There’s an influx of RedBubble trend / popular tag tools popping up everywhere. I won’t even pretend to know them all because I don’t spend much time keeping up.
The idea is to use the tool to find what’s trending so you can make a design that targets the keyword.
Sounds great, right?
I mean…. won’t that help all of us make more money if we know what keywords people are searching for on RedBubble?
In theory, these tools sound like a great idea. However, I’m noticing several issues developing…
As more content creators (YouTubers) publish information about the tools and keywords, it creates more competition for the same phrases.
RedBubble designers have been complaining about lower traffic and declining sales lately.
The worst part is designers are now using spammy techniques to load their tags with these popular phrases, even if their designs are unrelated to the keyword.
This clutters up the search results with low quality, unrelated designs. It also makes it harder for quality designs to get found.
And as someone in my private student group pointed out, the trend numbers are inflated because a lot of the searches are actually done by the designers looking to make money, not RedBubble customers.
Over time, this will make trend and keyword tools less and less valuable for the average RedBubble user.
You Can Sell Without Trends
I’ve had consistent income growth on Redbubble since I started uploading consistently in 2017. I can’t say the same for Amazon, even though it’s still my best POD platform.
That’s saying a lot given the influx of YouTubers creating more content about RedBubble in 2020.
Even though this has created more competition, my guess is that most people are focusing on trends due to the illusion of quick income.
Trends can yield faster results, but it doesn’t usually last. Plus, they quickly create lots of competition.
I’m a Long-Game Entrepreneur
I’ve spent 14 years in full-time, solo entrepreneurship.
One of my keys to longevity with earning online is diversification and playing the long game.
My strategy and approach to earning online does not and will NEVER appeal to the masses because it’s not flashy, clickbaity and it doesn’t work quickly.
Most people seek out ways to make money online because they need money yesterday.
So the average person doesn’t want to hear that it’s going to take time, and they may have to fail over and over again before succeeding.
The irony of that is it’s the reality for 98% of people who actually have long-term success. Fast money is not usually long or lasting money.
Trends fall into the “fast money” category. While I have worked trends (mostly Amazon), I prefer a slower, more stable approach to keywords for my niche shops.
That’s why I knew early in my online career that I would never be able to rely on selling a lot of products about how to make money.
My approach and strategy just doesn’t have mass appeal due to the fact most people want things to work very quickly.
I can’t and will never guarantee that. Period.
So I’m thankful I’ve been able to create income streams for myself outside of that space.
When it comes to “hyped up” income opps and strategies, I learned that anything that produces quick(ish), free money will never last — especially if “trends” or “best sellers” are shared with the public.
So when I find “quick money” opps that everyone is doing, I always work to create additional, lasting income streams in the background.
I’ve applied this slow-build strategy to RedBubble and it WORKS.
It’s why I’ve been able to sell so many different products on RedBubble without relying on trends that will become quickly saturated.
I got lucky and found some keywords through Merch By Amazon that also sell on RedBubble. I didn’t use any tools to find these phrases.
It was just trial and error through uploading my Amazon best sellers and testing.
I continued to improve my art and I built niche shops with patience. As a result, many of the products began ranking on Google Images.
Sure, my growth has been slower than it was for Merch By Amazon, but my keywords aren’t appearing on any trend tools.
This is a big reason why my income has been more stable and slowly growing.
Some of my sales are also coming from outside of RedBubble (Google, Pinterest, etc.)
My long-term goal is to build brands I can sell when I’m ready to retire from POD and/or entrepreneurship.
That’s a big part of why I do everything under an alias and don’t share my work. I want to preserve the integrity and traffic without outside influence.
Should You Ignore Trend Tools?
No. I’m not saying that. They really have helped a lot of people sell.
However, you should definitely lower your expectations regarding the usefulness of them for the long run. Also, keep in mind the numbers are inflated by designers researching.
While trends can earn you money fast, it’s not going to last due to the competition, spamming, etc.
Plus, you will have to keep chasing the next trend and the next and the next to keep your sales coming in.
Whew! So exhausting!
Now, if trend-chasing is something you don’t mind doing, go for it. Not everyone is going to have the same goal with their POD business.
I tend to go against the grain when it comes to earning online, and that’s OK.
If you are constantly doing what everyone else is doing, your success will be limited. When you think outside the box and find your own path, your income will be more stable.
I’ve applied this approach to so many online opps over the years, and it’s worked well for me for a very long time.
Here’s a Long-Term Strategy to Try
If you insist on using tools, try to focus on lower competition phrases, or develop a long-game strategy.
Here’s what I mean…
Let’s say a trend tool showed that a watercolor keyword is increasing in popularity.
You also noticed from research that cat art tends to rank well.
You could create a shop that combines these two elements that you know are already popular.
Set a goal to create the best watercolor cat art anyone has ever seen! Since RedBubble is big with pop culture, the cats could be doing or saying all kinds of trendy things.
See… this is how you play the LONG game, and is still works!
Actually, the long game will always work with entrepreneurship because it’s the road less traveled and least desired.
Most POD-ers won’t want to touch this strategy because it’s not fast enough and there’s little proof it works.
