Death To An Online Seller

In the world of online selling we have many creative ways for sharing our artwork and promoting sales. But just like everything else in this world there are pros and cons to using these resources. If you participate in group activities on your selling platform you may want to take 5-10 minutes and read this article, your activity may be killing your shop.

I’m going to give a little background on myself and why I’m writing these articles for online sellers. I am a landscape and nature photographer and I’ve been working on my photography business for 6, almost 7 years now.  Up to 6 months ago my art was strictly sold through my online art gallery, Pi Photography and Fine Art , art fairs,  and booths at networking events. The online gallery has grown to a point where I have been able to supplement my income enough to be on my own. So about 6 months ago I left my day job, management/marketing job with a multi-million dollar online retail store that sold safety training videos and I work solely for myself. Safety training videos and landscape / nature photography are worlds apart product wise but the basics of marketing are the same.

As a back-up to my main online art gallery, I decided to start adding my photographs to FAA and Etsy to have a wider audience and multiple resources for purchases; just like a lot of artists do. I’ve read a variety of books about how both platforms work and I’ve been watching people’s activities through the different groups and teams. Having a fair amount of online marketing knowledge, I am disheartened and stunned with how both of the platforms work and the lengths artists are going through to promote their work inside each of the platforms. I’m sorry to say but artists are wasting their time running in circles chasing after each others attention; peer recognition is great but it won’t pay any of your bills.  So I started contacting sellers and asked them fill out a survey of their experiences on both of the platforms for a series of articles, most were eager to help. This article is going to upset a lot of people but I think it is valuable information that you can use as a seller and group / team leaders can use to help define the group activities better.

Groups and Group Discussion Activities

Join groups is great, you can share your work on multiple group pages in order to be seen by the different audiences with-in the selling platforms. Doing this activity is actually a good thing. One of the top 25 algorithms for search engines is called Link building. Sharing your products on the groups does exactly that; it installs a link to your product onto another page and builds up your references. Google and other search engines crawl website, forums, and pages continuously collecting data in order to index the content for better search experience. Below is a screen shot of one of my Nature Photographs that was published on the Ocean Photography Group of Fine Art America/Pixels.

Fine Art America Nature Photo index example of Melissa Fgaue's Nature / Landscape Photograph Washing Out to Sea

Indexing is great it allow other people outside of the Selling platform to find your work. Here is the con for sharing photographs and artwork in groups and teams: not all groups and teams are the same. I’ve published my nature and landscape photographs in 20 different groups on FAA over and about 50 teams on Etsy the past few months. With the amount of activity generated on those photographs the majority of them should be coming up in the index when I preform a google search but they’re not.  The one particular group that is indexing, Ocean Photography and Art does not do the “Post and Favs”, “Clickothons”, “Viewathons”, “promote your work here”…or any other self promo threads in their discussions. My diagnosis…The discussion threads may be causing the entire “group” or “team” to be flagged for high spam activity in the eyes of the search engines; if that’s the case everything posted in the group and threads is flagged for spam as well and not being indexed the way that it should be.

What the Discussion Threads are Doing to Your Individual Store or Shop

If you are an active participant in the “group” or “team” threads you more than likely are gathering a lot of views, followers, favorites, and comments which sounds awesome. The theory behind this practice is all the activity bumps your product up in the ranking of the platform for that particular industry. This may be true inside of the platform but outside of it, this activity is killing your shops reputation in the eyes of Google and other search engines; limiting your true audience.  There are groups and teams that have hundreds of threads for “Post one Fav 5”, “post 1 fav 15”, “View all for the day”, “Short Link Views” and a lot of people spend hours, even full days, posting their listings to them to capture views.  Even though you, the individual team member is limited to the amount of “favs” that you can give in an hour, there are hundreds of people doing the same thing at the same time. When search engines “see” this high level of activity, red flags start popping up everywhere for Spammers / Bots. As for the threads for “Click and view” these are just as harmful. With this thread sellers are required to go to “one” product of each person in the thread and view the posted listing; people click on that one item then leave. This activity is causing a high bounce rate; which is a negative in the eyes of a search engine. A bounce rate is calculated by how many page views a visitor does while they are on your site or in your shop. If a visitor clicks on one product then leaves your site you will generate a high bounce rate, which tells google and other search engines that your content was not relevant to the viewer’s needs.  The calculations of the bounce rate are also a big factor in how you and your products are indexed through the search engines (how you are represented in the global market). If your website and pages continuously have a high bounce rate you won’t be indexed at all. Here is an example:

I’m going to share an artist’s results here but I am changing his name; we’re going to call the artist Pete. Pete is a landscape and nature photographer like I am, I chose Pete as an example because he has been a photographer and working on his photography business for about the same amount of time as I have. He posts his products religiously on a multitude of groups and their discussion threads each day. Pete also spends hours each day going through the different threads for each group and performing the tasks needed to post his product in the thread. Pete has performed this task for several years now and has generated well over a million views for his shop and his beautiful photographs. Which sounds great but here is the kicker, he has few sales and 90% of his followers are other artists.

The amount of money that Pete has generated from the sales on FAA spread out over the time he spent on this daily activity couldn’t buy him a cup of coffee each day. Honestly, it equates to 4 cents an hour for 3 years.  Secondly, on a global selling scale, Pete’s work is hard to find when I do different searches of him while search in incognito mode of Chrome. I’ve looked up image titles of his work with no luck and looked up keywords of his work with no luck. The only time his work showed up in the Google search results by image title was when I searched for the image title + his full name; who’s searches are ever that specific ? With the amount of views the Pete has accumulated on his images they should have similar results to this when you do an image title search: Below is one of my landscape photographs called Sun Rays Through Treetops. As you can see there are 6 references of my photograph are being displayed in the first 2 rows of the search results.

IMage views

I didn’t stop there, I also did a search of Pete’s full name as well, I found his FAA profile page back in the index results around page 7; I got real estate listing show up before his profile does on odd ball article from several years ago before I came across his FAA profile.

It doesn’t matter if you are promoting an individual shop that is housed on a selling platform or a traditional stand-alone website if that many views were “healthy” views registering through the search engines algorithms then the site or profile page would more than likely be in the top 10-30 search results on when that topic was searched for by a user. The same is holds true for search for of an artist’s full name, if those were “healthy” views Pete’s FAA page should have been the very first page google presented when I performed the search.  This is what the results should have look like when you search for an artist’s full name with years on online exposure:

Screen Shot of landscape and nature photographers Melissa Fgaue Search results

Since my website is the oldest it has more “Healthy” views and references directed to it then my FAA profile at this point; it is in the #1 position when I search for my full name. My FAA profile is ranking at #10 after 6 months.  Going back to the example of Pete’s work and search results, his results should have been similar to mine with one exception he doesn’t have a stand-alone site like I do, so his FAA profile should have been in the #1 spot.

Find Balance

Being an artist I understand that we have moments of feasting on Steaks and Seafood because sales are good and moments of Hot Dogs and Romen noodles when sales are bad. Money is tight so looking and using any free resource to its max sounds like a great way to get exposure for any artist trying to break into the industry. Unfortunately, in the online world that can cause us great troubles as well. If there are more negative references than positive references against our websites or profiles, we get blocked or flagged as spam and have to work twice, possibly even three times more than what needs to be. Being blocked is done blindly; you don’t receive a notification about it, you just simply disappear off of the index and you continue down the same avenue everyday…feeling like you get nowhere.

You need to find balance with the time spent on these discussions and time spent on reliable outlets to promote your work inside and outside of the selling platforms. Groups and teams are a great way to promote your work and meet other artists to collaborate ideas. However, cheating the system with the discussion thread activities to boost visibility within the selling platform will ultimately waste massive amounts of your time and cheat you out of sales globally. Here are some helpful tips to promoting your art or online business in a healthier manner:

  1. If you choose to use the group or team discussion threads to promote your work, look for the threads that offer multiple item views from your profile. This type of discussion would be the most beneficial to you because people won’t click and bail off of your site; in turn it will lower your bounce rate.
  2. Give to Get : Go to other artist’s page and give “healthy” comments and views. When you comment on someone’s work a link is generated with your name and linked to your profile. (If this practice is done quickly and the same comment is used you will be flagged as a spammer). Again, giving a “healthy” truthful comment about the work goes a lot further than multiple cheesy ones.
  3. Get in contact with other artists in the groups or teams and start showcasing other people’s work for them in exchange for them featuring or showcasing yours. This is a “Give to Get” method of marketing both parties get their work viewed by the other person’s audience through social media, blogs or website outside of the selling platform.
  4. Look for larger more established online sellers that feature work, similar to our “Featured Friday” that we offer. The closer that online seller or resource is to your industry the better off you are. This is also a “give to get” method of marketing. They showcase other people’s work to get a larger audience when the artist shares the news, meanwhile you get a link on a site that Google and other search engines have deemed “trustworthy”.  Some of that “trust” oozes to you.
  5. Join clubs that revolve around your industry. We live in a faceless world, we are trying to sell our products to faceless people. They are trying to buy products from faceless people but they won’t do it if they cannot have full trust in the shop or store. Joining clubs that revolve around your industry give you some creditably that you are a professional and working on increasing your knowledge. Secondly, some clubs offer directories of their members which link your member profile to your website, which helps with the “Trust” value with search engines.
  6. Start reading and commenting on real discussions, forums, club bulletins, and articles of things that relate to your industry outside of the selling platform. Most of the time the forums offer you the option of sharing your website when you post your comment, so people can reach out to you. Again, the more honest and healthy the comment is the better off you are.
  7. Find group boards that relate to your industry, for example we recently established a variety of group boards on Pinterest for Fine Art America products and Etsy Products that are keyworded to the different genres of art. Over time these boards will grow with audience as well as content related to those keywords and industry.
  8. Create clear product photographs of your work. One of the hardest hurdles to selling online, besides being found, is the fact that people cannot touch the items. The next best thing is photographs that define the details of the product and photographs of the product in use.
  9. Refine your listing descriptions and keywords. We’ve all done it… we’re over tired, over worked, our eyes are crossing from looking at a computer screen too long and our butts hurt from sitting in the chair, so we quickly post the listing with minimal descriptions just to be done with the task. Refine your descriptions based on your target market. If you sell a black and white landscape photograph of a large seashell resting on the sandy beach overlooking the shoreline in a variety of print sizes and materials then describe it. Don’t just put beach photo and expect it to sell like hot cakes. People search with descriptive words, so your photo descriptions had better have it too otherwise you won’t be found in the sea of photographs online. This isn’t just for photographers who sell their work this is for everyone. There are billions, if not trillions of product webpages and photographs online, don’t sell yourself short by giving minimal descriptions of your product. My rule, I try to describe my landscape and nature photographs as if I were speaking to a blind person; be as descriptive as possible.
  10. Embed your product photos with a minimum of a description, list of keywords, contact information and website. This will give you a double whammy for those descriptive words. Every time the product photograph is shared so is the embedded written content. For more info on this visit: How to Keyword and Embed Your Photographs To Improve Seller Exposure
  11. Use 1 or 2 keywords in the title of your product photograph, I’ll talk more about this in another article but the skinny of it is… it helps with the descriptive searches too.
  12. Blog…Blog…Blog…Honestly, I absolutely hate writing about myself but it is needed. When I first started blogging I didn’t think I had much to offer the world. Every topic in my industry seemed oversaturated. So I started writing about my car accident, the lessons I was learning and my growth as a professional photographer. Eventually, I started reaching out and sharing other people’s information, shortly after people started sharing mine. Blogging gives you the ability to teach, promote, and share as much information as you like about your industry, your passions or your likes.

This is what I try to post each day.

  • 1 nature or landscape photograph of mine with a quote on it, this is linked to the free download gallery on my website.
  • 1 nature photograph with description, keywords, purchasing options and links to the gallery and item.
  • 1 landscape photograph with description, keywords, purchasing options and links to the gallery and item.
  • 1 quick tip with photo example or video about my industry that I found.
  • 1 humorous thing about photography
  • 1 Fact about photography

*All of the items found on the internet that get credit for their work and a link back to them. Once a week I dedicate time to writing an extensive article like this one that would help others learn and grow their business or photography skills. Meanwhile the article is peppered with keywords that relate to my industry. I enter one photo challenge a week and now the “Featured Friday” series of posts that has received a huge response over the past three weeks. Blogging is another form of “Get to Give” marketing. Today, I have thousands of followers and VIPs on my mailing list because of blogging; all the while moving my website moves closer and closer to the #1 spot in the google rankings for fine art landscape and nature photography.

  1. Google adwords and other Search Engine Pay per Click Ads. I don’t really recommend this if you do not have some marketing background or the money to work with an outside marketing firm to run it for you, pay per click ads can be very costly if you are not sure how to use them.
  2. Paid directly listings, paid directory listings or catalogs that are maintained by a person or company not a computer system, so there is time set aside daily for updates and revision of listings. The cost of the listing helps compensate the creator for time spent on cultivating the catalog or directory, defining description and keywords as well as time spent marketing the directory to their audiences. I recommend researching for catalogs or directories that are specific to your industry and selling region to maximize your reach. There is no point of adding a listing to an automotive directory in Japan if you sell baby clothes only in the US…just doesn’t work.
  3. Free listings: free listing sites are a little scary if it’s from an unreliable source. However, places like Manta, the Yellow Pages, could be a good resource to post your website or profile pages under your industry. Some even allow you to upload samples of your work. I recommend updating them at least once a year to keep the content fresh.

What Groups and Team Leaders Can Do To Help:

Since group leaders are also artists and shop owners these tips  will not only help the group or team as a whole but it will also help with your rankings since your shop / profile is linked as the creator to each group and discussion.

  1. Limit the amount of threads that can be established and the amount of activities members can do in them.
  2. If you choose to do the “Viewothons” and “Clickothons” have the members view multiple items from a member’s profile instead of one item from multiple members.
  3. Create more substance in the threads, if you see articles in your travels or even write your own about crafts or art that would relate to you group, share them in the discussions and encourage healthy interaction among members.
  4. Encourage the members to share relevant content they see or write too.
  5. Work on Themed Art Projects that members of the group can participate in such as “Color of the day” or “Moody”, “Joyful”, “Seasonal Items”, “Beach Scene” and so on. Again, most people that search the internet use descriptive words to fulfill their needs, interior designers tend to search by theme such as color or style of their client’s needs. Threads that are more specific and descriptive will have better luck being found by the correct audience inside and outside of the selling platform.
  6. Run a variety of contests instead of post and go discussion threads. Define the details of the contests with descriptive words that would enhance the exposure of the images entered into the contest as well as the contest itself.
  7. Promote the contests on outside sources such as blogs, Pinterest boards and social media platforms. This will help encourage more artists to join your group and more buyers looking for those types of products or artwork.
  8. Encourage introductions by the artists and have them describe what they create and who their target market is are their goals for joining the group, this will not only give exposure to the artists but it will give you ideas on new discussions. Possibly even share a piece of  sample work.
  9. Encourage existing members too interact with the new members by sharing a hello and feedback of the persons work and their stated goals.

Again, all of this interactions are positive interaction that show Google and other search engines that you are humans, not robots that continuously post links and click favs. You start building trust and your listings will rise in the ranking; which in turn generates sales. There is no quick and easy way to promote your work in a healthy manner online, algorithms are too well defined. Throwing listings up in every direction will only consume your time and money, as well as give you false hope. The best course of action is to define your market and find reliable resources online to use based on that target market.

We hope you found this article helpful if you would like more seller help we hope you will check out our newly created resources at: Online Seller Help and more articles will be available soon at: Artist Resources


About the Author and Photographer:


Melissa Fague is an emerging nature and landscape photographer from Bear, Delaware USA. In just a few short years her work has been published over two dozen times and she has won multiple national and international awards for her beautiful photographs. Her most recent accomplishment is her first published photograph in an international publication with a worldwide distribution, “Landscape Photography Magazine”. Melissa is passionate about the art of photography and nature. Exploring areas and creating photographs is her form of stress relief and art therapy, but she also loves to share her visions so that others can enjoy. Her goal is to one day be ranked among the most famous nature photographers in the world. All of Melissa’s nature and landscape photographs are available for purchase, visit Pi Photography and Fine Art.

Join our VIP List for exclusive offers, notification for upcoming events and more. To read Melissa’s full story on how she became a nature and landscape photographer please visit: In the Beginning.

7 thoughts on “Death To An Online Seller

  1. laura lecce

    Dear Melissa,
    Thank you for writing this, it was most helpful. I had a few months ago established a Fine Art America account (because it was free) just to see how it works and whether it would end up a good outlet for my art and photography. I have to say that I quickly saw how much work and effort would be needed to even get a very tiny amount of sales. I have since neglected it and am thinking of shutting it down. This article has confirmed how I feel about it.
    Very informative piece,

    1. PIPA Fine Art

      Hi Laura, thank you for the feedback and expressing your experiences. I do feel that the platforms are a good resource for both the buyer and the sellers using it. Marketing online is a full time job all on its own; most of the sellers and group leaders are just artists which makes it very easy to fall into routines and then burn out without being educated. Give it a little time and try the tips in this article, if you don’t see a change then cut your losses.

  2. Pingback: Death To An Online Seller – Zero Creativity Learnings

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