china,humor photography,photography polaroid,photography abstract,painting japan,airbrush painting,paintings people,bangladesh photography,india drawing,sculpture glass,photography Indonesia,marble sculpture,australia painting,photography new Zealand,paintings religious,mexico photography,photography Italy,drawings nature,sculptures animals,painting from france,photography Vietnam,paintings animals,paintings surrealism,ceramic sculptures,hong kong drawing,drawing pastel,stone mosaics,greece photography,photography united states,photogram photography,sports painting,mirror mosaics,painting Egypt,fantasy photography,sculpture china,cubism paintings,sculpture from india,drawings still life,expressionism paintings,fantasy paintings,tempera painting,italy painting,sculpture abstract,paintings from Philippines,drawings pen and ink,painting Canada,drawings abstract,sculptures Egypt,painting enamel,paintings ink,pictorialism,children sculpture,science drawing,united states installation,drawings fantasy,painting spain,architecture painting,malaysia painting,paintings mexico,sculptures light,drawing colored pencils,sound sculpture,drawing Egypt,architecture sculptures,painting Bangladesh,japan drawings,painting Germany,netherlands painting,netherlands photography,drawing sports,greece painting,cartoon paintings,turkey drawing,painting Vietnam,painting south Africa,transportation photography,drawing Australia,painting urban,painting art deco,drawing places,painting mixed media,colombia photography,painting pop art,education drawings,iran photography,sculpture cuisine,drawings crayon,household painting,painting from Russia,sculptures Philippines,china drawings,erotic sculpture,paintings from Ireland,oil pastel paintings,photography chile,people sculptures,photography Taiwan,art deco sculpture,sculpture new Zealand,transportation drawings,mosaic travel,business drawings,photography Mauritius,painting abstract expressionism,plastic sculpture,drawings graphite,drawing realism,drawing mexico,canada sculptures,paintings Thailand,wax sculptures,photography Croatia,mixed media collages,places paintings,gouache paintings,paintings Singapore,mosaic france,drawing Jordan,paintings new Zealand,bahrain photography,photography finland,italy sculptures,sculpture religious,paint mixed media,sculpture Ireland,celebrity drawings,photography Denmark,photography Ukraine,political drawing,mexico sculptures,cuisine paintings,sculpture fiberglass,greece ,osaics,thailand sculptures,installation love,travel paintings,drawing Germany,printmaking Philippines,religious drawings,education sculpture,paintings Pakistan,colombia painting,drawing Italy,business sculpture,textile sculptures,realism sculpture,digital art science,painting peru,sculpture found objects,mosaics turkey,painting Norway,nature sculptures,paintings from morocco,surrealism drawing,painting dada,paintings from brazil,mosaic love,sculptures south Africa,sports mosaic,cubism sculpture,romance painting,jordan paintings,indonesia paintings,paintings sri lanka,germany sculptures,spain sculpture,painting Switzerland,chile drawing,mosaics Italy,mixed media paper,animals mosaic,greece drawings,painting Ukraine,pop art sculptures,street art france,pottery,mosaics,printmaking painting,nature installation,urban sculpture,environmental sculpture,peru drawing,bead mosaic,cartoon sculptures,silverpoint drawing,hong kong paintings,photography Serbia,printmaking monotype,malta painting,paintings Denmark, mosaic architecture,paintings from Poland,slovenia photography,sweden paintings,digital art education,russia drawing,painting Belgium,qatar painting,taiwan painting,architecture installations,sculptures Zimbabwe,painting humor,abstract installation,printmaking collagraph,costa rica painting,lenticular photography,abstract mosaic,abstract mixed media,mosaics people,cartoon installation,peru sculpture,sculpture Portugal,venezuela photography,photography Slovakia,street art drawing,romance drawings,street art political,sculpture expressionism,painting Armenia,painting Iraq,brazil drawing,street art drawing,photography south korea,drawing pop,art,mixed media sculptures,humor drawing,street art installation,pop art street art,mauritius painting,painting Iceland,architecture assemblage,digital art erotic,impressionism sculpture,drawing art deco,sculpture Sweden,drawing Indonesia,printmaking china,ecuador paintings,iran sculpture,kenya paintings,hot wax painting,children street art,turkey sculptures,hong kong mosaic,mosaic argentina,painting dominican republic,dada sculptures,installations sculpture,algeria paintings,performing arts photography,fine art mixed media,sweden drawing,painting Syria,sculpture Monaco,puerto rico drawings,bulgaria paintings,street art chile,digital art children,digital art india,printmaking drypoint,glass printmaking,street art business,abstract expressionism sculpture,croatia paintings,digital arts Philippines,united kingdom drawing,zimbabwe painting,street art places,still life installation,russia street art,pakistan sculpture,mixed media wood,lebanon sculpture,science installations,street art Norway,cartoon street art,street art mosaic,digital art china,printmaking animals,painting assemblage,digital art love,russia mosaic,installation mixed media,metal mixed media,still life sculpture,cartoon digital art,printmaking stencils,israel drawings,printmaking Canada,costa rica sculpture,aerial photographies,ink mixed media,street art Canada,assemblage wood,political sculptures,street art Thailand,humor sculpture,maldives painting,digital art fractal,argentina sculptures,drawing Norway,uganda paintings,poland drawings,mosaic pop art,ukraine street art,mixed media glass,art deco mosaics,animals street art,cartoon mosaics,transportation sculpture,nature printmaking,monaco paintings,dada assemblage,fantasy mosaic,dada installation,estonia painting,switzerland drawings,street art technology,street art metal,nature,macedonia paintings,digital art south Africa,installation pop art,czech republic paintings,architecture printmaking,digital art Germany,dye transfer photography,world culture photography,kosovo painting,sports digital art,digital art still life,digital art Indonesia,urban mixed media,assemblage pop art,mixed media pop art,new media installations,still life mosaic,finland printmaking,abstract expressionism drawing,realism digital art,assemblage surrealism,fantasy street art,celebrity street art,dada,Assemblage Collage Decoupage,Sculpture Vitreous Enamel,Assemblage Collage Photomontage,

