Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Shipping integration Pirate Ship is free... it just may save your Etsy shop some money

Pirate skull and crossbones inside stamp
Pirate Ship is the new shipping app on the block

Have you tried Pirate Ship for shipping?

Arrrrgh, there is a new shipping integration afoot.

I admit it: I was skeptical at first. Pirate Ship seems TGTBT. After all, Etsy already gets commercial rates.

However, the "commercial" USPS rates that Etsy (and eBay and Amazon) pass on to third-party sellers is not the cheapest rate (called "Commercial Plus.")

How does an online seller tap into the lowest shipping rates without spending a monthly fee?

I think I have found it: Pirate Ship.

There are lots of things to like

Pull up a screen and see how much your package will cost. The interface is simple:

Pirate Ship interface screen
The interface is clear and easy.

  1. The rates are competitive. I save especially when shipping small, heavy items.
  2. Ability to combine some different selling venues into one shipping source, such as Etsy, eBay and Shopify.
  3. Pay with your credit card.
  4. It is simple to set up and use.
    Measure, Buy and Hand over to the UPSS
    Pirate Ship presents it as easy as 1 - 2 - 3
  5. Pirate Ship imports shipping details from Etsy, eBay and Shopify.
  6. After purchase, it marks orders as shipped on Etsy and other venues. 
  7. Setting up my Dymo 4XL was a breeze. 
  8. Included is up to $100 insurance. If you need additional insurance they use U-Pic which is 75c up to $50. 
  9. Pirate Ship has free chat support where you can ask questions. 
  10. You can pay for labels as you print them or you can pay in advance. 
  11. It is free!

Pirate Ship is easy to use
This will be my new go-to for personal packages. PayPal’s user interface for shipping has always left a lot to be desired...

Is it the very cheapest for every package?

The short answer is "no." If you ship primarily large packages such as 12x12x8" you will only save about 25 cents per package. First-class packages are the same as other venues. (This is in late 2018, before the new zoned first-class rates are implemented by the USPS.) 

Stay tuned for how it goes in 2019.

Cubic rates, the secret sauce of Pirate Ship

PirateShip uses cubic shipping rates when applicable. Cubic shipping is shipping by space and not weight. (Have you ever been disappointed that your heavy item was just a tad wrongly shaped to fit into a regional box?) Cubic rates are purely by size, maximum of 20 lbs.

Priority boxes are free

You probably already stock some priority boxes, right? Those Priority Mail boxes are in fact already set up for cubic mail. Here are some examples:

Box Dimensions Cubic Tier
1096L  9-1/4" x 6-1/4" x 2"       1
4 7" x 7" x 6"       2
1097 11-1/2" x 13-1/8" x 2-3/8"       2
1092 12-1/8" x 13-3/8" x 2-3/4"      3
1095 15-1/4" x 12-3/8" x 3"      4
Shoe Box  7-1/2" x 5-1/8" x 14-3/8"       4

If you do not have them, Priority boxes are free for the ordering from the USPS website. (Do not forget that USPS boxes can be cut down, possibly moving your package into a lower price bracket.)

More about cubic shipping

Skip this section altogether if you just plan on dropping your product details into Pirate Ship... This is the math for those who wonder how it works.

graphic of how to calculate USPS cubic rates
You can calculate cubic feet for yourself
To calculate the cubic pricing tier of your package:

Measure the outer length, width, and height of your package in inches (18" max in any dimension). 

If any of the measurements are over the nearest quarter inch, round down to the nearest 1/4" (for example, 5.6" inches becomes 5.5" inches).

Multiply the Length x Width x Height and divide the result by 1728.

The resulting number is the size of the package in cubic feet. Use the Priority Mail Cubic® rate chart to determine the pricing. 

(Be sure to round UP fractional results to the next tier... for example a package that is 0.24 cubic feet is in the 0.3 tier).

