In the business world, making a sale from someone visiting your website is called a conversion. The more visitors that your website receives each day, the greater your odds that you’ll “convert” a visitor to a customer.
When it comes to art—often a very personal purchase—it’s no surprise that conversions are just as difficult (if not more so) than in the business world.
Obviously the first step to selling art online is to work hard at increasing visitor traffic to your art website or blog. . . but what then? What if you’re getting between a few hundred visitors and a thousand visitors each month—but despite those numbers, nobody’s actually buying your art to hang on their walls?
In that case, the question to ask is no longer “how do I get more visitors?” Instead, it’s “why are my current visitors not buying my art?”
Since there are several possible answers, here are five steps you can use to discover what the problem is and how to fix it:
Step 1. Find out where your visitors are coming from
If you’re not already using a good website statistics program, check out this article to learn how to install Google Analytics and what it’s good for.
For those of you already using a stats program, take a look at the top referrers and top keywords sending visitors to your site and make sure that their reason for being there matches the artwork you’re selling.
For instance, if you’re selling fly-fishing artwork you’d want visitors who searched for phrases like “fly fishing art” or even better, “buy fly fishing art.”
If all your visitors arrive via unrelated keywords, you’re going to have a much harder time selling your artwork.
This can happen more easily than you’d think. Perhaps you wrote a random blog post about a movie you just saw, and that particular post is drawing in hundreds of visitors each week. This can skew your numbers considerably.
You may even discover that (after adjusting for all your off-topic traffic) your conversion rates aren’t that bad. In any case, now that you know WHY and HOW visitors are finding your site, move on to step 2.
Step 2. Revise your blog or website
There are two things you can do to improve your site so that it will attract more of the “right” kind of visitors.
First, try to keep the focus on your artwork’s subject, style, or medium. You don’t always have to write about yourself and your work, but if you’re an oil painter, write about oil paintings or other oil painters. If you’re a fly-fishing artist, you could feature other artists who deal in wildlife or nature art, or just talk about fly-fishing in general.
The goal is to create content that will appeal to the same people who would like your art without being overly self-promotional.
Second, go back to your stats program and look at the keywords that your visitors searched for which are ALMOST perfect for your artwork.
Using our previous example, if you’re getting a lot of visitors for the phrase “outdoor paintings” because one of your blog posts has that phrase in the post title, it may help to edit that title so it reflects your artwork a little better.
You can add words to the original title to include the exact phrase that you want people to find you for (i.e., “fly fishing paintings”) or just re-write the title completely.
Whichever approach you take, make sure that the title still applies to the article, and is still easily read and understood by humans. Stuffing several random keywords into every title ISN’T going to help because people won’t click if the title doesn’t make sense (and they’ll be upset if it’s not accurate).
In addition, don’t ever use the exact same keyword phrase for multiple blog post titles. Search engines only show the BEST result from a website for any given phrase, so only one blog post would show up anyway.
Slight variations do work, though. . . using the phrase “fly fishing art” in the title of one blog post, and the phrase “fly fishing paintings” in another one is a perfectly legitimate way to attract more qualified visitors to your site.
Step 3. Streamline your purchasing process
Do you make it easy for visitors to purchase your artwork by accepting credit cards and having “buy” buttons next to every work of art? Or do you force visitors to jump through hoops just to find out the price of one of your paintings?
The image above is taken from Richard Morris’s website, featuring his painting, City By the Sea.
No matter how expensive (or inexpensive) your art is, I always suggest signing up for PayPal so that buyers will feel confident using their credit card to make a purchase. Then put the price and the purchase button in the same place next to your artwork, every time.
If those suggestions don’t change anything, pretend you’ve never been to your site before, and take a quick look around. How easy is it to get to the final purchase screen? Better yet, invite a friend to browse your site and make a purchase while you watch over their shoulder.
Sometimes the reasons people aren’t purchasing has nothing to do with the art itself – it’s simply a problem with the website standing in their way. I’ve seen this time and again, and it’s one of the main reasons I created EmptyEasel’s Simple Artist Websites. . . to solve all these problems ahead of time, so artists can just focus on creating art!
Step 4. Compare (and modify) your prices
Another reason that people may not be buying is because of your prices. Visit other artists’ websites and see what they charge for similar-sized work in the same medium. If your prices are exceptionally high by comparison, maybe that’s the problem.
I don’t necessarily recommend lowering your prices for that reason alone, but perhaps you could add other options for more price-conscious buyers.
Creating smaller paintings (like the daily painters do) or selling prints of your work are just two options, and both would probably work equally well.
Step 5. Take an honest look at your art
If steps 1 through 4 don’t work after another 3-6 months, perhaps it’s time to take a longer look at your art. Is it truly good enough to sell as it is, or does it need some improvement before you could realistically expect a lot of people to purchase it?
This is never an easy question to ask, but after some serious self-analyzation you might find that your time would be better spent improving your skills and techniques than marketing your art online.
Finally, remember that all first-time visitors are much less likely to buy your artwork than a repeat visitor. So to increase the chances that people will return a second time, I’d suggest doing everything you can to encourage them to sign up for your e-mail list or artist newsletter. (Read more information about building your email list and choosing an email service like MailChimp to maximize your efforts.)
In my opinion, if you’re not getting sales but you ARE getting email sign-ups, then at least you’re on the right track. . . and I’d say that some conversions are just around the corner, too.
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