These are not in order but I do believe that they all play a role in how much you are or are not selling.
Number of images:
As the old saying goes, you simply cannot sell off an empty wagon. Common sense would tell you that. Unless you have some sort unusual circumstance you need to have as many images as possible; hundreds, not dozens.
If you are a high profile, well known, big name artist, maybe you get away with a small number of images. But if you take a look at the largest sellers here, most of them have hundreds of images and some have a thousand or two.
I have heard all of the arguments; I only post my best, different variations just run people off, I am going for quality not quantity. Okay... if that is your position, then accept that fact of lower sales for what it is and why. If you hope to make money selling artwork, there are certain compromises you HAVE to be willing to make.
The combined artwork sales of Amazon, eBay and FAA probably are higher then the next ten sellers of art on the internet combined. They will all tell you the same thing; watermarks will discourage buyers. That is the bottom line. I don't care about all the arguments that go against that opinion. If the largest sellers of artwork on the internet, people that have spent millions if not billions of dollars to maximize sales, tell you that watermarks will hinder sales, then watermarks will hinder sales!! If you hope to make money selling artwork, there are certain compromises you HAVE to be willing to make. If you want to buck that system, then more power to you. Accept that fact of lower sales for what it is and why.
Search Engine Paranoia
People are paying way to much time over worrying the search engine and keep saying how horribly bad it is and offer up 60,000 ways it can be improved. Get of it!! It is what it is. Only Sean knows exactly how it works and he has made it abundantly clear that he is not going tell us.
The thing you have to understand, THE SEARCH WORKS FOR FAA!
It works just fine and is selling artwork for Sean. Business is good over all and on the increase for FAA. There is an overhaul of the site in the works. Hopefully there will be positive changes in the new "what ever they are" changes and that will include improved search. But one thing for sure, it will not be up and running more then a week or two and there will be those that will be complaining that it does not do this or it does not that.
If all of the suggestions of what the search should be were installed, it is STILL not going to make everyone happy. It is still only going to return so many images. If you are not one of the big sellers, you are still not going to be found in the search as often as you would like. Amazon and eBay both do the same thing. They want to tilt the scales in their favor to maximize the opportunity for a sale. The don't care who it is. The only favorite sellers they have are those that sell the most images. I would do the same thing. So would you if you were in their position.
You need to do the best you can to maximize your tags and descriptions to be found in the search and the forget about it. Spend more time advertising and marketing direct links back to your images on your AW. Stop living and dying on the search results. Reach out as far away and as far outside of FAA and reach the general art buying market. THAT is how you are going to improve your sales. Not via a new and better search anywhere near as much as you think you are.
Stop looking at seasonal swings or economic conditions that may or may not be affecting sale. You can't do anything about it and you don't even know it they are really the problem. Stay positive and don't let others talk you into a funk by saying things like, "we always see lower sales in the the summer" or other such things.
Little Fish In A Big Ocean
The fact is FAA is growing. New images, hundreds if not thousands are being added every day. Sellers, some of them with huge portfolio of images are joining all the time.
This also goes hand in hand with living by the search, both FAA and Google. This is pretty simple stuff. The individual artist is more and more becoming a little fish in a huge ocean. That ocean has huge sharks and whales consuming sales at a rapid rate.
If you are going to get found, you have to go out and drag the buyers into your AW. This is going to continue to be the case.
Most see that as a negative. I don't don't. I see it as competition. If some of the best artists, galleries and museums, see FAA as "the" place to be, then so do I.
I don't care about all the complains that "stock" is the problem. First off, don't under estimate those that are refereed to as the "stock" companies. A lot of their images are very, very good, fine art images. And they sell everyday. This tells us all that there ARE buyers out there, everyday. You just have to figure out how to compete, how to get your fair share.
You can not depend on "the search" to do that for you. I don't care how much improvement is done. You are still going to be seen as a very small fish in a huge ocean as far as the search is concerned.
So let's recap:
Load as many images as you can. Consider different variations of existing images such as black and whites, sepia tones, details and other variations. Some people will tell you that that will discourage buyers. I have been selling variations of my photographs, successfully, for 40 years by doing that. That is exactly what the large sellers that are uploading image every day are doing.
Get rid of the watermarks. They DO discourage buyers. The protection is not as much as you think it is. The low res image loss is not a hard money loss. The sale of an image IS a hard money loss.
Stop living and dying by the search. Do what you can to maximize your potential to get found using searchable titles, tags and descriptions. But then more on and stop worrying about it. Do something about it instead.
Expand your reach as far outside FAA as possible. I do not believe that the contests, groups, image dump thread or spending too much time in the threads in general is of much if any value at all. Spend that time advertising you work OUTSIDE FAA.
You need to go way beyond FAA and reach out and get seen in the greater art buying community. The market place is soooo much more then FAA.
Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, G+, Linkedin and others are a place to start because it is free and it is easy to do. But they too are very limited. You have to consider other means of advertising. Direct email, press releases (with mass circulation, not the FAA supplied press release system) banner ads, pay for clicks, trading links bounce back pieces and any other way of mass marketing you can think of.
A lot of people use blogs. I don't know much about blogging. I do know about the article circulations out there that will make you articles available to people looking for content for there websites and their own blogs. Seems to me the potential of being more then one blog or website is greater then doing my own. And then I don't have to market my blog.
All that said, you HAVE to keep a positive attitude. Block out the negative Nellies and stay positive. I have never met a successful salesmen t that spent a lot of times in the "woes me" state of mind. You got to stay positive!!