Blogging Regularly Improves Website Optimization
Last October 2014 I began the effort to revitalize my blog. After 1 ½ years of infrequent updates my website had fallen off Google’s radar screen. Anyone searching “oil paintings California (or Oregon) landscape” would not find me in the first 6 screen pages. With a goal of blogging weekly (I almost achieved it!), and a promise to let you know the results, I can now tell you—It is making big and not-so-big differences. Here are some of my observations:
Improved Search Engine Results—On Google searches for “oil paintings California landscape” I am now on page 2. And “oil paintings Oregon landscape” places me on that coveted page 1. Showing up early in a search is important to the general health of your website and therefore your career. If you are wondering if regular blogging matters—it does.
How I did it:
Topics—The most popular blogging topics have been about blogging. I would think artists would want to read about how to be better artists, but no, you want to read about better blogging. Second most popular topic was the compact, space-efficient studio.
Length—Initially I tried to write very short posts. They didn’t engage me, and didn’t allow space for stories or support of a concept. So I wrote articles in the 700-800 word range (much more fun for me, and apparently for you, too, because you read them.) Best of all, some of the articles got reprinted by FineArtViews and BrushBuzz. That rocketed the number of visits to the moon.
Another thing about length: Old-school thinking is that catchy blog posts must be short to match the short attention span of readers. Current research debunks that, proving that visitors prefer 1,000-2,000 word articles if the content is there. Search engines prefer longer blog posts, too, resulting in more opportunities to reference your website.
Frequency—I was doing well, posting every week or two. Suddenly, 3 weeks ago, I stopped. I remember asking myself, "Why am I blogging?" and I couldn’t come up with a good answer. I need to establish stronger motives that keep me engaged through those periods I would rather not bother blogging..
If you are going to stick to a plan, it has to be interesting and achievable. Research shows that daily posting is best, but I sell $500 paintings, not $15 widgets, so I contest the research. Websites that contact you too often are like guests who stay too long—smelly. Find a posting frequency that makes everyone happy.
It has been just over 3 months since I began revitalizing my blog. The pros say it takes 3-6 months before you can see a difference. I can see it already. Here is a chart that illustrates what has happened since I restarted the blog:
|4-Month Period of:
||Visitors||Avg. Actions||Avg. Time||Bounce Rate|
|Jun 1-Sep 30, 2014 (no blogging)||319||3.1||1m 44s||46%|
|Oct 1-Jan 29, 2015 (regular blogging||714||3.1||3m 19s||44%|
- Visitors and the time they spent on my website more than doubled.
- Oddly, average actions and bounce rate stayed the same.
- I remind you, my position advanced to pages 1 and 2 in Google searches commonly used to find me.
Am I getting value for time invested in the blog? Yes, if I focus on visitors, their time on the site, and search engine placement. However, if I get distracted by things such as bounce rate, the results are discouraging. About bounce rate (which I do think is important), FASO has a Daily Art Show that features images submitted by artists that day. Visitors click through them in rapid succession, resulting in one click on each artists website. That results in lots of visitors, but a heightened bounce rate.
If you followed my posts on blog burnout and how I revived my blog, you gained insights about the benefits of blogging regularly and how to deal with burnout. I hope you have also discovered new reasons to blog and new ways to inject pleasure in the process.
If you are currently publishing a blog—or just considering it—you want to do yourself proud. A blog reflects on you as an artist, potentially giving you tons of credibility. At its best, your blog is part of your creative expression. But blogging can be a bit of a struggle. Just as it took time to develop your style as an artist, your art blog will also take time to become a good reflection of you. Fortunately, there are guidelines to help your voice evolve.
Read lots of blogs—art and non-art
Writers of every ilk read a lot. When you like something, you tend to emulate it. You may like and emulate several bloggers. This is good. Out of it will evolve your own voice.
Some questions that might help:
- Are you serious or fun?
- Do you write like you talk?
- Are you writing content you would like to read?
Your temperament, speech patterns and interests should be reflected in how and what you write.
Create a swipe file for those blogs and bloggers you most like to read
These are the examples you will want to follow. Their styles, length of articles, topics, and how they respond to comments are elements worthy of your study.
Expect your taste to change over time. The blogger who inspired you this year may bore you next year. You may have become more discerning, or he may have become—well, boring.
