SEO for Artists

WordPress Content Management: Learn how to optimize website content for search engines and site visitors

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization, where one optimizes their website to make it not only search engine friendly but, first and foremost, visitor friendly. When learning SEO, it’s much easier to understand if you know how search engines work.

In very basic terms, there are two main components to the search engines, the crawler and the algorithm. The crawler, which is also referred to as a spider, or a robot, or simply just a bot, is what goes out on the web and fetches the info. The algorithm is basically the ranking formula that each search engine uses to determine the relevancy of any page that the spider finds.

Basically, what happens is that the crawler follows links, gathers info, and adds that info into their database, or in other words, they find pages, read what’s on them, and index that info into their database.

If you simply remember that they find, read, and index, you’ll get the idea of things.

The Internet is mostly a word-based medium. Since artist websites consist mostly of images, it is important to become skilled at making search engine friendly images. This is easily accomplished by learning to use Alt & Title attributes. With SEO for artists, you are also going to learn about keywords, meta descriptions and hyperlinks. And finally, how to make use of the SEO plugins All in One SEO and WordPress SEO.

#1: SEO Friendly Images

Have you ever browsed through Google Images and found images titled as “img_8474”? We all have; we’re going to make sure that they are not yours. Your images should also have your name and the name of the artwork in the title of the jpg. Like so: ©your-name-art-name.jpg

Traffic to your site can grow substantially with search engine indexing of your images. The first thing you need to know is that a search engine robot can not see that your image is a landscape, or oil on canvas, you have to tell it with words.

In WordPress, each image you upload to the Media Library provides you with the ability to define ALT and TITLE attributes. This provides search engines with text they can read, find and index your images. I’m sure a definition of each will help you understand the purpose of each.

ALT text attributes: The alternative text (ALT) attribute provides a text-only description of an image. This is an example of what the robot sees instead of your image
< img src=”coffee.gif” alt=”Coffee Cup” / >
. Adding the alt text “Coffee Cup” tells the search engines to index this image with other pictures of coffee, or cups, or coffee cups.

TITLE text attributes: The title attribute specifies extra information about an element.
The information is most often shown as a tooltip text when the mouse moves over the element.

There 2 tutorials that show you where to add ALT and TITLE attributes: Insert Media section and add description in create gallery section.

Exercise: Try searching for images with your favorite search engine and keywords that you think describe your work. This exercise will help you determine what you may need to do to improve your indexing.

I searched my images for use in the examples below using the search terms “Kim Bruce Fine Art” and “Encaustic Abstract Landscape” respectively.

In the first example Google indexed my image using the Alternative text that I provided. This image was originally inserted into a blog post using Upload Media in the post editor. Note the Alternate Text that I entered on the right and where Google used it on the left.

Wordpress for artists SEO image example
SEO image from Google and screen shot of Alt & Title text from my fine art site (

The next image below is from a NextGen Tag Gallery. I tagged the image for use in the blog post Encaustic Abstract Landscape. Google used the SEO page title to index this image. Also note that the jpeg has my name attached as well as the name of the piece.

When you search either “Kim Bruce Fine Art” or “encaustic abstract landscape” the other images in the tag gallery will also show up. This is because I tagged the blog post with “encaustic landscape”.

WordPress for Artsits SEO image example 2
SEO image from Google (top) and screen shot of SEO page title from my site (bottom)

The biggest thing that I see on artist sites is a home page that only has an image, slide show or gallery in the content area and no text at all. This is why adding the ALT and TITLE attributes are so important. But it should also be pointed out that if you wrote a sentence or two, these words would go along way to helping people find you through keyword searches and is important for your meta description. Not to mention the value added for your site visitors. Ask yourself; does your content inform, presell, sell, educate, entertain, etc

Watermark your images

With the advent of the image based sharing site Pinterest it is now more important than ever to have properly titled images. But if you are compelled to add an extra line of credit on your images use a visible watermark.

Typically the watermark is your name with © and /or © domain name and is discreetly shown in the bottom right corner. NextGen Gallery has watermarking capabilities that can be set under the options menu. NOTE: watermarking can not be reversed in NextGen Gallery, but you can restore your original image if you change your mind. See the watermarking tutorial.

#2: Meta Descriptions

Most people are confused about how to use meta descriptions. Basically, meta data serves two purposes:
– tells search engines what your site is about
– shows up in search results which in turn tells people what your site is about

Your Meta Description, specifically, doesn’t actually affect your placement or ranking in the search engine results, but it is extremely important for what appears on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). The meta description is what people read to help them determine whether or not to click through to your site. High rankings are meaningless if nobody clicks on the links because the description isn’t appropriate.

A couple of key points to keep in mind when crafting your meta description:

You are limited to 140 characters. If you do not specify a meta description, the search engine will either, automatically use the first 140 characters of your page or post for the description, or will examine the on-page content for what it thinks is the best description to use. This isn’t always a good thing especially if you don’t have any text content.

