A Few Tips for Using Etsy as a Selling Tool

There are a lot of pros and cons to using etsy as a selling tool, rather than just selling directly from ones own website, but I’m not going to outline those right now.  Someday I probably will switch over to having a shopping cart on my website instead of going through etsy, but at this time the convenience of etsy’s shopping cart and calculated shipping are working for me while I try to find the best wordpress plug in  to take its place.

In case you are also using etsy, or thinking about using etsy, I thought it might to share with you some tips I’ve learned.  I learned some of these tips through trial and error, and others through online courses.  I’m not offering this as a full course, instead, I’m condensing it and just passing on what I’ve found most helpful so far.

You can’t just post it thoughtlessly

So you’ve made a necklace, or a painting, or knitted a hat, or made any other kind of handmade item you want to sell, and everyone tells you, “Oh that’s great!  You should sell on etsy!”

So you go to etsy and open an account, and start your store.  Next you take your item, lets say for now its a knitted hat, you see that etsy asks you to post at least one picture, you put your hat down on your table, and snap a picture of it, then you upload the picture.  You see that etsy allows more than one photograph, but you figure one is good enough.  You see that the next step to uploading an item is to enter a title.  You type the words “Knitted Hat”, you figure out the categories and the pricing and enter those, then its time to make a description.  You’ve already told them its a knitted hat, so you look at it try to figure out what else to say.  Its a green hat so you decide to describe it as a “Green knitted hat”  You then decide that maybe you should mention the crocheted flower you attached to your knitted hat, so you edit your description to say, “Green knitted hat with pink crochet flower on rim”.

Then you move on.  You are asked to enter tags. So you tag it as “hat”, “knitted”, “accessories”, and “women’s fashions”.

You are asked to enter the materials used, You enter “Yarn”, then you think better of it and decide to specify, “Green acrylic yarn”, “pink acrylic yarn”.

You figure out the shipping options, see that the other stuff is optional, so you skip it, then you publish and wait for your hat to sell.  Four months later, your listing expires, and you wonder if its worth renewing it, because according to your stats it only got a few views, and you don’t understand why, its a very attractive hat, the yarn you chose is durable, known for retaining its shape, and is even machine washable, its been cold out, so people should be looking for warm hats.  You decide to give it another go and renew it, and four months later the same scenario ensues, except now its spring and no one is in the market for winter hats anymore.  You abandon your shop and wonder how anyone ever sells anything on etsy.

 

How to make an etsy listing that will get seen

So lets look at this, and go through this listing process again, and see how you could have listed your lovely hat in a way that would have gotten some views at least.

 

The pictures

Okay, so the first thing you come to when creating an etsy listing is the place to post photos.  What you need to remember about your photos is that need to showcase your item in such as a way as to grab attention.  A hat laying on a table or desk looks, to most people, like clutter.  Like someone forgot to put their hat away.   You can improve the appearance by maybe putting a some boxes or blocks down to lean the hat on, and then cover those with a table cloth in a complimentary color to the hat, or a color such as white or brown that will show it off without clashing.  Set a vase with some flowers in it next to it… prop the hat up on the boxes behind it, get down on eye level, and take the picture.  Now, at least the photo is interesting.

But wait!  Is there an even better way to showcase this hat?  Sure there is!  Get a friend to put the hat on, go outside in the cold, in some place that shows the season in the background, (for example fall leaves, or if its winter, near a fence or tree that has snow on it).  Have your friend turn to an attractive angle that shows the flower on the hat, and take a couple of photos, one should be close up on her head to show the hat in detail, in another maybe she could be holding a snowball as if she’s going to throw it, in the next maybe sprinkle a light dusting of snow onto the hat and a little on her hair and take another closeup, with her looking like she’s laughing.  Now upload that series of photos to etsy.

What if you can’t find a friend willing to do this, or its not snowing where your live, or its still summer and you’re getting your listing ready for fall and winter so NOTHING outside looks like its the right season.  Okay, there are ways around all of that.

A wig head can wear your hat, its probably best if its not a white Styrofoam wig head though, because we might surround it with white stuff, they sell black velvet covered wig heads at a lot of craft stores, if you can get one of those that’s great, or one that is made to look more real, with the skin, face and eyes colored in.

