Friday, December 16, 2011

Weekly Inspiration


pompod-123-copmetallic-1, originally uploaded by 11BOLDstreet.

Submit your photos for consideration as a Weekly Inspiration by adding them to the Flickr Group.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Pychology of Free Shipping

Many handmade sellers are skeptical of free shipping, because free shipping isn't free for the seller. This attitude though ignores the psychological aspects of how you set your prices. Here are the two most common scenarios for free shipping:

Always Free - The seller offers free shipping all the time. In this scenario the seller has to build the cost of shipping into the price of the items.
Free as Sale - The seller occasionally offers free shipping as part of a sale or promotion. In this scenario the seller needs to have a high enough profit margin all the time to afford to run discounts*

However why offer free shipping when you still have to pay for it? For the same reason that a seller would offer 10% offer or run advertising: as a promotional tool. "Free" is a very powerful word and for online retailers an easy and affordable way to bring in extra business. In fact at least one consumer researcher has shown that shoppers will often pick free shipping over a discount even if the discount would save them more money.

For the time being I'm only offering free shipping as an occasional discount but with the prices for my raw materials and postage going up I'll soon have to revise my prices and I'm debating whether I should build the shipping costs into my prices. Regardless of what I decide in the end, free shipping will remain a valuable promotional tool for me and other online retailers.

* In my opinion this should be all sellers. If you don't have a high enough profit margin to be able to afford to discount either for a sale or for wholesale buyers then you don't have enough profit built in to adequately reinvest in the business and pay yourself a reasonable amount for your time.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekly Inspiration

Submit your photos for consideration as a Weekly Inspiration by adding them to the Flickr Group.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Successfully Promoting a Sale

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday at hand here are my tips to running a successful sale. Feel free to reply with your own ideas.

ON ETSY OR OTHER SHOP
1. Edit your shop banner to announce the sale. This can be fancy or just adding a line of text in an eye catching color.
2. Also add text describing your sale to your shop announcement AND your Etsy profile
3. Edit your profile image to announce the sale as well.
4. Post in teams announcing your sale (make sure the team rules allow it first)
5. Add relevant tags for your sale, especially any official tags like "Black Friday Etsy"
6. Edit item titles to reflect the sale and put sale information at the very top of your item descriptions, I recommend edit express at craftopolis.com/ to make the process faster


OFF ETSY
1: Blog it, several times. I recommend once a few weeks out, again a week or 3-4 days prior, then finally on the day of the sale.
2: Post it on Facebook as an Event with all the details of the sale then share the event on your Facebook page. Again several time leading up to the sale.
3: Tweet the sale with a link to your shop, again several mentions prior to the sale and while your running the sale. Careful not to flood your feed with announcement tweets, every few hours is good.
4: If you have an email newsletter, send an email to your list announcing the sale
5: Post to deal sites like bigcrumbs.com
6: Run an ad on Google Adwords or Project Wonderful
7. Etsy on Sale automatically shares on their front page sales set up through the site.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekly Inspiration


110bch, originally uploaded by River Valley Design.

Submit your photos for consideration as a Weekly Inspiration by adding them to the Flickr Group.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Renewing as an Etsy Marketing Strategy

Before Etsy switched their default search to relevancy you could pay $.20 to renew an item and get bumped to the top of the search results (which benefited larger sellers who could afford to spend the money to renew dozens of times a day). Relevancy search hasn't been a benefit to every seller but it is a much more fair system for sellers of all sizes, the quality of your titles and tags matters more than your budget for renewals.

Renewing items isn't totally useless though. Lets look at a few ways people find items:
  • Search: Relevancy is king, if your items aren't relevant to the search you're unlikely to rank highly in results. Your titles and tags are the most important things here, however recency still plays a part so newer items that are highly relevant are more likely to show up at the top of search results.
  • Categories: Etsy's category pages are still sorted by recency so people browsing that way will still see the most recent items listed or renewed.
  • Your Shop Home Page: Renewed items get pushed to the top of your shop which makes it look fresher for returning visitors. You could also use the rearrange shop tool every day or so to do this as well.
  • Etsy Mini: If you use this widget on your blog or other web page it is sorted by newest items (unless you choose to show featured items)
  • Facebook Fan Page App: Etsy's official Facebook app puts a tab on your fan page that displays your shop ordered by most recent items.
  • RSS Feed: Your shop feed (found at http://www.etsy.com/shop/yourshopname/rss ) can be used for automatically posting new or renewed items to various services like Twitter, Facebook, email newsletters, etc.
As you can see if you rely only on Etsy internal traffic then renewing helps but is limited, the vast majority of people browsing Etsy use the search rather than categories so making sure you have good titles and tags is a better use of your time than renewing items. If you use external tools then the impact of renewing can be greater. Should you rely on renewing to bring you all your sales? Absolutely not. Should it be a part of your overall strategy? Yes, renewing a handful of items regularly that are close to expiring is a good idea.

Renewing Tools
You can save yourself some time by scheduling your renewing using the following tools:

Clockbot - Lets you schedule specific items to renew, this is a free tool (not counting the $.20 listing fee from Etsy). You can schedule for days or weeks in advance but every item and time has to be selected for each scheduled renewal which can be time consuming.
Etsy on Sale - You can buy unlimited renewing options in monthly increments, I use this tool just because I can schedule renewing to occur at set intervals automatically (every 9 hours currently). It costs a small amount of money but I personally find it worthwhile for the convenience.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Don't be Fooled by Big Numbers in Ad Stats

I originally wrote this as a section of my Squidoo lens "Using Etsy Search Ads to Promote Your Shop" but I think it's so important I want to post it here too. While this is written for the new Etsy Search Ads it applies equally to Google Adwords, Project Wonderful, or any other advertising you run. To get the most for your money and to be the most effective you have to look objectively at the numbers.

