There is a question on the Art Marketing group on LinkedIn from the painter Jill Rosoff who asked “What kind of success has anyone had using Google Adwords or similar to market their artwork?” Here’s my thoughts on this:
Advertising through Google Adwords works well if you have a very focused, definable product, that people actively search for on Google. The more of a niche you serve, and the more defined the audience you are trying to reach, the better your advertising will work. So unless your art results in a product that people are actively looking to buy, I don’t think most artists would get very good results from an Adwords.
Art is just too wide open of a subject on the Internet. People do Google searches for art for a huge variety of reasons beyond just buying it — for research, curiosity, history, news, etc. Therefore, unless your art serves a small and well defined niche of active buyers (e.g. classic cars), trying to sort through that huge haystack of searches for the small number people who might want to buy art (any art, let alone yours!) is just too difficult.
For example, when I try to advertise my nature photography on it’s own, I get very little response. But when I advertise the fine art wedding ketubahs which I make from my photography, I get steady, predictable results. In fact, Adwords is a major source of traffic to my site. This is because the ketubah is a focused product targeted at a specific audience (people getting married). People rarely do a Google search on the word “ketubah” unless they are in a market to buy one. This makes buying ads for the search a realistic endeavor.
One way to test how realistic an Adwords campaign might be for you is to do Google searches for the terms you might buy ads on, and analyze the results. If the search results are for websites that actively sell art, then there is a good chance that an ad on that search term could do well for you. However, if the search results are all over the place, try again.
However, with all that said, the great thing about Adwords is that it there is very little risk to trying it out. If you bought an ad in a magazine, it would set you back hundreds of dollars whether people saw it or not. But with Adwords, you only pay for the clicks you get — you only pay if someone saw the ad, read it, liked it, and decided to act on it. So your ad does poorly and no one clicks on it, you pay nothing. Plus, you can set the maximum you are willing to pay (through a daily budget), making it a fairly low risk to try out and experiment with.