Are you spending too much time worrying about things you can’t control? Falling into the trap of blaming Etsy? This week we talk with Kara from A Cake To Remember about the things you CAN control. Kara covers a great list of ways to make sure your listings stay active on Etsy. She also talks about some of the common problems she’s seen on the Etsy forums when sellers are complaining about having low sales and what they could do to get rid of their big buts.
If you’re sitting here listening/watching/reading this blog or Jam, Kara wants to start off by saying this: If you’re wondering why your Etsy shop is sitting there dead and why you aren’t making any sales, well, it’s probably something you’re doing. It’s not Etsy’s fault. Kara is starting a private YouTube channel that’s by subscription only where she will tackle these issues. You pay for it once and then you’ll have access to it forever. If you’re a Marmalead user the cost is $25.00. If you’re not a Marmalead user the cost is $50.00. The reason for this price jump is that Kara doesn’t want to explain SEO research to people.
She wants to make sure that people who are coming in are serious about it and will be willing to do the work necessary. Kara says it drives her crazy when people aren’t willing to do the work that needs to be done and would rather have someone else do it for them. She’s not in that business. Kara understands that Etsy and social media change very quickly. Something she says today could be completely different in three months. Having this YouTube channel will allow her to make quick videos and let her subscribers know right away if something important shifts. She currently has another YouTube channel that has some Etsy tutorials which you can check out here.
FYI: If you watch the Jam for this episode, Kara is doing a fantastic give away for the first five people to listen, find it, and comment on our Jam video on YouTube! So make sure you listen to this week’s Jam!
To make a long story short
Kara has been with us before on another Jam, but just in case you haven’t heard her story we wanted to give you a quick version of her background. Originally Kara owned a custom wedding cake business. She opened her Etsy shop in 2011 when it was relatively new and she knew it was wedding heavy. She found out about Etsy through her brides who were shopping on Etsy for their weddings. At that time the recession was in full swing and people were really cutting back on their spending. She started seeing that her customers only wanted to spend $600.00 on what would have been an $800.00 cake a few years prior. Because of this she started to brainstorm how she could make up for some of her lost income. She thought she might be able to sell some of her sugared flowers and cake decorations online to brides who weren’t in her area.
Once she started selling her products she quickly realized it wasn’t just brides buying from her. Other cake decorators were buying from her as well. She started adding in other cake supplies like her own molds, which gradually turned into what she likes to call a handmade supply shop. She stopped doing wedding cakes last year and her handmade supply shop is now her full-time job!
In July of 2017 Kara matched the profits she’d made for the entire year of 2016! She says she’s doing “ok” which we would agree with! She attributes a lot of this to knowing what you should and shouldn’t complain about on Etsy, as well as knowing where and how to get traffic.
Etsy forums and tin foil hats
Kara says the Etsy forums are great for looking at topics people are posting about because you can learn a lot from this. Beware when you do this, however, as they can often times be what she likes to call a “weepy whiner fest” and you might need to break out your tin foil hat before you enter. There’s a lot of speculation and a lot of complaining. Kara says to remember that the people who are really successful on Etsy are not in the forums talking about how successful they are. Most of the time people are talking about how terrible their sales are, so why would someone super successful jump on and say how awesome they’re doing? Forums are really not a good overall representation of Etsy and how everyone is doing.
Kara found that there were four major things people were complaining about. She says you CAN control these four things. They do not have to control you. Those four things people listed as the top reasons they aren’t getting sales on Etsy are as follows:
1.) Not enough new items to add.
2.) Too many listings.
3.) Not enough listings.
4.) SEO needs work.
It’s Etsy’s fault…and Game of Thrones
The next topic that people were complaining about was how it’s all Etsy’s fault that they aren’t getting sales. Some of the specific ways it’s all Etsy’s fault were these:
1.) The people running Etsy are not business people, they’re computer programmers.
2.) Etsy doesn’t run enough ads.
3.) It’s the search test.
4.) The new format of listings doesn’t show the description.
5.) The category search changes are responsible.
6.) Someone heard a rumor that they aren’t using the SEO system as much. (This is Kara’s personal favorite)
7.) They’re turning my shop off.
8.) Etsy doesn’t work with SEO.
9.) Too many new shops.
10.) All the long term sellers are struggling.
11.) Hurricanes, fires and earthquakes.