Write regularly, whether that is daily, weekly or monthly (monthly is stretching it)
Doing anything well requires doing it regularly. Eventually you will discover that some of your topics are much more popular than others. It might be because some topics have wider appeal, or perhaps you wrote with more conviction. Try to discern why some of your posts succeed and others don’t.
Pick topics close to your heart
Your writing voice will show commitment if you believe in your subject.
Your article should be about one thing. Stay focused on your topic. This article is about finding and honing your distinctive voice as an art blogger.
Tell a story
Some of my most popular posts were a series about downsizing my studio. I wrote about the sadness, humor and compromises involved in going from a very large dedicated studio to a corner in a small study. I wrote about how I adapted everything I need into this small space and how well it works. Photographs enhanced the descriptions. I never dreamed anyone would care about this topic. But during the Great Recession a lot of artists were downsizing—and they cared.
Review and edit the next day
I compose in MS Word then transfer it to my blog platform. Word has a little more page space, and there is no chance to mistakenly publish a half-baked post.
Let your article rest for a day, because it will look different the next day. Proofread for incorrect words that your spell checker missed and broken sentences where you cut and forgot to paste. Most of all, review the flow and clarity of the article. Show your reader that you care.
If writing doesn’t jazz you, find a non-wordy style that is capable of carrying your ideas.
If English is not your first language, write anyway. A Chinese-American artist blogger was in my favorites file for a couple years. What he lacked in correct grammar was more than compensated for by his passion about art and his informative blog.
Write for your readers
A current fad is to create a set of identifying features of your “one” reader, and write for that reader. It may help. But I find it more fun to think of a group (I’ve got groupies!) Do whatever works for you. The idea is to write for your reader(s), not for yourself.
Know that readers will come and go. They may follow you for a couple months or forever. Their needs change. Your insights change.
Take a little risk
Keep in mind that what you put on the internet is available to your parents, spouses, bosses and art galleries. Forever. So be mindful of what you reveal.
That said, you can write about write about hurdles you face and how you overcome them as long as you write with humor or dignity. Understand your personal tolerance for risk before you post anything too revealing about your thoughts and activities.
Love your blog
Enjoy writing for it. Enjoy the personal growth that will result from developing topics. And relish the occasional conversation that is generated by something you write.
These tips will help you develop your distinctive blogging voice:
- Read lots of interesting blogs
- Save them to a swipe file
- Write regularly
- Pick topics close to your heart
- Tell a story
- Sleep on it—edit the next day
- Write for your readers
- Take a risk
- Love your blog
Have fun, and add to the list if you wish.Comment on or Share this Article →
I had this great idea about describing each color on my palette in detail. One post per color. The first post in this series (yes! a series) was on Viridian Green. In two weeks ONE person read it.
Clearly, this idea was a dud. What happens when readers come across a useless blog post? They leave your website.
Lesson learned: Delete that bad post now (I did.)Comment on or Share this Article →
Two months ago I began reworking my website in an effort to improve readership, content and SEO. After a year and a half of neglect it had pretty much fallen off everyone’s radar screen. My initial focus was on the home page because that is where most visitors land. Next, I revived the blog because text is important to search engines. Some trends are already apparent.
Results of Home Page Redesign
I like understatement. So for years my home page was as spare as I could get it. Two months ago I switched to a template that added a list of recent blog posts, upcoming events and an invitation to join my email list. Suddenly, the home page bounce rate took a notable dive and average time per visit jumped. Think of it like a friend knocking on your door: You invite your friend in and say, “Come into the kitchen, I’ve just baked cookies.” Offer your guest something to enjoy (cookies, or an interesting blog post, or great images) and you will have a happy guest. Your home page equates to the front door of your home.
For those readers who avoid their web statistics, “bounce rate” refers to people who land on a web page (in this case, the home page) and immediately leave the website. Offering visitors links to internal pages resulted in them reading the blog, perusing the paintings, and generally roaming around the entire website. The home page revision was successful.
Blog Trends, Observations and Questions
First, the trends: A month ago I began posting weekly. One post was very popular: Picked up by BrushBuzz, one of those coveted links for artists, it netted many readers who went on to read my other posts and pages. Again, the stats for these new posts are trending up and down in all the right places: More pages are being visited by more people. In particular, the percentage has increased of new visitors vs returning visitors. You need both, but remember that new visitors become returning visitors, and if you fail to capture new ones your readership will shrink.
