Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Etsy Self-Service Critique: Tips for Improving your Sales

Critique in a can by chunknium

Promoting your etsy store is very important, but if you're not presenting your work effectively, putting a huge amount of effort into promotion probably isn't going to be sufficient to make the sales you're after- you've got to convert those visitors into buyers!

I've provided critiques for quite a number of etsy sellers, both new and not-so-new, and many of the same issues come up each time, so I thought I'd put together this 'self-service' critique guide in case it might help others. If you find the advice helpful, it may even be useful to print the post out and work through the list!
Dendritic Laser-Cut Coaster by Morphologica
One of the most recent additions to my shop

I think it's important even as an established seller to continually refine your photographs and to take a critical look at your work and your shop. I know there are still many things I need to improve (which I should probably be doing instead of writing this post!). Also, I have found that with time I have developed more of an eye for how best to present my work, so I think it can be helpful to view improving your business as an evolving and continual process, rather than something you'll get 100% right immediately.

Self-Service Critique

Garden Friends Banner by LittleMoAndFriends

Shop Banner and Avatar
Your shop banner is important for providing buyers with a strong first impression and creating an overall ‘brand’. The most common problems I notice with banners:
  • blurry image
  • pixelated text/pictures that don’t look very professional
  • they don’t reflect the products/image of the shop
Take a critical look at your banner- does it suffer from any of these problems?

Your avatar is also important, especially in the etsy forums (as well as storque comments and convos). It can be a good idea to make your avatar something that people are very likely to click on- perhaps your most popular item. The main thing here is to ensure that your avatar is crisp rather than blurry, and that it is clear what the picture is.

Greeting Card Bunny Speaks by PocketCarnvial

Shop Title and Shop Announcement
These areas are important for being found in google searches- try to include important keywords in both (your shop title is the bold title underneath your banner). Shop announcement length is something that people have different opinions about. Personally, I like to have a short announcement so that people don’t have to scroll down all the time to see my pictures, and so that I get the most important information (including a feel for the concept behind my designs) across without overwhelming buyers.

Other shops like to include a lot of information, and that can work too. My advice would be to make sure you keep it relevant and perhaps include some of the less important information in your profile and policies rather than in your announcement. Regardless of which option you decide on, it can help to take a careful look at your announcement and see whether it reflects the kind of image/brand you’re trying to present, and whether it contains important keywords that will help people find your shop in search.

Bad Kitty Ring- Silver- by WhiteMetal

This is the number one problem area I come across when helping sellers out with critiques. Great photos are absolutely critical in terms of converting visits to sales, as well as in terms of being featured on blogs, in the press, and in treasuries or etsy’s front page. If your photos aren’t very good, putting a lot of time into promotion probably isn’t going to be very effective.
Take a critical look at your photos and ask yourself these questions:
  • Are your photos crisp or blurry/unclear? Are they bright enough without being overexposed?
  • When appearing in treasuries and on the front page, items appear in gallery mode. Are your items cut off/do they look good in gallery mode? Items being cut off in pictures is a very common issue.
  • Are your backgrounds too busy? Is the focus on the item, or does the background interfere? Do all your backgrounds follow a consistent theme throughout your shop, creating a coherent look, or do they seem like a random collection of different things (earrings on glasses, tissue paper, wrapping paper etc)? If using a white background, is it bright and white enough? Plain backgrounds can sometimes help make your items look more professional (depending on the nature of your items). When choosing a background, also think about whether it would be easy to match your picture with other items in treasuries/front page collections.
  • Think about the angles of your items. Does it look as though your items have been cleverly and professionally arranged, or are there earrings at weird angles that are not very appealing?
Eight Ceramic Nesting Lotus Bowls by WhitneySmith
  • Are your photos good enough to be on etsy’s front page? Whenever I am creating a new listing, I try to think about my photos in this way. A good tip is to try putting together a treasury in postersketch and adding your own item to see how it compares to other items that you think have outstanding photographs. Keep in mind that pictures with logos or watermarks are often not chosen for treasuries or the front page.
  • Do your photos show enough detail of your item? If you have an artistic photo of part of your item for the first picture, you may want to add additional pictures to give the buyer information about the piece to encourage purchase.
You can find lots of useful photography tips on Etsy's blog

