Sometimes you reach a point where you’ve got to try something new and different to get those numbers up and more people finding and liking your stuff.

Enter advertising.

Don’t worry, it’s not our parents advertising.

Is that old man with the mule looking up her skirt??x-ray delta one / / CC BY-SA

It’s not 6 million for 30 seconds on the SuperBowl or cut throat Mad Men shenanigans.

Today’s online advertising is made possible for even the most modest budget. There are media networks and systems in place for the regular joe to try their hand at advertising without costs spiralling out of control.

In this post I’ll give you a wee taste of what you can do in the way of advertising online. I’ll describe several services and systems that are available to help you choose where to place your ad, and what may be the better option for artists. I don’t talk about Google Ad Words or Ad Sense because I only have experience with them through monetizing YouTube videos. It’s my understanding that Google has the best ad system because it’s right across the entire web and based on your search history. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re serious about advertising your art biz.

I’m in no way an advertising expert, but I’ve used the tools and the systems and I can show you what worked (and didn’t work) for me.


Facebook does advertising. It’s pretty cheap, easy to target and they’ve got solid stats to show you what’s happening with all your clicks.

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**Pre-Emptive Warning**
Whenever possible, buy by the CLICK, NOT THE IMPRESSION. You pay for clicks when someone actually clicks on your ad and goes to your website or landing page. Impressions are just eyeballs on the page. They may not have even SEEN your ad, nor give a flying fart in the wind – but you just paid for it anyway.

I tried ads on deviantART that sell for $100 for 20 000 impressions. My ad hit 20 000 eyeballs in a mere 7 days – with only 6 actual click throughs to my website. I would have had better luck if I wrote my website url on ten dollar bills and threw them into the street.

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The least that you can pay for a campaign on Facebook is $50 over 6 weeks. Facebook charges PER CLICK, and at that price range it averages at $5-$6 per week.

You can target pretty well on Facebook ads, which is what makes them valuable. You can target by:

  • location
  • gender
  • age
  • marital status
  • general interest
  • specific interest
  • education level
  • and more

You can take a billion active users and target them down to a meaty 20 000 people that fit all the attributes of your perfect customer.

Don’t you wish you knew more about the people that would like your stuff?


So, does it work?

Well, yes and no.

Facebook works great for getting traffic to your Facebook page. Apparently, Facebook charges less for a link inside Facebook than it does for a link that leaves Facebook – like linking to your Facebook page vs. your website.

I don’t know strictly speaking whether that’s true, but Facebook worked for getting more likes on my page. When I have a campaign running, I get about 50+ likes a month. Without a campaign – more like 7-10.

My Facebook ad click through rate was listed at 29%, which means that approximately 1 out of 3 people that saw my ad clicked on it.

That’s pretty good targeting. Facebook will definitely get your ad in front of the people that are interested.

…but then, look at this:


Engagement did fall. I could tell immediately that my page wasn’t getting the same reach and pull as it does during a campaign. But the engagement fall didn’t scale to the drastic drop in reach.

And I maintained the same amount of subscribers to my mailing list. Facebook ads don’t appear to impact how many people sign-up to my list.

I think Facebook ads will definitely bring you more Facebook page likes. Which can be important. Lots of likes is social proof that you’re creating work that’s valuable.

If you want to make use of the Facebook ads to grow your website audience and mailing list – you have to lead them directly. Don’t assume that anyone will make the jump from your Facebook page to your website – your ad has to go directly to a landing page.


Auction Ads

Auction ads are systems where you set up an account and then set “bids” to have your ad be placed on numerous eligible sites.

Your “bid” competes against other ads for that same location and the highest bid wins for a period of time. Depending on how high your bid, your ad could dominate a slot forever, or for more popular sites, your ad may rotate in and out depending on the time of day. This article explains the nature of the Project Wonderful ad auction.


Project Wonderful

Project Wonderful is an ad auction system developed by Ryan North, the creator of Dinosaur Comics. It is heavily populated by webcomics and illustration blogs >> so if that’s your audience, this may be a perfect fit for you.

Project Wonderful gives you a tonne of search options when deciding what site will be the right fit for your work and your ad:

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By views per month.

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By auction cost history.

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By category.

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By website name or url.

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By content rating for the XXX among us.

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This is the results page of a search. You can get further details of each publisher from here.

Project Wonderful gives you the option of setting a maximum bid for the campaign or for the day, so you can keep total control over how much money you’re spending.

This is a great way to experiment and test different ads, formats, tag lines, layouts without the fear of wasting a lot of money.

NAMA Akrotiri 2 / CC BY-SA

The first time I ever used Project Wonderful, my competitiveness kicked in and I spent $50 over 2 days trying to “win” every bid on the more popular webcomic sites like “Hark A Vagrant” and “Girls With Slingshots”. The result was a definite and noticeable spike in traffic that levelled out over time. It definitely helped and boosted my numbers, but not in relationship to how much I paid over such a short time period.

The best way to approach advertising is to look at the long game and go for small incremental growth over time. Set a maximum price that you’re comfortable with and let it ride for awhile. If your numbers are small – give it a month and then compare your traffic stats and list sign-ups to see if the advertising has helped bring you more people.

You can advertise on multiple websites at one time and experiment with multiple ad formats and designs to see which perform better.

Another ad option with more of a ‘grown-up’ vibe, try Federated Media.


Federated Media Publishing

With the grown-up feel, comes a grown up price tag. These ads are considerably more expensive than Project Wonderful, but Federated Media may yield more qualified leads – depending upon your business and goals.


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You can search blog publishers by category. Interior style and design is a great choice for artists as those who like to surround themselves with modern and stylish design are often the same people who purchase art – but then, that depends on what kind of art you’re making. I also targeted gender, age and household income to bring up this list page of possiblilities.


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Clicking on a website that looks promising (ie. the people that frequent the website are the same kind of people that buy my art/illustration/jewellery/craft), opens up an info box with all the ad information about that website. Availability, cost, views per month, impressions, percentage of ‘voice’, size of ad, location on site.

Federated Media sells it’s ads by impression, so you’re paying for eyeballs on your ad – not clicks to your website.

Costs to advertise here are considerably higher than Facebook and Project Wonderful, and it’s much closer to the traditional advertising model of buying time on a broadcast network.

The anticipated reach of these websites is high – with unique visits in the 100k arena and up.

This is probably not your first choice to experiment with advertising. You may want to return to this down the road, when you’ve already tested ad images and text that work and grab attention.


Cranky Ads

***EDIT – I don’t think CrankyAds is in service anymore – but it’s still worth a read through about this style of ad serving that hosts banners on your own website. ***

Cranky Ads was created by blogging guru Yaro Starak. It’s still in beta, but has just been recently added to the WordPress Plug-in directory.

The Cranky Ads plug-in allows you to rotate advertising banners on your own website. The ads can be your own promotions, Google Ad sense or ads purchased by others. It’s designed to be easy to use, without needing any html coding.

09/06/2010 (Day 4.160) - Take A Bow
Kaptain Kobold / / CC BY-NC-SA

This nice thing about banner rotation is it lessens “Ad Blindness” which is the plague of all advertising. Ad blindess is when the reader just stops seeing ads. They automatically filter out anything in the typical ad areas of a website page and just don’t see them. You’ve probably already started doing this.

Banner rotation changes up what ads are displayed so that the viewer is less likely to filter out new information when they come to the page.

There’s also a “CrankyMart” area where Yaro lists all the websites that have ad space to be purchased. They are sold in month long blocks.

I like this plug-in for the rotating self-promotion possibilities for your website. You can rotate new images, events, art sales, promotions, classes and workshops on different areas of your website. The rotation will continue to make the content fresh to your audience, which means that they’re more likely to click!

I do not advocate for artists to sell ad space on your website. You don’t want to have anything on there that will compete with your art.


Self-Serve Research

Another option to advertising is by looking for opportunities to advertise on websites and blogs with which your customers are already engaged.

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You can search on Blog Rank to discover which blogs are most popular in your category. Then click on the link and see if that blog has advertising opportunities or accepts guest posts.

Check out this eBook for more promotional opportunities for your art that are much less expensive than advertising!

“40 for 40”

Download “40 for 40” – 40 great online & offline promotion ideas for artists.

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Discussion (3) ¬

    Advertise your art.

    In this article I outline a few of the more reasonable advertising options for you to try online to build your audience and gain more exposure.

    Rachel Biel says:

    I’ve used promoted posts on Facebook with good success. I usually do one a week for $10 and our page now has over 6,000 likes: Now, the viral action is really starting to happen and I am seeing more shares and likes without having to promote. And, traffic does go over to our website whenever I post new images.

    I also used Project Wonderful for a long time on my old blog and I used to see good results there, but the quality of the participants went down and there were not as many blogs that had “intelligent” traffic as there used to be. It is loaded with the comics crowd (not that they are not smart, but I find them awfully violent) and then lots of blogs with low traffic. Still, it might be worth doing campaigns around the holidays.

    I haven’t tried the other ones you mentioned, but one Christmas I invested $100 each in Google, Facebook and LinkedIn ads and they were all about the same price with very few results. I never click on ads and feel like most people tune them out, unless they are really interest specific. We sell ads on our site ( and they are all related to what we do so they fit well with the site and I do see clicks happening.

    I also tried google adwords on my old blog and hated not having control over the content and found it too difficult to tweak. I was just looking at the Cranky Ads plugin the other day and felt some of the same reservations. It’s a good concept, but you never know who might show up on your site and where you might show up…

    So far, promoted posts on Facebook is the most affordable and successful strategy that I have tried.

    Thanks for the tips!

    Thanks for the feedback Rachel!

    I totally understand what you mean about Google adwords. I also just recently tried a freebie trial advertising on LinkedIn and $50 worth of “free” advertising turned into $40 I had to pay VERY quickly and yielded very little results.

    I’ve just started another Facebook campaign – like you, I see the results, it’s easy to tweak and test and I don’t have to worry about billing because I control the cap.

    Thanks for touching base and sharing – the TAFA page and website looks great – congratulations on a job well done!

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