Critique for ArtFire Studio

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Hello friends,

If you would like a review of your studio, please feel free to ask in the studio critique section of the ArtFire forum. Lots of fellow sellers are willing to help. I know that some sellers aren't comfortable asking for an assessment in a public setting. Since I seem to repeat a lot of suggestions for most critiques, I would like to offer some general advice for all studios.

Sellers can read through these ideas and apply them to your shop for a generic shop critique that you can follow on your own. When you ask for a review, here are the six things I look at when I visit your studio and my suggestions for improvement:

1. Do you have a banner? They are important for branding. Is the banner clear, attractive and in full view?  Do you have a nice avatar and bio pic?

2. Do you have your bio and policy pages completed? Not everyone reads bios or policies but those who do find it important. When purchasing from an artisan or small indie business, buyers want to know about you and your products. Tell us about yourself, why you sell, what do you offer your customers. Establish a relationship with your buyers as that is what sets small entrepreneurs apart from larger corporate enterprises.

Are your policies inviting and reflective of a professional business in regards to shipping times, contact information, custom orders, returns, refunds, lost/damaged items? Are they worded positively rather than negatively? Do they reassure buyers that you will be fair and honest in their dealings with you? Don't run them off with oppressive practices.

3. If you use an announcement, is it worded for great search engine optimization (SEO)? No one shops for "welcome to my shop, or I like to make soap" The announcement is crawled by search engines so take advantage of that valuable space by using full sentences filled appropriate keywords that inform shoppers of the range of items you sell and bring them to your products.

4. Do you have a good quantity of listings? Make as many as possible, 100 items listed is a great goal. The more you have to offer for sale, the better. It is tough to find success with just a few products listed. If you have a lot of listings, are you using studio categories/sections to make it easy for your shoppers to find what they need?

5. Photos - are they good quality, crisp and clear? Do the pics depict the product in an appealing way? Your photos should show a potential buyer everything they need to know without reading the description and your descriptions should tell them everything they need to know without looking at your photos. Are they cropped square and cropped to cut out any offensive background distractions? Your product should fill as much as the picture as possible. Learn to use photo editing software to brighten, contrast and crop your photos.

Is you look cohesive with similar backgrounds and show your products  in an attractive manner? We can have 10 photos, the more the better. How many ways can you photograph a bar of soap...

Take full view shots of your items and several close up photos highlighting some details - such as:

Use photos of the product in use, attractively displayed in a setting, next to a ruler or item for a visual size perspective, the back and sides.

If you sell an item in several colors or styles, use a group shot so buyers will know there are other options available.

The more photos you have the more you get seen. I get tremendous traffic and sales from image search results. Most days 50% of my incoming urls are from image searches. You will see great benefits from SEO of your images (10 images with full content image captions), especially if the photos are enticing and make me want to click to know more.

Keep in mind that a buyer can't pick up your wares and inspect them, you need to show them the fine details - zoom in on the clasp or handle or label. Caption those photos properly for SEO. The best photo captions are those with varied keywords that read like a sentence - just like descriptions the more content you offer the search engines the more you will be rewarded with great placement in searches from buyers. Don't say top, side, back - buyers don't search for images of "top or back" Vary each caption to use more keywords.

Examples for good image captions to use for one type of listing like my powder puffs:

a. Handmade opulent powder puff by Soapsmith with pearl and crystal handle
b. Allegheny Hearth finely crafted Merino wool body powder puff
c. Extra large 9 inch powder puff with handle
d. Made in the USA custom crafted wool powder puff with hammered copper handle
e. White fluffy dusting powder puff to apply Bonnie Bartley's handmade cornstarch powder
f. Classic and elegant powder puffs, the epitome of femininity
g. Upscale gift for spa or vanity table, perfect for a Bridal Party mementos
h. Heirloom quality body powder applicator, lambswool with faceted crystal ball handle

6. Titles and Descriptions: SEO is vitally important, over 75% of my sales come from buyers who find me through off site search engines. Without good SEO, the chances for success are greatly diminished. Are you following the advice for good SEO? The help guides on your My ArtFire page are a great resource. It might take a while for search engines to pick up your items but with sparse descriptions you won't give them much to work with so it will be difficult for buyers to find your products.