SET 2

Nature,landscape,water,bluesky,art,green,flower,white,abstract,spring,painting,flowers,beautiful,red,photography,trees,new_york,portrait,yellow,ocean,Europe,travel,colourful,black,clouds,tree,sunset,beauty,European,color,sea,bird,beach,Chicago,summer,wildlife,floral,background,architecture,skyline,garden,city,outdoors,sun,natural,bison,plant,forest,mountains,pink,light,building,animal,sunrise,photograph,outdoor,florida,birds,nycphoto,design,orange,historic,figure,black_and_white,scenic,symbolic,usa,river,petit_genre,genre,_scene,old,vintage,modern,history,purple,lake,blossom,woman,peaceful,flora,snow,bloom,waves,fine_art,mountain,day,brown,colors,historical,winter,stone,brightdigital_art,closeup,urban,dark,texture,tourism,sand,animals,Christian,Love,Female,wall_art,night,grass,autumn,leaf,reflection,tropical,macro,religion,fresh,view,rocks,poster,park,cityscape,wood,vacation,digital,field,season,fall,sunny,seascape,symbolism,illustration,prints,coast,leaves,boat,contemporary,rock,America,Women,Country,Impressionism,Rural,Print,Artist,Fantasy,Figurative,Girl,Horizon,Wings,Evening,California,Petal,Romantic,Spiritual,People,Scenery,Turkey,Morning,Woods,jez_c_self,wild,sunlight,religious,image,france,farm,Istanbul,Road,Impressionist,Decoration,Streets,Landmark,Significant,Analogy,Island,Bridge,Metaphor,abstract_art,allegorical,suggestive,horse,uniquestill_life,prettyjez_c_self_photographer,botanical,Colorado,jeremy_self,Italy,Jezself,Holiday,Bay,Plants,Desert,Pattern,Destination,French,Shore,Peace,Images,Waterfall,Lrussia,Downtown,Cloud,Nude,Street,Buildings,Christianity,Rose,Calm,Russian,Life,Branch,Oregon,Watercolor,Italian,wooden,holy,happy,tower,foliage,church,decorative,symbolist,nicholas_roerich,panorama,sunshine,springtime,biblical,business,Arizona,House,Sacred,Bouquet,Nobody,Dusk,Sexy,Fun,Vibrant,Holland,Canada,Silhouette,Gold,Transportation,Reflections,Scriptures,holy_bible,biblical_scene,Bible,Scene

HOW CAN I USE THE DATA?