Don't be Fooled by Big Numbers
Lots of impressions and clicks doesn't mean a good CTR. 

Here's a perfect example. For 6 days I ran "polymer clay" as a keyword for my ads. This is a term that you would assume would perform well for my items because I make polymer clay jewelry. It also garnered the most impressions and clicks for that time frame.

However when you actually do the math and look at the CTR for this keyword you can see that it wasn't actually a good keyword for me to use with a CTR of under 1%. In contrast, over the same period of time "squid" received 359 impressions and 8 clicks for a CTR of 2.23%, "octopus" had a CTR of 2.36% and my best keyword in terms of click through rate was "halloween jewelry" which had a CTR of 3.64% (though being a seasonal term will be just about useless for most of the year).

Be willing to waste a little bit of money to run ads for one week to determine click through rates then mercilessly eliminate those with low click through percentages. Those with low impressions (less than 100) and no clicks be willing to let run a bit longer to see if they do, a keyword that only get 30 views in 2 weeks but get 1 click may not be getting much visibility but when it does it's effective.

NOTE: Since the changes eliminating low performing keywords went into effect this morning the overall CTR for my ads today has improved dramatically. Next week I'll do another follow up with data from a longer time frame.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quick Note on Etsy Search Ads

Search Ads on Etsy started this morning. The grand experiment has begun and I hope it's a grand success as well.

I've put together a tutorial lens on Squidoo all about Search Ads including a lot of how to set them up and my personal thoughts on choosing keywords and evaluating your ad results (seriously, I put a lot of thought into the evaluation section and I think it's a good method for a more objective evaluation).

Since Search Ads have only begun this is a work in progress and it will be refined over the coming weeks.

Note: I was hoping so be busy evaluating the first day and posting live updated on @HandmadeBizBlog and @Noadi on Twitter but I've had a minor emergency involving a smoking light socket and will be dealing with repairs going on in my living room today. Updates will be sporadic.

Monday, September 26, 2011

It Will Never be a "Level Playing Field"

It's an unpleasant fact of life that things aren't always fair. As a small handmade business you have to compete with bigger businesses with bigger budgets and lower prices, more successful and experienced small businesses, and sheer diversity of products available on the market. It can be frustrating and depressing at times.

There's also nothing you can do about it.

What you can do something about is your own business. You can take better photos, write better descriptions, promote your business more, write a blog, build a fanbase on facebook, and all the other things I've written blog posts about. You can only control you. As we get closer to the busy holiday shopping season it's important to remember this and to focus on those things we can do instead of getting sidetracked by the things we have no control over.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Etsy Relevancy Search 45 Days Out

When I first posted about looking at Etsy Relevancy objectively it was about a week later. It's now 45 days out and how is my shop doing? Well sales are up over this time period last year but there were things going on last year that affected my ability to make, list, and relist items so it's hard to tell how badly that affected my sales over this time frame last year. My sales are also up over the 45 days immediately prior to the relevancy switch which I think is a better gauge of how things are going. The big payoff though is looking at site search stats:
The blue line is the last 45 days since relevancy, the green line is the 45 prior to the switch.
Visits with search: +60.74%
Total Unique Searches: +59.36%
If something is hurting my sales right now it certainly isn't the new search. Of course some sellers are doing worse with this change and I am sorry this change is hard for them, anyone who wants me to help them improve their shop is welcome to contact me with any questions. However the people making sweeping statements about how Etsy is killing their business and no one is making sales or getting traffic is just outright wrong (Etsy's own statistics show sales in August were way up over both last year and July).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Defining Ad Terms

Etsy is launching their new search ad program but there seems to be a lot of confusion about some basics on online advertising so here are some definitions of common ad terms. Etsy's new ad program works a lot like Google's Adwords search ads so you can apply a lot of information about Adwords to Etsy Search Ads.


Impression - When your ad is seen. So 5,000 impressions means your ad is seen 5,000 times.
Click - When someone clicks on your ad. 5 clicks means 5 people have clicked on your ad and viewed the page it is linked to. Etsy uses the term view for this on your shop stats page.
CTR - This stands for Click Through Rate it's a percentage arrived by dividing the number of ad clicks by the number of impressions. If an ad is clicked 8 times and has 300 impressions it has a CTR of 2.6%. Generally a CTR of >1% is considered good.

How Search Ads Work
When someone searches using a keyword (say "silver necklace") ads using that term are displayed. The price of that ad depends on several factors: frequency it is searched and competition for the search term. So a term that is searched 500 times a day and is being bid on by 30 ads will have a higher price than a term with 1000 searches and 30 bidders. Likewise a a term that is searched 500 times with 5 bidders is going to be less than a term with 1000 searches and 50 bidders. Thus a popular term can actually be quite cheap because it searched thousands of times a day and even though it has a lot of bidders there's enough rotation for everyone.

Etsy has a list of estimated prices per 1000 impressions for keyword on this page but expect it to change once the ads go live based on demand for keywords and changes in what people are searching for.