Here are the 2019 cubic rates for US mail:

Cu ft L, 1 & 2 Zone 3 Zone 4 Zone 5 Zone 6 Zone 7 Zone 8
0.10 6.95 7.28 7.49 7.65 7.82 7.99 8.25
0.20 7.34 7.68 7.91 8.12 8.40 8.61 8.92
0.30 7.79 7.99 8.27 8.92 10.18 10.73 11.39
0.40 7.95 8.27 8.63 9.50 11.79 12.94 14.79
0.50 8.07 8.56 9.13 10.34 13.95 15.75 17.91

What are the zones, anyway?

This great question was brought up by a reader of this blog post.

The USPS zones are based on where you ship from. They are different for almost everyone (if you have a different 3-digit zip, the first three digits of your zip code). To find out yours, go to the USPS at this link.

Type in the first three digits of your zip code; a chart will appear with your zones.

I keep a copy in my shipping room for reference.

What about International First Class Mail?

According to one seller, “after using Pirate Ship for 2-3 months, they offered me a lower rate tier for international first class. My rate for a 3 oz package to most countries is $9.95 and $7.95 to Canada.”

Pirate Ship told users on their website before the USPS increases in January, 2019:
“First Class Package International is no longer the cheapest way to ship packages that weigh less than 4 lbs internationally! If your business is expanding globally, just chat with us to get access to Simple Export Rate, which can save you up to 40%.”

What about paperwork?

Pirate Ship has a tab for "reports" for bookkeeping

My husband was still skeptical. "How will this go come tax time?" He had a point.

I found the "reports" tab. It will be one more step, an additional calculations for taxes of course.

And they have these pretty data charts.

Pirate Ship is easy to integrate with your online venue

Is it easy to set up?

You must provide some basic information to Pirate Ship.

In order to access your account and pull your orders, you must grant them some access to your account (much like Foto Fuze if you have used that integration).

They will ask for a way to pay for the labels. (I have it set up much like EZ Pass and meter them out $20 at a time from my credit card.)

There are other things to set up like your return address, package templates and content of shipping emails.

Read here how to set up additional "ship from" addresses.

It seems too good to be true. How do they make money?

Their website explains:

“How can Pirate Ship possibly stay in business when it is 100% free while offering the deepest USPS® discounts available?

“The reality is we make our money just like any other shipping software company; through our official partnership with USPS®“

Package on manual scales
Online sellers need several tools in their shipping "box."

Monday, July 23, 2018

Etsy Plus features: restock request setup & use

Etsy Plus new seller shop upgrade
Etsy Plus is now available to sellers
Have you tried out Etsy Plus yet?

I have... I cannot say that it is worth $20/month for me. The discounted subscription fee of $10/ month until the end of 2017 is reasonable... With a cost to my shop of $2/month with the credits, it is worth a try.

The banner features are of questionable value. But hey, why not try them out, right?

I already purchased my domain name (for this blog in fact). So I am not in need of that feature.

Restock request

I am most interested in the restock request. According to Etsy's promotional information, "When an item sells out, shoppers can sign up to be automatically alerted when it’s back in stock. See which sold out listings are most popular so you can plan your inventory."

So a potential customer can find out when I restock something they are interested in? Sounds interesting.

To see how it should work, go to my sold items and select an item. There is an orange button to "Let me know when it's back". "We'll send you an email when this item is back in stock."

restock request button on Etsy sold item
Restock request as seen on the item sold page

Restock request setup

First let us set it up. It is easy using the bulk editing tool. In your Shop Manager, go to your "listings" page. Click the "select all" button in the top left corner. (Click a second time to select everything in your shop if you like.)

The "Editing Options" box un-grays and you can select from some options that drop down. One is "Edit restock request option for listing." Select "yes" and "apply." Voila, done!

(You will want to do this for your sold items as well.)

screen shot of etsy shop manager
Setting up the restock request in your sold items using Etsy's bulk editor

Using restock request

Now comes the coolness. Go back to your Shop Manager, listings page. 

On each listing you will now see a little counter for each listing (Restock requests: 0). The best part? You can filter the listings in order of restock requests: high to low.

