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SEO For Artists - The Ultimate Tip for Free

by Clint Watson on 8/25/2010 7:48:33 AM

This article is by Clint Watson,  former art gallery owner/director/salesperson and founder of FineArtViews. You should follow Clint on Twitter here.

Want the ultimate SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tip for artists? [1]  

It's this:  make sure that your name is so important, as a visual artist, that Google would be embarrassed not to have your name come up on page one when it's searched for.

Think about it, if someone searches for Rolex, it would be embarrassing if Google didn't deliver on page one.

If someone searches for apple, Google's got to put on page one.

If someone searches for the gap, yep, Google would be ridiculed if The Gap's didn't appear first.

These examples are what we call "branded" keyword searches, as opposed to "generic" keyword searches.  We looked at some branded artist searches last week. (Ed. Note - it was "last week" when I wrote this, sorry, it's been sitting in my drafts for the past 7 months....)

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google said about Google's position on branded searches when asked about the increasing amount of spam on the web,""Brands are the solution, not the problem," Mr. Schmidt said. "Brands are how you sort out the cesspool."

Since you're a visual artist, your name is your "brand", and this is the one (and for many artists, the only) term that you must rank well for in search engines.

And everything you create, write, put online and do professionally contributes or detracts from your brand.

And although old-school "Branding is for Sissies", (stuff like logos, letterhead, business cards, color schemes etc), The New Branding is hard work and gets to the heart of marketing - building relationships and sharing your art.

The good news is that if you share your art online with even a half-decent website or blog, chances are that you will rank well for your name, unless you have a really common name or there happens to be another "famous" person with the same name.

"Branded keywords convert to sales at a much higher rate than non-branded keywords" says Aaron Wall, of SEO Book. Aaron also provides some pretty graphs that shows by just how much branded searches blow away generic ones in conversions.

Make your artwork and hence, your name, so important as a visual artist, that Google would be embarrassed not to have your name come up when searched for, especially in the context of art.

I do realize that this advice, in many cases, is easier said than done.

Now, go change the world.


Clint Watson
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic

PS - Not that I'm saying anyone should do this, but here's and idea for someone with lots of guts, especially if you're just getting started and your "god given" name is a fairly common one:  Paint under a "pen name."  Sit at a Google search box and come up with something memorable and fanciful to be your new professional name.  For example, I just tried it and found NO Google exact matches for the newly christened great artist "Vincent Viridian."  You could own the front page as "Vincent Viridian" within days.  Ok, maybe that name's a bit too fanciful, but you get the idea.  A radical step, yes, but it's one idea most of your competitors won't be willing to do just to rank well.  If anyone has guts enough to try this, let me know what happens . . . .

PPS - I've long suspected that this may be what "Lady Gaga" did...I'm pretty sure that was a non-existent search term before her.



 [1] "SEO" is short for "Search Engine Optimization."  SEO is a collection of practices that are intended to "optimize" a website for maximum visibility in search engine results....and I say "search engines" to be nice to Bing, Yahoo and the others - in 2010 SEO basically means you're trying to rank at the top of the results in Google for various searches. My standard disclaimer: SEO is not a great use of marketing time for most artists, and there are a ton of other, more important things you should be doing instead....but.....since everybody seems to continually want to know this stuff and ignores my disclaimers anyway - here we go.


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Related Posts:

SEO for Artists: Structuring URLs

SEO For Artists: On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO

SEO Not the Most Important Thing

Visual Artists: Would You Change Your Name?

Topics: art marketing | art websites | FineArtViews | SEO for Artist Websites 

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Lori Woodward
Good point Clint. I changed my business name from Lori Woodward Simons to Lori Woodward this year, and most people search for "Lori Woodward" now.

However, my website gets one or two hits every day for searches of "Richard Schmid" - since I have a few blogs with step by step paintings of his.

Clint Watson
Lori - that's actually another SEO tip for artists and branded searches - write blog posts about the work of famous artists and then you can work your blog up in the results for searches on those artists. Works especially well if you paint similar to the famous artist but are thousands cheaper.....:-)

Terry Krysak
When I started my blog in 2008, this was a burning question in my mind. "What name to choose for my blog". Using my name as my brand was for me easier to decide because of two articles I wrote that were published in 2005 before I retired.

It seemed logical to build on that because my name did come up on Google after the articles were published (not art related by the way).

In 2005 my name generated about 10 results on Google and my search just now brought back a result of 13,900.

So the tip to use your name as your brand is a great idea.

Patricia C Vener
This is one of those ideas that should seem obvious but maybe is too obvious? After all, traditionally artists are known by their names and, of course, in modern terminology that is equivalent to "branding." Is it harder to brand oneself now because there is so much access to artists, to art, to just about everything that can be found online, that it can seem like an overwhelming feat? Of course, it doesn't matter what page your name shows up on if no one is searching for it to begin with.

Sassafras Vitrolica
This is a wonderful atricle, and imagine my giddy surprise when you wrote about painting under a 'pen' (or paintbrush) name - I did this, and trust me - it works!! Maybe I get a few funny looks when I hand out my business cards, as "Sassafras Vitrolica" IS clearly nothing if not fanciful, but google knows who I am and it helps people remember me. I'm just starting out in art marketing but I don't regret the choice I made to do this! (:

Like Lori said.... I wrote an article or two on Van Gogh for the love of his paintings. And I do like his Almond Blossoms very much. Surprisingly, I have been getting more visitors for that and hence getting noticed.

I guess when you do things from your heart and for the sake of art, SEO happens automatically :-)

max hulse
Clint I like your article on the advantages
of being recognized on SEO sites. As a member
of FASO am I getting some exposure on those sites
automatically or should I be doing something else
in addition?

Max Hulse

Helen Horn Musser
Clint, You are advising us to leave our name behind and insert another logo which could o r could not give us better google and other search engine advantage. Google is very aware of me and my brand and I will stay with it

Clint Watson
Helen - that is incorrect - I am not advising anyone to leave their name behind. I added a PS saying if your "name was a common one" and you were having trouble ranking.

The advice was to make sure you rank for your name - which you are - so my advice is don't change a thing.

Lynne Fearman
A friend of mine decided to take that route, and changed his common name to one that rhymed with Claycasso, (notice the Picasso artist reference?) Now no one is forgetting his name!

Trent Gudmundsen
Clint, I've often wondered if I should come up with an alternate website (with an alternate spelling of my name) so people who can't spell it correctly can still easily find my site. (For example, a search for "Trent Goodmanson"--a common misspelling--yields nothing related to me). As I look at many of the names of those who comment here, I may not be alone. What's the best way to assure that those mis-spelled attempts still eventually get people to my website? ....(p.s. - Luckily, the search for "Trent art" still gives me top billing).

Clint Watson
trent - create a blog post about the missspelling or rester and link to it so that google picks it up and then link that back to your main site. I think just blogging it and getting google to index it will shoot it to the top of the rankings.

well I guess I have some work to do. I think I came up on page 4 the Bible and Tom Jones were way ahead of me. The bible has had a lot more marketing time so I guess I will try to pass up Tom Jones.

Nancy Riedell
I've been meaning to tell you this: Recently, I visited my newly relocated (from Silicon Valley) and married son in Nevada. He used to be quite a computer fanatic before he was married. He is very familiar with computers and has even built a couple from scratch.

He wanted to show his new mother-in-law my web site. However, he couldn't remember the exact name so he Googled my name. The website from FASO (I have several sites) was the first one that appeared. So, they found my site and he was able to show off my art to his new mother-in-law and all was good.

When he told me this story, he said "Mom, this site was the first one on Google. You always want your name to be at the top. You have an excellent web developer."

Then he smiled and gave me a thumbs-up. That meant the world to me.

Barb Stachow
A couple of years ago when I started my own website...I decided to go with something catchy, not use my name...Justgottapaint became my known handle and to use my name now? I don't think I will...took long enough to get out into cyber land to change now!

Karen Winters
When I first started on the web, many years ago, the top results for my name were for a porn actress. Not any more, thankfully!

Helen Horn Musser
Clint, Must have misread; please excuse my mistake.

Sue Martin
Clint, I followed this strategy when I created my FASO site - And, happily, I come up second on the Google search for Sue Martin Fine Art. When searching "Sue Martin" the first page is all about actress "Pamela Sue Martin." Anyway, my question is this: There is another Sue Martin Fine Art (.co) in South Africa. Is there any way to avoid possible confusion? Recently, I had a message on my web site from someone who said she bought one of my prints and wondered if she could get me to sign it. First of all, I haven't made any prints of my work, except for myself and family. So I thought it might be a scam. Then it occurred to me that someone might have "stolen" one of my images and printed it. But I suspect this person has me confused with that other Sue Martin. Any suggestions?

Joanne Benson
Hi Clint, I was happy that I showed up on the first page of google search although not on the top of the list...a few down....but pretty good for such a common name!

Cynthia Wenslow
I've been blessed with a unique name, so I have no trouble. However, as Trent commented, people often misspell my last name as Winslow, so I simply registered that domain as well and it redirects to my actual website.

My daughter, however, was Elizabeth Gray and there are WAY too many of them, including other artists. She's recently changed her professional art name to Ysmay and she's now got the first Google results page basically to herself. It works.

Michelle Leivan
Great post! (check mark) Done, I think? After - oh, after maybe 10 years on the net, I have dominated the first 5 pages and most of the 6th. (Another Michelle LeiVan got in there somehow, Deputy Clerk of Osborne county chick with the double capital spelling! I don't know how I haven't crowded her out yet. nudge, nudge, wink, wink) Out of the rest of the 13,100 results, I'm pretty much 90 percent. Does that meet the "Branding" concept criteria? Problem is no one can say or spell my name right. Did Picasso have that problem? And how do you overcome that?

Phyllis O'Shields
Thanks for the excellent reminders. Before I began concentrating on branding O'Shields all of the other information with names and descriptions of work just did not rank in SEO. Once the O'Shields kicked in all other key words and descriptions followed...
Phyllis O'Shields

Marian Fortunati
Thankfully, my name is fairly unique... so in a way I don't need to come up with a name like Lady Gaga...

However... I think the KEY is to associate the unique name with unique and beautiful art....

I'm working on it..... a little bit at a time.

Sue Cooney
I'm strangely lucky on Google with my name at least so far, especially as wherever I go (workshop or seminar) there is normally at least one other Sue or Susan, and Cooney my married name (it beat Underhill for me)isn't exactly unique.

I'm not a creator of pieces of art as such, but I've been a quiet reader of your newsletter for a while.

I actually love and value receiving Fine Art Views, they stand out, always alive and offering something relevant. I'm just going through some back copies as I save almost every one.

Very best wishes,


Clint Watson
I wonder if "Price Poppycock" made up his name to be google friendly?

Helen Horn Musser
Clint, it is suspcious!

Katherine S. Harris
All this makes me want to change my website's name!
I thought, living in Italy, "Belsito Art Gallery" would be nice. Not many takers!
Maybe I should try "MAMAMIA Gallery!?

Lindy Gruger Hanson
Great info. I like the idea about blogging about a famous artist and using their name.

I use my maiden name, Gruger, with my art and done pretty well with the search engines. Although one day I saw in my analytics that ruger was a keyword for the search engines instead of Gruger, and that got me thinking about changing my website name. Haven't done it yet though.

Jose Carrilho
Hi Clint and readers,

We I thought about a name for my website, I also wanted to start a brand, so that when someone would say that word - I tried to come up with a word with a pleasant sound - they would relate with me.
Nonetheless I also want to create a website with me name.
I still haven't decided if only my name or my name with something elso like studio, art, or something else.

Best regards,


Lynn Edwards
Excellent information, everyone. Establishing a "brand" when one's name is quite common can be a real challenge. I'll be just a little envious of Katherine if she changes to "Mamamia Gallery." Who could possibly forget that??!!

Janice Gail
Thanks so much for the heads-up about the blog, the branding, etc.---as something of a "late-bloomer" technologically, I need all the help I can get with regard to marketing my art, my site, and myself...

Marian Fortunati
Hmmmmmmmm Well... change is a constant... Hope the ride will be interesting.


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