How to Build Sustained Traffic to Your Art Website

Learn how to build sustained traffic to grow your art sales by focusing on what matters most: collecting contacts and increasing your contact conversion rate.

You’ve never been more excited.

You just launched your brand new art website, and the world is your oyster.

You imagine all the sales rolling in, how easy it all will be, and in short order you will retire and live off the steady income.

You may even have a business that you can pass down to the next generation.  Oh, the excitement!

But only a few months later, reality hits you right between the eyes like a freight train.  You realize this ain’t gonna be no walk in the park.

A famous saying comes to mind:  “Father time is undefeated.”

It’s a phrase about the certainty of aging.  The fact that we will all perish one day is a certainty in life.

Well if you try to earn a living selling fine art, it’s also a certainty in life that at some point you will come face-to-face with the reality that selling art online is really hard.

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As such, it’s no surprise that most of Art Storefronts’ customers are people who have already had a website, and who have tried selling their art online from it. They have first-hand experience of this pain, and a different level of understanding and appreciation for all that we provide — a website, marketing tools, education and ongoing coaching.

If you’ve never sold art online, and you’ve never experienced this pain, you might be wondering what all the hoo-ha is with Art Storefronts when you see GoDaddy offering websites for $5.  How hard can it be?

The truth is, there are hundreds of factors that will determine your level of success in selling art online.  Features, tools, business strategy, education, and professional advisement all play a role, not only in how much you will succeed, but in how quickly you will do so.  At least 50% of it depends on the person doing it — how dedicated they are, how well they are able to understand and implement the concepts we teach.

These factors, in all sorts of different combinations, lead to an artist’s success. But there is one factor, one golden aspect of selling art online, that applies to all artists – regardless of what stage they are at in their career.

That factor is traffic.

Building Sustained Traffic

audience-chartIf sales from your website are really under-performing right now (regardless of where you purchased your website), I’d bet a lot of money that a huge problem — perhaps your biggest problem — is that you just don’t have enough traffic.  

If you’ve been at this for a while, the reason you don’t have enough traffic is because you’ve never implemented an overall strategy to build sustained traffic.

We already covered the topic of how much traffic you need in order to generate your expectation of sales in our post on How to Diagnose (and Correct) Problems in Your Art Sales Funnel.  If you want to generate $5,000 per month in art sales, that post will show you how to calculate how much traffic you will need in order to reach that level.  It’s probably way more than you think.  Which is why it’s important to get your expectations straight first.

We have yet to cover the concept of how to build sustained traffic.  So that’s what we will do in this post.

I know, you wanted a list with three bullet points of what you can do right now to get some easy traffic.  Stop all the blabbering and just make it easy.  Right?

  1. Create romance content
  2. Share your romance content
  3. Build backlinks to your site

The fact is, your art is different from everyone else’s art.  Which means your target audience is going to be a unique group of people that are particular to you and your subject matter.  If we post an abstract list of bullet points that are intended to work for everyone, chances are they will work for no one, including you.

Before I can help you execute on specific tactics that will bring visitors to your website, let’s lay out how exactly sustained traffic is built.   By understanding how sustained traffic is built — and by solving the problems inherent within it first — we can stop your website from being a leaky bucket.  Without solving these problems with sustained traffic, visitors will come to your website once (maybe twice) and never return.

In other words, all you will see is short-term traffic.  Short-term traffic is not profitable and will never lead you to consistent income.  Short-term traffic ultimately leaves you continually looking for the next bullet point that you think will solve all your problems.

You want the medicine.  But I’m going to treat the root cause.

Once you fix the root cause, you will stop missing out on all the opportunities to build sustained traffic that you are likely missing out on right now, and that you may have been missing out on throughout your entire career.

So lets get into it.

Concept #1:  Collecting “Contacts” Will Benefit You Like Compound Interest

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If you put a dollar in the bank today, that dollar will actually be worth more tomorrow (by fractions of a penny) than it is today.  This is because a bank will pay you “interest” if you park your dollars with them.  Interest is a return, or profit, on the money you invested.

As you earn interest, the overall total money you have parked in the bank grows.  The best part is, you keep earning a percentage of interest on the overall total amount — not just the original amount you parked.  That original dollar you invested keeps paying you more and more.  This concept is called “compound interest.”

Similar to how a dollar in your bank account can grow with compound interest, so can each and every email address and social connection you generate.  With the proper marketing execution, each of these contacts can and will result in the collection of more email addresses (or social connections), that you would have otherwise never received unless you had originally collected the initial contact.

This is how you build sustained traffic.  Where every email address (and social connection) you collect builds upon itself over and over again, continually increasing the quantity of people that visit your website.   This is why it’s so important to value every single email address and social connection that you generate.

sustaining-4So what is the proper marketing execution?

It’s called Romance Marketing.  A phrase we have coined and discussed widely on this blog.

If you properly romance your contacts by executing on our Weekly Marketing Playbook, chances are, your contacts are going to share your thoughtful content to others in their network who share the same emotional connection to your subject matter.

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Here’s a quick rundown of how it works.

