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by Carlo Wolff
A panel of experts in art sales explored an array of tools and options at the monthly Cleveland Digital Publishing Users Group meeting at the Garfield Heights Library.
Some 40 people gathered September 28 as moderator Linda Barberic of Keith Berr Photography led the panel through a discussion of popular online sales platforms, including Fine Art America, Zazzle, Etsy, Amazon and Society6. The wide-ranging discussion highlighted the pros and cons of the services, both for the artists and their customers.
The panel also considered how these services differ from selling in galleries, and how they can dovetail with a comprehensive marketing plan. The event covered such topics as what online platform is most appropriate for the art one wants to sell, how to determine which platforms to use, and how to prepare for art sales. The discussion was lively and often funny.
Keith Berr—and in particular, Mary Urbas, director of the art gallery at Lakeland Community College—stressed the importance of offline sales. Berr noted that he saves his best work for exhibitions and gallery sales but finds online sales helpful for distributing good-quality prints of work that has mass appeal. Urbas expressed concern about the quality of digital printing, noting there is no better way to assess the quality of a work of art than seeing an original in a curated gallery. She also dissed giclée prints, noting the popular artist Thomas Kinkade passed them off as originals by adding a daub of paint and so inflating their value.
While panelists differed over which online platforms deliver the most bang for the buck, all agreed that selling art requires business savvy. Keep track of everything and document it all, Berr said. Copyright your work, counseled graphic designer Kelli Swan; as she says in a handout, owning copyright means you can “create once, sell often.”
Decide whether you want to sell through Etsy, which makes selling easy but requires the artist to fulfill the order, or Society6 or Zazzle, which create and deliver products made from the artist’s design, suggested both Karen Sandstrom and Swan. Sandstrom is an illustrator and the director of communications at the Cleveland Institute of Art and uses both Etsy and Society6. Swan owns Cygnet Graphics Ltd. and sells her black-and-white graphite pencil drawings through Fine Art America and Zazzle. Barberic produces photo shoots for Berr and sells healing teas through Somatea.com.
John Popp, sales manager at Dodd Camera, also sells photography and photography products, through Amazon. Heidi Cool, who has 25 years of experience in web development, said artists should have their own websites, figure out what audience they are trying to reach, and blog about their work to gain visibility in a crowded online marketplace.
It’s not just about the pushing out, however, it’s about the connecting, Swan said. She advised artists to use social media to create authentic connections with like-minded groups.
Also, decide how much time you want to spend on the business side of your enterprise. Your skill might not be web design or social media management. “Hire people who do it better than you,” said Barberic.
A regular contributor to the jazz magazine, DownBeat, Carlo Wolff is the writer of Mike Belkin (Act 3 Creative); the author of Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories (Gray & Company); co-writer, with Eric Olsen and Paul Verna, of The Encyclopedia of Record Producers (Billboard Books); and is currently working on Designing Victory, the autobiographical memoir of Robert P. Madison, Cleveland’s first black architect, to be published by Act 3 this winter. Wolff has been a reporter for and editor of both mainstream and alternative daily and weekly newspapers, and a review of his is contained in Killed, a compilation of censored journalism published by Nation Books. Wolff lives in South Euclid with his wife, Karen Sandstrom, and their daughter, Lylah Rose Sandstrom Wolff.
By Kelli Swan
The reason you may have so few visitors is that your website does not show up on internet searches. Google and other search engines look for very specific information on a website before ranking it with regard to the words or phrases (search terms) people typically use when looking up information on the internet. While the algorithms used for sorting and ranking search terms change often, there are some basics that do not change. Therefore, the use of these basic approaches is the foundation of any well-optimized, high-ranking website.
The first thing to understand about SEO (search engine optimization) is that it requires a two-tiered approach. There is onsite SEO, and offsite SEO. Onsite SEO is anything you do to the website itself to optimize it for searches. Once most of the work for onsite SEO is done, it is just a matter of fine-tuning it as an ongoing effort to enhance your website’s ranking over time. Offsite techniques involve obtaining inbound links from other sources, such as social media posts and reviews that link back to your site.
Before you begin with the onsite SEO, it is a good idea to do keyword research and consider the specific market you wish to attract. Thinking backward helps here. Under what search terms do you want to be found? What search terms might your typical audience use to look for a business similar to yours? List the words and phrases that apply to your business and your desired market.
• Meta Tags • This is the single most important subject to address. Meta tags are contained in the background code of a website. A user viewing the site doesn’t see them, but these tags hold important information for search engines. The two most important meta tags are Title and Description because search engines pull this information for its search return. If a search engine doesn’t find these tags on your website, it will look for and extract other copy from the page, often times with less than desirable results.
