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