Building Your Artist Website Traffic

Image of empty highway

When you start out there may not be a lot of traffic heading to your website.

The reasons for having a website are so that your existing 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
  • Other websites where you have a presence
  • Your social media channels and pages
  • 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 is when someone searches your type of business or art on a search engine such as Google or Bing
  • Sponsored search where you pay to have your listing appear at the top when a particular keyword(s) is searched for
  • Banner ads that are displayed on the top or in the margin of another website
  • Social media advertising where your ad appears on sites like Facebook or Twitter
  • Directories or lists for a particular product or type of business
  • Classified advertising such as Craig’s List
  • Email marketing
  • Mobile advertising with messages designed and targeted towards mobile devices

How much does online advertising cost?

Sites like Google provide searching for their 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 may 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 paid search listings followed by the most popular searches. 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 for keyword searches than your competitors – this can get quite expensive!

Other websites may 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:

  • Fixed Cost – You pay for the delivery of your advertisement for a fixed time similar to advertising in a magazine, newspaper, radio or television.
  • Cost Per Thousand (CPM) – 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 (CPC) – 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 Engagement  (CPE) – 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 your daily allotment may run out quickly during a particular day.  Payments are usually automatic and transacted through credit cards.

Advantages and disadvantages of online advertising

In many ways online advertising is similar to other forms of advertising such as print media. In both forms you need to create an ad targeted at the right audience, crafted with the right message, one that engages the viewer and calls them to action.  In the print world a call to action could be to phone or write for more information, place an order, visit a gallery or show or return a postcard.  In the digital world, an online ad can lead the viewer to click for more information, schedule an appointment or place an order.  Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of online advertising:


  • Short lead times on scheduling and placing advertisements
  • Possible lower costs to get started but don’t forget that it’s the results that count
  • Potential to reach a large audience and have your company/message shared worldwide
  • Ability of an ad to be interactive to further engage the reader
  • Quick and easy to find out more – no phone calls, no stamps or return envelopes
  • Ability to measure your advertisements effectiveness but don’t forget the most important measure of all – making a sale!
  • Ability to change ads, headlines, graphics, offers and other ad elements as needed
  • Ability to test lists, target markets, ad schedules, concepts and graphics
  • Ability to target your ad to prospects by geography, demographics, lifestyle, purchasing behavior as well as a host of other ways to segment your target markets
  • Ability to enhance and engage the audience with multimedia such as video and sound
  • Ability to link your ad with your other online content


Banner blindness where people ignore ads (or what they perceive to be ads) and train themselves to ignore advertising!

  • Ad blocking technologies may limit your exposure
  • Privacy concerns by users employing privacy software that may limit your ability to collect information on those who clicked on your ad
  • The honesty and trustworthiness of advertisers on the internet is not a given – people may be suspicious.
  • The competition is fierce for your customer’s attention and dollars

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.  Sometimes these listing are labeled as “ads” and sometimes their true search ranking is not so clear.  As more paid listings appear, the consumer has come 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 keywords that were not always 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, interesting, timely and fresh content – this is key!
  • A good user experience that keeps the viewer coming back
  • Easy navigation and quick loading – especially for mobile devices
  • 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.  No amount of SEO will substitute for great and relevant content on a site with a lot of visitors.

The bottom line(s)…

There are a lot of ways to increase the traffic that goes to your website.  Your first priority should be to make sure that you advertise your website address on all of your marketing materials and invite your customers or prospects to visit your site.  You may also want to consider online advertising as a way to build your website volume but you may want to take it slow to figure out if it will work for you.

If you would like to learn more about preparing your own business and marketing plan, building your art business and selling more art I invite you to check out my book – The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox. Good Luck!


Neil McKenzie 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 where he teaches “Marketing the Arts”.

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