Now my observations and questions: Some posts will be much more popular than others, and some buzz words will always get noticed and read: “Blog Burnout” is currently a hot topic. Resolving it is not (my posts on how to revive a blog didn’t get much attention.) Do bloggers want to wallow in their misery a while longer before attending to the problems? Are they simply tired of writing? Or has promoting the blog become a time and energy drain?
Maybe those are the wrong questions. What if the article titles or content were weak? “Blog Burnout” was a series of 3 posts: The first dealt with the situation, mine as well as the general blogging public; the second, with the soft issues of posting; and the third, with specific tasks that should improve the success of my blog and yours. Each post had a different title. Maybe those titles should have been the same with Part 1, 2 or 3 added, or some such variation. It’s not too late—I could edit the titles for posterity.
Another observation: My post reviewing the movie, “Tim’s Vermeer,” did not net very many readers. However, 2/3 of those readers visited several other parts of my website—a good percentage. I’m inclined to think, despite the fairly low readership, that movie and book reviews are worthy topics.
Mondays are widely regarded as one of the best days to post to a blog. Yet my blog appears to gather more readers on Saturdays than on Mondays. It may be worth while to experiment with Saturday postings. The point here is if you are investing your time on a blog, manipulate its release to reach the most readers.
Is it just about gaining readers? No. If the content is not valuable, readers won’t return, and I’ve wasted their time and mine. If they do find my blog informative, they will return. “Informative” content has to be the purpose. Benefits will follow.
I am an artist. I am not a professional blogger. So it is crushing when I write about painting only to have it totally ignored, as was a recent post. What happened? Was the article lame? Do people just want to read about blog burnout? To find out, I will have to explore the craft of oil painting more often and more deeply. Eventually, the web stats will reveal the answers.
The up-side of blog burnout is going through a process of rediscovery, and writing and sharing thoughts about art and creativity with a fresh voice and renewed commitment.Comment on or Share this Article →
If you’ve been having difficulty writing for your blog, you have a lot of company. I want to rebuild interest in my neglected website and blog. To help me stick to this goal I wrote 3 posts telling readers what happened to my website after months of not blogging, and why and how I will mend my ways. If you are in the doldrums over your blog, I hope this has been of some help.
This is my distilled 5-step outline. There is an infinite array of articles online that will help you become a better blogger—just search “write irresistible blog headline” or “how to write a good blog” and see for yourself. Just remember to pace yourself so you can maintain writing without it becoming a slog.
1. Write an irresistible headline
You have two big opportunities to capture or lose readers: Your headline is the first. Don’t be cute or obscure. The headline should:
- Be a concise and intriguing summary of the article,
- Include keywords that help search engines know what to do with your article,
- Take advantage of human behavior. For example, numbered and listed headlines are the most read. They can be overdone, so don’t use them all the time.
2. Entice with a captivating first paragraph
The opening paragraph is your second opportunity to lock in or lose readers. According to Copyblogger, only 20% of people will keep reading after the opening. To retain reader interest:
- State the problem and promise the solution(s),
- Tell a story, if applicable to your post, but include the reader with “you” and “your” words,
- Include keywords,
- Include an image: People like visuals.
3. Give Valuable easy-to-read content
This can be your own insights or that of others (with credit).
- Write with clarity and focus,
- Pay attention to your stats to find your reader’s favorite posts. Expand on these.
- Notice what leading art bloggers are writing about, and give the topic a different twist,
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short and easy to read,
- Use your spell- and grammar checker, and proof read for things they don’t catch.
4. End with an actionable invitation
- To sign-up for your emails,
- To share your blog with friends,
- To leave a comment,
- To purchase something.
5. Promote your blog
- On your website’s home page,
- On your print material,
- In your newsletter and/or your Holiday letter,
- On social media, if you are into that,
- To your friends and other artists,
- By linking your blog posts to each other if they are related subjects.
I have a fair amount of work to do to live up to this list. Professional bloggers claim it takes 3-6 months to restore search engine’s faith in a neglected blog, so keep in touch—I’ll let everyone know in a few months how weekly blogging has affected my website in searches. If you are trying to restore a dusty blog, leave a comment on how this has helped you: I need the encouragement, and you need the back-link.
