- by Barney Davey
Learn the Basic Steps to Start an Art Blog.
Congratulations! You have made the decision to learn how to start an art blog and are now trying to understand what do next. There are choices you must now make to get setup with your new art blog..
Starting with Art Blog Basics
Should You Use a Domain or a Subdomain?
A domain name is a human readable address that identifies the digital address of your blog on a web server. ArtPrintIssues.com is the domain name for this blog. I bought and began using it in 2005 when I wrote and published the first edition of How to Profit from the Art Print Market.
While it is an excellent blog title for talking about the art print market, it is not the best for the type of content I publish today. That is because I write about art business and art marketing that covers the entire art market. As such, my domain name pigeonholes me to some extent. If you only see the title and decline to investigate the content, you may choose not to read or subscribe to my blog. In other words, my domain name is a marketing problem for me.
You are “The Brand!”
Just as you, the artist, are the brand, so am I as the blogger and art marketing expert. Nine years ago, I did not have the wisdom to understand the importance of personal branding. Had I known then, I would have created my blog using a subdomain. My blog title would instead be blog.BarneyDavey.com. Your name, and mine, are important. It is a valuable asset.
The same advice applies to purchasing a domain name for your website. That is, include your name in the domain name. If you are like me and are so far invested in your current domain name that you do not want to go to the hassle of changing it, and losing the Google ranking associated with it, you must accept the situation and lost branding opportunity. When you work hard at creating content that is captivating and compelling, you will overcome this setback.
Buying domain names.
If you need domain names, you can get them from OptimaWebTools.com for only $9.99 new and renewal prices. I setup this company to help artists get low prices on domains and web hosting services. As such, I promise you will always receive competitive prices and the best 24/7 support available. Domains are a commodity. There is no reason to overpay to own them. If you have seen your domain renewals rising, you can transfer your domain to OptimaWebTools.com as a way to help you keep your domain renewal prices low.
Choose an art blog platform.
Your next most crucial decision to choosing a domain name is whether to host your art blog yourself, or use a free blogging service that will host it for you. There are both free (hosted) and paid (self-hosted) services. I suggest using a paid service for reasons outlined below.
Hosted Blogging Services (Free)
Let’s face, nothing is truly free. There are always strings attached. The Blogger hosted service offered by Google is the most popular free service. The first problem with a free blogging service is you don’t get to use your own domain. Your URL will look like barneydavey.blogspot.com, making it a subdomain of blogspot.com.
This means you share your domain with millions of other Blogger users. It also means you are not the owner of the blog. You do own the content, but not the actual blogging software itself, or the primary blogspot.com domain name. Your blog, as a subdomain, means moving the content somewhere else will have difficulties because all your links connect with the primary blogspot.com domain name.
You can do something called domain mapping, but it is tricky and less than satisfactory for many reasons. There are other restrictions about how much customization you can do on your free service, what kind of advertising you can do. Most importantly, you are not in full control of your blog, which over time will become one of the most valuable tools in your marketing arsenal.
Free blogging services are better than nothing is. To be fair, there are some notable art blogs hosted on Blogger. In addition, if you are truly tech challenged, a free dumbed down service may be the ideal solution for you.
Tumblr.com is a free blog service, recently purchased by Yahoo. It is an image serving type of service, meaning you ordinarily would use it to post pictures. Some artists are finding it to be useful. I only recommend it as a secondary adjunct to a standard blog.
Self-hosted Blogging Services (Paid)
I suggest self-hosting because it offers you all the flexibility and freedom you need. When it comes to self-hosting blogs, what you are paying for is the hosting service. In nearly every case, you will be using the WordPress platform. WordPress is an open source product (meaning free) software available to anyone who wishes to use it. Currently, nearly 20% of all new websites built in the U.S are created using WordPress. It works as both a blogging and a website creation tool.
Seven benefits to self-hosted blogging.
With a self-hosted blog, you can:
- Use your own domain name.
- Exercise complete design freedom for layout, themes, and color schemes.
- Sell advertising or include affiliate-marketing links, as you find in this post.
- Move your content to a new hosting provider, easily.
- Incorporate any plugins you choose.
- Tweak your WordPress files, CSS, PHP, and your server settings to improve performance.
- Have FTP access that allows you to add and edit your files.
Which hosting service should you use?
There are numerous companies offering shared hosting with easy-to-install WordPress tools. You can so your own research. I suggest the following two options for you. When you choose to use either of them, you help support this blog. I think they give you the best price, service and value.
WordPress hosting is available as either a self-hosting or managed hosting service. With self-hosting, you buy and setup your hosting account, and then use the hosting provider’s WordPress install tool. This is an easy task even for novices. With managed hosting, WordPress is pre-installed, so you only need to add your domain, create your WordPress login username and password to complete the setup.
WordPress is a dynamic and evolving platform.
