Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Etsy Wetsy

I just got back from a leisurely bike ride around Alameda during which I spent a while thinking about blogging, and Etsy, and the great puzzle that is web traffic.

Thus far, the Brisk Blog post that's gotten the most traffic was The Bain of My Etsystence, where I discussed my frustration with the Etsy Treasury (apparently I'm not alone in my experience) so I thought today that I'd head back to that topic and talk about my overall impressions of Etsy, and what it's meant to the Brisk shop.

I started knitting fingerless gloves last summer with the intention of both creating a catalog of patterns (that I would eventually sell in addition to the gloves) and accumulating a large stock of ready-made pieces that I could list in an Etsy shop.  I spent about five hours every day knitting, before work and sometimes after, and finished around 40 pairs of gloves by mid-October.  I felt like that was a good number of items to have available, and patterns to have completed, so I recruited my models and we had a long photo session at one of Stephanie's craft nights, and then I was ready to start listing.

I'd done some research into Etsy before starting to list with them so I did as they advised and posted one item at a time every few hours (this supposedly helps generate traffic to your shop by putting you in greater rotation in the just-listed areas).  I didn't do things that I would've had I known better, namely make all image titles descriptive (glovesfingerlessbluehearts, for example) instead of just leaving them as the default numeric label that my camera gives them, but I did start this blog, and pay attention to tags, and make sure to use important keywords in the first 140 characters of text (which is what will show up when a search engine is displaying Google-ish results).

However, that's not enough to generate traffic to your Etsy shop.  Etsy itself is pretty clear on this--you really have to work the system to make people wind up in your store.  You have to get Treasury listings happening (especially if you ever want to wind up on Etsy's front page through more than just a wish and a prayer), you should post in the forums every few hours, you should try to join an Etsy Team (which is essentially a group of shops that cross promote), you need a Twitter, a Facebook, and YouTube and Flickr accounts don't hurt either.

I've played with all of that, and I've played with search engine optimization (thanks, Oleg) and monitored everything via Google Analytics (thanks, Stephanie) and after about 6 months I have to ask the question: if I'm doing all of this promotion for my shop, why do I need Etsy?

I don't feel like I get any traffic to the Etsy shop simply as a result of it simply being part of Etsy.  Most of my traffic comes through word of mouth from my friends, through Twitter, and through this blog.  In fact, if I look at Analytics today, this is what I see:

My Etsy shop (which I have not been promoting lately, partly because of how I've been feeling about Etsy overall and partly because I've been focusing much more internet effort on Brisk and WITAT) has gotten a mere 149 visits--18 from Google (one person searched for "Christopher Ross Belt"--WTF?) which I'm sure Etsy has a certain role in just by being the thing that is Etsy, and 45 that came directly to the site (typed the words into the address bar) and the rest via Twitter and blogs and Flickr, etc. 

And I'm not saying that I expected any different, but I'm wondering if it's worth my while to bother continuing with the Etsy shop at all.  My listings are starting to expire, and I haven't bothered renewing any of them.  20 cents, btw, seems a completely fair price to me for a four month long listing--that is definitely an Etsy win.  So is the small percentage they take of each sale, I think about 3%--totally fair.  But is it useful to be aligned with Etsy?

I'm starting to think it's not.  At least, not that much.

For all the traffic I bring to my blog(s) I might as well just depend on myself to get people shopping at Brisk, and not worry about doing the same amount of SEO (that's Search Engine Optimization, something you need to Google asap if you 1) are selling online and 2) don't know what it means) for a completely different site.  It's true that no traffic is bad traffic, and having an Etsy shop doesn't hurt Brisk, but all things considered if someone asked me for advice about starting their own Etsy shop, I'd probably tell them that if they're really interested in generating online sales, they need to be prepared to take initiative on their own and not assume that Etsy is going to do anything for them at all.

You can create a shop with Paypal (Adam has one) and then focus all your energy on a blog.  You can list a few things with Etsy, which I think is what I'll be doing from now on, and use it as sort of a tertiary means of generating traffic to another web address, but unless you really, really want to bust your ass working the system that's specific to Etsy and get immersed completely in the Etsy way of life, then I don't know if you're going to get what you want from the site.

I've sold almost all of my gloves at this point.  Most of the sales were around the holidays (prime glove time) and the majority were to people I knew who'd seen the gloves and wanted to get them for themselves or friends.  I sold three pairs through Etsy (though I think one was to a friend of a friend) and got another order from a repeat customer who wanted an extra long pair of elbow length gloves (and that lead to a Twitter user ordering her own custom elbow length pair, which I handled through Paypal and not Etsy).  I also sold one pattern to a very nice lady who said it worked just fine, which I was very happy to hear.

So for any of you who are reading my blog because you're in a similar boat, starting an online shop or thinking of starting an online shop, that's been my experience.  It hasn't been bad, and I haven't been depressed by it (one of the things my boyfriend kept telling me was that as long as I'm having fun, it's all good) but I'm not trying to make a living from this.  This is a side-project I work on when I'm not at my regular job.  If you're in the same place, and especially if you like blogging and Twitter etc., then I'd say do what's most fun, which is probably not playing the Etsy game; no one has fun stalking the Treasury page, believe me.

If you're really serious about becoming an Etsy behemoth though, be ready to put in those long hours--I mean, no one else is going to do it for you.


  1. Yeah, I've been coming to similar conclusions. I can't imagine using Etsy as the main engine for sales... better use it as a tool to cull traffic for the blog. Most of my Etsy traffic comes from people doing searches in Google Images, which is kinda neat. That's reason enough for me to pay the $.20, I think.