Table of Contents
Today, online platforms are vital to any artist wanting to promote their work. Understanding how to optimise your images to be web-friendly, and help promote your site in the search engines, is a key skill for artists who want to exhibit their work online to a world-wide audience.
Entire books have been written about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). These are techniques and practices that help you place higher in search engine results and, hopefully, outrank your competition. One of the most important factors in SEO is image optimisation. Thus, it is vital that you make your image files web-friendly before posting them to your website or other online platforms.
Use Unique Photos and Images
It’s more important now than ever for everything you publish online to be uniquely yours. Search engines (especially Google) do not like repeated content – in fact, they can penalise your placing in the search rankings if they find you have repetitive text on your site, or you’ve used text from another site.
Less known, is the fact that they also don’t like repeated images! They definitely do not like one website using the same photos as another site. So… if you make use of commonly available stock photos, you might be harming your website’s search rankings.
Since the images of your art are unique, this becomes important for any auxiliary images you use on your website (i.e.: that complement a page, text, or article, but are not photos of your work). You should either take these photos yourself, hire a professional or friend to take custom photos, or use an AI image generator to create them.
Photos of your own art do not have an issue with duplicate content. That said, it is vital that you use high-quality photos of your art. Make sure they show the entire work (not cropped), are in focus, are high-resolution, don’t have distracting extras or backgrounds beyond your work, and are not keystoned (taken on an angle so that the piece is skewed). If you want to create a professional impression of your art, you need it to be represented professionally.
Naming Your Image Files
The names of the image or photo files used on your website should be descriptive of what is pictured. Rename non-descriptive file names like “IMG_4459.jpg” to something like “Artist_in_the_Studio.jpg.” Don’t make this too wordy. If it’s an image of your art, use the title of the work.
Why is this important, since visitors to your site don’t see these filenames? Because search engines can only read text, so they use your filenames to learn more about each image and decide how they should categorise them in the search results.
To further promote yourself in searches (not just your work), include your name in each image filename (e.g.: “Your_Name_Artist_in_the_Studio.jpg“). You can test how effective this is by using Google Image Search, and entering your name. The results will let you see whether you are using effective filenames. If you’re doing this right, all of your work should show up in these results.
OK… What ARE you talking about? Hidden within the underlying code of your website, each of your images can have a “tag” added to it. Don’t worry! You don’t need to understand website code to use these… read on…
The tags we are interested in are called the “Alt” tag and the “Title” tag. Again, these are not visible to your visitors, but search engines pay a lot of attention to them. These supplement your descriptive filenames by adding even more information about your images. The more the search engine understands your images, the more likely they are to appear in relevant searches (and rank higher than other artists who don’t use tags!).
Most website builder apps or content management systems (such as WordPress) have a simple means of adding images using a pop-up dialog box for dragging-and-dropping your image, or selecting it on your device.
In this box there will also be fields you can fill in for both “Title” and “Alternative Text.” The “Title” entry should be brief, but can expand on your filename text. The “Alternative Text” entry can be much more descriptive, with additional details about the image content (or your piece), you, your type of art, etc. Keep this to a single brief paragraph – it’s not an essay – don’t write multiple paragraphs.
Optimise Your Image Files
The time it takes your website to load before a visitor can browse it is a key measurement that search engines use to rank your site. Modern Internet users have almost zero patience – they want instant results. Study after study has shown that slow loading sites are frequently abandoned by visitors before they finish loading – they move on to another, faster, site. Search engines are well aware of this, and part of their ranking mechanism is the speed of your pages.
The single biggest slow-down for websites are images. Artist sites tend to be image-rich, so this is an important consideration. It is vital that you optimise your images for speed!
Image optimisation reduces the file size of your image as much as possible without visibly reducing the quality of your image. The smaller the file size, the faster the image will load. The cumulative effect of doing this for all your images will result in much faster load times for your site. This helps you rank in the search results, as well as keeping your visitors engaged, instead of leaving.
Great, but how do I optimise my images? The good news is you don’t need to be a Photoshop wizard to do this. There are several simple-to-use (and free!) online apps, such as Compress NOW, Tiny PNG (also supports JPG), and ImageRecycle.
The reason you have a website should be to promote you and your art to a broader audience beyond your local market (although it should reach them as well). The more exposure you have beyond people wandering through exhibitions you attend, the more art you can potentially sell.
To achieve this goal, you must appear as high up as possible in the search results for relevant search terms. Artist websites typically have a lot of images, and making your site web-friendly from the perspective of these images will go a long way to achieving your goal of appearing in Internet searches.