Thursday, 9 August 2012

Define your online portfolio's keywords, check its search results and take these steps to improve them.

Written for Visual Arts and Design learners and students who use online portfolios, plus their educators.

Like the proverbial billboard in a dessert, what good is an online portfolio website if it can't be readily found by your family, peers and potential clients? 'If you build it, they will come' may have worked for Las Vegas, but it won't for your online portfolio or other webpage types, whatsoever!

So, once you have created an online portfolio you want to share, it's up to you to take steps to ensure that your online creative presence(s) can be found through being well-ranked, searchable and visible. Here is a step-wise process to achieve just that:

1. Clearly define what you want to present and what you want to be searched under;
2. Refine your personal description, use of keywords and artwork tags;
3. Check your online portfolio service's search engine results;
4. Submit your online portfolio to external search engines; 
5. Use your social media presences to promote your portfolio;
6. Respond to your audience;
7. Comment on others' works and create new presences;
8. Check your results, improve; check your results, improve; to infinity and beyond...

1. Clearly define what you want to present and what you want to be searched under.
In the attention economy, it is important to be highly differentiated in the work you do. This will ensure your work stands out and be easier for people searching using the distinctive combination of keywords that describe your artworks. Although it may be hard defining your niche within the constraints of your school's syllabus, you can make a start by thinking about the type of post-matriculation online portfolio you desire (i.e. for example it could have a specific niche in Fine Art (i.e. portraits of people in a particular community) or design (i.e. Surfrican slang).

It is useful to list the words that you would like your online portfolio to be found with, and then to ensure  these words are used consistently throughout your portfolio (i.e. in your profile's description, artwork titles and projects' descriptions). These keywords should reflect the media, subjects or themes that predominate in your current and past work (for example; 'body-boarding photography at Cape Town's beaches' or 'Pencil illustrations of Spaza rappers').

If you are at a loss for (key)words, do your own online portfolio apprenticeship by searching the featured work of creatives whose work relates to your artworks and resonates with your interests; learn from the way the describe themselves and imitate their example. As you become comfortable with uploading work and refining your descriptions, you should develop the confidence to set your own example.

2. Refine your personal description, use of keywords and artwork tags.
Like an up-to-date online portfolio helps you prepare for your Visual Arts and/or Design exams, having the right keywords can  guide your creativity and ensure your portfolio's development is aimed at realizing your post-school ambitions. Once you know the core of what you wish your online portfolio to be about, you should review your online portfolio and consider changing its title, artworks labels & tags and your profile description & tags to better reflect your desired portfolio presence. Making these changes is important as search engine algorithms rate coherence in an online presence and by consistently repeating keywords, you not only improve your search engine results, but are more likely to pull the most interested viewers for your creations.

3. Check your online portfolio service's search engine results.
You should test that your website is searchable on your portfolio service's local search engine, before checking results from external ones (like Google and Bing). For example, Carbonmade users can use http://carbonmade.com/portfolios to search for text (such as their 'first-' and 'last names') and by 'expertise' to narrow results down. Use your proper name, nicknames or whatever a friend or family member would typically use when searching for you.

No results? Oops. Check your online portfolio service preferences allow your portfolio to be found. Most services are set to "findable" by default, but yours can be an exception.

As you look at the search results page, you will notice that some creatives have not taken any time to check what their results show. Ask yourself, would you (or any other searcher) be likely to click on a result that: looks bad, features bad spelling and vague information?

Example of a search engine result for a matric learner (29 July 2012)
If you would like the backing image to your search result to look better (which is usually your 'about' profile pic), you can experiment by seeing how changing this pic affects your result's appearance.

Should your portfolio be hard to find using your names, take steps to improve your search results (i.e. use your first and last name in your portfolio and include your nickname in your 'about' description).

You should also experiment with seeing whether you can be found using the combination of 'keywords' you want to be found with. For example, you can use the 'Sift by Area of Expertise' function to see where your results show up for combination of expertise or skills you wish to be found with.

4. Submit your online portfolio to external search engines.
Once you're getting results on the local search engine, it is more likely that you'll get results on external search engines. Most users will search for your portfolio using Google or Bing: to register your online portfolio with Google for free, submit your portfolio to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/submit-url?continue=/addurl&pli=1, and for Bing go to https://ssl.bing.com/webmaster/SubmitSitePage.aspx. You can also submit your portfolio to the Open Directory Project at http://www.dmoz.org/add.html.

At worst, your online portfolio could take up to two months to be indexed and you should check whether, how and where, it appears on the external search engine's results. If you are dissatisfied with the results, you may want to experiment with search engine optimisation techniques.

5. Use your social media presences to promote your portfolio.
You probably have a Facebook presence and maybe Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest ones, too. By posting a link to your online portfolio, you can introduce online connections to your work and update them when you post a new body of work or similarly significant updates.

6. Respond to your audience.
In Reasons Why Blogs Fail, Rean John Uehara makes several recommendations for bloggers to follow that could also be applied for online portfolios. One of them is to respond to comments; 'Nothing shuns away readers more than a non-responsive author. They might think that your blog is just another aggregator or a robot that publishes posts. Having a human connection is important!' It is rare that internet viewers make the effort to give feedback and you should take this opportunity to respond, whether it is to thank them for their feedback or respond to constructive criticism.

7. Comment on others' works and create new presences. 
You can also raise your portfolio's visibility and visitors by commenting on other people's written and visual creative work with a link back to your blog. Once you are satisfied with the standard of your portfolio showcase, you can also create multiple presences that reflect different aspects of your creative work. For example, if you are produced work in computer graphics, you can join and publish them to www.cgsociety.org. You should aim to use sites that have a high authority in their creative niches, this way you work is more likely to be noticed.

8. Check your results, improve; check your results, improve; to infinity and beyond...
Your online presences are works in progress. In trying different approaches in promoting them, you should learn what works to attract the audience you want. Hopefully, this results in your spending less time experimenting online and more time producing artwork :) !

To let this blog's readers know if there are any other tips they should follow, simply add your advice in the comments box below.

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