Etsy Ads or Google Adwords
This isn't an either/or question, nor should it be. The fact is that Etsy Search Ads, Google Adwords, and Project Wonderful (another fantastic ad network) all serve different audiences and can all be part of an overall advertising plan. Adding a new advertising option may require that you shift your advertising budget around a little bit to make room for the new expense (though if you were a frequent relister on Etsy you can put some of the money you are now saving on listing fees towards advertising now that relisting isn't as useful a strategy). If you don't currently have an advertising budget you really should have one, marketing is a vital part of business and as much as I'm a fan of marketing that costs time not money (blogging, social media, etc) traditional advertising is still important.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Quick Tip #29 - Etsy Relevancy

The helpful folks at Handmadeology (another great resource for handmade business owners) have ut together a free report on Etsy Relevancy. You do need to give them your email address for their mailing list but you can unsubscribe after getting the report if you really don't want it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Etsy Relevancy and How to Get Noticed

I put off writing this article for a couple weeks to see how relevancy is working and work out what I think works and doesn't work. First of all I want everyone who hasn't read it yet to go read my posts SEO and Your Customers and Being Seen is Not Enough for some more background on my thoughts on how your writing effects your customers and why ranking well in search shouldn't be your only goal.  

This article is going to have a lot of images so I'm posting them scaled down, click to enlarge if you're having trouble reading them.

Determining Relevancy
Factors Etsy uses in determining relevancy according to their article on the subject.
Titles - In particular Etsy is weighting the words at the beginning of a title more than the words at the end. In particular the first 3 words are the most important.


Tags - Tags in this case also include the categories you pick when you list an item. I'm not positive on this but my own experiments seem to imply that those tags weight a little higher than the ones you type in. Keep in mind that Materials do not count as tags and are not factored into search (I tested this, using a material listed that I am not using as a tag and it did not show up in the search at all) so if the material is an important selling point of the item you must have it in the tags.

Recency - This is how newly listed or renewed your item is. In the past all of Etsy's searches defaulted to just the most recent, now it is just one factor in the search. This means you don't need to renew items all the time to be higher in the search but it's probably still a good idea to have items spread out in how recently they have been listed. If you previously renewed multiple items every day you can now just renew an item or two that are close to expiring. This of course is going to save you money in listing fees that you can better use on other advertising.

Attributes - These new options for recipient, occasion, and style. Etsy has stated that they will be used in search eventually but right now they do not factor into search (as proven by the fact that "unisex adult jewelry" has almost no results). So until these attributes are included in the search if they are an important selling point for your item they must be included in tags.
From my own experiments this is how I think the level of importance for relevancy goes:
  1. First 3 words of the title
  2. Categories (possibly the same or nearly the same weight as #1)
  3. Tags 
  4. Remaining words in the title (possibly the same or nearly the same weight as #3)
  5. Recency
I haven't been able to determine the exact weight of these factors but let's for the sake of simplicity give them point values (I am sure the algorithm is more complex than this but it gives you the idea):
  • First 3 words = 4 pts
  • Category = 3pts
  • Tags = 2pts
  • Other title words = 1pts
Okay so if I search "Octopus Necklace" we would have:
(Category -> Necklace)+(First 3 words -> Octopus)+(Tag -> Octopus)+(Title words -> Necklace) = 4+3+2+1 = 10
but if I searched "Octopus Pendant" I would instead have
(First 3 words -> Octopus)+(Tag -> Pendant)+(Tag -> Octopus) = 4+2+2 = 6. 
Thus I would expect that even though there are far fewer results for "Octopus Pendant" than "Octopus Necklace" that I would rank lower in the search results for "Octopus Pendant" (and I do, in fact when I just ran this search "Octopus Pendant" didn't return one of my items until page 16 while the same necklace was near the top of page 2 for "Octopus Necklace"). So where does recency play into this? I think Etsy uses recency to rank items that otherwise have "equal" scores with the newer one being higher ranked than the older one.

Improving your Relevancy
In many ways improving relevancy is the same as improving your onsite SEO (one of the reasons I've had to make very few changes in order to rank well in relevancy). Use good keywords that shoppers are going to think of in search, if you need a little help use a keyword tool like Google Keyword Tool. Also use the keyword tool to make sure the words and phrases you come up with are ones that people search for while still being closely related to what your product is.

Make sure you use all your tag spaces and select all 3 categories if you can. Don't waste any tag spaces. For example if your items colors have name variations (for example a deep purple could be tagged both "purple" and "plum") and you have a space to fill use the color variation. If you item has a number of different names for the style make for you use them (for example a woman's tank top could also be tagged with "camisole").

Write good descriptive titles with important words at the beginning. You don't have to sacrifice your cute item names either! For example if you are a baby clothing maker and you have a item currently called "Joshua" that is a blue corduroy jacket a title like this would have good relevancy: "Blue Baby Jacket "Joshua" in Soft Warm Corduroy for Age 16 Months". Now the title "Blue baby jacket corduroy 16 months" would be just as relevant for the keywords "blue", "baby", "jacket", "corduroy", and "16 months" but the first title has more consumer appeal. You have a 140 character limit for titles, that first title looks long but it's only 65 characters so don't be afraid to write longer descriptive titles if you need to.

Remember the "long tail" while a lot of people will search popular but general terms like "red dress" a person searching for "red polka dot retro dress" is more likely to be interested in and buy your item if it's a red polka dotted 40s inspired dress. This is why it's important to write descriptive titles and use all your tags, to make sure people using those long tail search terms find your items because they are more likely to buy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Best Days

Digging into the statistics for your business can give you a lot of valuable information. Today I decided to figure out what days of the week people buy the most from my shop. This information can help me better plan when to list new item, run ad campaigns, and whether a sale is likely to be successful. I took all my sales data from the last year and broke it down into the percentage of sales for each day of the week. Here is the result:
So what does this tell me? Clearly Thursday and Friday are my best sales days with a over 43% of all my sales (24.4% and 18.9% respectively) while the very next day, Saturday, plummets to just under 9% of my sales. There is also a significant bump in sales on Monday (14.75%). So my customers like to shop at the beginning and end of the work week and not on the weekend. Even if I break it down by month, every single month in that date range Thursday and Friday had between 30-50% of all sales. It's very consistent for my shop. The interesting thing is that this is despite the fact that my busiest listing days are generally Sundays and Mondays (because I create over the weekend and list Sunday night and Monday) so the bump on Mondays may only be because that's when I average the most new items listed.