Now, take some quilt batting and spread it out on your table to look like snow, put the hat on the wig head, dig out your Christmas stuff and find some fake evergreen or holly to set around on the quilt batting. Now take your pictures.  Or, if you had to use a white wig head, maybe you could go with a more fall like setting, put down a festive fall tablecloth, surround the wig head with some fall decor like gourds, colorful leaves, ornamental corn.

Whatever you do with the background, make it look interesting and related to you item in some way, take photo.  Now slightly rearrange everything and take a photo from a different angle.  In a couple of the photos maybe drape the hat instead of using the wig head.

Now, make sure that you are taking your photos in good lighting, outdoor lighting, but not in direct sunlight is best to show the true colors of all you items.  Upload you photos, pick the most eye-grabbing one and move it to the first spot, adjust the thumbnail to best showcase the item.

As an example of some of these principles, look at my featured photo of my T-shirt above, now, does that photo look better, or would a photo of the shirt draped over a table look better?  Which one makes you want to buy the shirt, and which one makes you think of laundry?  😉

The etsy title

I’m going to give you a little disclaimer, there is a lot of disagreement about what makes a good etsy title.  Some say keep it short and descriptive,  easy on the eye.

What I learned from a few of the most successful etsy shops though is this, make your title include as many keywords as you can, and separate those keywords and phrases by commas, because they are also going to be your tags a little later on.

Now, what do I mean by keywords and phrases?  Well, for our hat it would look something like this.

Knitted hat, knitted green beanie, hat with flower, machine washable hat, warm winter hat, women’s winter wear, pink green flowers.

 

Item Description

Okay, before you get to the description you’ll answer some questions about who made the item, when it was made, what it is for, what category you want it listed in, the price, etc.  I’ll let you figure those out because they are fairly self explanatory.

For the actual description though, you want to make sure it is short enough that people will read it, interesting, and contains enough information to answer the questions someone might have.

So, for our hat we might say something like.  “Winter is coming! Get ready for it with it with this lovely pale green knitted beanie that has a feminine pink flower on the rim.  This hat is made from machine washable acrylic yarn that is excellent in its ability to retain its shape and soft texture wash after wash.  And its also convenient to dry, just lay it flat on a towel and it dries very quickly because the acrylic yarn doesn’t absorb much water to start with.  This hat is a one size fits most adult hat, it stretches so it can fit hat sizes ranging from small to extra large without any struggle.”

Now, if you have other items on etsy that might go with this hat, say a pair of mittens in a matching color you can add, pair this hat with the mittens found at _______________ (insert etsy listing link), to stay even warmer this winter!

A few tips on your description.

Include as many of your keywords and phrases into it as you can without sounding silly.

Link to other listings in your shop if they relate to this listing in any way, for example, hats in other colors, mittens in accompanying colors, a scarf that would go nicely with the hat, etc, also make those descriptions link back to this one when you are done.

Try to anticipate questions someone might have about the item, and try to answer them.

Make it sound good.  Which of these two descriptive phrases sounds best: “synthetic yarn” or, “machine washable acrylic yarn that is excellent in its ability to retain its shape and soft texture was after wash”?  Try to think like the customer and how each phrase would sound to you.

 

The etsy tags

After your description you will set up your shipping options, shop section, and various things like that which are fairly self explanatory, but the next item which most people need help with is the tags.

The first tags you should list will be exactly the same as your title, just copy your title, paste it in the tags, and click “add”.  If you broke your title up into short phrases with commas between like we described above, each phrase will now be a separate tag.

Now, after pasting the title into the tags field, you will find you have room left for some more tags, in the case of our hat, if you used the title above, we have room for six more tags.  Now you need to think of 6 more descriptive phrases for the hat, you want to use all the tags you’re allowed, because tags along with keywords in your title and description, is how the etsy search engine finds your listing.  This is tricky, so here I’ll share with you a tool you can use here, and in creating your titles.

Use Marmalead

Go to http://marmalead.com and sign up for the free version.  In the search field at the top of the marmalead page you’ll type in a quick description of your item.  For example, “Green knitted hat with pink crochet flower”.  It will search etsy and find similar items scroll past the “matching items” down to the section that says, “tags used”.  You can then use the arrows to sort these various ways.  First sort for the ones that have the best rank, a good rank number is small, for instance, if a tag ranks as “1” it means that if you search that phrase on etsy it comes up on page one, so with rank, the lower the number the better.

The next part of the marmalead site to use is the “views/item”, use the arrow to sort that so that the highest numbers show on top.  This will show you which tags resulted in the most views.

Get some tags from both the lower ranking numbers and the high views sections.  Low ranking numbers are good because people will only click through a few pages when looking for something, however a low ranking number can also be deceptive because it might just means that no one else uses that tag, so if you search specifically for that tag, only that one item matches so it comes up first.  In that case you need to look at the tag and think about how likely it is that someone is actually going to search that term.

The “views/item” with a high number means the items with that tag is getting a lot of actual views, so obviously people are searching relevant terms for that tag.

By getting some of your tags from the lower ranking numbers and some from high view numbers, you hedging your bets and increasing the chances of your item ending up on pages 1-5 of some shoppers search.  If you can find tags that are both relevant to your item, with high views and a low ranking, that is most definitely a tag you want to use!

 

Materials

In the materials field list your materials, keep in mind some hints from the description field, “machine washable acrylic yarn” sounds better to me than just “synthetic yarn” or “acrylic yarn”.

 

Other fields

Next you have fields for “occasion”, “style”, and “recipient”.

If there is a gift-giving holiday coming up select it from the “occasion” field, of course if your item is a wedding cake topper, you’d select “weddings” and if it was a happy birthday banner you’d select “birthday”, but if your item isn’t strictly related to a specific event, you can pick whatever the next gift giving occasion is, and if nothing suitable is coming up you can leave it blank for now.  You can always come and change these fields later as another holiday or gift giving occasion draws near.

If the item fits into a specific style, select that from the style fields.

If your item is very clearly for one type of recipient, for instance, “women” or “teen girls”, select that from the recipient field.  If it really would be fine for anyone, just leave that blank.

 

Now publish your listing.

A few more etsy tips

A few more tips for etsy that arent’ specifically about how to create a listing.

List or renew frequently

Etsy’s search engines favor new or newly renewed listings.  So if you have 50 items items on etsy they shouldn’t all renew the same day, try to stagger the renewal times out.  Each etsy listing lasts four months, approximately 120 days, so ideally you’d have at least 120 items with at least one item renewing each day, that way there always fresh or freshly renewed content on your shop, but you are never paying to renew an item before it expires.

As you set your items up, if you choose to have them auto renew, then once you get enough items listed, one per day, they will renew one at a time as well, so that your shop always looks active to etsy’s search engines.

 

List a lot.

Shops with more listings are favored by etsy’s search engines.  Etsy itself is a business, and etsy makes its money not only when someone buys something, but also when each seller lists or renews something.  It makes sense that etsy favors the sellers that “contribute” more to etsy’s bottom line by listing a lot of stuff and renewing often.

Aside from the search engines, think from a shoppers point of view.  Your etsy shop is your store front.  How would you feel if you walked into your local clothing store and they only had three items in the store?  Would you come back?  Shoppers feel the same way if they come to your etsy shop and see three items.

 

Sales generate more sales

Etsy’s search engines also favor shops that make sales, so run all your sales through etsy.  Get the “Sell on etsy” app for your smart phone, now, when you are out selling somewhere else, such as a farmer’s market, or even at home with a friend.  Run your sale through etsy.  It counts as an etsy sale and so will help generate other etsy sales. Yes, it costs you some fees that it wouldn’t cost if you sold in person without the etsy app, but think of that as advertising money, a way to increase your sales over the long hall.


3 Responses to A Few Tips for Using Etsy as a Selling Tool

  1. I really like this because it’s very detailed with a lot of good pointers as to how to best advertise and sell something on Etsy.

  2. I am in my 60’s. When I was in college I sold some of my crochet. How I wish I had the internet and Etsy back then. But I never would have dreamed of some of the advice here. I am going to share this, as some bloggers I interact with have Etsy shops. As for me – who knows, I may pursue this once I am retired. Thank you for the tips.