Why Every Etsy Seller Should Get a Website Like Right Now
Etsy is one of the greatest platforms and resources for a small start-up shop. I've been an Etsy seller for over a year now and I love the opportunity it gives me to reach new customers that I never would have been able to when I was just starting my business.
However, everyone who uses Etsy as part of their business strategy needs to be aware of the potential dangers of only having an Etsy shop as their business grows.
First off, let me clarify: I'm totally not an Etsy hater. I love Etsy! I love the system and the backend and I've had plenty of wonderful experiences as a result of my participation in their selling program.
Etsy is an established online marketplace with a built-in customer base and their seller program allows you to reach an audience right from the beginning when you open a shop.
If you were to set out tomorrow to start a new shop and you built a website, set it up for e-commerce, and added all your products, you might see some sales, but I think it could take quite some time for your website to start ranking in search engine results. Your strategy would need to include some pretty heavy search engine optimization from the get-go, lots of product and page descriptions, and it would probably take a large amount of effort just to get the web traffic coming in, let alone get many sales.
However, if you set-up shop on Etsy, you don't have to wait for your website to gain clout with Google and start ranking: your listings will appear in search results immediately, as long as you've been smart about how you create and tag them. That's the incredible wonder of Etsy - it allows sellers to start their business with a foothold and grow without the timeline of a brand new website trying to rank in search results.
But remember this: other than Google Adwords (Pay-Per-Click), Google is working hard to make sure that its rankings are fair and accurate for each search, and you can "play the game" by learning what things it values. With an Etsy shop, you are totally at the mercy of another business and their fees.
As they change their business model, you have to adapt and learn the new ins and outs of selling on their platform. When they increase their seller fees, you have no choice but to abide. And heaven help you if they change their ranking algorithm - you have very minimal control over your successes.
Let's say that you've optimized all of your shop listings to fit the current algorithm ranking strategy, and you're bringing in the mega dough. One day, Etsy decides that it's going to rank its listings more on some of the aspects you can't control, like length of time on the platform or number of reviews for the seller. Or they start ranking on something you CAN control and edit, but since they don't have to disclose that they've made this change in their algorithm, you don't notice it for several weeks, or a month.
As soon as you realize this isn't just the typical slump in sales during the season, you do some investigating and realize that you should have been optimizing your listings in a different way, so you immediately get started, but it's too late: you've missed out on a month's worth of sales simply because you were at the mercy of the platform and its algorithm.
What can you do to combat this? The only real (or at least long-term viable) solution is to start building your presence online outside of Etsy. I'm not saying that if you're a new shop (less than a year old) you should go out and start spending all your time building yourself a website: I think it's wiser for a new business to grow their brand and build up their profits as much as possible at the start and Etsy is a great way to do that.
But if you've got this Etsy thing down, and you feel like you're established and ready for the next step, you're gonna want to pay attention to this next little bit.
A website is a super simple, cost-effective way to take your business to the next level. Besides communicating legitimacy and professionalism, your website can start making money for you as it ranks in search engine results and brings in more website traffic to view your products and learn about your services.
A simple SEO strategy should be plenty to start allowing you to gain traction as a business in Google's search results, and then you can start tackling some social media strategies as well. Here's a proposed step-by-step process for an Etsy shop looking to build their safety net and ensure continued online success:
STEP ONE | Create your website.
Squarespace's lowest level pricing for e-commerce (as of this writing) is $216/year or $26/month if you don't want to pay the annual price all upfront. Remember, this isn't looking to replace your Etsy shop yet, so you should consider this expense as a new investment cost, and not compare it to Etsy pricing. Of course you're saving money not having a website, but you're also missing out on potential revenue and online exposure.
STEP two | Customize your website to fit your brand.
Take advantage of the freedom from a design-controlled platform and create beautiful graphics and layouts that suit your needs as a business. Include calls-to-action and plenty of information about your products and services. The more info you have, the more chances you have to rank in search engine results with that information and those pages.
STEP three | Pin your products to Pinterest.
Pinterest is your secret weapon to growth as a product-based business. After you've got your website established, put all your efforts for a while into dominating the Pinterest platform to increased web traffic to your website and to allow for greater exposure for your products online.
STEP four | Look into the best processes for selling your products on your website.
Fine tune your client experience and make it super easy to purchase. Take this time after your website has been live for a while and you've made a few sales to experiment with the cost per transaction by exploring other third-party payment processing and maybe considering the upgrade to an Online Store plan through Squarespace which eliminates the transaction fee entirely. Decide whether Paypal, Stripe, or another platform is best for you and minimize your costs as best you can to increase your profit.
STEP five | Improve the value of your website.
Make more sales by increasing the value of the products you sell on your website vs. Etsy. Shifting the sales you make on your own website over from Etsy will allow you more control, and also more freedom as far as the information you collect.
Start utilizing mailing lists to reach out to past customers when you add new products you think they'd enjoy. Post to your blog often to encourage repeat visits from potential and past customers.
Use this new website as a soapbox from which to rave about the brand you've created, and rest assured that this website ain't going anywhere, and there are no surprises hidden just around the corner.
Like I've said, Etsy is a great foundation for a business that's just starting out without the funds for a website. BUT, $200 a year REALLY isn't that much to pay in exchange for the security of an ever-constant web presence and the control of your customer experience and processes.
If you're a seasoned Etsy seller or if you are just starting but have the money to think about a website instead or in addition to your shop, consider these steps to take your business to the next level.
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