5 Etsy Myths That Are Ruining Your Business

Hello, lovely creative! Today we’re going to talk about a handful of Etsy myths that are ruining your storefront and killing your sales. Quite frankly, I’m tired of proving them wrong! In this article, I want to layout all the facts and dispute the noise that seems to be getting louder in the cottage industry.

When it comes to seeking advice for your product-based business, please double-check TWO very important factors:

  1. Has the “expert” ever sold a physical product online? (You’ll be surprised to discover that most creative business experts have NEVER sold a physical product online, they’ve only ever sold advice to people selling products online.)
  2. Does the “expert” have a successful online storefront or business for that product that showcases proven sales?

If the answer is “no” to either of those questions, their advice has little value in our industry. If the answer is “yes”, consider trusting them as an expert.

While I answer “yes” to both, that’s not to say that some advice that contradicts my own isn’t right or wouldn’t work; I’m open to different ways of doing things. I’m also very comfortable when my clients take what they like and leave what they don’t, but I’m done disputing the myths and theories of online “business gurus” who will say anything to get in front of the growing community of Etsy sellers.

Here are the Etsy myths that are slowly ruining your chances of a successful business:

5 Etsy Myths that are ruining your business - Must read #5!

1. Create as many options and listings as possible! 

As makers, we’ve been told to customize, add options and list as many items as possible to get more sales. And you’ve done it all, so …

Why aren’t your views converting into sales?

Because extra options, customizations, choices and contact requests only serve to interrupt a very delicate buying process. It essentially overwhelms the customer and turns them off. They come to you as the expert, and they want a “get in, get out” user experience that allows them to quickly make a decision and check-out.

Exception to the rule: Personalized products (engravings, monograms, etc.) and suppliers. If you sell supplies, more listings and more styles works – even on Etsy.

Further reading: 5 Surprising Reasons Your Customers Aren’t Buying (and what to do about it)

2. The customer loves your handmade story!

This myth contradicts every thing we’ve ever known about customer decisions and the buying process. Listen to this advice from Scientific Advertising written by Claude Hopkins in the 1920’s:

“Remember the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or your profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising. Ads say in effect, ‘Buy my brand. Give me the trade you give to others. Let me have the money.’ This is not a popular appeal.”

The customer doesn’t visit your storefront to find out more about you and how you make your product. This myth has been perpetuated by the idea of a “handmade marketplace” and Etsy’s overall branding, but business is business. The customer is always asking: “What’s in it for me?”

Your listing could say:

(1.) “I created this afghan using pure alpaca yarn. I carefully knitted each garter stitch. It’s lovingly packed by me, and then delivered to you, with a note of gratitude.”

Or, it could say:

(2.) “This warm, luxurious afghan was created from the best-quality, softest yarn that money can buy. The neutral colors will enhance any living room; it will look gorgeous draped over your favorite chair. This blanket is waiting to be well-loved; Your family will fight over who gets to use it!”

As a shopper, which of the above paragraphs appeal to you? Example 1 is written by the seller, for the seller. Whether you realize it or not, when you write a listing like this, you ask the customer to envision you knitting away in your home. When I read example number 1, I picture my grandmother. I remember her sitting by a fireplace crocheting an afghan, and I really loved her afghans, but that’s because they came from her. I don’t necessarily want an afghan made by a stranger’s grandma in a home I’ve never seen before.

Example 2 is written by the seller, for the customer. I don’t need to know what your living room looks like in order to make you think of it. I certainly don’t know what your favorite chair looks like, but I bet you could easily picture it with a pretty knitted afghan draped over it!

Exception to the rule: Your “about” page and personal blog articles. Your customer comes to these pages after taking greater interest in you and your brand.

Marketing and copywriting tips for more online sales

3. Stuff your titles to get found in Etsy search!

I am dumbfounded when people tell me how much stuffing their titles with every keyword imaginable has helped their views. DUMBFOUNDED, I tell you!

So your views increased when you stuffed your titles full of every keyword imaginable? Yeah? Then what happened?

