16 – Are Blogs Still Relevant for Artists?
Episode 16

Laura and Nikki discuss whether or not blogs are still relevant for artists. They talk about the history of blogging, how both the reading and writing of blogs have changed over the years and admit to being less than stellar bloggers in the past! Think you should be blogging? Listen to this episode to hear all the reasons they think you should.

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Topics discussed

  • What blogging was like 10-15 years ago (1:27)
  • The different blogs Laura and Nikki read (1:56)
  • How social media and email newsletters changed blogging (2:35)
  • Blogging for SEO (3:25)
  • Quality vs quantity (6:05)
  • The importance of keywords and using them properly (6:22)
  • Repurposing content across different channels (8:50)
  • Timely blog posts vs. evergreen content (12:44)
  • How finding blog posts has changed in recent years (14:56)
  • Positioning yourself as an expert on your topic (16:56)

Laura

0:07
Hi, this is Laura.

Nikki

0:08
And this is Nikki with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

0:17
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck. Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours.

Laura

0:38
So Nikki, what are we talking about today?

Nikki

0:41
Today we’re talking about whether or not blogs are still relevant for artists.

Laura

0:45
Well, I have had a blog for over 14 years on different websites, and I am a horrible blogger. I never remember to post; sometimes I go six months between posts. So I am not a shining example of having a good blogging habit. How about you, Nikki?

Nikki

1:02
I am also not a shining example.

Laura

1:05
Are you even a shimmering one?

Nikki

1:07
I’m not even sure I have a little sparkle. I’ve been notoriously bad at blogging. But I can give you a lot of advice and reasons why I think blogging is still relevant and it’s a great idea for artists and other creative businesses.

Laura

1:20
Well, before we dig into those, maybe we should talk a little bit about the history of blogging first.

Nikki

1:26
Okay.

Laura

1:27
So I can tell you that, I don’t know, maybe 10 – 15 years ago, blogging was huge. This is before social media existed and I was a voracious blog reader. That was back when Google Reader existed where you could like, consolidate all your blogs.

Nikki

1:42
Oh, yeah. I loved Google Reader. And you could organize your blogs into categories.

Laura

1:48
Oh, my gosh, I totally dug that. I bet you did, too. Because I know you’d like organizational systems.

Nikki

1:54
Oh, yeah.

Laura

1:56
I used to follow sewing blogs and papercrafting blogs, because I worked a lot in the crafting industry at the time doing design work. But yeah, some art blogs, design blogs, you know, some of those big ones like Decor8 and Print & Pattern…

Nikki

2:10
Ooh, and Apartment Therapy. I loved that one.

Laura

2:13
Yes, Apartment Therapy. There were these huge blogs, and I remember at the time, they were basically making people’s careers. You got on a blog, you got so much exposure. And so people who perhaps were starting out in surface design, for example, 10 or 15 years ago, they got featured on these blogs and could actually get business deals from being featured. So it was a really big deal. But now..

Nikki

2:35
Well, then social media came around and the popularity of people sending out email newsletters and those things kind of took the place of blogging to a great extent.

Laura

2:44
Yeah. I mean, why would you blog now if your goal is to interact with people, because people aren’t really looking at blogs very frequently anymore, their focus is being on social media. And so you want to grow your social media following and ultimately build your email list.

Nikki

2:58
Right? So before social media, there was a lot of interaction going on in the blog comments.

Laura

3:03
Yeah, there, there was a lot of communication going on there. So that was basically your sense of community before social media.

Nikki

3:09
Right. So I think the purpose of blogs and the way you use them has changed dramatically since then. We don’t really need it to connect with other people, because we have social media. And we don’t need it to get our message out because we have email, but there’s still some really good reasons to blog.

Laura

3:24
Okay, like what?

Nikki

3:25
Well, I’m going to tell you. When I design a website for somebody, I always recommend blogging for them. And here are some of the reasons. So first is – and the biggest is – SEO search engine optimization. Okay, if you want to be found by Google soon after you first launch a website, Google’s gonna find you. You can submit to them, but they will find you naturally, because they send out these bots that go and crawl the internet for what’s new. So when you first launch a website, you’ll get found if you have good, unique content that’s relevant to your topic. And if it says the right things, has the right keywords, you’re gonna get found by Google. And hopefully, you’ll show up pretty high in the search results.

Laura

4:08
Okay.

