Thursday, August 20, 2009

eBay vs Etsy - Which better serves the Artist?

So you've finally got enough artwork to want to try and sell some to others, you've finally braved that dangerous copyright void that is the net, and you've finally decided it's time to try out the e-market. It's almost a given that in trying to find a place to sell your work online, you've run into the names eBay and Etsy.

For those who haven't heard of them, here's a quick rundown of what they are:

eBay, The World Marketplace - eBay is the most popular auction style marketplace on the web. It offers you the ability to put up just about any kind of item you can think of for auction for a small listing fee. eBay serves international audiences as well, with several sister sites dedicated to specific countries.

Etsy - The Homemade Marketplace - Etsy is newer than eBay, but has grown in popularity recently due to the latest reports of success of its members. Unlike eBay, however, this online marketplace is dedicated to all things handmade (or suppliers of things to aid in the process of crafting things) and is not auction driven, but utilizes fixed price listings. As long as you have a credit card, you can sell on Etsy, no matter your country of origin. By handcrafted, I mean jewelry, artwork, sculpture, etc which are made by hand.

The Pros & Cons of Ebay

Personally, I only occasionally use eBay to auction off random original art, ACEO's (which are something of a fad on eBay right now), and ladder style commission auctions. I do not recommend the eBay Shop feature unless you are sure you can offload a high volume of art (see my eBay Shop review).

eBay has changed a lot since its inception. Nowadays, it's far easier to sell artwork than it used to be thanks to their new policies. Here are some things to think about if you're considering selling your art on eBay.


  • Cheap Listings & Image Features - The latest selling policies at eBay allow a seller to post five free listings a month. You only pay the final value fee IF your item sells. Also, you can add free gallery images to your listings in the art categories as well.

  • High Volume of Visitors - Being the world's largest online marketplace means you are naturally bound to get views on your auctions. You never know who's looking when. However, this is a double-edged sword (see Cons)

  • Cons

  • Payment Scams - Within the first few weeks of using eBay recently, I had an issue with people trying to scam others on eBay using my name and email (via the eBay messaging system) (these problems were solved, but still annoying). There's also a high amount of payment fraud going around involving checks and money orders, which eBay no longer allows as a payment method for the Art categories. You must have Paypal, Propay, or other payment methods set up in order to accept payment on Ebay.

  • Getting Lost in the Crowd - It's easy to get lost in the crowd unless you have exceptionally stand out work. Again, you never know who's looking, despite the high amount of competition. Someone might see your work and connect with it regardless of others which are up for sale.

  • The Pros & Cons of Etsy

    I have become a more avid user of Etsy, of late, due to its cheap listing fees and heartfelt community. When you buy something on Etsy, there's a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing that each item was lovingly hand-crafted by an artist such as yourself. There's a great artist-to-artist atmosphere with an administration that really seems to care about what we think as users.

    Etsy has filled the void that I had when I closed my eBay Shop. I can post here without worrying about the next subscription fee that may or may not be covered by my sales. They're a relatively new site with a bright future ahead of them.


  • Cheap Listings & Advertisement - You don't get free listings like you do with eBay, but at 20 cents for a 3 month listing, the investment risk is minimal. I can maintain my entire shop's worth of necklaces and art for $10 or less every 3 months. Also, if I want added publicity, I only need to pay $7 for a Showcase that features my art at the front page browsing for the specific category I choose to showcase.

  • Fun Widgets - Etsy allows you to link from your websites and blogs with widgets that display thumbnails of your items in a nifty little bar. This doesn't seem like much to some, but the ability to cross-link is powerful! Especially when it's done in such an attractive way.

  • Cons

  • Low Capacity on Advertisement Slots - Nearly every time I've tried to buy a jewelry Showcase, the slots have been filled. It seems near impossible to buy a slot in some categories due to the low capacity of slots available.

  • Relatively Low Traffic - Compared to eBay, you're pandering to a much smaller niche audience of lower numbers. Most of the customers I've had on Etsy so far bought items because they already knew me from DeviantART, or randomly found me whilst searching Etsy for a gift or Halloween accessory. The amount of visitors here is lower, but again, you never know who is out there looking on the net! I am still building my presence on Etsy, as well.

  • Which One is Better?

    It all depends on what you want to sell. eBay has more viewers, but art (fantasy art in particular) does not sell well there currently unless you are selling it for less than $100. In some cases, art can sell for more, particularly for those who have already built up a following outside of eBay and believe their art is investment-grade (generally of the fine art genre).

    Etsy is a better solution for the artists who sell in smaller volumes and who want an audience who understands that their items are handcrafted and therefore aren't meant to be given away for a cheap price. Etsy is also more cost-effective for a storefront type of setting.

    In the end, why not use both? I plan to start utilizing my 5 free auctions a month to auction off original art just for the free publicity while still maintaining my Etsy and personal web shop as my main outlets.

    The key to art marketing and e-commerce is to combine your efforts to create the most effective results. I highly recommend trying both sites to see how they can work together for your art!

    Monday, August 3, 2009

    Websites & Artists Part 3 - Search Engine Optimization

    Websites & Artists Series
    Part 1 - Considering Your Audience
    Part 2 - What's in a Domain Name?
    Part 3 - Search Engine Optimization
    Part 4 - Describing Art Online

    Now that you've settled on your domain name and have some semblance of an idea for a design, there's yet another aspect of designing a website to consider - SEO (or Search Engine Optimization). SEO is an overarching term used to describe the elements of a webpage and strategies which can be altered in order to make it easier for search engines to find your page.

    Now, one thing I will make clear at the beginning, if you don't want your site to be easily found by search engines, there is no need to go through the trouble. Sometimes, like in the case of personal portfolios to be presented to art directors, we don't necessarily need to obey these rules of optimization and don't want people stumbling upon these pages because they're not meant for public display, beyond job solicitation. By all means, go crazy with Flash and other things which aren't very search engine friendly. (See this article on hiding your webpage from indexing)

    But chances are, you do want your webpage to be found easily! For this purpose, I personally employ Google's edicts of website optimization. As one of the foremost search engines on the net, Google also offers a wide variety of free tools and guides for webmasters to use in lieu of hiring SEO marketing experts.

    A good first step once you have a completed page is to submit your url to google or the open source project to begin indexing your page with various search engines across the web.

    Some Things to Remember:

  • Metatags have become moot! - At least for Google, and a growing number of other search engines. There was a time in the past where all you had to do was put a bunch of invisible metatags into the header of your webpage, but now, most search engines crawl your page in search of keywords and relevant content that actually exist within your webpage itself and aren't present in invisible tags. For artists, this means that you will need to actually include relevant info about your images rather than merely leaving the images to speak for themselves. The exception to the rule here is the meta description and Title tags, which are still used as a summary for your page in search engine displays.

  • Flash galleries are tricky - Because of the metatag issue, Flash galleries also present a bit of a problem. Because the text itself in most Flash displays are embedded into the Flash, this makes the text impossible to crawl for the majority of search engines (though it seems Google can read it now!). My suggestion is that if you're going to use Flash galleries that you put your relevant keywords in your artist biography, add them in the title tag of your page, or incorporate them within your page's content somehow, instead.

    Note that web standards are always evolving so this may change in the future! Also, if you try to hide your text using CSS or making your font small and the same color as your background image, Google may remove your site from its indexing if it is deemed 'deceptive in intent'!
  • Backlinking is your friend! - A 'backlink' is basically a link which is incoming to your page (particularly from another website outside of your own). Search engines often calculate your rank in their search engine by the amount of backlinking present on your site. Search engines will also measure the relevancy of the text providing the link and the relevancy of the site which you are linked from. If you are being linked to from an authoritative source, this adds to the importance and ranking of your site.

    For artists, this means being sure to link to your website from your forum signatures, online articles, blogs, and website profiles. The more linking, the higher your rank! But also remember to keep these links relevant and pertinent to your content! One wouldn't link back to their art gallery from a webpage on baseballs unless you're doing baseball art.
  • EDIT: 6-15-2015 - Be Mobile Device Compatible! - Phones and tablets have become all the rage since this article was first published.  Google has recently announced that your site's ranking can now be affected by whether or not it can be viewed properly on these devices.  To test your site's friendliness for devices and read more about this topic, see Google's article here.

  • For further info on designing for search engine optimization, see Google's Webmaster Guidelines and Google 101.

    Additional Tools for SEO

  • Google Analytics - So you've optimized your site, how do you keep track with what's working for you and what's not? My favorite tool is Google Analytics. Using Analytics, you can see the amount of traffic, new and old, to your page, as well as where this traffic came from, how long viewers are looking, what referring sites linked to you, what keywords people are using to find your page, and a plethora of useful information. All it takes is the insertion of a little bit of code into the pages you would like monitored by Analytics.

  • Google Alerts - Want to know when an article might be posted online about you, but don't want to have to manually search online every night just to find information? Try Google Alerts. The way it works is that when Google crawls a page and finds a search term which you've told it to alert you about, it will send you an email with a link to the page it finds with that specific term on it. I have Alerts programmed to find my name, my characters' names, and my alternate usernames on various art sites.

    For an example of its usefulness, Alerts helped me to discover that a Twitter-bot took my artist username so I could put out a notice saying that this user on Twitter was not me! Alerts also helps me to keep an eye out for art thieves who are are dumb enough to use the same title on images that I originally used (Tineye is also good for this purpose, as it is an image recognition tool that scours the net for you).

  • For further reading about SEO, check out these great resources!
    Google's Search Engine Optimization Guide
    Yahoo's Search Engine Optimization Guide