The data that can be found all across the web relating to specific searches can be used not only to inform on relevant keywords, but also to inform your direction of travel in terms of creating art that has a higher chance of being found, and a higher chance of selling. There is no guarantee, but if your work is liked and appears higher in the search results, it has a better chance of converting in to a sale.

It is a theory I have used previously, I created a piece purely based on search engine results, in part because I do like to dabble with little experiments, and in part because I was inspired by the subjects that were returned on the results pages. The upshot was that within a few days of uploading the art, the piece actually sold. Not that one piece in a ropey experiment proves everything, but interestingly it continues to sell.

There are two ways in which I use data other than to provide keywords, firstly I use the data to support any given subject that I am creating as a piece of art. If I create a landscape that features a boat and a beach, I search for keywords using Google’s trends, and this gives me a useful idea of how popular the work is likely to be. I then use https://adwords.google.co.uk/KeywordPlanner to search for useful keywords. There are other keyword generators available, and you will need to have an AdWords account with Google (free), to utilise theirs. Another keyword generator I often use is http://lsigraph.com/ Its simple format allows you to enter a search description in the text box and it generates a list of relevant suggestions. You can use limited features without having to sign up to anything, but one tip I will give you is to make sure you are using data from a range of at least two or three tools. The more the merrier.

Once you have the list, you can jot down the important keywords, I tend to do this in an Excel spreadsheet and have pages relating to categories. Then when I produce the next and subsequent works I can come back to the spreadsheet and simply copy and paste. I tend to update the spreadsheet every couple of months, I would do it much more frequently if I had the time, and / or if I focused only on one subject.

Secondly I use the trends data to inform me about what people are actually searching for. This is really useful when you hit a creative block. For the most part my art is planned and I maintain a checklist of subjects I want to cover. The downside is that I might be really feeling the love for a particular subject when I write the list but if a psychologist took a look in my head they would find chaos of the first order. My consistent love is for abstracts, but then I decide that this week I’m feeling the need to paint Polar Bears. You could say that I haven’t found a true niche in my 46-years of wandering around this planet, I say that I like to explore and that’s my niche.

When I stumble across a relevant search term and it appeals to me to create a painting of that particular subject, then I go ahead and paint it. There seems to be a train of thought that all artists should be consistent in terms of subject and style, but I think if the quality is consistent, that should really be the main focus regardless of the medium, style, or subject. Yes, I do like to experiment, and I’m not too sure I will change anytime soon.

But for those artists who like so many of us have to create artwork with the most on point relevance to the market in order to pay the bills, using keyword and metadata can help enormously to predict what might have a chance of selling. I have read on the internet that some people relate this to an artist selling out, but the reality is that sometimes you have to produce something different that people will buy to enable you to eat. I don’t call it selling out, I prefer the term, surviving.

I spoke about the issues surrounding local and independent artists recently in another blog post and contrary to popular belief many artists also have to hold down full-time jobs to pursue their artistic passion in the few hours of the week that remain.

With many print on demand sites pushing art to the masses, some of which have hundreds of thousands of artists all competing and doing the same, you have to wonder just how many will eventually be remembered for that one piece. Going it alone in the art world without a broker, a gallery, and some good luck, is a difficult exercise, particularly when you have no financial support for promoting your work. What will make you stand out, is being on point, giving people what they want, and only once this is achieved will you be able to sell people the work that they didn’t know they wanted.

LONG TAIL

Long-tail keywords are longer and generally more specific phrases that visitors use to find something in a search engine. Many websites and services who sell art online allow the artist to create long-tail keywords, usually by including the sentence within “quotes”.