You want to have a naturally worded meta description. This is where the SEO plugins come in handy by making it super easy to create this for each page and post, without having to do any coding. Remember, it will be a person reading the description, so make sure it makes sense to a human, not a robot.

seo for artists meta description example
The meta description for this actual page

Let’s use another meta description as example. Jane Doe is a Calgary artist that creates vibrant abstract landscape works with oil on canvas.

These are actual search results using the keywords and phrases listed.

“Oil on canvas” About 24,500,000 results.
“Oil on canvas artists” – Google returns About 15,500,000 results.
“Oil on canvas artists Calgary” About 148,000 results.

The last search result has narrowed thing down and I think you can see where I am going with this. Things to keep in mind when using keywords and writing your meta descriptions; be more specific, target your local market, target your style. Perhaps you work very large and that is a key selling point of your art, use that in the meta description.

#3: Keyword Placement

Don’t over use keywords in your meta description. Not that keywords should be over used anywhere, of course, but this is an exceptionally bad place for it.

Content is the most powerful tool you have in your search engine optimization strategy. Relevant content, optimized for keywords, and published frequently can shoot your website to the top of the search engine results.

The principal thing that I see on artist sites is a home page that only has an image, slide show or gallery in the content area and no text at all. This is why adding image ALT and TITLE attributes are so important. But, it should also be pointed out that if you wrote a sentence or two, these words would go along way to helping people find you through keyword searches. Not to mention the value added for your site visitors.  If you look at your existing web site and think like a reporter and ask questions such as who, what, and where, you’ll be able to answer those questions by creating a descriptive keyword phrase.

Keywords are not just for your meta data, which is what many people erroneously believe. Keywords are part of how search engines determine the relevance of your site for a particular search. And just as important…they help the searcher know if your site is a match for what they are searching.

There are different opinions on how often you should use keywords in your content. As a general rule, keywords should be used naturally, not forced into the content so that it reads awkwardly or unnaturally to a human being.

Many beginners are tempted to place their keywords in every single sentence. That generally creates an article or page that’s extremely difficult to read. Instead, write your content and then go back and position your keywords. Make sure to sprinkle other relevant keywords throughout your content as well. A good test is to read the content out loud. If it sounds awkward, you’ve probably over done it.

Use your keywords strategically. There are a few prominent places to position your keywords so they’re recognized by the search engines. These locations include:

  • Your Page Title
  • Any headings or subheadings in your content
  • The first and last paragraphs of your content

Here are some tips to help you compose with keywords (which can also be used in your meta description)

  1. Start thinking and writing about your self in the 3rd person.
  2. WHO – NEVER write “Welcome to my web site” on your home page. If you want to use a welcome message, write “Welcome to “your name’s” website.
  3. WHAT – Broaden the welcome message by telling visitors what your work and site is about
  4. WHEN – Tell visitors that you have an exhibit coming up and post a (internal) link to your events page
  5. WHERE – Include where you live and or where your upcoming show is and (external) link to the venues website.
  6. WHY – what makes your work unique and why would someone want to buy it.

Now you have a Home page with a message that could read like so:

Welcome to (what) of (who) located (where). Please (internal link to your contact page) (who) if you would like to know more about (what) or are interested in purchasing (why).

(who) is very excited about his/her upcoming solo exhibit (what – name of your exhibit) at (where – external link to venue site) (when – provide dates). Please see (internal link to Events page) for details.

#4 How to Use Heading Tags

Just as books have chapter titles and sections within the chapter, so do websites.

Your site title will be using the H1 (heading 1) tag, which is the tag assigned the highest priority. Your site title is at the top of every page of your site and is usually the same as your website address or domain name.

Your page or post title will be heading 2 (chapter title) and is automatically applied by WordPress. That’s because your site title is using the heading 1 – H1 tag. If you have any other headings (sections) underneath that, they would be 3, 4, and 5, and so on.

If you have a long post that needs to use subheadings, make sure you actually tag them, and tag them according to a hierarchy. You can tag them inside the editor by using the Format dropdown menu, illustrated below.

By tagging these headings, Google and other search engines will know that these are break points inside your article where more information is provided. It will also say where that information is.

Where to find and apply the heading tag in the editor
Where to find and apply the heading tag in the editor
Text Styling Notes:
The following will be useful to you when choosing what text styles to apply in your content:

  1. Heading 1 through to Heading 6 – in most themes headings within a post or page will start at Heading 3 (H3), going down to H6. The higher the value, the more important a search engine will consider it, but remember that H1 is usually reserved for the site title at the top of the page, and H2 for the post or page’s title.
  2. Use Unordered or Ordered lists for lists that are relatively short, but resist the temptation to use them for lists of paragraphs – instead, use the Heading styles.
  3. Use Bold and Italic in moderation. Do NOT use bold as a substitute for heading styles – bold is not as important to a search engine.
  4. Some themes may override your styling decisions – for example, enforcing alignment, what an italic actually looks like and so on. You should experiment with this.
  5. Most themes will highlight links in a different colour and with hover properties – you shouldn’t need to worry too much about these.
  6. What something looks like in the visual editor and how it will look on the page are quite different, unfortunately – make good use of the Preview button before publishing.

#5: Linking Strategy

There are two different types of links – Internal and External.  Every time you link to a page, post or other site, you are validating the relevancy of every single page or post you are linking from.

This is referred to as “SEO Juice”, which is internet slang referring to the substance which flows between web pages via their hyperlinks. Pages with lots of links pointing to them acquire lots ‘SEO Juice’ and pages which link to highly ‘juicy’ pages acquire some reflected ‘SEO Juice’.

Internal Links are cross links within your own site. For example, one post may contain a link to another blog post or page on the same topic. Developing internal links is a great way to teach the search engines of the relevancy of your site, as well as assist the human reader in finding valuable information. Just make sure that you are linking to related posts and pages. You may want to select a few pages to focus on to start with.

External links are when you link from your site to another site. While there are lots of sites you like, don’t link to all of them from your sidebar. This just gives away your SEO juice to the other site. Use external links sparingly and strategically as mentioned on the Create a Hyperlink tutorial. (Oh, I just made an internal link 🙂

*A note about Social Media and Linking..
While the links back to your site from Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn may not do anything for your official search engine results, they can do a lot for sharing useful information and driving traffic by bringing people to your site. The more useful your information, the more likely people are to pass it on to others. There’s nothing like word of mouth advertising.

Just remember to use social media as a place you can “give back” as well. Don’t think only of driving people to your site. Share useful links and helpful information from other people and sites. You’ll be seen as a true contributor of value, and therefore be considered more trustworthy.

Text link Descriptions

Every time you put in a link, always make sure the link has a description.

link-edit-buttonI selected one of my links here, clicked on the Link button to edit it, and then I inserted a title that describes a link.

This link is pointing to the artist themes page, so I’ll simply added the alt text “Artist Themes by” Hover your mouse over the link and you will see it as a tool tip.

The link is within my site so I set the target to same window. If it is an external link you may want to check the box next to “Open link in a new window/tab”.

how to add descriptions to links
click image to enlarge screenshot instructions

There are mixed opinions whether you should have external links open in new windows or not. If you have a page with a number of external links, by the time your site users clicks all the links, they may have a multitude of browser windows open. If this is the case have links open in the same window. They can then use the browsers back button to get back to your site. However, I see nothing wrong with having one or two links open in new windows.

#6 How to use the SEO Plugins

With every WordPress install  Artbiz includes either one of two great SEO plugins. Both are easy to use and provide tips so that you can insert good SEO. The plugin is configured for you (if I installed it) so all you have to do is provide some meaningful content.

The image below demonstrates the bare minimum that should be on your image page.  The text you use on a page is best placed at the top before your images. This is what the robots read first, right after the page title.

The bare minimum that image pages should have for SEO
The bare minimum that image pages should have for SEO

In this image you can see the NextGen Gallery short code that calls in all the images within a gallery. This could just as easily be a single image, video or slideshow.

How to use All in One SEO

The master settings for All in One SEO will add a meta description to every page that you do not provide a custom description.

All in One SEO master settings
Click image to enlarge

Master Settings for All in One SEO will add the same SEO to all pages and posts that don’t have their own custom descriptions.

The image below describes the fields available on every page and post of your WordPress site. Use them to add meta descriptions and keywords specific to the content on that page.

All in One SEO - form filled in
Example of the “All in One SEO” form filled with custom descriptions for a specific  page or post

Related Resource: Video at All in One SEO Website
This video was made on an earlier version of WordPress so it looks a bit different than your admin area does but the usage of the plugin is still valid.

How to use WordPress SEO

WordPress SEO by Yoast is one of the strongest search engine optimization plugins for WordPress. But only if you use it. The plugin provides a form under every page and post on your site, all you need to do is fill it in.


The screenshot below is of the form under your page and post editor. By default it will formulate a meta description from the content. To edit just click on the area and it will become editable. When done click outside the editable area to close.


Use this SEO for Artists tutorial to help guide you through the process, it may take some time but will be worth it in the long run. Best practice is to start using the form as soon as you start adding your content making it part of your process.

FAQ: How long does it take for my site to show up in the search engines? And what ranking will I get?

Answer: WordPress will dynamically submit your website to all the major search engines for free! Sites can take up to 12 weeks to get indexed. Every Artbiz website comes with all the tools necessary to make your website as visible as possible to the search engines, however we cannot guarantee what keywords will result in a search match or the ranking of your site. Be wary of those that promise otherwise. It is likely that you will achieve good results if you are somewhat prepared.

The last tutorial in the Content Management section looks at Sidebar Links