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Art Blogging 101: Don't worry about blog comments

by Brian Sherwin on 2/9/2012 3:23:15 AM

This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 17,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

Several artists have asked me for art blogging advice. Thus, I felt it might be fun to offer a little advice in series form. In this series I will explore some of the common questions that artists have asked of me concerning art blogging. For clarification -- I'm thinking along the lines of art blogs that focus on the blog authors art (such as a blog an artist might have on his or her art website). In other words, I'm not writing about news / criticism focused art blogs (though some of the advice in this series may apply to those types of art blogs). The first Art Blogging 101 lesson deals with art blog comments -- and the concern that some artists have when their art blog fails to spur a comment response from readers.


I've noticed an unfortunate trend over the years when it comes to artists and blogs-- that being, some artists feel that they should stop blogging about their art if their blog posts don't receive many comments. Point blank -- they feel like they are wasting their time blogging if there is little to no response comment-wise. Feeling that way is understandable on face value. However, one could suggest that it reveals a lack of understanding in regard to common trends within the 'world' of blogging in general.


In my opinion, an artist is NOT wasting his or her time by blogging about his or her art -- even if the 'comment-department' is lacking. The buildup of your art blog content will only serve to help your online presence -- especially if it is posted in association with your artist website. Focus on content... not comments. Realize that blog comments are not the end all, be all of blogging in general.


If you follow art blogs as I do you will come to the realization that comment numbers are not a legitimate way to decide if your blog has value or not. For example, people often assume that a high comment blog is popular. In truth, that may not be the case traffic-wise. In fact, some of the most influential blogs -- in general -- receive few comments compared to the number of visitors they have overall on a daily basis.


In addition to the above, artists need to understand that most art blog visitors (and blog visitors in general) are lurkers. In other words, they read/browse the content offered by the blogs they follow -- and rarely leave a comment. I'll admit that I'm an art blog lurker. I visit dozens -- if not hundreds -- of art blogs each day. I rarely comment -- but I'm a loyal follower. Point blank -- just because people are not commenting on your art blog does not mean that they are not paying attention to what you post.


Pay attention to what I'm about to communicate -- DON'T dismiss art blog lurkers such as myself (or halt the content feast by closing shop on your blog). I may not comment on your art blog -- that said, I may be interested in what you do... and point others to your blog and website. Your art blog may not have a lot of comments -- but it may have dozens -- perhaps hundreds -- of dedicated lurkers... even with minimal blog promotion. Keep that in mind before pulling the plug on your art blogging efforts.


Don't worry about blog comments. Just keep doing what you are doing with your art blog -- and learn ways to do it better. For example, if you routinely promote your art blog on Facebook and Twitter you are bound to pick up a few 'comment regs' at some point. Comments will come in time -- or not. If they don't come... DON'T give up on your art blog. You won't get anywhere with art blogging if you throw in the towel so easily.


Remember that a lack of art blog comments does not say anything about who you are -- it does not mean that your art is 'bad'. Point blank -- don't make your art blog into a self-imposed popularity contest based on numbers. Don't beat yourself up. Remember that blog comments -- be they few or plentiful -- have little to do with the value of your blog content OR the value of your art. Remember that lurkers -- such as myself -- are always just around the corner.


In closing, I realize that some of you may be reading this and thinking, "But I know for a fact that people rarely follow my blog" -- you may even have access to specific numbers that prove that fact. For those of you in that scenario I ask -- what can you do to change that situation? How often do you promote your blog? Do you need to re-think your content approach? After all, you can't expect blog comments or blog lurkers if you are doing little to promote your art blogging efforts OR if your approach to blogging -- in general -- is under par. Keep following the Art Blogging 101 series on FineArtViews for suggestions that may help you out.


Take care, Stay true,


Brian Sherwin


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Related Posts:

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Thoughts on Selling Art Online: Art blogs are a good thing-- seek them!

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Adding Value to Your Newsletters

Topics: advice for artists | art marketing | Brian Sherwin | FineArtViews | Instruction | Think Tank | art blogging advice 

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Marian Fortunati
Good information....
Happily for me, I keep on blogging even without tons and tons of comments. I never quite know what some posts generate comments while others don't, but most of the reason I blog is personal anyway... so while I LIKE comments... I don't depend upon them.

Thanks... Happy blogging.!!

Marie Jonsson- Harrison
Thank you Brian for these wise words. Makes me feel better with my current dilemma, I was very happy with lots of comments on my blogs, but due to problems with the google comment box had to change over to the Facebook comment box. As that was done all my previous comments were lost :( I really felt quite emotional to loose them. Happy blogging to you too :) Love Marie xxx

Brian Sherwin
Marian -- Controversy is King in the world of blogging. If I tap into a controversial story/theme I can easily expect 40 to 100 comments (often with a few people going back and forth over the topic). With other articles... the average is 10 to 20 comments. Other times... no comments to speak of.