Nikki

4:08
But Google’s constantly looking for what’s new and updated websites out there. So if your website doesn’t ever change, and have new content, you’re gonna see yourself fall right out of the search results. So the best thing you can do is to make sure that your website is frequently updated, and there’s a lot of different ways you can do that. One of the first ways you can do it, for artists is to update your portfolio, but your portfolio’s mostly images. If you’re a service based business, then you can do case studies. But one of the easiest ways to update your content is to have a blog and post blog articles about topics that you want people to be searching for to find you in the search results.

Laura

4:47
Okay, so can you give me an example?

Nikki

4:49
Yeah, absolutely. So we all know that I’m working on this product to build websites for artists. So if I want people to find my website, then I’m going to build it so it has all the right kind of content about artists websites. But if I want the right people to find me and to keep showing up in the search results, then I’m going to publish articles about the kinds of things that people are looking for. So it might be an article about what should be on an artist website. It might be how to promote your artist website…

Laura

5:17
Or about SEO for artists

Nikki

5:19
Absolutely.

Laura

5:21
Like the Top 5 Things That Can Attract Someone to an Artist’s Website, for example.

Nikki

5:25
Exactly, all the things that you think your ideal customer is going to be looking for the questions they’re going to be asking on Google. And you want them to find your website with the answer. So if you’re product based, and you sell art prints, then maybe you want to do a blog post about how to frame and display your art prints, something like 5 Different Ways to Display Your Prints.

Laura

5:46
Okay, so let me ask you this. I don’t know all this stuff about Google and about SEO and I’m by no means an expert. And so I know there are plugins on WordPress, like Yoast, for example, and things like that that you can use. But how frequently should you be updating a blog to have it actually benefit you?

Nikki

6:05
I don’t think there’s necessarily an ideal frequency, I think it’s more about the quality than the quantity in this.

Laura

6:11
Unless it’s every six months?

Nikki

6:13
Well, okay, there’s some degree, some degree of quantity.

Laura

6:19
Okay. Okay.

Nikki

6:22
For example, on social media, it’s more about being consistent and getting in front of people frequently, because your posts don’t have a very long lifespan. But a blog post can live a lot longer than social media posts. It’s more about having really good content, that’s something that people who are looking for you will be searching for. So even if you just do one blog post a month, that’s frequently enough for Google to be able to know that you’re refreshing data on your website. So you mentioned things like using Yoast SEO plugin, and that helps, that helps a lot because you can control what information the search engine finds. But even without that, they’re gonna find new content, because they’re constantly searching for new content. So even if you don’t have a plugin like that, they’re still gonna find the actual text in your blog posts.

Laura

7:11
Okay, so yeah, keywords, I think are really huge, right, like having the right keywords?

Nikki

7:16
Definitely. But it’s also about how you use the keywords. So keywords are the words that your users are searching for. I might use keywords like artist website, art marketing, you know, that kind of thing. And people used to try to trick search engines by doing what they called keyword stuffing, which meant that they just used a whole list of keywords that weren’t used naturally in the flow of your content, they would even make the keywords invisible on the page by making it like really small or using the same color as your background color.

Laura

7:54
That’s tricky.

Nikki

7:55
And that used to work it used to trick search engines, because they would just find the words and it would show up. But search engines are much smarter these days. And they can tell when you’re just stuffing keywords. It’s not like Instagram where they say you can use up to 30 hashtags, and there’s no reason to not use them all. Google’s smart enough to kind of figure out the difference between real content and keyword stuffing.

Laura

8:16
Okay. Although I will say sometimes I google something and click on a link. And it’s like one of those fake web pages with all the keywords?

Nikki

8:23
Oh, yeah, well, it’s not perfect. Much like people, technology is not perfect. But it’s getting better all the time. It used to be that just having the words will pull in the results. But now it’s smarter about the content.

Laura

8:36
Okay, so you want to make sure that you’re using those keywords in an ethical way and they flow in sentences in a natural way, right?

Nikki

8:43
Absolutely, and that’s what tells Google that your website is one that’s frequently updated and should keep showing up in search results.

Laura

8:50
All right, well, in my experience, blogging takes a lot of time. Like, at least in my head anyways, it takes time to do and so one of the things I’m always looking at is how can I cross utilize this content? And I know one of the ways you can do that is you could set up your blog so that it feeds into your email system, let’s say you use MailChimp or ConvertKit, or whoever you’re using, and then it would just automatically email that blog article out to your audience, right?