My data also shows that Cyber Monday is not a busy day for me, in fact it's about average for the holiday season. Instead it's usually the first week of December that is the busiest with Wed-Fri being the busiest days. Of course I only really have two years of data for the holiday season since I started my Etsy shop October 2008 so that first holiday season I was still getting things rolling. I'm interested in seeing it this trend hold up.

I'm not encouraging anyone to take my data and use it for their own shop. You should look at your own shop's data, if you don't have many sales yet look at what your highest traffic days are (they tend to match sales patterns fairly well). I wish I had more data to go on but my google skills have failed me and I haven't found any good statistics online of when people shop to compare it to my data.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Being Seen is Not Enough

Back around February I started making some changes to my Etsy listings. I started adding cute little stories the the start of every listing. It was a disaster.

My traffic didn't change, the number of visitors didn't change, my Google rankings stayed about the same but my sales tanked. For the first month or so I chalked it up to being a slow time of year but then one of my usually busy months was a lot slower than usual. I took the stories out of the beginning of the listings and put them further down the page, below the descriptions. Sale bounced back almost immediately.

The lesson here is this: just being seen is not enough. What is seen has to be compelling to people. In my case while the stories were fun visitors wanted to see information on my jewelry first. Lesson learned.

This is the reason I wrote the post last week SEO and Your Customers often a listing that looks good to search engines or looks good to you as a creative person doesn't look good to customers.

So what about the stories? I have plans for those, I want to do a series of cards with illustrations on the front and the stories on the back but for now they are being retired from my shop.

Also if you are working on editing your titles and descriptions I recommend Craftopolis' Edit Express to make it go faster. Unfortunately it doesn't have a batch tag editor though.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Weekly Inspiration


Bird Tango Mirrors with Packaging, originally uploaded by Hi Ni.

Submit your photos for consideration as a Weekly Inspiration by adding them to the Flickr Group.

A Real Look at Your Etsy Search Rankings

Are you panicking over Etsy's change to make relevancy search the default? Should you be? Visits can fluctuate widely from day to day for reasons that have nothing to do with Etsy's internal search. To really see what's going on you need to look at only visits coming from Etsy's internal search. Here's a quick way to check if it has helped or hurt you. For this you need Site Search tracking set up on Google Analytics (if you don't go here to see how, but I'm not sure if it will give you site search stats retroactively). You could also do this with Etsy's new shop stats but I prefer Analytics for it's ability to do direct comparison of date ranges.

Log into Analytics and go down to Content->Site Search. Set your date range to August 9, 2011 - Yesterday's date (because we want stats for whole days not partial we don't want to include today's date). Then check the box that says "Compare to past" and it should select an equal number of days right before August 9th then click "Apply".In my case the number of searches on Etsy leading to my items increased by 31.85%

Now I don't think this change has been around long enough to get really meaningful results yet, my increases could just be a fluke or because I've added new items, but it's a start and if I had found I was doing worse I'd be in changing my listings to improve them.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Handstitching the Long Tail

There's recently been a lot of stress in the Etsy community over the search being switched from Recency to Relevency. I'm not stressing. Why? Because the same things that help you in the Etsy relevancy search are also the things that help you in Google searches and if you've read this blog enough you know that I think Google is what you should be focusing on.

The first page of any Etsy search is 40 items, that means that you can't be on the first page of every search that would be relevant for your items. It's impossible. What you should be striving for is a well rounded listing that isn't trying to be at the top for only one or two searches, but a listing that ranks well if not at the very top for a wide range of related searches.

There's a concept called the "long tail" that is very important whenever you are talking about search engine rankings. The idea behind the long tail is that many search terms are only search for rarely but if you rank well for enough of these little searches you will get a lot of traffic. So stop worrying that you aren't on the first page for "dress" and start making sure you are titling, tagging, and writing descriptions so you will rank well for "blue cotton seashell print dress" in either Etsy or Google.



Wish all you want but Etsy, Google, and any other search engine is never going to tell you exactly what will put you at the top. The best you can do is write as relevant and accurate listings as you can that use good keywords that describe your items (and for Google build good backlinks). Don't pull your hair out trying to rank best for one narrow term in one search engine as your main way to get traffic, a broad approach to SEO and promotion will give you more consistent results that will protect you from major changes in just one area.  I would rather have 50 small traffic streams bringing me 5 visits each than one source sending me 250 visits because if one out of fifty disappears I'm not going to be devastated, I can just roll with the changes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

SEO and Your Customers

Users come first. That should be your number one rule whether you use Etsy, Artfire, or a self-hosted webstore. What this means is that while you should be using important keywords in your titles and descriptions, those are useless if your customers are turned off by the way your titles and descriptions are written or how your photos look they aren't going to buy no matter how well you rank in search.

This concept is called "conversions", you want the highest conversion rate you can get (for a web store that the % of visitors who make a purchase). If you have 5000 visitors a month with a conversion rate of 1% you are doing the same amount of business as a shop with 1000 visitors but a 5% conversion rate (50 sales per month). If you have 10,000 visitors a month but no one buys anything you might as well have had no visitors at all.