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” – Albert Einstein

Anybody who teaches you how to get more VIEWS by making changes to your storefront that drastically reduce your chances of making SALES is setting you up for failure. If you asked this growing group of stat-lovers, views are the new currency … only, they’re worth nothing. A good marketing system doesn’t result in VIEWS, it results in SALES.

I get asked a lot of questions about Etsy-related tags and materials, as in, “How do I get found through Etsy’s search?” If there was an effective method for doing so, I would share it freely. But the truth is, Etsy changes its algorithms and code regularly. (If you want proof, just read this interview from Etsy CEO, Chad Dickerson where he jokes about “blameless postmortems” for “spectacular mistakes.”)

I don’t rely on Etsy for traffic, and I won’t advise anyone else to do it either. You’re in a marketplace that now has more than 1,000,000 sellers. The advice I give is about being found outside of Etsy through search engines, and pulling the traffic onto your site. You should absolutely use keywords in tags and materials, but at the same time, it’s important that you learn to stop relying on Etsy for the results you want.

No exceptions.

Further reading: Use Keywords Wisely, Stop Making These 3 Etsy Mistakes (+ WHY They’re Killing Your Sales)

4. Find the magic keywords to gain more business.

Keywords are only the beginning to getting found in search. If you’ve been selling online for anytime at all, you’ve probably heard the term “search engine optimization” (SEO). From Wikipedia, SEO “is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s ‘natural’ or un-paid [‘organic’] search results.” The idea being, the better ranked the website, the higher it appears in search results, the more visitors it will receive from search engine users.

While it’s true, relevant keywords are the number one way online sellers and bloggers try to influence SEO results, there’s more to the story.

Here’s what it really takes to get found: My strategy has always been to attract customers elsewhere on the web and point them to my site. Whether I’m writing a guest post, populating a Facebook ad, or pinning items on Pinterest, I see my online presence as a web that invites like-minded people to connect with me. If our interests match and we form a connection, my articles and pins eventually lead them to my online store – a funnel that I built with intention.

What do my hundreds of guest posts, Marketing Creativity website, Facebook account, Pinterest account, and Twitter account have in common? They all link to Energy Shop Jewelry.

[Tweet “Want to know the real secret to high-ranking #Etsy SEO?”]

In SEO speak, those links I’ve created to my online storefront are called “backlinks.” From Wikipedia, the number of backlinks a website has is “one indication of the popularity or importance of that website.” If you were to run a google search on “Energy Shop Jewelry”, “energyshop” or even “Energy Shop”, you’ll find my site on page one of the results. That didn’t happen overnight, and it was certainly no accident.

The web of links I’ve built online is the real secret to my high Google rankings. Yes, I use relevant keywords. But I mean, really, wouldn’t it all be a bunch of nonsense if I didn’t? Good keywords evolve over time the more you refine your voice and the better you learn to connect with the people who truly matter.

5. You can’t build an email list from your Etsy sales.

Of all of these fatal errors, this might be the deadliest of them all. When you make a sale on Etsy, that’s your customer. Etsy is the host of your storefront, and while they might like to claim every customer as their own, they’re not doing the making, the packaging, the shipping or the customer service.

Don’t fear Etsy’s TOUs (and those crazy forums!) so much that you give up your rights in business.

For the record, Etsy’s TOUs on this state:

Etsy TOUs on list-building

Etsy has not (and cannot) take away permission for you to contact your customer after they’ve made a purchase from you. The idea that they even have control of whether or not you do so is absolutely ludicrous to me …

Etsy is a host for your storefront, not the CEO of your company! 

Now, let’s say I were to go throw this information into the Etsy forums. Can you imagine the outrage, especially after not being able to find this rule inside the 26 pages of Etsy’s Terms of Use? But, guess what else:

It’s not SPAM, and it’s definitely not illegal to build your list.

Contacting your customers after purchase falls under the CAN-SPAM Act, which covers all commercial messages (“any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service”).

Here’s what:, nobody – anywhere at any time –  said it was illegal to contact a customer after they’ve made a purchase with you. That’s a myth of epic proportions, and scared creative entrepreneurs spread it relentlessly to hold each other back.