With the above in mind, I know from other blogs that I've written for that some of the low -- or no -- comment posts are the most visited articles on those respected blogs... even when compared to articles that received a lot of comments and links from big media.

Don't get me wrong -- I like blog comments. I just learned along time ago that they really don't tell you which articles are of value. Thus, don't sweat it if you don't receive many comments. Just keep doing what you are doing.

jo allebach
I guess I will get back to blogging. I did for a while but then probably for lack of response comments decided not to do it. Thanks for getting me back to blogging.

Brian Sherwin
Jo -- I'm certain that others will be thanking you for getting back on track with your blog. :)

Arthur Morehead
Brian is right about comments to a certain degree when it comes to page rank but again it is not the reason to give up if you have little or no comments. Whats more important is captivating people with good informative content which is what Marian Fortunati has done with her blog. She has used certain keywords in her titles very well to attract readers on a local aspect. However she has whats called a "robot.text" file that is killing her traffic with all the "do not follows". This prevents "spiders" or "robots" from crawling and indexing her pages and posts on other search engines across the web thus killing her presence in the generic search responses. In fact this file is not needed and can be deleted in the web root. Hosting companies can actually limit how much traffic you get with these files simply by putting a "disallow" attribute followed by the "bot name" of "legitimate" search engines. Originally created to prevent "spam commenting" the robot.text file is ignored by these "spam bots" so the file itself only prevents the legitimate bots from crawling and indexing your posts and pages in the search engines. If you have access to your webroot through a Cpanel you can delete it yourself or ask your webmaster to do this for you. If your hosting company refuses to do this and/or wants to charge you for this then I would suggest moving and hosting your blog yourself because they could be regulating your traffic. This is basic "Blogging 101" knowledge
If your looking to increase comments even more then of course you have to increase traffic and by adding a "share buttons" at the bottom and/or top of your posts and/or pages is a great way but you literally have to tell people to click on them
People have to be told what to do so don't be shy
One more thing to control "comment spam" you can use a plug in for this by using Askemet or Captcha.

Marian Fortunati
Okay... now I'm totally curious about what and how a "robot.text" file got into my blog.... I don't even know what it is....
And how would I know about "do not follows"?????

Sorry Arthur... I just blog happily and ignorantly away... I don't know much about what you're talking about... but I wish I did.

I WAS curious today about "secure searches" today and looked up an article about that... seems like a lot of people's hard work with keywords may go down the drain ....

Perhaps you or someone else can tell me what I'm doing that "kills my traffic"... YIKES>>>> don't want THAT!!!

Thanks for the info.... I think.... ;o~

Clint Watson
Hi Arthur and Marian,

I am FASO's (Marian's web host) owner and lead developer. I appreciate your feedback, but I have to add some information because, frankly, that was a bit of an incomplete description regarding the uses and reasons for utilizing robots.txt. Yes, we do block some bots in our robots.txt: Those that are abusive, those that submit spam, those that are irrelevant. It is also used to block folders that we don't WANT search engines indexing because they don't contain indexable content. There are many, many legitimate reasons to utilze robots.txt and most good websites will use robots.txt. We have often improved our own search rankings by utilzing robots.txt directives in accordance with Google's guidelines, as they recommend its use for a myriad of reasons.

Another way we use it is to direct legitimate search engines regarding crawl rate. Legitimate search engines provide that directive to be considerate of your server resources while still completly indexing your site. In addition, our robots.txt directs googlebot (and others) regarding the fact that the artwork images are hosted on a different domain because they are served off of Akamai, the world's fastest content delivery network (CDN). Google developed a robots.txt entry regarding image locations, so that googlebot knows the images are part of the site even though they are on a different domain. And indeed, I often find our artists images indexed in Google image search.

They developed that directive because Google recommends images be served off a CDN to increase page speed, which is a factor that they use for determining search rankings. Plus browsers have a blocking feature that allows only a few resources to download from a given domain simultaneously. By moving resources to a CDN we circumvent that browser limitation as well. Utilizing robots.txt allows us to to that properly and tell the search engines what we are doing. Blocking abusive bots also increases page load times - which in turn helps search rankings in the search engines that matter.

