Saturday, December 31, 2011

Arts & Craft Websites - You Need One!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Okay now that that is out of the way...

Make it your new years resolution to get your own website up and running. Stop depending on Etsy and other craft sites. Just like free lance writers found out the hard way; never put all of your eggs in one basket. (so sick of that saying but its true)

If Etsy got a wild hair tomorrow and shut your store down (it happens!) What back up do you have? Have you been marketing yourself and your arts and crafts or have you really been marketing Etsy and then yourself?

Random Pony Picture




It takes time to get a new website going but its well worth it. Think about all the time you spend marketing your Etsy store and think about why you should be doing it for yourself.

Web hosting is so reasonable and with paypal etc you can easily add paypal buttons, shopping carts etc.

Etsy, Artfire etc are good tools, but they should just be a marketing strategy for you own website.

Take a look at Yahoo hosting, Yahoo stores (more expensive)Intuit simple store etc. All are reasonable and easy to build.

Okay some have a website but it links directly to Etsy. Which is better than nothing; but you still need to make your website a stand alone site. The goal of any site is to keep people there; not lead them to another site.

When you do this (link to Etsy) remember you are also linking them to a million other sellers. Especially if someone has never seen Etsy and you send them there; they could get to looking about and totally click off your store.

I will give an example I learned the hard way. I have a pony website where I sell ponies. Years ago I put links to other pony farms on my website to get links built. Stupid stupid stupid!!! What was I thinking? At the time it was all the rage to add links to build your google rating.

What I found out is I lost a lot of sales by sending people directly to my competition. Its a mistake I never made again. While I adore many other pony farms, I work too hard marketing my website and ponies just to link to other farms and basically advertise for them for free.

Remember once you send them off your site to Etsy, its anyone's guess whether they will buy from you or go to another seller. Very risky.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Etsy Tags and Keywords

Since the discussion of Etsy SEO, I looked at many people's listings. What I found is most are not using all of their tags and many are using tags that have nothing to do with what they sell.

Using tags that have nothing to do with what you sell, may get you views, but it won't get you sales.

Lets say you get 500 views in 48 hours. But no sales. Then basically those views were wasted. This is what happens when you use un related tags. I would rather get 30 views and 2 sales. Again don't get caught up in how many views you get, but pay attention to how many views to sales you get.

When possible use phrases as tags. Instead of "vintage" "book" use "vintage book"

Its also important to use keywords phrases in your description. For example some of my keywords might be "strawberry" "jam" "homemade" So I would type a sentence like this:

My homemade strawberry jam is made with fresh strawberries etc etc.

The next mistake I see is people using text that does not read naturally. Instead it reads like a bunch of keywords lumped together. Don't do that!

Another mistakes is glaring typing and grammar errors. Be sure you proofread your text. If your not sure put it through a spell checker.

And back to long titles. Several people have told me "but so and so does it and has a ton of sales" They probably got lucky and made their most valuable keywords in the beginning of the title. Or it worked for a bit until Google figured it out. But even for customers on Etsy don't you think a title like this is a turn off to your customers?

Black//Blue//Pink//Zebra//Cloth -- Baby/// print etc etc

It just looks unprofessional and it really is not an advantage. Heck my titles are very short and sweet yet I get sales.

Here are some of mine

Strawberry Jalapeno Jam (sold within 15 mins of listing the other day)

Triple Berry Jam

Bodacious Blackberry Jam

Why do these short titles work? Because that is what people put in search to find these flavors. They are short but they are exactly what someone puts into Etsy or Google search to find them.

If you are unsure of what your top keywords are use Google Keyword Tool.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Etsy Relevancy and Google

Okay so I said I would do some more posts on selling on Etsy and here it is. One of my friends at Demand Studios had posted her shop and I posted some ways to tweak her listings to get seen on Etsy.

Last night we had a fun discussion on the Etsy forums on how to use SEO in Etsy listings.

One of the biggest questions on Etsy is how do you get your shop seen. You have to be seen by both Etsy search and Google. Etsy relevancy has literally leveled the playing field in Etsy search. This helped some and put others in the 0 views rank.

The good thing is most tweaking will help both. I am not an expert but I will say I get asked a lot how a new store like my Etsy jam store got so many sales in a short amount of time. There are tons of other people selling jam and jelly on Etsy so I do have a lot of competition.

1. Clear concise titles
2. Original quality descriptions
3. Tags

Luckily with years of freelance content writing I already know what search engines are looking for when a person searches.

Titles:

Some disagree with me but having long titles with dashes or hyphens is not helping you. Stuffing a title full of keywords is also not going to help. Pick your top keywords and stick to those. You must think like your customer. What would they type in Etsy or Google search to find you?

