Art Scams: 9 “Red Flags” for Online Artists to Watch Out For

By admin in Art Business Advice > Selling Art Online

When your art website has a contact page, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get some interesting offers popping up in your email inbox.

And by interesting, of course, I mean completely illegitimate scams—some of which may sound real enough to be tempting.

So if you ever run across the following statements, please regard them as “red flags” and just hit the delete button. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.

1. “We’ll submit your website to dozens of major search engines”

I always have to smile when I read the phrase, “dozens of major search engines.” Maybe there used to be dozens, but now there’s only one: Google.

What do I mean?

Well, when I look at my traffic stats for the past month, Google accounts for 68% of it, while Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo contribute about 3% combined. These numbers are pretty typical for any website—so why bother submitting your site anywhere but Google? Google is the only “major” search engine left.

And yes, there IS a way to submit your website to Google. You need to create a sitemap of your website, log into Google webmaster tools, and submit your sitemap from there.

I’ve done this for EmptyEasel, but it’s not really a requirement. Google will find your pages just fine on its own, and submitting a sitemap doesn’t guarantee you’ll rank any higher on Google or get more traffic than before.

2. “We’ll list your website in hundreds of directories”

Having your website appear in a lot of online directories used to be a good idea because search engines paid attention to those directories to find new websites.

When the owners of those directories realized that their sites were important, they started charging money to applicants. This made them less reliable (after all, anyone could pay to get in) and their value to search engines went down.

These days, web directories are old and unimportant. Don’t bother signing up for them yourself, and don’t ever bother paying someone to do it for you.

3. “We’ll send thousands of qualified visitors to your website every day”

Thousands of visitors. . . maybe. Qualified? Not a chance.

What’s more likely is that you’ll be paying someone to start an automated computer script running that will constantly visit your website, making it SEEM as though you have more visitors than you actually do.

4. “Using SEO, we can make your website rank #1 in Google”

The question is, “Rank #1 for what keyword?”

Sure, SEO (also known as search engine optimization) does work, but the companies who promise #1 rankings don’t give you the full story. It’s very easy to rank #1 for some nonsense phrase like “sunset doodle rice” but what good does that do you?

And you can almost always rank #1 for your own name—unless it’s something very common like “John Smith”—but how does that help if you want to attract visitors who DON’T already know who you are?

SEO isn’t about ranking #1 for a random phrase or your own name. It’s about ranking highly (in the first page at least) for multiple keywords and keyword phrases that relate to your website.

And no, in most cases you don’t have to pay someone else to do it for you. EmptyEasel has an entire section devoted to explaining SEO for artists, and I’d suggest starting there first.

5. “Our e-book has the secret to selling art online”

I’ll tell you the secret—make good art and then work hard at promoting it. Heck, that’s the same formula for selling art offline, too.

Yes, you could purchase an e-book that explains ways to promote your art online. . . but you can probably get all that information for FREE. There are plenty of sites like EmptyEasel which won’t charge you for the same information you’ll find in that e-book.

So don’t buy into the hype. There’s no secret, and if there was one, you wouldn’t find it in a $19.99 downloadable e-book.

6. “I’ve noticed my wife has been looking at your art online…”

This statement is usually followed by an open-ended offer to buy a few pieces of your artwork for between $2,000-5,000. Amazingly, this fake buyer doesn’t care WHICH artworks he purchases. Most of the time, he’ll just ask you to choose for him!

This is a scam that has been kicking around for almost a decade now. Anytime someone “wants to buy” your artwork, but doesn’t have an artwork picked out, it’s a huge red flag. They’re simply telling your what you want to hear, so that you respond and start giving THEM real information about you.

Now, besides the 6 specific statements I’ve listed above, here are a few other “red flags” that indicate something’s not quite right:

7. Out-of-country requests to purchase your art

These folks will send you an email expressing interest in a few pieces of your art, and ask if those pieces are still available (whether or not you’ve clearly marked them as available already).

If you respond, they’ll start spinning some story about why they need to purchase your art via wire transfer or some other method that you don’t offer. The story might be a little different every time, but it usually has to do with you giving them your bank account info or some other sensitive piece of information.

These scammers aren’t hard to spot—they’re usually from another country and they always want you to do something for them. Just walk away.

8. Impersonal link-exchange requests

When an email starts with “Dear webmaster,” you can pretty much assume that their next request will be slightly self-serving.

I get these automated emails asking me to trade links all the time. . . if I link to them, they’ll link to me. They’re usually very specific too, requiring that I place a certain paragraph or specially-worded link at the bottom of one of my blog posts.

Nothing good comes of going along with these folks, and Google is smart enough to know the links aren’t legitimate—so it won’t help you in the long run.

9. Bad grammar and spelling

The final thing that makes me hit the spam button is finding poor spelling or grammar in a message. To me, bad spelling is like bad design—it shows that they don’t care enough, or don’t “have it together” enough for me to take them seriously.

I’m sure there are many more “red flags” to mention, but that’s all I’ve got—are there any that you avoid? If so, feel free to send them in to share with the rest of EmptyEasel’s readers.


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