Tuesday, July 15, 2014

There's a Storm Coming 

There's a storm coming
I can feel it in the air
There's a storm coming
I can feel it in the air
There's a storm coming
I can feel it in my heart
There's a storm coming
I can feel it in my heart

Amber Hennessey 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Etsy Easy:10 Steps 10 Easy Steps that Would have Saved Me Months of Headaches


 This is in response to the overwhelming amount of people that keep asking me to help set up their Etsy.  I literally can't.  I can give you a few tips, but the amount of time I would have to spend would force me to close my shop.  It can takes months or even years in some cases to get a thorough understanding of e-commerce and getting your shop all set up.  I wish I would have found a thorough post like this before I did mine.  I believe that I know have a good understanding of how to work an online shop; however,  some parts of my shop still need help.  This is because I set up a shop that now has over 250 items, and it is extremely time consuming to go back and fix what I did not do right the first time.  Hopefully this will answer many of your questions and help save you some of the headaches that I had.   

     This is the second time that I have tried to run a successful Etsy shop. I now understand why even small businesses hire someone to do their internet marketing for them.  Its a pain in the a$$.  So, you have an awesome product, and everyone you know always says that you should sell your "stuff".  You think "Ok, this will be easy.  I'll take some photos, and throw it up in an online shop.  It will be as easy as sticking a photo of something cool on Facebook".  

      You/I couldn't have been more wrong. I have spent countlessssssssssssssss hours researching how to be successful on Etsy.  This has included reading tons of blog posts, forum posts, Etsy team posts, and websites that have helped a little bit here. . . and a little bit there.  When I say countless I'm NOT kidding.  I would spend more time trying to figure out internet selling then I would spend working on my products.  Are the answers even on websites, blogs, forums, or in Etsy team posts?!?  

      I found many answers.  I found many conflicting answers.  I tried over and over again to gauge which answers were correct.  Wait.  Hold the phone.  I worked at Yodle for over a year selling internet marketing.  They are Google's largest marketing partner.  I can do this.  

      I will admit, I've been slacking in the "work on your Etsy shop" department; however, I'm still having sales which means I've done something right.  I haven't even touched my shop for the past month, and I'm still averaging about four sales a week which can only mean that I HAVE figured something out.  

      This is a summary of everything I have learned over the past five years of trying to be Etsy successful.  I have put very little effort(that is about to change) into my current shop; however, over the past four months I have had 50(two more as we speak!) sales.  If you're not willing to follow even one of these tips then I would consider saving yourself the headache and going back to your "normal" job.  Sorry to be blunt, but sometimes you need to hear it.  Running a business is difficult.             

Here is the golden advice that I can give to you. . .  


1.  You cannot sell it if you don't list it

    This one really could not be simpler and yet I went around and around with this.  You simply can't sell it if it's not there.  Don't worry about renewing listings that have not sold.  List new ones.  The right person for your item is out there, and if you're doing everything like you should then they will find it.  Items stay up on Etsy for four months before you must pay to renew them.  If it has not sold by then,  you can reevaluate it.  In the meantime, the more you list, the more options your customers have.  If you have a gorgeous Carnival glass bowl sitting in the corner that you never listed because your too busy doing crap that does not matter then that lady in North Carolina who wanted it for her wedding decorations will never find it.  


2.  Keywords are KEY

     This is simple if simply explained.  This is that SEO(search engine optimization) stuff that everyone is always talking about.  Views and favorites on your items don't matter if they are not the people who want to buy your items.  I've had items that have had thousands of views and were never purchased, and I've had items with five views that got purchased.  You NEED the correct people to be finding your items. 

First and foremost the first words in your description should be the most likely thing that people will actually search. 

You can find out what people search. . . by searching. . .
    Put in a couple of letters and the items that pop up are filtered by searches that actual people do.  Simple. Nobody is ever going to search for something like "My Favorite Ever Forest Green Woodland Vintage Embossed Super Cute Coffee Mugs".  These must be searchable terms.

You can also search Google AdWords in order to find good keywords.  You now must sign in to use this feature; however, it is still free.  Don't purchase anything.  Go to "Tools"→"Keyword Planner"
◆Put in a keyword that is similar to something that would be searched in your shop.
◆The "keyword planner" will then bring up searches similar to yours.  (you can also filter by location)
◆It is important to see the average monthly searches and the competition for them.  Find keywords that match your items, have high monthly searches, and very low competition and you've got yourself a winner! 
◆This gets easier and takes less time after some practice.

