Julie Alvarez Designs
SHOP THE ART & DESIGN OF JULIE ALVAREZ
5 Website Tips for Designers at ZazzleThis article is for those folks who design at Zazzle, but really applies to all artists. You will find a ton of information on the web, most people post alluring headlines like "increase your visitors by 80% in 30 days" (yes I made that up, but a lot of them claim to have the answers and, well they just say it's so easy...) But they are doing that because they are doing the same thing you are, trying to get traffic, and one of the main rules is having a catchy title to lure you in.
What follows is what I have learned mostly from experience and is updated since Zazzle has made some significant changes recently. One of the best things they have done is to create collections...which is exactly what I wish they had back when I started setting up web sites. I am by no means an expert and I'm sure there are many things that could be improved on my own sites, but I still have learned a thing or two about the web, rankings and tech, just enough to be dangerous. No matter what level you're at, you do need your own site and you should have something out there that over time will grow your business.
Keep it Clean
Just like all first impressions, it only takes a matter of seconds. The main tip here is it needs to be clean with lots of white space (study online retail store layouts or the most popular blogs). You should have a main navigation, and it should be easy to read and navigate. Some people opt for a blog, others to have more of an online store. I am really a cross of both as I do write articles and also post product pages and really just combine the two.
I use Blogger to host my sites for free, and I know web designers would just laugh at me; however, I can tell you being on a Google server is a wonderful thing. There is never any down time (I've had hosting with Godaddy and I can tell you about downtime and issues) nor is bandwidth ever a problem. I just modify the hell out of the template and strip away large portions of over inflated code that I don't need. But even if you have no technical experience, you can easily set-up a Blogger site and just use one of their templates (or use one of the thousands of templates others create which are very professional). Some people are fans of Wordpress, but there are many different web services and hosting companies to choose from today, and most offer templates (the way to go unless you design your own sites) to get you moving along without technical experience and are very affordable.
Keep it Simple
It does pay to study the pros and what they are doing on the web, it does not pay to try and reinvent the wheel. People are used to certain layouts, logos at the top, sidebar with links and where things "normally" are on most sites. So, don't confuse people by doing something different, make it easy for them. There's nothing wrong with a little originality, but if visitors can't figure out how to navigate or what's going on, your site is useless.
I can tell you from the stats on my sites that mobile browsing is at times equal to and at times exceeds desktop browsing...it's funny, but I'll share the fact that during the workweek desktop browsing is up (imagine all those folks shopping while they are at work in front of a computer) and nights and weekends mobile browsing is higher. If you do your own coding, you can create your own css for desktop and mobile relatively easily, there's a ton of info on the web these days. If not, make sure when you pick a web host that your site will be mobile friendly as well.
Most pros will tell you to have your own top of the line web host, a domain name and lots of other features they consider necessary. I DO believe you need your own domain name from day one, which is not expensive, because once you establish it, you can move it anywhere and the authority you built with it over time goes with it - also, while we're at it get a .com name, no .net or other domains. While I understand they are telling you that you need pro stuff right away, I have seen sites doing well without all of these things, and, if you are just starting out, there is nothing wrong with starting out small and building up - trust me when I say that your site will change and evolve as you do, the internet and as technology does. A simple, well done, fast loading site with great content that is continually growing will do well without spending big bucks, and you will learn a lot and apply that knowledge as your website evolves.
Content is King
Your content really depends on you, your art and design. A lot of Zazzle designers tend to have a store with just a bunch of product links, and I've visited more than my share of them. While it is easy to just cut and paste links to your products, it makes your site just like a thousand other sites on the internet. The best thing you can do is make your site stand out in some way - find what it is that is unique about you, your art, your products, your interests, and be you. I chose to market myself as an artist and designer, because that's who I am. You'll notice here I write in the manner I would speak with you - when I first started out I was trying to be so "professional" in writing descriptions or anything related to business that it wasn't me. I want people to know I'm a person, to know who I am. I write articles about other interests not even related to my art and design and post them here. This site is really just an online extension of me.
