Most people who sell on Etsy confess to being 'not computer people' and have looked at this like it's written completely in ancient Greek- and I can't say I blame them. I'm pretty good at understand this sort of thing, but I was passing out in boredom before the first 5 pages. So I thought I'd try to give it the layman's touch- or as is now culturally known...SEO for dummies.
You don't need to understand the ins and outs of SEO to get it to do what you need it to. What you do need to understand is keywords. These are words your shop whispers in the ear of Google, over and over again- words that reflect what you do. Mine whispers 'Victorian sci-fi jewelry' and 'steampunk jewelry'. Yours might whisper 'handmade organic soap' or '19th century reproduction corsets'. Whatever it is that nutshells what you do- that's your keyword.
Keywords are also what people use when they're searching Google. For example, people looking for organic soap will type in just that- organic soap. People looking for Steampunk clothing will type in just that. What you need to do is make sure your keyword is something people will search fairly often. Of course, if you make it too generic then you won't get into search results- big companies pay lots of money to get in the first pages of 'gothic t-shirts' or 'organic shampoo.'
If you can narrow down what people search for though, then you have something. I won't get in search results for 'steampunk clothing' but I will get in Victorian sci-fi. You might not get into a 'clay bead jewelry' search, but you might get into 'polymer clay beaded jewelry'.
You won't rank high in a plain old 'jewelry' search, you just won't. Huge companies pay money to do so, you won't make it. Accept it now- it feels good to acknowledge these things! What you might rank in is something like 'glass bead jewelry' or 'handmade lace earrings' or something more specific. This is one of the reasons why I think the SINGLE most important thing you can do for your business success is pinpoint your creative focus and find your market.
A quick chat about finding your market
Having a unique product that doesn't appeal to everyone might sound like a limiting thing. Most women like a pair of silver earrings, but how many want shoulder-scraping ones? Ones with tiny octopus on them? Ones that light up or glow in the dark? Not as many- and that's a GOOD thing. Don't worry about their only being 30,000 women who'd say they want glow in the dark earrings, because you'll convince another 30,000 they they want them as well, they just didn't realize it till now. That's marketing!
Finding a niche is important for your business, you need to have an identity. To get there, try to Imagine what kind of person your business would be if they were a human. For example, my shop is a woman somewhere between the ages of 18-45. She's tough, down to earth and quite pragmatic, but she does have feminine moments. She makes what she needs in life by utilising the things around her. She has an unusual and deeply personal aesthetic. In short- she's me!
Look over your entire shop and think what it is that all your pieces have in common. They might all be brightly coloured and fun, which means they're sunshiney people who love life. They might all be made of recycled or vintage textiles, which means they care about the earth and try to live a sustainable life. They might be clean-lined and modern, so the people who buy them will be too.
People who create genre products such as steampunk, gothic, shabby chic or mod already have it pretty easy, since they just need to advertise to these people. What you can do though is try to find the closest genre you can and lean toward it. For instance, I've been told my work is of interest to the steampunk genre. Though there's not a watch part or pair of goggles in sight, my pieces still appeal to a steampunk clientèle, since it fits with the aesthetic and is adaptable for that most difficult of social situation- the everyday wardrobe. Have a look around the internet (or even just Etsy) and see what keywords and phrases other similar sellers are using.
Okay- on to the SEO stuff. To be honest, half of this is just good shop sense, whatever SEO says. What I've done to make things easy here is just tell you what you ought to know if you want to bring the boys to the yard. I mean...the buyers to the table. SEO stuff is in Italics as well as bold. If you're interested in why these things work, you can always read the 25 page guide- in the meantime here's my SEO cheat sheet/top shop tips. Wow- top shop tips. Try saying that 6 times quickly. :D
+ a good banner- something professional and clear. No pixels, blurriness or aspect ratio distortion (that's what it's called when pictures look like a Hall of Mirrors reflection- all stretched out or squishy). An ideal banner has an image of your product- if you make more than one thing or want something slightly arty, choose something that represents the aesthetics or target market of your shop.
+ shop title - Something short, catchy, likely to be searched for in Google and has relevant information about what you sell in the first 56 characters. Don't write 'welcome to divasoaps!' but instead write 'all natural fragrance free soaps from Portland Oregon.' (Don't be afraid to capitalize on where you live. Brooklyn, Portland, New York, Australia and London are all funky towns to people who don't live there! The same goes for certain landscapes- if you live in the mountains, in a tiny fishing village, on the edge of a raging river...tell the world, we think it's romantic!)
+ Shop announcement - something short and to the point, save the detailed rambles for your profile or policies. Make sure in the first 160 characters you say what you sell and what's so good about it. for example 'welcome to Twisted Mister, where you will find rockin' mens t-shirts made from all organic fair trade cotton.'
+ Location - All these should be healthy. Your location should be accurate enough to understand, so put your city and your country. There's a Paris in Texas, there's a Brooklyn in Melbourne!
+ feedback - Your feedback is something you will unfortunately have to pay for to get- as in you'll have to buy things to beef it up. Low feedback numbers is fine, no feedback can be a bit or a worry for timid online shoppers. I buy as many of my supplies as I can on Etsy, not just because there are loads of great things, but because it boosts my feedback when no one's buying.
