8 Strategies for Boosting Your Online Presence-and Your Sales

Flashing neon signs, insistent billboards, colorful flags, goofy inflatables, hot air balloons and sky writing are just some of the tools businesses can employ to catch your eye, pique your curiosity and make you pay attention to what they have to offer. But if you’re an artist with a website, just how do you get browsers’ attention—and keep them returning to your site over and over again to see what’s new?

Send Out E-Newsletters
Engage your viewers in your site with e-newsletters. Create a sign-up page for fans of your work, and make sure that at least twice a year you send out an e-newsletter with upcoming shows, a sampling of new works and an easy link back to your website gallery. A cautionary note: Don’t bombard fans and collectors of your work with communications. Too frequent e-mailing could work against you.

Strut Your Stuff in a Blog
You have a seamless website—now what? A blog, or online journal, is a way for artists to expand and expound less formally on their work; journal their daily studio progress; talk about and share images from their openings, plein air locations and travels; recommend their favorite albums to listen to while painting; and generally share their thoughts on anything they find interesting, informative, amusing or provocative. When you, as an artist, honestly find your blog worth following, so will your online visitors.

A particularly good symbiotic relationship exists between Georgia artist Otto Lange’s website and his blog—separate but interconnected, and well worth the visit.

Try Daily Painting
For many artists who blog, the concept of daily painting has become a means of encouraging browsers or fans to visit their sites regularly. The idea is that each day the newly completed painting is posted and available for sale, either at a set price (usually fairly low) or by auction. The movement was started by artist Duane Keiser and others and has spawned DailyPainters.com, founded by Micah Condon. This site, a juried gallery of works by daily painters, shows the works of more than 140 artists who consistently complete a new painting nearly every day.

Participate in Group Challenges
Another blog-friendly idea is for a group of artists with a similar level of talent and ability to decide, in any number of ways, on a topic, subject or idea for a painting and then have each member create a work that is his or her own representation of the concept. This could be a monthly or quarterly challenge, and each artist’s blog would display the results and links to all the participants’ individual websites.

Join Online Directories
An effective way of grabbing browsers and steering them your way is also by joining a number of online directories. There are many hundreds of free directories with a variety of fine art categories that allow you to upload images of your work, related information and the link to your website—all at no charge. Art collectors from all over the world have access and can find you through their searches. Examples of art-specific directories are found at www.artpromote.com, www.art-online.com and www.artweblinks.com.

Pitch Ancillary Products
And, as always, there’s website merchandising. Montana artist John Banovich, one of the world’s leading wildlife artists, not only has his very specific work as a draw to his site, but he has been thoughtful in creating a range of merchandise bearing images of his art. Unlike so much merchandise offered on artist websites, the items he offers are unique, innovative and of the highest quality—with the added hook that a percentage of sales proceeds goes to support Banovich Wildscapes Foundation and its efforts to conserve Earth’s wild places. These items include engraved, sheathed hunting knives; decorative, saddle-stitched leather pillows; a wood-boxed set of the Big Five red wines, created with NASCAR legend Richard Childress (who shares Banovich’s passion for wildlife conservation) and his Childress Vineyards.

Conduct Online Auctions
Once you’ve established a blog, and it’s proven to be attracting visitors regularly, consider offering work for sale by auction. The first thing to do to protect yourself and your buyers—and to simplify transactions and payments—is to establish a PayPal account. This is easy to do; the basic account is free, and you pay a nominal percentage of the sale. You can add PayPal’s logo/link to your blog to make it clear that you work through PayPal, which is usually of comfort to online shoppers worldwide.

Announce your intent to auction work on a certain date, and hype it up! You could post images of the progress of the piece you plan to auction to keep your visitors engaged and encourage them to return regularly, as well as help to establish broader interest in the auction. Then post a high-quality image of the completed piece, providing all details: title, size, medium, as well as whether the painting is framed, gallery-wrapped or unframed. You can choose to set a minimum bid, a reserve price or a “buy now” option through eBay. Establish an end date for the auction and accept bids via e-mail. Don’t forget to congratulate the highest bidder on the auction close date.

Create “Social” Events
Each social networking site, such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, offers yet another vehicle for getting news out about your work, in a way similar to a blog. Apart from posting images of newly completed paintings, announcing upcoming shows and providing links to any published articles on or reviews of your work, you can create “online events.”

For example, post an image of a new painting and ask your interested social network group for title suggestions; then announce the “winner.” Or ask for title suggestions as inspiration for a new work. Another option is to invite your group friends to collaborate with you on a piece by, for instance, suggesting five items to be included in a still life. From all the suggestions, you make the final selection of items and then create a painting. Share your progress and the result of these activities in your blog and newsletter and on your website as well as your social networking pages. This can be fun for you, too!

Jump In With Both Feet!
There’s no time, in this economy, for a savvy artist to rest on his or her laurels. There’s work to be done to become, and to continue to be, successful.

Rosemary Barrett Seidner is a director of Miller Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a freelance writer.

The April 2010 issue of The Artist’s Magazine
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