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

11 Etsy Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Special guest post from our friends at Shoplo!

At first glance, you’ve probably thought ‘great, another Etsy mistakes blog’. Well, yes, but this one is a little different.

Firstly, the same tips are mentioned over and over again because we all see seller’s making the same mistakes over and over again.

But rather than drill home the information that is already out there, we thought we would take some old (and new) tips and put a different spin on them to help our beloved Etsy sellers fix some Etsy mistakes that you’re probably making.

Missing information

Does everything that can have information, have information? Nothing turns me away from a store quicker than seeing a default avatar. When I click on your name, do I see the teams you are in and the products you love? If any of this information is missing, it makes me feel like you don’t really care about your Etsy store.

Your ‘About me’ section should tell me where I can find you on social media and your bio should tell me why you started doing what it is that you’re doing. Etsy has a lot of features to tell your story. Using each and every one of them correctly makes me see that you are an engaged and contributing member of the Etsy community. I want to give my money to someone like that.


The two worst images to see in an Etsy store

Not backing up your data

Recently, we have lost a little faith in the Etsy team. Not only was the WorldPay drama a massive let down, but we have seen more and more genuine accounts get suspended for (what seems like) no reason at all. It seems unfair to say that Etsy goes around randomly suspending shops, but, you can never be too sure.

For this reason (and many others), we think it’s always a good habit to backup your store contents offline. An excel file with a different sheet for every listing. Word documents with your ‘About me’ section and well-categorized files containing all your images. Making regular backups of your content can save you from a disaster that, right now, no one thinks will ever happen.

Bonus tip – Once you have made backups, make backups of your backups. Anyone in I.T. knows the value in backing up your backups.


Backup your data to one (or all) of these

Targeted Marketing

Who buys your product? Who do you market to? The simple answer is ‘everyone’. Well, yeah, everyone can buy your product, but whose nose are you putting your product in front of? Twitter? All 313 million of them? Facebook? All 1.71 billion of them?

I’m asking a lot of rhetorical questions, but you need to define your target audience to have your best return per click. Simply throwing your Etsy URL out into the social media void is not going to get you sales.

New mums would want to buy your baby blankets, but first-time new mums between 18 and 22 in the bay area are even more likely!

Find and engage with Facebook groups, Google+ groups and other forums and communities that are relevant to your target audience.

Making and marketing quality content.

Part of having a brand in 2016 is marketing content. A brand rarely succeeds by marketing products alone. A recent study by Aberdeen shows that unique site traffic is almost 8 times higher for people who make unique content and market it compared to that those that don’t.

Adding content to your brand is a good way to build a rapport with your customers. Be it in the form of blogs where you voice an opinion about your industry or a series of Youtube videos explaining how you make your things.

When someone knows where their product is from and how it is made, it has more of a story and much more emotional value. This kind of quality content is what can help a seller build a good relationship with followers. Content draws attention and increases brand awareness, especially if your opinion is, shall we say, a little controversial.


Your opinion or a story in blog form is simple but effective content

Forgetting the past

Never forget where your first sales came from and who bought them. Mastering the art of returning business is a difficult one. It involves precise timing and having something new, but similar, to offer.

It can be a handy skill to employ for a multitude of reasons. If sales are dry, you may be able to generate a few extra by offering discounts to people who have already purchased from you. Put a discount code in a newsletter and send it out to people who have bought from you – maybe even those who are subscribed to you but haven’t made a purchase.

A small discount may be all that’s needed to push a few dozen sales over the line. Not only is it simply a nice gesture, you’re more likely to encourage brand loyalty as well as increase the chances of your brand being spread via word of mouth.


Encourage loyalty and your customers will be happy to buy again

Photography 101

It doesn’t matter if you’ve just won National Geographics ‘Photo of the year’ competition, your product photos can be improved.

Time and time again we see it. Jewellery placed on cheap plastic mannequins, undetailed images of artwork on the wall or incorrect use of the flash. Even if your products are great, your bad photography will make me (and 99% of other buyers) look elsewhere.