+ policies - Always make sure you have these filled out with the tricky details- they can save you later if there's problems. It's a good place to let people know where you stand on returns (cash or store credit?), repairs (any guarantees on your work?), who's paying for the shipping should it need be be returned (and possibly sent back again), lost parcel policies, wholesale inquiries etc etc.
+ Listing titles - We now have the most brilliantly handy of inventions, the Google search preview. This is the little bit between your description and materials boxes in step one of listing an item. It will change as you type and it will show you what your item will look like in a Google search result, so you can make sure your item is well represented.
For example, something that says "Midnight Cowboy- amazonite, sterling silver and vintage charms" doesn't tell me what the object is. But "Midnight cowboy- sterling silver bracelet with amazonite beads" lays it right on the line. As an extra tip, I recommend putting the piece's name (if it has one) at the end of the title, so that the important words (what it is, what it's made of etc) come first.
One extra thing- don't use CAPS, it's very hard to read and in online etiquette it comes across as shouting. Also, don't put free shipping in your title, Google treats it suspiciously and will not give you search result space.
+ Listing description - When you're writing a listing, pretend the image isn't there, you've only got your words to sell the piece. Tell people about the colors, the dimensions, the style the piece evokes, the materials it's made from etc. Don't forget too that they can't hold the piece and feel the wright, they can't see the way the light changes across the surface- you have to tell them. Make sure you sum up the piece in the first bit that's shown in your Google result preview, so people who view the Google search results are enticed to click.
When writing your listing you also have to make sure you use your desired words at least twice in your description. So if you have 'blue beaded earrings' in your title, make sure the words 'blue beaded earrings' appear again in your description, even if they're not next to each other. You should also have those words in your tags as well. (see below.)
+ pictures - You know by now that you need drop-dead, apocalyptically awesome pictures in order to get anywhere as a serious business on Etsy. But what you really need those pictures to do is not just be a fashion plate, but to sell your product. Experiment with different surfaces around your house until you find one that works, and use it exclusively to produce a cohesive style.
I recommend something mid-way in brightness (not light, not dark) and something that's not an open book. Shooting items on a book has become so ubiquitous on Etsy- it looks lovely, but when everyone's doing it, how do you build a unique identity? I used to use the decorated panel from a Victorian over mantel, I've also used the backs of antique framed pictures, old photo album pages, bricks and Victorian sheet music. All these were great backgrounds, but I change them every now and then depending on the look I'm going for. I'm in the middle of re-doing alot of my photos using a rustic background that's actually the side of an old crate I 'borrowed' from my Dad back in high school and never gave back. Find something that's unique to your shop style and go with it! I'll write more specifics on photography in another post dedicated to the subject alone, including how to style, prop and post-process.
Make sure in the images that you show as much as you can of the object. How it hangs if it's earrings, what the inside looks like if it's a hat or a bag, what kind of clasp a necklace has etc. Use all your five spots! I like to get creative with one or two shots, just for fun.
+ Materials and tags - please use these! They count as meta keywords and help Etsy bring you up in search results. Etsy's recommended tags to add are only recommendations. If I'm selling a white doily brooch with crystals and silver beads, I'll tag 'jewelry, brooch, lace, doily, white, crystals, beads, brooch, pin, salvage, recycle” ...blah blah. It doesn't make a difference what order your tags go in, but DO make sure your first tag is the right category. Also if you have a few listings of the same or very similar product, put one in each category. For example in my supply shop I have book plates in 'vintage-> paper, ephemera' as well as in 'supplies-> vintage, paper'. If people are searching for old book images in vintage or supplies, they'll get me either way.
Don't just tag your listing for what it is. Tag it for the kind of thing it is (gothic, steampunk, elegant, tribal etc) and always tag the color! People search for colors- I search for color. I also search terms like rustic, organic (for wobbly shapes) and primitive. You have 14 tags to fill up, so use them all! If the item is classically bridal, tag it wedding or bridal (or both if you have room!) Don't forget any symbols it might have- stars, hearts, crosses (i usually add 'religious' as a tag on things with crosses) or if there's an animal on it- deer, owl, bird, peacock etc.
+ Materials – I try to cover everything in this box. I'll add metal as a tag there, but I'll also write copper. I'll write 'vintage fabric' and 'textiles', I'll also write 'crystal' and 'black tourmaline'. This isn't material tag stuffing, this is just making sure- some people search for 'crystal necklace', some search for 'tourmaline necklace'. This way you get in both kinds of results.
+ Shipping – It really isn't too hard to figure out international shipping- as someone who lives overseas from the majority of the world, I highly recommend you offer it! If you can't figure out the postal calculator on your country's postal services' website, have a look for other people who live in your country who sell a similar thing- figure out the average price and go from there.
Please don't forget to figure in the cost of your packaging as well! Also if you country allows it (most do) you can ask your post office if you can have a handful of customs forms (those green stickers on envelopes you get from overseas). I have a pile of these in the studio so I can fill them out at home. I also have a pile of those little blue 'air mail' stickers – anything you can do at home saves time out and about, and the PO loves anything that makes their life easier!
So there you go! Please don't hesititate to ask me to make something in here more clear, and if you have any of your own tips I haven't mentioned, share them with us in a comment.