You can look to see which items to source because shoppers have indicated an interest.

view restock requests in shop manager
It is simple to view how many items have restock requests

Important note

For the restock notice to go out, you will need to renew the sold listing rather than make a new listing.

Follow up

My shop has yet to receive a real restock request. Sellers have this trial period from now until the end of the year.  That will be enough to tell me if this feature is alone worth the price.

It is possible that like some other features, Etsy Plus is better suited to handmade shops. Time will tell... I will let you know here!

(Here is Etsy's tutorial on how to use the Restocking feature.)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Will you try the new Etsy Plus tiered seller package?

If you use Promoted Listings, this package may be worth a try 
Most know about Etsy's fee increase. Along with that, they are rolling out new tiered packages.

First, if you are happy with how your shop is now, you do not need to do anything... everything is the same, except there will be a 1.5% increase in the sold item fee (up from 3.5% to 5%).

Folded into this announcement are details about new seller packages. One in particular may be of interest. The details from Etsy's information:

Etsy Plus (coming in July)

New ways to customize your shop

Sellers will be able to customize special options for their shop's look with new banner templates and featured listing options.

Tell shoppers your items are back in stock

When shoppers are interested in sold out items, Etsy Plus subscribers will be able to email them when the item is back in stock. Sellers can find out which listings are most popular. Could this be helpful in planning your vintage buying?

Send customers to your own web address

Save 50% on a custom .com address or get a .store address for free for a year. Some sellers may find this helpful.

**Bonus listing and advertising credits**

Get 15 listing credits and $5 in credit to advertise your items in Etsy search with Promoted Listings each month.

Discounts on custom packaging and promotional materials*

Enrolled sellers receive a special discount on custom shipping boxes, business cards, and other marketing materials from Etsy's partners.

If you use Promoted Listings

Etsy sellers who advertise may have even more of a reason to try out the "Etsy Plus" tiered upgrade at low cost; it is the "bonus listing and advertising credits."

The breakdown:

15 listing credits per month x 20 cents each = $3

$5 in credit to advertise your items (I spend over $30/month) = $5

That means that for the $10/month you pay for Etsy Plus at the introductory rate, it will cost only $2/month to try out.

You can find out if anything else in the package works for your and boosts sales. You can always opt out before the fee goes to $20 a month.

Read here for how to set up the restock request feature of Etsy Plus. Here is a deeper explanation of the new features from Etsy's CEO.

I hope this was helpful... Thanks for joining me for this quick tip about Etsy's latest announcement!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Does your Etsy shop need Privacy Policies?

GDPR laws in EU require privacy policies
Recent events have prompted an interest in privacy policies. The European Union has enacted new rules in that arena called the "General Data Protection Regulation" or GDPR. It takes effect on May 25, 2018.

Do small sellers really have to do this? Here is a hint: basic identity data like names and addresses are included under these new regulations.

Who needs to have a privacy policy in place?

This is what Etsy says:
"If you’re a seller based in the European Union or you offer your listings to buyers there, the GDPR applies to you, which means you’re required to have a privacy policy for your shop. Many other countries have also adopted data protection laws similar to the GDPR, so whether or not you sell to Europe, we recommend that all sellers create a privacy policy."

So privacy policy is recommended for all Etsy sellers.

If you use Etsy's so-called "canned" policies template (I do) your privacy policy will display as a link. For others, it will be a paragraph added.

How to do it

Here is Etsy's guide to crafting your own GDPR-compliant privacy policy. Simply use their template, copy and paste their example to fit your shop.

