September 21, 2012

On Helpful Tips for Etsy Sellers.

I see this question all the time in the Etsy forums: Will you critique my shop?

One thing I really love about the Etsy community is how willing everyone is to assist each other. We give opinions, critiques, hints, tricks of the trade, away freely, because we are eager to help where we struggled. However, it can also sometimes be galling, especially when, if you searched in the Etsy Success team (where I see the above question most of all), there is already incredible information waiting there for you. Most of the time, new sellers shouldn’t need to even ask for the critique, because the information is already there.

With that in mind, here are some valuable lessons I have learned from the Etsy Success team. Though I don’t claim to be a high-profile Etsy seller, I can tell you these are the both the basics and the essentials to running your shop and making it fantastic.

1) (The most important one, folks.) Be willing to devote some time to your shop.

Do not expect to load up some photos of your items, write a couple lines, and expect them to sell. This does not really happen. (I know because this is how I started. HUGE mistake. After six months of research and changing everything, I finally had a shop I could be proud of.) Be ready to take and retake and retake and RETAKE photos, write and edit and revise and tweak your descriptions, and always be working on your tags. All of this, not to mention making your items. If you do not feel you can devote the time and energy to this, perhaps an Etsy shop is not right for you.

2) Take FANTASTIC photos.

Never accept mediocre. In the eighteen months I have been open, I have retaken my photos three times, all of my photos, and I’m sure I’m not done. It takes time, but it is, in my opinion, the most crucial piece of your shop. Before customers see anything else, they see a picture of your item. If your picture isn’t top-notch, do you really think the customer will take the time to click on it and see your item description or the other items in your shop?

So, some tips to taking photos (these are thanks to some great fellow sellers from the forums; that thread can be found here):

  • Have a sense of cohesiveness. I feel this is most easily achieved by the traditional “white” background, and as that is what I use, I’ll be telling you how to successfully do that. However, I have seen some amazing shops that don’t use a white background, but what they do use is the same style of background. If you want a rustic wood background, do that for everything. If you want pale lace, do that for everything. Give you shop the sense that all those items belong together.
  • Make your photos CLEAR. This was one of my biggest issues. If you have a small item, learn where the macro button on your camera is (it looks like a flower, and most cameras have it, even cheap ones). Also, when taking the photo, holding down the button halfway for a second before you push it all the way down; that will allow the camera time to adjust the lens and get a clearer image. Better yet, use a tripod, and you won’t have to deal with your shaking hands.
  • Use natural (or artificially natural) lighting. Some people have it really nice; they can set up their image by a beautiful bay window as the light comes in and get a great photo. Some of us (me included) live in a city apartment where light is certainly not streaming in the windows. Therefore, you have to fake it. To do so, open the windows anyway (it does help a little). Buy a couple cheap desk lamps, and daylight bulbs to go in them. Arrange the lamps around your item, using that aesthetic eye of yours to give it some nice shadows, but not too many shadows.
  • Edit your photos. Even a fantastic natural shot needs a wee bit of help. I use, because it’s free and has some great tools. If you’re going for a white background, like I do, I use the neutral picker under the color setting to tell it what part of the photo should be white, and then I use the brightness and contrast to keep bringing that up. Be careful though, because you don’t want your picture to look over-edited, you just want it to look professional. When a photo looks over-edited, people often avoid that item because they don’t believe they’re really getting what they’re seeing.
  • Use all five photos slots. Show us the whole image, show us a close up. Show us what the underbelly looks like, what the back/inside looks like, make us feel like we’re holding the item and can see it from every angle.
  • Be cognizant of the fact that Etsy uses a standard photo layout for its searches and displays. Don’t take a portrait-style picture of a long necklace and expect it all to fit in there; all we’ll see is the chain and not your one-of-a-kind pendant that you hand-created. Etsy is now rolling out a new feature where we can adjust what part of the photo we want in the image search, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of the photo formatting, regardless.

3) Descriptions are about describing (but not too much).

There’s a lot of different ways to go about writing descriptions, so I’m not going to get into too much detail about it. The most important things, though, are:

  • Tell you customer what the item is in the first paragraph. This is particularly essential if you want to get found on Google, because it will take your first couple sentences and display them in the search results. Tell us what it is, what color it is, how big it is, what it’s stuffed with….We don’t have it in our hands, so you have to be our describer. Pretend you’re at a craft fair, and you see something you think your best friend would love, so you call her up to give her the low-down before she gives you the okay to buy. Write it like that.
  • Don’t get overly wordy or long. Buyers, notoriously, don’t read everything, so put down the essentials in short, direct paragraphs. Don’t expect us to read a dissertation; you’d just be giving yourself extra work, because about 1% of your viewers would actually read all that.
  • Put some backlinks to other items on your shop at the end. For example, in each of my teddy bear listings, I say a variation of: “if you like the teddy, but perhaps are looking for a different color, check out the shop section:” and then I give the link. Or, with my octopi, if you’re on the listing for the small purple one, I might say: “Looking for something bigger? Try Ferdinand {link}. Or looking for a little more rainbow flair, try Exuberance: {link}.” This way, the shopper doesn’t have to go hunting for something similar; I’m giving them suggestions based on what they’re looking at.

