What’s the deal with variations?

A special guest post from Kara of A Cake to Remember!
A Cake to Remember makes cake decorations and supplies so that you can make your friends jealous of your decorating skills.

Every now and then a question about how listings are structured comes up. Is it better to have one listing with a lot of variations or separate listings with a single color?

The argument for the single listing is that when it sells, it will improve the listing’s quality rating on Etsy, which will improve its ranking in search results. (Assuming that it’s something that can be made and sold more than once.) If you have individual listings, you’ll be spreading out the sales and the listings won’t be impacted at the same rate a single listing would.

However, a single listing has an advantage that people don’t usually think about, and that’s the power of the listing photo.

I did a search for “green edible butterflies” on Etsy. A bunch of listings came up, and many of the photos weren’t green. I asked a few people if they would click on those photos if they were looking for green butterflies, and the answer was always “no, those aren’t green.”

What the potential customers didn’t know was that each of those listings had green as a variation. There’s no way to tell that from the listing photo itself, though, you have to click through, then click on the variations menu to see it. Etsy’s search might pick up on the variation colors in search results, but unless the customers know to check, they’ll look at a photo of a different colored item and skip it.

If leaving one listing up with color variations as the default isn’t a reliable way to be found for the specific colors you offer, what are you supposed to do? I did a little experiment that resulted in an increase in sales, so I plan on expanding it to other listings in my shop. It’s simply to eliminate the listings with multiple color variations and make separate listings for each color. Sounds simple, but I think it works for a couple of reasons.

First, having only one color per listing allows you to use the color attributes, which will give you an advantage in filtered searches. The attribute will also act as a tag, so you can use that space in your tags for another keyword if you want to.

Second, and most importantly, customers tend to scan photos when they’re shopping, and if they don’t see the color they want in your photo, they won’t click on it even if the listing shows up in search results. If someone’s searching for “green edible butterflies,” my listing might show up if Etsy’s search picks up the “green” in my variations or attributes. But if the photo that’s on the listing has the rainbow assortment, the customer isn’t likely to click on that photo. They wouldn’t know that there’s a green version of the butterflies unless they clicked and saw the variations to choose from.

It’s a different story if they see a photo of green butterflies, though. That fits into what they’re shopping for, and they’re more likely to click on an image that matches their search.

Another benefit of having separate listings for each color is that it simply gives you more listings, which will help populate your shop, which then gives you more chances to be found overall. The more listings you have, the more unique keywords you can use, which gives people more chances to discover your shop if they’re just browsing. Plus, it gives you more items to link to on social media sites like Pinterest.

I took one listing for the butterflies and made it into ten by eliminating variations, using the color attributes, and doing only one color per listing. That increased my opportunity to add more keywords and attract more shoppers. I also added a link to all of the other colors of that style of butterfly in each listing to allow them to find coordinating colors inside my shop. I only changed the first photo, so there were still photos of other colors in the set, but the main photo was the single color.

So did this work? Yes, yes it did. As I mentioned before, the photo on the original listing had a picture of the rainbow butterflies, and that color combination has always sold fairly steadily overall, but I didn’t sell very many of the other colors. When I separated the colors out, I started seeing other colors selling more often, and the rainbow assortment also started selling faster. Since “rainbow” is an available attribute color, I assume that people are finding it that way now.

Since I’ve only had about a 60-day time period to test this on, this is highly unscientific, but it’s still telling. Before dividing the listing up I sold about 3 colors of butterflies on average per month, and most of those were the rainbow ones in the photo. In the 60 days since I divided the listings up, I’ve sold 8 colors and tripled the number of sales overall. Having the photos for each color as the first one in the listing lets people see them instead of having to imagine what they look like, and I think that makes people more likely to purchase. (People are very bad at imagining what things look like.) I’ve also noticed an increase in the number of people who buy multiple colors in the same order, so the internal links seem to be working.

Another style of butterflies I changed doubled their sales, and I sold 6 times the number of individual colors that I did before separating them out.

If you think that your listings would benefit from this, try it out on one and see what happens to your sales and traffic. Having customers see the photo of the actual item plus the extra opportunities for being found in search seems to be a powerful combination. It can increase the visibility of your items and may result in more sales.

And if you’re worried that you can’t find the right color attribute for your color, choose the one that’s closest to it, and also put in a second color choice. Or do two listings with a different color that’s close to yours (blue and green for teal, for example.) As long as the actual color is in the title and tags you’ll be fine.

Cake supplies, gumpaste flowers, wafer paper and cake toppers at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ACakeToRemember

Voted Best of the Knot 2011, 2013
Richmond Magazine A-List 2013-20151

Etsy Jam Episode 44: What Worked on Etsy and What Didn’t Work with Andrew from MorganPeter.co.uk

On this episode we talk to Andrew from MorganPeter.co.uk and two Etsy shops by nearly the same name. He was kind enough to share his story with us along with many things he’s tried that did and didn’t work!

Getting Started Story

Andrew’s getting started story might sound familiar. He was on a simple mission, to find a picture frame he really liked. He’ll tell you it’s not that there was anything wrong with the frames in store. It’s just that they weren’t what he wanted himself. He did what many makers would do, he set out to make his own aka scratching your own itch. This turned out well and even set the stage for making more as gifts for family and friends. Handmade can make for a thoughtful yet frugal gift, which was perfect for his young family so he made 10 or 12 of them.
Naturally, a co-worker commented on one of Andrew’s frames. When he explained that he made it, his co-worker introduced him to Etsy. It’s probably a good time to mention that Andrew’s background is in finance, which is still his day job. Staying up long nights with his young sleepless daughter gave him plenty of time to think about the numbers. Something surprising was how inexpensive he could get a full frame at the store that while the surround wasn’t desirable, the glass and backing was perfectly suitable.
So what are these picture frames? They’re solid hardwoods and rather minimalist to showcase the beauty of the grain. As Gordon quickly found out, they are not stained, but instead have a totally transparent breathable finish. They’re sold in his first shop MorganPeterFrame.
If we’re mentioning a first, there must be a second… Andrew’s second shop is MorganPeterGift and you’ve already seen one of their products. It’s the heart candle holder in the background of the first picture frame image above!

Photos That Work

Let’s take a moment to look at these product photos. There’s a lot we think he’s doing right.
  1. Cross promotion between shops is cool. Just looking at these pictures it’s easy to want to take home the whole set!
  2. They’re interesting. They aren’t on plain white backgrounds.
  3. They have character, they show context, and I can see them in my home.
  4. They’re consistent between shops

Things That Worked

Two Shops; Double Sales

Full disclosure, Andrew said this is a pain to administer. However, he’s had great results from it. After he split the shop, sales doubled! This isn’t to say just split your shop and watch your sales double. There are likely various factors at work. For one the shop is entirely cohesive within itself. Yes, they both have a similar look and feel anyway, but as two shops, they really nail it. Regardless of why it worked, Andrew certainly isn’t losing sleep over it.

Different SEO Strokes for Different Folks

SEO isn’t a casual activity for Andrew, it’s a thorough one. His #1 goal is getting people into his shop. His strategy is all about exposure. He doesn’t have a large variety of products or even listings. He has about 30 listings and spreads 200+ keywords over them to cast the net far and wide. In his experience, there’s a lag of a week or more between views and sales.

Thanks For Your Order Hacks

Every time someone buys from Etsy, they get a “thank you for your order” email. The seller gets to write whatever they want in there. This is a great opportunity to say something unique vs the standard “Thank you, we’ll ship ASAP message”. Andrew likes to use this opportunity to ask for feedback. It’s great timing because the customer just purchased and everything is fresh on their mind. As an incentive for responding, he offers 25% off their next order.

Researching What Else Shoppers Are Favoriting

Andrew does something interesting here. When someone favorites his listings, he goes to check on what else they’re favoriting. This research is important because it explains, “shoppers that look at my shop also look at ____”. He rightfully looks at these other listings as his competition. As a seller of any product, it’s important to be the better choice. It’s hard to do that if you’re not aware of what their shopping you against.

Winning with a Website

As far as standalone sites go, Andrew does this a good way. On the back of every picture frame he has a sticker with his company on it. Scroll up and look at it in the photo if you need to. This makes sure if someone wants to know where  it came from, there’s no question. They can go directly to his website where they can buy their own. The site pays for itself and for whatever reason, customers will find him on Etsy and end up buying on his website.