Here is one very simple sample privacy policy for those who only ship within the USA:
"We only use customer information to fulfill orders. We do not store or use customer information for any other purpose. Information such as name, address, and email address is not stored on our computers. If and when required, we will communicate with you about your order status using the Etsy platform."
Here is a longer one:
"ETSY is an online marketplace made up of over 1 million individual shops. The information you provide to Etsy for transaction purposes is governed and stored by Etsy. As a seller on Etsy, I am bound to their policies. If you have questions relating to the way Etsy uses your information, please refer to the Etsy Privacy Policy here: https://www.etsy.com/legal/privacy. 
"We only use customer information to fulfill orders. Your personal information (name and address) as provided to me by Etsy will only be used by me as needed to provide my services. I may use your information to fulfil your order, to settle disputes, or to provide customer support. I may collect, use, retain, and share your information if I have a good faith belief that it is reasonably necessary to: (a) respond to legal process or to government requests (i.e. taxes) (b) enforce my agreements, terms and policies; (c) prevent, investigate, and address fraud and other illegal activity, security, or technical issues; or (d) protect the rights, property, and safety of my customers or others. If and when required, we will communicate with you about your order status using the Etsy “convo” platform. 
"I have no access to your payment account details: Etsy Payments and PayPal process your financial information independently of me.  
"Your transaction information will be stored on the Etsy system as long as I have my store on Etsy or until Etsy deletes it. I will not spam you or solicit you using the information provided to me."
Here is another template to consider.

To adjust shop policies, go to your public shop page. Find the orange "Edit shop" button. (It is right under your shop's star rating next to your shop avatar.) Scroll down, down, down to where it says "shop policies" on the left side. Opposite that, on the right side, is the button to edit your shop policies.

There are some unknowns in this process. For example, the EU law requires that companies provide a "reasonable" level of protection for personal data. But it does not specify exactly what “reasonable” means.

Time will tell how this shakes out. In the mean time, Etsy sellers should consider adopting a written privacy policy as a start. That includes sellers (like myself) who limit their selling to the USA.

Those who sell in the European Union will need privacy policies beyond the scope of this blog post. (Thanks for noting that this blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.) Here is a blog post with more information.

Concerns over privacy policies have changed the landscape of online selling. It is wise for sellers to do their homework.

Have you adopted a privacy policy for your shop?

Saturday, April 7, 2018

In 2018, matchy-matchy is out for Etsy search

The algorithm

Etsy's search algorithm is transitioning into a completely new animal. The days of meticulously matching up phrases in your tags and titles for guaranteed Etsy relevancy will soon be past.

Etsy is in the process making search more human... The old way of search was not natural, the necessity to laboriously match titles and tags.
search algorithms are usually secret
Etsy's algorithm is in flux

Compliments of Etsy seller Deborah McGregor:
"SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. 
It does not mean “Match Words Up" 
In a nutshell, Etsy has leveled the playing field for sellers.

The algorithm just does not like me...

An algorithm does not "do" anything of its own initiative. It is only a middleman. Its job is to find common factors between a search query and the information on your listing page. It serves up results (called Search Engine Results Pages, or SERPs) based on common denominators... The more commonalities, the higher the item places. The algorithm does its job according to what its code tells it to do. No emotions are involved.

The order of search results is what has changed. In fact, the order changes from search to search on Etsy now.

How do I get better placement in search results?

There is only one way for any product to place well in a search query. Create your listing so it has as many common factors with search queries as possible. In order to do it well, you must know your target market of customers. What search queries will they use to find your items? If you do not know who is searching the internet for products like you sell, how can you use the same words as they do?

How do I even know where I place in search results?

Etsy seller CindyLou says that it is now impossible to even do test searches because of contextualization and personalization: every searcher will see something different.

You can ask someone else to search, but there is no guarantee that what they see is what someone else will see, either. Remember that in 2018, search is changing all the time, so search placement can vary by a lot even repeating the same search.

The best way to "see" how you are do
ing is to use your shop stats.

Where is Etsy's search heading?

Etsy search in 2018
Machine learning takes time
Google's driverless cars and Etsy's search have something in common. They are both being driven by machine learning, or so-called artificial intelligence. Both are going somewhere.

But of course the technology is new. There are some unknowns, some unintended consequences.

I believe that things will get better. But the process of machine learning will take time (some say as long as two years). In the mean time, mistakes may be made. Mistakes that could discourage sellers if they fail to see these changes in the long run, as "training" the new algorithm.

Etsy sellers have been accustomed to doing a lot of tweaking. Sellers routinely made changes to listings to make sure of word-matching, which is how Etsy's search worked in the past.