Would they type "Steampunk necklace" or would they type in "steampunk - unusual beautiful -- curved black and blue 18" necklace" I would bet they are going to type in steampunk necklace.

I did a test this morning. I typed in steampunk necklace on Etsy search to see what it would pull up. (Danielle I was looking for your beautiful necklace!) I went through the first 6 pages and unfortunately Danielle's was no where to be found. What it pulled up was all the listings that had "steampunk necklace" in the first 3 words of the listing.

Then I did another test. I typed in large hoop earrings. Again Danielle's beautiful earrings did not appear in the first pages of search, even though she has a beautiful pair on her Etsy store. The problem is she filled her title full of extra words but never used "large hoop earrings" in the title. I have to think anyone that loves large hoop earrings will search with that.

To see Danielles beautiful jewelry click here

Sometimes less is definitely more. Don't over think it. Go back to basics.

Descriptions:

Google is big on finding good original content. Not copied content. Pick a "voice" for your descriptions (depending on who your customers are) Sprinkle keywords and keyword phrases through out the paragraph. It must read naturally. If it reads like a keyword stuffed mess, you are dead in the water.

Freelance writers call it writing "tight" that is writing clear concise descriptions that get the message across quickly. You do not have to write 10 paragraphs to get seen. You just have to write one really good one. When I write online content for Yahoo, DMS etc its usually 400 words or less. This is because people have a very short attention spans.

Okay this is so long I will stop here for today. Now that you are at the end of this very long blog post, take a minute to skim back over it. Look at all the keywords I dispersed through out this blog post. (Etsy, Google, SEO, Etsy relevancy, Demand Studios, Etsy forums, selling on Etsy etc etc)

Bottom line is this all applies whether you are writing for your website, blog or store.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas! Craft Casting Call

Came across this today and since we have a lot of my craft friends reading here I thought I would post this casting call for crafters.

Sorry I cannot get the link to work so you will have to copy this and paste it in your browser.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150453373081926&set=a.238208076925.138768.167674771925&type=1&theater

Really easy to apply as all you do is email them with pictures of your crafts, a paragraph about what you do and your contact info.

Prize money is $10,000.00!!! I know we could all use that.

I have been approached a couple times by reality shows but never agreed to be on one. But I would for sure do this one!

Wishing all of you and your families the best Christmas ever!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The New Yahoo Voices

I really am starting to hate Google. First Demand Studios tanks and now Yahoo/Associated Content (now known as Yahoo Voices) is sinking fast.

I have written for Yahoo/AC off and on for many years. Logging into my account this month is nothing short of depressing. I have never had views this low.

Anyone ever notice how every time Associated Content changes names; views go down? I don't think they can even sink any lower than they are now.

I haven't written my Featured Content for December as I am not sure its worth it. Yeah its a 15.00 upfront payment but then they get full rights. I am seriously thinking blogging pays more than Demand Studios or Yahoo Voices. I may just start a pets blog since and write all my horse, dog and cat articles there. At least then I have the freedom to write what I want and not wait on editors, featured articles that never arrive etc.

I really think more and more of us freelance writers will have to start paving our own way and leave behind the content farms.

The only good thing about Google Panda is it did even out the playing field. If you write good articles on timely subjects they will get read. Even without Yahoo or Demand Studios.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Selling Homemade Food at Craft Shows

Whenever I attend craft shows I try to show love and support for my co-crafters and especially food crafters. One because I love food and two because I know how hard it is to break in.

Recently I did a craft show with another newish food crafter. Their food was cake pops and cookies. I could tell they were very new just from the look of their table and display.

Their cakepops were cute but definitely not professional looking. The cookies again were cute but not decorated very well. But all of this can be overcome if the food tastes good.

When I first started with my jam and jelly, a businessman told me "you can get by with hardly any fancy packaging or displays as long as the food is good." I totally agree.

I felt bad for them as they barely had any sales by day 2 of the show. Im sure their display and decorating was a big part of that.

Anyway, to be supportive I bought 2 cakepops, 2 brownie pops and 2 cookies. Later my partner and I unwrapped a cakepop and a brownie pop for a snack. Ughh. Not good. The brownie pops were literally raw inside and doughy. The cakepops were so dry they crumbled off the stick as you tried to eat them. The cookies were stale tasting. What a huge disappointment.

My heart kinda sank as I knew they probably will not be around long. If you are going to sell food number one is it has to be outstanding. It has to be a thousand times better than what someone can easily make at home or buy at the big box grocery store.