The difference in your options comes after your site is setup. Because WordPress is open source, the development community adds new features and security improvements throughout the year. This requires the site owner to login and update the WordPress software.
Additionally, because of its popularity WordPress sites are the target of hackers on an ongoing basis. This means keeping upgraded to the newest version is critical to site security. Making current backups of your WordPress files and database is the only way to know you can restore your site if it is hacked.
Self-hosted site owners bear the responsibility to keep their WordPress sites on the latest version and perform regular backups. Neither of these is hard to do. However, for many site owners, finding the time and having the discipline to stay on top of these tasks is difficult. One option is to use a premium (paid) plugin, such as Backup Buddy, to automate the backup tasks.
Advantages to managed WordPress Hosting.
Managed WordPress hosting is alternative to self-hosted sites. The servers are optimized for hosting WordPress and as such typically get faster page loads making them both visitor and search engine friendly. The sites are also set up to help prevent security attacks on the servers. More importantly, they offer daily backups of your site.
Until recently, the top three services were WP-Engine.com, Synthesis and Pagely.com. All offer excellent services and rate well on reviews. The monthly prices for hosting a single site runs between $24 -$29 on them. GoDaddy.com is now offering managed WordPress hosting at $6.99 per month.
For artists who need a managed hosting solution, I recommend Go Daddy managed WordPress hosting because it is a fraction of the cost of its competitors and includes these features and more:
- Nightly backups.
- Redundant firewalls, malware scanning and DDoS protection.
- Automatic WordPress core updates.
- Temporary website address.
Choosing a WordPress theme.
Themes give your WordPress blog or website a distinctive look. When you install WordPress, it comes with a free default themes from the developer. As with hosting, you have both free and premium paid themes. It is worth it to take your time to find a theme that gives you the feeling you would like to have for your site.
Keep in mind, a theme is just a starting point. Many come with color theme and style options. There are thousands upon thousands of themes available. I suggest choosing a premium theme for several reasons. As previously mentioned, WordPress is regularly updated. This means your theme developer needs to keep your theme updated to match the current version of WordPress.
Not every new version of WordPress will affect your theme, but anyone has the potential to break your theme if it is not current with the new WordPress version. It makes sense developers with a paid audience have skin in the game to encourage them to keep their themes updated. Moreover, premium theme providers are more likely to have both lively forums and customer support when you encounter a problem or need to modify your theme.
ArtPrintIssues.com runs on Studio Press theme. I have used iThemes, Thesis, Envato, Elegant Themes, Theme Forest and Theme Monster themes in the past. There are many other premium theme providers to from which to choose. Look for a developer that has been in business for a few years and has favourable reviews for their themes.
Plugins for WordPress.
Themes change how WordPress sites look. Plugins are scripts or applets that you install to let you perform all kinds of features and programs on your blog or site. They run the gamut from helping you with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), such the free Yoast WordPress SEO plugin to helping you setup an e-commerce store on your site.
There are ten times more plugins than there are themes. Anyone can develop a theme or plugin for WordPress. As a user, you need to make sure you choose plugins carefully. Poorly developed plugins can wreak havoc on your site. Choose plugins that have been downloaded many times, have excellent ratings and ideally have been published for years.
Suggested plugins to add:
- Akismet for fighting comment spam.
- Yoast WordPress SEO for search engine optimization.
- TinyMCE Advanced for an easier and more full-featured editor.
- WP-Optimize to keep your database in tip top shape.
- Wordfence to help guard against malware and hacking attempts.
There are too many specialized plugins to discuss here. Just remember, every plugin you load decreases your page loading speed. The slower your page loads, the less happy are your web visitors and Google dings you for slow loading pages in its page-ranking algorithm, too.
The advice here is to use plugins only when you need them. Keep them updated. For the best security, delete them, rather than just deactivate, if you are not using them.
Get started now.
You have a solid starting position now to evaluate your first steps towards creating an art blog to help you effectively communicate with your collectors, fans and friends. There is more to learn, and I will post more advice on ways to get the most from blogging for your art business in future posts.
Learning tips on how to write a blog post is essential information. My broadcasting partner, Jason Horejs, and I have event scheduled for this Tuesday, April 8 at 4 pm Pacific time. We are covering how to write an effective blog post for your art blog. Join us and bring your questions. Can’t make the live show… no worries, a recording is always available.
Creating a winning blog is arguably the best way for artists to build a following and to communicate with his or her collectors and fans. Producing quality posts is a the heart of every successful blog.
In past broadcasts, we have explored the overall question of whether an artist should blog, how often to blog, options for various platforms to use, and lots more.This broadcast is more specific – the anatomy of a blog post. We’ll show you how to pick a topic, how to write a headline, and how to use proper SEO techniques to help get your posts ranked higher. We’ll also discuss how long your title should be, how to write an informative description, and how to write headlines that get results.
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