• Use quality keywords and phrases that describe your business • Search engines will index 50-60 characters for a Title tag, and roughly 100-150 characters (spaces included) for the Description tag. You will want to use up as much of that count as possible. For instance, your current Title tag on your homepage might be “Designer John Smith.” Changing it to something like “John Smith Graphic Design – Prepress Digital Artwork for Print” will be more effective.
• Customize the Title and Description tags for every page • Each page of your site is potentially a landing page onto your site. Thus, you can maximize your SEO by looking at each individual page and who you can attract with targeted keywords for that page. Never use duplicate Title or Description tags in an effort to save time as search engines reduce page rank for duplicate page tags.
• Make use of Meta tag plugins • To access Meta tags on a WordPress site, you can use one of the many SEO plugins that are available. Other platforms also have an SEO feature that lets you edit these key Meta tags. Those who custom code websites can easily access the tags in the source code.
• Use Alt tags • Alt tags tell search engines about your images. When you add pictures to a website, particularly on a WordPress site, the act of inserting the images will result in weird filenames such as “1234555.jpg.” This means nothing to a search engine, so you want to create an Alt tag particular to each image, using the same keyword advice mentioned above. Not only does this help with the SEO of your site, but your images will also begin to show up in more internet image searches. Ideally, your image filenames will also contain keywords, though as mentioned above, this can be difficult with some website platforms.
• Don’t use Keywords meta tags • Don’t waste your time on Keywords meta tags — none of the major search engines use them anymore because of past spammer abuse. Besides, Google’s own blog states that the keywords meta tags are not used.
• Write sensible keyword-rich copy • Use keywords and phrases for all of the content on your website but beware that the overuse of keywords and phrases can be recognized as spam. If it sounds spammy when you read it, then it will appear spammy to search engines.
• Include more content • In the SEO world, it is often said that “content is king,” meaning that search engines love quality content. More is better here. Continue to add information and articles to your site over time if you can. The more content you have, and the more keyword-rich it is, the better your potential ranking will be. Search engines give preference to sites that go beyond merely advertising a product or service. That means if you can provide free and useful content (design tips, framing info, etc.) it will help your site rank higher. Also, add a Favorite Links page for sources such as suppliers, inspirational sites, or whatever, as these links will contribute to a more connected web.
Off-Site SEO and Other Important Tips
Search engines learn from user behavior. They want to know when a site is popular and when others think it is important. Being the topic of others’ conversations is one way you move up the list of search term ranking and build credibility for your site over time. So, you want to start an ongoing campaign to get inbound links to your site. Ask friends and other businesses to add links to your site from their site. If any of your friends or associates can post in topic-related forums with a link to your site, that is very helpful. Social media posts help too. Search engines monitor chatter everywhere — this is one area where we toss privacy to the wind and hope that we are being watched! Online reviews are also an excellent way to get search engines to see your site favorably. Ask clients and friends to post reviews at Yelp, Google, Facebook, or other popular review sites.
• Create a blog and frequently link back to content on your site • You can blog about anything, not just topics related to your website. And you can use this platform to help not only your own ranking, but other websites as well.
• Create email campaigns with links to your site and products • MailChimp is a free and user-friendly way to manage email campaigns.
• Upload a sitemap to your site • Sitemaps help search engines better understand the navigation of your pages. You can create a sitemap for free using any of the online sitemap generators such as https://www.xml-sitemaps.com.
• Make sure you have a mobile friendly design • Search engines are now penalizing sites that are not optimized for smartphones and tablets. Mobile friendly themes are available for WordPress and other website design platforms. Custom-coded websites will need to create special CSS (cascading style sheets).
• Obtain an SSL certificate and secure your site with .https • Even if you don’t collect payment or personal data, security is an important criterion for search ranking. Google’s latest release of the Chrome browser labels .http sites as “not secure”. Even if you are not worried about search ranking, the not secure tag could scare off your potential customers. Most hosting companies will help you with the SSL certification process.
• Use Google Analytics to track your website performance • This service is free and allows you to track many aspects of the data generated from your site traffic. Enjoy, although reviewing statistics can become a time vacuum!
• Join an SEO group on LinkedIn, Facebook, or through other organizations • As new tips and tricks are introduced, you will be the first to know about them while immediately incorporating the latest techniques into your website.
A versatile content specialist, Kelli Swan’s talents range from writing to digital design. Her specialties include black and white illustration in pencil or ink, and custom logo design. Her detailed illustrations depicting a variety of themes have won many awards in prestigious juried art shows. In addition, her drawings have been widely published. She received her BFA with Summa Cum Laude honors from the University of Akron in Ohio.
Participant registration is now open on spaceappschallenge.org — a global hackathon that takes place over a 48-hour period in cities around the world. The NASA Glenn Research Center will be hosting this free weekend event in Cleveland, October 19–21.
Space Apps is an international hackathon (started in 2012) and coordinated by NASA to help solve a variety of problems.