Thanks to a request by a reader, my next posts will be about color—how I achieve harmony and effects.Comment on or Share this Article →
Previously, I wrote “How Blog Burnout Damages Your Website—and How to Recover”
After neglecting my website and blog for a year and a half I found that search engines had dropped my rank so low that only my home page popped up on a search for “Yvonne Branchflower artist”. It will require a plan and serious dedication to revive my website.
Blogger burnout is a hot topic right now, and there are many articles online that address why it is happening. After all my reading I’m going to suggest that blogging and social media have become such an all-consuming obligation that all the pleasure and creativity have been sucked out of writing. This post will deal with the soft issues of writing--those things that will stimulate me (and hopefully you) to write. The next post will address how I will write a blog that will inform and entertain my readers and me. If I do this well, it will help you as a writer, too.
Embrace the freedom:
Think about this: A blog is your opportunity to self-publish your thoughts about art to a world-wide audience. You have complete freedom to express yourself with virtually no censorship. This is absolutely extraordinary! When, in the history of humankind has this opportunity existed?
Love your subjects:
Focus your blog on what most interests you. Some artists feature their most recent paintings with a brief story. I'd rather write an article. And I like to teach. Teaching is in my blood as much as painting. This understanding makes it easier for me to accept all the writing will probably never directly result in a sale. However, writing about subjects deeply interesting to me will result in better articles for you to read.
Write for your audience:
Understanding Your Blog Audience and What You Want From Them elaborates on the significance of your readers. Accept that readers want different things from different writers. This series of 3 or 4 posts is about my failure to keep my website and blog updated. However, it is a cautionary tale from which you can benefit: You are observing my process of rethinking and rebuilding my web presence.
How often will you post?
Be realistic. I used to post less than once a month at best. I will aim for once a week and forgive myself for all the times I miss. I suspect you could post less often and be ok. Most professional bloggers say you should blog daily. Not gonna happen. I want to enjoy this. Besides, rumor has it that SEO has far less value than it used to have. And sometimes I simply want to be a hermit.
How long should a post be?
Professional bloggers say an article should be between 300-600 words, and not more than 1,000. This is counter to what I remember from just a few years ago when (I thought) the recommendations were 150 words because people had no time and were just skimming. I like the trend toward meatier articles. Avoid padding.
Will you use social media?
It is unanimous that social media users get more optimization-boosting links than non-users. I’m a committed non-user of social media. That is my choice, my loss, and I live with it very happily. Yes, it is disappointing to have my site’s optimization penalized, but I would rather spend my time socializing with the 250+ residents of my senior community, making sure they have an interesting and challenging collection of art activities in our art studio. Keep to your values.
How long will it take to recover decent optimization of a neglected website and blog?
The pros say 3-6 months. Now before you get all testy, remember that you are committed to writing for the pleasure of sharing your knowledge and your work. People will find you, but it takes search engines a while to accept that you are a regular writer worthy of moving to the first three pages of search results where you will be found by even more people.
What if you hate to write?
I suppose there is one last bit of advice that no one writes about: If you hate writing, don’t write a wordy blog. Tight writing can make compelling reading.
Next week: The nitty-gritty of writing a blog that people will read and search engines will glom onto.Comment on or Share this Article →
It’s one thing to write content that people want to read. It’s entirely different to get them to read it. I didn’t think a sufficient number of people were reading my e-newsletter and blog to merit the time I put into them. Discouraged and burned out, I stopped publishing them.
Cool. With more time on my hands I could do other things. But gradually my web stats declined. Fewer new people visited my website. When it became apparent that my Search Engine Optimization had declined to the point of invisibility, I became very uneasy.
There are so many worthy bloggers addressing subjects of interest to artists. At the foundation of why I quit writing was the question, “What can I possibly contribute to the art blogosphere that isn’t already being written?” Content should give the reader something worthwhile. It should make the reader want more insights from that particular writer. I did not think I could provide anything new.
Reviewing the popularity of my old posts showed that some have staying power over the years, while others do not. Knowing which topics stand the test of time offers ideas for new or expanded posts. It is, at least, a starting place.