For both clothes and jewellery, we love seeing friends being used as models. It’s a great way to show how your products look when they are actually on someone. For closeup shots, place products on a solid, somewhat neutrally coloured and natural texture. Rock, timber, leaves for example. Learn how to make and use a lightbox. It’s oh so simple and can help me choose your product over someone else’s.

If words like ISO and aperture are over your head, consider hiring a professional photographer and their studio. Online sales are built on visuals. If your product photos are taken on a cell phone with your laundry in the background, it will not sell.


ArtDecoDiamonds does photography correctly

Practical packaging first, then pretty packaging.

In this day and age, we all know first impressions last. The way your product is delivered to a buyer goes a long way in building a positive relationship. But never sacrifice practicality over prettiness.

Recently, I purchased a small, hand-blown glass ornament for a friends wedding gift. It arrived and it was packaged beautifully. I’d have been even more impressed had the ornament not been smashed into thousands of pieces. Unfortunately, the packaging was pretty but not functional.

Make sure your product is safely packed and can withstand a fall from waist height. Only then worry about making your packing aesthetically pleasing.

Side note: My glass ornament was replaced, no questions asked. That’s what a good returns policy does!

Treating peers as competitors

The handmade community, Etsy in particular, is flooded with contributors. With all these contributors comes a wealth of knowledge. Treating experienced colleagues as competition is not a healthy habit. Etsy teams and forums, as well as Facebook groups, are swimming in knowledge.

Not sure how to word your returns policy? There’s an Etsy forum for that! Make connections with people selling similar products, you can learn a lot from working with, not against them. Don’t compare your success to that of others on the internet.

Omni-channel selling

As the old saying goes: A successful seller is everywhere his customers are.

Only being on Etsy means your brand is only in front of Etsy buyers. Being present in all the channels is certainly important, but has its price too. Both financially and timewise.

Being a DIY or Fashion retailer you certainly have many opportunities ahead. Etsy, eBay, Amazon, Dawanda, Folksy, Facebook, your own online store, just to name a few. Sounds confusing- but it doesn’t have to be.

That’s why tools like Shoplo Multichannel can help you get your product in front of new audiences and allow you to discover which sales channel work best for you.


Why limit yourself to just one?

Not talking

Social media is obviously a great way to promote your product. Twitter and Instagram in particular. But they are much more than an advertising platforms. Talk to people! Tweetdeck is our weapon of choice for Twitter.

Don’t be bashful, jump into a conversation with strangers if you can contribute to it, whether it’s related to your product or not. Never let a comment on an Instagram photo of yours go without a reply, even if it is just a simple smiley face- or our favourite, the eggplant emoji. ?

I find Twitter to be the most fun when I use it to have a conversation with followers. Try having a conversation exclusively with .gifs!

Not having a grand plan

Etsy sells the dream of quitting your day job and working for yourself, and they sell that dream very well indeed. It’s just very unfortunate that not every store takes off overnight.

Some stores don’t make their first sale for 6 months, some stores take 5 years to break 10 sales. This happens for a multitude of reasons, but regardless of where your Etsy store is, having a plan is always a good plan. What happens if you suddenly double your sales this coming holiday period? What happens if you get no sales until Christmas?

Planning for your sales to go both north and south, now and in the long term, is a clever way to avoid heartbreak, wasted time and financial ruin.


Those that fail to plan, plan to fail.

Our final tip is to make sure you take care of the finer points, like descriptions, analysis and SEO. But since you’re already with Marmalead, you’re in the best possible hands.

Employ our tips, tools and suggestions and couple them with the powerful Marmalead tools and, well…we don’t want to sell the dream of quitting your day job, but I wouldn’t rule it out…



This is a guest post from our friends over at Shoplo, a professional tool designed for multichannel online sales. Check them out by clicking here!

What I’ve learned in a year and 1,100 Etsy sales

Special Guest post by Michelle of FourLetterWordsCards


YAY! I am coming up to my 1 year anniversary on Etsy. Things have certainly been a learning experience and I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve accomplished in a year. Here’s some of the things I’ve learned along the way. (Also, add what YOU’VE learned too – the more helpful info, the better!)