Always Grow Your Content
Even if you write one article a week, in a year you will have 52 articles. If you create new products, then creating a new page with that product or product line also makes your site grow. The trick is to keep adding steadily to your site, even if you don't see any immediate results. Google loves sites that continually add more content, and your site will climb higher in the search rankings.
If you're not a writer or do not want to spend the time (and it is time consuming) head on over to fiverr.com and for a a minimum of $5 each you can get articles on the subject matter of your choice written by folks who write for the web. You may have to edit and refine some of them, but it generally is a great way to continually add content if this isn't your thing.
What to Write About
The great thing about the internet is that people post everything and anything and much of it is out there for you to use and share. If you design children's party items (invitations, custom napkins, party supplies, etc.) you can write an article about creating the perfect party or specific themes and include your products. The best part is, you can go to YouTube and find people's videos you can add to your article that speak about throwing a perfect child's party, or you can find articles on specific themes for children's parties and link to it, or find a Pinterest board about party themes and add it to your article. Content is already out there and created for you to use. If you're crafty, write a "how-to" and take pictures and post them. If your a painter, you might write about what inspired an artwork, or your current approach to art or about the subject matter of your painting. Original, unique and helpful content will be shared.
Write for Your Audience
Be sure to write for people and NOT the search engines as Google is changing to put more priority on user experience and social media shares then the old days of keyword stuffing your pages for higher rankings (not saying using keywords are not useful, but some people create pages just full of keywords and very little value).
Finding Successful Content
If you read popular posts about successful blogging, you will come across the strategy of finding successful content with lots of shares already, then duping the idea, concept or even content in some way and posting a similar article. There are sites like buzzsumo that will show you what content is performing best. While it is interesting and you can definitely gain an understanding of what it is people are liking and sharing, I am not a fan of just copying.
Let me share this experience as it happened to me. There is a gentleman (who shall remain nameless) who claims to be a successful online marketer teaching others, and I found him copying 60% of my dog sympathy verses from my page, mixed them in with others and posted them on his site, then creating a graphic about pet sympathy verses and posting it on Pinterest (where I found it). Since he has verse pages for all occasions, I'm pretty sure he just went ahead and found the highest ranking sites (social media shares) with quotes and copied the majority of them in each category. So in essence, I guess he teaches plagiarizing others work for his own benefit. I know most of the verses I have are in the public domain, but there are others I wrote that did not exist elsewhere until I found them on his site, so I know where he got them. Do I really care? Not so much, my site is devoted to dog sympathy which is why it has thousands of shares in the first place.
Upload Your Own Images
I can't stress this one enough. Take the time to make your images stand out, not just post the html link from Zazzle. I say this because I learned that a large portion of my traffic comes from image searches. In June 2016 I first noticed that Google actually started placing products on the top row of an image search, and I thought wow, it took them that long to figure this one out. Your image file names need to be named exactly what they are, do not upload img0545.jpg but change the name to purple-and-white-wedding-summer-invitation.jpg if that is what your product is.
FOR IMAGE SEARCH RESULTS
Give Away Something Free
If you create graphics, then this can be a no-brainer, create some graphics to give away totally free, and don't put restrictions on it. People love free stuff and they love to be able to use it as they so desire. I know that over the years I have received many free fonts and some really helpful software that others developed to give freely to the world to use however they wish. Giving back will definitely drive traffic and social shares.
Growing Referral Income
Leverage Your Referrals and Royalties
I read the Zazzle forum, I just don't post there. A lot of folks admit that they're not good on the promoting part and just concentrate on the royalties from their designs. I admit I still earn more from royalties on my work then on referrals. The number one reason for developing your own site is to focus on the revenue generated from both a referral and royalty (and Zazzle will also pay a volume bonus depending on the total amount of your referrals). Don't leave referral money on the table! And while we're on the subject, referrals (commissions) can come from other products and other sites so you can build multiple sources of income, not just from Zazzle. Again if we take the example of writing a helpful guide for throwing a children's party, you can find related products from other sources, such as Amazon and include them also. The one thing you don't want to do is litter the page with product links, just what is pertinent and helpful to someone reading your article.