There are seven rules you must follow to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, they’re rather easy to follow, and email managers (Aweber, Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, etc.) are designed to ensure that you don’t break the law.

In fact, Aweber (a popular email management service) integrates with Etsy. This integration requires permissions from both companies (in other words, it’s Etsy-approved), and it means that new customers are automatically added to your business’ email list upon confirmation.

If you’re not convinced that you need an email list for your business yesterday already, click the link below to see how my email list repeatedly earns me thousands of dollars every time I run a campaign.

Further reading: How to Launch Anything and Make it Rain

Loved this read? Get regular updates!

Share this post!

39 comments

  • Hi Lisa,

    I just wanted to say a quick thank you to you for yet another one of your no nonsense, common sense articles. I love it when I see a new post from you in my inbox, as I know I will actually learn something, and this post was no exception.

    Thank you.

    Sue

  • Well, that settles it: I’m going with Aweber…that is incredible scoop! This entire article is incredibly empowering and insightful—me thinks I’ll be doing some title editing this week LOL

    I have a question–I have a personal blog (that I’m in the process of moving to being self-hosted) that will include a prominent link to my etsy store. I love the backlinks point you made above, but now I’m torn as to what to link to, my blog or my store!

    I guess I could also build a following on my facebook, twitter and IG accounts for the store and just start building from there…slow and steady 🙂

    thanks, kristiina

    • Excellent choice with Aweber.

      You’ll find reason to link to both blog and Etsy shop for different reasons – do both. They’ll start to fall under different campaigns – an editorial calendar + promotions for the blog (because the blog will have information beyond the product in the shop) and a marketing calendar + promotions for the shop. I’d keep the shop as a sidebar sponsor for the blog as well.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • Thanks for your response, Lisa. I think I’m impatient and want all the traffic for both, but I need to take a deep breath and build things organically…it will all fall into place!

        I’m truly grateful to have found you on FB and now your blog. Incredible positive energy abounds 🙂

  • You must have heard or read this innumerable times, but I must repeat it: Thank you! Your honesty and generosity have taught and encouraged me to get my own website domain as well as learning more about Etsy than I could have imagined. Now, it’s on with the work of setting it all up. This is quite time consuming but hopefully worth the effort. I love making jewelry. It makes me happy, it relaxes me even when I make mistakes.
    Thank you so much for all your help.
    My very best to you,
    Lea

  • Oh wow, I found your blog and website yesterday and I can’t stop reading! Really a fantastic read, I’m enjoying and trying to learn. Thank you Lisa, this is endlessly helpful and I will come back many times.

  • Thanks so much for this article Lisa, especially #5! I also signed up with AWeber, and spent all day getting sign-up forms integrated into my shop and blog. Working on my email list was one thing I have not done well, and I know it’s holding me back from growing my business. I get so much wisdom and inspiration from your articles, keep up the great work!

  • Hi Lisa,

    What a wonderful and honest write up! It is such a good reminder that we cannot rely on Etsy to bring us traffic. It is definitely important to learn that little tip early on.

    Oh and the list building, yes, yes, yes! Great point to bring up. I started building my email list through Etsy early this year and it has grown tremendously. Wish it was easier to do on Etsy, but I offer it to all of our customers once they buy and write a little blurb about joining our list in every listing!

    Thank you again for all of your wise words 🙂

    • I too wish it was easier to do on Etsy, Cassie. Thanks for sharing your strategy, and it’s fabulous to hear your list is taking off. Much continued success to you!

  • Lisa, this is a fantastic article, thank you so much for saying what so many of are thinking! And sharing information, that for some reason, is not readily available for us Etsy shop owners. I was shocked when I finally realized last year that AWeber integrates with Etsy and helps me automatically collect emails AND get permission from my customers to add them to my email list! Why does no one talk about this??? It is the best thing I’ve done this year for my shop. Everytime I send an email (once or twice a month), I immediately see an uptick in sales from repeat customers! Whenever I read on the Etsy forums or in ‘other’ Facebook groups, all I see is Etsy shop owners complaining how Etsy is changing their rules and their shops aren’t making any sales, blah, blah, blah. I read those and I’m like, why are you spending time complaining??? Start taking charge of your shop and quit blaming Etsy. Etsy isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t be successful shop owners. Again Lisa, thanks so much for your articles, always a pleasure to read them!