1. Don’t expect everything to go as planned.

When I opened my first shop (A week before I started FourLetterWordCards,) I had HUGE ideas of making jewelry and selling pretty stuff. Except no one visited and it stayed stagnant. Part of the problem was my photos, my tags and titles, my descriptions and the fact that I was in an over saturated market. Once I put my time into something I truly loved and had fun with (this shop,) things blossomed and I started working on EVERYTHING.

2. You think you know…

I thought I had a good grasp on how to run a shop online. HA. HA. HA! LIES! There is so much crap to learn, it isn’t even funny. There will always be someone who does something better and someone who you can learn from. Be open to suggestion and pay attention to what other’s are doing. The more you learn, the better!

3. For only 1 million dollars, you can learn…

There are a lot of people that want your money. They’ll sell you this workshop, this plan, that online fail-proof business. If you don’t have the time to find free resources – then by all means, give your money away. But if you have the time to invest in yourself and read, GOOGLE THAT CRAP! You’ll save yourself money and not fall into the online ponzi scheme of learning from someone who may not even have an Etsy shop or know exactly what they are doing.

4. Invest in yourself.

Take the time to actually invest in your business and yourself. Buy the materials you need, purchase the organizing crap to make your life better. Put money where your mouth is and faith in yourself. If you’re always going crazy because you have a messy office (my own problem,) you need to find some time and resources to fix it. The less crazy you are, the more time you have to dedicate to your business.

5. Always work on improving!

Holy crap. I’ve changed my logo like 4 times to date. I have another change in the works soon and will be rebuilding my website this month. This is the third time I’ll be changing my website…in a year. Next year, I have new photos that will be taken of ALL my products and more changes in the works. There isn’t SOMETHING you can’t improve and if you remain stagnant, you’ll bore yourself eventually and your customers. Make things look as good as you can and then improve gradually. Your sales will thank you!

6. Do right by your customers!

Customers are the blood of your business. Without them, you have no business. Granted it can be hard to always see eye to eye with them, but it’s our priority to do right by them. I’ve had customers never get an item, even though it showed as delivered. I’ve taken care of them and even though Etsy would have supported my decision, I still tried to ensure they were happy with everything. Thank them for their purchase and make purchasing from you an experience! I always include a thank you note and other goodies – because I want them to have FUN and to feel like family.

7. Streamline

At some point, you’ll double, triple and quadruple your orders. You need to figure out a process that allows you to do the most work in the shortest amount of time. Streamline everything you can and find a pattern that works for you. I’m still learning this and have so much more to figure out. I can do 100-150 cards a day – eventually I’ll need to learn how to get more done, in a shorter amount of time.

8. Have an online presence!

Be somewhere online. I’ve gone mad trying to navigate ALL social platforms and have figured out I’m happiest on Instagram. Figure out what social media works best for you and do something with it. Fans will find you and eventually buy your stuff!

9. Price yourself correctly.

Don’t undercharge in order to be competitive. When I first started – I actually priced myself against competition. It was okay for awhile, but I realized in order to price well for wholesale and actually make money – pricing for myself and products was smarter. You’ll only ever have the chance to make as much as you ask for – so be fair to yourself. I’ve raised my prices and charged more for certain items and the world didn’t blow up. People buy my stuff MORE now that I charge accordingly. It is awesome!


Etsy and an online business or anything really – should be fun. Sometimes crap is tedious and boring and there are certain things we hate doing. But please for the love of GOD – HAVE FUN DOING THIS STUFF! If this is a side business, it should be a way to make money and enjoy yourself. If this is a full time business – it still needs to bring you enjoyment. I LOVE the fact that I work for myself and answer to me, myself and I. I don’t have to do something I don’t want to and I can plan out each of my days, based on my mood. That is incredibly powerful and having the freedom to choose – IS AMAZING! Never forget that you are here to make your life and those around you BETTER!

So what have you learned? What are you most proud of within your business? What are your goals for your business and what are you celebrating?

YAY! I am coming up to my 1 year anniversary on Etsy. Things have certainly been a learning experience and I'm incredibly proud of what I've accomplished in a year. Here's some of the things I've learned along the way.



This is a guest post from Michelle, a Marmalead customer, friend, and Etsy shop owner. Check out her shop (and buy some cards or mugs) FourLetterWordCards.

Should You Use Google Keyword Planner OR Marmalead For Your Etsy SEO Research

Hi my name is Tara and I am an SEO addict! I have been working in SEO and marketing since 2001, before there even was a Google or an Etsy. I currently rank on page one of Google for keywords like “Realtor SEO” and on the first page of Etsy for “Etsy SEO”.

I don’t say this to brag, but to let you know that I am knowledgeable and successful at actually DOING SEO for my business on both Google and Etsy.

Now, there are some serious SEO differences between Etsy and Google. With that said, should you use Google Keyword Planner OR Marmalead for your Etsy SEO Research?

There Are A Lot Of “Experts”

I am writing this post because someone was talking badly about my favorite Etsy SEO tool, Marmalead, and confusing the nice sellers on Etsy who are just trying to figure out how to get their listings to rank so they can sell more.

It seems that there are a few “experts” out there who are saying that Marmalead only tells you what keywords people are using while Google shows what people are actually buying (false, and more about this later).

Tip #1 – Please check out your experts before you go changing a bunch of things in your store. Are they SEO experts or are they just well meaning people who know a little about SEO?

How SEO Works

SEO can sometimes be a mystery to new marketers. It seems like there must be some kind of magic mojo that people are using to get to the first page of Google or on the first page of Etsy listings. That is just not true!

Both Etsy and Google are databases that use words to rank the results that should appear first. They do this very differently and that is an important distinction!

Google Rankings

Google has spent years battling spammers who are trying to game the system. There were entire industries built around trying to trick Google into putting bad sites on the first page. They have mostly fixed this now, but they are super vigilant about what they rank well, changing the rules often.

To rank well on Google you have to have certain elements on your page or site:

  • One or two main keywords that you are trying to rank for
  • A strong title that is keyword rich
  • Content that supports the targeted keyword
  • Formatting in your post that shows emphasis on your target keyword
  • Backlinks to your page from outside sources

Etsy Rankings

Etsy ranks things differently than Google does. They place absolutely no weight on the content of your description, instead using the following criteria to rank your product listings:

  • Title description
  • Categories
  • Tags

That is it for what YOU can do to manipulate your listing rank in Etsy. Now, there are definitely factors working behind the scenes that depend on the number of sales you have, the number of items in your store and even the percentage of views to favorites your items get, but that is a post for another day.

For now, let’s just look a the things that we can control!

Tip #2 – Before you start worrying about anything else, get good at writing great title descriptions and picking good tags for your products.

Related: Etsy SEO – Marmalead vs Google Keyword Planner

Why Google And Etsy Are Very Different

It is easy to get romantic about companies and think they are looking out for our best interests, but they aren’t. Companies like Google and Etsy are designed to make a profit, period.

How Google Makes A Profit

Google’s customer is the searcher. They have built a business on providing great results when you are looking for something and they are not going to jeopardize that one principal to make the people who provide the content they index happy.

Google’s search profits come from selling ads on their network (called Adwords). These are seen on the sides websites, in blog posts and even on YouTube videos.

How Etsy Makes A Profit

Etsy makes a profit two ways. First from the sellers who are paying $.20 for every product they list. There are tens of MILLIONS of products listed on Etsy today (estimates are in the 30-40 Million item range, equaling six million dollars there alone).

Additionally they get paid when an item SELLS. This is an important distinction that we will look at more now.

What Is Commercial Viability?

Commercial viability is the difference between using the Google Keyword Planner and Marmalead to do your SEO keyword research!

Google is not at all concerned with how much you sell (commercial viability), except as it pertains to Google making a profit. You can rank for hundreds of keywords in Google and never sell anything.

Etsy on the other hand is a website dedicated to commercial viability (Ecommerce). They want you to sell more, so you list more, so you pay more, so you sell more…in a dazzling spiral of commerce.

Buying Keywords Versus Searching Keywords

So let’s get down to brass tacks now and start looking at searches. I will use my product, a business calendar, as an example (because I can show you the behind the scenes data).

First let’s search for “business” on Google, which is a broad keyword and not good for selling:


As you can see there are 6.5 BILLION results for this keyword search. Holy buckets, batman, that is a LOT of competition and not really commercial viability. No one searching for “business” on Google is going to find my little planner pages for sale.

