The Art of Blogging 2017


BLOGGING AS A PROMOTIONAL TOOL FOR YOUR ART

the artists guide to publishing blogs 
 
TWO AND A BIT YEARS ON

It has been two years since I set up this blog and what a wonderful two years it has been. In fact I started writing content around six months before I actually created the blog. Not bad at all considering that the internet is full of stories suggesting that as many as 95% of those who start a blog pretty much abandon the idea at between six and twelve months.

It is very hard work and even creating a single post can take as much as twenty or so hours. That is a whole lot of commitment that you need to be able to give to blogging, yet blogging is still seen as an essential marketing tool for artists. I have said it before and I will say it again, art collectors like to connect with the artist.

What I have discovered over the many years I have been selling my work is that in this day and age you need an online presence if you are to compete in the art world. In an age when almost everyone who has access to technology can go online to find new art, it is an absolute essential to make sure that they are finding your art somewhere in the mix.

Firstly if you are selling your work and are happy with the results without having an online presence beyond social media and your print on demand web address, you are one of the lucky ones. However, you could do even better by adding a little more content.

Relying on your artist website or print on demand offering is also something you should also consider and ask if it is enough. With many artists’ websites that you get off the shelf, you are limited in what you can do. You might be able to change your logo, change the default colour scheme, or add in some key search words, but beyond that there isn’t too much else you have control of. Ideally you will want to add some additional content beyond the standard artist biography, and offer visitors an opportunity to connect with you.

So this week I will be covering the art of blogging, its benefits and pitfalls, and why it is still a great tool that artists can utilise to connect with art lovers.

Before you start creating a blog there are some other things that you will want to know. Firstly a blog is a great way to connect with customers and secondly if you keep at it, not only will your blog help your brand to be seen you will eventually get to the point where your blog contributes financially.

I have found out over that last two and a half years that blogging can turn in to a full time job such is the commitment that you will have to make, but the results really can pay dividends if you want your art and importantly you as your brand to become noticed and ultimately stand out in a very crowded market.

Over the past two and a half years I have also found out that you really do need to be persistent, patient, and pretty determined not to give up.

The high numbers of people giving up on blogging came as a surprise. I knew a lot of people tend to give up when the number of hits or readers of a blog only reach at best double figures each day, and I can say that in the first few months of writing this blog, I was very near the point of giving up too. In fact when I look back at the numbers, on the first day this blog went live, I had three unique hits, the other seventy five were all from me going back to the dashboard to see if anyone else had read it.

Over the first week I accumulated a total of five, maybe six new readers, and I say maybe six because I am not too sure if the hit from my wife taking a look actually counts. This was persistent over the first few months, then one day something happened and I got a total of 24 hits in one day. I very nearly cried because I thought that despite the six months of planning I had managed to get everything so wrong. It turns out that I was just experiencing blog start-up blues and low volumes of traffic are the norm unless you are some high profile celebrity which I am definitely not. 

Today it is different, I am nowhere near where I want to be in terms of traffic but it is getting better and each month hits are in the thousands rather than the hundreds, sometimes even tens of thousands like last month. 

failure is part of the process  

The attitude you need to take when creating a blog is to keep doing it over and over and all over again. Constantly writing posts, and keeping it as up to date as possible. The funny thing is that many people say that they just don’t have the time to write blogs but these are usually the very same people who constantly write long posts on social media and watch twenty funny cat videos.

Now wouldn’t it be better to create a blog post and then also post some of it on social media too?

My blog posts can take up to 20-hours of work for each one. That doesn’t mean that I spend 20-hours straight off writing. I started writing posts six months ahead of the blog going live, and now whenever I post something it has usually been pre-written at least three or four weeks in advance, and I also have a supply of posts which I have completed and that can be used any time I need to update the blog and haven’t got the time.

Uploading a blog post takes me around 45-minutes including sharing it on social-media and updating search engine optimisation which I like to do manually. Depending on the platform you use, some services such as Word Press have useful plugins that can automate some of this work and also schedule social-media posts. Be wary of too much automation, some platforms algorithms really don't like automated posts and traffic suffers. 

It is extremely rare that your blog will become immediately successful. So you shouldn’t approach blogging as something that you are sure will become your financial pot of gold. In fact, my plan for this blog still has three years to run before I am expecting it to become what I would call moderately successful. Who knows though, this or any next post could change it all.

When writing a blog post I write around 3,000 – 5,000 words on a feature such as this, and around 1,000 to 2,000 words on a regular post. Updates between features tend to be around 1,000 words.

Now let us put this in to some context. If you write a post of two thousand words and you publish twice per week, that is 4,000 words that you need to write each week. You need to do this for four weeks each month bringing the total to 16,000 words per month. You also need to do this for twelve months every year, so by the end of the first year you will have written 192,000 words. If you were to write a book, then this would be the equivalent of around two books per year. Remember you are only publishing at this point twice per week.

Sometimes the task becomes slightly easier because as soon as you publish a post you will have thought of something else that you need to add. Keep a note of those ideas and you can take the old post and completely rewrite a new feature down the line with the new ideas included.

The biggest issue for many people is that they will at first try to reach the Holy Grail of post frequency which is at least once per day. If you wrote 1,000 words per day that would be the equivalent of 365,000 words per year, and you will need to find 365 things to write about compared to 96 things to write about by writing twice per week. I started off writing twice per week but had to change course and write at least one post per week when life started to become busier and I had noticed that my feature posts were more valued than shorter updates.

Having said that, I do now have a library of much shorter posts which I can feed in occasionally. The reason I have that library of waiting posts is that sometimes you just need to keep the momentum going or you really don't have enough time. Become content rich. 

Blogs are infinitely more difficult than websites. A websites content might not need to be changed as frequently as a blog, but a blog helps to keep people engaged so your traffic will eventually become what the search engines call quality traffic which is an indicator that will affect your longer-term search results. Of course, the quality of the content also drives quality traffic.

With the onset of newsreader services becoming increasingly popular, you may want to submit your blog or site to one of the services. I chose to submit this site to News 360 because it was my go to newsreader service and one I have relied on for a few years. The submission process was simple enough, but when you apply the process of them picking quality sites can be quite lengthy. If you are lucky enough you will get an email from a human saying that your work is now available on News 360.

Many of the newsreaders will also give you an additional set of analytics data. What I learned from the first few analytics I viewed, was that my audience demographic for the blog was not too different from my other demographics. Essentially I know the type of people who read my blog and buy my art.  There were a couple of additions too. These will now help me to plan new artworks to feed in to those new demographics.

Whenever you blog you will quickly learn to take notice of the minor things that have led to a small success. The fact that your readership went up by 50% after a new blog post was written, or that someone has left a positive comment. It is these small things which will help drive you to keep on creating content.

There will be some days when you really do want to give up, and some people who want to give up are just looking for an excuse to give up. My advice to anyone is to make a plan at the very start and stick to this. Don’t even consider giving up until you have exhausted every aspect of your plan and given that plan a sensible time to come to fruition. Keep on counting those small wins not as small wins, but as wins that will eventually make up the larger win.

THE GUEST POST

what's your story blogging blogger  

Guest posts are a great way for you to be seen on more successful platforms, but equally they are a great way to drive traffic to your site. Inviting a guest to write a post will not only provide you with some additional content, it will also give your readers something and someone different to read.

Guest posts can also contribute to you being in a position where you can update your blog more frequently. One of the next steps for this blog is to invite some guest posts from other artists.
Getting artists to submit something is not only great for you, it is also great for them. They will generate traffic to their own sites, and equally they will be able to try out blogging without quite so much commitment.

I often hear that guest posts have been dead in the water for a while, but actually they're still as useful as ever for the publisher and the guest. People who read your blog will read your blog, if you can throw some variety into the mix too, all well and good. 

If you wish to write a guest post for this blog, please do get in touch because I would be more than happy to publish it if it is related to the arts.

Guest posts will need to be a maximum of 2,000 words, and should cover the arts in general or your own art. I can only accept original content, and I retain the right to edit each post. In return you will be able to provide a link to your own site or artist’s portfolio online, and you will be attributed as the post writer.

The author will retain copyright of his or her work and is free to use the authors own post on other sites and services. Posts should be submitted at least two weeks prior to publication, and you will be notified of the publication date in advance and will be sent the URL via email once the post is live.

TOP TIPS FOR CREATING YOUR BLOG

1. Make a plan and stick to it, but also have points throughout the plan so that you can change your forward strategy if something obvious is not working.
 
2. Set achievable goals in relation to post frequency. I came in thinking a couple of hundred words each day would be realistic, how wrong I was. Now I publish a lengthy post each week, and I'm spending between 10 and 20 hours doing the writing. But don't let that put you off, you'll be spending this much time viewing funny cat videos and reading memes already. You just need to scale back some social media posts to fit it in. It's entirely doable, but you have to become disciplined. I write sometimes for ten minutes, sometimes for an hour, it quickly ramps up. A blog like this is the equivalent of a couple of decent length books per year, but only if you discipline yourself and stick with it will you achieve it. 
 
3. Set aside some time immediately after posting your blog post to answer comments, submit to search engines, and share on social-media.
 
4. Plan your schedule around publishing but make sure that you are flexible. There have been many times when the technology wasn’t available as planned and there is absolutely nothing you can do if you are relying on a third-party service for hosting.
 
5. Make sure that you don’t use copyright material including photographs and images on your site. You will become a master of Photoshop and other programs because you definitely need to create images to break up the text.
 
6. Try not too overload the site with plugins and features that no one will use.

7. Make sure that your typography isn’t hidden because you have a busy background on the page.
 
8. Make sure if you are running adverts on the page that they do not detract from the content experience.
 
9. Create a blog checklist that you tick off each time you write and publish a blog. Include things like lists of keywords that you want to include in the text of the blog. By writing keywords and phrases, or more simply, words and phrases that you would use to find some content within the search engines into your actual blog, you will save time.
 
10. If you are talking about whatever happens to be in the news, make sure that you check the validity of the source and that the news is not fake. Fake news websites are currently under a threat of having their positions in search rankings lowered, you don’t want to go down with them. Make sure that you add your own commentary too.
 
11. Focus on creating evergreen content. Content such as this post which can be used again and doesn’t have to be completely tied in to your site. If the Huff Post want to pick the post up a year later, producing evergreen content in the first place means that you won’t end up having to make quite so many significant changes.
 
12. For the most part you should write content that has no expiration date. This is perhaps one of the hardest parts of blogging.
 
13. I see keywords as an essential, but not if the use of keywords gets in the way of reader experience. I would much rather provide a quality post than one simply geared to increase my popularity on Google and other search engines.
 
14. Never try to replicate another blogger, and especially if they are a celebrity blogger. Just be yourself.
 
15. Always proofread your post. I now have a proof reader who goes through each of my posts and keeps me on my toes. However, even a good proof reader might not catch absolutely everything and especially when you are using a spell checker which might itself get things wrong. Having said that, my proof reader this week is vacationing in some hotter climate so if there is anything wrong, this is why. 
 
16. Carry out some research on keywords and this will also provide you not only with relevant terms and phrases people are searching for in your niche, but will also provide you with some inspiration. So many times I have experienced a condition called bloggers block and couldn’t think of anything to write, yet a quick round of research around what is currently trending and learning to predict what might trend in the next few days (Kylie Jenner Calendar -see what I did there?) will provide some useful insight in to what is currently hot.
 
17. Never be aggressive with the density of keywords in your post. Something like Kylie Jenner calendar is going to be the top 10 bestselling calendar of all time followed immediately by top blogs and top news sites and a hundred other keywords are not going to make for great reading. 

Remember to use Alt Image tags in your photos and images, and make sure that the title of your post is relevant to your blog. Something along the lines of the one I have used in this post, The Art of Blogging 2017 is a good keyword that perfectly sums up this post and can be used as a title.
 
18. Graphics and presentation shouldn’t be an issue for an artist although I have seen a few sites where the actual structure of the site is generally good, but the whole thing is let down by using photographs taken through a smartphone, or at very low resolutions. Sometimes the photographs were taken many years ago of the art in question but the photographs have never been refreshed to provide crisper images. Make sure if you take photographs you have a device that will produce a good finished product. It needn’t be expensive, just something that is better than VGA resolution and doesn’t produce foggy or pixelated images.
 
19. Add in links to other websites to your blog post and always include a link to your own artist site. This provides value to each of your posts and hopefully if you are sending enough traffic to a particular website, they will return the favour and link back to yours. Also make sure that you link to any related posts within your own site. There’s nothing worse than having to trawl the archives to find a relevant and associated post that you wrote back in 2005.
 
20. You need to build on at least one social media platform to promote your blog and in turn your art. Start with something simple and well used such as Facebook or Twitter, and then you can always add more later on. Ello is one of the platforms I am starting to utilise because it focuses on us creative types and even has a hire me button which can be included in your profile and biography. When Facebook eventually creates the algorithm where nothing at all you post gets seen, you'll need a new platform. 
 
21. Make sure that people can share your content. You will notice that at the bottom of each post there is a range of sharing options for Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and others, and there are also links on the right side of the page. If you are viewing on a mobile device, they will be at the end of each post.
 
BLOGGING IS DIFFICULT

Yes blogging is difficult but that’s a good thing. If 95% of people give up so early on, that means that your chances of success rise. Blogging takes time, and it takes effort, but the results can be phenomenally useful to you as an artist, a brand, and a business.

Whist it is not easy, neither is it totally rocket science. The hardest part is carving out some time and making sure you stick to set schedules. I usually start writing new posts on a Sunday evening and more often than not I will start writing two or three posts. Any spare time I get after work in the week is then divided up in to creating art and writing. Having a couple of posts started also means that if my mind dries up, I have something else I can be getting on with. It is surprising at just how much you can often get done in a spare fifteen or twenty minutes.

Keeping yourself motivated when things aren’t going quite the way you would like is perhaps the most difficult part. You spend twenty hours on writing a post, carrying out research, and producing some graphics, and then you find that only one person in a world of 7-billion people have actually read what you have written. I am at the point now where I am no longer focussing on the numbers, I am simply writing this post to tell you that blogging still works for artists, it is a great way to connect, and to remind you why on earth you would want to put yourself through this in the first place.

I also believe that with the loss of fake news sites, people will be turning to blogs to get the real stories, especially with the growing distrust of major news outlets who have also been named or in some cases even admitted that their stories had been made up or present #alternativefacts. 

Blogging has never been out of fashion, and it is going to become even more relevant in the future, so if you are thinking about it, just do it already!

ABOUT M.A

Mark is a UK based artist and blogger who also loves technology. His work is sold in more than 150 retail locations across the USA and Canada and can also be purchased from his Pixels site here
 
His hobbies also include flying drones, and aviation. In his earlier days he worked as a radio DJ for a few weeks, and his lifelong ambition has always been to either own a real coffee shop or become an actor. He appeared in a one night production of The King and I whilst at school and also appeared on TV for a few weeks at the age of 22 when he was volunteered by his then boss to appear on a political debate show which Mark was reluctant to do.  He doesn’t have an IMDB profile and often wonders if anyone ever reads this last bit of his blog.



Comments

Popular posts