3 Common Sense Rules for Selling on Etsy

Every once in awhile a wave of change rolls through the community of Etsy Sellers.


Here’s what happens:

  1. Etsy decides to change the way they do something, like they did last week by switching to a relevancy based search results, or like they’ll be doing soon with a new option to purchase a promotional space alongside those search results.
  2. The Etsy forums explode with people moaning and complaining, half of whom seem to have not bothered to even read the first post of the thread which is the genesis of the discussion.
  3. Rumors fly. People get all excited. Anyone who might have something to gain by bad-mouthing Etsy comes out of the woodwork. A few people close their shops. The rest wait and see.
  4. The dust settles and the change is the new norm, and everyone forgets about it and continues on.

Rinse and repeat.

Etsy is a business. They’re going to make changes as the business grows and they learn what’s working and what isn’t.

If we, as sellers, would think of our shops as businesses too, we might not be so upset because it’s probably a good thing for us.

The recent and upcoming changes remind me of a few really important points. If you’re serious about making a business out of selling your handmade or vintage items online, then these three common sense concepts should never be far from your mind.

1. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

Everybody knows this saying and it might be a little over-used, but it really applies to this situation. You can’t put all your marketing eggs in one basket.

When it comes to the relevancy search and the upcoming paid promotion within the search results, we’re talking about marketing. Nothing is changing with your actual shop. This is about getting people to your shop.

Etsy is a venue, like the mall. It attracts people for sure, but stores still advertise and have a Facebook Page.

If you were counting on relisting your items as your sole marketing tactic, then this would hit you really hard. You had all your eggs in the “relist to get sales” basket.

Good Etsy shop marketing should include a number of sources of traffic. This could be a blog, your social media sites, offline advertising and marketing, online advertising, other websites you control, etc. It’s really a pretty long list and you want to be in it.

That’s not to mention SEO, which this shouldn’t effect. Though SEO is another thing that can change at any moment at the whim of someone else. Which is why you should remember the next common sense rule:

2. Don’t Count On Someone Else To Promote You!

People change stuff on you. Especially when those people have to answer to other people and especially when you don’t really know any of them.

Unless you’re in a paid contract, you really can’t count on anyone to help you promote yourself and market your products.

You’ve heard the saying, If it is to be, it’s up to me. Well that’s pretty accurate when it comes to getting your name out there online. You have to take the initiative and just do it.

3. If It’s Good For Etsy, It’s Good for Makers

Have a little faith in the fact that Etsy is doing what they’re doing to improve the bottom line. People in the forums say things that sound like they think Etsy is stealing from them somehow. I don’t get it.

If Etsy Sellers aren’t successful…bye bye Etsy. They know that.

Don’t you agree? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Post image is a Giclee available on Etsy, click here.

Other posts you might be interested in for your Etsy business…


  1. says

    I’m glad about the change. I know a lot of people marketed by relisting so their things were always at the top. I’m a small business starting out. I don’t have the revenue to do that so my listings always got buried.

    I’ve been doing new searches in etsy with the changes and LOVE LOVE LOVE some of the stuff I’m seeing that before would not have come up unless I scrolled through lots and lots of pages. It’s also nice to see some of my stuff pop up in the front inside of on the last pages!

    I think etsy made a good move because I feel the change focuses on pulling listings that a person buying wants. That may not always be the biggest shop with the most revenue. When I go on etsy…I love those little shops that are just starting out (like me!!).

  2. says

    I am getting ready to open a shop on my birthday next month. I completely agree with all of your points. Diversify, cover multiple bases, and trust your instincts:) Thanks for this post.

  3. says

    Lisa – I totally agree that the results are much better and prettier. I think it is a good thing.

    Megan – I think the relisting (renewing, that is) is over. No more benefit to that at all now. Simply not a tactic that will work anymore. (unless I’m missing something… time will tell)

    Amanda Joy – Thanks for the thanks, and you’re welcome! Thank YOU for being here and commenting! All bloggers love comments!

  4. says

    Me? I can understand why people don’t like change, but I don’t understand getting you’re knickers in a knot over it. For me this change is a positive, as I have always found the ‘newest listing first’ a real challenge financially and timing wise. Now I have real control over people seeing my listings using excellent key words. It’s no longer just a chance thing.
    .-= di´s last blog ..PESTS =-.

