How do I get people to read my blog? The basics for visual artists

Becky Hunter's art blog

There are a host of reasons to set up a blog around your art practice. Blogging allows you to reflect on your work, or on the specific issues that artists face on a daily basis. These include overcoming creative block, getting paid, relating to art history, and balancing a search for community with the much-needed isolation of the studio.

You’ll learn new skills, such as HTML, CSS, photo editing, and writing for new audiences. Of course, if you blog with a little forethought, you’ll also promote your sculpture, drawing, painting, or performance, and meet some wonderful co-conspirators along the way.

Whether you already keep a blog, or are thinking about setting one up, at some point it’s likely you’ll find yourself asking: “How do I get people to read my blog?” I’ve written this post in questionnaire style with the basics in mind, and will get into more depth in the New Year.

Do you read other artists’ blogs?

Blogging is all about community. If you want people to read your blog, first read theirs. If you enjoy – or disagree with – what they have to say, leave a polite, informed comment, or send a friendly email. Alternatively, respond to their writing with a post of your own, linking back to their site. Especially within creative circles, building meaningful relationships is more important than having sky-high visitor numbers.

Have you enabled pingbacks and trackbacks?

On your blogging dashboard you should be able to click a box which enables pingbacks and trackbacks. These odd-sounding functions automatically let other bloggers know when you have linked to them in one of your posts, and similarly will inform you when someone has linked to you. A simple way to initiate a conversation.

Do you keep up with art news or debates in your field?

I’m definitely not a fan of living life online, or obsessively following everyone’s blog, tweet, or tidbit of news. But if you sometimes post a timely, thoughtful response to a provocative debate your site will maintain a relevant edge that will draw people in.

Are you helping anyone?

One of the main reasons that people read online material is to find out how to do things. As well as writing about your practice, share your expertise. Perhaps you know how to stretch canvas so that it will never ever buckle, or you can succinctly explain the financial ins and outs of artistic self-employment. Write about it.

Are you being honest about your life?

I wouldn’t recommend turning your blog into a whinge-fest, but occasionally being open about problems, challenges, and feelings – as well as triumphs – builds genuine intimacy and engagement with readers. Two artists that do this well are Emily Speed and Rosalind Davis. They share difficulties, such as a gallery damaging their work, or being evicted from a studio building, and then use their experiences to fight for better working conditions for artists.

Do you update your blog regularly?

Google and other search engines favour frequently updated websites in their ranking system. It’s best to post three times a week, but this can get time consuming, especially for portfolio career-juggling artists. Google now ranks on post quality as well as quantity, so fewer, well written pieces may pop up in searches just as well. Experiment with posting schedules that work for you, but don’t let it become a source of anxiety. For artists, making art has got to come first.

Do you use SEO software?

SEO means Search Engine Optimization. This translates to: the things you can do to help Google find your blog and understand what it is about. Most blogs come with certain SEO tools inbuilt, such as tags, headlines, categories, and space to type in descriptions when you upload images. Make sure you fill in all of these with relevant information. I’ll be writing a full post on this later, but consider checking out SEO Plugins too.

Do you talk about your blog on your social networks?

If you tweet, or use Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn, send a quick reminder to your friends, colleagues, and followers each time you upload a new blog post. Also, use your social networks to find out what people want to read about. You might set this as your status update: “I’m writing a new painting technique advice column on my blog. Send me your questions!”

Do you engage with online artist communities?

Posting extracts of your blog on sites like Artists Talking, commenting on artists’ blogs hosted there, or uploading your portfolio with a link to your site at Re-title, Rise Art, or jotta should attract some new readers.

If you’re interested in growing your blog, but this list is a little overwhelming, just pick one thing to work on each week, or even each month in 2012. It’s about trial and error – but gently does it!

Extra Reading

Rachel Hills on building a readership that cares about your work
Problogger presents Darwin’s survival of the fittest blog
Thoughtfully styling your text will draw in more readers, says Copyblogger

This post is the first in an occasional series on art websites and blogging. If you have a burning question on art blogging, ask Rebecca via Twitter or email and we’ll do our best to answer it here.

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