As part of my weekly regimen, I like to read and participate in various small business forums and one of my favorites is the Etsy forum.
For all of you who have never heard of Etsy, Etsy is a marketplace for do it yourself and handmade goods. Similar to Ebay, Etsy provides an easy way for talented crafters and artists to sell the fruits of their labor.
The reason I like reading the Etsy forums is because most if not all Etsy users are casual shopowners who have a strong desire to make some extra money on the side.
Many Etsy users would eventually like to quit their day jobs. Many Etsy users have the desire to launch their own full blown online stores but are afraid of the technical and marketing challenges in doing so.
Anyways, I was reading the forums the other day and noticed more complaints than usual from Etsy users about low sales volumes and increased competition due to the sheer volume of shop owners on the site. In addition, the last Google search update seems to have hit Etsy users especially hard resulting in lower search rankings for many shops.
So today, I thought that I’d try to reach out to the Etsy readers and let them know what they are missing by relying solely on an Etsy store for income. The truth is that Etsy users are at a major disadvantage when it comes to selling and marketing goods to the end customer compared to shops that own their own website and domain. Here’s why.
It’s Difficult To Differentiate Your Etsy Store From The Rest Of The Pack
Back in the good old days, I used to sell a lot of stuff on Ebay. Whenever you have a large marketplace like Ebay or Etsy and you want to sell something, you have a tendency to look at other people’s shops and listings to get an idea of how to structure your own product listings.
At the click of a button, you can pull up sales statistics and other useful information about other shop owners in order to try and emulate their success. And that’s when the copying starts. On Ebay and Etsy, there is always going to be rampant copying of product descriptions because it’s so easy to do so. Joe Shopkeeper sells a ton of handmade bags? He must know what he’s doing. Perhaps I will borrow his descriptions. No big deal.
The result is that a whole bunch of other product listings will look and sound exactly like yours. While it’s true that getting plagiarized can still happen if you have your own website, it’s infinitely easier and more likely to happen on Etsy because all of the shops are within the same marketplace.
The other problem is that the format of all Etsy stores look the same and feel the same. Sure, you can customize your store header a little bit but in the end, almost every single Etsy shop looks identical which makes it hard for you to stand out in the crowd of other users. The double whammy here is that Etsy’s shopping format makes it very easy for consumers to comparison shop your products with other listings which tends to focus the consumer’s attention on price as opposed to quality.
To further illustrate the point about how hard it is to make your listings more visible, here’s a quote from a frustrated Etsy user I found on the forums.
As you already know there is a problem getting your items seen on etsy these days. With the batch loading system and the the increase in the number of shops.. it makes it difficult to get views. The scenario goes like this… you list/renew on item and another shop batch loads 30 items right after yours… your item then gets sent to the 3rd page… not a good place to be for views.
What this illustrates is that as the number of Etsy users continues to grow, you will have a much harder time getting exposure for your goods. Today, it appears that some users are resorting to relisting items prematurely in order to gain more pageviews for their goods.
Etsy Stores Are Hard To Rank In Search
Lately, there have been a number of forum threads from Etsy sellers complaining about a big drop in views and sales. My guess is that the latest Google update completely removed many shops from the search rankings due to duplicate content across listings. Now no one knows exactly how Google decides which content is original and which is the duplicate which puts you at risk of getting penalized by Google if someone else steals your content.
Even if you write completely original product descriptions, it largely depends on the order in which Google crawls your site and the page strength of the other shops in determining who possesses the unique content. The fact that copying occurs so often in marketplaces like Etsy makes it harder for you to rank in search.
The other more important point to emphasize is that the search rankings are largely determined by the volume and strength of the backlinks pointing to your site. It takes a lot of hard work and patience to build backlinks back to your shop so you have to ask yourself whether you want to be doing all of this work for a site that you do not even own.
Sure, you can build backlinks back to your Etsy shop but all you would be doing would be strengthening Etsy’s position in the search rankings. If Etsy were to ever screw you over by increasing fees or closing up shop then guess what? All of that hard work would go down the drain. When you own your own website and domain, you own the fruits of your labor and no one can take that away from you.
You Are Completely At The Mercy Of Etsy
Recently, a similar site to Etsy called Artfire abruptly decided to cancel all of their basic accounts. And what was the result? Many shopowners suddenly got the boot without much warning at all.
Here’s a quote from one Artfire user who was lucky that he hadn’t invested too much time yet.
Just found out that Artfire is discontinuing all of their basic accounts… really frustrating after spending two days setting up my shop over there to try it out as a second venue. Anyone else know of this? Glad I found out before dedicating yet another day to making more changes I had planned. Heads up everyone!
The truth is that companies like Etsy, Ebay and Artfire don’t really care about you. They care about making money for themselves. So when the sh$t hits the fan, guess what? They are going to do whatever it takes to stay profitable.
So what are the implications for you? At a moments notice, Etsy could raise their fees dramatically and put you out of business. It doesn’t matter how much work you put into your store. It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve made in the past. All of your hard work could be flushed down the drain because of factors outside of your control.
It’s Time To Take Charge
So you need to ask yourself why you are building up a shop that is controlled by someone else? Do you want to be in control of your own business and costs? The only way to do this is start your own web property. So stop relying on the Etsys, the Ebays and the Artfires. These sites are good for getting your feet wet but will prevent you from ever growing.
It’s about time you started writing your own rules. I’m not saying you should abruptly stop using Etsy. Instead, you should plan on transitioning your business away from a model where you call the shots and are in control of your own destiny.
Any Etsy users want to share their thoughts?
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