Some time ago I bookmarked copyblogger.com. Two articles are especially relevant to my current malaise: No Blog Traffic? Here’s a Simple Strategy to Seduce Readers and Win Clients made me think about who my readers are and what they want. After all, I am writing for them, not for myself. The author, Henneke Duistermaat, suggests identifying your single most dedicated fan who can be one person, a composite of several people, or entirely fictitious. Write for your one most dedicated fan. Henneke presents a series of questions to help you identify what your special reader wants. Click on the article--it is worth your time to read it.
The second article, 50 Can’t-Fail Techniques for Finding Great Blog Topics is especially valuable to one who has tired of blogging. This is not a ready-made list of topics. Carol Tice presents a series of techniques for finding interesting topics. Number 23 is “Talk about your mistakes” which is why I am writing this article. Neither of these articles was written for artists: Copyblogger is business oriented. It is applicable because your website is a business representation of you, the artist. They have tons of free articles and e-books that can regenerate your interest in writing about your art.
Judging by the number of abandoned blogs I see on artist's websites, burnout and loss of direction are common. Blogging exposes your website to search engines, elevates your level of expertise to people looking at your work, and helps you to define your theories about art. Learning how to write an interesting blog, headline or e-newsletter will make a difference in how you are perceived by other artists, collectors and galleries.
To put things right, I will resume blogging. It will not be as often as is recommended. To compensate, I will aim for content that will have a positive impact on readers. I will try to not be disappointed if not many people read it. Among them will surely be my most dedicated fan—the one for whom I write.Comment on or Share this Article →
Compact efficient art studio
In 2011 and 2012 I posted 4 illustrated blog entries about my compact efficient art studio. Artists continue to find them useful, judging by the web stats. The simple uncluttered style of my studio remains very functional. However, I made one tweak: To prevent paint from spattering as I work on 18x24” panels, I got a new 22x26” pressed board support that goes on the easel tray behind the panel (or canvas).
To read all four posts about my small art studio, scroll down to December 2011 and March 2012.
My efforts were not very productive to find links to other bloggers who describe their space efficient studios. However, these were interesting:
www.finearttips.com/2011/05/creating-art-in-small-studios is Lori McNee's article on small studios, her own and those of other artists.
http://www.emergencyresponsestudio.org This is just too good to ignore: A converted FEMA trailer does not fit my definition of a “compact art studio”, but the provocative concept may work for some artists in a modified form. The huge skylight would cause difficulties for artists working in color because of variations in light intensity caused by clouds passing the sun.
http://pinterest.com/apidraper/creative-art-studios Some useful storage ideas. When purchasing storage containers, realize that square is more space-efficient than round.
For all you bloggers looking for a valuable topic, compact and efficient art studio is a worthy subject. Even if you have just one thing in your studio that makes it work efficiently, post it. A friend of mine lived in her van, which was also her art studio. It was a very efficient (but not too comfortable) microcosm with floor-to-ceiling well-anchored storage.
May 28, 2013 Adding ideas as I find them:
Pinterest is a surprising resource. Google "repurposed armoirs" or some similar phrase.
While these armoires have been converted for craft use, they provide plenty of ideas for painters.Comment on or Share this Article →
"Golden Meadow" 8x10" oil on panel
There is a little magazine called Entrepreneur that I enjoy digging into every few issues. Entrepreneur is not about art, but it is very much about creativity needed to make a business thrive. Artists are by nature entrepreneurs, so why not just read an art magazine or book in which art marketing stuff has already been digested and regurgitated for you? Because you just might miss a creative opportunity.
When I read Entrepreneur’s articles I don’t think like an oil painter trying to sell some paintings online. I am open to random ideas, and while those ideas usually relate to art, it is less likely they would occur to me had I been reading an art marketing resource. For example, because donuts were so successful, someone developed a franchise around cupcakes. Surely one could do the same around a new type of art business. That kept my imagination busy until my husband quashed it with, “Sounds like a non-profit organization.” Ah well, only an hour had been spent on development, and none on research. I’ll leave it to a young entrepreneur to develop Art IzUs.
Ann Handley's article, “The Customer Capture Contraption” (Entrepreneur, September 2011) didn’t really offer new ideas about blogging, but it put a different spin on old ones. Handley is CCO of www.marketingprofs.com where you can find an abundance of free articles about marketing in general.
