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Win at Etsy By Figuring Out What They Really Want From You
Winning at Etsy does not have to be complicated. Etsy is a simple marketplace platform. The things “Etsy” looks for in shops to promote in blog posts or emails, and to place highly in search are not complicated. Note that I am referring to “Etsy” as a website and system. Not its customer or seller base. Some of them are things we can directly or indirectly control, while others are beyond our control. I’ll also note what you can and cannot do about each quality.
I’m hoping to give real, applicable ideas to hit all these notes Etsy loves. I decided to put the list into different buckets. It made more sense to me this way.
I’m thinking this may turn into a much more in-depth PDF or email series soon. Let me know if you’d be interested in getting more into the weeds and details of this topic!
In this bucket, we have engagement, sales, listings, reviews, and shop updates. Etsy loves an active shop! An active shop to Etsy means they are present, proactive, and busy with sales.
With the 5 different facets of this, they are all within your control and you can actively work to keep your shop in a “recency state” (my term).
- Engagement is any positive action a user takes with your shop. So favoriting your shop or listing is an example of this. This means it is worth your while to find ways to regularly get favorites on your shop and listings.
- Sales is an obvious one. Recent sales mean you are an active shop serving customers. Etsy likes to see this. All the work you do is to get sales making this an impassive goal to work towards. You cannot directly create sales but focus on the other things and you will hopefully lead your shop to be a sales machine.
- Reviews are really important, not just to Etsy, but for buyers who may be having a moment of doubt about the item or your shop. If your reviews are 2 years old, it hurts your trust factor, and may even kill sales. Always ask your customers to leave a review if they are happy with their purchase.
- Shop Updates are a weird one, and, judging by how Etsy is showing them less and less, possibly irrelevant. However, as long as it is a feature in our shops, I encourage people to use it. Even IF Etsy is not looking at this anymore, customers might. No updates may have a completely neutral effect and be fine. However, if you have old updates, you risk the same problem with only having old reviews. It makes you look unkempt and inactive. Either keep your shop updates fairly recent or delete all of them to avoid the issue at all. I doubt shoppers notice the shop updates being absent. They will, however, notice the last update is 2 years old.
I also think shop updates do allow you to sell your shop as a handmade seller. It’s another way to communicate with buyers and that is valuable. It may not reach all users and Etsy may or may not be removing it eventually. I guess my advice is if you can keep it active, use it because you can keep selling and sharing the life of your store with customers. That is part of the reason why people love Etsy- the handcrafting aspect of it. Show that part of your life to them.
Traffic is important for any website, especially for a marketplace website like Etsy. Without traffic, you have no customers. Traffic and analyzing where it comes from and their behavior is a whole other topic I go over here. Suffice it to say, Etsy cares a lot about traffic and what people do once they visit your shop. We’ll focus on two different kinds of traffic and how Etsy feels about it.
- Organic traffic, or otherwise known as “Etsy traffic”, is the users already exploring Etsy.com. They already “exist”, so to speak. This is why you joined Etsy. Because rather than building a website and business from scratch than trying to create traffic for your business to succeed, you essentially pay Etsy to get in front of the eyeballs already on Etsy. You’re cutting out a lot of work and letting Etsy take care of it. The catch is that a lot of other people rely on Etsy too and it creates a competitive environment trying to get the visitor’s attention. Etsy gave you the storefront, it is up to you to make all the passers-by care. And, it is very much worth it for you to spend most of your time figuring out how to do that.
- Off-site traffic (or outside traffic) is traffic that did not come from inside Etsy. You brought them onto Etsy yourself. Most of the time, people do this by linking to their shop on Instagram or Pinterest. This is a great strategy to increase sales for your shop but I do see many shops make the error of making this their only strategy. Usually, you’re not going to get enough quality traffic this way. It’s still worth trying and pursuing. Bringing outside traffic is rewarded. Etsy loves it when you bring outside traffic because it costs them approximately $9 to acquire a new user on their website. If you can bring new users and purchases, you’re saving Etsy money. This often means you may get a boost in the search algorithm.
