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Art and the Internet - Myth and Reality

 
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opticalparadox
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Joined: 25 Mar 2005
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Location: Leeds, West Yorkshire

PostPosted: Sat Nov 03, 2007 11:59 pm    Post subject: Art and the Internet - Myth and Reality Reply with quote

An article on Ecademy.com today...

"Many artists have been persuaded that they must have their own website if they are to be successful. They believe that a web presence is fundamental to promoting themselves as artists of standing. This is not so.

If you are already an artist with a good reputation, patronage from a substantial collector or a reputable gallery, or, popular awareness, a website may marginally enhance your proposition. If you are not, then your own personal website is just a waste of money. Why is this?

There are over thirty million websites on the Internet, each seeking visitors to them. In order to attract visitors, websites need to be known by the seeker, or, the potential seeker uses guides to locate what they want. These guides can take two forms; the search engine such as Google, Ask, MSN search etc where by putting in a search term, the engine provides a list of sites satisfying this criteria; direction from a portal, a site that is trusted by the user to be knowledgeable about the particular area of interest.

Let us deal with the search engines first. Search engines send out programmes that look at websites across the Internet and match each site against a list of terms or key-words. They then construct an index which lists those sites against key-words and rank them according to some criteria. So, if you put in a search term such as 'painter', the search engine will look at its index and present a list of websites in priority order that matches the word 'painter'.

As you can imagine, such a search will yield hundreds of thousands of potential sites. This search could include artists, interior decorators, equipment to apply paint, industrial paint specialists, etc. Each of these will be prioritised according to some rule by the search engines. You can get ahead of the general search by paying to be associated with specific keywords. This means that your site will be listed on the first page as a sponsored link. This is one of the ways the search engine companies make money. The more popular the search term, the more expensive it is to be listed against the key-word or phrase.

Unless you pay for a link, chances are your site will not be listed in the first few pages. However, if you understand the criteria being used by the search engines to index, you can increase your chances of being on the first few pages significantly. There are people who offer such services to website owners. They advise on techniques to ensure that your site gets 'an unfair share of the shout'. These techniques are called Search Engine Optimisation or SEO. Typically SEO specialists will charge several hundred pounds per day for advice. Some will even offer to do promotional work for your site and this would cost in the region of thousands of pounds per month.

So, as an artist with a typical website that has details about you, some images of your art and perhaps a contact form, you are unlikely to be noticed by search engines. Even though you might have paid a web designer several thousand pounds to build you a site and pay several a hundred pounds annually for hosting the site, this expenditure is unlikely to have any effect. You can improve your chances by paying for key-words or you could get an SEO specialist to assist. Both are a significant cost for a struggling artist.

Once you have your site, the other option is to pay to be associated with a specialist portal. A portal is just another Internet site that specialises in a particular area of interest. Portals claim that they can provide visitors to your site through getting their viewers to click on links to your site.

There are two fundamental problems with portals. Unless the portal can attract people to there own site, then referred traffic is going to be insignificant. Therefore the portal itself has to be search engine optimised. The second problem is that popular portals that can truly give you traffic will inevitably charge you for the traffic. Once again, this would be a significant cost for a struggling artist.

You might decide not to build your own site but to promote yourself using social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook. At least using these sites tebd to be free. However, you still have the problem of getting people to visit your pages on the site and unless you are very active in promoting yourself, the benefits of being on such sites are marginal."

David Chan
http://www.artrealart.co.uk/
http://www.artmakers.co.uk/
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Last edited by opticalparadox on Sun Nov 04, 2007 12:03 am; edited 1 time in total
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opticalparadox
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Joined: 25 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2007 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"David

I think this article is from a very blinkered point of view.

Many artists have websites and do not expect people to come to them from the search engines they see the website as a central point in their marketing where they can send people to look at their range of products (thats what they are at the end of the day) without having to carry the complete range with them to show people. It is also a vehicle for them to collect payment via the likes of paypal when they know that they would not get merchant facilities from the bank.

Another point is cost and updating - if you produce a printed catalogue using traditional print then with design and print costs a 20 page brochure with a run of 1000 prints would typically be around 2,200 to 2,500. You can't change it and are you likely to use 1000 brochures? A good website with database and the ability to add and remove picture, news, frequently asked questions etc can be had for around half the catalogue cost, is available 24 x 7 and has no delivery cost. A campaign to promote the site using ecademy and its google abilty costs just 10 plus VAT per month.

The sites linked to on your posting are rather old fashioned in their look and feel, are plastered with google ads and are consequently likely not to be taken too seriously and clicked away from quite quickly.

They are also unfriendly in their construction using no CSS and being table based plus no effort appears to be made to encourage the search engines to crawl the site.

Are you seeing no return on the investment you have made in these sites and is that what has led you to write this article?"

Kind regards

Jon Upton
http://www.thinkanddo.co.uk/
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opticalparadox
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2007 12:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"While I can't fault what you have said here, I wonder if you are somewhat missing the point. Anyone who sets up a website for whatever reason is going to come across the same issues as you have laid out here, they aren't restricted to artists. The problem is that a lot of self representing artists have a lot of trouble thinking of themselves in the same terms as a plumber or a toy shop or an accountant or a web designer - but the internet makes no such distinction.

Should an artist have their own website? Not necessarily, although it can't hurt. What they mustn't do is fall into the trap of thinking "If I build it, they will come" - that way lies madness. It's all to easy to see the internet as this enormous sea of people all sloshing around wating to come across your site, and to rationalise that even if only a tiny fraction come across your site your bound to find some people who really like your work, but as you have said, it just doesn't work that way.

As Jon says, an artist should use their website as their business card or brochure - direct the people that they speak to towards it, add a link to in their e-mail signature and yes, use places like ecademy/facebook/myspace/whatever to promote it. They should update it regularly and try to get their art work featured on the various sites/blogs that delight in finding new talent (eg a link from boingboing is somewhat akin to getting slashdotted), they should build up a newsletter list and keep people who are interested in their art updated, and they should update their site regularly...

People buy artists as much as they buy art - keeping a blog which allows people to see the development of a work of art, or the inspiration, or get a feel for the artist themselves can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool. I would even go so far as suggesting that a well set up blog would be an effective alternative to a traditional website, using a static page as an online gallery incoporating a system such as paypal or google checkout in order to take payment.

Promoting yourself as an artist is hard work, which is why galleries exist (and why we earn our commission). It can be expensive if you're not careful, and it is often time consuming, but if you want people to find you and your work online, then it has to be done, there are no shortcuts. "

Lydia Bates (Artfinder)
http://www.lydiabates.com
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opticalparadox
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2007 12:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My response:

I agree with Jon, David. It seems a very negative article. I'd say with whatever area you specialise in, you have to persevere and keep putting yourself out there in order to be recognised.

A website with some attention to SEO can find it's way into search engines. I agree you are never going to hit the top slot for 'artist' or 'painter,' you need to pick more specific keyphrases ie: what you do and where you are located. I helped build the website for my friend Richard Crookes, who is a calligrapher (he designed it) and it can be found on page 1 when searching for a Yorkshire calligrapher. Putting the link on top of such a key phrase would help too if these comments were crawled by google. I believe it is possible to build up traffic if you partake in link exchanges with other art-based websites, using signature links in forum posts and in submitting your site to online directories. Online networking and word of mouth can be particularly successful too but again you have to keep motivated in order to get noticed and try not to get too disheartened when dealing with rejection etc.

I actually have my own artist's site, the Artistic directory. I charge 25 a year for an online portfolio with personal info / contact details and up to 9 pieces of artwork (which can be updated anytime). The adjoining forum / community is free to participate in. When creating the site, I believed it was providing a cheaper alternative to purchasing a full website. (I remember having to pay at least 10 more for just the hosting on my first website). But still if an artist / designer wanted a website at a reasonable fee, I can provide that also, since I am a web designer. I know one Ad member was grateful, since a previous client had lost her contact details but was able to find her again after entering 'Claire MacDonald illustrator' into google. Therefore, I don't think artist's should disregard the web as a tool for promoting their artwork but it is down to the individual, how much time / money / effort they want to invest - Jen

I may have rambled somewhat...
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Wendy W
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Joined: 05 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2007 3:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That wasn't rambling. I've seen much worse. Razz

You made a good point. I've found some very interesting sites of work by pretty much unknown artists just by typing in combinations of words like "surrealist" and "photography" together and those sites have been right near the top of the list because the person that put the site together knew what they were doing. That's a pretty vague search too, so it just goes to prove it can work.
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