If I’m a really big fan of The Beatles, I know other people who are too.  This is how society works.  We as social creatures tend to surround ourselves with people who have similar views and interests.

Therefore, if you send me a beautiful image and a meaningful description that moved me, and brightened my day — chances are, I’ll know someone else who might want to experience what I just did.  I’ll either forward your romantic email along, or I’ll share your romantic Facebook post with them.

fb-messageEach time this happens, your artwork gets in front of new eyeballs, which will result in a few more visitors arriving on your website.

Sounds easy, right?

Wrong.  We’re not quite out of the weeds yet.

Concept #2:  Learning to Focus on the Contact Conversion

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All of this new traffic can literally be squandered if your website is not properly setup to convert them into long-term members of your digital audience (i.e. your email list).

Converting new visitors into your digital audience is called a “Contact Conversion.”  These are visitors who don’t buy, typically because they don’t have an immediate need, but are interested in your work or share an emotional connection to your subject matter.

If you aren’t using Lead Capture on your website (and executing on it according to best practices), you will squander the biggest opportunity to create Contact Conversions.

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As a general rule, you should be converting approximately 10-20% of your visitors into contacts. 

If you do not convert them, the vast majority of these visitors will pour out of your leaky bucket and will be gone forever.  All they will ever be is short-term, unprofitable traffic.

On the other hand, if you execute properly, you will see slow but steady growth in both traffic and the size of your email list.   Whenever we analyze the health of an art business, these are the two metrics that we look at first.

When your traffic and email list are showing steady growth over time — regardless of where your sales are at the very moment — it’s an early indication that your art business is headed in the right direction.  You are starting to build sustained traffic.  Sustained traffic leads to sustained sales.

email-gif-3If your traffic and email list size are stagnant or declining, your art business is likely headed in the wrong direction.  When you are at this stage, you are definitely not on a path to generating consistent sales from your website.  If you are currently in this position, fixing this problem should be a top priority.

After learning about this, I hope you will never trivialize the importance of collecting email addresses at every opportunity you get.  Both online and offline.

I say this because I speak to artists and photographers all the time, and I rarely see them prioritizing the Contact Conversion.

For those of you who exhibit at fairs and shows on the regular, pay special attention to what we say next.

Concept #3:  In-Person Events Should Be Leveraged to Grow Traffic

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Fairs and shows are an amazing opportunity to grow your email list and build sustained traffic to your website.  These are people who get to see your art face-to-face and possibly meet you as well.  It’s probably the fastest way to create a chunk of Contact Conversions.

If you have been exhibiting at these types of events, chances are you have been mainly focused on converting each visitor into a buyer.  In the marketing world, this is called a “Checkout Conversion.”

No different than on your website, you should convert approximately 10-20x the amount of email addresses as you did orders.  This means that if you captured 2 orders, you should have collected an additional 20-40 email addresses of people who did not buy.

So how do you do this?

We already covered how you should use the Art Storefronts full-screen form to capture email addresses on a tablet, in conjunction with a drop-your-biz-card-in-the-fishbowl contest with a chance to win a free print.  You need to provide an incentive, and you need a little signage to make it all obvious and clear.

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This picture above is what Maui photographer Randy Hufford did to collect approximately 25 emails at one show.  After the show, he sent a “last chance to save 30%” email to all of these people and made a sale to someone completely random that he never actually spoke to at the show.

In other words, by focusing on both Contact and Checkout Conversions, he was able to:

  • Create another Checkout Conversion immediately after the show
  • Add 25 more people into his digital audience, all who will help him build sustained traffic and more sales down the road

This right here is how you maximize the return-on-investment when doing any in-person event.

Summing It All Up

The bottom line is that wherever you are and whatever you do, collect every darn email address you can and realize that each one is an asset.  Get them all onto your main email list.  If you are an Art Storefronts customer, all of these contacts should be inputted into your centralized Contact Manager.

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Let’s summarize what we just learned:

  • An email address (or social connection) can result in a direct sale, or it can help you collect more email addresses (with properly executed romance marketing)
  • This is why you need to focus on Contact Conversions, not just Checkout Conversions
  • Every email address (or social connection) you are able to collect is an asset that increases the current and future value of your art business

Unfortunately, the vast majority of art sellers:

  1. Do not focus on generating Contact Conversions when they exhibit at fairs and shows, do gallery openings, or any other in-person event
  2. Do not have a Contact Conversion strategy on their website (i.e. the Lead Capture tool)
  3. Whenever they generate contacts, they do not execute a proper romance marketing strategy in order to leverage the compounding effect

Audit yourself:  How many of the above points do you have covered?

Sit down and put a quick plan together to fix the ones that are not covered.  Create a process for how you will handle your next in-person event.  Get your website fixed so that it’s properly setup to create Checkout Conversions.  Fix the leaky bucket.

Once you have done these things, make sure you are converting approximately 10-20% of your website visitors into contacts.  Furthermore, at in-person events, make sure you are collecting 10-20x the amount of email addresses as you are orders.

At this point, you will be on the path to building sustained traffic.


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