4) Tags/Titles are where you get found; use them.

I don’t pretend to be an authority on this; I’m always tweaking my tags and titles. Also, if you’re looking to really get into SEO, I’d recommend the CindyLouWho Team on Etsy. But, here are some crucial fundamentals:

  • Your titles and tags should match. If you have “amber necklace pendant” in your title and a tag that says the same thing, you’ll show up higher in search than if you don’t.
  • The first three words of your title are the most important, so if you have a birthday card for a little brother, DON’T start your title with “Cute, Darling, Baby Birthday Card for Little Brother.” Who’s going to be searching for “cute, darling, baby” and be looking for a birthday card? Instead, start with “Brother Birthday Card – Little Brother – Cute Card.” You have a MUCH better chance of getting the viewers you’re looking for.
  • In your tags, uses phrases when possible. Sure, you might get more hits if you just put “bear” as opposed to “crochet teddy bear,” but you’ll get more focused hits from the latter. The more specific you are, the better chance you have of finding your target audience.
  • Don’t waste tags. CindyLouWho taught me this: if you have a tag that says “crochet teddy bear,” you are also covered for the terms “crochet teddy” and “teddy bear.” Therefore, don’t waste tags on those terms! This was a revelation for me, and really opened up the opportunity to put some great tags in there because I had more room. And, this should go without saying, but use all your tags.

5) Write your policies.

Way too many shops are floating around without policies, or with very minimal ones. Sellers, they are your only “defense” against a customer–use them! Tell you customer what forms of payment you accept, how you handle returns, what your processing time is, that they’re responsible for out-of-country customs charges (and yes, they are!). That way, when a customer comes to complain, you can tell them very very nicely “I’m sorry, but XYZ is stated in my shop policies {here}.” It will help you and save you headaches later.

6) Update all the time!

Part of both Etsy and (I think) Google’s search has to do with “freshness,” so always be tweaking and editing! Besides, it always helps to be modifying. For example, if you notice an item isn’t getting a lot of views, especially perhaps compared to a very similar item in your shop, see what the difference is! Do you use a phrase in one that you don’t in the other? Have you put it in a different category?

Switch things up, pay attention to what search terms people are using to end up in your shop, and use that data to your advantage.


Next time you want a shop crit, follow these steps first! The benefit of doing all these things before asking for that crit is that, when you do ask, you’ll get some great, detailed information on how to improve your specific shop, rather than just the general guidelines that all Etsy sellers should be following!

Questions? Comments? Things to add? I’d love to hear what you have to say!



  1. great post Amanda Jo.

    Comment by Jen Anderson — September 21, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

  2. Wow, Amanda Jo. Excellent post. You’re so right about the photos. I just broke down and bought a new (PaS) camera and a tripod, and MAN, it makes a LOT of difference.

    Comment by Beth McCormack — September 21, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

    • So glad you enjoyed it, and OH, the photos! Those darn photos! I think my hardest step was admitting to myself that my photos weren’t great. After I redid them, I got a TON more views.

      Comment by amandajocrafts — September 21, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

  3. So very useful and thoughtful information. Thank you for the post, I will be utilizing some of your advice and suggestions in my shop soon. I am currently on overload trying to get my “everything” set up to all match each other and offer the same pieces, prices, etc and I need to take the time to sit down with each one and actually put the thought and work into them that they need. Thank you for the push to do just that 🙂

    Comment by northangeldesigns — September 21, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

    • I’m so very glad you’ve found it useful! I completely understand about feeling the overload, but once you push past that, it’s so rewarding 🙂

      Comment by amandajocrafts — September 21, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

  4. Great post. Enough that you could probably do a separate post for each point! I am still learning so much about titles and tagging, and some advice seems contradictory. I’ guess maybe I should look into a team for critiques on just that.

    Comment by daffodilcorner — September 22, 2012 @ 11:04 am

    • I know! I didn’t realize til afterward 🙂
      And it is a lot to learn and keep in mind; I would definitely recommnend the CindyLouWho Team; they’re great for the titles and tags!

      Comment by amandajocrafts — September 22, 2012 @ 11:06 am

  5. Wonderful Post! Thank You So Much for all the suggestions!!! It’s especially beneficial to me since I’m a New Seller on Etsy! : )

    Comment by averyfairytale — October 3, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

  6. I found this to be very helpful, thank you for sharing this

    Comment by outoftheattic2u — November 9, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

  7. thank you so much, those are great tips about how to start out on etsy! Appreciate it, I just launched and can use all the tips available to get exposure for my new Lucite jewelry line!

    Comment by Astrid — January 22, 2013 @ 11:53 am

  8. Thanks for the tips. I have had my shop for several years now. Sales are OK, but I would really love more than 50-75 people looking at my shop per day. I will use your suggestions and start tweeking. Great blog!

    Comment by kingstonshots — January 30, 2013 @ 8:52 am

    • You’re very welcome, and thanks so much for stopping by! Your shop is fantastic!

      Comment by amandajocrafts — January 30, 2013 @ 9:11 am

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