A little more than a year ago, I was rapidly approaching graduation and putting the finishing touches on my print portfolio. However I knew that I would need to get my book online if I was going to compete against the other designers for a great position. After I landed a position and as I began to learn more about the web I soon realized that my portfolio was severely lacking any sort of search engine optimization and I would never land any freelance work through it unless I made a change. Having designed a number of portfolio sites for work, I have learned a couple of tricks that can help optimize any artist or designers portfolio. These tips and guidelines can be used during the design process to help ensure that your site has the greatest opportunity to secure you new freelance leads.
- Utilize the title tags. Always place the name of the client and the portfolio piece in the title tag. By doing this, you allow search engines to know that the terms on the page that are the most important and search results will also show relevant information about the project.
- Place important information within heading tags (i.e. <h1>). By placing all important information such as the client and project title in a heading tag, you let search engines know that that information is some of the most important items on the page.
- Use alt descriptions on all image tags. By giving the images an alt description, you ensure that it is able to “see” the image.
- Include a project description with each portfolio piece. Typically artist and designer portfolios are very image heavy and have almost no type. By placing a description for each portfolio item you allow for content that search engines can spider and cache in their results.
- Place the description within the meta description tag. While this will probably not influence your search results very much, it will give relevant information to users when they are scanning results which encourages more visits.
- Trade links with colleagues. This can be a very effective way to raise your ranking in search engines. If you are fresh out of design school, this should not be a problem as you should know a lot of other designers that are looking for work just like yourself.
- Avoid frames. I still run across a number of portfolio sites online that are using either frames or iframes. This is typically a bad idea because these pages get indexed by search engines, but usually lack navigation to reach the main portfolio. This leads to the user visiting the page once and having nowhere to go so they immediately leave.
- Include an about section. There are numerous reasons why you should include a well written about section. For SEO purposes, writing an about section that lists your areas of expertise, location, schools attended, and other relevant items allows them to find you based on these criteria.
- Use valid code. While not the easiest item on this list, using valid code insures that your site will be spidered correctly and no information will go unseen. For more information visit http://www.w3c.org
- Write your content for people not search engines. While putting a lot of good keywords in your copy is always a good idea, remember that most importantly your site should be written for people not search engines. Also, never try to use dubious methods to trick search engine spiders, this will only hurt you in the long run, and can even get you banned from search engines.
Search engine optimization is a huge topic with numerous contingencies and tricks, however these simple tips can put you well on your way to receiving more users and hopefully more business and exposure! Now I just need to create my new search engine friendly portfolio and I will be ready to see the results. I have plans to launch my new portfolio before the end of February (work permitting).