Results include an online business magazine, Bloomberg’s Twitter account and Forbes magazine.

google keyword planner or marmalead

There is a LOT less competition here, only about 125,000 results. BUT the main thing to know is that every one of the results is something to buy!

Results include a water bottle label, a tie and a business card.

I KNOW, you are thinking that I am not even using Marmalead or the Keyword planner, what the heck! When you are looking at numbers this big, it is super important to understand the motivation of the search. Someone searching for that broad a keyword on either Google or Etsy is probably not going to be BUYING anything today!

Now let’s move on to my actual product, a business calendar!


As you can see I get keyword results that are factually correct, there ARE about 210 searches per month on that exact search term in Google and people ARE willing to pay $4.27 a click in Adwords. BUT what does that actually tell us? That the search volume for my business calendar is low across Google, not sure how that is helpful even to someone like me who understands SEO better than the average bear.

Additionally the keywords that they suggest are not relevant to my product, calendar software, scheduling software, business calendar software.

If I wanted to find actual buying keywords in Google I would have to add “for sale” or other commerce based keywords to get a clear picture of buying terms.

Now let’s look at that same data in Marmalead, which is using ONLY Etsy data to provide results!


We can see that there are 1,566 competing products and 58 shops competing. Interesting, not all that helpful for SEO research (good for product development though), but what IS helpful is the total views (quite substantial at 221,846).

The average favorites per week (4.4) will help me to know if I have targeted the right keyword. If I have a high ranking but but a low favorites per week compared to the average then I will know that my product is not a good match for the keyword and there will be few purchases from ranking for that word.

The reason that is is important is that I would effectively be “wasting” that keyword and should instead target one that is more relevant to my selling something.


Now let’s get down to the meat of the argument that Marmalead is only displaying keywords that other sellers are using. That is EXACTLY right! These tags and additionally the tag clouds are a compilation of the words that other SELLERS are using in their listings.

Words for me like business planner (obvious), and printable planner (a staple of my niche), but also words that I hadn’t thought of yet like small business and business printable.

THESE unthought of words are the magic that Marmalead shows us!

These words are the ones that sellers have aggregated over time to be selling words for products like mine. And because they would not be used at scale if they were ineffective for selling products, I can safely assume that some or all of them would help sell products in my store too!

Because Etsy is an ecommerce site to begin with, we don’t have to worry about whether the words are buying words or just informational words. All the words are selling based, unlike in Google.

You Can Lead A Horse To Water

This is an already epic post so I will just mention a few things that may be what is really frustrating Etsy sellers.

SEO just gets the eyeballs, it is your description and pictures that will sell the products. I have read a bunch of comments that sellers are ranking better but not selling more. Well, that is not SEO’s fault. SEO got the people to at least have the OPPORTUNITY to buy, but if your descriptions are bad or your pictures are blurry, they are not going to convert to a sale.

You can be great at SEOing for the wrong keyword. Another thing that will not help sales is to find a “popular” keyword that doesn’t really match what your product is. For example, I did use “business planner” in my title and keywords for the business calendar so I do rank for that term on page one of the Etsy search (#32 today) BUT it is not exactly a good fit. The business planners are more robust than my product and I doubt that this term will drive many sales.

DO NOT change too many things at once. I have been reading that people are sad because they spent days using the Google Keyword Planner to change all their listings and now they aren’t getting any views. While it is tempting to get all this done at once, that is a recipe for disaster. Work on one product, get a good ranking, check your sales and then work on another one!

Last but not least, SEO is much more an art than a science. You have to try things, see what works and then change or pivot if you see that something is not working. As you do it more, you WILL get better. My shop and my products are only a couple of months old but I do rank in the top page for many different keywords. That is because I already know how to do SEO and can look at the data and figure it out easily. You will get there as you do more SEO research too!

– – –


This is a guest post from Tara Jacobsen, an SEO expert since 2001. She is a current Marmalead customer and a Etsy shop owner herself, having started her Paperly People shop in the late summer of 2015. If you would like to learn more about Etsy SEO, please visit her article, SEO For Etsy Sellers | Ultimate Etsy SEO Guide.