The goal of the new search algorithm is to show the best, most relevant listings to buyers. It is designed to do that without the need to constantly adjust listings. Won't that be a relief?

As mentioned, the days of matchy-matchy titles and tags are fading. This is because the new algorithm is smarter than that. Or it will be, eventually.

In reality, nothing has changed. But on another hand it has...

Vintage selling

Vintage sellers continue to complain about being the proverbial red-headed child. I try not to have any big expectations that things will change for vintage on Etsy. It is what it is and has been since the beginning... Vintage seems to be tolerated, but Etsy is primarily a handmade "creative" site.

I can deal with that. If it is working, fine. If I am not selling, then I try to figure out why and deal with the issue.

Please note

I make a number of observations here. If your shop is selling just fine, there is no need to change anything. 

Make any changes slowly. Check for effectiveness in your case.


Etsy is in flux. Search is rife with change. 2018 may be the year to "wait and see."

How do you feel? Is Etsy moving your shop to the next level?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Etsy Quick Trick: use your SKU's

organize your vintage items for sale
A SKU system can work for vintage
In the mid-1980's I worked at a major chain garden center. (Ever heard of Flower Time or Frank's Nursery and Crafts?)

I remember when SKU (stock keeping unit) numbers arrived there... the cashiers hated them, as they had to enter a whole string of numbers rather than just the price. But inventory became much more accurate.

SKU numbers have come a long way since then... In fact, Etsy has recently added searchable SKU numbers. Have you harnessed their power in your shop yet?

Quick tricks to improve your Etsy shop
Another quick trick for your vintage shop
We might brush it aside and tell ourselves it is more for bar codes and big companies. Not so.

It can be super simple and easy... I have (update: had) some SKU names like “small metal bin” “bracelet bin” “glass shelf” and “hanging” to describe where listed stuff is located. 

Have you ever listed several similar items? You were worried about mixing them up so you put "1," "2," and "3" in the title. But that can look rather unprofessional... Now you can hide that and make it a SKU.

(You have 32 characters to name yours. Do not start with a space.)

Your SKU will show up before the title of your item when you process an order. I really like it.

If you would like to see yours when finding orders you have two options to access SKU locations.

  1. Via your device (mobile or PC), where you can see it on the order page.
  2. Print up an "order receipt" which may also work as a packing slip for your shop.

Having an inventory system is never a bad idea. This is especially true come tax time. (Ask me why I know.) I am in the process of adding a SKU system to my shop. How about you?

Give SKU's a try!

Here is more information from Etsy.

Adding sku numbers to vintage shelves
Adding my inventory SKU's in June, 2018

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sample keyword list for vintage sellers

keyword list ideas for vintage sellers
A hand written list is even more effective
When selling, we need to know our target buyer. Writing up and using a keyword list can be helpful. Well crafted listing text can lead to more sales. Really, it can.

What can such a list look like for a vintage shop? Here is a sample.


Sensational, fabulous, wonderful, lovely, great, fantastic, drool-worthy, stunning, incredible, enjoy, appreciate, delightful, fun, precious, glowing, luxurious, enticing, classic, beautiful, glorious, garnished, superb, distinctive, aesthetic, charming, fascinating, make you smile, striking, dramatic, cheerful, statement piece, lovable, special, sure to please, colorful, muted, perfect, superlative, understated, serene, eye candy, attractive, graceful, tasteful, discerning, refined, dignified, cultivated, distinguished, decorous

Regional terms (for me of course)

Northeast, New England, Maine, Pine Tree State, American, Primitive, Americana, Canadian, Acadian, Quebecois, Canuk, [words translated into language of target market buyers], folklore, cultural heritage, geographic detail, Maritime Provinces, Penobscot
hand write a keyword list
Do you have your key word list yet?

