Monday, February 22, 2010

Selling Art Online and Site Traffic

Have you ever heard the following quotation?
Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.
Being able to identify and highlight what makes the difference when you're trying to do anything really pays off long term.

One of the very famous management 'laws' is the Pareto Principle - otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. This relates to the notion that most things in life are not distributed evenly.
Knowing what really makes a difference
The balance between inputs and outputs is rarely proportional. If you want to maximise revenue, it pays to look at the 20% of what you produce that brings in 80% of the revenue.

(The Pareto principle).
The Pareto Principle suggest that 20% of the online galleries will sell 80% of the art - but is that true. Take a look at the statistics below and note the differences in site traffic. I'd ask you to note that this blog actually gets more visitors than some of the sites listed!

Statistical analysis of the traffic generated by websites providing online galleries

The following statistics are from
  • The Unique Visitors metric only counts a person once no matter how many times they visit a site in a given month. Unique Visitors are typically used to determine how popular a site is. (Note: The number of visitors to this blog are also measured as unique visitors)
  • The Compete Rank is based on Unique Visitors and does not consider page views or number of visits made to the site. Rank is often used as a compliment to Unique Visitors to provide a relative metric that shows the significance of a site
All sites are listed alphabetically within their category.

Statistical Caveats

The main message to take away from these statistics is the relative share of traffic that each site generates and how that is changing over the course of the past year. Numbers may be wrong but it's more likely that the general size and shape of the traffic chart is about right - in relative terms.

The main caveat to the statistics and comments shown below is that there is no way of knowing whether or not they are accurate. I do think it's a pity that such websites don't publicise their stats as per any of the more reliable sites such as Google Analytics, Quantcast or (Note: If any website wants to dispute the numbers please leave a link to your published traffic stats.)

There could be a major discrepancy in any of the websites' statistics. That's based on the fact that this blog's statistics on are far from real (but this could be due to this blog being a subdomain of

Insofar as this can be meaningful, I'll provide you with a benchmark for the the statistics you'll see below. This blog has had well in excess of 20,000 unique visitors a month in each of the last three months.

Bear in mind also that the number of visitors at any one time are spread across all the different artists with galleries or pages or stores on the website in question. So the number seeing an individual artist or artisan will be very much lower than the traffic level quoted.

The analysis of sites below are split between:
  • generalist sites - where art if just one category which generates visits
  • sites dedicated to art (and crafts)



Traffic is respectable and continues on an upward trajectory from 284k in Februarty 2009 to 691k in January 2010. However this is a generalist site like eBay and only a small proportion of this will relate to art and the pages of individual artists

35% of traffic arrives via Google and 13% comes from Facebook. 65% of those leaving the site go to ebay


Note that the scale is in MILLIONS of visitors. Bear in mind that the number of visitors at any one time are spread across all the different parts of eBay and the number looking at art by individual artists will be much lower than this

eBay used to be known as an auction site but it's increasingly now known as an online store site. Traffic, apart from the Christmas hike, is essentially static.

Below is the chart for the art category on eBay. Note how the numbers of unique visitors are much lower than those visiting Etsy.



It's unclear whether the issue is recording of traffic or an absoluite decline in traffic. Either way monthly traffic is low and less than the traffic that this blog gets. 40% of the traffic arrives via Google and 40% of it returns to Google - suggesting that it might be stay a few seconds.

Artflock has no data for this site. This generally only happens when traffic is very low.

Boundless Gallery

Monthly traffic is less than this blog and has reduced from 18.7k to 13.8k

27% of visitors come from Google; 10% come from Empty Easel. Google is the destination of 37% leaving the site.

[Update: Boundless Gallery notified member artists by post in February of its intention to close in March 2010]

Discovered Artists

The traffic profile looks good - but look at the numbers.

22% arrive from Facebook and only 5% come from Google - suggesting that the marketing of this site directly or indirectly has not optimised for Google. Compete indicates that it doesn't even rank in Google. 38% leave for Google and 10% go back to Facebook.


Traffic has reduced by a third in the last 12 months.

46%comes from Google and over 12% from other websites suggesting that this website is recognised by the main seach engines in the main browser queries for sites like this.

22% leave to go to Googlewhile 11 next visit blogs.


Note that the scale is in MILLIONS of visitors. Note the steady and significant rise in the number of visitors. At a time when eBay traffic has remained static, Etsy has increased from 3.8 million to 5.5 million - and these are ALL people who are interested in arts and crafts.

Interestingly 22% of visitors come from Facebook, 11% from Google and 5% from Blogs. So if you've got an Etsy Store, have got a blog but don't yet have a presence on Facebook you might want to rethink this!

3% of visitors leave to go to paypal (sale!) 23% go back to Facebook and 12% go to Google.


Traffic is more or less static and while bigger than some it's not significant overall. 16% arrive from Google and 12% from Facebook. Similar figures return to the same destinations.


Two sites get most of the traffic - eBay and etsy. It would be very interesting to know how much of the eBay traffic is actually art oriented.

When the numbers visiting the art category on eBay are extracted, it's very clear that ETSY is in reality the premier site for having an art store. The numbers are way, way beyond those of any other gallery website selling art online - including! It's also the only website where paypal featured as one of the top five destinations of people leaving the site!

I'd hazard a guess that most artists might hope to achieve better traffic via their own blog or a Facebook fan page when you take a look at the site traffic for ALL the artists on a gallery website.

More information

If you want more information about any of these websites please consult my resource sites
Other useful posts on this blog include:

The Art of the Landscape


Papierflieger said...

Do you have any evidence of how good Etsy is doing versus EBAY in terms of sales/ sales prices versus costs ?

I have the impression that selling form own website/blog is the best option these days.

Making A Mark said...

This isn't in any way a commentary on any of these sites versus selling from your own site. That would be incredibly difficult to generalise - some will be doing very well selling from their own sites while others will not be selling anything at all or very little

In terms of Etsy vs eBay, the fact that, when leaving etsy, the 5th most popular place people went next was paypal speaks volumes!

I couldn't extract the same details for eBay - but there are far more people using Etsy compared to eBay and I guess that must be for a reason!

SamArtDog said...

If I tried to figure this, or most of what you post on MAM, out for myself, I'd be in a rubber room.

So I'm sending my simple "thanks so much for all you do". I hope you get all the awards and/or rewards you deserve!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this info! I've had an Etsy shop for over a year now, and the bulk of my sales that I got thru that source was generated by me (repeat customers after buying or receiving something of mine as a gift or a blog reader) so I started selling from my website as well. SO, I guess what I'm trying to say is that yes, Etsy gets LOTS of unique visitors - BUT there is a LOT to wade through too!

Papierflieger said...

I would like to take the conversation a bit further.

My thesis is: If your "art" sells on Etsy it sells from your website too..

Comparing ETSY with the "Art section" of EBAY is biased (I hope I didn´t get that wrong from this post). ETSY is an arts and craft outlet with a much different product portfolio than the EBAY art category.

The suspected relatively high sales conversion is solely a product of two factors in my opinion:

1. The efforts of the artists to market their shop, ironicly mostly via their own websites/blogs

2. The high/professional quality of the arts and crafts offered on ETSY at very affordable ("Ebay" )prices.

The main challenge for artists who concentrate to sell online remains to get out of the 45 bucks corner. I can´t see that on ETSY, especially not for visual artists.

I have been watching "names" on ETSY over the last 2-3 years and reckognized certain repeating patterns, which tell me that I have lost exactly nothing when I shut down my ETSY shop.

Making A Mark said...

I started from the notion that 20% of your outlets are going to generate 80% of your sales

The challenge is to work out which of the available options (online galleries, personal websites/blogs, exhibitions art fairs etc) work best for you.

Everybody's work is different and what works for one artist isn't always going to work for another. The art will be different, the price points will be different etc etc

IMO every artist who is intent on sales needs to go through and try out various different set ups until they find out works best - to identify which options are the 20% which deliver the goods in terms of sales!

Personally although I know there will be many artists who have achieved sales via various gallery set ups, I'm not convinced that they benefit many artists - purely due to the low level of traffic relative to the number of participants,

If conversion is something between 1-3% then you need an awful lot of visitors to get a chance of a sale - and that's always going to be helped if you have a good blog which directs prospective purchasers to either your website or a storefront which they feel comfortable with.

Maybe I need to do a blog post about the conversion factor?

Papierflieger said...

Yes, a post about conversion factor would be great.

When I look at the ETSY shops of professional artists/illustrators I see hundreds of views on items without a sale.

A reasonably functioning ETSY shop is receiving 100+ visits per day. If those would convert with 3% I would say WOW.

Post a Comment

COMMENTS HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED AGAIN due to very silly ignorant people who leave spam comments without realising they have no benefit for them.

Please feel free to comment on my Facebook Page as my blog posts are always posted there (but please note anonymous comments are not published and I block and report spammers to Google and on Facebook)

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.