Here are three fictional titles for the same fictional product:
"Marvin the Robot"
"Soap robot lavender scented blue soy moisturizing handmade vegan"
"Marvin the Robot soap, moisturizing lavender scented soy soap"

The first is terrible, it doesn't even tell you what the item is. You can have creative names for your product, a memorable name may stick in a visitors head better than something descriptive but generic. However if the not having many clues, or misleading clues, about what the item is will hurt you as well. If visitors are clicking on "Marvin the Robot" expecting a toy or artwork not soap then that's not going to help your sales.

The second is better but a visitor is going to see it as either boring at best and spammy at worst. Why? because it's just a list of attributes of the product. People react to language in certain ways and if words don't read like a meaningful statement people aren't going to perceive it as valuable. Try reading your titles out loud and see how they sound.

The third title strikes the right balance. It both is descriptive, telling you a lot about the product (that it is a robot shaped soap, made of soy, moisturizes the skin, and is lavender scented) while also giving you product personality. If you don't know about the importance of telling a story about your business please go read All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin he describes the concept far better than I can but the gist of it is that people respond far more to being told a good authentic story than they do just being given the bare facts.

I used titles in this example because Etsy's new CEO just released an update on improvements to relevancy search and how to make titles better for search. I applaud the Etsy team for making much needed improvements to the search engine but I think it gave people the wrong idea. Ranking higher in search will not do any good if your customers aren't enticed by what they see.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Keep an Open Mind

I'm currently working on a wholesale jewelry order however it's not one of my standard designs. Not even close in fact. My usually jewelry designs are sea creatures not food however I was contacted about doing a large number of vegetable earrings. One of my twitter friends who also makes jewelry (but not in polymer clay) wanted some pieces to sell at a local festival that was geared towards it's theme. We worked out a price per piece and I've been busy creating them. If I was to keep rigidly to my usual jewelry themes I would have missed this chance for a pretty good order. I don't plan to expand my own lines to food or anything of that nature but for a custom wholesale order? Absolutely.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Twitter Account

I'm giving the Handmade Business Blog it's own twitter account. If you follow my personal twitter account @Noadi I will still announce there new posts but I'll now be posting not just new blog posts but also business how to related stuff on the new account @HandmadeBizBlog. I hope that this does two things A: gives people more access to me about business related topics and B: keeps my personal account more focused on my personal stuff (creating jewelry, talking about skepticism, etc). Also I've given the blog a dedicated email address and am updating the links on the site to reflect that change too.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Great SEO Guide You Need to Read

SEO is something people are always confused about on the Etsy forums and elsewhere that handmade business people hang out. I'll be honest, even to a total web geek like me it can be confusing. SEOMoz which is a great SEO consulting company has a Free Beginners Guide to SEO on their website and it's really free, you don't even have to sign up for anything to get it.

I also highly recommend subscribing to their blog as well it's always full of interesting tips and insights into what's up and coming on the web.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Quarterly Sprucing Up

I've written before about how important it is to keep reevaluating what you are doing and keeping your business fresh. I like to go through my shop every 3 months and make sure everything it as good as it can be and see if anything needs changing. I generally do this at the end of March, June, September, and December (after the holiday rush). Well I got a little behind so I'm just now working on freshening up my Etsy shop.

Here's what I did:
  • Made sure all listings had up to date information and tags.
  • Moved the short little stories for my cephalopod jewelry to after the main description instead of before.
  • Added new custom order listings.
  • Changed some categories. I completely got rid of the "Clearance" section, changed "Gifts and More" to "Seasonal Gifts" and added an "Everything Else" category (right now it just has my decorated tins which were moved out of "Gifts and More" but will have other stuff soon).
 Of course I've also been working on other things, more videos of my products for my YouTube Channel, updating the Noadi.net website, updating my Squidoo lenses, getting my presence on Google+, and updating and ordering new business cards.

So what could you do right now to freshen up your online presence?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Link Roundup - Getting Technical

It's been a while since I've done a Link Roundup but I thought this was a good time to do one with the launch of Google+ (yes, I'm on) and many sites on Google and elsewhere launching major redesigns. In fact Blogger which hosts this blog and is owned by Google has a fantastic new look if you use the Blogger in Draft feature that lets you try new features before they roll out to everyone.

So this roundup is recent news and articles focusing on web technology and how it relates to or can be used by small business.

The Tech Stuff

Google Plus Doesn't Need to 'Kill' Anything to Be a Winner
from AllBusiness
Google+ Statistics Report from FindPeopleOnline
Top Gmail Apps and Plug-ins for Running a Business from Small Business Trends
Find & Make Your Own Infographics With Visual.ly from Mashable

Some Great Non-Tech Stuff
5 Ways That Content Marketing Has Changed The Art Of Selling Forever from Duct Tape Marketing
Free Class – Copywriting 101 from Indie Biz Chicks
Business Thank You Letters – Your Secret Marketing Weapon from Craft Marketing Tutor

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Getting more traffic from YouTube

I'm a big fan of using video to promote your business. We humans are very visual animals, this is one reason good photos are so important when you're selling handmade products. When the photos are also moving that grabs our attention even more.

Now one of the problems with using YouTube for promotion is that usually the only place you can put a link is in your description and many users ignore the description, even more so since YouTube redesigned the video pages to hide most of the description. There is a way around this, using YouTube's Promoted Videos you can put what YouTube calls a "call to action overlay" on your video that can contain a link to your shop. This will cost a little bit of money, because it is an advertising program, but there are ways to minimize how much you spend.

