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SEO for Artists: Structuring URLs
by Clint Watson
For those of you who don't know "SEO" is short for "Search Engine Optimization."
SEO is a collection of practices that are intended to "optimize" a website for maximum visibility in search engine results....and I say "search engines" to be nice to Bing, Yahoo and the others - in 2010 SEO basically means you're trying to rank at the top of the results in Google for various searches.
I've become known as the "anti SEO" art marketing guy. That's because I've been quite public in my opinion that, for the most part, SEO is not a great use of an artist's marketing time....especially when artists become obsessed and spend tons of time and money on SEO to the detriment of other, much more effective and important marketing activities. I still feel this way. However, lots of artists are interested in SEO, and there are a lot of SEO-related activites that don't have to take a lot of time. In addition, and contrary to what some out there may think, I do actually know a ton about SEO. (You see while SEO may not be the best use of resources for selling paintings - it happens to be a great marketing channel for the types of products my company sells).
So without further adieu, today's topic is "Structuring URLs."
What are URLS?
A "URL" is another geeky abbreviation. It stands for "Uniform Resource Locator." A lot of us know it as a "web address."
Every web page on the Internet has a unique URL. For example, this article's URL is:
So, thinking about SEO, ask yourself, what's the best way for you to structure your URLs?
How Google Works - a Very Basic Overview
To answer that question you need a bit of an idea how Google works. Google uses hundreds of signals which they feed into a fancy computer program called an "algorithm." Google's algorithm looks at all kinds of information to determine which pages to show you when you search for something.
Here are a few of the questions that SEO people suspect Google asks as it evaluates each web page:
How many links are pointing to this page?
Do the search terms appear on the page? If so, where?
How old is the domain that this page resides on?
Is it a domain that I (Google) trust?
Do the links come from sources that I trust?
Do the link sources have lots of links pointing to them?
Does the anchor text of the links pointing to the page contain the search term?
Is the IP Address hosting the domain trustworthy...or is it known to host spammers?
Does the content of the page appear to be copied from somewhere else?
Does the content of this page appear multiple times on the domain? If so, how do I know which copy to show in the results?
Do the search terms appear in the domain for this page?
Do the search terms appear in the URL for this page?
Search Terms in URLs
As you can see, running a search engine is complicated! However, for today's discussion we're only interested in that last question, "Do the search terms appear in the URL for this page?"
With that question in mind look at the following URLs and ask yourself which one likely is more "SEO friendly:"
Most people would probably suspect the second URL is more "friendly." Just by looking at it you get an idea that someone named "Keith Bond" has some sort of "work" probably named "poudre canyon autumn."
So let's do a search.
I went to Google and searched for "poudre canyon art."
Keith Bond's painting comes up on page 1 of the results in the 4th spot:
I gave up on finding Bob Brown's painting in the search results after getting to page 20 of the results and not seeing it. I also tried a search for "Poudre river art" since Mr. Brown's painting is of the Poudre river trail and that is the title. (note - I'm not picking on Mr. Brown - it may be that SEO is not a focus for him because he's out....well......painting - which is a good thing. Remember there are much more effective marketing strategies than SEO).
So what's the difference in these two pages? Why does one appear near the top in Google and one doesn't appear to rank?
That is a difficult question to answer definitively as there could be many differences, but looking at the URLs alone, the difference is that Keith's site has the words "poudre-canyon-autumn" in the URL (Google interprets hypens as spaces) and Bob's site has no descriptive words in the URL.
The takeaway for you is that, if you can control your URLs try to make them mirror the titles/descriptions of your paintings to help your artworks have a better chance of ranking for what we call specific "long tail" queries.....and if you can't control your URLs.....well......don't worry too much about it, just go paint!
Now, go change the world.
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic
Clint Watson is a former art gallery owner/director/salesperson and founder of FineArtViews. You should follow Clint on Twitter here.
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