Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Six reasons for vintage sellers to specialize - and why not

Every vintage seller faces this dilemma: what kinds of items should I sell? Should I specialize, or be a selling generalist?

As one seller put it: "I am starting to believe that having multiples of items or items with similar tag words helps... (Like having several industrial metal file boxes listed in your shop). Or even specializing in something, or a type of vintage, like having all industrial items listed. That would be something to work toward. Right now my inventory is all over the place. I have mid-century and industrial among others. I would have to start just buying a certain type of vintage. Hard to do when so many different things catch your eye!"

I have been selling vintage online for over 10 years. Here is my take.
Victorian hair combs slip sterling silver bowl
I've been a selling generalist.

Six reasons for vintage sellers to specialize

  1. Buyers will love your niche "boutique" and return for more purchases. You are not as dependent on being found in search, either on Etsy or search engines.
  2. You become an expert rather than having to research everything.
  3. If you sell similar types of things, there are often advantages to having the same types of items to catalog, store and package.
  4. Sell something you love and it will be obvious. Your enthusiasm will attract shoppers and encourage buying from your shop
  5. You develop your own brand. When people think of your shop, they think of a specific item or style. They are inclined to shop with you when they want that kind of item. It is easier to identify your target audience and market to them. This is huge with search going to artificial intelligence.
  6. (Added 1/16/20) Etsy said in a podcast a while back that using the same search terms in multiple listings can help you rank better over time. For example, if someone searches for "tooled leather purse" and finds (and buys!) your listing, the next time someone searches "tooled leather purse," any listings in your shop with those words will rank higher. 

Can we be too specialized?

At the same time, we must be balanced. There are risks to becoming too specialized. The market can change. We must be ready to accommodate shifts in market tastes. No one wants to be stuck with a lot of unsalable merchandise.

Having a large, diverse inventory helps a shop to be on-trend for something at any given time.

One big reason not to specialize

The more we specialize, the more we increase our cost to source our items to sell. We must cast our buying net wider than selling generalists. We have to develop more ways to obtain more specialized vintage wares to resell. If you live in a rural area, sourcing niche items to resell can become difficult.

If we do not specialize, we can just buy anything we see that is reasonably priced and resell it. For example, I often go to auctions and purchase whatever I think I can resell at a profit. I live in a rural area and that works for me.

Of course we can specialize some, which is what many sellers do.
Colorful vintage hand blown windowsill glass
So, what kind of buying and selling do you do? Are you a specialist or not?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

30 ways to improve Etsy sales

Managing our Etsy shops is kind of like riding a bike. Staying balanced. Going forward. Never stop moving. Etsy's algorithm likes to see constant movement. 

30 ways to improve your shop's sales

Selling Tutorial A to Z
  1. Think like a customer. What do you like about other shops? How would you like to be treated? What search terms do you use to shop for items? What pictures do you click on when browsing?
  2. Look professional. Fill your store with merchandise. Have an avatar (shop icon) and profile photo.. Complete your "About" page. Fill out your shop policies. Set a decade of manufacture.
  3. Feature awesome "clickable" item photos. Use all ten slots to show additional angles.
  4. Craft titles with the most important key words and phrases at the beginning. Keep them to 70 characters. Create matching tags for the most important keyword combinations. Keep key word lists for your product lines.
  5. Avoid spammy titles, stuffed with keywords. Don't repeat the same word twice in your title. Vary your titles and tags so your items show up in more different searches.
  6. Compose short, but complete item descriptions that include the item's size and condition. Anticipate the questions of buyers. Don't use boilerplate. (Don't copy sections of your descriptions word-for-word from listing to listing.)
  7. In your item description, avoid copying and pasting your title at the start of the description. Rather, sprinkle the keywords from your title conversationally into the first few sentences.
  8. Create an original, cohesive brand. Find your niche. Let your unique style shine. Buy and resell what you love.
  9. Specialize in what you carry in your shop by style or type of item. Who is your target market? Do some market research.
  10. At the same time, don't be too narrow in your product offerings. If your items aren't on trend, adjust your mix.
  11. Sell items at a variety of price points to attract a variety of buyers. Keep your prices reasonable while still making a profit. Find what price points work for you.
  12. Ship quickly. Provide great customer service so customers come back. Do something extra, like gift wrap or enclose a small gift.
  13. Operate your shop legally. Pay your taxes. Follow all copyright and trademark laws. (You can get shut down for violating Etsy policies.)
    Colorful vintage glass vases
    Do shop updates regularly
  14. Sell with integrity. Make sure all of your vintage items are at least 20 years old. Tell the truth. Disclose all item flaws.
  15. Do regular Shop Updates. Here are some ideas for vintage sellers.
  16. Use good grammar and spelling.
  17. Try Etsy promoted item advertising.
  18. Try Etsy's Shopping Engine Advertising
  19. Avoid team mass clicking games (affects our conversion rate).
  20. Avoid team mass favoriting games.
  21. Be active in social media.
    Instagram Twitter Tumblr Facebook
  22. Start a blog. Search engines love them.
  23. Adjust the tags, titles and photos of low-performing items. Fill out the attributes. Make sure your items are in the right categories.
  24. Keep your shop active. Renew expiring items. List new ones. Tweak listings by changing out the first photo.
  25. Offer fresh product. Stale items fall to the bottom of search. 
  26. Package your items with care and style. Mail them quickly.
  27. The Etsy marketplace is constantly changing. Pay attention to what is going on by checking the forums and/or being active with a vintage team or two.
  28. Test out searching for your items to see where they appear. How do your items look compared with the rest of the search results?
  29. Visit your shop on a mobile device. Note how it looks, as well as your items. Make any needed changes.
  30. Spend your time wisely. Use the tools Etsy gives you. Learn how to read your stats. Effectively use Etsy's Listing Manager. 
Were there enough references?

