Designing and Decorating your Internet home- Going back to the beginning.

DSC04255 At the end of my last post, I had a list of questions that would would help sort out the what to do in SEO and creating a internet presence.  If you are just starting, or thinking of starting to get on the web your first question would be why?  While I know there are many reasons why someone might want an internet presence,  this is aimed at authors and artists who are self promoting their product.

 

Are you selling a one time purchase product? Or are you selling yourself as a creator who has multiple products?

This is not a one time question. This is actually a question that you might want to keep in mind every time you create content.  An author with a new book might be focusing on selling that one book. They may have a back list and other works, but the sale of the new book takes priority.   I might want to sell you a large original painting to hang over your couch, but think the better approach is to market myself as a creator.  What ever you decide, the next step is to find a home.

 

Do you want to rent or own?

This is not so much a question of what you pay or do not pay, but rather of who owns the URL. 

What I mean in terms of renting, is setting up shop on someone else’s site.  There are pluses and minuses to this. The plus side is they are usually easy to set up, and come with an advantage of being part of a recognized internet presence.     WordPress, Livejournal, Etsy.com, DeviantArt and Blogger are a few of the commonly used sites.  One of the downsides, is that the url gives you away as a renter, and there are limitations on getting the site exactly as you want it. 

My blog started out at the URL  https://rennata.wordpress.com, a rental.  It is now located at http://rennatatropeano.com/growingunique, an URL that is clearly mine.

 

Do you want the upkeep that comes with the larger mansion, or do you want the simplicity and ease of a studio apartment?

One of the main reasons I brought the two together is that I did not want to have to promote my blog at wordpress, my website, and my online gallery.  I could have just run my entire website on wordpress under my own URL, I think of this as the studio apartment. Easy, with everything all together in one place.  I had reached the point where the blog was just not big enough to do everything I wanted it to do. I wanted a full searchable online gallery, and I wanted all the functionality of the blog, and I wanted something to tie them all together.  The gallery, the website and the blog each have their own controls, and require a bit of maintenance in each place. It is a tradeoff that I chose for the increased functionality.

As I move forward with series of posts, I am going to explore my options on each choice, so I am sure that I will be making changes to each.  This is where they are today, the starting point.

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Designing and Decorating your Internet home.

Breaking Fast This morning found me up at an unreasonably early hour.  I started reading some of the blog posts that  I had marked as “come back to later”.  They were all about creating an online presence.   One of them asked the question, “what do you want from your visitors?”  The answer in that blog was a sale.  I do not deny that I also want sales, but I want more. I want a relationship with my visitors that leads to sales.   Author Steven Saus did a great job of  explaining the difference in his guest blog post,  “The Used Car Salesperson” Versus “The Family Dealership” (you can find a link to Steve’s site under authors and artists).

Some of the blog posts talked about directing or moving people around your website, others spoke about welcoming them in and creating a community.  This reminded me of my still life, Breaking Fast.  It was taken in a room that was perfectly designed to be welcoming, intimate, and draw you in. The moment you walked into this room, you wanted to take a seat at the big crescent shaped table.  The crescent shape let you see and talk to anyone around the table.  The table faced a window that looked out across the lawn to the river.  An incredible Tiffany fireplace flanked the table. This picture does not capture the beauty of the fireplace, the mosaic tiles created a depth difficult to capture in a photograph.

Tiffany Fireplace All and all, it was the kind of room that drew you in and would inspire you to stay chat and linger over coffee or tea.  The tour guide told us that many a great business deal was made here, not in the boardroom. This is what I want in my website, a well designed place of beauty that can lead to lasting business relationships.  How do I translate this perfection of design into my internet presence? The business grew out of the relationship between the host and his guests.  Part of what made this room perfect was that it was designed to be a breakfast room.  It was not trying to be the dining room, the kitchen table, the study, the music room and a place of business as well.  I tried  to think of what part of my web presence could be my perfect breakfast room. My Blog? My website? My online gallery?  I have just brought these all together so that I can have a single “home address” on the internet for SEO purposes.  Taking this analogy a step further, What does that make social media?  My first answer was the door,  but that did not quite work. I decided that they were more like outposts with portals to my home.

When it comes to social media,  I have always thought of Facebook as a large cocktail party, Twitter as an elevator conversation, Livejournal as a conversation in a coffee shop. Flickr is a bit like flipping through someone’s photo albums. Second Life is very much an amusement park with Conference Center facilities.  I am not at all sure what Google+ will turn out to be, but I think they want to be my whole neighborhood.   What I am discovering is that the real question is where do our websites and blogs fit into all this?  Reading the wildly conflicting suggestions for how to “manage” social media,  I could sort them into the used car or family dealership models easily enough, the harder part was knowing which ones would work for both your product and your internet presence.   Are you selling a one time purchase product? Or are you selling yourself as a creator who has multiple products. Do you want the upkeep that comes with the elegantly designed mansion, or do you want the simplicity and ease of a studio apartment? Do you want to rent or own?  Each of these choices would result in a different answer applying.   I shall review my online home, and it’s out lying portals in a series of posts on this topic.

 

This post was originally posted at  http://www.rennatatropeano.com/growingunique

The Battle to Make the Grade

Recently I attended a webinar run by Phil Simon, in which he recommended a few tools for improving the SEO rating of your website/blog.  Being a good webinar learner went and ran my website through one of the tools, Website Grader. I received a 50 on my first try, and a well written page of suggestions on how to improve my grade.  One of the suggestions was moving my blog to my website.

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I started my blog on wordpress.org because of all the blogging formats I had tried, it was the one that felt the best. As I started developing my own website as an artist, writer and designer, I kept the blog on the wordpress site.  I had a list of reasons why the blog and the website were fine being in two locations. I had put a lot of time and energy into it. I was linked into a number of artistic communities through the wordpress open id.

Then came that 50. That translated in my mind as failing.  Then I recalled the quote:

“There is no failure except in no longer trying” – Elbert Hubbard

So, the logical thing to do was to move the blog.  I am sure that some of you are wondering what this has to do with an artistic journey. Isn’t being creative all about what you are making, writing or designing?

To which I have to ask, “ Do you want to make a living doing what you do?” If yes, chances are that you will need to spend either some time or some money on developing your website, your SEO and your online presence. 

I decided to take a number of the suggestions that Phil gave us in the webinar, and the suggestions from Website Grader and turn them into a battle plan to bring that 50 up as high as I can get it.  Between the move and a few other minor changes I managed to get the score up to 72. 

SEO and all the fun stuff.

I have been enjoying the fun side of being an artist, the going out and creating new artwork.  However, I created more paintings than I could enter into the competition.   I find myself faced with the challenge of finding homes for the other paintings.  While they are both on display at The Gaslight Gallery, I will be adding them to my own personal online gallery, and listing them in a variety of online locations.  Nashawannuck Pond I have been posting pictures with the traditional information of: ”Rennata M. Tropeano, Nashawannuck Pond, Painting 11×14 inches ©2010”, with a picture.

The good news is that is easy to see what the painting looks like from the picture. The bad news is that search engines will not pick up the picture and show it to the person looking for it unless they search by the title, my name or the size. That is where SEO or search engine optimization comes in.  I recently read an article from Art ID that gave really good suggestions for how to write entries for art pieces. 

Based on the information in the article I came up with the following: Original acrylic painting of Nashawannuck Pond with a duck swimming on the water against a background of bright green foliage and dark green shadows. The skyline includes the Mount Tom peak of the Metacomet Ridge.  Fully painted gallery wrap, ready to hang.  This Plein Air painting was completed during the "Paint Out" competition in East Hampton MA.   I turned this into a list of tags:

I was surprised at how many things I had to go back and look up about something I just painted.

As I was making an Etsy listing, I found that I needed to track even more information about my art, namely what it was made of, so I added:

100% cotton canvas Gallery-stretched over 7/8"solid pine stretcher bars and hand-splined, primed with acid free titanium gesso painted with acrylic paint. This information was also boiled down to searchable tags as well, Cotton Canvas, pine stretcher bars etc.

Several hours later I now have an optimized listing, with complete materials list and tag list.  To make my life easier in the future, I started a spread sheet in Google docs to track all this.  I know that my next 10 11×14 painting listing will be much easier, as the materials list is now just a cut and paste away.

While none of this is as fun as the making the painting, it will be interesting to see how much effect it has in views and in sales.