Once you have figured out good searchable terms:
1. Make sure your spelling is correct.
2. Try to use searchable phrases, separate with a slash "/", and make sure to use spaces.  Use 2,3, or 4 or so phrases, but don't go overboard.
3. Do not repeat words in headings.  Google views this as a no no and will drop you in searches.  This is called "keyword stuffing".  This does not matter for your actual "keywords" just do not do it in your heading.  Ex. "Vintage Yellow Pyrex Mixing Bowls, Yellow Vintage Dishes, Farmhouse Dishes"----BAD  instead do something like "Vintage Yellow Pyrex Mixing Bowls / Farmhouse Dishes". 
4.  Where relevant include: colors, sizes, shapes, dates, styles, textures, sheen, weight, and so on. 
5.  Your first headline phrase especially, but you should do it with all of them, should match your keywords.

    This helps you gain relevancy in Google searches.  They should match exactly. . . well as much as you have room for since keywords can only be so long. 

    Lastly, use all of your room for keywords.  Very important.  The more you have, the more likely you are to be found.  You don't need to repeat words unless it is for a specific phrase.  In this example "vintage" is a wasted keyword spot.  The term "vintage" is already used more than once.  This keyword spot can be used for something different.  Also, fill up the keyword spots.  The keywords "mug" and "serving" have room for more. 

    Sometimes you can use very popular keywords, but sometimes off the wall random ones might find you a buyer such as "Woodland inspired decor".  In this situation anything is better than "vintage" because it is just redundant.

Additional keyword tips:

1.  Google changes their search parameters on a daily basis.  If you're getting traffic regularly and then it suddenly stops then something has changed.  I would reccommend slowly changing a couple keywords, and then seeing if anything changes.

2.  Don't change everything everyday.  When you change things on your site it takes time to register on the internet.  This is basically called crawling.  Search engines send out their "spiders" to "crawl" the internet regularly; however, this does not happen immediately.  It can take days or weeks.  Give it a little time to see if you have any changes and watch this in your dashboard. 

If you really want to know the last time Google "crawled" your site you can Google your web address, click on the down arrow, and click the "cached" button. 

Google last crawled my shop on June 24, 2014.

3.  Need some more keyword help?  A great place to look is in the treasury.  You can see the most popular items/keywords that people are searching for today.

4.  If you just can't come up with all good keywords consider things such as:

Holidays---you should start adding these keywords a couple of months in advance.
Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Father's Day, Mother's Day, St. Patrick's, The Fourth of July

Seasons---fall, autumn, summer, spring finds, spring trends, and the lists go on.  Find more of these in the treasury.

You---using your name in some listings will help family members and friends who always forget your business name to find your shop----then again there are the people who only remember your shop name; therefore, I would use your business name as a keyword. . . sometimes.  This is not needed on every item.  Just on the ones where you have an extra keyword space.  Also, if your store name is commonly misspelled then use the misspelling every now and then in order to still catch these searchers. 

Sometimes you can even get a buyer with a tag like---- gifts under 20, gifts under 10, gifts for mom, cheap birthday gifts, housewarming, bridal shower, wedding present, wedding gift, wedding decor, shower decor

Misspellings--- Go to Etsy and search "swimsuit" vs "swim suit" vs "swimsuite" vs "swim suite".  Maybe only 29 items come up on one of the searches, but maybe just maybe 2000 people search under that misspelling per month.  This would give you a huge advantage! 

Top places in your shop that Google will crawl(and you need to have good search terms):
1.  Shop announcement and the section right above(see below under #5 "Fill Out Your Info")
2.  Item titles
3.  Item keywords

3.  Photos must be SEXY!!!

     Some people can sell with ugly photos; however, there is a reason.  Maybe they have had their shop for 8 years.  Maybe they had a loyal blog following before opening their shop.  Maybe they have 879 items listed.  Who knows.  Don't expect for yours to turn out that way.  Your photos need to be clear, crisp, and clean.   

Keep Them Simple

There is way too much going on in this photo.  You can't even see what is being sold.  Keep it simpler like the ones below. 

This one is much better.  The background is simple, and the object is clear.  I put the photos into my photo editor, and I only adjust the exposure.  Surprisingly, I found that the photos seem to look best when adjusted more than you would think.  Just play with it and see what happens!


How to take good photos

1.  Use two clamp lights.  One on the right and one on the left.  This helps eliminate shadows.

 2.  Use a light box when possible.  Super simple to make.
       A.  Cut a square in the left and right sides of a box.
       B.  Cover the holes with a piece of tissue paper.
       C.  Put a clamp light on each side.
       D.  Cut a piece of white poster board and slide it in.  Do not bend the back edge.  You want        
             the poster board to be curved in order to create that limitless background effect.  

 3.  You must use "Daylight" light bulbs or else your photos will be yellow.  

Lastly, you must almost always use all 5 photo spots.  Take pictures of all angles.  Top and bottom.  

4.  Create your BRAND

     Be cohesive with your company name, logo, colors, business cards, website, blog, Etsy, Google+, and so on.  It is a lot of work; however, once you get everything on the right track and looking good you'll fall into a groove.  Once again, it is important that you look and ACT professional.  This includes how you hold yourself in places such as the forums.  Sometimes tempers will flare.  Do not let go of the fact that even though you're in a 300 sq ft studio apartment on your laptop, you're still a business owner.  Act like one.  

 Business Cards

My Blogger
Google+ Business Page
Facebook Business Page
 Lastly, My Etsy
These are all cohesive.  They have the same colors, shapes, and lingo.  This is my brand. 
5.  Fill our your info
    This is much more important than it sounds.  This includes your shop announcement, about me section, meet the owner section, shop sections section and shop polices(payment, shipping, and refunds and exchanges).  
    Many people will want to read about you, and if they see a big blank screen many will just bounce to another shop.  It is important to fill these out in order to let your audience get to know you. 
"About me" section:  On the homepage of your shop click on your profile pic or your name.  
 You will be taken here:
"Meet the owner of" section:  inside each item listing you will find a link at the bottom.
Click on it and you will be taken here:
    Once you fill out your "about me" and "meet the owner" sections your done.  Mine are the same.  I just copied and pasted.  It takes a little bit of time to write it but then your done, and you can use this same information on your blog, website, Facebook, and so on. . . 
At the top of your shop page you will find your shop announcement:
  Once again, this is very important.  These two sections are places that Google will crawl and will show up when shoppers find you in a Google search.  These need to be searchable terms such as "Vintage Finds", "Original Artwork", or "Handmade Jewelry".  Try to make these sections unique to you but still searchable.  As you can see, my shop announcement needs help.  Another thing I must go back and fix. 
  A.  Make sure these are unique and searchable terms.
  B.  Don't repeat words---Google counts this against you.
  C.  Don't start your shop announcement with "Hello and welcome to my unique roadside shop where you will find tons of stuff I love".
Many shops start their announcement with "Welcome".  If you already have tons of traffic coming from other places then this may not matter, but if you are trying to do everything right then use good keywords here.  No shoppers are ever going to search "Welcome to my shop"  Only the first two or three lines of the shop announcement matter.  After that, write whatever you wish. 

Shop Sections:
These need to be clear and easy to navigate.   
And, the most important are your shop policies:
 These include payment info, shipping info, and return policies. 
    Not only do you look unprofessional if these are not filled out, but too many questions are left unanswered which will make shoppers feel uncomfortable purchasing from you, and they will bounce off to a shop that looks better.   
    The easiest way to fill out your shop policies is to find a very professional looking Etsy page that sells something similar to you, and use their policies as a template.  If you sell small jewelry pieces then your policies are probably going to be a bit different than someone who sells very large acrylic paintings.   
6.  Packaging/Shipping
  A.  Send your packages out on time.  
        You fill this out when listing an item.  If you will have difficulty getting it out the next day then just put a 3-4 day shipping time.  I understand.  Its hard.  You work.  The post office is only open during M-F 9-5 business hours(some on Saturday, but not mine!).  You want to get there by 5, you're packaging an item, and you run out of bubble wrap!  Until you get in the groove it can be a complete headache.
  B.  Make them look/smell nice.  
      a.  If your customer feels like they received a present then they are likely to want to order from you again.  A couple of months ago I received a package from an Etsy seller who was very big on over packaging so that the item would not break.  She would not even 2 day priority box send it as I requested(which angered me because she said she would).  When I got the item it was not broken; however, the plates were not clean, and there was hair in the the tape!  Really?!?  After your fit about it not breaking you send it to me dirty with your hair stuck in the tape.  Very unprofessional.  I will not order from her again. 
       b.  As for smells, I don't mean spray your stinky strong perfume on them just make sure they don't stink.  Sometimes you can't smell your own home.  I've received a package that reeked of curry.  Curry is good in the Thai food restaurant but not on my item I just received in the mail.  Also, if you smoke do not do it around the package.  Do not smoke in the car on the way to the post office, and wash your hands before touching the package.  Some people are very sensitive to the smells.  Sometimes I believe this is the truck driver smoking which unfortunately we can do nothing about. 
  C.  Be organized with packaging materials.  
          I sell all different sizes of items.  I have everything from small bubble mailers to large boxes.  Most of my packaging materials are recycled.  There is a small food distribution office in town that gives me all of their boxes, bubble wrap, Styrofoam, and so on.  You can also get great packing boxes from local liquor stores, grocery stores, restaurants, etc.  If you do not have someone to donate bubbles and whatnot to you then local packaging supply companies may be a good fit.  I do NOT recommend places such as Office Depot, UHaul, or FedEx for packaging supplies.  They are outrageously expensive!  You'll go broke just from shipping, or nobody will buy from you because your shipping is too expensive. Please see the sidebar where you can find some Amazon links for items such as the baker's twine I use, craft paper for wrapping, and bubble wrap.  I know its hard at first but buy a little in bulk and it's going to save you money and headaches in the long run. 
--------------Shop Packing Supplies ----------->->->->->->->->->->->
  D.  Pack it well!
      The worst is having a vintage item broken and then having to replace it.  Sometimes impossible to replace and sometimes just a major pain in the a$$.  Would you rather spend a couple more dollars on packaging or possibly have to resend the broken item?!?  You don't feel so bad about using extra peanuts when they are recycled.  I also add a card to the front of my packages that states "Our company is dedicated to being as green as possible.  This is why you will find your items shipped with reused supplies.  100% of our boxes, bubble wrap, and Styrofoam are recycled".  I also include this in my shop policies. (This does not count the flat rate boxes that we occasionally use)

  E. Estimating shipping prices.
       I go to the USPS website and calculate shipping.  There are fantastic flat rate shipping boxes which are great for heavy items.  There are basically 5 standard boxes, and each has its own price.  They are two day shippers that come standard with $50 insurance.  If these don't work for you then you should get a scale(I have a super cool vintage meat scale), and calculate shipping prices on USPS.  I weigh my items, go to the USPS calculator, and estimate shipping from my zip code to one that is very far from me.  I then use this information in 1lb increments and create Etsy shipping profiles for them(don't forget that your packaging supplies will add to the weight).  

Items under 1lbs = $amount
Items under 2lbs = $amount
Items under 5lbs = $amount
Items under 10lbs = $amount

     I then did this for international items as well.  I figured out that Australia is one of the most expensive to ship to; therefore, I used that as a basis for my pricing.  I only added prices for flat rate shipping, but I put in my policies for buyers to message me if there is a possibility for better shipping prices.   

Items that fit in small flat rate = $amount
Items that fit in medium flat rate = $amount
Items that fit in large flat rate = $amount

    I then went to the forums and asked successful sellers which international countries they ship to the most.  
 The top countries seemed to be:


   I added these to my shipping profiles and within two weeks I had three international sales!  Yay!
NOTE:  If you do not offer shipping profiles to certain countries then when they search your items will not appear!  

  You can also save money on shipping by directly printing your labels from Etsy.   

7.  Marketing

  See #1.  Your best marketing is adding new items with good keywords.  I learned this the hard way.  Now, in order to be a "real" business you should set up some things such as:

  A. Website

  B.  Blog

  C.  Facebook Business Page

  D.  Google+

Some other place you can market:

  A. Twitter

  B. Stumble Upon

  C. Pinterest

    There are tons of places you can market.  Getting your Etsy links in good places out on the web does help grow your Google rankings; however,  don't spend all of your time with this.  Get some links out there.  Maybe Pin and Tweet some items.  You'll get all excited.  Might even get 500 views on an items, and then you'll have comedown withdraws when it doesn't sell.  Remember, these are not quality views.  You put something pretty in front of someone, they clicked on it, and then they bounce to something else pretty.  You need that person who is going to Google and searching for that red and black mid-century modern dish set to give to their mother on her birthday.  THAT'S THE CUSTOMER YOU NEED! But, all those views can give you fun little rush.  

You can find some great apps such as Promotesy that will post to Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In at the same time to save you time. 



Find some other great apps in "Apps for Etsy"


    You could waste entire days playing around with the apps.  Remember, you can't sell it if you don't list it. 


8.  Know your market

     You just have to get out there and do your research.  Google the types of items you sell, and see who comes up first.  Go and look at their keywords.  What are they doing that's getting them on the front page.  I have many mid-century modern vintage items.  I found a big keyword that I was not using was "Mad Men style" and everything down to stacks of books are very popular in "vintage wedding decor". Nobody can do this for you.  You have to search for yourself.  

    Also, know your category.  It is already very difficult to sell on Etsy.  I've tried selling a couple different items that I could not make work.  I learned that, because of all of the competition, some of the hardest items to sell are:

  A.  Artwork

  B.  Jewelry

  C.  Baby items

  I don't know what the actual hardest are, but I found these to be up there; therefore, plan on extra difficulty if you're planning on selling these items.  


9.  Change with the seasons

  Don't forget to add this to your keywords as well.  If you sell knit swimsuits then maybe you should try some knit scarfs for fall and winter, but still leave up your swimsuits because people are always vacationing somewhere warmer!  You get the idea!  And, especially during the holidays people are searching for items under keywords such as "Christmas gifts under $20".  This will be different for all shops, but work search for yourself and work them in where you can. Don't forget to start with holidays 2-3 months ahead of time!

She just started, but swimsuits and hair ties could work out very well for her. 

10. Get Help!

  A.  Forums

      Go to the forums, and ask a question.  Everyone is super happy to help you, and they will critique your shop.  They can be a bit harsh, but it is all to help you.  They may tell you your photos are ugly; however, all of this is constructive criticism.  It will help you in the long run.  Please read the guidelines for forums.  There are rules such as not posting direct links and being friendly among others.  Follow the rules when asking a "question".  You're more open to talk about whatever you want to in the "discussions" forum.

 Go to the front page, and scroll to the bottom where you will find the forums link.      

    Its great to just go to the forums and read what everyone else asks.  You can learn tons. 

    B.  Teams

          Teams are fantastic.  They can help you with everything from SEO to getting in tons of treasuries to getting on the front page!  If you're not familiar with treasures, that list of 12 items on the front page was created by someone just like you!

I will create another blog post about creating successful treasuries but for now the teams can help you out.
Go to the front page, scroll to the bottom, and click on teams. 

And then you're there!

 You can join teams for just about anything.  Glassblowing, artwork, baby items, local, farmer's markets. . . or even create your own! 


Breathe!  That was a lot of information!!!

    Bottom line is:  Treat this like a real business---if you want it to be.  Don't give up!

    Follow the rules.  Etsy will close down your shop if you don't.  Sell only approved items, pay your bill, don't copy people's work, don't use certain brand logos---certain businesses like Disney and Harley will have you shut down for selling handmade if it even has fabric with their logo. 

    Make a schedule.  Set aside time to work on it.  Its easy to get lazy when you work for yourself.

    Make a seperate bank account so that you can see what you have spent and what you have made.  There are also Etsy Apps that will set this up in an Excel type format for you.  

    Go get your tax numbers.  Its free and easy(I'm about to do mine).  You do it online, and then you can tell all your friends that you're a REAL business!  Besides, if you have between 50-75 sells in a year Etsy will make you do it anyways.  

     It would have been much easier if I would have known all of this information before I set up my shop.  Now I have to go back and change things. . . photos, announcement, etc.  This may seem like a lot of work, but it will save you more time then you will every know.  Literally.  Once you get the hang of it it gets easier and faster.  If you have a sell in the first month or two you're doing a good job!  The first ones are hard!  Keep at it!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ah a Lazy Sunday. . .

Okay so I was supposed to be painting today; however, so far I've just been playing around on Etsy. I made this awesome Halloween Costume Treasury first.


Then I discovered The Regretsy.
What are these people thinking? These are items that are actually for sale
on Etsy. Wow.

You should check it out for sure!