Small tweaks daily to your Etsy shops can improve sales. What are you doing today? 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tags for relevancy, admin answers

For sellers, "Etsy Relevancy" is critical. We want our items to appear when buyers search. And we want them at the top of search. That's not asking much, is it?
etsy admin answers

First, what is a tag?

Tags are words or short phrases, your most important search terms. Etsy listings have 13 tag slots, each with 20 spaces. 

When shoppers search, they type in keywords. Tags (and titles) are examined and relevant results are displayed. Tags are a powerful tool to draw in buyers. Always use them all.

Q: Must word phrases [keywords] within titles and tags match exactly?

Admin: Word phrases within titles and tags don’t need to match exactly. However, tagging your product for “red boots” and having “red boots” in your title will give you a better chance of ranking for “red boots”.

Q: Is it necessary to tag my items with the same phrases used in my titles? If so, what do I do if the phrase is longer than the 20 characters allowed in the tags?

Admin: We recommend using the same keywords in titles and tags for the most important keywords, and targeting other keywords where it makes sense. The tradeoff between the two is either super stressing one keyword vs. the possibility of showing up for others.

If the phrase is longer than 20 characters, we'd recommend breaking it up if possible.

screenshot etsy compose listing tags

Tag! You are it, the tagging expert now. How are your tags?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Etsy search, the fairness algorithm

Of course, sellers want to get found when buyers search on Etsy. Here is Etsy's basic information.  (Effective November 1, 2017, please note that Etsy's help page no longer states that a diversity of shops will be shown. What is known as “clumping” is now the norm.)

In the past, Etsy wanted to give each seller a chance, to be fair. That meant that search results were spread among many shops.


Etsy has algorithms, or special programs that adjust search results. All big websites use them. (On eBay, it is called "best match.") 

Theories abound as to exactly how Etsy's search algorithm is working. It changes all the time.

One issue of late has been that many sellers report that their sales fluctuate. High, then low, then back up again. This is an example of this phenomenon from my shop:

Sales up and down

Here is a blogger who tackles the subject.  She has interesting theories. Here is a second post on the subject.
Three points made in the above-referenced blogs:

1. Fairness algorithm. Once you make a sale (at least some of) your listings go to the bottom of search. This allows other shops' items to shine. Until their item sells.

2. "Lights out" or "carousel" theory. Whole groups of shops are rotated lower, then higher in search. It explains why many shops see "nothing for days then ding ding! 4 sales in one evening. Then dead again."

3. The "bucket" theory is based on some admin comments, as well as questions Etsy asks when you start a shop. Etsy puts us into a bucket depending on if we are a new seller, hobby interest, part-time seller or full-time seller. The full-time seller gets a bonus.

This is a new article on the cycles that our items' rankings go through that provides an interesting scenario.

Fairness Algorithm / Rotation

Here's the answer given during Etsy's recent question-and-answer session:

Q: Do you implement a Cap System where listings are hidden/penalized in search when they sell (X number of times) or generate (X amount of revenue), and replaced with listings for (X amount of time) that are less relevant? Are shops given Quotas for Orders/Revenue they are allowed to make per month?
Admin: Hi Athena, we don’t set quotas on shops for the number of orders they are allowed to fulfill a month but we will routinely experiment with different search ordering which might happen to give less popular listings a more prominent position.…..
Admin: Hi everyone, I'm sorry if my initial response wasn't clear. We don't actively rotate successful sellers out of searches. We have been running experiments for as long as Etsy has been around to ensure the mix of results we show users is relevant. This is not a new change we have implemented.
So, the admin comments state that they have been routinely experimenting with "different search ordering" "for as long as Etsy has been around."

Do you see patterns in your shop?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

What are long tail keywords?

For Etsy sellers, relevancy is critical. When buyers search, we want our items front and center. 

etsy admin answers
How do we pick the best terms for describing our items in titles and tags? For that we need a little computer code lingo.

Long Tail Keywords

"Long tail keywords" refer to keyword phrases made up of three or more words.

“Head” terms, or “short tail” terms are the more commonly used general search phrases, generally two words. 

Because people use head terms more often than long tail keywords, the head terms bring in more traffic. Although Long tail keywords are less popular, they are more targeted to specific searches and have less competition. 

An example would be the contrast between the head term “metal bowl” versus the long-tail keywords “vintage white enamelware bowl.” 

Why Should I use Long-Tail Keyword Phrases?

Use a blend of terms to describe your items, both short-tail and long-tail keywords. If you have two or more similar listings, try out different long tail phrases for each. Broaden your reach. Different folks use different keywords to find items. Be sure that your items get found by every buyer searching for your item. 

Monitor your results. Tweak your listings if necessary.

A recent question to Etsy Admin about using long tail keywords:

Q: Is it better to have long tail keywords that are semi popular opposed to long tail keywords that are high in competition on Etsy?

Admin: When deciding between targeting keywords, always err towards the keyword that is most relevant to the product. The best case scenario would be to find keywords that are relevant that have search volume, but that is not always the case. I would try to use a combination of both long tail and head terms to describe the product, when applicable.

The reason long tail keywords are important is that they convert much better than head tail (general) keywords, because they are so specific. For example if someone searched for "purple and orange knit sequined scarf" and it exists on Etsy, the person will likely consider buying it because the chances of finding something that long tail is slim.


Want to know more? Digging deeper into long-tail keywords.

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