12.) It’s back to school time.
13.) It’s Sunday.
14.) April is always slow.
15.) It’s the first day of the month.
16.) It’s after Christmas.
17.) It’s summer.
18.) It’s Halloween.
19.) The political upheaval of 2017.
20.) The interest in Game of Thrones is over. (Um….huh??)
21.) The reason I’m getting slow sales is the election, the economy, and (direct quote) “we must trust that the economy will get better, the election will prove worth while and the sun will shine tomorrow and it will be a wonderful day.”
Bad advice vs. good advice
The last reason listed above Kara thinks is some of the worst advice ever. So they’re basically saying to just sit back and wait and everything will work out. No! Do not do that! Yes, there are going to be seasons where it may be a weird time to sell your product. Like if you sell knit hats and it’s June. But there absolutely ARE things you can do to improve your sales and keep your shop in motion. And Etsy likes motion. It does take work and work is like a snowball effect on Etsy. You don’t just set up SEO and walk away otherwise your listings will naturally drop off.
Kara finds when she goes on and edits things she’ll often make a sale. Maybe it’s simply a coincidence or maybe it has to do with the fact that Etsy sees motion on her shop. Why would they promote you when they see a dead shop? You need movement and the more traffic the better. Go into your Etsy stats and see where your traffic is coming from. If 90% of your traffic is coming from Etsy you’re doing something wrong. You want to have it more balanced than that. Don’t rely only on Etsy’s titles and tags. If this is the case, when Etsy changes something it will tank your shop. You need to have some other avenues bringing traffic in to balance this out.
Things to do
Kara made a list for us of practical things to do if you’re not making sales:
1.) Check your denial levels: If everything Kara is mentioning makes you say, “That doesn’t work for me because…” or “Well, I tried that, but…” or “No, that’s not going to work…” you might just be in denial about how much work you need to put into this. If this is the case, you’re never going to build up a good shop. Keep your denial level as low as you can and be willing to look at reality.
If you go to your Etsy stats, you want to have two or three equal pieces there. Again, you really need to build up other avenues to bring traffic in. Kara’s looks something like this: Etsy= 40%, Direct links & outside search= 30-38%, all of her social media is directed to her website so her goal here is to have 0%, but if you’re using social media you want this to be a big piece that’s driving traffic to your Etsy shop. If you’re not getting much traffic from direct search work on your descriptions as this is what Google looks at.
2.) Take a hard, cold look at your shop: Now, you can definitely have someone else do this for you if you can’t stand it. First of all, do people want what you’re selling? Maybe something you’re selling was super trendy five years ago but isn’t that trendy now. Look at your pricing. If you’re prices are so much higher or lower than everyone else in your category you’re going to have problems. Have a range of price points, but keep them reasonable in your category. Check what the average price is for your product. When Kara is testing out pricing she’ll go into Marmalead to see what the average price is of whatever it is she’s thinking of selling. Depending on what the pricing is like she will decide if she wants to sell something or not. She’s actually taken some items out of her shop because of how low the pricing has gotten. You have to look at how much time it will take to make whatever it is and if it’s too low it may not be worth your time.
3.) Are your shipping times scaring people away?: Kara is currently working with a shop in Indonesia who are unfortunately victims of the Indonesian postal system. It takes forever to ship anything anywhere from Indonesia. This is a problem and not something that this shop has much control over. If this is happening to you, you might look into making more ready to ship products that you can get in the mail right away.
4.) Are all of your photos filled out?: Kara isn’t talking about the ten listing photos. She’s talking about things like your profile picture and shop logo. If these are empty spaces, fill them. Also, if your profile picture is scary, change it! Have someone take a bunch of pictures if you’re not great at posing for photos, but choose something friendly.
5.) About page: Kara suggests staying away from sob stories in this section. She’s often seen sellers talking about how they sell on Etsy because they’re too sick to get out of bed. While this may be true, this is not the place to voice it. If you’re donating to a charity because you have a personal connection with some kind of sickness feel free to talk about it. Remember this is your brand not a place to talk about every part of your history. Your about page should be about what you can do for your customer. Think about how it’s reading to someone else, maybe even read it out loud. If it depresses even you, you might wanna think about changing it.