Another use of robots.txt is that it allows us to show Googlebot immediately that each artist's website contains a complete sitemap.xml file. By utilizing this directive, Googlebot can follow the sitemap and be sure not to miss indexing any pages, or, at least, be aware of all pages on the site (as Google says on their blog, "Robots.txt is simply a request" it's not a command, so we can't FORCE them to index every page, but we use robots.txt so at least they KNOW about every page). This allows us to provide an XML Sitemap to google for every single one of our customers, even if the customer doesn't want, or know how to create a Google webmaster tools account to submit the sitemap manually.

You are correct that many less used search engines and spam bots ignore robots.txt. We usually first try using robots.txt if they claim they will honor it (such as many abusive non-commercial research projects that nobody is using to search for art). If a spam bot ignores our robots.txt directive, we then block it at a higher level (such as at our firewall) so that it doesn't take valuable resources from other, legitimate bots and our valuable customers. Indeed, some of the bots listed in our current robots.txt have since been blocked, and we have not yet removed them from the robots.txt file. You'll notice that Google, Bing, Yahoo, MSN, Blekko, and DuckDuckGo are NOT disallowed by our robots.txt. Those six comprise near 100 percent of the search engine market and those six (and many others) are getting more indexable information due to the fact we are courteous and provide a well-structured robots.txt.

As you can see from our strategy, our robots.txt files is definitely not, "killing her traffic" - to the contrary, it in helping boost her traffic (and that of our other customers) in the ways I have described.

On the comment spam subject: you suggest, "to control "comment spam" you can use a plug in for this by using Askemet or Captcha." You are absolutely correct, all FASO blogs already have both services built-in by default. Every comment is run through Akismet first. If Akismet flags it is spam, a Captcha is then shown. In addition, FASO has it's own comment spam detection routines we run as well. Bots rarely get past all these checks but, sometimes, a real-live human (not a bot) spammer gets past all of these checks as it's hard for a computer to outsmart a human. But just as Akismet does, we take those opportunities to improve the algorithms.

Thanks for your feedback and providing the opportunity for me to explain how we utilize robots.txt to improve our artists' websites. I'm working on an ebook regarding Search Engine Optimization for artists and the proper use of robots.txt is one of the topics, this gave me a good opportunity to put some of those thoughts in writing.

Clint Watson
FASO Founder, Software Craftsman, Art Fanatic

For the curious, some of Google's resources on using robots.txt

For the really curious, here's Google's own robots.txt file:

Marian Fortunati

I've loved my FASO website (and blog platform) for years for many many many reasons... but now I'm awed.

Thank goodness you good people who know all about that sort of thing are working smartly and diligently behind the scenes to help all of the artists who use FASO!!!

or ... just WOW...

Arthur Morehead
Clint, I am fully aware of how robots.text works as well as the CDN and being that Faso is such a large site using a CDN is the obvious thing to do of course. I do appreciate the response but I don't understand the disallow for NextGenSearch and gigabot and a few others that have to do with business and are legitimate and safe, unless of course I am not up to date on this.
Faso is a great site don't get me wrong but it seems the artists have no control of basic SEO functions which they can do themselves.
I chose Marian Fortunati's blog to question because of how well she is using keywords and phrases pertaining to her work. Her content is well written and has good value. It just puzzled me of why she has such low traffic. Of course I realize that its up to the artists to remain consistent with their blogging habits and that is beyond Faso's control which lead me to look at the robots.text file. Although there are several errors in the file that have to do with upper and lower case issues (which are not critical)and I do know that Faso has to protect their server there are just some things that the artists should have available to them to change or do without the possibility of being charged for.
Perhaps Faso should have a membership tier for the more advanced user with access to their own Cpanel?
For membership and hosting sites the security is of the utmost importance, not only to the members but also to the server as well and I do respect that very much. I have researched many artists sites and have found Faso to be one of the best. I really do believe they are in it for the long haul and are not at all like the hundreds of other start up "artists sites"
Trust me I know more about SEO than what you may think and most of the so called "rules" that the new "experts" of today are taught is generally dated information. Although new information is released regularly such as Google's "Panda" and "Penguin" releases Google is not the only player in the game, but that's a whole other issue and its not to say who's right and who's wrong because absolutely no one knows the real answer to that because the rules of the game changes every day. I say the proof is in the results and I can prove mine. Google "Internet Marketing Artists" or "Internet Marketing Fine Artists"

Clint Watson

Thanks for your response. I appreciate your kind words and you are correct, we are in this for the long haul (in our 12th year now). I certainly didn't mean to imply you didn't know anything about SEO or robots.txt. I'm sure that you do. I just felt it was important to expand because a statement like it's "killing your traffic" tends to be overy simplistic and, frankly, it scares the *!#$ out of people unecessarily.

Any bot blocked in our robots.txt was hammering our servers at some point (and many of them still, to this day, simply disregard our robots.txt). In reviewing those two bots you mentioned, it appears that they are search engines that have virtually no market share and have nothing to do with the arts. In addition, our logs showed NO inbound traffic from those search engines, only bot activity. They were simply hammering us for their indexing and sending no traffic to our customers. I don't understand how a service that was sending no inbound traffic could boost any of our clients' traffic. But, if any FASO customer really wants NextGenSearch or Gigabot we can allow them for that person. (although not via cpanel - our system doesn't work that way - it's all custom).

We do a lot of things to facilitate SEO on FASO sites, and we do give artists a lot of control over on-site SEO settings (although we've done a poor job of documenting those features).

However, your response brings up a bigger point that I always make: SEO is a poor marketing channel for most artists. We automate as much as we can for artists because we don't want them to have to waste their time doing it manually when there are other channels for marketing art that are much, much, much more effective. I think most artists do themselves a *huge* disservice by spending time worrying about SEO.

Look at what marketing genius Seth Godin wrote on his blog today:

"Focus on the scarce resource online: attention. If you try to invent a way to take cheap attention and turn it into cash, you will fail. THE ATTENTION YOU WANT ISN'T CHEAP, IT'S DIFFICULT TO GET VIA SEO AND IT RARELY SCALES. Instead, figure out how to earn expensive attention." (emphasis added)


Or look at what respected SEO, Aaron Wall of wrote a couple years ago:

"I don't think SEO is a real solution for most live artists. SEO doesn't really get too many people talking about you"


That's coming from a guy who's whole company is devoted to selling SEO services!

I agree with these sentiments. I have yet to be shown any proof, by any artist, that SEO has drastically helped them sell art. And I've asked many times when people have defended SEO for selling art. All I've ever seen are a few anecdotal stories, and even the few cases that managed to point to a small, anectodal sale were artists who specialized in tiny, tiny niches. Which, I concede, that a small amount of SEO effort is warranted in a tiny niche. But that usually doesn't apply to the vast majority of artists.

Pointing to success in rankings in one industry doesn't really prove much in abililty to sell art via SEO for two reasons:

1) SEO *IS* a viable channel for some industries (such as FASO ranking for "websites for artists" or you ranking for "Internet Marketing Artists") because people in those industries to search for solutions, while people buying art usually don't search that way.

2) Ranking doesn't always indicate sales - I've ranked for plenty of terms that bring "traffic" and no sales.

People don't buy art (generally) by sitting down at Google and starting to search. They generally see art somewhere, get the artist's name, and then search for that artist's name. So the most important factor to rank for is your own name (which is usually very easy). But that ranking is not what generates the traffic. It's what helps people find your site AFTER you've generated attention via other channels (like Seth Godin suggested above).

You mentioned that, "It just puzzled me of why she has such low traffic." That's not uncommon for artists. Most artist websites have low traffic, it's the nature of the art game. I always say, "Selling art is not a numbers game, it's a demographics game." You don't need a lot of people, you need a few of the RIGHT people. "Traffic" doesn't mean anything, qualified buyers do. If you want traffic, buy stumbleupon ads. You'll get a bunch of "traffic" tomorrow. But none of them will stay on your site, and none of them will buy your art. I've told the story before about when I owned an art gallery, the majority of my yearly sales usually came from the top 20 buyers....not top 20 percent, but top 20 *people* - but they were the RIGHT people.

Artists really, really need to start nurturing the buyers and prospects they have and grow in a natural, organic way. Think about my gallery story. What if artists nurtured their top 20 people instead of fretting over "traffic" and "bounce rates?" All this effort trying to "rank" in the SERPS, to build "traffic", and constantly checking Google Analytics is really costing people in sales. IMHO.

Thank again for the spirited debate. I appreciate it.

Clint Watson
FASO Founder, Software Craftsman, Art Fanatic

Fiona Stanbury
Hi Brian
This is very interesting! I rarely find comments posted on my blog but that doesn't stop me from writing it because having started the blog 3 years ago, I find it invaluable for expressing my thoughts and feelings about my artistic direction and ideas, and my blog feeds back into my work. I try to keep it varied, with bursts of news and stories about my exhibitions/residencies, but I assumed when I began it that it might not be read much and it wasn't my main concern. I was surprised to find people do read blogs, and when I write now I have the bonus of knowing that it is being enjoyed. Writing a blog is very fulfilling, and while I would love a world-wide audience, I'm very happy that my blog has meaning for some people, and is evolving.

Brian Sherwin
Fiona -- I'm glad the article was helpful. :)


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