Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Defining Etsy Relevancy

Through all the reading and networking and trying things out in an effort to "get found" on etsy I can testify that this is a multi-layered topic. I can honestly say this is the most time consuming part of keeping my Mama Bleu shop open and thriving! I am constantly digging through a variety of resources in order to better understand the complexity of the how to become more relevant on Etsy.

So what does relevancy mean? Relevancy is how closely your product title and tags match a customer's search terms. The more closely those words match the word(s) that a customer types in the search box, the more relevant you are and the more likely you will get found by that etsy shopper.

In an attempt to peel back some of the layers of this topic let's look at what impacts relevancy. A very successful etsy seller once shared with me that TITLE + TAGS = RELEVANCY. This means that your title and your tags - working together - increase your potential of getting found.

The TITLE of your item carries the most weight in relevancy. Some people will tell you that a short title is best. Others will say that a title with more words is better. I have chosen to make my descriptions long but I have no proof that this is the best method. Whatever the length of strung words you use, be sure to use the best phrases for your item at the beginning of your title.

To create a relevant product TITLE consider these things:
  • Be accurate and descriptive.  
  • Clearly describe your item at the beginning of the Item Title. These first couple of words carry the most weight.
  • Take a short phrase like "purse with floral fabric" and replace it with "floral purse". 
  • Determine the best phrases for your titles (and tags) by referring to the Top Keyword section of your Shop Stats. 
  • If you have several items in your shop that are similar be sure to use different descriptive words for each or switch the order of the words in the title. You don't want to list them all identically.
To find your Shop Stats you need to log in to Etsy and go to Your Account > Shop Stats. This page will show you all sorts of interesting things and give your valuable information.

Etsy says that, unlike the title, the order of the TAGS does not impact your relevancy ranking. There are DOs and DON'Ts about tagging your items.
  • You may use a short descriptive phrase as a tag if it accurately describes your item (for example: “sterling silver” or “messenger bag”
  • You may not stuff multiple words into a single tag that do not form a descriptive phrase such as “beach water sunset”, “handbag purse clutch” or “green red blue black.”)
  • Some of the best tags come from your title and I make it a practice of repeating most or all of those phrases and words in my tags.
  • For additional tagging terms I consult the most current merchandising report, trending tags and the Top Keywords found in my Shop Stats section.
  • Etsy has a blog post with suggestions of other words you may want to consider for tags.

So what about the DESCRIPTION of your items? This is an area of my shop that I still need to work on. I have read that the words used here do not effect your shop relevancy on Etsy but they can effect your relevancy on Google search. The big world of SEO (search engine optimism) is daunting to me but I'm doing my best to wrap my head around it.

Since Google seems to likes repetition, I do my best to repeat the key words and phrases from my title in the first couple of sentences of my description. Etsy encourages us to use this area to not only describe our item more fully but to make a personal connection with our customers with stories and experiences with the product. You may find this Etsy article helpful.

Another awesome tip I learned early on is the importance of linking customers back to your shop with hyperlinks within your descriptions. I have my shop items divided into sections so my customers can find things more easily. So when I add a description to a listing for one of my personalized clutches I include a link to the shop section that gives them the opportunity to view other designs and colors that I offer. I also include a link back to my shop so they can keep looking around at other items I have to offer. Creating inbound links help your customer stay engaged in your shop. You want them to stay awhile, browse, favorite items and make a purchase.

My best advice for you at this point is to work on some of your shop listings. Tweak your titles and tags and add some in-bound links to your descriptions. Wait a bit and then test things out. Search for your items by using some of the key words in your title and tags to see how those words and phrases are working. If you aren't landing on one of the first 3-5 pages of the search you may want to change more words.

I would love your feedback! What did you change and how did it effect your relevancy?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Perspective Changes Everything

Not long ago I was the administrator (fancy word for paperwork handler) for my husband's general contracting business. When things changed in our lives and he made a career move I no longer had to face the challenges of keeping the books and you could probably hear my sigh of relief for miles!

Well guess what? I'm back in the saddle again but with a different perspective. When I made the decision to launch my business "officially" I knew it would mean that I'd have to face acronyms like EIN and DBA and EDD. Three years ago I would have shuttered at the paperwork behind those letters. Today I am embracing them with excitement and I can't believe I'm really saying that!!

What has made the difference you ask? It all stems from the passion I have for my business. Because I love what I'm doing and I enjoy seeing how Mama Bleu brings joy into people's lives I can see past the paperwork. I'm willing to endure a bit of discomfort for the sake of putting things into place that will eventually make things easier.

Another difference for me this time around is the support system I'm starting to surround myself with. Some of it has happened organically and some has been purposely orchestrated. I've been deeply craving a connection to a community of women who want to speak into each others lives in an honest, loving and honorable way that is centered around our creative ideas, hopes and ambitions. I can see glimpses of that happening and I'm encouraged to have others joining me on my journey.

OMG! This is certainly a journey!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Etsy Science

I won't tell you that I've learned it all but I guess I do know a few things about what I often call "Etsy Science". This is the part about Etsy that is mysterious and often frustrating but definitely worth getting educated about.