6.) Are your photos up to par with the other items in your category?: If you do a search and every other photo on the page looks great but yours doesn’t, you need to change it. When people are shopping they’re skimming and looking at the photos on they’re search page. Your picture will be the hook to get buyers to actually enter your shop. Kara had her daughter do a test for her where she recorded what she was doing while she shopped. If she didn’t SEE what she wanted in the first few searches she’d go back and refine her search. She would hop from picture to picture to picture. At the end when Kara asked her why she did it this way and why she didn’t read anything her response was that she didn’t have time to read when she was shopping! This is so true for many people.
Shopping by photos really does make sense. In the grocery store for example, we’ll stand in an aisle scanning until we see which brand we want out of several. We might then pick it up and read more about it, but we certainly don’t do this with everything. Picking up an item in person is the equivalent of clicking on a listing.
7.) Are you using good SEO in all the places you can?: Right underneath the name of your shop is a little tag line. This is the meta title in google search. When someone’s searching for something on google this is what’s going to come up. Do a search in google for your shop and you’ll see where this is. The section titles are also read by Google.
8.) Are you interacting on Etsy?: People often say that the team games on Etsy like “post one favorite ten” don’t work. Kara says they don’t work and they do work. The teams and the forums are kinda like Etsy’s version of social media. You have to use it, but not to the extent that it’s going to throw off your stats. Kara had people in our Marmalead group do something specific with the whole favoriting thing: For example, let’s say Richie has a shop and Gordon favorites Richie’s shop, then Kara follows Gordon (remember that favoriting and following are not the same thing). Gordon will see all the things Richie posts in his shop that are new, when he sells something and it renews Gordon will also see this. This is all happening on the home page so you’ve got to be paying attention to it. Now let’s say that Richie posts a new item and Gordon “likes” it and Kara has followed Gordon, Kara will see the item from Riche’s shop that Gordon liked. So everything flows down stream.
There’s a whole philosophy of favoriting and following. This helps to build an Etsy network that can help your items be seen in other places in Etsy other than just your shop. The way to make all of this work for you is to do things intentionally, don’t go into the forums and randomly play the games. This will really throw your stats off. Another great strategy is to go to your competitor’s shops and see who is following them. Again, don’t just go through and randomly follow everyone. The sellers whose shops you really like and who have a large following are a place to start.
9.) Remind people you’re around: Use the shop updates! There’s no reason not to use it. This will put your shop in front of anyone who’s already liked your shop. This is a great reminder that you’re around and active! Kara hears people say a lot that they don’t want to post five times a day on Facebook (or wherever) because they don’t want to bother people. You have to remember that not everyone is going to see every time you post something. When’s the last time you saw every single post from every person you liked? You don’t. No social media platform will show every single post to you all the time. You’re not going to bother people because they’re not going to see them all. The more you post on social media the better. Kara likes to use Buffer to schedule all her social media posts for her, but you can also get Hootsuite for free.
Kara tries to do at least three to four shop updates a week and it definitely helps with traffic to her shop. Things she puts in her shop updates are these: pictures of items, progress pictures if she’s working on something and product photos. Often Kara will post a shop update on Etsy and then share it to Instagram and sometimes to Facebook depending on what she has going on FB that day. This cuts down on having to individually post to different places.
Where to start
So where does Kara suggest you start if all of these areas need work? She suggests you start with getting at least one decent photo per listing. You can work on all your listing photos later. Kara says she’s even guilty of not having the best photos on every single listing. She’s going back through her own listings of eight hundred plus and slowly posting better photos.
Also, if you don’t have a strong presence on social media, starting with Instagram is Kara’s suggestion because it’s all about hashtags. You usually can get your pictures in front of the right audience if you’re using hashtags correctly. Facebook is somewhat of a toss up because of how much they limit what others see. Pinterest is also relatively easy to get your products seen. You do use SEO on Pinterest so taking the time to learn about that is worth it. Kara’s personal social media platform, however, is YouTube. She posted a video of herself making a unicorn mold and she get directs hits to her shop from this video all the time.
You need it…
…an email list. If you don’t have one, go make one now. Mailchimp offers free services up to a certain number of people. Now, you’re not allowed to sign people up for your mailing list just because they bought from you on Etsy. But, you can put a “sign up” link a few different places in your shop. Kara actually offers an unlimited 20% off coupon whenever someone signs up for her mailing list. She’s made this unlimited because she says it’s much easier to give 20% a few times and have someone make multiple purchases than to find a new customer. You don’t have to send an email out every week. Some mailing lists that Kara is signed up for only send out emails when they’re having a sale. No matter when you’re sending it out it’s fantastic to have built up a list of customers who know who you are and who you’re communicating with.