Nikki

9:19
Yes, you can absolutely do that. But I’ve found that when you when you automatically have a blog post go to your email, the formatting isn’t always perfect. So as a control freak and a perfectionist, I would rather reuse the content but set it up myself so that I can have control over exactly how it looks. So I think of a blog post as more of an article that has a wide general appeal, and an email you’re getting in someone’s personal inbox. So you’re trying to develop more of a personal connection with one person. What I tend to do is, I’ll blog first, and then I’ll modify it slightly to use as an email and make it more personal to who I’m sending it to.

Laura

10:05
Yeah, that makes sense. Just make it like you’re talking to them, and not just the big general audience

Nikki

10:11
Right. So you can also do it the other way around, where if you write an email to someone, you can repurpose that as a blog post, and maybe kind of take out the more time sensitive things to get a longer life out of it.

Laura

10:23
Okay, so one of the things I’ve seen before in emails and that I personally have done is to have some kind of personal update at the top of the email, and then have maybe a class announcement or a store update, things like that below. And then I can just add an excerpt from a blog entry that basically has a clickable link that takes you to the full blog post, if somebody wants to read it. And that way, you’re basically not inundating them with this huge full blog entry inside of an email that they don’t necessarily want to read.

Nikki

10:50
Totally. And then there’s other ways you can repurpose the same content too. I think a really good idea is that any content you put out anywhere, whether it’s on your website, email, social media, repurpose it as much as you possibly can, so that you’re not duplicating efforts. So say I write a really long article about what every artist website needs to have. And it might be really, really long, I might break that up into three different emails that I can send out over three different weeks, where one part might be what an artist portfolio needs to have. And then another email can be about how to write your bio. And then I can take that same content, I can bring it over to Instagram and break it up into stories that I can tell over time, or I might get like 10 different Instagram posts out of that one really long article.

Laura

11:36
Wow, I like that. I think that’s really smart.

Nikki

11:39
And it is really smart. I should take my own advice. It’s great advice that I never actually do. Yeah, so I know that you’re like me, and you’d much rather go make new things than spend your time marketing. But your blog articles can be the best tool for marketing, when you think of all the mileage that you can get out of it for SEO for your email, your social media.

Laura

12:01
And I think you can even take your blog images and pin them on your Pinterest board to get a lot more traffic to your website that way, right? Definitely.

Nikki

12:10
Pinterest is actually a really great search engine more than it really is social media, and you get a much longer lifespan out of anything you pin to drive traffic back to your website and blog.

Laura

12:19
Yeah, I think it’s a hidden secret, but maybe not so hidden anymore.

Nikki

12:24
Probably not.

Laura

12:26
So the blogs that I love the most nowadays are the blogs that are almost like a resources section. So it’s more like super relevant articles to whatever the topic or services that that someone’s providing. And I can get some really juicy, meaty information from that blog that’s really going to help me

Nikki

12:44
Well, yeah. So let’s talk about what the definition of a blog really is. When they first started, it was more like, Dear Diary, it was almost like your daily journal. Here’s what I did today. Here’s what I’m working on, it was a lot more personal. But I like to think of it today more as articles. I mean, there’s really no difference between a blog post and an article. The way websites are set up, you have pages, which are the parts of your website that generally don’t change very often. They’re the ones that the parts that stay more consistent. And posts are things that are updated more frequently, you can just keep adding posts. So it’s more like, I think of it like a newspaper article, you know. So yeah, so today’s blog is more like a news feed, more like articles. And that’s where they’re really useful, because we’re using social media to connect with people. But we can use the blog functionality of your website to build kind of evergreen content that helps drive people to your website.

Laura

13:41
So it’s better have less timely information, perhaps, to be more evergreen. And I know you’re talking about pages are the things that are forever. But I think if we look at blog posts more like articles, then they should be helpful to people at any point in time. Like, if they look at your blog post two years from now, versus looking at tomorrow, is it still gonna be relevant.

Nikki

14:04
So you might actually have different kinds of blog posts where you do use it to announce your upcoming event or your new class or whatever. But then you also want to have some good meaty articles that are going to help with the search engine optimization.

Laura

14:16
Okay, so blogs aren’t dead.

Nikki

14:19
They are not dead.

Laura

14:20
And I should also mention that I know certain industries do still have things like blog tours. I know the fabric design industry and the crafting industries still have pretty strong use of blogs in that way, in sort of a community way, especially when people are coming out with new fabric collections or patterns are being launched. So there are still some industries that are utilizing blogs a little bit more the way they were historically. But yeah, I get that they’re transitioning a lot now to a different way of communicating.

Nikki

14:56
And I still end up reading blogs pretty frequently, but I do it in a different way than I used to. So I’ll give you an example of a blog that I look at a lot, but I never actually go to that website to look at that blog. I know that you and I both use the Divi theme on our WordPress site. And it’s by a company called Elegant Themes. And if I need to know how to do something very specific in Divi, I’m not going to go search their blog, I’m going to search Google, but it ends up sending me to their blog, because that’s how they’re getting found in Google.

Laura

15:29
And that’s where your answer is.

Nikki

15:30
And that’s where my answer is, right.

Laura

15:32
Yeah. So there’s definitely a benefit to having a blog for all of these different reasons.

Nikki

15:36
Right. So let me ask you something, Laura.

Laura

15:38
Okay.

Nikki

15:39
You recently launched your new website?

Laura

15:41
Yep.

Nikki

15:42
So how do you want people to find your website? What do you want people to come to your website for?

Laura

15:47
Well, it’s sort of threefold. I have classes, I have artwork, and I have music. And the music I’ll mention is just sort of on the backburner. So that’s a bit hidden in my menus at the moment. So for artwork, I would love for people to find me to license from me and also to purchase my artwork on products. And then my classes are really my number one priority right now, which is really my Copic instruction classes, as well as watercolor and other classes that I either teach live or I plan to teach online in the future.

Nikki

16:19
Okay, so there’s two main buckets of things that you can blog about. You can blog about how to do something with Copic Markers. So think of something people who take your classes want to know, maybe how to blend to get a very specific effect. So maybe you do a blog entry that’s basically an intro to one of your classes, and answers the basics of the question they’re looking for. But if they want to go deeper, the blog entry will then send them to your class.

Laura

16:46
Yeah, I think that’s great. I think you can even do that with YouTube. If you have YouTube tutorials and a YouTube channel, you can have a blog entry that then sends people over to YouTube.

Nikki

16:56
Absolutely. And that’s another way to repurpose content, say you record a YouTube video on doing one particular thing. Then you can take some of the text from that video and some of the images and you can do a blog post that is what search engines are going to find. Then you can also embed the video in there. So people go to your website, and they go to your YouTube channel. And that gives them a teaser of what you really want to go into depth with within your classes. So they get a little bit of an answer, but then they really want to take your class. And the other thing about publishing all this content that your customers are looking for is that once they find you all the things that you’ve written about help them see you as an expert on those topics. Think about all the things we shared about Shannon McNab, who we interviewed a little while ago, and the things that she’s written on her blog, her surface design industry report, her income breakdown, and a whole lot more about doing business as an artist, these things help people find her website. They also help you realize what an expert she is on the business side of art licensing. And when you need that kind of information, who are you going to think of? You’re going to think of her because…

Laura

18:06
It helps grow name recognition. So we’ve talked a lot about blogging. What are our key takeaways today?

Nikki

18:14
The number one key takeaway from my point of view is that blogging is not dead. I think it’s just changed.

Laura

18:21
Blogging is not dead, number one. And you should basically have it for SEO and treat it more like a library of resources for your relevant topic. And then I think the second takeaway would be to make it easier on yourself by repurposing content so that the same piece of content can be a blog entry and email, social media, a video all around the same topic and reusing that information. And I think a great example of somebody who does this weekly is Marie Forleo, and her Marie TV episodes that are released every Tuesday. They’re really fun, you should check them out.

Nikki

18:55
They are they’re great. They’re great

Laura

18:57
#goals.

Nikki

18:58
And the third great reason to blog is that it’s a way to present yourself as an expert in your industry. So that in my case when people are looking for someone to build their beautiful artists website, I’m the one they think of, hypothetically, of course.

Laura

19:14
Well, you better start writing blog entries

Nikki

about that topic.

Nikki

19:17
Oh, well, I will write a blog entry about why I should write blog entries.

Laura

19:23
Okay, now it’s your turn. Do you have a blog? Do you still read blogs? Share with us on Instagram @startistsociety and in our Startist Society Facebook group.

Nikki

19:34
And if you do have a blog, how are you blogging differently than you did 10 or 15 years ago.

Laura

19:39
If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, we’d love for you to subscribe and leave us a review. Visit startistsociety.com/blogging to learn more about the podcast and read today’s show notes.

Nikki

19:50
Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

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