When I opened my shop in September of 2010 I was nervous that I'd do something wrong. I felt like an itty-bitty naive fish in a huge well-educated ocean. I was always comparing myself and thought that the best way to make a sale was to put my things "on sale". Slowly -  v e r y  s l o w l y - I learned that it's all about getting found. It's about trying things and networking and reading etsy articles and watching etsy success videos and joining teams and more!!

My sister Cathy (Catherine is her "artsy" name) opened her etsy shop in 2008 so I picked her brain as much as I could before I opened my own shop. She was so patient with me those first few months and really.....I just needed to jump in and do it.

I know the truth of this so well now.....she told me to start making treasuries right away. Treasuries? What are treasuries? Simply put - it's a collection of 16 items from 16 different shops on etsy. They are put into a blank template with photos and shop links. There is a new treasury list on the "front page" of etsy every hour. Here are some tips for making treasuries!

When creating a treasury list you do not include your own shop items. Etsy etiquette!! Etsy rules! It's all about promoting your fellow etsians! 

By the way....if you aren't using Shmetsy to make your treasuries I highly recommend it. Such a time saver!!! If you have recently had some trouble using the Shmetsy tool because the little circle doesn't show up here is what you need to do. Go to your account > settings > security and if full site ssl is turned on, turn it off. Then start over with Shmetsy. 

Making treasury lists helped me get acquainted with other shops on etsy. It helped me see past my own shop and into the wide world of etsy. It showed me first hand how important it is to have beautiful photos. It also helped me create an archived list of treasuries which was important to have when I started applying for membership with treasury-making teams.

The mystery of how a treasury list is chosen for the front page is not something that Etsy demystifies  in writing for us but there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of having your list chosen. Remember not to include your own shop and make sure you don't have duplicate shops included in your list. What you DO want to include is a wide range of categories: fashion, accessories, home decor, paper goods, art, photography, jewelry and fresh/undiscovered shops. Any shop with sales of 50 or less is considered fresh or undiscovered. It is best to include items with a wide range of price points, including a couple of high ticket items.

Make sure to use trending tags for your treasury and try to use one of the top trending tag words in your title.

Please note that these are only guidelines and not rules. And, even if you use all of these guidelines there is no guarantee that your list will make the front page. I know this is a lot of information and many of you may know even more than I have offered here but my hope is that this has encouraged you to keep learning. You and your shop are worth it!!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Old-Fashion Sugar Cookies

Our forecasted rain came today so we stayed inside and baked cookies. I found a wonderful Martha Stewart cookbook at the library that is full of cookie recipes and this Old-Fashion Sugar Cookie recipe is one of my favorites!

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1 3/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c packed light brown sugar
1 T finely grated lemon zest
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 T fresh lemon juice
Sanding sugar, or sprinking

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.

2. Put sugars and zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed 30 seconds. Add butter, mix until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute. Mix eggs one at a time, and then the lemon juice. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.

3. Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto parchment paper lined baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart. Flatten cookies and slightly sprinkle with sanding sugar. Lightly brush with a wet pastry brush and sprinkle with more sugar.

4. Bake cookies until golden, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to wire rack using spatula; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Good Looking Etsy Shop Photos

A question that I get all the time is about how I get my etsy shop photos to look so good. This is an area of my business that I've grown leap and bounds and I'm still learning about. In fact, this coming Monday I'll be starting an online photo editing class with Kim Klaasen that I'm pretty excited about.

First let me say that you don't need to be a professional photographer to take good photos. You also don't need a big fancy camera or a complicated photo editing program.

I've have gone back and forth from using my Nikon SLR to using my Canon PowerShot and even my iPhone camera. I find that most of time I grab my little point-and-shoot camera.

Another thing I've played with and struggled with over the last year is the lighting for my photos. I have tried so many different set ups for my items....in my home and in my yard. I've used indoor lighting and outdoor light. I've photographed in the morning and in the afternoon. And even though I will be sharing what is working best for me right now, I would suggest that you make your own discovers to see what works best for you!

I have discovered that outdoor light in the morning is more blue and the afternoon light is a warmer tone. Also, in order to have a variety of backgrounds and shadows, I have chosen two different places to photograph my items. (Like I said, this is an evolving process and I was using different places in my house and yard just 6 months ago but this is what's working right now.)

I have a large window in my family room that brings in a lot of afternoon light. If I want soft shadows on my items I'll lay a large piece of white paper on the round table in front of my couch to set up my items. I have even pulled the couch away from the window so that I can get some stronger afternoon light. I've experimented with different backgrounds and props and I love the way these photos look!

 Here are a few examples using this light:

Just outside my family room is another area that I take photographs. I have an old worn table that is perfect for my dark background photos.

 I often pick some things from my garden to add a bit of color or give it that "anthropologie" look. Here are some examples using this light and background:

If I want a lighter background I will spread out a large sheet of paper on the table top. Because the light source is a northern light I don't get much of a shadow at all.

When I was seeking information about taking better photos for my shop I found a helpful video on etsy. It's info from successful etsy shop owners who have amazing photographs!

I encourage you to have fun. Let your photo style evolve and change. Mine certainly have and will keep on changing!