Build Up Your Web Presence In A Weekend

Build up your web presence in a weekend
build a website to market art in a weekend
Each week I write a new article to support members of our three wonderful art communities on Facebook, The Artists Exchange, The Artists Directory, and The Artist Hangout. This week we take a look at a few easy ways to increase your online visibility and do this using some of the tools that you will already have access to, all we need to do is to join up the dots. 
The aim of this article is to create a better online presence and lay the foundations for you to continue building on in the future, and you might just pick up a few new sales too along the way. When it comes to sales, having an online presence beyond social media alone is key.
Nearly Christmas…
Oh my, I hadn’t realised we were this close to the holiday season. Once again I feel totally unprepared to even think about starting my holiday season marketing campaigns and I missed the deadline to get my new series into a local (well local-ish) art show. Next year I will try again and do my best to submit my work before the event takes place. 
This happens every year, and this year I had planned so well and even stopped creating commissions so that I would have a bit more time to focus on my art and my attempts to sell it. Honestly it will be a miracle if I ever get around to completing the series I intended to release last year depicting snowy landscapes in the holiday season. Maybe it would help if I had actually started them.
I just don’t get anywhere near enough time to do everything I want to do and I certainly never get the time to squeeze in any but the most vital Netflix binge-worthy shows. I have to know that the one season of epic TV is worth me giving up anything for, before I commit to watching it, and if it extends beyond season one I feel like I should call a family board meeting to discuss how they can help.
I get it, none of us creative types ever quite have enough time to get all of our ideas on canvas or paper or any other surface that is paintable. We certainly don’t get the time to do that marketing thing with anywhere near the dedication that we need to commit to it, and I get that it can be a challenge when on the 15th of the month our royalty payments from print on demand don’t even cover the cost of turning on the lights in our studio. Been there, done that and honestly it’s bleak and I never want to go back to relying on those sales alone.
But the art world doesn’t come with any guarantee that you will ever sell what you create. Poor old Vincent Van Gogh should have signed up for Print on Demand because he only ever sold one painting while he was alive. At least if he had have signed up he might have got a greeting card sale or a couple of sales of the occasional throw pillow. 
I’m sure there’s a Netflix original idea hiding somewhere in that, a show where Vince signs up to a POD site and finally decides that the ear alone is nowhere near enough.
This got me thinking. My first thought was that I should write the script for the show and send it in to Netflix. From the proceeds I would set up a cult or an art commune where we would all sip organic coffee and chat amongst friends. Then I realised I didn’t have the time to do that either so I had to come up with something quick. So my thoughts turned to what could an artist do in a weekend that would give their art sales a helping hand?
The following fifty thoughts involved doing a “Banksy” and just being bold enough to take a piece of work along to the Tate and see if anyone notices that one of theirs had been replaced with one of someone else’s. I played it through in my head and decided that I would be caught and the paper work and bureaucracy would take time away from creating Facebook posts, and most people I know wouldn’t want to do this either. I also considered other things that would be quick to do’s, but my wife reminded me that there’s a legal system in place which we all might fall foul of and I certainly haven’t got the time for any of that and I doubt you would have either.
Then I started to think about what our friend Vince would do if he were around today with all this technology we take for granted. I think he would be on Facebook, he’d definitely be doing the Instagram thing because there are so many nice restaurants in his home town, and I think he’d quite enjoy sitting in a Starbucks and watching the world go by. He strikes me as someone who would have been drinking Flat White’s before they became the trendy thing to drink, even I was drinking them in the 90s.
While he sat there he would be making notes and coming up with ideas, he would definitely Google a million ways to sell art and he would add “free” on to the end of every search term. He would read a couple of blog posts from a decade ago and that haven’t been updated since the days of the free AOL internet trial period CD ROM. It’s as if bloggers back then gave up the minute the AOL trial ended, but what else would have been written in Vince’s notebook, would he even own a notebook, maybe he would have preferred a MacBook?
Well, if he was frantically running around as much as artists do today to try and get some work sold, he wouldn’t have had much time. So this week I thought that I would try to give you a few ideas on what you might be able to do in just one weekend that will get you a better online presence, and will hopefully give you a little boost in the lead up to one of the biggest selling seasons of the year, Christmas.

choose an independent visual artist this Christmas
The small print…
This is going to be a frantic weekend depending on how much of a presence you already have online, and I am going to make an assumption here that you will want to do as much as you can without breaking the bank and if we can, we’ll do it without having to spend anything at all. Okay, it’s not going to be that frantic, most of the tips I’ll be writing about today should take less than a day.
I’m also going to make an assumption that you have access to the internet, a computer or a tablet device or some means of engaging with the digital world, and another assumption that you have a camera or a smartphone with a camera, and a scanner if you are using photos of traditional artwork. We need to get pictures of our pictures onto the World Wide Web Thing.
A couple of final assumptions I am going to make are that, firstly you want to do this, and secondly that you have already established any business requirements and set everything else related to running a business up in advance. I will maybe just add that you also need to be positive about doing this because it can become highly addictive!
The thirty-minute website…
Forget the faffing around with code and spending serious money on hosting and learning how to create cascading style sheets, because there are plenty of free options when it comes to web design. 
Now these free options aren’t the best way to continue doing things a little later on in your new online world. Paying for a professional web designer or learning to create your own website will pay dividends and if it is done properly, will see you get way more traffic and higher search results. But that's down the line and for now we are just going to focus on getting something that looks professional online that will at least give you somewhere to send potential clients to. 
There are lots of free website builders that come with plenty of features to get you going, but they’re not equal. Some will charge for heavy use, others will restrict what can and can’t be done with them, and others are just not worth the effort at all.
If you want to go down the paid route then look for something that is expandable later on, make sure it has features such as e-commerce, and that you are able to use your own domain name and try to find one which comes with some additional technical support. There are services specifically geared up to offering e-commerce options but they generally come at a price. 
Shopify springs to mind as a great solution because you are able to embed your Shopify sales into your Facebook shop along with a few other features to boot, but there is a cost if you want to continue using it after the free trial. Weebly is also another good paid for option, or you could go all out and just have a bespoke solution created for you. But what about the free options?
Just to give you an idea of what is possible for the price of free let’s take a look at what’s on offer but remember that for the most part, these sites will be temporary and you will eventually outgrow them. Having said that and for the purpose of creating something that will give you an immediate and more visible online presence without money or too much effort, they’re as good a place as any to start with and for you to start learning.
As you spend time with these options you will become familiar with what you want from a paid and better option, and you will start to learn about things like SEO and other vital metrics and you’ll get a feeling as to just how important it is to eventually choose the right service.
What we don’t want from a free website is something that looks like it’s free. Many of the free website builders that pop up in search results will display the hosting company’s adverts, and those are adverts that you won’t get paid to display. This does limit the options available, and ideally we do want a website that will be able to be indexed by Google and other search engines which narrows down the list even more. 
So for simplicity let’s take a look at a couple of options from Google. There is a caveat though, both of Google’s options work better when you pay for paid access to Google Suite but you don’t need to do this immediately and if you do the prices are low compared to other services. Just a simple one user plan is sufficient for now, but let’s build the site first and see if we can do without it. I use G-Suite a lot, an office package and Google Drive storage, because when I’m on my Mac it tends to work well with some of the other services I use. 
Quick Options…
There are two easy options, Google’s Blogger (which is versatile) and Google Sites which is also versatile and probably a little easier for those who want to create something that doesn’t take too much thinking about and something that is also very quick to create. The good news here is that both offer responsive web templates and drag and drop and neither place advertising on your site unless you opt in and decide to monetise it through AdSense but that can wait. The whole world of signing up to AdSense is simple enough, but there’s a lot of stuff you really need to know.
Having a responsive web page will mean that anyone viewing on any device will be able to view the site through a page specifically rendered for that device, and Google and other search engines will always rank responsive pages higher in search results. You will need a Google account for this so if you haven’t got one already, you can do this as part of the set up process.
Head over to the Google Sites homepage here, and look for the get started now button. A wizard will guide you through everything else and it is possible to be up and running in around 10-minutes. 
Of course, you will need to make sure that the site contains some content, maybe a link to your sales page on a service such as Print on Demand, but the important thing here is that you now have some foundations on which to continue building and so far it won’t have cost you a dime.
The process for Blogger is very similar, and again it is possible to get something set up and running within minutes. Sites is possibly going to be a slightly better option for business, and both will allow you to also purchase a custom domain name through Google. 
Google can facilitate the purchase of the domain name through one of their partners and whilst this is an expense it is not a huge one, most domain names can be picked up for less than ten bucks a year and there’s no premium pricing, it’s as competitive as it gets. If you already have a domain name then you will need to visit your domain name supplier and read through any specific instructions on setting up any redirections of your domain name. That sounds a little harder than it really is, don’t worry though because with Google Sites, it’s as simple as turning on a button and inserting your custom address.

use google to build a website
Now add some code!
Don’t freak out just yet, adding html code to sites and blogger is very easy. You won’t be writing it, and so long as you can copy and paste the process is straightforward. Both Blogger and Google sites also allow you to embed HTML which is essentially the code that drives and creates webpages. This is especially good if you already have a premium account with Fine Art America because in the behind the scenes tab of your admin console with FAA you will see tools that will embed your Pixels store into your own webpage.
The process is really easy, just look for the insert HTML option which is usually done by adding a gadget on Google Sites/Blogger and then it’s simply a matter of copying and pasting in the code generated by Fine Art America. This will give you an e-commerce website where transactions still take place securely through Fine Art America, and you will be able to do all of this in around thirty minutes or so. Maybe a little longer if you’re not familiar with any of these processes, but it shouldn’t really take that much longer. You can find instructions in this useful cheat sheet for building Google Sites here. Just one reminder though is to turn on https in blogger in the blogger settings, you need your site to be https rather than http because it ensures traffic is encrypted. 
If you don’t already have access to an e-commerce option then you will need to consider how you will be taking payments, decide whether or not your site will be a portfolio site rather than a sales site or whether the intention is to provide an insight into your creations together with some contact details. 
It doesn’t have to be an e-commerce site as the intention here is to make sure that you have a greater online presence in time for the holiday sales season, but without the e-commerce you will need to think about how any transactions might take place. 
Add some content… 
For the purpose of building the foundations of your online presence, content is something that you will need to focus on. For now you might want to populate the site with some of your creations and remember that people do like to have some context so you could explain the artistic process or tell the story of the work, or give details on the size and cost of the work and how they can purchase it.
You might also want to add an about you section, people love to find out who you are and what your work is about, and it’s also a great idea to add in contact details. Those should be the most basic pages you immediately need and they shouldn’t take too long to create. There are a tonne of resources available within both Google Sites and Blogger to get you started. 
Can’t think what to write about? That is the hardest part of running any website and especially when you write frequently. I usually create new articles weeks and sometimes months in advance of publishing them, with only minor adjustments needed at the time I post the content to make sure it is all still relevant. 
The downside to this is that you are trying in part to predict the future and edging your bets on writing something that will still be relevant. On the whole it balances out and saves considerable time, but there’s an element of having a content strategy that takes into account the type of content your visitors will want. Four or five years on with this site I still have times when I really am scratching my head for topics to write about. 
Just occasionally I need to find inspiration too. Thankfully there’s a tool (again from Google) that will help you to overcome any writers block that will give you insights on what topics people are looking for on the search engine. Think With Google is the place to go and you can visit the site right here.  
You can also take a deeper dive and look at a wide range of marketing resources and analytics which show trends around marketing and consumer trends. If you design artwork for a wide market then you could also use this tool to give you a little insight on the direction people are going when they are looking to make a purchase. You can find the consumer insights tool right here.  
Portfolio Sites…
If you read my recent article on creating portfolio’s which you can also find right here, then you will know that some of the services such as Adobe’s Creative Cloud which you might already subscribe to will offer another way to create a portfolio site. 
Again, the portfolio sites created through Adobe are responsive and they also support custom domain names, so there are at least a few other options for creating something which looks professional without necessarily breaking the bank or relying on Google.
These are easy to create too, the Adobe offering can take as little as 30-minutes to create something that looks as if it had been created professionally, it’s just a simple case of choosing the right template that has a fit with your work and tinkering with the fonts to create something a little more bespoke. But bear in mind that most people want to read about your work and not just see it, and portfolio sites can be limiting, so think about using these alongside a website so that they compliment each other. 
Pixels…
Again, if you are a premium member of Fine Art America, then know too that the free Pixels site also supports custom domain names. The great thing about this is that FAA still carry out the order process and transactions and every time you update your FAA site by adding new work, the Pixels site is automatically updated as are the shop elements that you can add to Facebook’s shop button on your business page. 
There are options here to make the Pixels site better than the default site because it allows a little customisation, although I would love to see the option of a new landing page so that work can be introduced without going straight to the sales pages, but you can add things like blog posts which will help with search engine optimisation and when you do add a blog, it will be posted in the FAA community on the main FAA website too. 
The idea is to keep people on your website for as long as possible so adding regular blog posts will give them a reason to stick around and if you are already paying the premium membership then this really starts to make sense especially with the shopping cart widgets and tools available through the main FAA site. Even more so when you consider that the real work of setting everything up has already been done for you the moment you pay the membership fee of $30 per year. I’m a fan of FAA for doing this. 
Appearing in Google Search…
Appearing in Google or any search engine come to that, is something that you will want to focus on. While you are spending a weekend or a few hours creating the foundations, you might want to consider how people will find you online. 
Both Google Sites and Blogger will allow you to enter labels and metadata that can help the search engine to find you, just take a look through the search preferences or search updates on each of the respective services and you will be able to enter the information that will help people find your web page without having to work on overly complex Search Engine Optimisation. Again there are plenty of tutorials online. 
There is a train of thought that to get the best results in search engine you need to either be very good at SEO or you need to pay to play and appear at or near the top. There’s also a little known secret that makes it all a little less complicated though and that is to just produce great content. You can focus on refining your SEO later. 
There is something else that you can do though and that is to sign up for Google My Business. It’s one I have mentioned before but while we’re in the mood to get things done, the sign up process will only add another five minutes.
I signed up for Google My Business a long time ago and I have been using it and seeing some positive results from it for the past year. Then earlier this year I signed up to Bing for Business, although I have to say that Google seems to bring a few more positive results. 
There’s certainly no harm in giving either or both of these a try, so if you want to sign up you can head over to here for Google and here for Bing’s version which is called Bing Places for Business.
The sign up process is easy for both of them, although you will have to verify your address. You do this online after they have sent you a postcard with a pin number printed inside the envelope, then all you need to do is follow the simple instructions to verify that you have received the postcard and start creating posts.
It’s worth downloading the Google My Business App on your iPhone or android, it makes it easier to update posts on the move rather than having to jump on a desktop and visiting the website. 
When anyone searches for your business or similar businesses they will get to see your details at the top of Googles results and the good news here is that you don’t have to pay or worry about having the right SEO strategy in place.

build an art website in a weekend
Discovering your market…
There are a lot of website creators who jump in and blindly create a website without really thinking through what that website is going to be about in the first place. The problem is though that until you know this and you also have an idea about the type of person who will buy your art, you will still be bumbling about in the dark for a while. 
Once you have the foundations in place for your website you can start looking at adding in some analytics. Google have you covered here too and I have previously written about using Google’s Analytics platform. The good news that this isn’t necessary for the foundations, but it will provide you with some useful data in the long term. 
Again if you have a premium FAA account then Google Analytics can be used to find out where who is visiting your FAA site and where they are from. There is a tool within the control panel of premium members section of FAA which will allow you to paste in a web code from Google’s Analytics platform. There are instructions on FAA to guide you through this bit too. 
That will start giving you a little more insight into who is visiting your FAA site, and as you are using one of the free website creator tools from Google, then you can add this tool into your new site a little later. 
Aside from Google Analytics there are other ways of finding out who your audience might be and once you have a website built, you can always add in a survey or a form to collect user feedback. 
This is something that you can do with Google too by using Google Forms. You can find the link right here. This is something that you will need a Google Suite account to do, but the ability to send out and create bespoke forms and surveys is a worthwhile feature to have access to. 
Recap…
So now you have a website even if it is only at a basic level, and you are listed on the two search engines as a business, and you might already have an e-commerce option and a custom domain. 
You can create more content when you have a little more time and once you have started the ball rolling with your new online presence, you will start to pick up new skills as you become more confident. 
But what’s next?
Social Media…
Having a social media presence and linking that presence to your website will be the next most useful thing to do. Remember that Facebook and other social media networks usually have two categories of user, either personal or business. The problem with using your personal profile for business though is that it could get you removed from the social media platform as it’s against the rules.
So for this bit we need to either transfer our personal profiles into business profiles, or we need to create a business profile or in the case of Facebook, a business or what’s sometimes referred to as a fan page. Don’t worry, this too is easier than it sounds. 
Why this is important isn’t only because you want to drive traffic from social media to your website, but because search engines such as Google will look for key indicators that your site is a legitimate site by looking for social signals. 
Facebook Business Pages…
Again this is something that you can create in a matter of minutes and that will at least give you some solid foundations to continue to build on. Facebook Pages are loved and hated by everyone. Some people love them because they offer so many more tools to support your business than a regular personal profile, and some people really don’t like them at all because organic (the non-paid-for) kind of reach has declined. 
I can’t argue with the latter point, except to say that whilst reach has declined over the past few years but for those pages who are posting relevant content it hasn’t made a huge difference. You might get fewer visitors but the ones you will have are more likely to be engaged with your page. It’s the quality not the quantity that really matters. 
There is a secret here too, in that we’re still not quite at the point of having to necessarily pay to play. Organic reach is still possible if you have the right content. If your reach currently sucks, that really could be down to what you are posting as much as anything else. We don’t all get that bit right all of the time, but if you create engaging content and it gets shared even once or twice, it can make a significant difference. 
There’s a useful setup guide published by Facebook which you can find right here, and if you want to take a look at the e-learning module about setting up Facebook pages from the official source of Facebook learning, you can view Facebook’s Blueprint unit on this subject right here.   
You will have to sign up for a Facebook Blueprint account if you want to track your progress through the units and you can use your current Facebook account to do this or you can access the content without signing up if you don’t want the credits or your progress to be tracked.
Other Social Media platforms...
I mentioned Pinterest a few weeks ago and how I got the feeling that once again it is becoming increasingly relevant as a visual art platform. If you set up a business profile then you will also be able to start adding rich pins and gaining insights into the type of people who follow your boards and re-pin your posts. 
Twitter also has a business profile available, as does Instagram, and both of these also come with some analytics tools so that you can start figuring out the type of people who visit your posts and engage with you and your work, and we mustn’t forget that Facebook Business pages gives you access to this type of data too. Despite Facebook’s issues, when it comes to social tools to support small business, they really are as good as it gets. 
Once you have a business profile it’s then a case of making sure that the information is available on your newly created website, and that is as easy as adding a widget. Most social platforms will be able to supply the HTML code to embed buttons such as like or follow me.
Here’s another tip though, make sure you set up a Google Plus account. It’s a platform that hasn’t quite got to the heady heights of Facebook but it is none the less important and it can contribute to your SEO strategy and it sits within Google’s eco system so content in there will get visibility from Google. It is also worth adding a profile on LinkedIn too, it is fantastic for generating contacts and especially useful for business to business sales. 
Day Two…
There’s more than enough work for you on day one, and in theory you should easily fly through setting up the accounts and building the website. Day two is more about making content and thinking about some of the other services that are freely available to support your new online business. 
Day two is also about building relationships and trust, and to start establishing yourself as an expert on your art. This is the bit of the exercise that doesn’t really ever stop, you need to constantly engage with social communities and not use Facebook groups as spamming grounds. 
It takes time to build up engaged followers, and time to then convert them into potential buyers, so hang on in there. Way too many people give up too soon, this can take a  few months, but it could even take a year. During which time you will need to be persistent, patient, and prepared to put some hard work in. Do that and you will be rewarded. 
What you might also want to consider is setting up a streamlined way to manage email addresses and send out email campaigns. The options for managing email lists are limited unless you pay, but one good example is to use something like Mail Chimp which you can find right here
MailChimp has a free service which will allow you to safely store 2000 email addresses per month and it will let you to send out up to 12000 emails per month, and there are plenty of guides and tutorials that will take you through the process. Beyond those 2000 users you will need to start looking at the paid options, but given you only set up the website yesterday, collecting more than 2000 email addresses immediately is going to be challenging. 
Again, some people love it and others not so much, but if you want a free platform to manage your email campaigns with, it makes sense to start with something as solid as this. You can find Mail Chimp right here
It is temporary…
Following these tips will give you a (free or at least inexpensive) helping hand to start increasing your online presence and one which once you get into the habit of maintaining, might even start to become addictive. It’s great to see new clients starting to arrive from your website and social profiles, but I do have to set some expectations here.
Mainly in that it’s unusual and even rare for a business to take off overnight, or even within a few months. Most people will give up way too soon or as soon as they realise that the amount of effort to do things properly is higher than the return at least initially. But give it some time and use that time to familiarise yourself with the important knowledge you will need to become familiar with on subjects such as SEO, and content writing. 
Today’s exercise is really the easy bit. In time you will outgrow the free tools and you will want to start looking a little more closely into platforms such as Shopify and others, and if you are going to build a website for the long-term then neither Blogger nor Google sites will really give you what you absolutely need to continue doing that for the long-term. They might be fine for 6-months or even a year, or sometimes much longer than that, but as you and your business grow, your website needs will too. 
At that point you will want to start looking towards the likes of WordPress or other website builders and e-commerce systems, and you will definitely want to start thinking about paying to boost your website traffic. That’s a whole new world of learning in itself, but by the time you are ready to take that step you should be a little better prepared than you were before you started this.
These sites will give you a flavour of what you can do and it might be that you decide to go all in from the start, but that still won’t guarantee sales. At least this way you are starting to build on the foundations and you can make changes down the line, and at least you have that all-important web-presence. 
If only a handful of clients come your way from doing only a relatively tiny amount of initial work then it should be worth it. How much setting up a website and increasing your web presence in the future will cost is a bit like asking how long is a piece of string. There’s no stock answer because there are simply way too many variables. But given that before you started this exercise you might have only had some very basic online presence, at least you are on your way and it probably hasn’t cost you a great deal if anything at all.
The key take-aways though are that you really do need that custom domain name. You want to replace the free web site name dot com with something a little more professional, and something that can be transferred when you change your website to a paid option as you grow. 
Mostly you might just already have some of the components needed in your existing memberships and subscriptions to take a free website and turn it into something that really works for you, so do take advantage of these benefits and take a look through the benefits that print on demand services offer. 
If you are stuck for graphics, take a look through my older articles which feature the best apps for creating beautiful images, and if you really do get stuck, there are artists in the three Facebook groups who can help you out for relatively low prices. 
I will be covering some of the advanced options in a future article and we will also be taking a look at things like Search Engine Optimisation because SEO is always evolving. If you do sign up and create something new though, please feel free to let us know and leave a comment telling us how easy or hard it was below!
About Mark…
I am an artist and blogger with a love for fine coffee. I create art sometimes with a stylus, and sometimes with a brush and I’m never too far away from my camera.
You can buy my artwork here: https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com because you want to support an independent artist and this site.
You can follow me on Facebook here: https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia because I make reference photos available for free and honestly, I kinda need the likes. You can even share my posts if you want.
And on Pinterest right here, because y’all read about Pinterest the other week oh, and Twitter @beechhouseart because, well, twitter.
You can donate the cost of a cup of coffee to support this site right here: https://gofundme.com/mark-Taylor-beechhouse-Media  and get a mention on my Go Fund Me Page complete with a link to your own sales site.
If there’s a subject you want me to cover, I’ll try my best if you let me know what subjects you want.

Comments

  1. If anyone wants to check out the power of Adobe Portfolio, take a look at my portfolio website right here: https://beechhousemedia.com

    Yes! That’s the sister site to this one!

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  2. Very informative once again. Would you believe I've been working on another website with a very different product for far longer than I care to admit. I'm stuck & I need someone to finish it for me or I need more discipline to complete it.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Colleen, I know that feeling well! Took almost a year before I rolled the new site out! Decided in the end that I would spend 30 minutes every other day on it and got it finished within the week! So many people have been asking for websites lately, wish I could build them all! Waiting around for the dot com domain to become available took two years, someone had been sitting on it and did nothing with it and it finally popped up for sale this week! If you get stuck with anything let me know, I’ll try and guide if you need it. I forgot about half the stuff I needed to remember!

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