  5. says

    I love it. The ones who were able to relist daily already have enough in their advertising fund to be able to advertise elsewhere and grow their business. The others who only get one sale a month, and get lost in the relist process have an opportunity to grow based on savviness and quality instead of pursestrings.

    Seems to me this is win-win.
    .-= Allison the Imp´s last blog ..Ereader Critter Case Crocheted Hedgehog Brown =-.

  6. says

    Three good points. People resist change because they aren’t sure how it will affect them.

    My most recent sales on Etsy were from my personal email list I maintain on constant contact (I collect names at art shows.) and from publicity in the local paper. (I alerted the press to an award I received.) So yes, we need to do different kinds of marketing.

    But, on a recent day where I relisted 4 items ($.80) I saw 4 new item hearts… so maybe we need to keep doing the old relisting and work on the new relevancy strategies.

  7. says

    you’re spot on about the forum mini mutinies that happen every time etsy changes – and I get so sick of them I steer clear of the forums every time a change is announced!

    I WELCOME the relevancy search, and I think it’s been a long time coming.
    .-= Ruth´s last blog ..Tiny gift bags made from envelopes! =-.

  8. says

    I personally love, it, too. I am fairly new on Etsy, and like some others, did not have the income to keep relisting. It was also very discouraging to try a search for one of my products to see where I was, and be on page 93 or 268 for something that was listed a week ago. That was really unfair to the smaller stores. Now it seems we are on a more level playing field. When you search for a specific item, it’s nice to see the great variety, based on the relavancy, not who listed last. And, yes, those who were paying for renewing, enough to stay at the top of the search; would seemingly have enough to advertise in different ways. Since I started, all of the training I have read has said to use Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, etc to promote your store. It is like being in a mall, or at the farmer’s market, or a flea market. We each have a store or a “booth”. We pay our “rent”, but it still doesn’t guarantee we will get sales. This new change will give each of us a better chance.
    .-= Kathy Yutzy´s last blog ..Home/office =-.

  9. says

    I have mixed feelings about the change. While the above comments talk about people who relist daily as having deep pockets, I relisted at $1.00 a day, and got paid back 10 fold having one to two sales a day. Where else can you invest $1.00 a day in advertising. Since the change, I have had one sale, and that was to a friend of a friend. A lot of my stock are items one doesn’t necessarily search for, but is more just impulse purchases from browsing. But I’m trying to embrace the change and go with flow. Somehow it all works out in the end! LOVE your blog!

  10. says

    Thanks for the post Kim! I LOVE the new search! It took me a bit to get the hang of it, but I have already seen an increase in shop views and more so in item views, and a couple of sales too! Not to mention leaving the whole resisting thing behind, which never seemed to be all that fair.
    .-= Michele Davidson´s last blog ..Fabulous Friday! =-.

  11. says

    I was the bemoaner – thinking “oh…another change…” but in the past two days I have looked at this in a different perspective – as a good thing. And it will help me grow my business. And relisting just bothered me!

  12. says

    I am with Anna, though I don’t relist/renew that often I have found when I can not list *new* items in my shop it has helped keep me current, make sales and I might add relevant. I am not resisting the changes I welcome them. I have often wanted to see more choices presented when I am doing searches. However it is still the ones with big shops that can use more than one tag in multiple listings that are still the first to come up in the searches. Even when I search for my items using the exact criteria that I listed them with they are often a few pages behind. So I guess I don’t get it… I tweet, I fb, blog, when finances allow advertise through other means and do shows… Sadly my views, hearts and sales have all dropped since the changes and I am struggling as a small business to find a way to stay relevant in this forum. I won’t quit, I think one of a kind handmade items are invaluable products and resources for our global community. Cheers.
    .-= megan´s last blog ..The Pink Post… this was suppose to be about Gin & Rhubarb. =-.

  13. says

    Personally I am glad for the change. I am one of those little shops that was always getting buried. It’s nice to see my items coming up in the searches. I’ve always hated the whole re-listing thing and like others I don’t have the revenue for it. I think this makes things more even across the board.