  • Hi Lisa,
    Such a lot of sense! As someone who doesn’t have the nous to figure everything out for myself I basically need lots of advice and instructions, especially when things go wrong. I was led to believe that I could slowly build sales on Etsy, It seemed to work, then sales fell off a cliff. I’m sick of reading drivel on Etsy! I’ve realised that the ones who are most vehement in their support of the “you must do it this way” mind set are most likely the ones who will never start their own website and will be distraught when they crash and burn. I get really hacked off when someone makes a heartfelt plea along the lines of “I’ve had daily sales for 3 years and now nothing for a month” only to be met with a statement like ” You need to look at you tags and titles!” really?
    Anyway I can’t let my business however small be dependent on the whim of someone who ultimately doesn’t care.
    By the way regarding lots of options, I learned the hard way when for my sins I had to sell replacement windows, Give people 2 choices and you’re all happy, give them 30 choices and they act like a deer in headlights!
    Sorry that was a bit long winded but I could go on and on and on.

  • Hi Lisa!
    I usually NEVER comment- but your advice is spot on and THANK YOU for being precise, direct and providing us with quality information. I too was under the impression Etsy would shut my shop down if I contacted my customers via email. I’ve also been told #1. to keep adding more listings, etc. and truth be told- I’m a title filler. OUCH! So, I’m going to try and heed your advice and correct my listings. I’m learning so many new things ( like wth is a backlink?), still figuring out Social Media, going crazy with SEO’s, to BLOG or not to BLOG…. I’m barely able to actually CREATE anymore! Now I’m revisiting time management skills. LOL I’m hoping by the end of year I will be confident enough to join the Luminaries Club! Thanks for the great advice

    • Hi Debbie,
      It does seem like a lot when you embark on building your own marketing system, I agree, but the time required tends to level off once you get it in place.

      I can hardly wait to welcome you into the club! 😉 Thanks for sharing and best of luck.

  • Thanks again for another great report!

    I have recently built a website, a blog & started growing my email list with mail chimp. But I think I’m going to go with AWeber now!

    I plan on building my business through stellar content through my blog then optimize my keywords, get more features in blogs & hopefully magazines in the future. Gain lots of links from popular blogs pointing to my site, etc.

    I may even dabble into promoting social media posts & even try it Google ads. Who knows, the possibilities are endless!

    I have already started taking your advice onto consideration when it comes to keeping my titles short & to the point & keeping my product options low.

    Thank you Lisa!
    Xo, Brittany Witt

  • Hi Lisa, somewhere I read that you don’t rely on ETSY for your traffic, but you try to ensure that you are getting found outside of ETSY. I’d love to see your ETSY stats (I know – stats don’t tell the real story – I’ve read your stuff!) – on where your views come from. Mine are predominantly ETSY – out of 48,000 views, 40,000 originate from ETSY. How do your stats compare?
    Would love to join your club, but don’t feel I can warrant the cost at this stage. I can already hear you saying, I can’t afford NOT to join, but the cost just seems to be a hurdle at this point in time. I’ll keep reading whatever you’re willing to give out for free ;^)
    Love your advice, Sue

    • Hi Sue,
      Good question – about half of my views on Etsy originate within Etsy (according to Etsy 😉 ). The other half is my doing: blogs, direct traffic, search and social media.

      I’d also add that about 80% of my sales are a result of direct contact via email broadcasts and other marketing efforts. If I’m not actively marketing, business slows tremendously. Thanks for your input!

