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Hide and Seek: Improving page ranking for web art

by Britt Griswold

There is an old saying the "80% of success is just showing up." And that saying is oh-so true when dealing with the world wide web. More and more art buyers use the web to search for images. Why wouldn't they? The ability to search millions of locations in the blink of an eye is as tempting to buyers as it is for illustrators looking for reference material for their illustrations.

An admittedly un-scientific, ongoing survey on the Science-Art.com web site, suggests that close to 50% of visitors use the public search engine technology widely available on the web when searching for images. The current champions of web search are Google, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL, and Ask Jeeves, totaling 98+% of the searches executed (SearchWatch 8/05). And nearly half of the searches use sources controlled by Google.

Methods for finding images depend heavily on the use of text and links associated with an image. You, the illustrator, must make the odds favorable for your image to be amoung the ones to "show up" when the art director's web search flies across the internet!

Factor 1: Hanging out the shingle

Your billboard is the title of your page. The most important words on a web page are in the title. It appears near the beginning of your page in the header with the tags <title>content here</title> surrounding it.

Google, the search engine that powers a purality of the searching done on the web, gives the title heavy importance in weighting the results list. At Science-Art.com the title you give to your image is turned into the page title. However not just any title will do. If you choose a common set of words, you will be competing against tens of millions of pages that have similar words. You need to make your title as relevant to the words most likely to be used when art directors are searching for the subject of your art.

Plant call image by Elizabeth MoralesHere is an example*:
Using Google as our search engine of choice, the keywords "plant cell", return about 36.2 million results. A page at Science-Art.com with these words for a title ranks somewhere down where it will never be found.

But adding a few additional keywords with high relevence can change the results dramatically. Science-Art.com automatically converts the title to:"Plant Cell - Illustration@Science-Art.com." When the words "plant cell illustration" are searched, the returns number only 1.2 million and the image is ranked number five. There are fewer returns and the title's high relevance has push the result to the first page, a highly desirable spot.

When the words "plant cell art" are searched, the returns number almost 6.4 million. But again, the very relevant title moves the result to the number five spot! In addition, using that phrase in Google Images brings up a Science-Art.com image in the number one position!

*Search results change over time, all results are current as of 10/16/05.

Make titles short and relevent

As you can see a page title is a very powerful thing, but only so long as you don't dilute it too much. Good positioning requires you to choose the best words to describe your image, but not one more than is needed. The more words in your title, the more diluted the value of each word becomes. Science-Art.com has opted to add the words "illustration", "science", and "art" to all page titles because of the high relevance to expected searches. The ideal title will consists of 3-8 words, thus allowing each word a significant amount of weight.

H5N1 Bird Flu image by Taina LitwakHere is an example*:
The title "H5N1 - the bird flu virus" becomes "H5N1 - the bird flu virus - Illustration@Science-Art.com"; searching Google with the terms "bird flu illustration" returns the page link in the number six position, not bad! Taina Litwak has added three illustrations on this topic, with variations on the title. Another image "Bird Flu ready to infect human lungs - Illustration@Science-Art.com" contains the same words used in the search, but it appears as number seven bacause there are more words in the title, thus diluting the power of the three search words.

*Search results change over time, all results are current as of 10/16/05.

Taina has used variations of her bird flu title to help keep relevence high in different keyword searches for regular Google results.

  • bird flu illustration - sixth place
  • avian flu illustration - fourth place
  • H5N1 flu illustration - first place
  • H5N1 flu art - second place
  • avian flu virus - eleventh place in Google images

All-in-all a pretty successful effort in making her images visble!

Austrailia and Antarctica from space, image by Theophilus Britt GriswoldTitles of illustrations are sometimes made poetic, indirect or personal. Forget it. If you want to sell your art, subject matter and purpose are king. Use a title that will tell the viewer the subject or purpose of the art. "Southern Summer" would be a little too cryptic for this image of Earth. "Antarctica and Australia from Space" or "Antarctica, Australia Earth View", or "Southern Hemisphere, Summer" are much better choices.

Factor 2: Location, Location, Location

Jellyfish Life Cycle image by Marjorie LeggittIt so happens that we have an illustration on the site that has the title "Jellyfish life cycle." But it was not being returned at all! After some investigation in preparation for this article, we realized it took five clicks to reach this page from the home page. This appears to be a depth one click more than Google is currently willing to dig into the site. So changes were made to fix that situation. Now this image is ranked number three when using those keywords!

Here is how:
The way to get a search robot to "spider" content deep in your site is to provide easy to reach bait! The bait is called a doorway page and it is linked directly to your site's home page. Listed on these doorway pages are links to the content within the site that is too deep for a spider's normal search pattern. Science-Art.com has implemented doorway pages from the beginning, but now has automated their creation and expanded their content. A script now regenerates these pages whenever they are accessed, ensuring each image is only three clicks away from the site's home page when the spiders come calling.