Hackathons are tech development marathons that draw on the talents and initiative of bright-minded volunteers, such as software developers, engineers, technologists, designers, scientists, and anyone with a passion and desire to have an immediate impact on the world. This year’s event will focus on developing open-source solutions to challenges we currently face on Earth and in space.
Last year’s hackathon included 187 events worldwide with more than 25,000 people participating from over six continents.
This weekend event features:
- Free food
- Opening night keynote address, “In the Beginning: The Race to the Moon and Its Ohio Connections”
- The NASA band
- A quiz show about NASA history
- Fun human swarm activity to show how emergent behavior can come from simple rules
- A trip to the NASA Exchange store to buy NASA gear
- AR/VR NASA demos
- A trip to the Simulated Lunar Operations (SLOPE) Laboratory
The Office of Digital Strategy was created by Barack Obama in 2008 to establish a digital identity not only for the White House as an institution, but for the President and his policies as well. Starting with a staff of twenty people, the team was focused on the simple design and clear communication of all information emanating from the White House.
The mission was to connect people to government resources in a clear and effective way using a two-way approach. Ashleigh Axios, former creative director and digital strategist, said the department used all of the popular digital platforms to expand the President’s message while interactively engaging American citizens at the same time.
Her best example of this strategy was a livestream State of the Union address that was accompanied by over 200 “enhanced screen” fact sheets synced to the President’s speech. Users could view with these particular details (charts, graphs, illustrations) while watching the President’s speech in real time.
During the presentation, Axios outlined fifteen main points of their strategy such as narrowing the target audience (depending on which policy was being promoted) as much as possible; setting goals that stretch you beyond what you think you can achieve; viewing each online platform as having a distinct purpose; creating a space for dialogue; and toning down the brand while focusing on the issues, not just the logos.
The Office of Digital Strategy has since closed down after President Obama left the White House, but the site is archived here at https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/.
Axios now works for Automattic, a company whose mission is to “democratize publishing and make the web a better place”. The “matt” in Automattic is online social media entrepreneur and web developer, Matt Mullenweg, who is also the co-founder of WordPress.
Ashleigh Axios was the creative director and digital strategist for the first-ever White House Office of Digital Strategy, bridging the two presidential terms of the Obama administration. Her presentation, “How Design Transformed the White House,” offers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how she (and her small team) successfully implemented an innovative design and digital strategy while up against limited government resources and impossible deadlines — all under intense public scrutiny. Loaded with insider secrets, tips, and tricks, this is sure to be a nostalgic look at an era that changed the digital landscape of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue forever.
Axios now leads The Studio, where she functions as an executive creative director for Automattic, a company with the mission to democratize publishing and commerce. She is an executive board member for AIGA, and an editorial board member for Design Observer. She is also the president emeritus of AIGA Washington D.C., where she formed DotGovDesign, an initiative and conference connecting and empowering government designers.
CDPUG members get $15 off the non-member rate. Use code CDPUGAA when registering.
Register at aafakron.com
Thursday, September 20 at The Tangier, 532 Market Street, Akron
11:00 a.m. Network and meet the speaker
11:30 a.m Buffet Lunch
Noon – 1 p.m. Presentation
Presented by HKM Direct Market Communications with promotional support of AIGA Cleveland.
The program for the August monthly meeting, “Interactive Bookkeeping Workshop for Graphic Artists and Small Business,” was a very informative and productive gathering of CDPUG members at BudgetEase, an experienced group of bookkeepers located in Shaker Heights on Lee Road.
In an expansive and airy space with many windows open to the busy street, Kathy Dise, president of BudgetEase, divided us into three groups of around ten people each and then sent us off into different conference rooms — those interested in bookkeeping in general and using programs other than QuickBooks; those who want to learn QuickBooks; and those who already use QuickBooks for their business.
Ron Skoczen took part in the second group — those interested in learning more about QuickBooks but did not know where to start. Ron said, “I learned that having a system in place to handle your bookkeeping needs is essential to being able to grow your business in a measurable and predictable way.”
With several online versions available, choosing the correct program can be a challenge. However, from customizing invoices, to tracking inventory, to generating a 1099-Misc, Mary Rossi, CPA, answered all of the questions and demonstrated how easy the software is to use. “Mary handed out a two-page checklist that was very helpful for the group to determine which is the best version for our individual business needs,” said Ron. “Choosing the version that solves your immediate needs is key, as you can always upgrade and add features as your company grows,” he added.
Cindy Gill, CPA, moderated the third group, and it was very a helpful and thorough session as we resolved each issue together. Most of the general questions dealt with things like the difference between accounts, categories, and services, and how they interact with each other; how to pick an invoice design from existing template and then adapt it to your needs; and how to set up services pricing for entry into invoices later.