And that’s exactly why you should do it! 🙂
If you happen to enjoy this work and you actually ARE patient, you can create something that is stable and long-term while everyone else is chasing temporary solutions.
Aim To Get Featured
I’ve also noticed that one key to getting more traffic on RedBubble is to get featured. They like to highlight shops with themes.
When I say “themes” I mean the art style is very similar. So it might be a shop that only does animal line art.
A niche shop doesn’t necessarily have to target a specific audience. It could also be a themed shop based on a kind of art.
RedBubble also tends to feature more artistic shops. This is actually a good thing because it’s consistent with the RedBubble brand, and good for hard-working, talented designers.
I came across one shop with only 11 designs, but they were featured on the homepage, and the exposure drove thousands of followers in a short amount of time.
So while these trend tools are ruining aspects of RedBubble, I do believe there is plenty of opportunity there for hard-working, talented people who think outside the box.
I also believe RedBubble’s algorithm will eventually get tweaked to combat a lot of the spamming. That will benefit their bottom line as well as the designers.
So if you want longevity with print on demand, do this…
- Play the long game, and don’t rely so heavily on trends.
- Keep uploading even when things are slow.
- Spend more time in the beginning developing a shop strategy that aligns with what you know sells on that platform instead of throwing spaghetti on a wall hoping that it sticks.
I used the spaghetti strategy, but that was before the influx of POD gurus. In 2021, you have to be more methodical and strategic.
Two years from now, you’ll be glad you invested the time in planning.
What do you think about trend tools? Have they helped you?
Are you a long-game or short-game print on demand designer?
Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2021!!
This was very refreshing, Lisa. Right now I really think that the trend tools aren’t reliable, since majority of the things there are trademarked or copyrighted anyway. I just happened to think it was the best and only way to grow on RedBubble, because that’s what the youtubers said. Glad I found you tho. Yes I might make sales usind the trends tools but it goes against my morals to steal from other people. I will follow what you said, I am an artist and I will aim to get featured instead. Love from the Philippines.
Thanks Lisa, this has opened insights to my game plan from now on with Redbubble as I was just looking on what is trending out there and not focusing on what I actually want to create.
Thanks a Ton.
It’s a balance, though. Even though it’s great to create content on what you like, you still need to verify there is actual demand for that topic. For example, I know people who have extreme passions for topics that just aren’t attracting buyers. So you also need to validate that as well.
That’s why trends are so sought after. However, RedBubble trends are a bit overrated because the trend data is a little skewed by search data from designers.
I know that many of these trends are shortlived, and you can be successful without following them, but as a beginner artist I look at these redbubble trends daily, to see is a new related tag to my artworks, or can I create a new design based on trends and my old designs.
I remember that some days ago pizza is my valentine was a trend, and I had an illustration of pizza and hearts so that I could create a new design for it.
I still do trends on Amazon all the time. I was mainly talking about the spamming on RedBubble, and the people not considering more stable options with POD.
I think people should mix up the strategy. I do very well with trends on Amazon. It’s just a shame that the tools bring out so many spammers. RedBubble needs to adjust their algorithm and that will help.
Great Article, you made some great observations about the pros and cons of following trends, it can be harmful especially if someone misuses them, just add spammy tags to their work, just because it’s a part of a trend.
I think it can be inspiring too, For example, to help beginners create something that people are looking for. Or for renewing the old redbubble items with new search trends, some of the trends are seasonal, I find it useful to add trending tags, which is related to my work to art.
But I agree with you, Just Following the trends, can bring confusion.
Steph Minns says
Thanks for your advice, Lisa, and after 2 years on RB I tend to agree with you. I’ve watched some of the jump-on-the trends YouTube vids lately and it always seem a bit hit and miss to me. I’ve stuck with focusing on evergreen things people will always be looking for (birthdays, thank you cards, Christmas cards, arty tees) and in my own style. I post a lot of my own art (I’m a qualified graphic designer/artist) and these have been by best sellers.
That’s great to hear, Steph! Goes to show with the right keywords and some talent…you can still do well on RedBubble. I have no regrets taking the road less traveled. It’s really paid off.
Darren Ewart says
Hi Lisa, in your example you suggest cross niching cats and watercolor because these two niches are already selling well on redbubble. My question is… how do you know that visitors to redbubble are searching ‘watercolor cat’ into RB search bar? And how do you know this sub niche is already getting views? Thanks
That’s exactly it. Sometimes you don’t know. You are taking a chance, but I do these cross niche ideas all the time and I’m often the first person to get it to sell with the idea. So I ended up making waaaaay more than those who wait to see what’s selling. Not all will sell, but when they do, the advantages can be big.
The biggest problem I see with POD designers is people always wait to see what’s trending or has sold instead of studying the formula (cross niching two hot ideas) and being one of the FIRST to apply the idea to a new space.
So if you see watercolor art sells a lot and so do cats, throw out some unique designs combining both keywords. The algorithm will recommend the art to people who have searched/bought with both sets of keywords.
So many of my best sellers (especially on Merch) were ideas where I crossed niche two winning ideas and no one else was doing it.