Berry Nice Handmade Cold Process Soap by InnerEarthSoaps

Item Descriptions
It’s good to write descriptions that provide the buyer with all the information they need (size, materials etc), but that also give a bit of personality to the listing in terms of the concept behind the piece/the making process etc. This is often an important part of buying handmade/independent design. InnerEarthSoaps always writes descriptions that make me want to buy something!
While looking at your current descriptions, keep these questions in mind:
  • Have you provided measurements? Both inches and cm can be helpful for international buyers. If selling clothing etc, make sure you provide all of the necessary measurements.
  • Have you given information about the materials used?
  • Have you conveyed information about the story or concept behind the piece, perhaps suggested uses/occasions for the item, and/or mentioned anything about the creation process?
  • Try not to include too much unnecessary information in your descriptions. For example, if you want to share all of your facebook, twitter links etc, these could perhaps go in your profile instead.
Some helpful links about writing item descriptions:

Tropical Tags x6- Recycled Card - by koot

Effective tagging is absolutely critical- if you don’t use your tags it will be very hard for people to find you. Every additional tag gives you another chance to be found in search! The google keywords tool can be very helpful for thinking of search terms related to your item, and provides an idea of search frequency for different terms. The best advice I’ve read on tagging is on TheHouseOfMouse's blog

Raven from MolecularMuse

Profile, policies and shipping
Your bio provides you with an opportunity to tell buyers a bit about the person behind the shop, which adds personality to your work. You can also explain the concepts behind your designs, and give information about the making process. It’s a bit discouraging for buyers if they visit your profile and find it blank. I would avoid adding too much information here (eg a list of every blog you’ve ever been featured on)- you don’t want to overwhelm anyone. Raven from molecularmuse has done a great job.

Policies are very important in giving the buyer a sense of security- if there is no information given in the policies section it can put people off purchasing. Try to write in a positive tone, and think carefully about any comments suggesting that you will not be responsible for packages that are lost. Firstly, this may discourage people from buying. Secondly, PayPal does actually hold the seller responsible for making sure that packages are delivered to the buyer. Perhaps look around at the policies of some successful sellers if you are unsure. This should give you some ideas (but don’t copy of course).

A note about shipping- it can be a very good idea to include international shipping as an option, as quite a number of buyers are not based in the US. If buyers have to convo you to get a price because you don’t have that option listed, they will often move on and purchase somewhere else (I know because I’m an international buyer and I do that all the time).

Earrings Blue Sapphire, Wire Wrapped Briolettes

Feedback and number of listings
Finally, two other common problems that I often see relate to lack of feedback and a low number of listings. If you have no feedback, it’s often a good idea to purchase a few things in order to get some feedback so that buyers have a bit more confidence when purchasing.
When starting out and before getting many sales, some people are reluctant to list many items. However, having a lot of items can make it a lot more likely that you will be found in searches, and can provide the buyer with more choice. Also, having only a few items can sometimes give the impression that you’re not really a very active shop. Listing 50 items only costs $10, so it’s worth giving it a proper shot.

Custom Logo Cupcakes by shortbreadnyc

As well as making sure your shop presents the best image possible, it’s also really important to promote off-etsy in order to bring buyers in. It’s hard to be seen as a new shop on etsy (unless you’re really lucky), and I’ve found promotion absolutely critical to making my shop successful.
If you’re just getting started, I’d recommend setting up a facebook fan page, twitter account and perhaps a blog. I won't cover promotion in detail in this blog post, but advice on promotion is one of the main focuses of this blog, so stay tuned for more information about that aspect of etsy selling.
Additional links to help with promotion:
My previous post on how to get twitter followers
Information from Timothy Adam about facebook and blogging

Silver Sheriff Star Metal Button from VoodooRabbit

Further help with critiques:
  • Live critiques are often run in the etsy labs (by admin or the Sellers Assisting Sellers team)
  • You can contact someone from the Sellers Assisting Sellers mentor list
  • It can be helpful to post in the critique section of the etsy forums
  • Your etsy team may have a critique section, or you could perhaps starts a thread asking for help

A note about asking for critiques
If you are approaching someone for a one-on-one critique, please consider the amount of time involved in helping you (sometimes more than an hour). I would really suggest only asking someone for a critique if you are truly willing to implement changes (obviously you don’t have to accept suggestions if you don’t agree with them, but many people ask for a critique when they’re not actually willing to put the work in to make any changes). A reply to thank the person helping you is always a nice thing to do too :)

. . .

Gemstone Necklace Water Drop by poetryjewelry

If you use this information to make changes in your shop, please feel free to post links to ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos in the comments, or comments on success you have after implementing some of these tips- I’ll try to feature them in a future blog post!

I’ll leave you with some inspiring comments from PoetryJewelry, who I helped when she was feeling a bit hopeless about getting started making sales. Hopefully it will encourage any readers who are feeling a bit invisible!

The improvements have been phenomenal. It's less than two months since I made the changes and started a fanpage and twitter, I now have almost 300 followers on twitter and nearly 300 on my fanpage. The views have shot up by more than 100%. My google analytics show that I have daily traffic of an average of 65 people (I had no views 2 mnths back for days on end), my bounce rate has dropped and unique visitors have shot up. It's like 250% more than what I had. After the changes, thanks to Morphologica, I have been on 4 treasuries, on Etsy's front page, got featured on blogs and, more than any of this, had 21 sales. I feel like it's a new start and am so positive about my store and work now. - PoetryJewelry

laser cut jewelry
Connect with me on facebook


  1. Great post, I do plan on going back and doing some of those updates, pictures, descriptions, my blog, etc. Now to spend a little time reading through some of those links, All in a days, (weeks?) works. Thanks

  2. Good luck with it! Yeah...I think this is probably the longest blog post in the world ;)

  3. This is an excellent post! Every Etsian should read it.

    Thanks for sharing it!

  4. Thank you for the great ideas & tips!

  5. This is fantastic Nicky, thank you!
    And I'll definitely share it with the dust team :) xx

  6. Great post! Thanks for taking the time to write it!

  7. Wow! Thanks for putting my pic in there at the top, that is so cool! :)

  8. Another fantastic post from my Etsy guru :D

    I constantly re-evaluate my shop - every time sales or views slow down, I try to take a 'fresh' look and tweak things as necessary.

    Thanks to your advice, I have now reached my 250 sale milestone!

    You are an Etsy legend

    xxx ooo

  9. Fabulous tips here Nicky.
    Thanks so much for sharing :)

  10. This is good information. I am going to re-read this tomorrow. I really need to make some changes, I have only had 4 sales and am starting to feel defeated.
    Thanks for sharing!

  11. your posts are always so helpful! thanks for this! It's not too long too hehehe!

  12. Thanks for your post Nicky. Invaluable information here.

  13. BOOKMARKING! Fabulous advice :)

  14. Thanks so much for such a thorough and useful article. It would have taken ages to put together and is very much appreciated.
    It's going to be a fantastic resource to revisit every few months to see what needs re-doing or improving. Although, having just finished the very time-consuming task of editing all my listings in line with Etsy's SEO guidelines, I think I'll have a little rest first...

  15. Thanks everyone :)

    Yay for your 250 sales Cloud!

    ccooper- don't give up- I'm sure you'll see some improvements if you work through all of this carefully.

  16. Great info thanks, I suppose a blog etc is really necessary, have to stop thinking about it and just do it!!

  17. Thank you so much for all this great advice!

  18. Great tips..thanks for dream is to make it on the front page, well, one of my Etsy dreams.

    Constantly working on improving in the areas mentioned.

  19. Super post! So great to have all that info in the one place. It must have taken you ages to put it all together?! Thanks for sharing the knowledge!

  20. Wonderful advice. Thanks for this helpful article.

  21. This is fantastic, and I need it soooooo badly!
    thank you!

  22. Thank you so much for putting all of this information together! I will start revamping rightaway.

  23. WOW! This is such great advice! Thank you and thank you! :)

  24. Thank you for your awesome and great tips.

  25. hi, thank you for sharing your tips! they are great. I totally agree about the photos.

  26. Excellent tips! And the associated links are very helpful, too; thanks so much for the ideas and reminders!! Terrific!

  27. Lots of great, helpful, and brutally honest tips. Will def. go back with a magnifying glass over my shop. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  28. Great article! It reminds me that I need to re-do my photography of items I took 2 years ago...I think it's time for an update!

  29. Thanks for a great helpful post!
    Will re-read this when the kids aren't looking over my shoulder, and implement some changes I know are needed!

  30. Thank you so much for all this helpful advice! It's so sweet that Etsy is so supportive, it's a one of a kind website :) I look forward to implementing all your ideas...
    Thanks again!

  31. Great advice! I know I need to make changes and hopefully a list like this will help me figure out how to do that best.

  32. Thans for your info. i will be evaluating my shop alittle more closer now. this was great advice!!

  33. Wow, this was great! Thank you!

  34. Thanks so much for this! I have a question... I have been reading in some other threads about relisting vs. renewing. I have several items that will need to be renewed or relisted (tomorrow) and I am not clear as to which is most efficient for promoting. I have a lot of clothing items and no live model so photos aren't as good as they could be. I will work on that. Plus of course a ton of other things you've mentioned here too. Thanks again.

  35. Thanks (again) for making the time to write this. There are so many things I need to work towards. No time like the present!