Use all 70 characters for your title, proper capitalization that reads like normal language. This would be a very poor title as it is keyword stuffing, improper punctuation, attention grabbing caps:

Soap rock, soap stone, rose quartz crystal soap!, glycerin soap, pink SOAP ROCK

This would be much better:

Handmade Sapphire Sparkling Crystal Blue and Gold Gemstone Geode Soap Rock

The recommendation for descriptions is 250 words of unique content concentrating on varied keywords for each listing. Do not keyword stuff by overusing certain words, use natural language. Don't say "My handmade lavender soap is the best lavender soap you will find because I make great lavender soap - that is keyword stuffing."

The beginning of the description carries the most weight in search engines so be sure to start your description telling the shopper exactly what the item is - in plain simple language with accurate keywords that someone would enter to find your product.

Use proper grammar and punctuation, don't use all caps, weird capitalization or attention grabbing words like sale and free because search engines frown upon those tactics. 

Try not to repeat the same information on all listings. Often you need to do that for some mundane facts that are needed, put that in the more information area or near the end of your description after you have fed the search engines with captivating content at the beginning. The exact same information except for a single sentence or two will harm your SEO.

Describe everything in great detail. Discuss the subject matter, suggest to the buyer what event they would wear your product or where it could be displayed ( in man cave, ideal for a nursery, computer room, perfect for an office, gifted to your Grandfather for father's day, or a desired teacher gift) Tell me about the process to make your product and the materials used - why do you choose organic olive oil or sterling silver? Where did you find this vintage item? Is the design classic, horrific, modern, impressionistic, strong, geeky, airy or brooding? Tell me who would like to receive this as a gift and for what occasion. Act as though you are describing the design over the phone where the buyer can't see it - tell them ALL about it. Give me all the boring details that I need to know like measurements, weights, colors but also sell the sizzle. Make me WANT to purchase.

Here is a great thread in the ArtFire forum to help you flesh out your descriptions:

Copy writing workshop

Whew, that is a lot of work! It sure is. Don't be overwhelmed, take it a little at a time and make the needed adjustments. It takes some time but if you work the advice found in the help guides and in the forum it is well worth the effort. I still don't have all of my images captioned, some of my older descriptions and photos need a lot of work but someday I will have it all done, too.

Wishing you much success!

Thanks for visiting,


Reader's Comments

By EssenceofEquus on 11/18/2014 @ 06:19pmThank-you so much for taking the time to write this blog to help newbies like myself. I found your specific examples very helpful and gave me examples of how to improve my site.

By RobinsonsHandyCrafts on 05/07/2014 @ 07:35pmBonnie, This is very informative and valuable. I know I have quite a bit of work to do, but you've made much easier. Thanks

By SunbeltJewelry on 12/16/2013 @ 03:25pmThank you so much for taking the time to help us out. The information you provided is, I think, something we all know we should be doing, but rarely follow through on with each listing we put out. I will be buckling down to work on my shop, and will be following your tutorial! Thank you, again!

By Guest on 10/07/2013 @ 01:05pmGood information, thanks for putting this together. I printed it off for future reference.

By Guest on 10/06/2013 @ 01:40pmI am marking this for continued reference. thanks for pulling it all together for us and for being so helpful in the forums. I have still got a lot to do to improve my studio.

By GabrielleNatural on 10/06/2013 @ 11:15amEnjoyed your post! Thanks!

By PutmanLakeDesigns on 10/05/2013 @ 10:03pmThanks so much Bonnie. Lots to do.. but as my mom and dad told me, "Doing it right isn't always easy, but the results will be worth it."

By EweniqueEssentials on 10/05/2013 @ 10:00pmThank you for posting such a helpful, concise studio critique which any shop owner can benefit from if they follow the advice offered here!

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