  • Thank you for the fantastic advice. I don’t usually coment, but you genuinely gave me plenty to think about. My etsy shops have been dormant for a while and I was thinking of reopening, so this was great to read. “Etsy is a host for your storefront, not the CEO of your company!” I needed to hear that. Thanks again!
    [This is my first time here. I found this article via Pinterest]

  • Blammo! Hit it out of the park again Lisa, I enjoyed reading this as a private yoga teacher with absolutely 0 serious online products as of late. Very helpful tips for anyone who has an online presence 🙂

  • Hi Lisa,

    Thank you so much for all the great advice. I’m wondering, as a seller through Etsy can you put in your shop intro that customers will automatically be added to the email list and for them to opt out if they do no wish to receive emails. Would that violate CAN SPAM?

    Thanks,
    Renee

  • Hi Lisa!

    I wanted to get some clarity on the last point. Is it legal to take a customers email address and manual enter it in to your newsletter segment on Mail Chimp? Or must you ask them for permission to use their email first?

    Thank you!

    xo,
    Vanessa

    http://crafturday.com/

  • Oh what a breath of fresh air! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I felt in my heart that throwing loads of keywords into descriptions and titles, a raft of links and having hundreds of items was wrong for me and my values. Wrong for my customers too. With this article you have confirmed my deeper feelings.

    I live my life in the slow lane, encouraging thoughtful buying processes and appreciation of where our products come from, so using aggressive marketing techniques felt all lopsided. You have opened a different door and helped me see a more gentle route, thank you.

    Namaste
    Laura x

  • You are a genius!! I was ready to move my store to my SquareSpace site but I think I might stay with Etsy a little longer and try out your tips. I’ve been throwing all kinds of keywords into my titles with no success. I guess good old marketing is the answer not tricks on Etsy. Thanks.

  • Thanks for this! A great read! I’m wondering, though, how do you add people to your list? Do you send them an e-mail or an Etsy message? I’m using MailChimp.

  • Great information, as usual. I really enjoy your articles – thank you for sharing your experience!

    It’s worth pointing out that adding people to your email list (via aweber or anything else) IS completely against Etsy’s policies (see below). This isn’t a myth, and as much as I hate the policy, spam isn’t the real issue. The issue is that you’d be violating Etsy’s privacy policy (and undermining buyers’ trust in that policy). Etsy CAN set their privacy policy, and they CAN require you to respect it as part of your agreement to use their service.

    Keep in mind that a customer who buys your stuff on Etsy isn’t YOUR CUSTOMER, they’re ETSY’S customer. When you open your shop, you sign an agreement that you let them have those rights. That’s the price of selling on a third-party site. You can try to convert them to your customer (via “follow me, read my blog, visit my website” all of which are okay by your agreement with Etsy), but as long as they buy from you via Etsy, they’re Etsy’s customer.

    Here’s Etsy’s policy, copied from their legalese here: https://www.etsy.com/legal/sellers/?ref=list#communication (all caps added by me for emphasis):

    “Emails
    “You may receive a buyer’s email address or other information as a result of entering into a transaction with that buyer. This information may only be used for Etsy-related communications or for Etsy-facilitated transactions. You may not use this information for unsolicited commercial messages or unauthorized transactions. Without the buyer’s explicit consent, YOU MAY NOT ADD ANY ETSY MEMBER TO YOUR EMAIL OR PHYSICAL MAILING LIST or store or misuse any payment information. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.”

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      However, the opt-in request (per my advice and delivered via Aweber) is in compliance with the law and Etsy’s policies. You are not adding the customer to an email list, but rather prompting them for explicit consent to do so.

  • Thank you for taking the time to write this! My titles are currently keyword-stuffed for Etsy search and I don’t even get found through there! I hadn’t considered how this makes my items look unattractive. I’ll be changing a few of my items to see if it makes any difference. ♥

  • When it comes to online business success, most of us have heard the mantra ‘Content is King’. But is it that simple? Poorly executed Content Marketing has the potential to destroy your credibility online.Actually, your audience is king! Unless content is read, watched or engaged with and shared, it means nothing to your business.

    Content Marketing represents one of the biggest cultural shifts seen in advertising. In the old days, the businesses that got the most attention were the ones that could yell the loudest.

    Increasingly, Google and Facebook are both giving priority to businesses that connect with customers.

Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *