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Domain Names: Why Artists Should Own One

by Moshe Mikanovsky on 2/10/2011 9:53:42 AM

This article  is by Moshe Mikanovsky, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  An emerging artist searching his way in the art world, he loves to share what he learns.  With over 20 years of technology experience, Moshe combines his technological background and his passion for the arts with the goal of "working his dream".  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

 

I have been in touch recently with a talented artist who also curates art shows all over the world. I am not going to mention his name, as my position is not to slander him in any way, but rather to give an example of what you should not do and what we can learn from that. For the sake of our story, let’s call him John.

 

To promote his art, many artistic projects and shows he has curated, John had used, for many years, an old fashioned page posting system that was still lacking what the current generation of website had. Some of the problems of this system included:

  • Ads and banners that were not in the control of the website creator
  • Unappealing page formatting
  • Inconsistency between pages
  • Very long page download time
  • Every link, even between pages created by John, opened a new web browser window
  • Terrible page names that could not be remembered by anyone

 

The one bottom line of the system was that it was a free system. John spent $0 investing in the site. As for time spent updating and creating all these pages, I am sure John spent many hours on this. But dollar-wise, he kept it to the minimum.

 

Since I was about to launch a new project with John, I tried to diplomatically tell him that if we do work together, I would like him “to do something” about his website. I believed that associating myself professionally with another artist who does not see the value of a proper website presence, one that will not only convey the message clearly – who you are and what your art is all about – and also be visually appealing, would actually decrease my own credibility. It might be the perfectionist in me or just me trying to help him see how spending a few dollars on a proper site can benefit him professionally. After all, as artists, we are striving for visual solutions and any visual output you put out there, one that bears your name, represents you.

 

At the time, I thought that John’s reaction to my gentle nudge was a bit stand-offish. And his contact with me also became close to none, with our mutual project on hold. I must say that it went that direction because of many other reasons. I sure hope it was not my gentle suggestion that caused it.

 

My proof is that a few weeks ago, he actually did launch a new website! Mazel Tov! I was very excited for him when he announced it on his favorite social network. And immediately I “liked” it and went to check it out.

 

So, first of all – much improved! The site is finally consistent and much more 2011 then 1995! No more lengthy pages that the most used feature on them is the scroll-wheel, a way better layout and decipherable page names, names that actually include words and not just a bunch of numbers. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can now be done, where before the page names had nothing to do with John or his art.

 

But then, I noticed the Google AddSense ads throughout the site, including the Home page, and not in an off-to-the-side location, but prominently in the middle of the page. And looking more closely at the website address, I see that, yet again, John opted to use a free service to build his new site. Although he obtained his own customized address, using his full name, the domain – a name (such as "canvoo.com") of a service, website, or computer – is NOT his own, but it is the free service’s domain. For example, if the free service’s domain is “i-am-a-free-service.com”, and the home page for the services could be “www.i-am-a-free-service.com”, then John’s site is “johnfullname.i-am-a-free-service.com”.

 

Bear in mind, that most free services might not have such an in-your-face domain name announcing to everyone that they are free, possibly making it more appealing for people to use. But they are still the same. Free. So what is the problem with that?

 

Here are some of the problems I have seen and they all boil down to control:

 

  • When you build your online presence, you do not ever want to give control over your online presence to someone you do not know.  You have no idea how well they will maintain their business, and therefore, your free website. When they go down, your service will go down with them.
  • Part of building online presence is creating links from other sites to yours. The more links you have, the better chances to rate higher on search engines. If you spend years to build these links and the free service provider decides to close shop or rename their domain, you lose everything you have worked for.
  • Your online presence is to promote yourself as an artist and your artwork. You want to promote yourself, not to promote a free website hosting service.
  • You want to have control over the content. If you wish to be an affiliate of any 3rd party, including Google, and host ads on your site, it is your decision and you should be the one making a few bucks (or even more) from this, not the host provider of your site.
  • In addition, putting generic Google Ads on the Home page of your site diminishes the site appeal and the professionalism of the owner.
  • The tools that the free services will offer you are usually quite generic and might not fit the artist’s website. There are ways to show your artwork in the best light and these sometimes can only be done in sites that were developed more specifically for that, or alternatively, by a website designer who has experience building working sites for artists.

 

 

There are many reasons why not to use a free service. But there might be free services out there that will give you what you need. It is up to you to determine. What you should check is this:

 

  • Can you use your own domain? Purchase your domain name and use it instead of one given to you by the host service (with their domain).
  • Can you backup the website?
  • How portable will the backup will be? If the host service will shut down, can you easily port your pages to another provider or not.
  • Who controls free ads? Do you have any control over it?
  • How flexible are the tools to build the site? Are they easy to learn and can you achieve with them everything you need for a proper website?

 

These questions should be asked also when using pay-for service. One such excellent service is FASO. I recommend it wholeheartedly (even though I have built my own website, but that is another story…)

 

My bottom line is this – Artists, own your domain name today. You owe it to yourself.

 

 

Cheers

 

Moshe

 

 

P.S. I had written in my blog sometime ago, what artists should learn from Boundless Gallery closing down, a real life situation that happened in March 2010, where many artists lost all their hard-worked for online presence over night.



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 25 Comments

mimi torchia boothby watercolors
via canvoo.com
When the internet was fresh and new, I bought some domain names that I liked. Over the years, I have discarded some and added others, I really like "mimitabby" which has been my name since I had my very first internet account (then it was mimitbby, since you could only have 8 letters).
Nice post, Moshe, I agree, Free websites give me the jitters. It just doesn't take that much to put a website out there. And if it's your own you really can do anything you want with it.

Esther J. Williams
via canvoo.com
Moshe, sounds like your associate is opting for the cheapest way to conduct an online presence. It will come off as tacky to viewers. Since I joined Fine Arts Studio Online website, I picked my own name for my domain name, www.estherjwilliams.com It is used on all my business cards, postcards, links, etc... Streamlined is the way to go. I find it interesting that you mention the new tabbed browser windows make the website unwieldy also. I think you are right, we need to keep the image windows opening within the same page. Facebook just implemented this. I like the appearance and the ability to close the image window and still be on the same page. It all goes into that streamlined appearance theory. Keeping it simple and easy to use.
I have a blog with Blogger and subscribed to Adsense. I did not realize it also has that tacky affect on people. I will now go remove the adsense ads from my Blogger page! First I need to check to see if I have money adding up from it, I was doing good with it but since the economy hit bottom, the ads are not getting clicked on anymore. So, if people are not buying through the adsense, why keep an annoying thing in front of people`s faces? Thanks Moshe!

Carol Schmauder
via canvoo.com
Moshe, it is interesting that your "friend" would choose something that cheapens his work and his online presence. I agree, FASO is the way to go. The sites are professional looking and virtually foolproof as there is always help available. It is worth the small amount per month to have the quality FASO provides. And I like the idea that I can maintain it myself.

Stephen Filarsky
via canvoo.com
Years ago working as a signpainter I lettered two small metal signs that were to go on a private airplane. They read "Tinstaafl" Our client asked us if we knew what it meant. We had no clue. He told us, "There is no such thing as a free lunch." It should probably be in all caps:
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH
Keep it in mind.
Everything has to be paid for, one way or another.

Clint Watson
via canvoo.com
Moshe - this article is very timely. I was thinking of writing something similar. There is actually a service out there that sells "artist websites" and claims to offer more than the other services (like FASO but we're not the only ones mentioned) for a lot less money.

They conveniently "forget" to mention that they don't support real domains names, so if an artist ever left that service they would lose everything.

In my opinion, if it's not on your own domain, then it's not really a "web site." It's just a profile on someone else's site.

This is another reason I really *hate* the trend of people putting more and more content on Facebook - I hope they don't need that content later. It's OK to use facebook but *please* be sure to keep anything important on your on site and just duplicate it (or better yet link to it) from facebook.

Carolyn Henderson
via canvoo.com
Moshe -- excellent points.

Free sites can be nice practice venues for someone just starting out who isn't sure about making the commitment to being an artist businessperson, but once that decision has been made, it's time to get a grown-up website, the price for which is tax deductible.

Since I run five websites, it is cost ineffective to pay for each one, but our primary site, Steve Henderson Fine Art, is a professional site from FASO. All of the others are roads that lead to Rome, that is, our primary website.

As you say, it is crucial to own your own domain name, in our case, Steve's name, without all the clutter in between -- it makes it easier for people to remember, Google, and find.

On a side note, artists need to carefully consider the name of that website and not get cute and funky: WhoopieArtORama.com, or something of the sort. When I see work by an artist that I like, the first thing I Google is their name along with the word artist -- if their domain name is odd and out of sorts, it may take me to page three or four to find it -- and that's using their name!

Stephen Filarsky
via canvoo.com
I don't understand. Your hosting account should be able to cover multiple websites for one price.

Moshe Mikanovsky
via canvoo.com

Interesting enough, about Facebook - did you notice in the last couple of years that some organizations create a page on Facebook rather than a website? Or at least they advertise it rather than their website... I guess that is more fitting for social gatherings, social causes etc, where you need the social interaction right there and then.

To build your presence AND your brand name, you definitely want to have control over it, and NOT use Facebook, or any other website like that, as your main place, only as a way to get to your main home.

Cheers
Moshe


Brian Sherwin
via canvoo.com
Great post Moshe! Allow me to offer some views as someone who has worked for companies that focus on artist social networking. As you know, many artists utilize art focused social networks instead of focusing on a personal website. Unfortunately, all of the artist social networking sites I know of-- even the really popular ones-- have some of the same flaws you mentioned.

For example, artist social networking sites tend to have ads and banners that users have no control over, pages that do not allow any form of alteration, long page download time, pop-up advertising that burdens site visitors, and page URLs that resemble an FBI code instead of ones personal space online”¦ and yes, the "personalized domain" that in reality involves the company name before or after the unique name provided by the user. If a user runs into trouble they stand little to no chance of receiving help by phone-- and if they email technical support it can take days for a response.

That is how artist social networking (profile) sites work. Not to mention that sites like that are normally owned by individuals who are hoping to cash in once the site is a traffic success. In other words, they don”t start the site to help artists-- they start the site with the intention of making a huge profit once the site is very popular. Needless to say, if the site is no longer financially viable they are apt to scrap it and move on to the next project. Sites like that are rarely, if ever, founded by people who are involved in art directly.

I've worked in that line of art business-- had a reputation for being a 'bulldog' in the field. So I know the ins and outs of it-- which is one of many reasons I left it.

Brian Sherwin
via canvoo.com
Great post Moshe! Allow me to offer some views as someone who has worked for companies that focus on artist social networking. As you know, many artists utilize art focused social networks instead of focusing on a personal website. Unfortunately, all of the artist social networking sites I know of-- even the really popular ones-- have some of the same flaws you mentioned.

For example, artist social networking sites tend to have ads and banners that users have no control over, pages that do not allow any form of alteration, long page download time, pop-up advertising that burdens site visitors, and page URLs that resemble an FBI code instead of ones personal space online”¦ and yes, the "personalized domain" that in reality involves the company name before or after the unique name provided by the user. If a user runs into trouble they stand little to no chance of receiving help by phone-- and if they email technical support it can take days for a response.

That is how artist social networking (profile) sites work. Not to mention that sites like that are normally owned by individuals who are hoping to cash in once the site is a traffic success. In other words, they don”t start the site to help artists-- they start the site with the intention of making a huge profit once the site is very popular. Needless to say, if the site is no longer financially viable they are apt to scrap it and move on to the next project. Sites like that are rarely, if ever, founded by people who are involved in art directly.

I've worked in that line of art business-- had a reputation for being a 'bulldog' in the field. So I know the ins and outs of it-- which is one of many reasons I left it.

Clint Watson
via canvoo.com
Moshe - yes, I've noticed - it's a fad and companies will regret flocking to Facebook.

In the late 90's companies used to have ads that said "AOL Keyword"

Now companies use their facebook fan page.

Savvy companies sent the traffic to their OWN website.

Facebook is the New AOL....the Internet with training wheels.

Jan Chiaramonte
via canvoo.com
It's hard for me to understand why someone would take the absolute cheapest way to present themselves to the world, and then wonder why they aren't "making it" (monetarily or otherwise). If you do not respect your own work, how can you expect anyone else to? And it's not as though we are talking about a huge amount of money either.

I use Facebook for many reasons, but minimally, and my goal is to get people to want to check out my website where I spend my greatest effort.

Sandy Askey-Adams
via canvoo.com
Thanks Moshe, and Clint...

Good Article Moshe.

Ahhhhhhh,,facebook. I have seen artists lately NOT having a regular web site and using facebook as their "sorta-like" web site or whatever one would want to call it.
I was really surprised because to me those people must not realize how bad it looks since it does not seem very professional, or they just do not want to be bothered with a web site of their own because they may not know how to set one up, etc...so for them, facebook is easy.

Apparently, THEY DO NOT KNOW about FASO and how great and easy it is as well as all the support one gets on FASO.
But facebook has enabled artists to let other artists know about FASO. It helps that way too.

I also see artists with links to facebook from their regular web sites. I have no problem with that. Some artists have their business pages set up also on facebook. (I have not done that so far, just have my regular profile page on FB.)

I do run about 17 artist groups though on facebook where the artists post their work and have discussions and share advice,varied topics, etc...or information. It is like an artists community. In these groups, artists can post their regular web sites also.

ALL I know is that YEA! for FASO.
I had someone else doing my web site before..and he did a fairly good job, except for some things. For one, my work did not show up that well on my web site. Hey, isn't that pretty important? LOL. It was very difficult for me...and I was even unsure at that time what a domain name was.....Plus, I did not really know what was what since someone else was handling everything for me, and the cost was too high for me also...but, what a difference between then and Now.
I searched around for another place that I could go thru to set up my web site...and ended up here with FASO, and have had no regrets.

I still have to get things done on my web site, etc...I want to set up a blog, do a newsletter besides the one I have thru snail mail,,,,and still debating about the colors I have on my site. BUT, It's cool.
Thanks Clint.



Spencer Meagher
via canvoo.com
Good article Moshe.You highlight pitfalls and educate us on critical points we would never otherwise know. Thank you.

Donna Robillard
via canvoo.com
I really appreciate FASO. I learned about it while I was taking a college level art class. For one thing it is so easy to use, add images, etc. The help is always so good whenever I've had to ask for some; plus they don't make me feel bad for asking a question when, to them, it is probably rather silly.

Clint Watson
via canvoo.com
Thanks Donna!

You might want to try our new uploader - it's faster, easier and lets you upload groups of images all at once:

http://fineartstudioonline.com/blog/27725/moving-multiple-image-uploader-out-of-labs-and-rolling-out

Tricia
via canvoo.com
Hi! I found your article via OnePrettyThing and it was very insightful! I'm new to the blogosphere and I am using a free (Gasp!) blogging service. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this, though. I recently purchased a domain name that simply redirects people to my other website. Do you think that adds to the professionalism of the site?

Moshe Mikanovsky
via canvoo.com
Hi Tricia,

I am glad you found us and the article useful.
Blogging services are quite commonly free, like Wordpress.com or Blogger/Blogspot.
In general, there is not much wrong about using these services - but, they are still not under your full control.

My recommandations for blogging is to host it under your own domain, and for that the best platform is Wordpress by far, using Wordpress.org (this is how I host my personal blog).

Another great option is if you use FASO, to use FASO's blogging functionality. That is all incorporate within the same administration platform.

Hope this helps
Moshe

Clint Watson
via canvoo.com
Trisha, another thought. There's nothing wrong with using blogspot per se. However, a bigger issue for you is the word "redirect" - the problem with that is when a domain is redirected the user lands on the real "free" url, in your case, http://howsweeteritis.blogspot.com. So if I decide to link to one of your articles, I'm linking to your .blogspot. domain, which means later, if you move to a different solution, you will lose all your inlinks. It's not the biggest issue in the world but it is an issue. You would lose direct traffic from those links and links do provide some SEO value (although, I'm on record as saying SEO isn't that effective for most artists, but still.....)

A better option would be to use a CNAME DNS record (yes geeky I know) so that your free blog
s URLS are all under your own domain name. Then if you ever move, your web person can do some magic to keep all those links working.

Tricia
via canvoo.com
Thanks Moshe and Clint for the replies. That is a great point, Clint. I hadn't thought about it. My free site actually redirects people to my Etsy shop, www.SweeterThanSweets.etsy.com, which would still have the same problem if ever I decide to go with another storefront. I have to admit that I have no idea what a CNAME DNS record is!
Thanks again.

Carolyn Henderson
via canvoo.com
Moshe:

What is the difference between Wordpress.org and Wordpress.com, and is there a reason for a person to choose one over the other?

Moshe Mikanovsky
via canvoo.com
Hi Carolyn,

Wordpress.com is hosting the blog for you, where Wordpress.org is only a place where you can download the Wordpress platform, and then you have to install it on your own hosting environment.

With Wordpress.com you can use your own domain (for a fee), or their domain for free.

The 3 main reasons to use Wordpress.org and not Wordpress.com are:

1. When using your own domain, you control it and no one else.
2. Many plug-ins are disabled on Wordpress.com because it is a shared environment, so they disabled the plug-ins in order not to introduce bad scripts.
3. You can not monatize a Wordpress.com blog. It is forbiden to use it to sell your products for example. With Wordpress.org, again, you have full control, so you can do whatever you want with it...

Hope this helps.

I also started with Wordpress.com in the begining (http://mikanovsky.wordpress.com) and then I moved to my own hosting (http://www.mikanovsky.com/blog). Notice the last post I did on the Wordpress.com platform to redirect visitors over to my new blog....

Cheers
Moshe


Barney Davey
via faso.com
I'm a little late to the party on this one. That's par for the course these days since I've been averaging 55 hours a week for the past 5 weeks working full-time for the world's largest domain registrar. I don't mention the name and then I don't have to make the required disclaimers.

Here's the deal. Like it or not, professional artists are small business owners. A domain name is many things. It is a human readable way to assign a numeric value to your website. It is your intellectual property. It is a very important component of your brand. In case you hadn't noticed, online sales of nearly everything has steamrolled traditional retailing.

I have repeated this many times. In today's times, it is incumbent on every artist to take as much control as possible of their distribution and marketing. If you don't own a piece of real estate on the Internet, or used free/borrowed space, you are doing the equivalent of paying rent and gaining very little online brand equity. If you don't think establishing and maintaining a strong online brand in YOUR NAME is important, then expect to see other artists pass you in sales and success. Not that I feel strongly about this or anything. ;-)

benloyds
via faso.com
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