Later I got a chance to chat with one of the owners. I asked her if they had to throw out all those cake pops and cookies after the show. She excitedly told me that no they just refreeze them. I couldn't help but think "ewwwwwww!" She then went on to say they can thaw and take them out in public and refreeze them 3 times. Wow. This must be why the cakepops were so dry and crumbly. I have my doubts that this is really how it is supposed to be done but I don't make cake. When I gently told her that this would for sure affect the flavor, she was adamant that it did not.

I feel bad for them because I know in my heart they will fail if they continue on that path. Again if you are going to make food the biggest requirement is IT HAS TO TASTE AWESOME.

The Handmade Jewelry Crafts Market

I have been working craft shows off and on for about 20 years and in 3 different states.

I recently reentered the craft show market with my homemade jam and jelly. (Shameless plug www.jamanarchy.com)

The biggest thing I have noticed is the FLOOD of handmade jewelry. Craziest thing I have ever seen. If you are thinking about selling handmade jewelry my advice is do not do it. Unless you have come up with something very unique, your chances of selling your crafts and making a profit are slim.

Every show I have attended this fall is approximately 80 percent handmade jewelry. One look at Etsy.com will show you how flooded this portion of the craft market is.

I am always one for following your passion, but if your passion is handmade jewelry, really check out your competition and make sure its a market you want to enter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Selling Crafts on Etsy Part 1

A couple years ago I had an Etsy store selling tole painting patterns. Honestly I did not have enough to sell to get noticed so shut my shop down. People kept mistaking my patterns for actual items so I did more refunds than sales.

Recently I opened another Etsy shop for my jam and jelly. Boy have things changed on Etsy! Seems they are being over run by resellers and like everything on the internet, Google Panda changed things. This sounds real familiar if you have ever done free lance writing.

It does make me cringe that Google has so much power over the interent but thats a post for another day.

Back to Etsy. My opinion is that Etsy grew to big too fast and now the growing pains are showing. Who would have ever thought that Etsy (the site known for all things handmade) would turn into a smaller version of Ebay? With so many resellers from China etc selling on there daily, the charm of Etsy is being lost.

One common theme on the Etsy forums is that Etsy has just a tiny group of employees in the NY office and that is why you cannot call them. Hmmm. Really? Because a quick Google search shows that Etsy has 125 employees. I really doubt that the office is run by 5 people, which is what people on their forum will exclaim to anyone that complains.

And if they do only have 5 people in the office then something is definitely wrong. Add to this their new board member that also sits on the board of Walmart and well you can probably guess where this is going.

If I had the money I would start a real handmade website. Heck I will go one better and say I would make a made in the USA handmade only website. A girl can dream right?

But seriously I do think a top notch site could definitely give Etsy a run for their money. Problem is sites like Artfire are not getting any traffic so really are not a competitor of Etsy. Other start ups are obviously lacking financial backing and will probably fail.

But if someone had some deep pockets they could definitely get a good thing going.

More on Etsy later!

Demand Studios New Sections

I did get a bit of time to stumble over to the Demand Studios forum and catch up on what is going on.

Basically they announced 11 new sections with new section leaders. Which is ironic because they still say that basically there will be no new titles. So what is the point of having 11 sections with leaders? If you figure that out let me know. It could just be a show for investors to make it look like DMS is moving ahead.

I would like to write for the pet section, but I doubt I will qualify. Writing about pets of course is one of my major passions and I have done a lot of pet writing on Demand. But their stiff odd way of making everyone write always gave me grief. Maybe its best if I stay away from there but I do really miss the money. But even thinking of going back to writing the Demand Studios way, makes me a little sick.

Craft Shows & Making Money

Well we just did a 3 day craft show at a local mall. This was a very expensive adventure and I learned a lot.

Basically I learned that just because a show is at a craft mall does not mean you will have high sales. I also learned that malls will greatly exaggerate their foot traffic to get you to sign the contract and pay their extremely high fee.

Luckily we made out okay. We didn't lose money like most of the other crafters did but we certainly did not make enough to work 3 12 hour days plus the fees.

It is odd to me that we can make more at a one day craft show than 12 hours at a mall show. This is a new show for that mall and I would venture a guess to say they will be hard pressed to get crafters next year unless they greatly lower the table fee.

The good thing is I met a lot of new crafters and got a list of the better selling shows to attend for 2012. That was a bonus for sure.

Still saw a lot of new crafters over pricing their items. Like I have posted elsewhere in this blog price is everything! And you will not ever make an "hourly" wage. You can price it high and take it all home with you, or you can price it just a bit lower (in most cases) and not have to pack it all back up at the end of the day.

Kay's Crochet Mystery Boxes/Bags Update

We have been getting a lot of questions on our Mystery boxes so here you go! First some have asked why we are now shipping in bags. USPS...