Christi Carlson, the office manager for Team Spike Consulting, LLC, asked about a problem she has while reconciling bank statements and how lump sum payments come through online QuickBooks without specifying which amount came from which client. Cindy eased her frustration by showing how to manually assign each payment to a specific account after the deposit hits. In some ways, you still have to tell QuickBooks what you want it to do. It doesn’t do everything. Yet.
Others questioned the cost of QuickBooks service fees incurred for each online transaction. Cindy suggested that it would be worth the savings for users to make the switch considering the amount of time it takes to produce invoices manually and then enter the accounts receivable by hand when the program can do it for you. QuickBooks matches up invoices to payments with very little user interface and lets you know when payments are received. All of this can be done from your smartphone or tablet as well.
Landscaper Jim Beveridge of Yards Done Right, asked about the best way to run an expense report for his business because he uses QuickBooks to track expenses while also using proprietary software specifically for his industry. Cindy also clarified for him the difference between cost of goods sold and an actual expense. Providing a service such as lawn fertilizer application would not be considered an inventory product that one would sell directly to a customer, but as a service, and categorized as an expense.
A large part of the discussion centered around whether or not one can continue using QuickBooks on the desktop, or, if one will eventually be forced into the online subscription version. Kathalee Kirkendall wants to stick with the desktop version because in a couple of years her husband will be retiring from their business, so having to learn a new program so late in the game seems counterproductive. Also, Janet Dodrill mentioned that many are still uncomfortable with learning and depending on cloud-based software. Some are more inclined to invoice in the traditional way, while also receiving payments by check or credit card.
For some, it is uncomfortable to “lose control” over their data, but Cindy assured them that using the cloud allows access to that data anywhere and at any time. The files would always be backed up even if one’s hard drive were to crash. Spike Radway, of Team Spike Consulting, added that since the online version updates automatically (and frequently) the cloud version offers the most up-to-date and the most secure version possible.
Regarding cost, some had trouble committing to a monthly service fee. But QuickBooks offers many levels of financial commitment depending on your needs. Right now, sole proprietor freelancers can sign up for as little as $5/month, whereas larger businesses with employees can choose the $30/month plan (project and inventory features included), and with add-on payroll features for a few more dollars a month. All plans include receipt capture, 24/7 chat support, and integration with your current apps such as PayPal. Visit https://quickbooks.intuit.com/oicms/t/qbks-16923/b/pricing/ to compare pricing options.
Many thanks to Kathy, Cindy, and Mary, for hosting us and helping us “ease the pain” of bookkeeping. Visit www.BudgetEase.biz or call 216-832-4998 for more information.
Take Control Books is pleased to offer Macintosh Users Group (MUG) and CDPUG members three new titles that provide early access to information about Mojave and iOS 12. Buy all three books together for only $25.98, a savings of up to $14. This price includes free updates when new information is added to the books.
In Take Control of Upgrading to Mojave, Mac expert, Joe Kissell, gives his trusted advice on upgrading to the latest version of macOS. Learn how to ensure the process goes smoothly and efficiently; what has changed from previous versions, including revisions to the APFS file system; and, important new ways of keeping your Mac secure. It also includes troubleshooting advice as well.
Like her previous book, High Sierra, Scholle McFarland’s Take Control of Mojave covers all the new features and options in macOS 10.14, and also provides a good overview of the entire operating system. Find out about changes to Mac apps and system-wide tools and learn useful tricks that may be not be obvious at first glance.
Take Control of iOS 12, by Josh Centers, builds on his earlier book on iOS 11, detailing everything that has changed in the new iOS. Learn about Screen Time (that helps monitor and address screen addiction); updated notifications; improvements to Siri, Camera, Messages, and Photos; new password tools; and a long list of other changes, as well as the new Shortcuts app for automating iOS.
An opening reception for “Cowboys and Rockstars” The Legends, will be held on Friday, September 7, 2018, from 6 to 10 p.m., at Keith Berr Studio, 1420 East 31st Street, Cleveland, Ohio. The exhibition depicts the Wild West’s true legends: an in-depth look at the American rodeo cowboy, along with a collection of previously unseen work that captures legendary rockstars and their followers at American music festivals. For private showings call Linda at 216-566-7950, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.keithberr.com for more information.
The Cleveland Mini Maker Faire team invites CDPUG members to take part in the Sixth Annual Cleveland Mini Maker Faire at the Cleveland Public Library on Saturday, November 3.
A family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness, the Faire provides a venue for engineers, artists, scientists, and crafters, to share their hobbies, experiments, and projects with others. The Faire features over 100 Makers and draws between 4,000 and 5,000 visitors on a single day.
Creative projects of all kind are welcome, and CDPUG members’ digital publishing skills are an especially good fit.
Answer the call for Makers at http://cleveland.makerfaire.com/call-for-makers/