Thursday, December 31, 2015

The huge Etsy ‘change’ you probably don’t know about - and how to beat it

The big Etsy change - how it affects you and what to do about it -

It's New Year's Day for me here today so this is the perfect post to  bring in the new and mega-awesome amazeballs that is 2016. Everyone I talk to is pumped for the new year, but if selling handmade is part of that pumped up-ness (as it is for me) you need to have a plan so it's more than just inner fizz. I'm making my new year's resolutions and 'personal 2016 battle plan' tonight. In the meantime... read this. It is a hard road and you might get overwhelmed, so I have presented with LOLs as sugar for the medicine.


Recently there’s been a bit of a furore in the Etsy forums - in case you’re unaware, many sellers are of the opinion Etsy ‘changed something’ in the last few months that’s put in place a death knell on their shops views (and consequently sales). There are many who say they haven’t felt an effect, but there are many many more who say they have. Of course it’s more likely for people to post and complain about it affecting them - not many people are going to make a point of coming to the forums just to say they’re doing fine. However, a lot of the shops reporting massive downturn are well-established shops with good product and long-standing sales. So something has dropped a fly in the ointment.

There are a lot of theories - SEO! Localisation! Invasive browse menu! - but most agree on the most likely reason, that there are just too many people on Etsy competing for the same shoppers. It makes perfect sense - if you have two or three times more competition now than you did last year it's going to be harder to get the attention your shop needs.  

Etsy grows enormously every year, but those sellers aren't just home-makers looking to earn a few dollars, they are people who have spent months honing their business to present it professionally. It’s quite easy to set up a professional-looking shop on Etsy, and with their being so many little details involved in the website that can put you ahead of the pack, anyone who just jumps on and doesn’t do their research is already at a handicap. About the only thing hobbyists have going for them is price - they tend to undercharge. 

But someone who sells the same thing you do for 25% more than you do doesn’t have the same customer; a similar customer yes, but one that for various reasons favours a higher price. So they aren’t really any kind of competition; which means the huge growth in sellers doesn’t really give you competition unless they sell the exact same thing you do. I had a feeling it went deeper...

So I dug deeper and found what I was looking for in the following quote taken from an Etsy Admin video chat discussing how they engineer Search: 

"... [how do we] make sure we are distributing sales among sellers…it wouldn’t be good if only a small subgroup of sellers can make a living selling on Etsy. That's not what we want."

(found on this huge thread)

What initially was intended as an ‘off-hand’ comment held a seed of realisation for many people. The first part of the quote - ‘[how do we] make sure we are distributing sales among sellers ‘ - left people asking if Etsy has a search system which chooses what you see in search results based on a kind of 'take turns' approach to featuring all sellers. This conflicts with everything we know (or think we know!) about Etsy search; that the listings returned are based on tags n' titles, aka relevancy.

If you’ve got 5 thousand shops all selling a very similar thing, one way to ‘distribute sales among sellers’ would be to order the search results in a way that gives everyone a ‘turn’ at being in the first few pages, regardless of their SEO and relevancy. Sometimes a seller gets into a search result, sometimes not.

I’ve always worked with what I’ve been taught - that coming up in Etsy searches relies on relevancy. This alluded to method of giving ‘turns’ to certain shops makes that strategy largely useless, so I did a quick test. I searched for ‘red beaded necklace’ and found 56,102 items. But hold up… every search result page shows 42 listings (not including the ads) and there are 250 pages of results.

250 X 42 is 10,500 listings. 

So if there’s 56,102 eligible listings for ‘red beaded necklace’ search and only 10,500 are being shown based on relevancy (apparently), that means 45,602 listings aren’t getting into the results at all. After a while most listings are just as relevant as each other and other factors come into play (which I’ll talk about in a minute), so a ‘fair’ solution for those 45,602 listings would be to randomly mix up the search results, making sure each seller gets a chance to be one of the 10,500. 

In my search for ‘red beaded necklace’, the first page of results had NINE listings (and that’s me being generous) for which I would not consider ‘red beaded necklace’ an accurate description. Several of them were just necklaces with one or two red beads mixed in with many others; some of them didn’t have any red beads at all! Meanwhile if I skip to the last page of the entire search result - page 250 - how many ‘red beaded necklaces’ were unfit for the description there? Just four.

In other words, in a search for ‘red beaded necklace’ I found better search results by going to the end of the page.

Sounds like a search engine that relies on more than ‘tags and titles’ to put your listing in the top, huh? 

One small facet of the quote describing their desire to ‘evenly distribute sales among sellers’ also leaves me wondering if having sales in your shop drops you back in the search results for a couple of days. I can’t think of any other way you could engineer even distribution through search; just randomly mixing up or leaving out some listings is only going to work if you make sure the ones selling are getting less exposure that the ones who haven’t recently sold.

Again I tested my theory through a search, this time choosing 'green dress'. Pretty vague, and I didn't narrow it down through any subcategories. Then I went to the last page and randomly selected 8 shops to view. I went to their sold items... 6 of them had received a sale in the last 72 hours, the other two had sales last week. Interesting... I went to the first page of the results and did the same thing; every shop I selected to look at hasn't had a sale for at least 3 weeks. So basically if you get a sale, your place in search pretty much evaporates for a couple of days. Great.

This theory seems further strengthened by the fact that successful shops are reporting massive (up to 75%) downturns in the last few months are reporting the same sort of activity in their shop - views started diving at around the same time of the year as other shops, and current behaviour is a sale or two every 3-5 days; as if their listing is only being seen every 3-5 days. These are shops who up until recently have been making daily sales, some for several years - all the shops on the last page of my 'green dress' search results had hundreds or thousands of sales. Now suddenly the spot in search they worked so hard to get is systematically shared with others on Etsy's 'merry-go-round of fairness'.

Incidentally I checked my own shops against this and the pattern is the same for me - a sale or two comes along, then nothing for 3-5 days, then a sale or two, then nothing...

I wasn’t the only one presenting this theory on the forum, and Etsy admin responded by saying they’re just trying to make sure a variety of shops turn up in search rather than having several sellers dominating each page. This alludes to the second half of the quote ‘it wouldn’t be good if only a small subgroup of sellers can make a living selling on Etsy. That's not what we want.’ 

To my mind (and most people on the forums) that translates as Etsy wanting all sellers to have some sales rather than just a few having all the sales. This again seems like a good idea, but as to our earlier half of the theory, if there aren’t enough customers to go around that piece of the sales pie is barely going to whet your appetite, let alone making the work you did to get it worthwhile.

When it comes to categories on Etsy, there really aren’t that many places where supply (listings) exceeds demand (shoppers).  Etsy quite simply has more stuff than there are people to buy it; but while I partially disregarded this idea based on customers wanting different things from essentially the same people, the reality is clear; if you're not even coming up high in results, your customer is not going to wade until they find you, no matter what their budgetary concerns are.

The best way to cement a theory like this is to ask yourself this: ‘if Etsy have deliberately made this change - why would they do it? What’s in it for Etsy?

Easy- money. 

Etsy know that a great deal of the shops on their website have no active social media or advertise outside the site. Instead they rely entirely on the search results as well as the community (treasury, teams, activity circle, suggested items) to bring them traffic. So that means these shops only stick around as long as they’re making sales - because despite that they don’t promise consistent sales, that’s what sellers on Etsy expect. 

This is evident in the forum’s daily threads blaming Etsy for their low views and sales. Say as a micro example there were 500 shops on Etsy, but only 50 shops were doing really well, 400 were just doing ok and 50 are doing very badly. This new ‘fair’ method is trying to make it so all 500 do well enough, which means the 50 doing really well will suddenly stop doing really well…but not so much as to think it’s over and shut up shop. Any shop that’s doing ‘ok’ on Etsy (a sale every 3-5 days) is going to be less likely to just up and leave than a shop doing very badly. After all a sale is a sale right? Just keep listing and maybe things will pick up...

Let me tell you about something called Bushnell’s Law. Bushnell’s Law states that ‘the best games should be easy to learn and difficult to master - they should reward at the first quarter and the 100th’. It’s a popular business maxim invented in the 80s but used by a great many companies including the industry it came from - video games. What it essentially means is a good system for making money gives the buyer just enough enticement to keep using it - and keep handing over money.

Now let’s apply this to Etsy from the point of view of the people who run Etsy. We can change a few words here….. ‘the best Etsy shops should be easy to start and difficult to succeed in - they should reward at the first listing and the 100th’.

Using that formula, Etsy can keep you ‘pumping the quarters’ (or in this case 20c) and rewarding you now and then with a sale to make you think it’s all worthwhile. It doesn’t make for a lot of successful shops just like Bushnell doesn’t allow for a lot of successful gamers - but they’re not looking for success for their users - they’re just looking for users, period.

Just keep listing...

It might make Etsy sound big-hearted to say ‘we want all shops to get sales’ but in reality they just want a lot of sales from every kind of shop, representing every kind of demographic. Etsy as a whole site doesn't have a target customer; it has a target user (the seller) and makes money from that shop's target customers instead. Not long ago Etsy was doing everything it could to promote and reward the cool brands and the successful sellers - I guess they finally figured out the real money is in dog food, not diamonds. Demographics like supply shops or ‘junk’ under $20 might not look cool, they sure do bring the Benjamins.

So here we have a site with millions of shops, all selling every different kind of thing, with all categories over-supplied, with more listings than search can display - and it’s all run by a company that want the total sales of the site spread out among all sellers rather than a few dominant ones, because it keeps the site looking huge and takes advantage of the vast demographic of users. That’s nothing to strike down; it’s business after all. In their defence they’ve tried to find a solution that leaves everyone fed but all it’s done is leave everyone sharing a pie that doesn’t have enough slices to go around.

So... has your brain melted yet? 

It all might sound very complex and a tiny bit conspiratorial, but the take-away realisation here (and for those of you who just skimmed 'all that ramble') is if you rely solely on their search to be found, you can no longer put faith in being able to make anything more than hobby income on Etsy. You’re just not going to get enough exposure.

But before we throw all this out the window and start kicking things, remember there is much within your control, there is more to being found on Etsy than in search and relevancy still counts. With so many listings in every given search, only the first dozen or so will have any kind of rank-power; the rest are going to be just as relevant as each other.

So let’s look at the ways you can up your chances of being in that top selection, starting with the other criteria that go into your listing's search rank.

In the same video I linked to up above, Etsy Admin talked about the various elements of your shop that affect your rank. To sum up, your position in the Etsy search results is based on:

1. Your relevancy (right titles, tags)
2. Having the listing in a designated category
3. having a completed ‘About’ page and policies
4. having good feedback stars and no open or closed disputes against you
5. How many people clicked on that listing as a result of searching the same keywords
6. If you’re in the UK or Australia, you’ll be shown to your country’s shoppers as priority

Pretty complicated huh? Obviously some things have more weight than others and some effect might fade over time - for example, if you have a listing with 356 views and 125 hearts it’s going to come up high in a search, but those ‘heart points’ will fade in strength over time if they’re not being added to regularly. The more searches that listing appears in and doesn’t get clicked on, the more that listing will drop.
Let’s look at these in more detail: 

1. Relevancy or Etsy SEO is something you should know all about by now! If you still haven’t bothered to learn it, you really can’t blame anyone but yourself on that. Don’t just say ‘oh I don’t care about all that complicated stuff’. If you want traffic from Etsy search, you need to care about SEO. If you sell on Etsy and you’re not bothering with SEO/relevancy then you’re pretty much fobbing off the whole point of being there- the ‘free’ traffic which comes from search. 

Yes there are now other things that will help you get found on Etsy search aside from this relevancy procedure, and yes it does look as if sometimes all that work is for nothing because it's all a big 'merry-go-round of fairness'. But of all the factors this is still the one with the best chance of getting you to page one. In addition to that, buyers are often a little more specific in their search terms after 'green dress'. They narrow it down either using more search terms like 'plus size', 'bridesmaid' or 'boho', and they use the categories to remove what they don't want to see. Making sure your SEO is descriptive to the best of your abilities means your buyer has less pages to wade through to find you.

To determine if what you have now is working, go to your stats page and set it to show stats for ‘this year’.

If search is 4th place or lower in ‘Within Etsy’ traffic searches (the table on the right), you got problems. If your search traffic is in 4th place or higher, don’t bother tinkering with your SEO! You are doing just fine with it - concentrate on other areas of traffic (I’ll get to that in a minute). You can see by my example above (these are my 2015 stats) that search is #3 for me, so I don’t have to worry about my SEO - I’m good at it! 

I did a deep blog post on relevancy some time ago - although it’s old it has been recently updated and the information is all still…well, relevant! You can read it here.

2. Having your listing in a designated category is something you might not consider worth worrying about, but evidence on the forums suggests it does hurt a listing not to be located in as many of the sub-categories as possible.  I'm sure we've all noticed that invasive new drop-down menu that takes over half the screen whenever you mouse across it; these are the new Browse sections and many shoppers use them. If your item doesn't fit in these you got problems. Categories also count as tags.

3. A completed ‘About’ page and policies - Your About page doesn’t have to be anything masterful, just make sure you have one. The search rank can’t see what’s on there, it just cares that it's there. Likewise you should have your policies fill in even if it's just the basics. 

Having a completed ‘About’ page and policies is a bit of an odd one but I can see why this happens - Etsy are trying their best to keep their search results full of professional shops with great presentation. It gives the site good face, ups the likelihood of new customers having good experiences on the site and of course makes Etsy more money - there’s no point helping half-hearted shops with low sales or bad feedback stay visible.

4. Having open cases or bad feedback will cease to affect you over time and while this does count for something, it can be trumped by things like good tags and titles. Controlling this is as simple as having great customer service. You can prompt feedback in your ‘notes to buyers’ which you access from ‘Your Shop>Info and Appearance’ - this is a little blurb that appears on the transaction confirmation everyone gets in their inbox when they buy from you. It might be a good idea to mention to them that like eBay, anything less than 5 stars can damage your shop so if they have any problems what-so-ever they should contact you first for resolution.

5. How many people clicked on that listing as a result of searching the same keywords just means the more a listing gets clicked on, the higher in search it will be for the next person searching those terms. If you search ‘orange spacesuit’, all the listings you click on in that search result will get ‘points’ from the searchbots. The next time someone searches ‘orange spacesuits’ the searchbots will take into account listings that were clicked on by the last person, and assuming this person will also find them relevant, moves those listings a little higher up the page. 

The more this happens to a listing, the higher up the page it will go - that’s why you often see listings at the top of search result that don’t have ‘perfect’ SEO. If something is clicked on and then hearted as a consequence, its rank will go higher. If that same person also buys it (that day or any time after) its rank will jump higher again. So if you have something listed that people heart and/or buy after finding it in search, your ranking for that listing is very strong. 

An important point I want to make here - these are the only clicks that matter in terms of search-rank. All those games people play where they go to each other’s shops and click all over the place and heart the entire first page… don’t work. Yes you get traffic, but it’s what I call ‘junk traffic’ - unless those people in that team are searching for your listings and then clicking/hearting that way, it’s worthless and quite frankly a waste of time.

There’s a concern amongst sellers that listings benefiting the most from click rank are those with a quantity of ‘more than one available’ for that listing. Listings with ‘only 1 available’ won’t stick around in search for long because no matter how much click rank they get, once they sell, they’re gone from search. This mostly affects makers of ‘one of a kind’ (OOAK) and vintage dealers. 

I don’t think this is something you need to worry about for several reasons. Firstly, if you sell OOAK or vintage then you should be getting most of your traffic from social media (more about that in a minute) and B - you sold your thing! And that after all is the whole point of it being there. 

Additionally, your search rank will not really matter if your field of competition is also largely ooak. For example, in a search for ‘custom painted doll’ nearly everything is going to likely be ooak so listings will not likely have to compete for click-result. Similarly, if you’re selling a vintage donkey painting then there’s not going to be a lot of other donkey paintings to compete with. Also the buyer is looking for something very specific, so just because your donkey painting/custom painted doll comes up in first place, doesn’t mean yours is what they’re looking for (and that goes for a lot of searches).

But if for example you make sterling silver and gemstone jewelry and you only make one of every design, your search rank will pale in comparison to others who will make the same ring over and over again and who therefore use the same listing, riding high on its accrued ranking.

Having said that though, I just did a search for 'sterling moonstone ring' and one of the higher results was a 'quantity of 1'. It did have a lot of hearts - it also had a fairly high price (comparative to most shops) and I'm theorising this has actually helped. Plenty of people clicked on it in search just to look, never intending to buy. It didn't sell but it gave the listing search rank, so if you sell 'quantity of 1' at a high price your rank shouldn't be too badly affected. (Did I just tell you to raise your prices again? YES.)

6. If you’re in the UK or Australia, you’ll be shown to your country’s shoppers as priority - this is something largely out of your control and I’m currently on the fence about whether it’s good or bad. If you live in these countries and you sell something a lot of US shops also sell, you might find your overseas orders have slowed or stopped.

Some forum goers are complaining of this, however I don’t think it’s much to worry about. For starters it’s helping you boost your presence in your home country market - always a good thing! - and for seconds, if you have a unique product that stands out for one or many reasons then your customers will find you no matter where you live. My vintage supply shop (Fagin’s Daughter) hasn’t seen any downturn in non-Australian traffic, and I’d maintain that’s because I sell unique things and have a fairly good following. My Australian buyer rates have gone up though, so I’ve actually benefited from that factor.

Okay, take another moment to unfreeze your brain.

Now that’s covered, I want to go over the other ways to be found on Etsy that isn’t search - primarily the in-house community. There’s a lot that’s out of your control but you can up your chances: 

1. favourites: make sure your photos are clickable, you’ll stand out in a person’s favourites page. 

2. followers: you might not think this helps your exposure because they’re only seeing other stuff you favourited, but when it turns up on their home page it will say ‘favourited by [your shop name] and that reminds them you exist. If this is going to work you need to have public favourites. 

3. suggested/similar items: this turns up under favourites and at the top of people’s activity feed - getting your listing in there is a ‘simple’ as having similar titles and tags to the stuff that Etsy is basing the similarity on. This is really something that’ll just happen as long as your tags/titles are good. Again good photos help here too in order that you catch the eye.

4. Treasury:  Getting found through treasury is again down to having really great photographs, but also in having photographs which appeal to your market audience. Here is where I once again champion dumping the all-white background and using your entire photo as a branded depiction of your shop’s aesthetic. My Fagin listings get in a lot of treasuries because I’m using a visual style that matches my shop’s brand; rustic, romantic, grungy and antique. I get put in treasuries that as a whole appeal to that customer and that helps me get resulting activity. 

You can use this when you build treasuries too - make them with themes that appeal to your customers but include shops who you think would be your customers as well. For example I sell vintage clothing in Miss Foley, so when I make treasuries there I include shops who’s style is also vintage but who don’t sell vintage clothing - it might be make up sellers, candle makers, pin up photographers… This is again where we come back to the old chestnut ‘know your market’. If you don’t know exactly who loves your stuff, you can’t talk to them through your branding.

5. Promoted listings are another way to be found but this is a minefield - a deceptively simple set-up which actually is very complicated. Rather than teaching you how to do it, I’m just going to point you to a brilliant series of you tube videos by Cindy of Jewelryfx. She says everything and anything I could. 

6. Stats let you know where your community efforts are successful. As I said earlier if your search is 4 or higher you’re good on SEO, but where things like ‘treasury’, ‘favourites’ and ‘activity circle’ show up will tell you what's working. I wrote an article on stats some time ago for the Etsy forums; it’s old (before I got banned!) but it’s still good. Read the comment thread too for clarifications and explanations.
Now that you are well and truly over the whole thing… it’s perfectly possible to have a full-time shop on Etsy with a steady stream of sales without bothering with relevancy or he on-site community. To do so, all you need is to list your stuff whenever and however you want and then accept your traffic generation as entirely your responsibility with newsletters and social media. This involves having a specific strategy for your social media; keeping it ‘pure’ to your shop’s purpose and keeping it consistent, high quality and connected. This as you may well imagine is not easy and unless that sort of thing comes very naturally to you, can easily take up much more time than simply learning your SEO. Personally I believe your traffic generation should be 20% Etsy generated, 80% social media generated. This is entirely to do with everything I’ve just said - Etsy traffic is just not enough.

If you don’t want to bother with social media or SEO - in other words you just want to list and do as you please and not worry about ‘all that other junk’ - or if you’re sitting there thinking ‘but I’m just a hobby seller doing it for fun!’ …then I have some bad news for you. Etsy is no longer a site where a hobbyist can expect decent visibility. The days of just doing as you please on Etsy are long gone. Competition is higher than ever before; new sellers are coming into the game every day, many of them with a higher professional standard than ever before. Every category is over-saturated and the complex search algorithm leaves those who don’t come up to scratch out in the proverbial cold.

All this branding, socialising and engineering you need to do is enough in itself to negate the hobby status. So if you just want to list your things and walk away, it’s all over for you. Feel free to prove me wrong - I would love to see that! I haven’t met anyone with a hobby shop who genuinely only puts in hobby time with no social media, no real SEO and no in-Etsy socialising and still makes a worthwhile return on investment. 

Many of the shops on Etsy who are complaining ‘some kind of change has killed their sales’ are these kinds of hobby shops and simply aren’t presenting that well. They have poor SEO, no social media, are selling products that are abundant in other shops and/or on the receding end of being trendy. And all of them use the method of listing and then just waiting for Etsy to bring the views. 

Selling on Etsy is not as simple as ‘list it and they will come’. It’s perpetually seen as such and the myth still abounds that you too can set up a shop full of items and watch the gravy train pull into your station. Not on your life! Having an Etsy shop isn’t much different than having any other online shop; you need to generate traffic. Especially now with these new complicated algorithms, there’s only so much traffic you’ll get relying on Etsy search and in-site community exposure like treasuries.

So I end with a home truth. Your low sales are your fault and your problem. But you are also the solution.

I can help you with those solutions, but it'll come later. Right now I want you to take ONE single pledge, right now on the New Year.
Promise me you will stop leaving it to Etsy to bring your traffic.

And have a happy New Year! 2016 is going to be astounding.

Pssst! Want to know more? There's a Part Two!


BowlingTrophyWife said...

Thank you SO much for posting this. I absolutely believe in serendipity and it was most serendipitous that I ran into this blog as the first one I've read in the New Year. I've an Etsy shop for over five years and while I've done well making a bit of 'rainy day' money here and there, I've really been feeling the urge to start selling in earnest. I've got a local gallery representing my work and in the past year or so, I've noticed those 'patterns' of sale/no sale showing up. To be honest as well, I've not done a whole lot of 'deep' research into Etsy and their practices. Happily - and bless you - you've truly done the legwork and I feel a bit remiss in MY attention to my own shop. I'll truly take this to heart and start my Etsy New Year in a more informed manner. Thanks again - and Cheers! Nancy - aka The Monocle Peepshow at Etsy

Just Jen said...

Whew, Penny! Great post. One of my 2016 goals is to resurrect my etsy account and attempt to use it for more than looking at pretty things! Looks like I have my work cut out for me but am up to the task. I'll be following your advice closely. Thanks for doing this!

Lucie Tales said...

First of all, it's so great to see you back!!
Then, thank you for this tutorial. I realise I need to work seriously and urgently on my SEO... as search is 7th in my stats. 2015 was a troubled year as my hands were injured so I couldn't work regularly but not only my hands are now in working condition but I also intend not to leave it to Etsy to bring me traffic, that's a promise!

darlene said...

Thank you Penny! So insightful and thorough. Cheers!

AB71 said...

Penny, Happy New Year to you!! I must say this post in incredible. I still read the etsy forums daily, even though I have given up on selling, I wanted to stay in the loop if I ever decided to come back. My shop was certainly a hobby venture and I had success early on. With the changes to etsy and the additional time required just to be 'seen" I jumped off the boat in 2014.

I could see the changes... the huge influx of sellers, the required SEO knowledge, required social media plan and truthfully it is way more than this hobby seller was willing to do for a little pocket change. I would have to decide to become a full time seller and make the huge time investment in order to continue on.

Etsy has certainly reworked itself to cater to the masses and many people will do well especially if they read this post you so kindly shared.

Sadly what I miss most about the 'old etsy' was the unique finds and the front page that allowed for unexpected "must-haves" I would add to my favorites. I miss taking the money earned on Etsy to buy from other wonderful Etsy sellers. Now with their erratic search and my favorites page dominated by items similar only to those items I have purchased long in the past, even finding something to buy on Etsy is a challenge.


Donna Angelo said... just blew my mind! Now, I need to read it again. Thanks so much much for this insightfull and well formulated, relatable post. ☺

Martha Lytton Van Trees said...

Thanks for such a detailed and informative article. Unfortunately, I find it difficult to take it all in. It's just so much! I'm looking forward to your promised future solutions. Could one of those be where to hire someone to manage one's Etsy shop? Some of us are good at creating but really bad at business. In the 9 to 5 world, consultants are hired for people/companies that need that kind of help. Why isn't there anyone out there offering this type of service for small, on-line businesses? Seems to me someone who offered Etsy shop management services would make a small fortune.

Tammie Everly said...

Thanks for taking the time to explain all this. By the way I love your Pinterest page too.

Cookie said...

Thank you so much for this post. I just found your blog & will now be following. I'm fairly new on Etsy & have done better than I expected considering what I have put into my shop. However, with the new year, my plan is to make my shop a priority.

Your post has confirmed what my line of thinking was concerning the changes Etsy has made. I have followed the forums there for several years. Thank you for making me feel better about my SEO efforts as my stats show "search" is number 1 for me.

It's great to read such quality information. Again, thank you!

Gerry Thrush said...

Wonderful article & much I didn't know about. One thing I'm very happy about is SEO, it is #2 so I'm doing something very right. The rest was very interesting & something I feel will help me in the future. Thank you.

Steph said...

THANK YOU for taking the time to write and share this article! It is very interesting, helpful, and easy to understand. Search shows as #2 for me so that made me happy as I am contstantly fretting over SEO! I am sharing this with all of my Etsy shop owning friends!

fancylinda said...

Hi, Thanks for taking the time to write this out! How do you tell when a shop's most recent sale was? I don't see this information when I look at a shop's sold items.

Miriam Schulman said...

awesome article! Thanks for taking the time to write this.
makes a lot of sense.
I have come to see etsy as a place to make new customers but it is up to me to get them to return through email marketing/social media

Susan said...

Thank you for putting into a concise format that everyone can understand and do somethng with the info if they choose to! I am going to readit multiple times and share with my tribe.

Sam Williams said...

Wow, the first article I have read that couldn't be any simpler or clearer and it explains a lot about why things have got quieter. I sell jewellery which is hard in an already swamped market. My shop isn't my main source of income but has always been more than a hobby. However, I have been thinking for a while about closing my shop because although I do get sales, it takes up most of my spare time what with listing, tweaking, promoting etc and all I seem to do these days is work. I think this article has sadly made my decision much easier but good luck to lots of future sales for everyone else who reads this article.

Penelope said...

@Sam Williams The feeling that we constantly need to tweak, re-write and swap things around on a regular basis is one of the things that bothers me most about Etsy - it's one of those things recommended that makes us feel like we're in control, but it's so unnecessary! Or at least it should be...

anna c said...

Thanks so much for this excellent info. I will read the links you posted.
I have just separated my shop into 2 shops. I was selling jewelry and various forms of original art and thought it would be best to split up the offerings into to distinct shops.
Gotta get busy learning to do Instagram and make my biz FB and Pinterest work.
Anyone have feedback about having one shop with various types of products in it?

MartaWeaverJewelry said...

I appreciate the time and effort it took to write such a informative and helpful article. Many thanks!

kamani74 said...

Thanks so much for a practical and clear informative article. It really opened my eyes to what I need to do to promote my shop better. Thanks

Gari Anne said...

Great post and confirms what I have been thinking for quite some time. Thanks so much for your insight and information!

Gena said...

Needed this!! I am one of those people that complained! My sales dropped completely a few months ago and I will make it my come back year in 2016!

Malea Ann said...

Wow! Thank you for taking the time to put this together! My views have been fairly steady and my items typically rank well, but I know there are other tweaks I can make within my shop. This article reinforced that I'm actually doing a lot RIGHT. I needed that mental boost! :)

Estella Star of the East said...

Thank you so much for your time and effort, it was a very en-lighting post. Our main shop (staroftheeast) has drastically dropped in sales this year(2015) and what you said made a lot of sense. I was planning to take new pictures and improve a lot of tags, this is just what I needed to read for the right kick to the behind :) We have 6 Etsy shops, while reading I checked the search stats, 4 of them are in #3, one is #2 and one is #1 in search traffic. The one on #1 had the most sales this year, so it seems even #3 is not that great SEO/ search wise and could be improved. And indeed social media is becoming more and more important I have been working hard to establish followers on several platforms (something that was not needed in the earlier years). Anyway thank you for your post, and indeed let's make 2016 an awesome year :)

Penelope said...

@Martha Lytton Van Trees Ha! I think they'd be very busy! :D It's actually my dream (well part of it) to run an online store which is stocked entirely with handmade goods and managed by me. I like to think of what I'm doing here now as 'the seed' of that. :)

Penelope said...

@Estella Star of the East that's what frustrates me so much - we have a drop in sales and always we run for the tweaking and re-editing; all the gorgeous imagery in the world won't help if we disappear from search after a sale. Etsy used to say '5 or higher' for search but I bumped it to 4th. I think there comes a point where your SEO is as good as it can be and improvements are just gilding the lily.

Gardanne said...

Totally amazing post. Thank you so much for all your time and effort.

Zsófia Tóth said...

Thank you very much for this post!
I'm not gona lie, my brain hurts after reading it but it is full of useful infos and gorgeous suggestions that I will defenetly consider!!
Thank you!
I shared this post on my facebook page, I hope it will arrive to many great seller :)
Zsófi from Boho Nest

Catherine Porche said...

Thank you for explaining what happened!! My husband and I have separate Etsy shops and had both felt the disturbance in the Force but weren't clear on what it was!!

That being said..If 80% of my traffic is going to be self generated do you feel like the hobbyist+ might fare better at a free venue like Square Up? I have been pondering leaving Etsy because I fell like if I'm doing my own heavy lifting why should I pay someone else? Plus, since they became publicly traded and answering to share holders etc, I have lost that loving feeling for them.

I am a hobbyist with lofty dreams and had been doing well enough. As you said, it was good enough to keep me stringing along but not as good as it had been and positive growth stopped. My Square Up shop is beautiful and looks very bespoken and may be just the thing if I am to do the work and be the master of my destiny. Thanks for doing so much and explaining it so clearly!!

Penelope said...

@Catherine PorcheWell yes - I do think a lot of sellers are better off with their own stand-alone website, since as you mentioned you're doing all the heavy lifting. I'll be talking about that in my next post later today!

Alessandra said...

Thank you so much for writing this article, there were so many things I didn't even consider! I appreciate your time and effort into writing this and making it available for everyone! I'm gonna get busy and seek more exposure from Social media :)

Dixie Cutler said...

I think I feel a headache coming on but you have confirmed my feeling that I need to re-assess my shop and increase use of social media.

Gaby Brereton said...

Really great article, thank you so SO much for taking the time to research and write it! I get very very low views even with putting effort into promoting on social media. But having read this, I think my problem is that in trying to be professional, I removed all of my personality from my posts. I have no brand because of it. I also take most of my product photos against a white background. Having read this, I'm going to try to come up with an idea for a background that suits me and my items, and to start interacting with people rather than just posting on social media.

Thanks again! ♥

Roselle A said...

THANK YOU for one of the clearest, most concise and to the point but easy to understand posts I have ever read. I can not wait to read further advice from you about upping the Social Media game.
Happy New Year and here's to a very successful 2016 for you!

Roselle A said...

THANK YOU for this well thought out, informative and easy to understand article. I can not wait for your future posts regarding Social Media.
Happy New Year!

OrnatelyLanterns said...

Go to shop sales, then click on "list view" (top R of sales list). The list of sales will then appear with a date in the centre column - that date is the date on which the item sold.

sole said...

Thank you so much for the great article! It was just what I needed at the moment: I've been trying to learn about SEO and web marketing lately. A few weeks ago I rewrote almost all my listing titles and checked the descriptions and tags. My Etsy search was #5 in stats last year and now (last month) it's #4. I hope it was because of the changes I made. SEO is challenging but even more challenging in foreign language (my native is Finnish).
I've been following your blog for a few years, and I love you jewelry and pictures.

Patty Villanova said...

Where have you been all my life?? What a fantastic article. I also love that you've been banned from the forums. That really enhances your street cred. Here's a question for you. When it comes to promoting my Etsy shop, I have hired a promoter whom I've been working with for the past year. If it wasn't for her, I doubt I would be making the sales that I do in both my shops. One of them is vintage, the other is handmade, and of course 99% of my items are OOAK. What is your feeling about outside promoters? Thanks again!

Penelope said...

Patty, I can't find a way to reply to you so I hope you'll return here to check in! I'm not entirely sure about promoters - I've had very little experience with them and since I don't know what yours does exactly it's difficult to comment. From my perspective, handmade should be promoted only by the maker and various blogs/websites within the audience of that maker. Promotion of a vintage shop could be done through a third party but they would have to have a very good idea of where your market is and target them well. My idea of the ideal vintage shop is the same as handmade - there's a story and a purpose/passion for what you sell, and it's connecting to the audience through that passion that really brings the traffic. Authenticity.

I suppose it comes down to this - do you get enough sales to make what you pay her worthwhile? The answer to that is probably your answer. :)

jewelshart said...

Great article! I have often thought that it's like Etsy has a switch on my shop which they control. When I get sales I just figure - oh I guess it's my turn now!

Judy said...

Thank you for this! So much to take in and digest. So much work to do. Guess I'll be working on an about page tomorrow, etc.

Interesting how they control and limit how our items show in search. Sorry to hear that you are "banned" from the forums.

RT said...

Great article! I spent 7 months preparing and researching before I opened a shop. "Search" is number 2 in my stats and I have over 350 sales in 7 months.....and I worked for it! BUT, In truth, this half of what my goal was.

I am back in research and planning mode. What I am deficient in is promoting through social media. My goal this year is to utilize these avenues to improve my exposure and sales. I hope you will speak of these more in future posts. Thank you again for the post!

Steve said...

In the article you refer to a site that sold some items in the last three days and also have some sales in the last three weeks. How can one tell when the sales occurred? Great article by the way.

Penelope said...

@Steve You just just go to the shop's sold page, then click the tiny squares on the right, right next to 'most recent'. The one that doesn't look like a window will give you a list view of the shop and it will tell you when things sold. :)

Simple and Posh Crafts said...

This is such a fantastic article! I've shared it with fellow Etsy shop owner friends. I am one of those Etsy shops who has been seeing an almost 75% decline in sales starting in late 2015. For two years the sales would just keep coming without any effort and I was working nonstop and turned it into a full-time job. Now, I'm lucky to get a sale once every 4-5 days. It's very discouraging and worrisome as my income has plummeted to near nothing. I've worked on SEO tags, social media, and adding listings and nothing is helping. The only thing is I checked my Search for 2016 and it's #1. I'm not sure why I'm at record lows if that's the case. Any input?

Penelope said...

@Simple and Posh Crafts - thanks so much for your story; frustrating but it backs up what I was thinking so I'm 'glad' to hear it. If Search is #1 for you then the first thing you can do is cheer, because you don't need to work on your SEO! It's already giving you the best Etsy traffic for your product.

The problem of the gap between your search rank and your sales is that while people are finding you through search, it's just not happening enough for the percentage of views to translate to sales (not everyone who views us is looking to buy). I'll send you a shop convo in case you don't come back to read this.

Gena said...

@ simple and posh... I am in the same exact boat as you. Exact same thing is going on with my shop and I have done everything I can! With over 13,000 followers on social media and growing, I know people want my product. With search as my #1 I have to agree they are just simply not seeing it as they used to.

woodman said...

You have a serious misunderstanding about how search works, which has lead to a seriously flawed conclusion.
There are less than 350 RELEVANT results for red beaded necklace. All one would need to do to show up in the first 9 pages is to have that term exactly in the title and in one tag.
You have made a newbie mistake.

Penelope said...

@woodman - if you read my post properly, you'll find I understand the way search works just fine. The entire point of my post's second half was using accurate/matching titles and tags will get you the best results. The other elements of search's function come straight from Etsy Admin themselves; if I don't understand it then neither to they.

Perhaps you're looking at a different search system to me - when I search 'red beaded necklace' I get 75,926 items (up considerably from the time of this post) - even narrowing it down through the side categories there are still 59,151 results.

Calling me a newbie is quite condescending and inaccurate - Etsy has been an everyday experience for me for 8 years this March. I welcome all opinions here but do try to keep it constructive.

Laura Dodson said...

I'm relatively new to Etsy and the numbers don't seem to add up when I'm calculating the odds. Getting found on Google also has similar challenges. There are only so many spots on the first page. Long talk searches seem to work best for me on both Etsy and Google. Thank you for writing this informative analysis.

The Chilly Dog said...

Great article! When I realized that all of my views and customers were coming directly from my social media posts, my blog and my newsletter it became very clear to me that I no longer needed to sell on Etsy. Why should I pay Etsy to list and relist items when they are not generating any traffic for my shop?

Vintagestar Paris said...

Cannot thank you enough for sorting through all of this, getting it down to "paper" and sharing it with us! I can vouch for so much of what you wrote, from personal experience, and it is great to be able to get a handle on what is happening on etsy right now, so that I can best manage it. Great job.

Linda Yourgreatfinds said...

Very well written article! The only thing that I can add is that personalized search and semantics are huge players in the mix. A sales platform whether it be Etsy, RL, ebay or a website is just a place for your inventory to live. The biggest piece of the puzzle regarding what happened is google search. Sales platforms no longer have listings showing in google search, just a search. This greatly impacted everything. It is up to you to lead your customers to your shop.

3vintagehearts said...

thank you for fabulous article that even ETsy New Shop owners can navigate thru the article and understand!
Posting at my team for all members to read!
we will be looking forward to your next segment!!!

woodman said...

A newbie looks at the number that etsy shows for a search. it is meaningless.
The only number that matters is how many RELEVANT items are in that search.
You focus on the meaningless number.If those 75000+ listings (shipping to the US) wanted to be shown high in that search, then they would have the term in the title and in one tag. They choose not to.

Penalizing those that do know how to rank high by "jumbling up the order" is nonsensical.

Do you even know how to find how many RELEVANT items are in a search.
It is the most important factor in examining a search, and you dont even mention it.

Penelope said...

@woodman If I search 'red beaded necklace' and get 75k+ listings in return, Etsy's search has determined those listings to be relevant to my search term. Then I narrow down the results by choosing categories. If there's some additional measure by which I can extract the relevant results please share it, if you can manage to do it politely and not with your current air of borderline disgust.

A small amount of people choose not to worry about SEO, others try very hard to understand it. What I'm sensing here is that you're put out by the idea someone could work very hard on their SEO only to have it taken from them by additional factors. I agree- it is frustrating to me and thousands of other Etsy sellers who've worked hard to get their SEO right.

But when I use search as I do often through the day, all those top results should have fantastic SEO, and they don't. Even taking into the account the other factors in search rank there's still something going on. I'm just trying to understand.

fanciful devices said...

How did I miss this? My mind is so blown. I live in such a bubble like I sidestepped it all by... Living in my bubble.
Well before even finishing this I checked my stats. My biggest search term is fancifuldevices and it wasn't even in 80% of my item tags. Which I know you told me to put it in everything but I forgot but now I have.
I, too, may have to reread.
You are a rock star where would I be without you?

Gena said...

@woodman. I've been selling on Etsy for 6 years, first few years I made 100k a year. In 2015 there was a did officiant change and all of a sudden it's like my page fell out of sight. I can literally copy and paste my exact name listing, word for word and it will take me 8 pages to find it. My listing names is relevant, in fact it's the only single thing I searched for and other things came up. Something has changed and is definetly wrong with that.

Gena said...

*a big or significant change*

My phone has a mind of its own sometimes 😩😉

woodman said...

that 75000 number is the number of listings that have red, beaded and necklace somewhere in their title and/or tags. They could have Set of Green earrings, red brooch, beaded belt, black necklace as their title. That wont rank high, as etsy judges that to be less relevant than a title of Red Beaded Necklace, and a tag of red beaded necklace. As you can see from the first 7 pages and most of page 8 EVERY single listing does that. There are 332 of those. Then you will see that term in the title, and the words spread among multiple tags.
Then the words split up in the title, then etc etc.
That progression determines where a listing will rank more than any other factor.
Here is page 998 from that search

quite a difference in titles and tags from page 1.

Any theory on why things rank where they do has to start with that progression. Yours didnt.

Focusing on that big scary number persuades sellers to avoid that search. In this case the real number of competing listings is 332. You have to find that number out for yourself. Took me 2 minutes.

Penelope said...

@woodman My post didn't start with that procession, no - it ended with it.

The progress of my post is pretty much

- here's a thing that's happening on etsy

- here's a thing that MIGHT be happening within it

- here's how you can get in the top search and avoid being left out

then I talk about titles and tags. That's in the second part of the post (just after Japanese business cat). I also link to an earlier post on titles and tags and how to do them properly. On this subject we are in agreement. The main reason for the first part of the post was to talk about how Etsy runs itself now but the overall message was to not assume your item will be found in search purely because you listed it.

Rebecca Lane said...

Great article Penny thank you, I DO make that pledge. You have pretty much summed up everything I have also learnt in my time on Etsy and I am working at it with you x Good luck for 2016! x

Dena's Vintage Closet said...

Very informative article! Thanks for all the work you did! It makes perfect sense to me now. I checked my stats and my vintage shop must have good SEO as search comes up number one. I must be doing something right. I have noticed that I have periods of time when I have really great sales and then nothing! Sometimes it doesn't seem to matter how hard I work or how much I post new listings. I get crickets!! Then, suddenly, things start hopping again for no apparent reason. I had just decided that there is no rhyme or reason to it. I think Etsy manipulates it all and it's the luck of the draw as to whether or not your items show up in search... eventually. Thank you for your helpful comments.

Linda said...

I always thought that my sales seamed to come from someone flipping a switch off and on. This confirms it.

woodman said...

The main reason for the first part of the post was to talk about how Etsy runs itself now but the overall message was to not assume your item will be found in search purely because you listed it.
Obviously it will if you are relevant for the term since very few have more than 250 pages of relevant listings. Why would anyone assume they will appear if they are Not relevant??
You can assume that you will appear in 99% of searches you want to appear in, just like the red necklace example. If you want to be in first 8 pages, you are guaranteed
If you want to be page 1 for sterling moonstone ring, thats also guaranteed.

It all might sound very complex and a tiny bit conspiratorial, but the take-away realisation here (and for those of you who just skimmed 'all that ramble') is if you rely solely on their search to be found, you can no longer put faith in being able to make anything more than hobby income on Etsy. You’re just not going to get enough exposure.
thats just plain wrong. The changes they have made are small. There is plenty of internal traffic here to make a full time income just by mastering search. There are a lot of us who are living proof.

Penelope said...

@woodman did it not occur to you that this blog has a specific audience, and that the takeaway realisation was written specifically for them? My readers sell mostly art and assemblage jewelry, handmade, one of a kind, unique stuff that's not everyone's cup of tea. That's who I write for, that's who I'm helping. In that sense I am most certainly not wrong.

I have no idea what you sell but there's 'living proof' on both sides of this fence. If you can still make a living selling handmade goods on Etsy with only Etsy searching bringing 100% of your traffic, I wish you the best, you're the kind of shop the system is made for.

I feel like you're starting to argue for the sake of it now - this entire conversations is pointless. As for your guarantee, that's just bullshit. I've done searches for highly relevant listings and not found them. Just because you've not experienced it, doesn't mean it's not happening.

I don't intend to continue talking to you about this. Nothing I can say is going to convince you I know what I'm talking about. If you're not happy with what's written here, please feel free to leave.

woodman said...

I make ooak handmade.

Your not understanding how search works is CLEAR by your examples.

How did you miss that the moonstone search has less than one page of relevant items, so those other things you bring up are moot? Just having STERLING MOONTSTONE ring in your title and in your tags puts you on page 1. Thats it. But you go on to make up a bunch of nonsense about why things are on page 1.

Or that being relevant for the red necklace search GUARANTEES you will be seen in the first 8 pages?

thats just bizarre. I feel sorry for anyone who takes any of this blog post seriously. It isnt helpful. And you defend giving out bad information, rather than looking to see what is the truth.

woodman said...

as far as not being able to find a listing that is relevant for a search term in the group of relevant items. That is happening. Even in smallish searches where there is no reason for it.
It is either a bug or intentional. I think its intentional as they are showing different versions of a search to different people, and those versions change over time. So, if you dont find it now, in an hour you might.
The counter move is to be in as many searches as possible, so even if that method of displaying results is widespread, the effects can be softened.
It is a big chess game.

Penelope said...

Well, if my information is so terrible, why don't we just conclude that I have no idea what I'm talking about and I obviously don't understand how search works. Even though I consistently hit the first page with all my listings, and my search rank is high and everyone I help sees vast improvements. Why don't we assume you know everything, and that anyone who listens to me is to be pitied. That way, you can go somewhere else and this pointless carousel of disagreement can end.

For my part in ending it, I will no longer be publishing your comments. If you want to comment with a link to your Etsy shop so I can see your OOAK handmade which you sell enough to make a living from using only Etsy search and zero social media, please do. But I won't permit any more fruitless arguing.

richarefoolish said...

I love etsy but this scares me. Since day one Ive done no promoting except a few pins on pinterest, and Ive done awesome for my own standards. Etsy really has done all the work for me so far. I don't mean to be rude or anything when I say this, its just the way its been for me. I do apprecaite your article a lot it has a lot of good info. I'm sure the day will come when etsy will make it harder for me and I'll need to do the social media thing. Best article ive read in a while very informative.

richarefoolish said...

I do agree with this. Except for the beginning about the semantics of her article setup. Its really sad because I think a lot of people search for in depth answers about why they are failing but they don't realize their product is not wanted. It took me years to create something people actually wanted, lots of trial and error. But seriously if you cant get sales on etsy with good SEO, and without promotion on Instagram you may not have a product that people want. its a harsh reality and some people just ignore it.

richarefoolish said...

wait you really believe that you can just put a tag in a title and it gets you on the first 8 pages? are you serious? ive been successful on etsy for a year and its not that easy. you need the right words and you need other elements to get you on those first pages!! Like viewing stats, favorites- etsy does NOT just put you on page 1 because you type in a word on your title. Sorry dude your totally wrong on this one.

Penelope said...

@richarefoolish Can you point out to me where I said adding a tag to your title gets you in the first 8 pages? I can't find it and if it's there I'd like to remedy it because no I don't! You have a better chance of getting in high rank if your tags and titles are both matching and accurate to the customer's search. As for the other elements I do talk about them, I agree they have power.

I agree Etsy's not easy, not any more. I do have to disagree with this: "if you can't get sales on etsy with good SEO, and without promotion on Instagram you may not have a product that people want". For the people I write for on this blog, social media is critical. They make unique things and need the social media to help them get in front of the right customers. I know a lot of successful artisans who were struggling to be seen before they developed their social media. Their products were great, they were just lost in an ocean of sellers. They may not making something a lot of people (read: regular folk) want, but they do make desirable things.

JP said...

@Penelope Thank you very much for this extremely informative article. I opened two Etsy shops in 2015 and I've done well, but definitely noticed the "rolling wave" pattern of sales. I have extremely strong sales with my items that have unique modifiers, and now I understand the dynamic of the competition factor. My search within Etsy is in the #1 position for both shops. My photography is spot on, as is my use of tags, title, and body. Also, I always use all five photographs which helps.

My weakest link, and what I have got to master in 2016 is social media. While I am on and use most of the major ones, I don't feel like I am a savvy user posting compelling content. I've got to work on this!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to research and share. I truly appreciate it!


Clare said...

What a great, helpful post! So generous of you to share this information, and it is much appreciated. Time to get to work on my social media!


luv said...

I so appreciate your article. It explains so much. I will definitely have to step it up if I want to continue to sell on ETSY--I've been there for about 8 years and each year it gets harder to sell anything. Thank you! Joy

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure I know who "woodman" is on etsy.....think he's a plant and an etsy cupcake who merely wants to perpetuate the "myth" of how easy it is to sell there.


Sandi MacDougall said...

thank you very much. This is excellent information. I feel so much better after reading what your said about the "search" within Etsy rankings. I won't stress so much about my tags and titles. I am obviously doing those correctly.
Sandi from

Renee RZ said...

Amazing post!

Angela Kadingo said...

i agree.. I wish that I could find someone to do that for me... I spend way too much time on social media of all types trying to get my shop noticed and not enough time creating... being an etsy seller really isn't a one person possibility any longer.. I need help!!!!

Soaring Hawk Vintage said...

This is one of the most factual, honest, and well researched articles I've read on etsy search analysis and the new algorithm ... thankfully from a seller's perspective --- and thankfully not written by someone trying to sell their services or coaching. Believe it...the "merry go round" cycle is REAL. Vintage sellers this is survivable with the recommended seo techniques above; handmade sellers, you have a harder fight to stand out if selling more popular items.

Anonymous said...

As of today, this article is, if possible, even more relevant than ever. Based on hundreds of new comments on the forums, it appears that either Etsy is doing another major test or else there's some kind of hideous bug or both. Either way, it has gotten much harder to get found for handmade one of a kind and vintage sellers, even with all the great advice we received from Penelope.

Readers should note that Chad had a lot to say when the quarterly report came out this past week. Etsy's earnings were up due almost entirely to "seller services" which include promoted PPC ads.

They have it all figured out, just like at the casino. Just when you're at the point where you want to close up shop, low and behold you sell something. And that keeps you on the hook a little bit longer.

Another important admission by Chad is that the promoted listings are almost entirely geared to volume sellers which is Newspeak for mass produced Chinese goods. In other words, they want people who will promote items that are not singletons, that are by definition mass produced, not handmade or vintage.

Even though I use a promoter to help get my shops out there on FB, Twitter, et al, it seems that hardly any views now turn into sales. I have also used promoters on Fiverr and believe that they are getting nothing but robot clicks, no matter what their claims are. For $5 you end up getting literally 1000s of views, but never any sales.

I am using this article like my new Bible, to try to make sure I'm doing the best that I can. But at this point the handwriting is on the wall and I'm looking to set up another shop somewhere else, maybe Shopify, Ecrater or one of the other platforms.
Any thoughts or advice on that subject would be appreciated.

Again, many thanks for a fantastic article.

Penelope said...

@anonymous - Etsy have been engineering their site to serve the multiple quantity listing for years; I wrote a lengthy article about it back in 2013 but I had to take it down because it was a spam magnet! I've been reading 'that thread' in the forums today and I can see the real problem unspoken, I'm going to add it to another blog post in the next day or two.

As to moving sites... it's true Etsy holds our success in the palm of their hands - everyone who's listings are missing today are showing us that; relying on search to bring income is becoming more of a gamble than a strategy. However, I think it's fine for people to stay on etsy as long as you're putting just as much effort into social media marketing as you do actually running your Etsy shop. There are still merits to being there - but then it also depends what you sell! It's a real pro/con situation. I hope to blog about this too, soon.

Arleen Rexrode said...

My shop on Etsy has been an amazing adventure since late 2012. Every year I have learned more and you are so correct. If you don't put time into SEO and Social Media you may as well throw in the proverbial towel.
It has taken a long time to get to the point that I am at, but I work a full time job during the day and my full time job (my shop) in the evening.I have a steady growth in traffic, but I still have a long way to go.
Thank you so much for the enlightening blog. Now I am going to apply what I have just learned from you.

Lynda Hatches said...

Yep that and being popular are what it takes. Etsy is only after getting your money to stay on top.

knitnscribble said...

Great post, very informative. Funny, I complained to Etsy about no sales a year or so ago, they told me to change my keywords, I did, had one sale, hardly anything since. It's really amazing how Etsy controls the views and probably the reason why I should stop being its "chump in residence."
The value of Etsy is in its name recognition to browsers and buyers, not its business ethnic for sellers.

HRT said...

Excellent article, which really makes sense. Thank you for sharing it.

Victorian Tailor said...

Thank you for putting this together and all the research you have done!! I have always wondered why when I put the exact same wording of my listings into the search nothing comes up that is even close to it. I always thought and still do that this is odd. Again, I will read and re-read your article, very handy to have,
Thanks so much

Kat said...

Thank you so much for this post, it's seriously shed some light on the purchasing patterns that I've noticed in my Etsy shop lately, I had no idea!
I really appreciate that you're sharing your experiences and insight- I'll definitely be passing this article on to others in the community who are in the same boat.
Cheers to a happy, creative and profitable spring,

qsettings said...

great read, ty

Emily Collins said...

This was a very impressive post. I have been reading all about Etsy shops through Pinterest because I'm about to launch mine in May. Not a single blog article has been as helpful as this one! SEO is mentioned all the time, but nobody has gone into this kind of depth in explaining what is actually going on in the background. Thank you so much!

kcqueen said...

Wow- Better late than never! Great article- great writing! rationally confirming what I had suspected was a huge problem. (and the fact that you were banned from the forums just ups my respect immeasurably)

The business side of me gets the methods Etsy is using to keep the "seller sales" income flowing, but the seller side of me that worked like a dog to get my shop, SEO and relevancy together, resents the hell out of them (drastically) cutting into my sales!

I'm really trying to get my social media stronger- and then comes a stand alone site!

Thanks so much for great information!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this in depth and informative article which I have now read several times. Your arguments do make sense in the light of some of the "messages" both overt and implied that we have seen coming out of Etsy of late.

Anonymous said...

I'm so behind on this stuff, been on Etsy almost 8 years, with other sellers passing me up all the time on sales, BUT I'm not on any social media,(I deleted all mine awhile back thinking it wasn't doing anything but taking up my time).... that is about to change, thanks for the well wrote post !
Kim @ Charis Baby Designs on etsy!

Anonymous said...

I can't say I read every word you wrote in your post. It is quite long for a novice like me and this is my fault and not your fault at all. I find articles like yours informative but overwhelming. Nevertheless it does give me something to think about for the next several days and it is likely I will try to reread it again. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I've been a long time seller on Etsy for the past 9 years. My sales peaked in 2013 almost making 70K. But I've never relied on Etsy as my only source of income.

I have to say views have been dropping considerably over the past couple of years, and consequently my sales. I've done what I can to stay relevant in terms of Etsy SEO, but I knew there was something weird going on and your article confirmed my suspicion. Etsy has shop seller advisors and they strongly advise you to use Promoted Listings if your views are bad. It totally makes sense!

I refuse to use promoted listings. I still make money selling wholesale and I work with several other online retailers as well as having my own website. I may start dropping my listings on Etsy and migrate more to my online shop. I have not been active on social media - but if I am going to invest my time into it, I'd rather generate traffic to my own business.

Victoria Sorkin said...

This entire article is awesome! You covered a ton of information in a really accessible way -- thanks so much. Just wondering if you have tried relisting items as a strategy for SEO as well? I've been using a tool called Best Auto Renew that helps me relist my older items in my shop as well as restock sold out items automatically. It's definitely saving me time so that I can continue to create new items for my shop. This feature really comes in handy when I'm doing promotions. My theory is that if the listing is newer it will (hopefully) pop up on the first few pages of potential customer's searches.

Penelope said...

Victoria - I don't use renewal as a strategy, no. I analysed my Etsy stats and found no correlation between new and renewed listings and an uptake in views/hearts/sales. If the tool is working for you then by all means use it! Etsy's listing fees are so cheap that even renewing something 5 times is still worth it if the item sells as a result of the renewing activity.

If you don't mind me saying though, I took a look at your Etsy shop and saw a few things you could improve that would get you better results. I won't speak of them here but feel free to convo me over on Etsy any time you like. :)

Antique Ceiling Tins said...

Thank you so much for taking the time and interest in OTHER people's lives on Etsy to write all of this information. I am in the older generation of computer users (always had a real store front). Now I just do shows and sell on Etsy. Etsy is so much harder for this old gal than a store front, though much less expensive. It's been an uphill climb to figure out SEO, tag, title, photographs, yada, yada, yada. In the past 4 months, my sales have slowed down considerably. I have listed more & more items...and now feel like that is throwing good money after bad. My views are down, my sales are down. Sales are coming from mainly past customers. Just not sure what to do to improve sales. Anyway, I truly appreciate that you would care enough to share your thoughts and information with this old gal. Thank you. You get a gold star today for being such a giving person.

umeoneLSL said...

Thank you for sharing this Etsy information in a way that makes perfect sense in a very imperfect world.

DarkRide said...

Thank you very much, Penelope. You've confirmed a number of things for and steered me towards some new tactics. I'm not being found in search. Search is in the top 4 ways shoppers might find me, but the number is low and my shop name is the most used search term by far. Even though my sort of assemblage jewellery is very repeatable, my choice to make limited copies is killing my relevancy. Your suggestion re: treasuries is interesting to me. I was very involved in the old system but dropped out completely after the front page was dropped. It had a huge impact on my visibility outside of my shop and on the way I used the site, or more precisely, didn't use the site. Your post encourages me to become involved in that aspect again.

Joyce Butler said...

Thank you for sharing this. It is a lot to take in but makes a lot of sense. I was told hearting is the way, but I can see how it can be junk.

Wednesday Elf said...

Excellent article and most helpful. I can see several areas I can improve in and I appreciate your in depth analysis.

HormonalUmbrella said...

I suspect greedbay is doing the same thing. It is difficult for sellers , no one is being shown or found easily if at all. But one thing comes to mind... what about the buyers?
I for one do not want to be kept in the dark about what is available to me. As a buyer I want to know what is available. I may choose to buy another item. And I think the showings will become boring to buyers in the long run if so limited...
Great post by the way.

Karen Melton said...

First, I would like to say thank you for taking the time to explain some quite complicated "workings" to us. My question is - If I renew a OOAK listing with a very similar item, ie. my seashell heart shadowbox - same box different shells will the hearts etc. stay? Shop is Toks Treasures

Penelope said...

Karen - the hearts and view strength will stay yes, just make sure you replace the pictures with ones of the exact piece you're selling. I would like to mention you should only do this with things that are virtually the same; that is you don't need to change the tags and titles.

Karen Melton said...

Thanks so much for the quick response :)...yes I'm quite careful...just made sense to keep same tags and titles.

Annie Ayers said...

I just read this post and is very interesting. I'm so down right now. I seemed to have things going pretty well and all of a sudden...nothing. I'm going back and work on a lot of things that seem to be the problem. I really want to thank you for this post. Annie

Urban Heirlooms said...

Fantastic post! Well worth the time it took me to read it and take notes. :) Thank you!

Cara Talbot said...

Best article I've read on etsy. Thank you. I'm truly going to benefit from the information you've provided.
You did say..... 'I haven’t met anyone with a hobby shop who genuinely only puts in hobby time with no social media, no real SEO and no in-Etsy socialising and still makes a worthwhile return on investment.' That's actually me. I've been around for approx. 6 months and have been earning more than my 4 day a week job since month 3. But after reading your post I can see that I need to keep up with what's going on and get involved with social media for sure. Onwards and upwards as if etsy feel through tomorrow so would I and I'm not going to let that happen. Thanks again :)

Penelope said...

@Cara - I took a look at your website, it looks gorgeous! You've clearly put in a lot of effort, much more effort than I would classify as hobby time. :) I managed to find your Etsy shop too, where you were selling digital downloads, which are very much less work than the average Etsy shop because you really only need to make it once. It also means you can re-use the listing, something I have found to be a massive influencer on whether or not Etsy works for a shop.

What I'm specifically talking about here with regard to 'hobby time' are people who make 'quantity of one' things and list maybe once a week and then rely on Etsy search to bring their views. I was writing primarily for the audience my blog has always had - the maker of unique jewelry - and trying to impress upon them the effort that must be invested. It's a full-time job! Looking back on my post now I should've made more of a specification who I was talking to, but then I never thought my little lecture would get so much outside attention! :)

Charles Friezo said...

Thank You for Taking the time to go over all these super great helpful ideas in making your shop more visible! Thanks Again

Alex C. said...

very informative and well written

Debbie said...

Thank you so much for telling it like it is, no matter how painful it is to hear. All the things you talked about I didn't want to believe, because they just seem so ridiculous. I'm curious, how are you feeling about the continuing awful changes that rolled out in April?

Good luck with your shop your work is lovely!

Penelope said...

@Debbie - I'm tearing my hair out over it! There are new developments and I'm writing a second part to this post (taking much longer than I thought it would!!) but things do seem to have taken a turn for the worse. I'[m committed to doing what I can to help. :)

REBEL by FATE said...

Thanks for a well thought out and argued article on the recent changes on Etsy. I really appreciate the points you make, especially about a rotational search relevancy - I have noticed this myself, some days I am very easy to find, other days...vanished.

The only thing I can find to contradict the search rotation when you make a sale argument - there are some shops that makes sales galore and are firmly entrenched on page 1 of several searches. So does the argument just apply to the 99% of the sellers and not the top 1%? If so, I find this to be most troubling...

Thanks again!

Penelope said...

@Rebel - the sellers who are selling like hotcakes and still sitting high in the search results are shops who make the same item over and over again, therefore they are able to use the same listing over and over. When someone clicks on a listing in search, then buys it as a result, that listing gets more 'rank points' in search and is considered more relevant to the next search for that keyword. The whole experience of being pushed back in search after a sale is something that only happens to sellers whose listings are 'quantity of 1'. :)

Susan Rivera said...

FABULOUS post! As a supply seller, I do fine, SEO-wise, yet sales have definitely ebbed. What "terrible changes" occurred in April and when will you complete a post about it?
Also, I randomly found your article while browsing the forums - how do I find you again?
Susan R. :) EthnicBeadShop

Penelope said...

@Susan I love your shop! That you responsibly source your supplies is music to my ears. :)

In truth, I have no idea what happened in April for things to have taken a turn for the worse. Something changed when the new look did and I have yet to figure out what it is, which is why a second post is still in progress! I want to be able to offer something, but right now all I know is in my research, the shops that seem to be doing ok are using Etsy's new policies and selling multiple-quantity products.

This might explain why you're doing 'ok' - you have repeat quantities but you have your own policies. While I *hate* the new policies, they do seem to be putting a dint in things as I've yet to find a shop that's doing suddenly badly who has them.

Penelope said...

Oh I forgot to add- you can find me on this blog, or convo me on my Etsy shop Fagin's Daughter (currently the only one getting my attention). You can also sign up for the newsletter and that will tell you when new content is up. :)

Susan Rivera said...

Thanks! I will sign up for your newsletter now. Your article gave me a lot of "food for thought" - your statement: "Personally I believe your traffic generation should be 20% Etsy generated, 80% social media generated." struck a nerve - I do NOTHING to promote my shop outside of Etsy - I will remedy that. Do you feel that a website is necessary? (Not referring to the "Skin". :)
Thanks again, we live in exciting times!
Susan :)

Penelope said...

@susan - haha the skin! Yeah stay away from that... A website is definitely a great idea if you want your business to be a full time/full income generating one. You'll be able to drive traffic easily with social media if you give your customer a reason to shop with you - and your responsible sourcing is a huge draw! :)

Susan Rivera said...

Thanks again for all the pointers, I am going to review them carefully. I wish every reader here the absolute BEST year ever here on Etsy!
Susan :)

Ioan Rosca Nastasescu said...

Great insight!

denise said...

great informative article - I had no idea about this. I noticed my sales plummeted this year and couldn't figure out why. I checked my stats and I am actually #1 in searches so I'm super happy about that, but I just don't know why i'm not getting any traffic or sales :( It's like I dropped off the face of the Etsy Earth!

lesley jean said...

Thank you a million times over for posting this. For the past year I've thought I was going crazy (and so has my husband.) I went from making a full time income (that grew steadily) from my shop to a very sparse, part time pay off. It has been completely frustrating. Etsy told me the same types of things they often tell other people about improving SEO and changing photographs and adding even more products (to a shop I can barely afford to keep afloat.) None of the language they throw at us has been an actual explanation of why it felt like a switch flipped and I was suddenly in the dark. I still have days where I'll make 8 sales... then for 3 or 4 days, nothing. It equates to a lot of anxiety and very little money. I've been taking whatever I can from my Etsy sales to continue education and change focus so I don't have to rely on Etsy as my sole source of income but that has been rough, too. I know that Etsy is a machine that doesn't care about sellers but 6 years in, it still bothers me that they would make such massive changes that affect real people in real ways. (All to make more money.) I'm in tears. I appreciate all of your research and advice though, truly.

Penelope said...

Lesley, thank you so much for your comment; I wish I was able to reply to you personally but I hope you'll see this. I'm working on another post now (nearly done) which is a kind of catch-up, dealing with more things I've recently discovered about Etsy's methods. I can't say yet that I've found any solutions (though I continue the hunt!) but I can at least make sure we're all armed with as much information as possible in order to make decisions that are best for our businesses. And yes, it bothers me too - very much so.

Anonymous said...

Just want to chime in that I am a top etsy seller who took a huge hit with this new system. It was my full-time job, netting me six figures. All of the changes (promoted listings, search, and then the site redesign) tanked my growth, and sales and views have slowed to a crawl. I now have a full-time job in addition to managing my etsy shop. Talk about "quit your day job," and then go back to your day job!

I'm beyond upset, and am attending Etsy Up to address this face to face. I have been a seller since 2007, and it feels like I'm being punished in search for devoting my livelihood to running a successful shop. Those running successful shops shouldn't be demoted. I've spent ten years in my industry devoted to having the best products, why should my products not be shown for the benefit of someone who is offering something inferior?

I probably could rant for days. It sucks to have everything you've worked for taken away.

Penelope said...

@anon (above me) thank you so much for your comment - there are so many of you right now losing significant amounts with this. I would love to hear how Etsy Up goes; I don't know if you'll see this but there's a second blog post coming in the next couple of days which will hopefully give you some insight.

Susan Rivera said...

Good grief! What is Etsy Up?! (Sounds like a beverage...)

Penelope said...

@Susan it does! It's a conference Etsy is holding at their shiny new office; costs money to go - presumably to keep the 'riff-raff' out! I'd like some sort of live coverage at least so the global audience gets a chance to participate but given the rising tide of problems lately, that's unlikely.

WATTO said...

Great post. Thanks for he insight. My sales are definitely down from last year and your insights have given me some things to think about.

Anonymous said...

I run 3 etsy shops and at my peak was generating just under $300k in revenue. Overnight my sales plumitted for each of the 3 shops and the business is currently at a crawl. Its very frustrating because Ive signed a 5yr lease, purchased expensive machinery, and hired a small staff to help me run the business. Ive tried different tests in order to rank, but nothing Ive done has made an impact. At this point Im just playing the waiting game in hopes that things miraculously change, but im not holding my breath. While I wait it out I'm also looking to see what other small business opportunities I can pursue outside of Etsy or handmade in general.

@penelope thank you for this article and I look forward to hear what you have to say in the next article.

Susan Rivera said...

Hi Anonymous, I really feel for you - I'm wondering if you sell supplies on Etsy? I am a supply seller on Etsy (beads)- my sales have tanked also, yet I feel that contributing factors leading to my loss of sales may be unique to the supply venue. If you are a supply seller, I'd love to connect with you (and any supply sellers following this blog post) and share some ideas on how to "rise from the ashes", lol. Convo me,
Susan Rivera ethnicbeadshop on Etsy

Anonymous said...

@Susan I try not to pity myself too much, because I'm fortunate to have done this well thus far :P But I guess, easy come easy go. I've accepted the reality of the situation, so at this point I just need to figure out if I'm going to stick with Etsy or if it's time to move on.

My shops are not supplies, but are all handmade items. On a side rant, it's really disappointing that Etsy seems to be diverging from their handmade foundation. With so many vendors simply reselling mass produced overseas items, it's come down to competing solely on price and it's beginning to look like the next Ebay. I've contacted Etsy and reported competitors that blatantly violate Etsy policies, but they've done nothing.

Penelope said...

@anon - they will likely continue to do nothing about it. As Etsy gets more and more manufacturing permissions rolled out in it's seller guidelines, the more the obvious mass-made stuff will blend in.

Thank you for your comments - there is a new post coming in the next few days! Just on my last read through. :)

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous on 6/29. Interested to hear what they have to say at the Etsy Up event. Please share!

Anne, Chantress Jewelry, Owner said...

Dear Penny, thank you SO much for this insightful and informative post. I've been selling jewelry on Etsy since 2009 and then opened a chunky bead supply shop late in 2011 named Special Sparkles. It is with this shop that I really got hit hard with the unannounced changes by Etsy that you speak of. In 2012, I had $40,290 in revenue; 2013- $83,761; 2014- $61,373; 2015-$16,310; and this year, $5,100. I knew that competition specifically with China (AliExpress) and trendiness were big factors. But, for that huge of a plunge in 2015, I knew something else that was out of my control was going on. Of course, I couldn't put my finger on it, but you did! Just having the information helps my mind to be at ease because the experience really tore me apart. Please know that I am extremely grateful for earning what I did, but if Etsy would have let us know, I would have made different decisions.

In 2014, I did quit my day job and rented a studio with a solid plan to grow Special Sparkles. Part of my decision was also based on my father's needs who died in Sept. of 2014. I was his primary caretaker and having my own business gave me more flexibility to care for him. As you can see, these are really BIG decisions. I was relying on my revenues from Etsy to implement my business plan. Instead, sales crashed and I did too. I'm still recovering-- I owe the IRS, I've not yet found full-time employment, and I'm living on about $10,000 a year barely eeking by. It's been an incredibly painful experience.

I no longer want to "make a living from Etsy." I think their "quit your day job" campaign is irresponsible and misleading, especially now that they have gone public (April 2015) and are no longer transparent with their customers and users. They still claim to be a peer-to-peer website, but the moment they got on the stock market, they became an advertising platform. Those who pay the most for advertising get the most exposure. And, the only persons who matter are the stock-holders, not us, the ones who make their site possible. This is why they allow SO many shops that simply repackage cheap crap from China, specifically from AliExpress, and turn their cheeks. My prediction is that in a few years, Etsy will be a glorified AliExpress, and nothing more. That's where the money is.

The experience taught me that counting on a platform that I have no control over is far too risky. If I ever try to make a go of it again, I'll have my own website and use Etsy as just another marketing platform; e.g., another social media site to get some exposure.

I really loved Etsy before it entered Wall Street. It seemed like it truly was a place for the little guy, the real artisan. But, big business trumped and they've lost their identity, integrity, and soul. What else is new?! That's business in the first world.

Cinnamon Silver said...

I really appreciate all the time and effort you put into producing these 2 blog posts (I read your second one first). I've been an Etsy seller for 3 years, and noticed a sudden drop in sales in April too. I had a slight bump in June, but nothing since.

I looked at my views and stats, and everything appears to be in order. My SEO looks good, my views are good, but no sales. I have even added several items I can make repeatedly, and which do seem to sell, but my heart is with OOAK.

I recently updated a lot of photos using models, and that seems to have boosted views and favorites, but still no sales. Before the photos, I took months to carefully craft my tags, categories, and descriptions. Could it be my section names?

I use Facebook and Pinterest a lot, but again, those haven't translated to sales either.

My website is I don't suppose you could take a look and give me direction in how to improve? I would so appreciate it!

Penelope said...

Cinnamon and Silver, it's my bedtime here now but I will send you a convo tomorrow and see what I can for you. :)

carmendee said...

wow this really made me feel better. I thought I was losing sales because my work wasn't good enough. this is a real salve to my confidence. However, the way this all seems makes the idea of starting a separate web page like a square space or a Weebly more relevant for me than sticking with Etsy. I was originally here for the gifts granted by a large community, now I must face the downfalls of a large community. if by the new way Etsy is doing things more outside self-promotion is required its better to just have a personal web page to make content for and draw people too. no fees other then a flat monthly hosting fee, no Etsy changing crap on you just cause they feel like it. Etsy simply is not worth it now that I know this. I went from making 25000 to 4000 from 2014-2016 this is just stupid. and to chalk it all up to self-premotion and serch engine key words is a crock. but I'm glad you wrote this I would have kept thinking I wasn't a good artist. Now I know I just suck at marketing and that etsy is playing a game. thank you for this it's helped me make a choice I've needed to make fore a while.

Penelope said...

Carmendee thank you so much for sharing your story, I can tell you if your sales dropped that much then it's definitely not your product! You once did well, and that shows you have desirable things. (I googled your name, your shop is the little poly dragons? So cute!)

I go back and forward as to whether Etsy is worthwhile for people. I've been working on an article about it for a while now, I might bring it up to the top of my 'to do' list and make it the next post.

Marjan said...

I felt I needed to learn more about how Etsy operates and wondered if SEO and etsyrank were sufficient to check out and use for editing my shop's items. I think I am beginning to understand a bit. My thank to your fantastic information. I read every word and will need to go back to it for the references and suggestions to read. Also I have given a link ti this team in my own team. I hope to change their trust in liking and following and favouring.

Kev said...

Hi Penelope, very interesting post I'm going to have to read it again, and again. I have trouble understanding this stuff. I actually arrived here after Googling "this nonsense about changing titles and tags". While they may be very important to be constantly told in the forums "you need to tweak your titles and tags" was infuriating. I was of the opinion if that's the case then some thing’s wrong with Etsy. It's even worse (and beggars belief) when a seller says "I’ve been here 7 years making a full time living but last month sales fell of a cliff!" and some relative newcomers trots out the "change your..etc. One thing I learned was from checking my stats for last year as you said and "search" was top of the list. Still sales are few and far between mostly, though I am in a niche market (steampunk) so I don't dream of earning thousands on Etsy. One change I really didn't like was the "local" search before then most of my customers were in the USA, simply because that's the bigges steampunk market.
Im going to read your follow up post now.

Stone Maiden said...

Great article. I have not read through all of the comments yet, but I appreciate your efforts. Thanks😀