This past Christmas, I combined the social distancing theme with a broad term. I was the only shirt out there, but it sold because the algorithm recommended the design to people in both groups AND it was Christmas related. When you target two or more ideas in a shirt, you have lots of opportunity to get found.
Don’t be afraid to be first if the idea makes sense. It can pay off big time.
The fact that you already know both broad topics have sold on items separately, lets you know there will be demand for the combo if you execute well.
People won’t find your idea by typing in your new idea combo because they don’t it exists. They find your shirt by typing in keywords that have been used before.
So let’s say you combine social distance + valentine’s Day + love on one shirt. The keywords you use to describe the design will help it get recommended and ranked based on what people have bought and searched for before.
Hope that makes sense!
Ah I get it now, thank you for your helpful reply Lisa. So if I created (for example) a ‘dinosaur reading’ shirt… it would be recommended to people who have searched the two keywords ‘dinosaur’ and ‘reading’ separately.
It seems to me the question I have to ask myself now is: if I choose a keyword that is selling and I want to cross niche – then what other keyword do I reckon this niche-specific audience has been searching for?
You wrote: “My long-term goal is to build brands I can sell when I’m ready to retire from POD and/or entrepreneurship.”
Can you tell more about selling one’s RB store? Or maybe you have an older post dealing this issue?
– – –
I wrote a long opening-up explaining my situation (health issues, mainly) at the end of this comment, but got wise and deleted that part. 😀
Thank you for all the help your sharing!
Edit. “your sharing” –> you’re sharing
What I meant was sell the actual domain/website. So I built a site with the same name as my RedBubble shop. So that’s what I was referring to. You can sell domains for a lot of money if you get pages to rank.
Thank you for clearing this for me. I purchased a domain on December. It’s still empty but I have a plan to connect it with RB the way you mentioned above.
Hello I’m new to redbubble! When you say you have a website with same name as redbubble does that mean you have a storefront you created that links all your products you post on your website to redirect people to purchase on redbubble?
I was watching a you tuber like this only yesterday! What you say makes a lot of sense. I am an illustrator and can understand your wish to remain anonymous, people will just steal your work. I’ve not made sales yet but I’m hoping to build my own brand, although this is not easy so I’m feeling my way here. Thanks, I’ll be watching more of your vids.
Miriam Walcott says
Thanks for sharing your views on this topic. When I started my RedBubble shop it was with designs for a particular niche that I was interested in and fortunately made sales with. Since then I have branched out into different designs and 2020 was my best year in terms of sales. I have looked into “trends” and will probably do some designing around them in the future. In 2021 I am launching a new shop based solely on my artwork. I will pay more attention to things like “visitors” and “click-through rates” with this shop than I did when starting the other and see how it grows over time. Happy New Year to you.
That’s the exact approach I took Miriam. I started out with a specific niche I found that caught my interest. There were no trend tools in sight.
Having multiple shops is the best way to test things. Good luck to you and happy new year!
Absolutely brilliant AND so very true!
Hey Lisa, thanks for this informative post, I’m new to POD and have seen this hack on YouTube and was wondering whether it was overrated. I like the idea of a long term strategy. When I did my thing I made sales, so the long term way it is for me. Thanks again.
Yep, long term is the way to go!
Pete Moring says
Hi Lisa, I’m a bit of a Chancer on RedBubble, I don’t even think of keywords when publishing, except for the ‘top-of-the-head’ ones while filling the details ……. A few months ago I was averaging probably 100+ visitors a day, lately about TWO a day (if I’m lucky) even though I put up a few more designs every other day or so. Not sure what that says, but have you seen the GLUT of RedBubble designs on Pinterest ?? …. I think the world and it’s Auntie have all jumped onto RedBubble waggon-train in the run-up to Xmas …. Hopefully it’ll return to normal again soon 🙂
Same. I started out with a random account just testing different designs until I found what sticks.
No, I haven’t noticed a lot on Pinterest, but I usually just pin from my own shop and rarely visit the actual site. So that’s probably why I haven’t noticed.
Janelle Bryan says
Thanks Lisa. I’m a newbie to POD with 0 design skills or experience! It can often feel so overwhelming with these trend videos on youtube and I feel scattered and unfocused. Thanks for this post. Here’s to a creative 2021!
You’re very welcome Janelle. Yes, don’t let the tools sidetrack you. They can be useful in some ways, but I think they are best used with a combined long-term strategy like I outlined here. Do that and you will have a better chance for success.
Don’t follow the crowd. There’s only so much opportunity if everyone is doing the same thing (i.e. following the same trends and keywords)
Also, don’t get discouraged if you don’t get sales right away. You probably need at least 50 designs up, and that assumes you are following some sort of strategy and have studied what sells there.
Moore like 500.i also have my sus for trends.
I agree Lisa! The trend tools are highly overrated and a lot of content creators do videos on the results of these tools and then everybody jumps in it so if you are doing your own trend research, like I do, next thing you turn around and bam you got all this competition. I prefer evergreens for long term sales. And I have had some luck doing my own thing when it comes to holiday and seasonal designs.
I can tell by our convos in the private group that you and I have a very similar strategy. Good to know I’m not alone in my thinking. Thanks for taking time to comment.