Saturday, October 06, 2018

Selling Art Using Print on Demand Sites - Zazzle Review

Make Money Selling Your Photography, Paintings and Drawings on Products

I have been a Zazzle seller for nearly 10 years, and really enjoy the various Bells and Whistles available on this print on demand (POD) platform. Even though there are many recent entries into the the POD space, Zazzle has a strong foothold in this market, and continues to add new products and user improvements. [If you are looking at CafePress as an alternative, think twice and research them carefully. Many sellers gave up on CP years ago after multiple royalty reductions. Read my blog post about selling on CafePress here.]

Setting Up a Store

Sample Store Front
A Zazzle “Store” is the online “Gallery” into which you load your products. It is free and simple: open an account and start a store. You can even have multiple free stores to create targeted branding for different markets. You can set up categories, sub-categories, and customize the look/feel of the store through your own custom banner. Once your store is setup, you then upload images and start creating products. There is a healthy set of SEO (search engine optimization) options available for both the store and individual products. These include meta titles, descriptions, and key tags.

Getting Paid: Select Your Own Royalty

Set a Default Royalty
One of my favorite parts of Zazzle is the ability to set my own royalty on products. A royalty is the percentage dollar amount, over the base selling price, that you will make on the sale. You set a default royalty percentage for all products, and can still edit the royalty setting on individual products as necessary. Zazzle recommends that royalties be set between 10% and 15%. Higher than that and the product prices may discourage buyers. However, the ultimate royalty percentage is still up to the seller.

Getting Paid Even More

Zazzle pays an extra 15% for sales made by buyers that you send to them. Once you have a Zazzle account, you will also have a unique referral number (associate ID) in the Zazzle Associate Program. Add your associate ID to any links, share the links out to your friends, on social media sites, blogs, websites etc. and when a sale is made through your link, you earn money. You can also promote products other than your own to earn the extra referral money.

Image Control

Upload and Arrange Your Artwork
The Zazzle user interface has seen vast improvements over the years. Gone are the days when uploading and sizing an image was about all one could do when adding artwork to a product. Now, it is possible to rotate/move images and add multiple images. There is also now a feature which allows you to show white as transparent - which is great for those jpg images with white backgrounds. Applying this feature, you can then add a color to the background of your products. Many products also allow for “tiling” of designs (repeating the artwork so that it is used as a pattern.)

Add Basic Shapes

Too busy to add that circle or rectangle frame/border around your image? You can now add that right in Zazzle. The interface has an Add Shape function for basic shapes. Border lines and fill colors are yours to select. This feature, along with adding text, allows you to create simple designs within the Zazzle workspace itself.

Text, with Many Font Selections

Zazzle offers over 65 fonts. They are categorized to make selection easier:  Sans Serif, Serif, Symbols, Script, Handwriting/Calligraphy, Distressed, and Decorative. In addition there are 25 International fonts. Text size and color are fully editable, and you can add multiple instances of text in different sizes and colors.

Buyer Customization 

One of the really great features of Zazzle is that you can set your products to be customizable by buyers. A buyer may want to use your image for a party invitation - adding their own text greeting to the card. Or, a parent may want to add a child's name to a shirt. The possibilities are endless. Some artists and designers may recoil at this concept, though allowing customization of products can be a great incentive to buyers.

Design Transfer

This feature allows customers to transfer the design on a product you created to another product that is available in the extensive Zazzle lineup. The royalty percentage will be based on your default royalty rate. You can disable this feature in the Store Settings if you like.

A Few Closing Points

Brand Your Images:  Add your name and/or website *somewhere* in the image that you upload to Zazzle. This branding will help other buyers find you. When people see a product with your image on it, they will be able to track it down and perhaps purchase for themselves.

Check Out Zazzle News: [https://forum.zazzle.com/news] for new product announcements and other important seller news.

Plan Your Marketing: While your products will appear in the Zazzle Marketplace, you will have much more selling success if you help drive buyers to your Zazzle Store. There are easy social media links on every product to help you share the information and links. You might also blog about your products, and add links to your Store from your website.

Benefits of Wide Visibility: Zazzle's audience is huge, and attracts more than just individual buyers. Some businesses purchase in bulk on Zazzle, and people looking for unique artwork may find you through Zazzle. For instance, I was once contacted by a movie studio that wanted to license some of my images for stage props in a movie. That contact came through Zazzle.

Cons: I have found this platform to be a great vehicle for selling my artwork on products, though sales have dipped in recent years, largely due to the growing number of new sellers (i.e. competition). Thanks to the ever-increasing number of products being posted, Zazzle will start hiding from their Marketplace any products that do not receive enough page views over a given period of time. In such a case, buyers can still find and buy a hidden product via your store, but it won't show up in a Zazzle Marketplace search. Though you can unhide these products, no notification is sent when the products become hidden, so you have to keep close tabs on your Store(s). Another downside is the payment lag. Royalties are paid monthly, on or just before the 15th of the month. Those same royalties leave a seller account shortly after the 1st of the month. While other royalty-based businesses operate in a similar fashion, it begs the question: If the money left my seller account on the 1st, and didn't show up in my PayPal account until the 15th, where did it go for 2 weeks?

I hope you enjoyed this Zazzle review. Happy Selling!

Kelli Swan Zazzle Store
Black and White Notecards Store
Sunny Sense Dog Lover Designs Store

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Selling Art on Products - Print on Demand from Zazzle - iPhone 10 Case example

iPhone eye phone case with horse eye illustrationI will soon be releasing a spotlight article on my experience using the Print-on-Demand site Zazzle.com. I have several stores with Zazzle, and find they have an amazing assortment of products and top-notch customer service.

In the meantime, I'd like to share one of my favorite products, which features my detailed view of the reflections in a horse’s eye. I can’t think of a more appropriate place for this artwork than an “Eye-Phone Case”!

Horse Eye Reflection Closeup iPhone X Case

Friday, September 28, 2018

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Basics


I wrote following SEO Basics article as a contribution piece for the Cleveland Digital Publishing User Group (CDPUG) blog. Many, many thanks to freelance Art Director Jinni Fontana, who helped edit and clarify this article, thus making it more digestible!



“Why doesn’t anyone visit my beautiful website?” SEO HELP

The reason you may have so few visitors is that your website does not show up on internet searches. Google and other search engines look for very specific information on a website before ranking it with regard to the words or phrases (search terms) people typically use when looking up information on the internet. While the algorithms used for sorting and ranking search terms change often, there are some basics that do not change. Therefore, the use of these basic approaches is the foundation of any well-optimized, high-ranking website.

The first thing to understand about SEO (search engine optimization) is that it requires a two-tiered approach. There is onsite SEO, and offsite SEO. Onsite SEO is anything you do to the website itself to optimize it for searches. Once most of the work for onsite SEO is done, it is just a matter of fine-tuning it as an ongoing effort to enhance your website’s ranking over time. Offsite techniques involve obtaining inbound links from other sources, such as social media posts and reviews that link back to your site.

Onsite SEO

Before you begin with the onsite SEO, it is a good idea to do keyword research and consider the specific market you wish to attract. Thinking backward helps here. Under what search terms do you want to be found? What search terms might your typical audience use to look for a business similar to yours? List the words and phrases that apply to your business and your desired market.

• Meta Tags • This is the single most important subject to address. Meta tags are contained in the background code of a website. A user viewing the site doesn’t see them, but these tags hold important information for search engines. The two most important meta tags are Title and Description because search engines pull this information for its search return. If a search engine doesn’t find these tags on your website, it will look for and extract other copy from the page, often times with less than desirable results.

The two most important meta tags are Title and Description because search engines pull that information for its search return.

• Use quality keywords and phrases that describe your business • Search engines will index 50-60 characters for a Title tag, and roughly 100-150 characters (spaces included) for the Description tag. You will want to use up as much of that count as possible. For instance, your current Title tag on your homepage might be “Designer John Smith.” Changing it to something like “John Smith Graphic Design – Prepress Digital Artwork for Print” will be more effective.

• Customize the Title and Description tags for every page • Each page of your site is potentially a landing page onto your site. Thus, you can maximize your SEO by looking at each individual page and who you can attract with targeted keywords for that page. Never use duplicate Title or Description tags in an effort to save time as search engines reduce page rank for duplicate page tags.

• Make use of Meta tag plugins • To access Meta tags on a WordPress site, you can use one of the many SEO plugins that are available. Other platforms also have an SEO feature that lets you edit these key Meta tags. Those who custom code websites can easily access the tags in the source code.

• Use Alt tags • Alt tags tell search engines about your images. When you add pictures to a website, particularly on a WordPress site, the act of inserting the images will result in weird filenames such as “1234555.jpg.” This means nothing to a search engine, so you want to create an Alt tag particular to each image, using the same keyword advice mentioned above. Not only does this help with the SEO of your site, but your images will also begin to show up in more internet image searches. Ideally, your image filenames will also contain keywords, though as mentioned above, this can be difficult with some website platforms.