  36. Fantastic! Thank you for taking the time to break this tips down for us and posting it.

    I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of it all, but photos are my biggest challenge.

  37. Great tips! Will be implementing :)

  38. Excellent advice Nicky. Thanks so much :)

  39. The first critique I ever asked for was about pricing on an item and the main feedback I recieved was on the quality of the lighting of my photos. Taking that critique was the best thing I possibly could have done. All it took was taking my photos into photo shop and doing "auto balance." However, I also recieved a critique from someone saying they had tried selling the kind of items I was just starting to sell and they'd had no success. I just let that critique fall by the way side because I loved what I was doing and believed in it. To me, that was success enough. And you know what? My sales took off! Best advice I can give when dealing with critiques... take what works and leave the rest.

  40. Thank you for the advice! Working on my photos all the time

  41. This comment has been removed by the author.

  42. Great advice - thanks for sharing!

  43. Thank you for these great tips. I will keep them in mind as I update my shop's appearance and bio.

  44. This was a really thoughtful, useful article. I appreciate all the hard work that went into it, and look forward to making some changes.

  45. Just want to thank you and say that these things apply to VINTAGE and SUPPLIES shops as well. These types of items are a challenge to photo, describe and promote but it's just as important to attend to all the details as for a handmade item seller. :)

  46. Wonderful read!
    Very clear, helpful, and inspiring.

    Thank you so much!

  47. Great info :) I really try but no sales so far :(

  48. Great info...I am going to make some changes today. Thanks!

  49. Thank you for the great info! I am going to come back to this article and implement your suggestions as soon as I can! Thanks!

  50. Thank you for consolidating such good advice into an efficient read! I think I will make this my to-do list.

  51. Wow, these are great! Thanks so much for the helpful post, I'll be linking.

  52. very helpful! thanks so much....

  53. Thanks for all the advice! It makes me realize I probably need help with my descriptions, it also solidified my experience as both an etsy seller and buyer.

    Pix are SO important!!

  54. Thank you. You have given me so much to think about!!!

  55. nerina52 said ... thanks for all the useful tips!
    I am a new seller and every day I discover something useful.
    Unfortunately they are very disadvantaged by little knowledge of the language ... but etsy become a good reason to study and learn! thanks

  56. Thank you so much for those valuable info. I am going to apply into my business as soon as I can. It really gives me a lot to think about! I am kinda a new seller and I am kinda don't really know how to pump up my sales, but after reading your article now I have better idea of how to run my business better. Thanks!! Check it out my shop

  57. Thanks for your observations, suggestions, and comments! I really just started posting items about a month ago even though I've had my Etsy seller account since Nov. 09 and needed some help and ideas to boost sales - I get the feeling if I follow your advice, that will happen.

    And on a side note, I love your pieces! I'm a big science nerd myself and am hoping to join the MSOE team once I clean up my act here!


  58. I have an Etsy shop too, and I found this post very helpful, thank you so much! I am going to link to it from my blog for future use.

  59. Not sure how I missed this before now, but great post! I will be sharing it with MANY people :)

  60. Thanks for sharing such good ideas, advice & links, not to mention fabulous pics!

  61. I am really taking these suggestions to heart and seeing results!


  62. Many thanks for such wonderful advice! I shall go through my shop again and see what needs to be changed.


  63. This is great advice! Thank you so much for sharing!


  64. Thank you so much for your article. I have been selling on Etsy for awhile now and my frustrations have to do with the fact that Etsy who won’t acknowledge my products. I’ve been trying for years to get Etsy to recognize that Eid should be categorized with Christmas and Hanukah as a major holiday, but they keep ignoring my pleas:

    So my question is: how do we get the companies that continuously highlight the same products over and over again to even acknowledge your work?

  65. I'm so thankful for all of this advice. Great way to start the new year!

  66. A lot to do! A wonderful way to start the new year, Thanks for the info!

  67. I think I need a new camera! Great advice, thanks!

  68. Just want to let you know that centered type is difficult to read. I hope you can change your layout to flush left. Our eyes need a common starting place to read lots of text. The way it is right now makes it difficult for me to read your great information.

  69. Reading this has given me hope that I can have profitable and successful etsy site. Thanks for the wonderful and usable information.

  70. Great Post!
    I'm just starting and I hope some of your tips will help my shop!

  71. thanks for all the great tips :) i appreicate the good advice.

  72. Just found this gem of a blog. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience with fellow entrepreneurs.

  73. Thanks so much for all the great tips.
    Looking forward to reading more.


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