But what are they exactly? Well, they’re the three and four keywords that make up a specific phrase, making the search more specific than let’s say just “shoes”, the results for shoes would be far higher, and given that you wanted to actually buy red shoes, something like, “buy red shoes online” would provide a narrower and much more relevant set of results. Remember that people tend to be searching for exactly what it is they are going to buy.

If you are an artist who creates abstracts, chances are that you will appear lower in the search results. If you are an artist who creates Mondrian (I always think of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that have been filled with red, white, blue, and green colours), inspired abstracts, then it is more probable that you will be nearer to the top of an organic search result. Organic meaning that you haven’t paid to be at the top.

If you use something like “Mondrian inspired stretched canvas prints” you will creep up further and become more visible to people who are looking for “Mondrian inspired stretched canvas prints”. Sometimes we forget how we ourselves utilise search engines, so when you are figuring out which long-tail keywords you should use, try searching for the exact same style of art you are about to release. How did you do it? Chances are other people would be using the exact same long-tail keywords as you just did.

The traffic generated from long-tail keywords will more often than not be much less than if you go with single keywords. But ultimately the traffic you do receive will be better focussed, more committed to making a purchase, and will be more inclined to engage further.

Although there is a lot of traffic generated from short-tail keywords in general on the web, the reality is that they make up fewer searches overall, maybe around 15% or so. Mid-length tail searches make up a slightly higher proportion, but overall, around 70% of all searches are long-tail keyword searches. It makes much more sense to include long-tail keywords in your strategy.

USING KEYWORDS IN ADS

I cannot begin to think just how much money I spent in the early days on ads. I was definitely using that technical approach to setting the ads up called “wing it”. Honestly I had little hope of getting it right. At the time I couldn’t quite figure out all of those acronyms and terms such as ACE (AdWords Campaign Experiments), CTR (Click through Rate), and contextual targeting.

I spent more or less a whole year working out just what each acronym and feature did, and I made many notes. I do tend to write everything down, it is a strategy for helping me to remember what I did a few minutes ago. The inner workings of using AdWords will need to be left for another post.

But whether you are optimising your site for search engines, or advertising your art, there is no denying that you need to understand how keywords are used in order to actually make it all work.

Many people leave this to professional organisations who eat and sleep SEO and advertising, and for good reason. It is just about as complicated as it can be for the uninitiated. The downside of leaving it to the professionals is that it doesn’t come cheap. If you plan on going down this route you will certainly need to have access to a budget. The only “cheap” way of doing this is to either ask a friend, or do it yourself. If you ask a friend, make sure your relationship is strong.

Long-tail keywords are essential for those who wish to rank their content in organic Google searches and for other search engines too, but they are vitally important if you plan to run a paid for marketing campaign. If you don’t have long-tail keywords in a marketing campaign you will come across more than a few pitfalls.

With short keywords such as “art”, competition for higher rankings will be fierce, ROI (Return on Investment) will be low, and not everyone searching for art wants to actually buy any art. If this were a physical retail store, we would essentially call these clicks, browsers not buyers.

If you utilise long-tail keywords you will see less traffic to your site when looking at site visit stats, but the ROI will be far greater. This is because you will be attracting the right audience, those who know what they want to buy, and when they find it, chances are they will start adding your artwork to the shopping basket.

This is because when you bid (something else that confused me for months) on long-tailed keywords the cost per click is lower because fewer other people will be targeting the same keyword string that makes up a long-tail. If you get the long-tail keywords correct, then you will rank much higher in the results and it needn’t cost anywhere near what you would have paid for keywords with a high competition.

Getting it correct though is a difficult task. It needs planning, and you need to do some research before committing your credit card number to Google or the other platforms that offer advertising. The secret to success here is that you need to find a sustainable source of long-tail keywords that are right for you and your market. Many keyword suggestion tools available online fail to cover long-tail keywords, they focus on short-tail keywords and ignore the real fruit on the tree.

So that's all for today, I'm working on a post that covers paid search and advertising, and a separate post about how to crack the Facebook algorithm and get your posts seen. If you have something to add please feel free to leave a comment!

 

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