Here's a video that describes how to set up a Promoted Video and use the call to action overlay. YouTube gives you very few characters to write your message so choose your words carefully and be creative.



Here's an example of one of my videos using this overlay (apparently it doesn't work on embedded videos so you'll need to go click the link to the video on youtube to see it in action). If you have ad blocking software you might need to disable it to see the overlay.

Tip: YouTube also gives you the option to use a 56x56pixel image. I used a .png of the cuttlefish in my logo with a transparent background. Just take any image you want, crop it square, then scale it down to 56x56, save, and upload to an image hosting site like Photobucket. You can then use it on your overlay to add just a tiny bit more branding. I recommend using your logo or a portion of it like I did.

Monday, July 4, 2011

New Resources Page

Happy 4th of July to all my US readers! Not much of a post today just a quick announcement. I've started a resources page that has links to business supplies, books, and websites that I recommend.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

Showing Related Etsy Items on your Wordpress Site or Blog

This trick is something I just set up on my own site and is specific to blogs and sites running self-hosted Wordpress. Unfortunately I don't have an alternative for other platforms or wordpress.com hosted blogs. However if you have wordpress installed on your own hosting read on for a very cool trick to get more people to click from your site to your etsy shop.

I've been using a widget here on this blog called LinkWithin for quite a long time, at the bottom of each post it links to related posts here on the blog. I thought that it would be great to have something like this on my website but linking to my Etsy items. I searched through a lot of related post wordpress plugins before finally finding one that will pull items from an external site. The plugin is called nrelate and it lets you pull related posts not just from your blog but from any site in your blogroll. I have the links I want displayed in a separate link list and only my Etsy shop in the blogroll. I set the plugin to show 0 posts from site and 5 from my blogroll and now I have Etsy items beneath every posts on my site.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Video: Walkthrough my Photo Studio

I know a lot of people prefer to shoot their product photos in natural light. I however don't have much luck with this for a couple reasons A) I live in Maine where 6 months of the year days are very short and dark and B) I'm a night owl so even in the summer I'm more likely to be shooting my pictures at night. So I have a light tent setup that I use for taking my photos. This short video shows how I have my photo studio set up.
This is my photo equipment:
  • Panasonic Lumix FZ35 Camera - This is the only expensive part of my photo setup, it's a higher end point and shoot camera. It has full manual controls plus a ton of preset controls for lighting, shutter speed, aperture, etc. but isn't quite as nice (and expensive) as a Digital SLR. You really should get the best camera you can afford, it makes a big difference.
  • 16 inch Light Tent - Bought on Ebay for about $20, I also have a large 36 inch one but I use it rarely. The tent came with the blue backdrop I use (and also white and black which are better for most items).
  • 2 Desk Lamps - Your basic variety that can be found at any Walmart, Staples, etc. each with a daylight compact florescent bulb. The lamps is less important than the light bulbs used, you want daylight bulbs because the color temperature is a more pure while than most indoor bulbs (which are yellower).
  • Reflectors - Made of cardboard covered with aluminum foil.
  • Various props - Jewelry display bust, piece of coral, etc.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Weekly Inspiration

It's been a while since there's been a studio inspiration so here's a really lovely one.

Submit your photos for consideration as a Weekly Inspiration by adding them to the Flickr Group.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Video: Improve Your Writing

Etsy recently broadcast the Etsy Success Symposium Writing Workshop. This is good stuff regardless of where you sell so give it a view.


Watch live streaming video from etsy at livestream.com

Survey Your Fans

If you have a good network of twitter followers, facebook fans, or email list subcribers you can use them to research ideas. I did this recently using SurveyMonkey to create a simple survey asking people to rate some photos of my jewelry. SurveyMonkey's basic service is free and it's very simple to use. I created my survey then posted the link to it on twitter, my facebook fan page, and my blog.
I was considering switching from the blue backdrop I've been using for over a year to white because it's often recommended to use a neutral color for the background of product photos, either white, black, or gray. Now I don't have a gray backdrop and I make some jewelry which is black so that wouldn't have enough contrast for those items so I tried white. I originally chose blue because I make sea creatures so the blue invokes water and the sea.

So I put the 4 images above in a survey and asked people in my network to take it and rate each photo on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being strongly dislike and 5 being strongly like). The results surprised me. I personally like the blue better and was hoping it would come out on top but I was surprised by how much more other people preferred it. When the two blue photos were averaged together they had a score of 4.17 while the white photos got a score of 3.87. Even more telling was that the necklace with the coral prop on blue scored 4.22 and on the display bust it only scored 4.11. Even for the white background the coral prop scored 4.0 over 3.74 for the display bust.

I'm going into detail on my results here for a reason, even though I created the survey to tell me which background color people liked best it also told me that I should be using the photos with the coral prop for my main image and not the display bust which I had been using. Sometimes you get results that tell you more than you had expected and that is the value of using these sorts of surveys. So give it a shot. Do you have 3 different banners for your shop and don't know which to use? Do you want to know if people are more interested in t-shirts for toddlers with kittens or puppies on them? If you want to entice more people to take your survey offer a coupon code for those who complete it (simply add a last page to the survey with no questions and just text that includes the coupon and a link to your shop).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Video Roundup: Marketing and Branding

The I ♥ Art folks in Baltimore and Portland have been producing some great videos. First up is Baltimore with a workshop on Web Marketing which is available on YouTube and embedded below.



Next is Portland with a two-part video workshop on Speed Branding. Part 1 and Part 2 are hosted on Etsy's livestream account. NOTE: Part 1 had some audio problems so sound doesn't start until about 9 minutes in but it doesn't actually affect the presentation itself.