Few successful business people are insular. They seek ideas from a wide base and can afford ongoing professional advice . In contrast, artists tend to be insular and few of us can afford a staff of professionals. There are many good art marketing books and articles available, and you should read them. You should also reach beyond them to the broader world of marketing ideas for inspiration outside the art box.
Read some of Entrepreneur’s articles online at www.entrepreneur.comComment on or Share this Article →
So, you read my prior blog 3 Fun Tips to Make Your Blog Better and you’ve begun collecting great advice and examples in your folders. You are looking at blogs critically, deciding what makes a blog compelling. Following, are some blogging habits I appreciate (do these ring any bells with you?):
Integrated blogs: An integrated blog is part of the website. Graphic design is the same, giving both blog and website a uniform, professional look. It is true that some blogging platforms are more versatile than others, but when reading an integrated blog, your visitor never leaves your website (unless following out-bound links.) Visitors who stay on your website are more likely to browse around to see what else you has to offer. Don’t let your visitors wander off.
Out-bound links that open a new page: Too often, I follow interesting links only to lose track of the original fascinating website/blog that is full of so much valuable information. Choosing the option to open a new page (or window) for your out-bound links keeps your site available to the viewer. If a viewer likes, and doesn't lose, your site, he is more likely to bookmark it and be a return visitor.
Out-bound links that are explained: Do you like to know where you are being sent and why? Most people appreciate an explanation in the text or in one of those little balloons that opens when you hover over a link.
Blogs that give me the whole enchilada: My attention span is short. I will read a continuous blog. I will abandon a blog that gives me one enticing paragraph and then says, “click here to read more.” If you get irritated by that, don't inflict it on your readers.
A story with the painting: We all love a good story, and a good story makes a painting and the artist memorable. Such websites and blogs are more likely to get bookmarked and stay bookmarked. Aspire to be as interesting, and spend time examining their paintings and writings. These artists know how to build a good on-line following.
Titles that define the subject: Time is short. You are looking for information and the title will determine whether or not you read the article. Cute or cryptic titles get passed over. Probably, search engines pass them over, too.
If your paintings are your vision, your blog is your voice. Be clear and true.Comment on or Share this Article →
Blogging is coming of age, and the internet is full of great resources that can help you develop a blog that people want to read. This post will help you identify and save those resources so you can refer back to them.
Open a second “home page” beside this page so you can do a little internet sleuthing.
1. If you don’t have a Bookmark folder for “Blogging Tips,” make one now. Right now. Into that folder put www.problogger.net/blog/ and www.dailyblogtips.com . Both sites are written by professional bloggers, and feature articles that inform you about good blogging practices. They are not about art: They are only about blogging. Read the articles that interest you, and take time to notice titles because titles capture or lose readers. Google “blog writing tips” for more resources. Great bloggers link to other great bloggers, so follow some of their links for sites to add to your new “Blogging Tips” folder.
2. Set up another Bookmark folder. Call this one “Favorite Art Blogs.” Put into this folder art blogs that you find compelling. You will probably save art blogs for different reasons: Some are informative, others are inspiring or beautiful. Some art blogs market the art while others don’t. Collect about a dozen, (more, if you like) keep them weeded as you find better blogs, and ask yourself why you like each of them.
3. Have a place for notes. I keep a 6x9” spiral bound notebook by my computer for notes about my blog and my newsletter, The Palette Keeper. Using little stick-on dividers, the blog section is divided like this:
- Blog do’s—things I deem important to good blogging.
- Blog don’ts—things that would probably lose readers.
- Topics to write about—this is important! If you don’t maintain a list of things to blog about, your brain will turn to mush just when you really need to remind the world you exist.
- Notes—odds and ends about blogging that don’t fit elsewhere.
Check your stats a day or two after you post on your blog. Did you get a bump? If so, you have readers! Over time, your stats will reveal which of your posts are most popular, and you can use that to develop a subject theme for your blog.
I did say “Fun tips” in the title of this article. You should enjoy your blog, however much or little you write for it. Likewise, enjoy learning how to make it better. It helps if you like to write, but even if just thinking about writing makes your brain cramp you can still publish an interesting blog—just keep it short and to the point. So, how is your blog doing?Comment on or Share this Article →