Optimising an Image-based Website

As an amateur artist myself, and having built several websites for professional visual artists over the years, it has become apparent to me that special consideration is required when building a site focused around imagery.

Although Google is getting better at recognising images and interpreting their contents, you still can’t really get accurate search results based on an image itself. So how is it possible to optimise an image-based site?

Here’s what Google’s Matt Cutts has to say on the subject.

So the key to getting your image-based site noticed by the search engines is to optimise the text around your images.

This includes image captions, page titles, ‘alt’ properties, and paragraph text around the image. Although the image should be the focus of the page, and a lot of artists like a clean, minimal look on their sites, so that the image can really dominate, you still need to include some text on the page.

Consider writing about the origins of the image, or where the idea came from. At the very least give the image a name and a short description. And as Matt says, allow visitors to comment on your images, to increase the amount of content on the page, and try to get some of your target keywords in there. You can always moderate the comments to keep things how you want them.

The power of blogging

Another thing I would recommend for any visual artist is to have a blog on your site. While this is a great practice in itself, for documenting your progress as an artist, it also creates natural content for your site, which you can fully optimise for your target keywords, and link from the blog to your image pages. This is especially important if you choose to keep the text on your image pages to a minimum.

Consider using your blog to post works-in-progress, news of any upcoming exhibitions, and general thoughts on your subject area. If you’re that way inclined, you can even write lessons and tutorials to help budding artists, and help you build more of a following.


While this is all great for helping to get your site indexed and ranking for your keywords, it’s still the art itself that you are promoting, and in order to do that, it needs to be seen.

Social media is already an important part of any web marketing strategy, but I think it is even more vital in the art world.

I spend a fair amount of time (probably too much) on StumbleUpon, and half of the things that I ‘like’ on there are images of artwork that inspires me. When I come across an image I really like, I will also tweet about it and share it on Facebook, as I want the world to see this amazing piece of art.

If you make it really easy to share your artwork on the web, it will inevitably be seen by more people. Add social media buttons to your image pages, so visitors can share them with a single click.

I’m not a fan of huge, ugly watermarks on images, but you can add your website address to the bottom of images, somewhere unobtrusive, so that people who see your artwork on another site will be able to find out where it came from and visit your site if they want to see more.

Create a Facebook page for your artwork, as people are on there every day, and they will get your updates in their news feed. You can encourage people to like your Facebook page by posting certain content to Facebook only, or at least a few days before you post it on your site.

In the other direction, you can encourage your Facebook fans to visit your site by posting smaller image previews on Facebook and linking to your site to see the high-res images.

Join art communities

There are tons of artistic web communities out there, where people share their artwork, offer feedback and tips, and generally hang out, being arty.

I recommend joining as many of these sites as you feel are relevant, and uploading at least a subset of your work, with a link back to your website.

, deviantart.com and wetcanvas.com are three of the largest communities I can think of, but there are plenty more, for all sorts of specialist areas.

Keep it coming

The most important thing of all is to keep producing high quality art. Don’t get too wrapped up in optimisation and let your artwork suffer as a result.

If your artwork is quality, and you follow the tips in this article, your site should be successful.

If you’ve built any sites for artists, please share them in the comments, along with any of your own tips for optimisation.

If you are a painter, photographer, sculptor, or any kind of artist, wanting to earn a living from your creativity, check out Right Brain Rockstar.

Note: This article was originally published as part of Ben Hunt’s Pro Web Design Alliance:


About the author

Dan Johnson

Dan used to be a WordPress developer at WDFS, but now he has gone off to pursue his passion for art, and he blogs about making a living from creativity at Right Brain Rockstar

Scott DuBois - 4 years ago

This is a great article, especially for people like me who try to combine lots of graphics into my site without it just being a page with a lot of pictures. However, I’m still not getting enough traffic and I’m always looking for ways to improve that.

Dan Johnson - 4 years ago

Thanks Scott. The best way to get quality traffic is to post top quality content, and connect with your audience through social media.

Jason - 3 years ago

When it comes to image based websites I’ve always thought about optimization, as long as there is relevant alt tags and descriptions on the images then its all good, also the image file names should be saved as for example if its an image of the golden gate bridge it should be saved as ‘Panoramic-view-of-golden-gate-bridge-san-francisco-california.jpg’ or something along these lines, I don’t know how effective this is but I think it helps them get picked up in google images a lot better and also the alt text and description describes the image better in my opinion there. So like instead of the image being just like 1.jpg like it would be saved off of a digital camera.

Nina Levett - 3 years ago

Scott – some great tips here that I’ll try and work into my site in the next weeks.
I’ve been working hard on trying to optimise my art website http://www.ninalevett.com/ but with mostly just images and videos it is tough to get search engines to really notice the value in the content!
As Jason says – using descriptive filenames are an important step

eryn - a couple of years ago

Thanks for the advice, seo seems to be more complex when you want to build an image based website. I have found that titling my original files with the keywords I want to rank for also helps my images come up in the Google image search. i.e. my_keyword.jpg

Comments are closed