- My warning when bringing in a lot of traffic, on and off: Etsy is about conversions. A conversion can mean a lot of different things for other websites and apps, but for the Etsy world, it means a sale. A conversion rate is the percentage of sales made divided by the total amount of visitors. If you are bringing in a lot of traffic, no matter the source, but there are little sales made from the traffic, Etsy will think you have a problem. Indeed, you might. Or it may mean you are marketing to the entirely wrong crowd. Or it may mean something about your shop leads people not to trust you or there is something about your listing people do not want. Whatever the case, it means your shop doesn’t convert. Therefore, Etsy will probably give higher priority to another shop with a higher conversion rate.
Etsy loves traffic. And if you can make sales with traffic, Etsy will love your shop. Focus on getting quality traffic from people who want what you sell. Etsy will likely reward you for your great conversion rate but this is not the only thing to focus on. Etsy will not only look at your recency, traffic, and conversion rates when prioritizing different shops in search. It’ll also take into account your shop’s reputation:
When you are a seller on Etsy, you want to play by Etsy’s rules and fulfill the standards they place. Think about it from Etsy’s perspective of the perfect sellers they want. They want a seller who makes sales (obviously), is active in the community, and who runs a reputable shop. If you make sales but never ship on time, then it’s not just your reputation on the line, it’s Etsy’s too. You’re in their marketplace and they want to maintain a clean, superb reputation. After all, Etsy has to compete with websites like Amazon and eBay. So you need to think about:
- Your shop’s longevity is the length of time you have been an active seller on Etsy. This is partly something you cannot directly control. You can’t instantly be a successful three-year-old shop, but Etsy is always looking for their next senior seller. They are proven, reliable, and have built years of trust. Many sellers come and go on Etsy so it cannot focus too much on the “quitters”. As many coaches may say, you build trust by showing up.
- When you start to read the Seller Handbook you will see the word “relevance” come up a lot. I ran a search for the word and it shows up in 143 articles. It’s important to Etsy, partly because it’s a matter of honesty. If you make a listing and are not clear or even lie about the item you’re selling or add things to your tags that don’t pertain to the listing, you are not being honest. Etsy puts a lot of effort and emphasis on this to sellers. They want you to be as honest and clear as possible. Otherwise, conversion rates stand to sink since Etsy is not serving users what they are looking for. A Christmas-themed placemat does not need to show up in a search for “tie-dye kits for kids”. Always stay relevant to what you are selling and to your audience.
- Customer service is an important factor in any shop on- or offline. If you routinely give (or are perceived to be giving) poor customer service, Etsy will probably stop you rather than let you continue. Strive to make the customer happy within reason. Ship your items on time, communicate with your customer and be available to them. Work to make compromises where you can. There are nightmare customers you may run into but don’t let them walk all over you or endanger the reputation of your shop either. I advise any seller to read this article and give a listen to an episode on the Etsy podcast about dealing with difficult customers and disputes.
- Aim to have a 4 or 5-star shop. Seriously, 4 stars are perfectly acceptable and won’t likely hurt your business. Etsy cares a lot about reviews and ratings since it’s a way to get direct feedback on your product and customer service. Be proactive in communication, ship on time, create quality products, and ask for reviews. Not only does Etsy love it since it gives them a way to judge you as a seller, but it also loves it because it gives buyers that same chance to see you are reputable too.
- Offenses, or lack thereof, are worth mentioning. Basically, do not plagiarize or use copyrighted material. Don’t sell things that are not handmade or vintage. Follow the Etsy rules. Break the rules one too many times and you risk having all accounts associated with your IP address and bank account shut down. So even if you have another shop that has nothing to do with what your main shop did, it can be shut down. Not worth it. Also, did you know the image of Frida Kahlo is copyrighted? I think that’s messed up and was warned by Etsy for it. When in doubt about copyright laws, do the research.
Conclusion: Etsy’s Favorite Things
You may have noticed in reading this that a lot of the things Etsy loves in a seller are things that are beneficial for you too. Etsy wants sellers who are enthusiastic about being in Etsy’s system. What benefits you as a shop, benefits Etsy. Think of it as a circle: Etsy doesn’t have a marketplace without sellers, who don’t have a shop without buyers, who don’t have a place to shop without Etsy.
The money you earn from buyers is money for Etsy too. You both have a vested interest in working together to make money. That is why when Etsy makes any changes, they do it with the interest of raising conversions and attracting buyers. If it does not accomplish that, they will change it. That is all good news for you and part of why you joined this lively marketplace.
Be a benefit to Etsy, and Etsy will be a benefit to you.