Making Friends With Google: Part 1

The next few articles in the Artists Online series are going to be about improving your search engine visibility. I should point out that I'm not an expert on this, so I'd recommend that you do additional research.

Set a baseline

This should be your first step because simply put, if you don't know where you currently are, you can't know whether you're improving or not. It can also help you spot any obvious mistakes that you're making - I just spotted one of mine!

So, indulge your ego and go type your name into Google.

Try the following versions:
"Your name"
"Your name" + art
artist + your medium + your geographical area
artist + something unique about your work

What do you find? Are you on the first or second page? That's good, you're pretty visible but if there's a lot of variation between the different search terms you might still have room for improvement. If you doesn't appear until 20 or 30 pages into Google, then unfortunately you're effectively invisible because only the most determined person is still hunting for you. Even 10 or 15 pages down is bad because people can be pretty lazy when searching online.

Take a note of the most and least effective ways in which you appear. Try to think of other ways someone might search for your work and test those too.

If I type "Kirsty Hall" into Google then I come up as 5 results on the first page and 10 out of the first 20 results. That's 50%, which isn't bad but if I type "Kirsty Hall" + art, then 19 out of the first 20 results currently refer to me. When I'm searching for an artist, I will generally add the word 'art' to help rule out the non-artists who share their name so clearly a curator who already knows my name has an excellent chance of finding me online.

If they don't know your name it's always going to be harder but it can be done if they've seen your work and remember something distinctive about it.

The search terms, 'artist + pins + sculpture' will bring this site up on the first page. However, if someone has only seen my work with string, then I'm in trouble because I don't appear in the first ten pages of Google at all if you use the search terms, 'artist + knots + string'. I'd just better hope they add the magic word 'sculpture' because that shunts me right back up to the front page!

The search terms 'artists + drawing + envelope' bring me up as the very top result on the first page - how lovely. Unfortunately, only I would know it was me because my name isn't mentioned in the little blurb - instead the words, "Each day in 2007 I am doing a drawing on the back of an envelope, ..." appear. Now that might be enough for someone to identify the Diary Project if they've heard of it before, but to me it instantly says, "oops, I need to change that profile".

Remember my 'Make It Easy For People' mantra from the Flickr posts? Well that applies here too. You need to make it easy for people to find you but you also need to make it easy for them to recognise you when they do find you. While someone might not remember your name well enough to type it into Google, it's quite likely to ring bells if they see it written down.

Being found when someone knows absolutely nothing about you is always going to be the hardest thing to achieve. Despite the fact that I list where I'm from and what I do in most of my online profiles, typing 'artist + Bristol + sculpture' doesn't bring me up until the 19th page of Google. Now, obviously, there's a lot more competition when you're using more general search terms so it's always going to be more difficult to get top results but I clearly need to do some work in that area.

Chart Your Progress

If you already have a website or blog then sign up with Google Analytics and Technorati right now. You can see how many visitors you're getting, which sites are referring them and which other blogs or sites are linking to you. Monitoring your numbers from the beginning means that you can see when things start to improve, which is always encouraging.

Plus being signed up to Technorati can provide a small but steady stream of visitors, in addition to highlighting who has linked to you and in which post. The incredible detail in Google Analytics can help you to work out why things have improved, as well as being endlessly fascinating in its own right. For example, I've just spotted that this site has suddenly had 12 visits from Etsy, which is somewhat mystifying since I'm not even on Etsy. I can only assume that someone from there has linked to me (if you're from Etsy, please do tell me how you got here, I'd love to know).*

Every so often, type yourself into Google to see if your rankings have changed. Don't just look at where you place, look at how often you place. What you're aiming for is to appear in the front two or three pages, over and over again.

Right, now that you've worked out how things stand at the moment, it's time to work on making things better. Don't be disheartened if you're pretty invisible right now, you can make improvements fairly quickly.

* EDIT: Aha, mystery solved. Thanks to Tina Mammoser for pimping me on the Etsy forums.

EDIT: Leonardo Bjork points out that putting your name in quotes can make a big difference to your Google results. Since most searchers know to do that, you should make sure you try it when you run your Google tests.

Get more help
If you'd like more information about building your online presence, check out the free resources section.

I am also available for online consulting if you need one-on-one help.


22 thoughts on “Making Friends With Google: Part 1

  1. Hi Kirsty, I put a link to your 'why artists should be online' article on the Etsy forums. Though I'm rather disappointed only 12 people thought it worth reading! But the forums there move very fast.