Vintage, conveying age

Vintage, antique, early, authentic, aged, old, ancient, last century, historical, bygone era, artifact, aged, prehistoric, antiquated, archaic, rarity, yore, venerable, relic, decades


Timeless, classical, traditional, inspired, whimsical, compatible, industrial, rustic, primitive, ethnic tribal, Native American Indian, Southwestern, Southwest, art nouveau, art deco, arts and crafts, mission, mid century modern, retro mod, kitsch, Victorian era, aesthetic, colonial, cottage chic, boho, bohemian, Victorian revival, Georgian, abstract, brutalist, modernist, pop, country farmhouse, French apartment, Kawaii, Edwardian, Civil War era, Navajo, European, Scandinavian, Asian, Hollywood regency, essence of the period, tailored, modernist, steampunk, granny chic, folk art, coastal, beachy

Details of design and craftsmanship

Intricate workmanship, rich detailing, skillful craftsmanship, consummate professional, fine finishing details, lost art, artistic detail, pleasing dimensions, fine art, great proportions, classic lines, superb design, patented (including information), artisan, realistic design, made with care, finely executed, traditional methods, at the top of their game, finely crafted, well crafted, carefully made, durable, versatile, useful, finished with, topped off, plain, simple, high quality, artistic

Collector-friendly, words conveying uniqueness:

Collection, valuable, uncommon, unique, prized, one of a kind, OOAK, hard to find, rare, desirable, exclusive, only, sought after, curio, memento, remember, heirloom, specimen, trophy, keepsake, museum piece, souvenir, curious, singular, Wabi-sabi keepsake, memory, curio, treasure, special edition, signed, showpiece, keystone, conversation piece


Pristine, excellent, outstanding, museum quality, pre-owned, vintage, lovingly used, patina, signs of previous ownership, evidence of loving use, distressed, wearable, original condition, crisp, manufacturing flaw, wear consistent with age, complete, functional, scuffs, shows its age, strong, sturdy, secure, usable, for display only, original detail, factory finish, works as intended


Dainty, pretty, sweet, feminine, romantic, ethereal, delicate, confident woman, elegant, understated, silhouette, darling, cute, adorable, glam, confection, frilly


Glamour, pizzazz, sparkle, flowing, classical lines, designer, brushed, textured, flourish, glowing, luxury, scintillating, flashy, simple elegance, formal occasion, bling


Chic, smart, sophisticated, fashionable, modish, stylish


Embellish, repurpose, remodel, refurbish, easy to install, versatile, customized, salvaged, art assemblage, create, rusty, ornamental


The narrower your target buyer, the smaller this list will be.

Handwritten lists are supposed to be even more effective. (Who knew?) (Let me know how those Japanese characters for Wabi-Sabi go for you.)

Make a list and add to it as you think of more terms.

Use your keyword list as you compose listings.

Take your item descriptions to the next level with a buyer keyword list!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Etsy search in early 2018: algorithm factor list

colorful data graphic
No one really knows Etsy's algorithm
This post is about Etsy's search factors in 2018.

This is all theory and conjecture. Information is based on my observations and those of many others. If you want facts, please move on to another blog post.

Possible Algorithm Factors

Remember that these change all the time. And some are weighted differently.

(The algorithm is kept private. That maintains fairness for all sellers.)

Okay, here goes...

*Asterisk means factors that I have seen said by Etsy Admin that DO count. But factors can always change.

#Pound key means factors that I personally have seen at work.

->Elements seller can work on

Item quality

Beautiful click-worthy photos*
Titles and tags*
Accurate item category*
Attributes completely filled out*
Attributes accurate*
Accurate title and tags* (Admin is saying that inaccuracies are now being penalized by Etsy search)

Seller shop activity

Regularly renewing items and listing new#
Using Shop Updates in the last period of time (week? month?)#

Shop completeness

Completed About section*
Returns Policy* (have something)
Canned Policies* (Etsy prefers that sellers use their preset policies)

Shop promotion

Offering free shipping
Having sales
Using Promoted Listings (internal Etsy ads seems to have an indirect positive effect)

Shop quality, buyer experience

Shipping quickly (do not go past your stated shipping time)*
Customer service cases*
Review score (stars)*
Copyright infringement cases*

