This is another big one, but if you (or someone you know) has a blog or website, or you are planning to one day, I think this information will be pretty valuable.
When you write a clay focused blog, your intention is that someone out there will read what you’re writing. In the beginning you’ll have friends and family that will read your blog regularly. Then maybe some regular customers and other ceramic artists that you’ve gotten to know.
But if you want to have other people, people outside of your circle, start reading your blog, you need to put some effort into it. There is some straight up time that you need to invest, and then there is a bit of retraining yourself on how you blog to help get others to find your blog.
If I Google “Pottery Blog” or “Ceramics Blog” or some sort of similar thing, I’m surprised at the top 30 results. There are things that haven’t been updated in years or month, or ones that are sort of spammy. But some of my favorite (and I know highly read) pottery blogs aren’t near the top listings as they should be. Why aren’t they?
One of the reasons that I really love blogging is the community that has developed around it- of other bloggers, regular readers and commenters. I think if the ceramics blogs were a little easier to find it would just boost the community even more. So I thought I’d share with you some of the search engine optimization that I have researched and implemented over the years. There is a lot of information here, but it’s all basically free. You just need to put in some time and energy and you’ll get some great results. Here you go…
Have your own domain name.
This is something that I can’t stress strongly enough. Google doesn’t seem to index sites that are name.blogspot.com or name.wordpress.com very well so they can come up low in search results. And if your domain name has something in it like your name, or something describing your process, that will be an added bonus to help get better search results.
You can sign up for a domain name for only $12/ yr. on Joker.com (Network Solutions charges $35 for EXACTLY the same service). Or if you’re using WordPress.com, it’s $15 for your domain name and hosting for a year, or if you already have a domain name, then it’s only $10 for hosting/ yr. If you’re using Blogger, then it is no extra cost once you’ve purchased a domain name (hosting is free!), or you can buy your domain name directly through blogger. By purchasing your domain directly through WordPress or Blogger you’ll save a step in the whole process of setting up your own domain. It’s a VERY small investment for your biggest impact (think about the price of postcards…). And it’s a heck of alot easier to tell people your blog’s address. While I use Blogger, if I was starting a new blog I’d start with WordPress.
Label your pictures.
The top 3 ways people get to PotteryBlog.com:
- Direct (bookmark, email, typing in address)
- Google images
I label all of my pictures very conciously. I might name something: stoneware-vase-soda-fired-Emily-Murphy.jpg* It’s long, but Google likes all the descriptor words and my images come up very high in search results. There was a period of training that I had to go through, but it’s second nature now and doesn’t take much extra time. I mix it up too. Use “sodafired” and “soda-fired” or maybe I’ll throw in “Chicago” or “pottery.” It allows different pictures to show up in different search results.
*You might have noticed the dashes in my image name. You can’t have any spaces in your image name (at least in Blogger you can’t). Use a “-” or “_” to separate words.
Watch your language.
- Diversify your words. This is another one of those things that you have to train yourself on. Words. Google loves words. Words are the main reason that your blog/site will show up in search engines. If you just have pictures with minimal text, Google won’t pay that much attention. That isn’t such an issue with blogs. But what you can do is diversify your words. For example, don’t just use the word pottery: use clay, ceramics, tableware, stoneware, porcelain, dinnerware, pots, etc… mix it up. Do this conciously at first and eventually it’ll flow when you write. Below I have some information on Google Analytics. One thing that you can see on Google Analytics is the key words and phrases that people are using to find your site. Maybe you think that everyone is searching the term “pottery” because that is your go-to search term. But you might find out that everyone else is looking up “honey pot” and “wax resist.” You just don’t know what people are searching for, but if you diversify, you’ll have better results. You might be inspired to write about wax resist more often because that is what people are searching for.
- Use straightforward titles for your post. The title becomes the url for your post. If it’s full of useful information, it’ll do better in search results. If you use WordPress and your url has %P=5 or something like that in it, there is an easy setting that you can change so you have better urls.
- Use actual text, not images. This one is a problem on a lot of websites. You want to have control over the fonts, so you turn your address (for example) into a nice little graphic. Unfortuately it makes it so Google can’t “read” your address.
Get incoming links.
Incoming links give you status. Along with the words that you use, it’s the top thing that gets you up high in search results. You can get them for “free, ” you can pay (not something that I do), or you can link to someone and have them link to you (sometimes it’s reciprocal, sometimes not).
- Sign up for various blog search engines. It won’t actually get you much traffic via the sites, but it is usually a free incoming link (just Google “free blog listings” or “blog search engines”, etc…) Here is a list of search engines by type. It might give you some ideas.
