ROBERTS What mistakes have you made with regard to the web?
GRAY I remember years ago I went to a company that was one of those web search enhancement companies and you were supposed to pay them a monthly fee and they would beef up your meta tags and stuff like this, and give you some advice on how to do the stuff, just tweaking out your website to make it more optimized. I was looking at some of the stuff they do, and one of the things was putting in these pages, your background pages, all kinds of meta tags, like keywords in white on a white background–that was kind of technique–a lot of people still use that, but itâ€™s very highly frowned upon in the search engine world and if they catch people doing that kind of thing, they can definitely drop you down on your rankings status there and when I read that, I was like, â€˜Wow, this is the company Iâ€™m paying to do this for me and theyâ€™re doing something that the search engines donâ€™t like you to do,â€™ so I dropped them. I want to be legitimate. I donâ€™t want anybody to have any reason to take away any of my rankings status there.
ROBERTS Are there other artists who have gone into the web more than you? Youâ€™re by far the farthest in of anyone Iâ€™ve met.
GRAY I donâ€™t know anybody else who has remotely the kind of website detail and depth that I do. I just try to put up, literally, almost every piece Iâ€™ve made that I can at least get a photo of. My website is way more in-depth and detailed than any other artist I know, by far.
ROBERTS Yes, that was my impression.
GRAY That helps, obviously.
ROBERTS Yes. Has anyone from the art world come and interviewed you about your web strategy?
GRAY Iâ€™ve definitely been asked about it quite a few times, actually. There was a book that came out years ago about selling art without galleries–I got interviewed about that kind of thing. Actually, almost anytime that I get asked about my sales, I start talking about the web and everybody gets very interested in how Iâ€™m doing it.
ROBERTS Has there been articles focused on that particular topic–you and the web?
ROBERTS What else have you learned besides donâ€™t go with that optimization company?
GRAY That you basically just have to keep up with it, keep it fresh, donâ€™t make it too complex. I canâ€™t tell you how many times, you know, Iâ€™m pretty web savvy, and I go to websites all the time that you get on to them and theyâ€™re so slow loading and when they do finally load, itâ€™s like playing that game Myst to even try to find the buttons to go to anything. Itâ€™s almost more of a showcase for the web designer more than it is for the company that theyâ€™re trying to represent and I think thatâ€™s a huge mistake, because people just get too lost in that, and I think thatâ€™s a mistake thatâ€™s extremely commonplace.
ROBERTS You mean to have some kind of Flash animation, or something?
GRAY Yes, they have just too much crap. Itâ€™s too complex–you canâ€™t even find the buttons, the navigationâ€™s almost impossible. To even find how to make contact, or even get to the next page, you have to mouse all over the images and try to find what is the button, and these are gigantic companies and stuff. Iâ€™m just always amazed that they do things like that. And the other reality is that youâ€™ve go to think who is looking at your website and whoâ€™s your market. In my world–in the art market world–my clientele tend to be older and very wealthy, 50s to 80s, mostly retired or with very hefty bank accounts, and the one thing that they donâ€™t know is computers. Most of these people are not that computer savvy and if they get to your webpage and they canâ€™t navigate around, or if they get to your webpage and it says, â€˜Youâ€™re going to have to download the latest version of Flash,â€™ and this, that, and the other thing, theyâ€™re going to be like, â€˜Oh, well the hell with that. What the hell is a download? Whatâ€™s Flash?â€™ Seriously, I mean I have very smart people that just donâ€™t have any reason to be that web or even computer savvy. They completed most of their career before everybody really go into computers that heavily, so they just donâ€™t know them that well. So you have to make it–at least make the navigation–pretty simple, and no major drama to at least get to the home page. The fancy Flash opening thing in my opinion is just only a showcase for the Flash or the web designer.
ROBERTS I would imagine artists like yourself donâ€™t have a lot of Flash on their pages.
GRAY Well, a lot of them do.
GRAY Iâ€™m all for doing that kind of thing, too, but if I wanted to do that, I would have it as the secondary page. Have the home page where you can have the two buttons, because thatâ€™s what a lot of people do. Go to the HTML version or go to the Flash version. At least if you separate it off on your home page, then people at least have the option before they get stuck in this window of a ten minute download.
ROBERTS What are your hopes–do you have other things youâ€™re hoping for out of your webpage, your web presence, that you havenâ€™t gotten yet? Or is it working pretty well?
GRAY Well, itâ€™s been working pretty well. I just basically want it to continue to grow and get better. And it gradually is. Every year I do some new things and it adds a little bit more–new museums and things linking in–the more of that kind of stuff, the better.
ROBERTS When you say you do new things, you mean you add links or you add whole concepts or categories?
GRAY I mean I add the links any time that Iâ€™m on television or any books, magazines, weblogs or anything–all of that stuff. I link to them and they link to me, and itâ€™s just another notch in the credibility factor.
ROBERTS I see, so itâ€™s an ongoing process of trying to increase linkage and so forth.
GRAY Right. But that is the most important credibility factor in the web search engine world these days–good qualified links coming in to your site. Links that go out donâ€™t mean anything; you can have six million of them and they donâ€™t care.
ROBERTS Yes, I see what you mean. Is there anything about you and the web we havenâ€™t asked about?
GRAY The one other thing that I think I should mention is that there is other ways of enhancing your web experience aside from just your own webpage and thatâ€™s things that are free, like My Space or LinkedIn for instance, are classic examples. They are very searchable in Google and they rank the information on these sites quite highly, so itâ€™s good to have supplemental ways of people seeing your work other than just your own website. One of the reasons for that, and one of the reasons I kind of got into trying to go around and hook up with these other art websites is because of things like: Years ago, Yahoo! decided that they werenâ€™t going to even list my home page anymore unless I paid them, so when they start doing things like that, you know, my website wouldnâ€™t even be listed but all the other websites that mention me or link to me, those are all listed. I still get the listing on Yahoo! but not directly. I think that my website is listed now, but itâ€™s down on the third page or so of listings for â€˜Bruce Gray sculptor.â€™
ROBERTS So if I search Yahoo! for â€˜Bruce Gray sculptor,â€™ I get your home page on the third page of listings–is that what youâ€™re saying?
GRAY Something like that, yes. Youâ€™ll see a whole bunch of other stuff first, letâ€™s put it that way. And thatâ€™s not that way on Google. Thatâ€™s why everybody uses Google now. If the other search engineâ€™s going to make a lot of the cool stuff have to pay to be on there, then obviously theyâ€™re not going to have anywhere near the level of listings that Google does, so whatâ€™s the point of even bothering with it?
ROBERTS Yes, I see what you mean.
GRAY Thatâ€™s why theyâ€™re not doing so well.
ROBERTS Yes, the act of desperation. I think that covers it well. Thank you very much for your time.