Poking the Gravid Chicken
Artmakers as Friends of the Earth
Fighting Artist Blocks with Brainstorming and Thumbnails
An Introduction to Cosplay Costuming
The Two-Headed Phoenix
Online Marketing Part Iby Liiga Smilshkalne
This article was written as a response to a conversation that took place one fine night (night for some, day for others) on an online artist community. There was a discussion about how hard it can be to get your art out there, and how it won’t market itself, no matter how good you are. Since I have survived studies for a business and economics bachelor’s degree, I was motivated to write down a few tips that others might find useful in their quest through the art world. While it has definitely expanded beyond the scope of a few short hints, I hope that you will find this article an interesting read and, in the best case, useful.
The Lovely Location
First of all, the three main aspects to marketing are location, location, and location. It is more obvious with real life, but it is nonetheless important online. This can be split down into two parts: traffic and the Web site.
Traffic is the online version of target audience. To do a successful marketing campaign, you have to determine what your target audience is: what they like, what they do, where they gather, how old they are, how much they can afford, etc. This all will significantly help with targeting your advertising.
Now, for each of them, consider who will view your link, how many of them will be interested in following through to your page, and how many of them will do it with the intention of making a purchase.
In case of Elfwood, anyone who is interested in looking at fantasy or sci-fi art (or furs or whatever else roams around Elfwood) can happen across your link. It is easy to put your page online, and with a bunch of comments you can spread your link and attract more traffic. Not hard. There are a lot of other artists on Elfwood, too, but if your art is good and if you get listed on some tours, there's a good chance to get decent exposure. A lot of your hits will, however, come from fellow artists also looking for exposure, unless you manage to arrange some external linking or you get Moderator’s Choice, in which case more non-members will view your work.
As for how many of those who visit your gallery page will be interested in following through to your personal page -- good question. A lot of people on Elfwood don't bother to read the description at all. You can put a one-liner stating the media you used, and yet you're bound to get a lot of questions along the lines of, “What did you make this with?” And the description is the only place you can put your link. OK, the alternative is your bio page, but even fewer people seem to read that. So a lot of your hits will go past that precious link you want them to visit. It does help if you offer additional details or close-ups on the link you want them to visit, but that only works for those who actually read that much.
The last question to consider would be how many of the visitors will have the intention of making a purchase. Truth be told, it doesn't get much better here. A lot of people on Elfwood browse with the intention to take a look at pretty pictures, which is fully understandable as Elfwood presents itself as a place to showcase your art without making any real quality demands and encourage beginners. It is a hobby site. So a lot of people who will actually follow your link will do so with the intention of seeing more pretty pictures, not with the intention of purchasing anything. I have no data on what the percentage is between those who follow links from Elfwood and those who purchase anything, but there is the sneaking suspicion that the results aren't brilliant.
Conclusion: big traffic, relatively easy to attract, little serious interest, even less revenue.
Now, let us move on to asking the same three questions about Google.
Firstly, your link will appear to those who search for the specific keywords that have to do with your site. Depending on your listing, it might be a smaller or larger number of visitors. They will usually be people who are interested in what you have to offer. Unfortunately there's pretty darn big competition for fantasy art, so you'll have to be rather precise when selecting your target audience and refining your website according to that (more on that later on).
The number of people actually visiting your site depends on how carefully you have selected your keywords, how professional your domain looks, and how well the short summary Google provides caters to the expectations of the person who's viewing your link. This puts a lot of responsibility in your hands, which means work to do, but on the bright side you have a realistic opportunity to achieve valuable traffic if you know how to do it and invest the effort and time into it. The closer to the top of the search your link is, the more people will click on it.
The inclination of the visitors to make a purchase, once again, depends on how well what the person was searching for corresponds to what your site has to offer. Notice a trend? With Google it's a big do-it-yourself game, with elements of gambling. The better the keywords, the more valuable traffic you get. This is a case where you can put your marketing skills and tricks to their best use, as you are in control of the situation. If you do well, it's quite likely that a lot of people who go to your webpage will actually go and purchase something sooner or later -- or at least tell their friends (a bit more on this later).
Conclusion: lots of work, lots of possibilities, it all depends on you.
The purpose of comparing these two was to illustrate: firstly, a situation where your traffic is kind of on the same topic, but it isn't really refined, and it's based more on luck; secondly, a situation where your traffic is filtered at its very roots and your advertising can be well aimed.
Your website is what leaves the final impression upon the potential customer; therefore it needs to be designed with care and attention to detail. There are several important aspects to designing your website, the main ones being domain, design, and navigation.
Domain name is like your business card -- in fact, it does often go on your business card. Correct choice of domain name goes a long way. First of all, the closer your domain is to the contents of your site, the more search engines will like it. Also, the easier to memorize it is, the more likely people are to visit it -- and it is also great for word of mouth (which will be touched upon later on). Overall, domains are much better when it comes to leaving a good impression than freebie sites -- it is often complicated to get a search engine to take freebie sites seriously when it comes to such fierce competition as fantasy art. So yep, domain and your own Web space go a long way.
Design is equally important, as it is your way to show what you are all about. Designing a good site isn't easy, because you have to take into account loading speeds, browser compatibility, navigation, aesthetical impression, whether or not it conveys the message, etc. Basic tips: simple and elegant works best. Keep the site functional, placing decorations sparsely but effectively. People don't want to spend hours waiting for the website decorations to load; they will have enough chance to see your art if they don't run away immediately. Notice how sites like Linda Bergkvist's, Michael Whelan's, Yanick Dusseault are relatively simple, with one brighter accent. They attract attention and they don't take forever to load. There are no huge Flash files, no Java applets, no scrolling marquees or other annoyances. At the same time, they aren't just text pages either. If you aren't knowledgeable about Web design, it is worth finding someone who is, be it a friend or a professional. The more you invest into your website, the better the output will be.
Navigation ties in closely with design, but it is marked as a separate point because of its importance. The general rule about sites is that everything should be reachable within three clicks. If someone has to spend more than a few minutes browsing around finding anything, they are likely to get irritated and not come back. This is especially important if you sell prints or other items that don't involve pre-ordering. There is a group known as impulse buyers, and for them it is essential that they can see the good fast, and they can add it to cart and purchase right away without going through hassle. Ellen Million Graphics -- both the EMG general site and Portrait Adoption section -- are perfect examples of putting the goods in a visible place and making everything easily accessible.
Next month we will discuss defining the ideas for your site and site advertising.
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