The Truth About SEO for Artists

Photographer and SEO expert Todd McPhetridge shares insights for artists who want to be found online.


Photographer Todd McPhetridge


I’ve been doing SEO (Search Engine Optimization) since 1997. In 2000, I started earning a living doing it professionally, and it’s been a crazy ride. Things have changed drastically in the past few years online. SEO isn’t what it used to be in the Wild West days of the internet back in the early 2000’s. Back then you could sprinkle some keywords on a page, get links and Bam! you’re ranking for whatever keywords you wanted.

Now it’s much different, and in my opinion a lot better than it used to be. You can’t rise to the top of the search engines with spammy links and half-wit content now. It takes more, much more.

SEO has evolved into a more holistic approach to marketing where everything works together and the result is rewarding to those who truly create great content and spread that out across multiple channels.

Many of you already know about some of the basics like writing good title tags, alt tags and meta descriptions. They are all an important part of the puzzle and there are a ton of resources out there that teach you the technical aspects of getting your website in order.

If you really want to make your SEO and marketing efforts grow wings and fly, you’ll need links and exposure. Not just any link will do though. You’ll need links from highly relevant and trusted sites.

One way to approach link building is to not think about the link at all. What I mean is: don’t go out with the sole purpose of getting a link. Don’t get links that seem unnatural, like all of the same keywords pointing at the same page. That’s overthinking it way too much, and Google will punish your site for using tactics like that. If it seems like a quick and easy way to get a link, then you probably shouldn’t do it.

Think about it like this: if you’re putting out art and content that other people deem worthy, then you’ll get links as a natural process. Where the real engine behind SEO comes into play is using your social media channels to help spread the word. How so? I’ll explain.

As creative people, we’re geared more to thinking outside the box better than most. What can you do to get your name out there?


This photo by Madison Colt Studios went viral.

Madison Colt Studios’ newborn photo went viral on social media.


My wife and I wanted to get the word out about our portrait studio. We had a photo shoot that turned out a particularly nice photo. In my mind it was the perfect thing to share with the outdoors community. So I did just that. I sent one tweet to three prominent people in the outdoors industry and one of those people not only retweeted it, but shared it on Instagram and Facebook too.

The Facebook post alone received 34k likes, 2k comments and 7.7k shares. Other people shared it on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and all over the web. That was in April 2016. Now 5 months later another prominent page on Facebook shared the same image and it blew up again. This time it got 3k likes, 1,300+ shares and 222 comments. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and it all happened from one tweet!

Don’t think about the links. Think about inspiring people with your art and thinking outside of the box. You’ve created something uniquely you. Who would be interested in seeing that? Reach out to those influencers on social media in a polite way and don’t expect anything in return.

Marketing for me is about building an audience of people that I want to help. My purpose is to provide beautiful artwork that feeds the niche I’m in. Some call it rural artwork, it’s been called white collar redneck art, but either way it’s all rustic art to me.

My art isn’t for everyone and yours shouldn’t be either. That’s why I focus on keywords, content and groups of people that feed my purpose and inspire me. We’ve all heard the saying birds of a feather flock together, and that couldn’t be any more accurate than online.


"Free My Soul" photograph by Todd McPhetridge, sizes vary.

“Free My Soul” photograph by Todd McPhetridge, sizes vary.


Think about ways you can contribute to the world and then find those people that can help you get the word out. Learn the technical on-page aspects that will really help fuel your SEO efforts and watch the magic happen. Below are some resources that will help you with optimizing your site and learning more about SEO. Thinking of creative ways to share your art with the world is up to you. I know you’ll come up with some really great ways to do just that!

If you’ve had success in the past, please share in the comments below about what worked for you so that it may spark an idea for someone else. That’s why we’re put on this earth, to love one another, share our experiences and get through this thing called life. Yes that was a Prince reference. My 80’s music loving people will get it.

Thank you to Artsy Shark for allowing me to share my experience with others. My hope is that this will get the wheels turning on the next creative marketing campaign for someone.


If you would like to learn more about SEO, Moz has a free resource located here.

If you are using WordPress I would highly recommend using the SEO plugin from Yoast.  They have a copyrighting course available too.

Connect with Todd McPhetridge on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Todd McPhetridge is an internationally published fine art photographer. He is the owner of Big Canoe Studios, a commercial photography and marketing agency just north of Atlanta. He and his wife own a portrait studio,  Madison Colt Studios. His omelets are noteworthy and he secretly wishes he could play the banjo as well as Bela Fleck. He’s witty, ruggedly handsome and loves God and his family. He likes to hike and has an impressive collection of boots. He also likes to write long bios just to see if people will actually learn all there is to know about him. Congrats you’re one of the few 😉


  1. Excellent article! There are no “Easy Fixes” when it comes to SEO. Provide quality information that can help other artists in their businesses. Slowly, the word gets out, is spread and the SEO goes up.

  2. Great article! I want to make sure I understand correctly – “I sent one tweet to three prominent people” So did you tag the prominent people in a tweet or did you tweet and then direct message the tweet to the prominent people?

  3. Excellent advice. One of the best I’ve read on the subject of SEO for Artists. I look forward to sharing a link to this article on social media.

  4. I have had an idea about getting a group of artist to collaborate in a 10 painting challenge –

    where, once each painting is finished , you have a social media post directing people to a special webpage about that painting , and at the bottom of the page you have “other artists on the 10 painting challenge” – with images of their paintings, a blurb and linking to their websites

    I have yet to find any artists with the capabilities to achieve this concept and have recieved some voracious criticism about the idea in an art business group on facebook

    I was told that link building was an outdated concept and I wasnt reading any current information.

    There was also the thought that other artists work on your site was distracting , and that most artists sites were of low quality (regarding google rankings) and would be bad links to have

    I would love to hear what your opinion is on the concept –

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