    I'm getting good results with your search suggestions but must look at Google Analytics and Technorati. Thanks for giving me more "to do" items. :)

    Tina.

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  2. Hi Kirsty, I put a link to your 'why artists should be online' article on the Etsy forums. Though I'm rather disappointed only 12 people thought it worth reading! But the forums there move very fast.

    I'm getting good results with your search suggestions but must look at Google Analytics and Technorati. Thanks for giving me more "to do" items. :)

    Tina.

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    Reply
  3. If they know my name then I am ALL OVER THE INTERNETS- like most of google is full of me- it's sickening really. But if they need to search for me on the basis of location and art then i'm nowhere, which isn't that much of a shock as i'm not really sure what I make anyway.

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  4. If they know my name then I am ALL OVER THE INTERNETS- like most of google is full of me- it's sickening really. But if they need to search for me on the basis of location and art then i'm nowhere, which isn't that much of a shock as i'm not really sure what I make anyway.

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  5. Wow, I just had a look, Milla - you're not kidding, are you! Ha, we're just a pair of old web-tarts...

    It's definitely a lot harder to find people on the basis of location and type of art because there's so much more competition, you're up against all the art projects and galleries as well as other artists. I've been wondering for a while if there isn't a need for small regional art hubs, i.e. a Bristol artists website, a South West artists hub etc I should research it and see what there is available locally.

    I know there are groups that organise along certain lines, such as genre or material used but they often seem to be exhibiting groups as well. Whereas, I think it would be good if there was a webpage where you could just put up a simple signpost and have it come up in Google when people were searching for artists by location.

    Doing something like that would be completely beyond me, mind you. Damn my brain and its constant ideas! I swear I'm going to have the words, "you know what would be a really good idea..." put on my gravestone!

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  6. Post author

    Wow, I just had a look, Milla - you're not kidding, are you! Ha, we're just a pair of old web-tarts...

    It's definitely a lot harder to find people on the basis of location and type of art because there's so much more competition, you're up against all the art projects and galleries as well as other artists. I've been wondering for a while if there isn't a need for small regional art hubs, i.e. a Bristol artists website, a South West artists hub etc I should research it and see what there is available locally.

    I know there are groups that organise along certain lines, such as genre or material used but they often seem to be exhibiting groups as well. Whereas, I think it would be good if there was a webpage where you could just put up a simple signpost and have it come up in Google when people were searching for artists by location.

    Doing something like that would be completely beyond me, mind you. Damn my brain and its constant ideas! I swear I'm going to have the words, "you know what would be a really good idea..." put on my gravestone!

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  7. Post author

    Hi Tina, thanks for the link, I appreciate it. I've put up an articles page on the site so I can put all these articles together so people can find them in the future.

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  8. Post author

    Hi Michelle, thanks for letting me know about that link, I'll go and have a look at it. I'm thinking about opening an Etsy shop this year so it'll be good research.

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  9. Hello Kirsty,

    This is very interesting, thank you. I will join up with google analytics and technorati literally as soon as I finish writing this comment!

    Just to let you know, I found your blog today through this empty easel article : http://emptyeasel.com/2008/01/01/8-must-read-art-blogs-for-2008-a-few-of-the-best-art-blogs-online/

    Gosh, thats a long link sorry :(

    I routinely google my name to see what happens, just tried with the +art and +oil etc suggestions you made. Looks satisfactory so far, kudos to my web designer for his SEO efforts! Still a tonne of work to do though and must increase visibility of my new blog. Going to read ALL of your helpful articles and have subscribed to your blog.

    I am learning new things today that will help me with my internet marketing efforts thanks to you!

    Best

    Adelaide

    [Reply]

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  10. Hello Kirsty,

    This is very interesting, thank you. I will join up with google analytics and technorati literally as soon as I finish writing this comment!

    Just to let you know, I found your blog today through this empty easel article : http://emptyeasel.com/2008/01/01/8-must-read-art-blogs-for-2008-a-few-of-the-best-art-blogs-online/

    Gosh, thats a long link sorry :(

    I routinely google my name to see what happens, just tried with the +art and +oil etc suggestions you made. Looks satisfactory so far, kudos to my web designer for his SEO efforts! Still a tonne of work to do though and must increase visibility of my new blog. Going to read ALL of your helpful articles and have subscribed to your blog.

    I am learning new things today that will help me with my internet marketing efforts thanks to you!

    Best

    Adelaide

    [Reply]

    Reply

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