Friday, April 1, 2011

Weekly Inspiration


Várias poses, originally uploaded by Juh Vivá.

Submit your photos for consideration as a Weekly Inspiration by adding them to the Flickr Group.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Handling Copyright Issues

copyright_001.jpgSnarky craft blog Regretsy recently targeted a seller violating copyright. This post discusses the response they got from Etsy and the frustration caused by it. The thing is that Etsy acted entirely how they have to in response to unrelated 3rd parties reporting copyright violation. In this post I'm going to discuss how to handle when you discover someone ripping off your work.


Why Etsy responded the way they did.

Picture this scenario: You are an Etsy seller with an original design. Someone else has ripped off your work. A person unfamiliar with either of you sees both and decides that YOU were the one that did the ripping off. They report you to Etsy. Now if Etsy considered this proof enough to take someone's items down you would be pretty upset wouldn't you? Of course you would. Copyright violation is a serious legal matter and if Etsy were to act on it without proof provided by the copyright holder they would be in a shaky legal position. So Etsy requires the copyright holder or their lawyer to notify them with proof that their copyright has been violated.

What should you do when someone has copied you?

Remember I am not a lawyer, this is not official legal advice just my personal opinions on what your options are. If you feel like you need a lawyer, by all means consult one, it's probably worth the money if the infringement is serious enough.

You have several options when you discover someone has copied your work. Your first step should be to contact the person copying you and ask them politely to remove the infringing items (a cease and desist letter). Make sure you give them examples of where you believe they have copied you. Many people don't understand copyright and don't realize they are breaking the law. Once contacted many people will remove the infringing items.

If after you have made a polite request and it's been ignored or rejected you're going to have to do more work to solve the problem.

In cases where a seller on an online venue is selling infringing items you should contact the site's legal department. Make sure you have documentation that shows how long you have been making or selling your items to back up your claim. An example would be records of when your first version of the item was listed or sold. Unfortunately if this is a very unethical person they may just start selling somewhere else, if this happens you could keep going after them on every website they try to sell on and make it too much trouble for them to continue selling the infringing items or get a lawyer involved to take it to the next level legally (usually suing them for infringement).

In cases where someone has used a digital copy of your photos, artwork, writing, or other creations without permission you should send a DMCA takedown notice to their hosting company or ISP (use Whois domain lookup). By law service providers must take down potentially infringing material reported to them by a DMCA takedown notice (there is a response process if the person believes they aren't infringing but that's a different subject).

If your items are being copied by a company with their own website or store things get harder. If they have ignored or rejected a cease and desist letter you really have no choice but to consult a lawyer about your options and possibly file suit.

If for any reason you feel like your business has been harmed or that the infringement has cost you money you can try to collect damages. This absolutely requires a lawyer familiar with copyright law.

When is work not covered by copyright?

Unfortunately not everything crafters do is covered by copyright. From the US Copyright Office website:
Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. The fixation need not be directly perceptible so long as it may be communicated with the aid of a machine or device. Copyrightable works include the following categories:
1. literary works
2. musical works, including any accompanying words
3. dramatic works, including any accompanying music
4. pantomimes and choreographic works
5. pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
6. motion pictures and other audiovisual works
7. sound recordings
8. architectural works
These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer programs and most “compilations” may be registered as “literary works”; maps and architectural plans may be registered as “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works.”
The way this is explained in a legal guide I have on craft work is that functional items are not covered by copyright only their artistic elements if they can be viewed separately from the functionality. So say you designed a fabric print and then used it to make a dress. Clothing is a functional item and the function can't be separated from the design so the dress isn't covered by copyright. On the other hand the fabric print is considered a graphic work which can be viewed separately from the function of the clothing therefore it is given copyright protection. This is one of the reasons fashion knockoffs are so easy to come by and so hard for fashion designers to put a stop to unless the fabric or other artistic element has been copied (or it infringes on trademark but that's an entirely different legal issue). Another example would be soap molded to look like a cat, the soap is functional but the sculptural form of the cat is artistic. Photos of your crafts are separate works from the craft itself and are covered by copyright of their own regardless of whether your craft item is able to be copyrighted. The website listed below for the US Copyright Office has more information on what qualifies for copyright protection. If you are uncertain whether your work qualifies for copyright protection and the website for the US Copyright Office doesn't help you should absolutely consult a copyright lawyer.

Copyright Resources
US Copyright Office
Etsy Copyright Policy
Digital Millenium Copyright Act
Sample DMCA Takedown Notice
Whois Domain Lookup
US Patent and Trademark Office


Note: After I started writing this post I was informed of an Etsy seller who had copied my designs. I contacted them via convo about it and they promptly apologized and removed the infringing items.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

Useful Etsy Features

I've written before about Etsy Hacks and how useful they are but today I want to talk about digging into Etsy's options that you may not know about that make running your shop much easier.

Your Etsy
By default clicking the "Your Etsy" link takes you to your currently listed items if you're a seller. If you go to the Account link and click the Preferences tab you can change this to go to your Sold Items instead.
Message to Buyer
A thank you note is always nice to send your buyer but you can do so much more with this message. I include a link to my newsletter which is simply using Feedburner to turn an RSS feed into an email. You can use your shop RSS to do this, I went a step further and used RSSMix to combine both my shop feed and my studio blog.
Download Shop Data
I use spreadsheets for all my accounting including tracking inventory. Etsy added this option fairly recently and it makes inventory much easier. I download my entire shop as a .csv at the beginning of each month which combined with the data from the beginning of the previous month and my sold items I have most of the inventory data that I need with a minimum of fuss. You can find your shop data under Shop Settings -> Options and click the Download Data tab.
Download Sold Items
At the beginning of each month when it's time to do my accounting for the previous month I download the .csv file for my sold items form the previous month. This file has a wealth of information about your sold items that you can use, price, shipping, sales tax, coupon codes used, customer names and addresses, and more.


