Websites for Artists – Building Your Traffic and Your Business

This is the final article the series Websites for Artists.  If you would like to read the entire series you can start with Website Basics For Artists – Why You Need A Website and follow the links to the other articles.  The reasons for having a website are so that your customers can find you and new customers or prospects will be exposed to you and your work. Just like your business you will need to promote your website to generate traffic or “visits”.

One of the easiest ways to drive traffic to your site is to include your web address on every marketing piece you produce. Don’t forget to invite your audience to visit your website – any good advertisement has a call to action! Here are some easy ways to generate traffic by including your web address on:

  • Business Cards
  • Brochures and flyers
  • Press Releases and other announcements
  • Advertisements in magazines, newspapers, radio, TV
  • Directories and other listings both printed and online
  • Poster and signs
  • Invoices, estimates and other business correspondence
  • Emails in your signature line
  • Postings on blogs or comments you make on other websites
  • Product labels / tags
  • Any other thing you can think of that has your business name on it

Online Advertising

Online advertising is where you pay to have your business message “served up” to a particular online audience. This type of advertising allows you to target your audience and quickly get your message out. Unlike traditional forms of advertising, online advertising offers interactivity with your audience such as an easy way to find out more (clicking on your link), chatting with a representative or request a follow up for more information. There are many forms of online advertising and the most popular ones include:

  • Search engine marketing – when someone searches your type of business or art your listing comes up
  • Banner ads that are display on the top or in the margin of another website
  • Social media advertising where your ad appears on sites like Facebook, Linkedin
  • Directories for a particular product or type of business
  • Classified advertising such as Craig’s List

How much does online advertising cost?

Sites like Google provide searching for its users for free and generate revenue by selling advertising or “paid searches” which are typically based on keywords. When someone searches for a particular term or keyword your ad will be displayed. Ad costs are dependent on your choice of keywords and the number of competing advertisers using these keywords

To see how it works type “art” in Google and see what comes up. First you will see the most popular searches and on the margin you will see the paid ads. As you go the next page of the search notice that most of these ads will change. The more you pay, the better an ad position you will have. The idea here is to get your message out in front of your potential audience before your competitors by bidding more than they do.

Other websites act much like any other publication in that they sell ad space on their sites. These sites may rely on search engines such as Google to drive traffic to their site and thus to your advertisement. Others may have their own base of subscribers, readers or “circulation”.

Here are a few ways which advertising venues or search engines determine how much it will cost to serve up your ad:

  • Cost Per Thousand – you pay per thousand impressions or ads served and this is much like buying an ad in a magazine or newspaper and looking at its circulation. The more impressions you have, the more potential there is for people to see your advertisement. Advertisers have come up with clever ways to charge more for more popular products or services and most include some form of bidding.
  • Cost per click – you pay each time someone clicks on your advertisement and your cost is not dependent on the number of impressions. The cost per click is usually determined on a competitive basis by what similar businesses will pay for a click – usually using a bidding process.
  • Cost per Sale or Action – each time someone purchases something from you via a link on another site (affiliate), you pay them a fixed amount or commission for the purchase. Accounting is done via links and many times payments are automated through a third party.

With online advertising you can budget or limit the amount you spend per impression, click or day. Most online advertising sites have some form of budgeting program where you limit your daily expense based on the amount you bid per impression or click. If you are outbid for placement then you may not reach your daily budget. If you are the high bidder then you daily allotment may run out quickly during a particular day. Payments are usually automatic and transacted through credit cards.

Forms of online advertising

There are many forms of online advertising. Some are good and many are annoying and worse yet may damage your brand. A few of the more popular types are:

  • Paid search listings
  • Banner ads appearing on the side or margin of a website
  • Floating ad – those ads that follow you until you click “close”
  • Pop up ad that can appear on top, bottom or hidden behind the page being viewed.
  • Links to another page

Listing on search engines – Organic Search

Organic search is not to be confused with paid search listing such as those you will see on Google or other search engines. Sometime these listing are labeled as “ads” and sometimes their true search ranking is not so clear. As more paid listing appear, the consumer has become to trust them less, seeing them as only ads and not true searches.

In the early days of the web, search engines relied on key words buried inside of the code of each webpage to help them index each page for a search. It was easy for web developers to stuff this code with popular keyword that were not relevant just to get a page to show up in a search – any search! Search engine companies quickly caught on and developed formulas or algorithms to determine which listings will come up in a particular search. To get your page to rank high in listings you need good keywords in addition to:

  • Relevant and interesting content
  • Timely and fresh content
  • A good user experience
  • Easy navigation and quick loading
  • Enhanced content such as images, photos, videos
  • The popularity or number of visits to your website
  • Number of websites that link or refer to your website

There is a whole cottage industry that has grown up around getting your website to show up high in search ranking called SEO or search engine optimization. These services may be provided by your web developer, hosting service or an independent consultant. Beware that there are a lot of SEO consultants that are not worth the expense! No amount of SEO will substitute for great and relevant content on a site with a lot of visitors.

Social Media

As social media channels such as FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many others become more important in the online world you NEED to be social media accessible. Make sure you have links on your site to your social media channels and make it easy for your customers and prospects to connect with you. If you are using a site developed using WordPress make sure you have RSS feeds enabled so that your audience can subscribe to your content. You may also want to enable other features such as comments and feedback to start to build your own online community.

Social media can be an important method to drive traffic to your website and increase your search engine rankings. Be careful how you use social media and don’t turn it into an advertisement for your website. The main purpose behind your social media efforts should be to develop and interact with a community that has common interests and develop real relationships not just clicks.

Mobile Ready

As mobile devices become more prevalent and powerful, more people will use these devices to access the web than a traditional desktop or laptop machine. As you develop your web presence you may want to move towards having mobile ready content. A mobile ready website is typically easier to navigate and a more “inline” experience. Some website development platforms will allow you to create a mobile version without too much programming or expense. Others may require creating a mobile version of your website. Before you embark on developing a mobile presence make sure that this is appropriate for your target market and audience.

Analytics – Fine Tuning Your Strategy and Measuring Your Results

For a lot of advertising it is hard to gauge how effective you efforts have been and to put it in financial terms your ROI or return on investment. Like other forms of direct marketing, online advertising has an advantage in that your results and expenditures can be easily measured. Google offers services to help you determine the most popular keywords or terms people use to search. Most online advertising venues including search engines have programs that will measure your results based on keywords or different versions of an advertisement. Use these services to determine what works best for you.

A Final Word

With a few exceptions you will need a web presence for your art business. Look at what you do on the internet from your customer’s perspective and you will be more successful. Surround yourself with good web professionals and keep abreast of new technologies and trends as they evolve. Always keep your objective for being on the web in mind. If you are there to increase awareness are you getting more traffic? If you are they to sell more products are your web efforts directly attributable to sales? Good luck and keep experimenting until you find what works best for you.

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About Neil McKenzie

Neil McKenzie is an author, educator and consultant to artists and arts organizations. He is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver. Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto