BetterPhoto Q&A
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Photography Question 
James C. Ritchie
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/17/2004

Web Site Traffic and Sales

Please forgive the long preface to my question. I'm not a professional in that I have ever made a living with my photos. Friends and family finally convinced me that I have lots of work that is equal or superior to much of that we've seen in galleries and art fairs. About a year and a half ago, I decided to test the market on eBay and found that my photos do, in fact, sell. In addition to doing the 7-day auctions, I subscribed to an eBay store where listing fees are far cheaper ($0.03 per item) and can be listed perpetually. The moderate success I experienced prompted me to develop and establish a Web site, which I've had for more than a year.

My prints are packaged in a professional "art fair" manner with a backing board in a re-sealable crystal bag. With each print sold I also include three or four business cards with the purchased (and similar) images which I hope the buyer will give to their admiring and inquiring friends. (I lay out the cards 3-up on a 4x6 canvas in my graphics program and then get inexpensive prints made at the local lab.

Reading this, it might seem as if I'm well on my way to "financial freedom" ... but au contraire. A Web site doesn't do any good if it doesn't get traffic. I concluded that exposure is the key so I submitted my domain name to all the major search engines*, have some reciprocal and other direct links to the site, established a PayPal account and listed in PayPal Shops, listed as a "personal exhibit" at, and set up a gallery here at BP. But, sadly, I just can't seem to get much traffic.

(*Sidebar regarding search engines: Doing a Google search using my meta keywords, page titles, etc., I was getting some good page 1 & 2 positions, but suddenly my site doesn't show up at all there anymore ... despite resubmitting the URL a month ago. Other searches such as Yahoo, Altavista, etc., are fine, however. I've also tried several times to get my site listed with at, but have thus far been unsuccessful.)

The basic focus of my site is to provide quality art at affordable prices. When (if) I can get my traffic to a satisfactory level, I plan to get an Epson 2200 to make my own "giclee/piezo" prints. I will price these much higher than (while still continuing to offer) my "affordable" lab prints. What else I can do to drive more traffic to my site?

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6/2/2004 4:51:47 PM

Damian P. Gadal
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/22/2002
  Interesting question. It seems you've done and thought about most of what you need to do - I'm not sure what else you could do.

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6/2/2004 6:34:55 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  Web presence over time ... don't expect instant results. I don't know exactly how the search engines work in terms of how it decides what order to list ... but I do know enough about it that a stable site that isn't rearranged over a number of years helps. Plus, it helps to have other sites having links to it.

Keep in mind that people must be looking for the works you would like to sell. Trying to do it by Web presence is a tough row to hoe. I've sold a few stock photos via Web presence, but it's only after the publishers exhausted other more traditional avenues for acquring specific stock photographs that they've launched a Web search to find what they're looking for. What I've sold was very specific by subject material and geographic locale. In other words, the editorial requirements for the imagery desired were fairly detailed and very specific.

Web sales are much more successful for those with some "brand equity" - the jargon in business for a well-known name that's identified with a quality product. Don't underestimate how much brand equity is required to have people beating a path to your door to buy your work. If you were Ansel Adams or someone of his stature, you would have more hits than you could stand and would have to pay for considerable bandwidth to keep the site. IOW, your success with large quantities of direct Web sales hinges more than you might think on having a nationally or globally recognized "name" for fine photography.

OTOH, that you're selling some works at all is a significant achievement in itself. After seeing dozens of competitive art and photography shows, superb photographers abound in good number. It may be small compared to the number of camera owners, but it's not a small population of artists compared to other media. There are many thousands of highly skilled, quite talented starving artists in the world.

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6/2/2004 8:41:42 PM

Micah Unruh   It's now time to start "driving" traffic to your site. Web sites need to be advertised just like your business needs to be advertised. Don't do anything without listing your website. Advertise your site in trade show brochures, trade magazines, etc. Weigh EVERYTHING against your target market. If it doesn't hit your target, don't do it. From what I've read, I'd advertise in art magazines as well as home decor magazines. But always remember that advertising your website is just as important as advertising your business.

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6/8/2004 6:33:22 AM

Angela Waite   Hi James, I have helped some clients with marketing their websites (I am a marketing communications person by trade, photography is my hobby though, and like you I would like it to become part of my profession). One way people have received more success from their website is using it locally and letting it grow up from there. Trying to drive traffic to your site with search engines and links is good but very slow in the beginning. Successful web marketers have built up their traffic the hard way - asking for their client's e-mails, creating opt-in e-mail newsletters, letting their customers know when they have new photos on the page, and bringing them interesting articles that complement the subjects they shoot. Another good method is through media exposure. Try to present what you are doing to the media (a local paper or magazine would probably be interested in the fact that your photos have been published for a book cover. Local success stories are newsworthy! They may want to do a story on the book or your photography - make sure you get a photo credit and they mention your website) Exposure like this really drives traffic to your website - it just takes writing a press release or pitching editors on the idea. (there is good websites/books on that or check on samples on my site

This will do more for promoting your website in the short term. good luck.

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6/8/2004 8:43:19 AM

Zita A. Strother
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/5/2002
  Read the book "What Customers Really Love". I suggest that you keep your prices reasonable but not focous on it. It is the last consideration
of the buyer and when addressed early on makes your product look like it is cheap. Sell quailty and the orginality that comes with everyone unique eye.
I like to use to word "Image" instead of photo because it is only 1 mental step away from "imagination"!
Get Jim Zuckerman book "Shooting and Selling Your Photos" (he is Betterphoto insturtor, by the way).
And yes, build it and it will come!
Good luck!

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6/17/2004 3:51:33 PM

Derek Holyhead   Hi All,
Pay Per Click is the answer. Look at they have a tool to search keywords to find out what the maximum per click bid is, currently "photograph" is at 27c per click. The tool is here: Hope this is helpful.

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6/17/2004 9:17:05 PM

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