If you have a site that needs spidering, consider reorganizing it to limit its link depth to three clicks, or add a doorway page that bypasses a layer or two of your site organization. A site map can be organized to fulfill this need and is encourage by Google for that reason.

More Hide and Seek Factors on page 2

Science-Art.com passes 1200 AND 2200!

Flying adaptations: birds, dinosaurs and batsCan you say GOOGLE-plex?

Science-Art.com is currently averaging 2200 visits a day; and we recently passed the 1200 images on display around the world through our web site Image Bank. Thanks to our members who present wonderful art and photos to the world!

"Teaching Science Fact with Science Fiction" Book CoverKaren Johnson

A Busy Bee

The power of Google is awesome, hail the Google Gods!
Karen Johnson was perplexed by the image view counts that were skyrocketing for one of her images at Science-Art.com. Her bumble bee has received 8 times as many viewings as her other images. The reason? Her image ranks high in the Google Image Search results for "Bumble Bee illustration" number two in fact! Bumble bees are always topical, so this is likely to be an image that has staying power in the search engines. Congratulations Karen!

Karen also says,"I just wanted to let you know that Science-Art.com landed me an illustration job…that pays! I’ll be doing a couple of illustrations for a gardening magazine just so you know who’s looking at your site. Thanks again for all your hard work in getting (it started) and keeping it going!"
-Karen Johnson

View more of Karen Johnson's work at

Iris painting: Cochleanthes discolorNew York Invasives

An Invasive Web Site

A mention of the NY Invasive Plants Exhibit gallery on Science-Art.com can be found in the Sept. '05 American Society of Botanical Artist's Publication. Chris Sanders, portfolio manager for the site, says that putting the paintings from the show online is a very good marketing tool, helping the GNSI New York Chapter land show dates for the exhibit through all of 2006.

View the New York Invasives Plants exhibit on-line, "Alive in New York: a growing invasion", only here at Science-Art.com!


Bait and Switch, or a Mental Crutch?

Science-Art.com has an additional moniker now. Recently the domain name sci-art.com came on the market. We grabbed it. For only $9 a year we are able to redirect visitors from that URL to the Science-Art.com domain. Now fuzzy memories can be successful (what was that site name?)

Try the jump for yourself:http://www.sci-art.com

Laurie O'Keefe

shark headBlast from the Past

"Dear Science-Art,
Just wanted to let you know that I just got contacted by someone I worked with years ago who did not realize that I worked digitally. She tracked me down from your website, so just wanted to let you know that I'm very appreciative of your hard work!"
-Laurie O'Keefe

View more of Laurie O'Keefe's work at

VAT's Entertainment!

A recent exchange from the GNSI Listserve:

"Has anyone had any experience dealing with acquiring VAT certificates for doing business between the US and the EU. An Italian magazine wishes to use a couple of my images and it seems like there is a lot of paperwork to be tackled. I've had images published in other EU countries w/o any apparent need. Perhaps this was because those publications used a US based buyer? It appears that I will need to send in a form 8802 to the IRS so I can then request a certificate 6166. (sigh) Perhaps this process is simpler that it first appears. But I feel like I am peering into a black hole."

"You're right on both counts: you're peering into a black hole, and it's not as bad as it seems." replies Lynette Cook, well known astronomical artist.

"Some European countries require such paperwork in order for you, as a US citizen, to avoid double taxation - i.e. paying their income taxes and your US income taxes. Italy is one of them. The IRS has recently changed their requirements on the paperwork. Yes, you must send the IRS Form 8802, filled out, identifying the country for which your request is being made (Italy), along with a personal statement declaring under penalty of perjury that for the purpose of taxation you are a US resident and will remain so throughout the current taxable year. If you forget to send the letter, the IRS will contact you, telling you that you must send it before they can complete the process, and it will delay the paperwork."

"The IRS will then send you a brief letter, certified for Italy, saying your are a resident of the US (as far as it knows) for purposes of US taxation. You can fax the form to the IRS, or mail it. It takes about 2 months, although it's supposed to take about half that time. You then send the letter from the IRS to your contact in Italy (probably along with your invoice at that point). In my case, the publisher I work with in Italy also wants a personal statement from me, on my letterhead, stating that I do not have a personal business or establishment in Italy. Then you wait to be paid."

"I was asked to put a VAT number on my invoice only a couple of times, and I believe this was with an organization in Norway or Finland, and France."

"My most frustrating experiences are with the French companies, as France requires Form RF 3EU. The IRS doesn't use this form anymore - and many IRS staff can't even answer questions about it (and forget looking it up on the IRS web site) - but France does. So you have to get the form from your French contact. In my case, I finally saved one and photocopy it each time I need it since it's so hard to come by. Form RF 3EU is for the same purpose - to avoid double taxation. You have to send this (in triplicate) to the IRS, along with Form 8802, plus your personal statement. Arghhhh!!!"

Look for more useful tip in the Archives of the GNSI Listserve.

More Science-Art news on page 2
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