• Don’t bother with Keywords meta tags • Don’t waste your time on Keywords meta tags — none of the major search engines use them anymore because of past spammer abuse. Besides, Google’s own blog states that the keywords meta tags are not used.

• Write sensible keyword-rich copy • Use keywords and phrases for all of the content on your website but beware that the overuse of keywords and phrases can be recognized as spam. If it sounds spammy when you read it, then it will appear spammy to search engines.

• Include more content • In the SEO world, it is often said that “content is king,” meaning that search engines love quality content. More is better here. Continue to add information and articles to your site over time if you can. The more content you have, and the more keyword-rich it is, the better your potential ranking will be. Search engines give preference to sites that go beyond merely advertising a product or service. That means if you can provide free and useful content (design tips, framing info, etc.) it will help your site rank higher. Also, add a Favorite Links page for sources such as suppliers, inspirational sites, or whatever, as these links will contribute to a more connected web.

Off-Site SEO and Other Important Tips

Search engines learn from user behavior. They want to know when a site is popular and when others think it is important. Being the topic of others’ conversations is one way you move up the list of search term ranking and build credibility for your site over time. So, you want to start an ongoing campaign to get inbound links to your site. Ask friends and other businesses to add links to your site from their site. If any of your friends or associates can post in topic-related forums with a link to your site, that is very helpful. Social media posts help too. Search engines monitor chatter everywhere — this is one area where we toss privacy to the wind and hope that we are being watched! Online reviews are also an excellent way to get search engines to see your site favorably. Ask clients and friends to post reviews at Yelp, Google, Facebook, or other popular review sites.

• Create a blog and frequently link back to content on your site • You can blog about anything, not just topics related to your website. And you can use this platform to help not only your own ranking, but other websites as well.

• Create email campaigns with links to your site and products • MailChimp is a free and user-friendly way to manage email campaigns.

• Upload a sitemap to your site • Sitemaps help search engines better understand the navigation of your pages. You can create a sitemap for free using any of the online sitemap generators such as https://www.xml-sitemaps.com.

• Make sure you have a mobile friendly design • Search engines are now penalizing sites that are not optimized for smartphones and tablets. Mobile friendly themes are available for WordPress and other website design platforms. Custom-coded websites will need to create special CSS (cascading style sheets).

• Obtain an SSL certificate and secure your site with .https • Even if you don’t collect payment or personal data, security is an important criterion for search ranking. Google’s latest release of the Chrome browser labels .http sites as “not secure”. Even if you are not worried about search ranking, the not secure tag could scare off your potential customers. Most hosting companies will help you with the SSL certification process.

• Use Google Analytics to track your website performance • This service is free and allows you to track many aspects of the data generated from your site traffic. Enjoy, although reviewing statistics can become a time vacuum!

• Join an SEO group on LinkedIn, Facebook, or through other organizations • As new tips and tricks are introduced, you will be the first to know about them while immediately incorporating the latest techniques into your website.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this recent pencil portrait!! A Labrador and 3 Dobies - all with very unique personalities. Thank you Nancy and Emily for this opportunity!!  
My online pencil portrait portfolio can be found here:
https://www.pencilplace.com/pencil-drawings-portraits-by-kelli-swan.html


Saturday, September 08, 2018

Sunny Sense Inspirational Designs

Sunny the doberman pinscher
I have a special website, SunnySense.com, dedicated to the love of dogs, especially Doberman Pinschers. Many Dobies have inspired me over the years, and Sunny was one such fur-angel. The website name is dedicated to her. The dog-lover designs include some humorous quips, along with little gems of wisdom. There are also Sympathy Cards for those rainbow bridge moments.

I have many more ideas for future designs, so stay tuned!

[www.sunnysense.com]
dog serenity prayer design
https://www.sunnysense.com

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Recent dog portrait - a memorial tribute to Sophie the Corgi

I am honored to have taken part in another memorial portrait. "Sophie" was a beloved family member who is now sorely missed by all who knew her. One could tell by the photos supplied that she shined brightly, and I hope I captured some of that unique spirit in the artwork. 
The tree in the background has sentimental value too. It was Sophie's favorite place to hang out and observe her world.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Artist Statement about black and white drawing

Artist Statement:

“I am fascinated by the simplicity of a pencil. It is one of the most basic of tools, and yet it can be used to create images of great complexity and depth. To take that which is simple and basic, and to create with it something moving and inspiring is a personally enriching experience. To me, this creative process is a reflection of life. We all possess very basic tools, and what can be created with these tools is incredibly complex, moving and full of potential.”

~ Kelli Swan

http://www.pencilplace.com/bios.html