- Link to your blog from your social networking site, like Facebook. You can even add your RSS feed on different sites, like here.
- StumbleUpon. This is huge. I’m always surprised and the number of visitors I have from StumbleUpon. I don’t even know how to expain it. Just go there and see. There are days when it’s my #1 referrer.
- Link from your regular site to your blog (sounds obvious, but it must be said).
- Link to other people’s blog. Share a link to a specific post on their blog on your blog. Be GENEROUS with your links. And then be patient, they’ll come. I’m not a fan of asking someone directly “I’ll link to you, if you link to me.” Put it out there and it’ll come back to you (both good Karma and links). The top referrer sites for my blog (outside of Google and my own site) are Michael Kline’s blog and Ron Philbeck’s blog.
- Comment on other people’s blogs. Do it because you want to, but enjoy the side effects. People are more likely to read your blog if comment on yours. They want to see who is reading their blog, so they’ll follow the links. There is often a place for your website to be listed. Or at least a link to your Blogger Profile where a link to your blog can be found. And it’s also the best way to be part of the great and generous community of clay bloggers. Some great conversations happen all happen in the comments. The more comments you put out there, the more that you’ll get on your site. And commenting is good for the soul.
- Combine the previous two points- comment on a blog on your website (with links and everything). It could be the start of a great conversation.
One of the main reasons that you have a clay blog is to get your work known in the world. People that live near you are the ones most likely to come to your booth at an art fair or stop by your studio when it’s holiday shopping time. Make it clear where you’re from, and get it out there that you’re a potter/ tile maker/ sculptor who live in mid-size city, USA. And if one of your loyal blog readers happen to be visiting you mid-size city, they’ll be excited to come visit you.
- Are there blog sites just for your area? (For me there are several, including: ChicagoBloggers.com and ChicagoBlogMap.com.)
- Do you belong to a guild, art group or some other group that has a website that will link to you?
- Are there free papers and sites that you can list in for “things to do” or “galleries”?
- Is there a local tourism site?
- Put your studio address on every page (usually a footer) so that search engines can associate your pages with your location.
Encourage your readers.
Once you have people hooked on your blog, you want to make it EASY for them to keep up with your bountiful postings. There are 2 main ways to do it.
- Use an email list. Clay people aren’t necessarily blog readers, but you want them to be. The easiest way to do this is to set up an mailing list where people can sign up to automatically get an email from you whenever you write a new post. I think there is also a way to do a mailing list through FeedBurner. I have mine set up through Google Groups (go here if you want to see it or sign up for it).
- Have an RSS or Atom feed and encourage people to use it! If you don’t have a feed, people are going to have to remember to come back to your blog and read it. There is so much to remember to do, don’t make people remember to manually go back to you blog to see if you wrote or not. I read 90% of my blogs through my blog reader. For more information on using a blog reader, go here.
- Remember that clay blogs are still pretty new and there is still a lot of educating to be done. Do some educating on how to keep track of blogs. If you don’t want to write about it, you can alway share the link to my post about the subject.
Is anybody out there?
A common feeling that is had by anyone who blogs is that no one is reading it. Well, it just isn’t true. There are ways to find out who is reading your blog. When you start getting back the results and realize that people from all over the world are reading your blog, you’ll be energized and you’ll write even more than usual.
Just remember, it’ll take time- usually up to a month, to start getting true results from these sites.
- Google Analytics. I LOVE Google Analytics! I can find out where people are coming from from countries to actual cities and towns. I can see all incoming links to me, find out how long they were on the site, etc… I love seeing the key words and phrases too. Some can be quite surprising.
- Google Webmaster. I haven’t figured this out, but you should sign up for it and see what it does for you. It has some tools to help Google see content on your site. Some of what it does is handled automatically by the blog software.
- Feed Burner A good way to manage your RSS/Atom feeds, and potentially a mailing list. You can also find out how many people are subscribed to your feed. If people are reading your blog via a blog reader, they will not show up on your Analytics results. You need something like this to find that out.
- Technorati I can easily keep track of all my incoming links (from other blogs) on here.
- Quantcast I just discovered this, so I don’t have enough info to know if it’s good or not.
I hope this was helpful to you. I suspect this will be one to bookmark and take a while to go through (if you’re a blogger). If there are some tips and tricks that you use, share them and I’ll update this post. Although I am talking about search engine optimization for clay bloggers, it’s applicable for websites and non-ceramic focused sites too. If you think that other people might find this post useful, put a link to it up on your site. Thanks for reading!