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Friday, December 18, 2009

So You have a Craft Site...Now what?! (pt. 2)

Enough about links, let's look at the website itself and how it all comes down to one simple statement...Content is King. It's not necessarily how pretty the pictures are, how well you've made something, the how original or soul stirring your artwork is. It's the actual words, where and how they appear in your website that's important. Think of yourself as computer. You can't really appreciate that certain something that makes you either love or hate a piece of art. All you have to go on is the words that are used to describe it. Makes you glad you aren't a computer I bet.

Another thing to keep in mind and one of the least creative parts of your art or craft website is optimising. It makes mean cringe in pain to even think about it! Blah! The webby crowd refers to it as SEO or Search Engine Optimization. What this means is that while you need to build a pretty site that looks good, underneath you really need to make it look good for search engines like Bing, AOL and Google. Most of what you do for these guys is never seen by the average surfer to your website and you don't even know it's there when you look at others'.

The following ideas will help with both the content of your website and getting that soulless computer to think your website is the epitome of awesomeness. These are simple tips to always keep in mind whether it's your personal craft website, blog, or even your shop at one of the online marketplaces.

The Topic of Your Site
Stick to as limited a topic as you possibly can. I find this tough because I make a bunch of different things. I crochet, knit, bead weave, and sell antiques on my sites. They're not overly related so I've tried to keep them as separated as possible. You could make up separate websites for each type of thing you make but for me that would be too much of a hassle and I just don't have that kind of time, or patience!

Another word about keeping your content as focused as possible...There are lots of affiliate marketing companies out there like Commission Junction, LinkShare, and others. Just because your art site has been approved or you've been approached by advertisers doesn't mean you should include their content. If you operate a woodworking site, yes it would make sense to advertise tools, but not fabric, beads or scrap booking supplies. Yes we all want to supplement our incomes and make a little extra cash on the side, but doing this will only hurt you in the long run and you probably won't get a whole lot of people who want to click the ads anyways. Besides,they came for woodworking, not a sale on ribbon.

I'm not going to get into creative ways to generate ad revenue on your website right now. I may do it as another topic at a later date, but if you're interested do your own search and you will find a bunch of information on it. If you are interested in advertising for your website there are two other options; Google and running your own paid advertising plan. Google is a best bet for new and smaller website owners as it is pretty much self-contained and low hassle. All you do is add a snippet of code in your site and you're done. It also offers ads in many formats so it's easy to make them fit into your site. The ads also know what your content is and adjust the ads to suit the topic you cover. You get paid each time someone clicks on these ads. See mine on the right hand side, up top and at the bottom...Click them and I get $$.

Running your own advertising may be another thing that interests you. With this method you can charge what you like for however long of a time frame you want the ads to run. Unless you have a very popular art or craft website, it may be very difficult for you to get advertisers but you never know until you try.

Give detailed descriptions about the items you are listing or the information you are providing. For example, if you are listing the necklace you just made on your website or Etsy shop, describe it using as many descriptive words as possible in the title and description section. Make sure you add common key words like jewelry and necklace. Also include colours, length, size, materials you used and how you made it, if applicable. If it looks like something or has important features like glass flower beads make sure you mention it. An example of these techniques can be seen at my Sunflower Ring that I have for sale in my shop (Note the link title like I mentioned to do in Part 1!).

Break out the thesaurus and use words that also mean necklace. Try to think outside the box and think about what search words other people might stick in a search bar to find what you made.

Name your photos! DSC12345.jpg does not tell anyone about the photo. If it's a picture of a pair of slippers you knitted call it knitted_slippers.jpg. If you have more than one photo of the same item put a number in the title so it looks like knitted_slippers001.jpg, knitted_slippers002.jpg, etc.

Another thing you can do is fill in the alt tag for your photos. When you insert a photo into your website the code will look something like this
<img src="" alt="Knitted Slippers">. The words in the quotes behind the alt tag is what appears in broken photo links and as more key words to the search engines. This is also a good thing to have for all the real world users of your website. If your photos aren't showing, people can at least read what it is supposed to be. This would be what it would look like:

Knitted Slippers

Update and Add New Items Regularly
Another thing that may seem like a no-brainer. Fact is, search engines love to see that your content is fresh, up to date and always changing. One way of doing this is changing what you already have or creating new pages in your craft website. This can mean adding a new section of craft projects or dividing your information into more or different categories. If you make something new, list it of course!

This also means removing anything that is "dead" on the web. If you exchange links with someone and their website is no longer in operation get rid of their link. It's no longer relevant content so don't link to it. Keep in mind that if you sold something you've made and still have the page on your website, this may work against you and lower your page rank. You would be better off to delete the page completely or relist it if you have another for sale.

Warning! Computer Geekery Content!
I'm only going to mention the following in passing, but I found a few websites that are focused on html code that will explain this better than I can and offer even more suggestions that can help. These are a few that I go to whenever I need a bit of extra help:

Meta Tags
This actually consists of two parts, key words and descriptions. Key words are primarily for the search engines and descriptions, while also useful for the search engines are seen by regular folks on the internet. These are two parts of your website that you may end up fiddling around with for a while before you feel you've got it "just right".

Key Words
These are the words that trigger your site to appear in the search results. These MUST be words that specifically apply to your site. Keep these as relevant as possible to the content of your site. Don't add words to this list simply because it's a popular search term and you want to be found. You're better off to have a less common term but one that results in more clicks on your link in the search result. Generally speaking, search engines only go through about 20 keys words that you'll list for your website. You can add more but there's no guarantee that it will increase your chance of being found.

Also when you are listing key words don't use deceptive tactics. Don't overload your key words with the same word over and over. You also don't need the singular of a word. For example, if you are selling hand made shoes on your website, you can add the key word "shoes" only. The word "shoe" may not even be what you should list because search engines may interpret this as you trying to be deceitful.

What happens with key words is based on Boolean searches. Your key word "shoes" will be triggered by the key word "shoe" and the key word "shoes". Whereas the key word "shoe" only gets triggered by the key word "shoe". Anyone entering the term "shoes" will never see your site through searching with that term if you only list "shoe" as a key word. People will mistype "shoes" as "shoe" and this way your website still get's triggered even though there was an accidental search.

A final note about keywords. Don't ever think that you will improve the content of your site by hiding keywords in the content. Don't hide words in your site by using really small font size or by blending them into the background by making them the same colour. Key word loading is something that the search engines are specifically designed to look for. Just like link loading this can get your website banned permanently from the search engines.

The description is what appears beneath your site name in search results. People make their first impression of your website based on what you say about yourself here. Be as specific as you can. Say what you specialize in, if you're having a sale, what you have to offer. Think of incorporating your key words into your description add them in a way that makes it appear as a normally written, logical sentence.

Also keep it brief. Most search engines have a very limited amount of space allotted to show a description of websites. This is where you really need to think about what you want potential customers to know about you.

So Simple Everyone Should Do This
Go to search engines and enter your name, name of your art or craft business, or your domain name. If you click on the link search engines see it as people looking for you and your creations. This makes search engines believe that your name and creations are something people want and are interested in. Enter KweenBee and see what happens. Yup! That's me! Even my Etsy shop is listed! Cool or what. That's the power of a constant name, keywords and branding. And you thought brands were only good for athletic shoes, colas and fast food chains!

If you would like more tips on how to improve your art or craft website make sure you check out So You have a Craft Site...Now what?! (pt. 1)

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