If I had known all the things I didn’t know when I first started selling on Etsy, I might have run the other way. I’m completely kidding, of course. As challenging as learning to sell on Etsy can be at times, the benefits will far outweigh the effort if you take some time to educate yourself about Etsy and general business best practices.
There is quite a learning curve to any business; an Etsy business is no different. No matter what, you will make some mistakes, and that’s ok. You will learn from those mistakes.
There are certain mistakes though that are common for Etsy newbies to make. Read on to learn what they are and how you can avoid making them yourself.
If you’ve already made them . . . join the club! How you learn and move on from them is what matters most!
One: Not Filling Out Your Shop Policies
Etsy has told us that if we fill out our Etsy Shop Policies, we will get a boost in search ranking (where your items will show up in a customer’s search). This one is a no-brainer.
Take a few minutes to fill out your policies — and don’t let fear of not knowing what to put keep you from doing it. You can always go back and change things later.
And if you started your shop before March 2016 and are still using the old policy format, be sure to update to the new Shop Policies template to qualify for that boost in search ranking. (Note: newer sellers do not have the option of using the old policy format.)
Pro Tip: Revisit your policies from time to time and make edits (however minor) so that you don’t end up with a policy “last updated” date of months or years ago. Doing so helps to make things look current and fresh which gives your shop a more active and professional look.
Two: Not Filling Out Your “About” Section
Same goes for your About section. Similarly, Etsy has said that if we fill out our About section it will give a little boost to our “Customer and Market Experience” score which in turn can help improve our ranking in search.
Having an About section can also help your customers connect with you which is vital in a crowded online world.
While we are on the subject of ranking, if you have not done so already, be sure to familiarize yourself with how Etsy search works by reading The Ultimate Guide To Etsy Search.
Three: Using One-Word Tags
When you create a listing, you are given spaces for 13 tags for each listing. Each tag can be up to 20 characters long.
Many newbies — who may have not even heard of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) yet — just use terms that are relevant. They aren’t wrong, but they aren’t doing themselves any favors either. Because each keyword is an additional chance to be found in a search, you want to make sure you are “optimizing” each tag.
Tip #1: Think in terms of what people are searching for. What are they going to type into Etsy’s search bar when looking for items like yours? Those are the keywords you will want in your tags (and/or your listing titles).
Tip #2: Two (or more) words are better than one when it comes to tags. Not only does this give you more space to use for other relevant keywords, but it provides the opportunity to be specific about what it is you have to offer. Consider for example the difference it would make if you used a one-word tag likes “glasses” as compared with “kitchen glasses set” or “eye glasses holder.”
Many newbies struggle with coming up with thirteen good keywords per listing. News flash: many veteran sellers struggle with this, too. The good news for all sellers is that there are solutions that can help, and eRank has you covered with their well thought out and always evolving library of keyword tools!
Four: Not Having an Excellent Primary Photo
The first photo of your item that shoppers see in a search has a crucial job.
It needs to stand out and capture their attention.
You can have excellent products and excellent SEO and even be paying for Etsy advertising. But if you don’t have an amazing first photo, none of the rest will matter much because not enough people will click on your listings.
Even if you are driving traffic yourself from Pinterest or Instagram or an email list, you still are going to have a hard time selling your products if your photos aren’t any good. Mastering product photography will be one of your biggest assets when you are starting out and throughout the life of your business.
On all of your product listings, make sure the primary photo:
• is not blurry;
• is properly lighted (think natural light);
• shows clearly at a glance what it is you are selling.
Once you’ve mastered those three things, start focusing on how to make your photos stand out . . . either by using props, a cohesive background, or anything that makes you stand out from your competition.
Five: Not Having Good Follow-Up Photos
The rest of the photo slots (currently nine) are also important, but for a different reason.
You’ve already managed to make someone click on your listing (yay, you)! Now, you need to convince them to buy your product.
Use the rest of your photos to both anticipate and then answer any questions your buyers might have.
• Show your item from different angles: the sides, back, top, bottom;
• Provide close-ups of important details;
• If you are selling vintage, show any flaws your item has;
• Suggest scale by using live models, life-size mannequins, or photograph your item next to a common, universal object;
• Illustrate how someone might use your product in their life;
• Bonus: show how you package your items, or anything else that is special about your brand
You’ll then use your item description to complement your photos and further describe your item. When creating and choosing your photos for each listing, try to tell a story that could sell the item even if the description was never read.
Six: Stressing About the Wrong Things
It’s common to stress about things that don’t really matter. It’s easy for even veteran sellers to get distracted by this. But it is especially true for new sellers, when you are still trying to figure everything out and are perhaps more susceptible to the gossip that plagues the internet whenever the wind blows the wrong way on Etsy.
Are your stats showing zero views or visits and it seems abnormal because you usually get a few visits every day? What you haven’t learned yet is that it’s pretty normal for Etsy stats to show zeroes at times. It’s okay! The stats will come back once Etsy fixes it. It’s not affecting your actual activity or preventing you from getting sales. Proceed with business as usual.
Afraid Etsy has “closed the doors to your shop”? They haven’t. If they wanted to close the doors, they would close down your entire shop. If they haven’t done that, you’re good! This is the perfect time to have a little self-reflection and see if you need to tweak something. Do you need to improve your photos? Did your products that were selling like hotcakes go out of trend? If your traffic slows down, it’s YOU that needs to figure out how to make it pick up again.
On every online platform, stuff happens . . . and it’s better to just learn to not stress about it and educate yourself on fact from fiction. There is a whole lot of fiction circulated about Etsy at all times. Don’t get caught up in it, it will only hurt you.
When you can stop wasting your energy stressing about things that you either don’t have control over or don’t matter (or both), you can free space for creating and selling! And, you can knock your sales out of the park over the shops that are stuck in stressing about the wrong things.
Seven: Having a Shipping Oopsie
I’ve yet to meet a seller who hasn’t had at least one big shipping “oopsie.” It’s common for it to be your first sale, or one of your first few sales.
It happened to me early on. I ended up paying more for shipping than I made on the sale.
It’s ok if this happens to you, because every new seller has learning bumps to go through and it’s up to you if you let them hold you down or use them to learn from and move forward.
When things happen, try to accept them, learn from them, and move on.
The more you ship, the better you’ll become at it. Shipping mistakes are part of the learning curve.
Eight: Pricing Too High or Too Low
It’s difficult to figure out how to get pricing right! Many new sellers end up pricing their items either too high or too low.
You don’t want to price so low that your shop feels like a garage sale. It undervalues your work, your time, and completely negates the whole purpose of having a business, which is to make money!
Never feel bad that you are trying to grow a business by making money.
Many newbies make the mistake of not understanding all the fees that go along with selling on Etsy. I LOVE the free Profit Calculator on eRank because you can clearly see at a glance what fees you can expect and what your profit will be, which will empower you to price your items smartly.
It’s less common but pricing your items way too high can also prevent items from selling. That said, there’s nothing wrong with pricing your items on the premium side of your competition.
Nine: Using Dashes in Titles
Etsy recently told us that dashes are out as separators in our titles and they recommend using commas instead.
Dashes, as they explain, can negate the word in a search engine.
In November of 2019, Etsy held an EtSEO event in the forums (you can find it by clicking here) and this is what they had to say about using dashes:
“”-silver” means “not including the word silver” to most search engines”
On the other hand, Etsy staff said that using commas as separators has proved to be the most readable in the buyer research they’ve conducted.
Do this: Limited Edition Leather Tote Bag, Dark Brown Leather Bag for Women, Leather Purse Crossbody
Not this: Limited Edition Leather Tote Bag – Dark Brown Leather Bag for Women – Leather Purse Crossbody
Ten: Not Adding A Photo of Your Beautiful / Handsome Face
This is not just a newbie mistake, but one I see across the board. As a newbie, if you can adopt the following concept early on, you will be ahead of so many other Etsy shops.
I always recommend to my students that they put a photo of their own beautiful / handsome face in their Etsy shop in at least one place but ideally, in the Shop Owner spot and in the Shop Members spot. Bonus points if you add a picture of yourself in your About section showcasing what makes you and your business special!
Etsy is a unique platform in that you are able to personally connect with each of your customers – unlike, say, on Amazon, which considers all customers to be Amazon’s customers, and discourages its 3P sellers from interacting with them beyond the barest essentials. Using the opportunity Etsy affords you to connect, and your edge as a small business owner to your advantage is precisely what will make your business thrive.
Every chance you have to connect with your customers, you should take it. From the way you talk to and treat your customers, to the way you take care to make sure they receive their item quickly, securely, and nicely packaged. Each touchpoint is an opportunity to offer that personalized touch shoppers don’t get online in many other places.
When you can do that, people will notice. And they will talk about you, and start to spread the word. And they will come back.
If you remember this one thing, all the other newbie mistakes will work themselves out as you continue to learn and grow, and you will be on your way to building an amazing business on Etsy!