Factors some feel play a part, but I disagree with

Use all 5 About photos
Using FAQs (in canned policies)
Frequent renewal of items
Using Etsy shipping labels
Using a cover photo (I do not)
Using Integrated PayPal (I do not)

Things that Etsy has stated do not factor in but may have changed

Content of Descriptions (admin has said that it may eventually be a part of search)
Using Pattern (website)

->Elements that sellers cannot directly control

Quality scores of the competition
Random rotation (of items within search)
Time of day
Buyer location (some countries are regionalized)

Buyer behavior

Shopper's recent search history
Shopper's overall Etsy search history
Shopper's social media activity through Etsy

Item quality

How long listing has been listed without sales#
Hearts (to a degree, within reason)
High click rate (can work negatively if no one buys)
Item conversion rate*#

Specific to search terms

Shop score for those search terms
Sales in that specific search*
Sales in similar searches#
Clicks in that specific search*
Clicks in similar searches
Favorites in that specific search*
Favorites in similar searches
Details (context) of current search*

Shopper data

Etsy Purchase history*
Shopper location*
Shopper age, gender and other demographics (this just makes sense)

Clicks of similar shoppers
Favorites of similar shoppers
Purchase history of similar shoppers

Shop quality

Shop conversion rate*
Backlinks to your shop
Backlinks to your listings

Items that are not a direct factor

Price (can certainly be an indirect factor)
Using all ten photos (could become an indirect factor if Etsy adds photo recognition)


Phew, that was a lot of factors. No wonder artificial intelligence is necessary to sort it all out!

Here is some new information on search:


Have I missed something? Let me know and I will add it.

In another post we will cover what sellers can do with the information.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Vintage buyers: are yours collectors, trend setters or thrifty?

If you are a vintage seller, you already have a defined target market. Etsy defines it for you by limiting "vintage" to items over 20 years old. Plus, not everyone wants to buy pre-owned merchandise.

So we just limited our target market by, say, 50%. Every vintage seller is a niche seller. That was easy!

Within vintage there are at least three types of buyers:

target vintage buyers trendy thrifty collectors
Know your target market

  • collectors
  • trendy shoppers
  • thrifty shoppers

Who are your buyers?

  • What motivates them to buy? 
  • How does your shop appeal to those motivations?

Consider the buyers who come to Etsy and browse vintage shops... They want to buy something. Sometimes they will buy something they had no idea that they wanted until they saw it

What made them decide to buy? You need to crack the code.

Great product selection helps, but it is not the only factor.

Sellers need to identify why some items sell well. Harness that information and use it to sell more stuff.

Pinpoint your most effective listing style

Separate yourself from the products you sell... just consider the listings themselves. Not the "what" is being sold but "how" it sold. What is it about the listing's style and makeup that buyers are responding to?

Consider the details of some listings that sold right away. Look at a few items that were barely in your shop before they sold.

Ask yourself some questions about the makeup of each listing.

Wording & listing setup

  • Keywords. Check for keywords common to the titles or descriptions of your best-selling listings.
  • What was the opening sentence in the first paragraph? 
  • Description: how did you "talk" to your customers?
  • Were listings more effective if  you gave some history of the item? 
  • Were listings more effective if you suggested ways to use the item? 
  • Where in the listing did measurements appear?
  • vintage bottles on a shelf
    Collectors are unique buyers
  • How did you manage the "attributes" fields on the listing creation page?


Here is more information from Etsy about taking effective product photos.
vintage sellers photo style
Are you styling photos?

Target buyer

  • Consider what you know about who bought the items (age, location).
  • Was the item a gift?
  • Look at their Etsy profile. Can you see preferences in their favorites?
  • Was the buyer a collector, trendy or thrifty? Does the same listing style appeal to all three?

After gathering this data, analyze it. What made the listing effective?

Now, go make more listings like that.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The art & science of item descriptions

The opening paragraph of your item description is crucial. It is both a science and an art.
Item descriptions are important

First the science: your description should clearly inform the AI (artificial intelligence) algorithm*:
  1. what is for sale
  2. context for which the item is appropriate (example: "shower" ... is it wedding or bathroom? See "LSI" at the bottom.)
  3. type of query for which your item would be a good response
Craft your opening paragraph to match as many factors in the search query as possible. You must know your target market.