Kara has heard people voice concerns about sending out too many emails. Again, the internet is a big place and the more people are reminded of you, the more likely they are to buy from you. No, you don’t have to blow up your customers inbox hundreds of times a day, but being regular in emailing will only increase your chances of making a sale. Kara says whenever she sends out an email blast she consistently sees a spike in sales.
Newsletters on Etsy
The newsletters on Etsy’s home page are a fantastic way to know what you should be promoting. Kara actually made sales just last week from doing this very thing. Etsy is basically doing the marketing for you and telling you when you should start promoting whatever. Right now it’s almost Halloween which Etsy’s newsletter started promoting in August. So, click on whatever link they have in the newsletter, it will take you to a search page and you want to look and see what keyword they’re using. Then go put that keyword in your listings, optimize your listings for this keyword and renew it.
It does need to relate to whatever is being promoted so don’t make it random, but if you have have products that this can be helped with, by all means use it! You honestly don’t have to guess where the majority of people are searching and going to. They’re going where Etsy is telling them to go. The same goes for newsletters that are being emailed by Etsy. Follow the links. see what keywords they’re using and tailor a few of your listings to that. Kara has personally sold several things just by following these steps. She normally will only change one or two listings at a time.
Let’s all say it together…again!
You absolutely have to make sure you’re SEO is good. It’s a must. And Kara recommends Marmalead (thanks Kara!) to help with this. Verify that your SEO is good before you stick it in a title. There might be times where you think you’ve got the greatest keyword ever on a listing, but no one is looking for it. This is just one reason why SEO is so important.
Keep it together!
Kara says it’s really important to have some type of consistency to your pictures. They don’t all have to be exactly the same, but if they’re all so random and different it hurts your eyes you might want to rethink it. We also touched on this in the blog we did on design. Pick a background, feel free to make it slightly different depending on what you’re photographing, but don’t change it all together. Anything that makes a customer uncomfortable will make them want to leave. Your shop also reflects how professional you look, and a cohesive and well organized shop communicates that a professional is in charge.
Is it missing?!
If you have no social media links on your about page of if you don’t have an about page at all this will count against you. Etsy takes this into account for their SEO algorithm and not having either of these is definitely not in your favor. People want to see that you’re in more than one place and that you have a presence somewhere that makes you legit. Being able to see an active Instagram account or Pinterest account will assure someone that you’re not just gonna take off with their money and will treat them well. Also, if you DO have a Facebook page, make sure you’ve got the link to your Etsy shop as your place of employment on your personal profile.
Listing new items is always something you want to do if you have them. If you don’t have new items, you can take an item already listed and do a duplicate of it. This will allow you to try out different SEO on the same listing with a different photo to see which listing has more engagement. Etsy likes to see movement and this is a great way to provide that even without new items to list.
All the things Kara touched on above will be similar to what she’ll be diving into on her private YouTube channel. Plus, she’ll have so much more! Nothing Kara does is secret. She says you can definitely find all of her tricks for yourself if you’re willing to put the time into it. Her advantage is that she does this all day, every day. This is why she wants to provide short cuts for sellers who might not have the time Kara does to pour into the research of what to do and not do on Etsy. She says you just have to keep your shop moving and if you find your sales are slowing try and figure out if there’s something you can do to counteract it. If you have all these pieces in place, however, one thing slowing down shouldn’t stop your entire shop from selling.
We thoroughly enjoyed having Kara on the jam this week! She is FULL of wonderful information and we’re sure we could keep diving into all these topics with her for hours. We wish her the very best with her new YouTube channel and with her Etsy shop ACakeToRemember which you can check out here. Please listen to this week’s jam as it’s more full than EVER with lots of extra things I couldn’t cover in the blog.
Happy selling, everyone!
Etsy Jam Scoops
- Making a long story short
- Etsy forums and tin foil hats
- Traffic here, traffic there
- All those denial levels
- Take a cold, hard look
- Place those pictures!!!
- Your “about page” matters
- Your pictures matter!!!
- Remind people you’re there
- Where to start
- You need it…
- Is it missing?!
- Newsletters on Etsy
- Seeing double