If you're great with social media and use it wisely, you will definitely have no issues generating income. People sharing your articles, products, pins, tweets, instagram photos or whatever you do on the web is huge. I am not at all great with social media, so I can't give you pointers here. My head is into my art and design and I would rather be doing that than living on Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Wanelo, Flickr, Facebook and Google+. The one thing I can add here is that you definitely want your social sharing buttons on your website around your content, because if you develop great content, it will get shared.
My dog sympathy site ranks #1 in Google for dog sympathy and dog sympathy cards because of social shares, and the site gets some great traffic. It is hosted on Blogger and I never even purchased a domain name for it (my mistake, I should have purchased a domain once I started to see some traffic), it still has its blogspot address. It was the first "real" site I spent time on developing and it refers traffic to this site julieagifts.com.
Some people think they have to be on all major social media, but I don't think that's the case, remember your time is money. For people with visual products, I think sites like Pinterest are great. Having lots of people following you is wonderful, but if it is not generating sales for you, then it doesn't really matter.
Collect Email Addresses
While most major sites use those annoying pop-up windows to collect your email address, and I personally am not a fan, they claim they do a good job at capturing visitor's email addresses. At this time I do not entertain any ideas of placing pop-ups on my sites. However, if you notice on most of my pages I do have a sign-up for my newsletter at the top, and I do collect email addresses. Email marketing is something that is so very valuable to generating revenue that you NEED to be collecting them. If you just rely on your Zazzle website, Zazzle collects the email and it is their customer from here on out, not yours...if you have your own site and send out newsletters even quarterly or before big holidays, you can grow your customers and sales. Even if you don't currently send out newsletters, start a list and collect addresses. When you get a handful of emails, start sending out a newsletter.
Reaching Out to Related Sites
If you specialize in a certain topic or niche, reaching out to other well-known sites in your related area can be of great value. You may get another site to refer your related products, maybe they may write an article for their site about you or your product or just provide a nice backlink to your site. You can start doing this when you've got a site with some great content to share, so develop your site!
Keep Doing What is Successful for You
You can read and find all the information you ever wanted about what others think and what others are doing, but the best thing to do is keep refining what is working for you and concentrate on it, and let go of things that are not or try another approach. What may work for someone else may not work for you, and trial and error does come into play here. It is the same if you design at Zazzle, focus on what you do best, not what you think someone else makes a lot of money designing.
I recently read an online article that was really insightful and I wish I could find it again. This person wrote about the concept of excelling at what you do and I remember him stating that if you're in the top 20% of those in your field, you're going to do well...but what if you are in the top 5% of your field? That's when you no longer need to search for business or clients, but that's when they start searching for you. What does it take to reach that level? It takes a dedication and a passion to excel at whatever it is you are doing, and a focus on that alone, which means giving up other things of less importance.
For me creativity, art and design skills are what I excel at most, and I spend most of my time focusing on that. If I really wanted to excel in social media, then that is something I need to hand-off to someone who excels in it. I do get a great deal of custom requests from people who find my work at Zazzle, and I always make double on the sale because I also get the commission in addition to the royalty, and depending on the work involved, sometimes I raise the royalty to compensate as well. I believe this has a lot to do with the quality of my work and the better it gets, the more in sales I get. If you become known in an area, business will begin to gravitate towards you.
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EVERY PAGE OF
CREATED COULD BE
WITH YOUR WEB
SITE. THINK OF
EVERY PAGE AS
A HOME PAGE.
DESIGN IS EASY.
THAT TAKES TIME.
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GOOD DESIGN MEANS
NEVER HAVING TO
SAY "CLICK HERE"
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YOU CAN'T DO
BETTER DESIGN WITH
A COMPUTER, BUT
YOU CAN SPEED UP
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