At the same time, your opening paragraph must engage your viewer, converting them into a buyer. Search engines and Etsy love a great conversion rate.

how do you set the hook
Catching buyers
Capturing the attention of a shopper is an art. It is where your personal writing skills come into play. 

Use your persuasive ability to market your product. Use a writing style and terminology that are comfortable for your target audience.

If you capture the attention of viewers in the first few sentences, they will continue to read the page. They will see all the interesting details you have provided that will convince them to buy.

If you fail to engage your shopper, they will never see the rest of what you have written. Instead they will leave the page, bouncing to another listing in another shop 😟.

Improve your bounce rate
Reduce your bounce rate
To restate, an effective item description must:
  • accurately convey what is for sale (to the AI in the algorithm*)
  • engage your viewer (so they stay and do not bounce out)
  • convince your shopper to buy (of course!)

How long should product descriptions be?

One school of thought is to keep listings brief. Use short paragraphs (even one sentence). Use bullet points. After all, users of smart phones have that small screen.

Yet some guidance is saying to aim for 2000 words. Say what? Supposedly descriptions of that length are ranked better by search engines. (This is taken from advice that is directed to websites and blogs as well as selling websites. Note that even my most complicated my blog posts are not that long, let alone item descriptions...)

Which is best? Use the amount of text that is best for your target customer base. Higher quality writing can be a tool to make your products sound more appealing than your competitors’. And longer descriptions take longer to read, which pleases search engines.

Use longer descriptions for items that are extra interesting, have a backstory, or are ultra competitive. What will work best to engage buyers?

It can be difficult to provide long descriptions that are meaningful. Share some interesting or amusing details about the item. Educational facts are fine. But customers love reading short stories just as much.

Give it a try on a few listings. Craft longer descriptions for pricier items. Save the short and brief ones for low-end stuff. Mix it up. Observe if anything changes.

Insert a link to more items. Most websites try to keep you in their store by linking you to their "latest" items or picks "just for" their shoppers. That tactic works for online vintage sellers, too. 

Can I use boilerplate in my listings?

Boilerplate is repeating the same block of text in each listing. The short answer is "no." There are many reasons. Item descriptions should be just that, descriptions. It should not be returns or shipping information. 

Some feel that the very end of a long description could contain some repetitive material, so you could try that... But put your shipping and return information in your shop policies where they belong.

How to incorporate title words in item descriptions

From Etsy admin in 2016:

Q: Is it better to copy & paste your title at the start of the description, or to sprinkle the keywords from your title conversationally into the first few sentences?

Admin: we recommend using your keywords as naturally as possible throughout your item description because Google does not like unnatural keyword use. Therefore, describe your product in a thorough and accurate way to give yourself the best shot at ranking well in Google.

The importance of natural wording

Search engines do prefer natural wording. That is not the only reason to use it...

Consider the increasing importance of voice search. Many people now own and use Alexa or Google Voice.

(So artificial Intelligence is already here. It is in fact helping people to find what they are looking for online.)

Users of this technology speak their search terms. If necessary, they refine their query. They tell the device what they want, using natural spoken English language (in the USA). The words used are "LSI keywords" in SEO-speak.

Do item descriptions really matter?

*NOTE: Etsy does not use item descriptions in search right now. But indications are that they could begin to use them. For now, the algorithms referred to are only for outside searches by search engines. But that could change. Part of the goal of this blog post is to make you aware of possible changes in the Etsy pipeline.

Extra credit:

What are LSI keywords?

LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. They are keywords related to your main keywords. So write in a natural way, not for a machine. For example, when writing about old things, you might include words like "vintage" or "antique" and "patina." Mention what it might have been used for, its history. 

The terms you use give clues to the search engines what your item is. Even better, those terms lead searchers to your items.

Search engines look for topic and context rather than exact words. Real people do too. So write content for real people. 

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