Download Etsy Bill
Another useful accounting download on Etsy is your Bill. It has a breakdown of every fee and payment you've made for a month. You can find it under the Your Bill link then click the month you want and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Handmade Interview: Anna Clifton

For this installment of the Handmade Interview we have Anna Clifton, her website is at annaclifton.com.

You can also find her on twitter and facebook.

Please introduce yourself and your business

I’m a 34 year old mum of 2, wife and designer/maker of jewellery. I have a degree in jewellery and silversmithing and design and make innovative pieces of jewellery, using precious and recycled materials.

Q #1: When did you start your handmade business and what inspired you to do so?
I properly started my business in 2006 when my daughter was 2 years old. I’d gone back to work as a teacher full time when she was only 6 months old, mainly because we “thought at the time” that I couldn’t afford not to. I love teaching but I really wanted to try and make my business ideas work and maybe becoming a mum helped me to take a risk and leave my permanent teaching job in order to concentrate on being a “proper” designer!

Q #2: Do you have to balance your business with work, children, both? How do you do it?
Yes, as already mentioned, I have 2 young children and I also teach jewellery making part time so it’s all a bit of a juggling act!

Q #3: What is your usual work day like?
I don’t think I have a “usual” work day at the moment. Maybe when my youngest starts at pre-school after Easter things will get a little easier, but for the time being, I usually get 1 day a week where I can get to my workshop and spend a few hours there. On these days, I start work at around 9am, after dropping off the kids at school/childminder and work until 4.30pm when I have to pick them up again. This time usually gets taken up with making orders and commissions so any new pieces/website updates etc etc have to be fitted in in the evenings – hence filling this in at 10.45pm!

Q #4: What is your favorite thing about running your business?
Can I have 2? 1: Being able to drop off/pick up my children from school at least on most days! 2: Being able to make money out of designing and making beautiful things!

Q #5: What is your biggest challenge?
I’ve just been accepted into the Devon Contemporary Craft Fair in Bovey Tracey in June. It’s a really prestigious event so everything will have to be right.

Q #6: How do you market your business?
Word of mouth, arts and crafts markets, magazine advertising, social networking – twitter/facebook.

Q #7: What is one mistake you've made in your business that you've learned from?
When I first started up, someone rang me out of the blue and said how wonderful they thought my work was and how by paying to be part of a free CD ROM on the front of a wedding mag would make me £1000’s! It didn’t but it taught me to think very carefully before committing to expensive advertising campaigns.

Q #8: What has been your biggest success and why do you think it's been so successful?
My Mendhi jewellery seems to have been really successful, as has my recycled ranges. I think my biggest success though is with commissions as I can design and make something the my customer’s exact requirements.

Q #9: What is the one thing you'd most like to tell someone just getting started?
Get some good photos taken and invest in a good website. I ALWAYS check the web first when looking for something so I can’t be “too” much different to lots of other people.

Q #10: What goals do you have for the future of your business?
I’d like to really develop my recycled ranges as well as setting up some regular jewellery making classes in and around Malvern, where I now live.

Q #11: Anything else you would like to tell the readers?
Thanks for reading all this and watch this space!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blog Tracking

No, this isn't a post on google analytics or any other stats program. It's about how to increase your exposure on blogs by getting organized. You will need only 3 things for this: email, spreadsheet software (excel, open office, etc), and this article from Modish on how to approach blogs. Optional tool: Google alerts.
In your spreadsheet you will need various columns to track blogs that have featured you or that you want to feature you. Here's what I have for mine:
Contacted - Yes/No
Featured - Yes/No
Blog Name - Noadi's Art Blog
URL - http://noadi.blogspot.com
Topic - Handmade
Notes - Blah blah blah
Editor Name - Sheryl
Contact - NoadiArt@gmail.com
Date Contacted - 1/1/11
Date Featured - 1/1/11
Feature URL - http://noadi.blogspot.com/2011/01/new-year-new-ideas.html

I use Google Alerts to see new mentions of my name, business, name, or URLs so I know of blog features where the blogger hasn't emailed me that I've been featured (this happens frequently).

I first input all blog that have featured me (that I know of), then add those I want to feature me. This can be a time consuming task as there are a lot of blogs on the topics I want to feature my work. This is the main point of this spreadsheet, create a big list of blogs you want to feature you then contact one or two of them every day making sure to mark that they've been contacted and the date. If you don't hear back from them or get a feature in a few months, send a reminder (and only one, if they still don't feature you they probably aren't interested).

The blogs that have featured your work can be your list of blogs to contact again in the future when you have something new and special to share like a brand new line. They already like your work so don't be afraid to contact them again.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Use an Eye Catching Signature

Email signatures are great. They get attached to all your outgoing emails and can be a simple, passive, means of advertising. There are definitely more effective ways to market, but since creating a signature takes all of 5 minutes at the most it's worth the time.

If you use an email program like Outlook or Firebird you already have easy tools to create an attractive signature but if you use web based mail you may not be able to create an html based signature. However there is a solution for web based email services if you use Firefox or Chrome. A little while ago I found Wisestamp which is an extension for Firefox or Chrome and is compatible with Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL, Hotmail, and several more services. It has a nice interface that makes creating a signature very easy with some nice tools like social media buttons and the ability to display items from an RSS feed.
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