Things That Didn’t Work

Business Cards with Coupon Codes

Andrew tried putting business cards with a coupon code in his packaging and not a single one has been redeemed. The coupon code was good for 12 months for simplicity. However, he’d like to try a shorter time period thinking customers aren’t feeling a sense of urgency when the code is good that far into the future.

Mo Options; Mo Problems

Being super flexible and offering infinite options didn’t work. It generated a lot of messages and work for him, but most of those shoppers were never heard from again. Having too many choices is a studied area where a lot of options overwhelms people and they decline to make a choice at all.

The Blogging Blues

Blogging about his journey selling on Etsy wasn’t all that popular. Couple that with a classic case of writer’s block and the blog just wasn’t a successful endeavor. Blogging often seems like a lot of fun, then people try it out and the magic quickly fades away. It’s been suggested by many bloggers that if you’re interested in blogging, you should write out months worth of posts before doing anything else. Content is the hard part so if you can stick with it for let’s say 10 articles and still have that passion, maybe you’re a good fit for it.

Facebook and Twitter Crickets

Described as a “total waste of time” Facebook and Twitter were not effective here. People “like” a lot of stuff. Unfortunately they don’t often act on those by making a purchase. It’s become somewhat of an expectation to like things.

The Day Job Balancing Act

For those of you that either have been or are currently balancing a day job with your business, this probably sounds familiar as well. You’re not quite in a spot where you can jump 100% into your business and still support your family, but it also feels like you’re maxed out on time. Well that’s exactly where Andrew is right now. Fortunately he comes off as patient and optimistic about finding the right time to make those future transitions. It’s one of those situations where when you find yourself with extra time and motivation, you put it into the business. When you find yourself short on time, you just have to wait it out. Looking to the future, he also hopes that when his son Morgan reaches a working age he might pick up the business. Otherwise he’ll have to rename it after his daughter Zoe. Cheers to the future Andrew!

Where To Find Andrew

You’re certainly going to want to check out Andrew’s shops:

On this episode we talk to Andrew from MorganPeter.co.uk and two Etsy shops by nearly the same name. He was kind enough to share his story with us along with many things he's tried that did and didn't work!


Etsy Jam Scoops:

Will false hearts make Etsy search break up with you?

The question, “if an item gets a lot of views and hearts and doesn’t sell it will lose relevancy in Etsy search?” has been asked many times in many ways.

The answer? It depends.


There’s a lot of noise in the how does Etsy search work space. Maybe you’ve heard of click parties aka clickathons. In case you haven’t, they’re based on the false belief that random views and favorites on your listings will increase your search ranking. Clickathons are a waste of time for so many reasons they deserve their own post.

On the other hand we have the shops that are very worried about getting non-buyer clicks and favorites for fear that it will sink their search ranking.

This topic is entirely about how Etsy’s search handles listings.

Search and Non-Search Traffic

Etsy distinguishes between views that come from search and ones that don’t. They get really granular, but for our purposes they either come from search or they don’t.

Views that don’t come from search are just whatever. We all get random visitors to our sites so it’s expected that the quality of view will differ.

Search results however are prime real estate. We’ve all seen it and Etsy has stated they incorporate performance (sometimes called listing quality) in search ranking. They take the listings that do a great job of being relevant (Etsy SEO), and they give them a shot at great rankings. If the listings perform well, they stay up there. If they don’t, they give other listings a chance. Etsy wants to present shoppers with listings they’re likely to purchase. The best way to predict that is whether others searched for this and ended up purchasing.

When does it matter?

So back to the original question. Does it hurt listings to favorite them and not buy?

It doesn’t matter when the view comes from outside of Etsy’s search.

It does matter when the view comes from within Etsy’s search.

If many people find your listing in search, view it, favorite it, and NOT buy it. Eventually, yeah it will hurt the listing. It establishes a track record of shoppers passing up that listing despite finding it in a relevant search. Etsy wants to display listings with the greatest chance of selling. The key there is that the traffic is coming from search.


I certainly wouldn’t ask a group of people to search “xyz keyword”, find your listings, and favorite them just for fun. The result would be totally not fun.

I wouldn’t worry about casually liking something. I would continue to promote your shop everywhere that gets you in front of shoppers. Business cards, packaging inserts customers can give to friends, and online communities where your customers want to hear from you to name a few.

The best thing that can happen to your shop is to consistently get found in search and close the sale. You make money, Etsy makes money, shopper is happy, win win win.