  14. says

    Thanks for writing about this. I have survived years of changes from Ebay, I still love Ebay for the money it makes me. I never concentrated too much on Etsy, now I have been and would sooner not be relisting all of the time, others said it right, I can’t afford it, I use FB to promote, business cards with sold orders, and the search makes more sense, I like it better. I will survive these changes too. But for some reason, no one likes change, it makes people feel insecure, but they will survive. Thanks again!
    .-= Eileen´s last blog ..Where has the time gone? =-.

  15. says

    My views in both of my shops have jumped considerably lately – no more crickets! So whether it’s all due to the search changes or a combination of things, I’m happy. I had three sales yesterday – trust me that doesn’t happen often!
    The one thing I do like about forum controversies are the funny comments, like “pulling up a chair” or “popping popcorn” – they know it’s going to be entertaining!

  16. says

    I’m a bit torn about the change. I certainly understand where people are coming from when they say they love it. When I’m looking for an item on etsy, I have certainly had many “Whhaaaaa???” moments, at some of the things that come up in my search. So it is nice to know that what I type in, is exactly what is going to pop up on the screen.

    But, as a seller, I can’t help to be a bit discouraged. Especially when I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. I sell decorative and ring bearer pillows. Items that are quite abundant on etsy. But, I know the quality and uniqueness of my pillows is what got me my sales. I have been doing very well lately. But, now I’m getting a little worried. I was one of the sellers that would re-list some of my items daily. It was important for me to do that because of what I sell.

    I have always felt that my listings were very relevant and descriptive. But, again, with what I sell it would be hard for them not to be. Most people looking for ring bearer pillows type in simply that “ring bearer pillow” because they are using etsy as a tool to discover what different types there may be. Obviously, those words are going to be in the title and search words for all of them. I just re-listed my pillows this morning to see where I was. One of them did show up on the first page. But I have yet to find the other three, and I’m 13 pages in. Not to mention, all of my pillows use the same words in the title for the most part. Except they are in a different order and may have one or two other adjectives thrown in that apply to just that pillow. How have they not shown up yet? Looking at the pillows that made the first page, I don’t see much rhyme or reason behind what makes one more “relevant” than the other either. So, I don’t know what needs to be done.

    Lastly, for me there is an issue of discovery. Yes, I certainly want buyers to find what they are looking for. But, sometimes they find something they like better, that is the same idea as they’re search. For instance, I make a pillow that has a family’s last initial with the name written across and the date “established”. This idea is not at all unique, but the fact that it is on a pillow is. The signs are getting very popular, and are easily found on etsy. But, I’ve had many people purchase my pillow and tell me how happy they were to have found it. Because it was the same concept, but they could have something just a little different than all their friends. I doubt my listing will show up among the signs anymore though.

    Same goes for my other pillows. I paint lyrics and quotes on them. They are often purchased as gifts. These are not something that are found because somebody typed in “lyric pillow”. They are probably found by color, or by searching “newlywed gift” or something like that. I’m not sure how I can make them more relevant, so I can guarantee they are seen.

    Anyway, sorry this is so long I just had a lot of thoughts on the subject. I am certainly not trying to be negative either, I do see the positives. My point, I suppose, is just that I definitely think it depends on the product. I hope that there may be some kinks worked out and a bit more of a balance between recently listed and relevancy. I’m definitely not planning on leaving etsy, and will do my best to figure a way to get this to work for me. And, it will be nice to save money on re-list fee’s. Let me know if anyone has any tips! Thanks!
    .-= Lindsay Farmer´s last blog ..Customizable Lyric Pillow, Dave Matthews- The Best of Whats Around =-.

  17. says

    Great article! I agree with many of your points.

    One thing that sellers need to keep in mind is that recently listed items appear across the top of the default relevancy search – so relisting can still help get your items seen, though not to the degree it did before.

    ALSO, a buyer can still search by “most recent” if they click that option.


  18. says

    So well said! I can’t believe how many people get in the forums and start with “I heard this rumor” when Etsy always has an announcement thread or blogpost on it already!

  19. says

    Such a good post and good comments too. Beth, you couldn’t have said it better! At first I wasn’t too sure about the change, but now I realise it IS a good thing. It makes a lot more sense to me and I wasn’t really a fan of re-listing either. I wish all of you great success with your shops! =)
    .-= KutzEurope´s last blog ..10 classic leaves on green felt (2 inch) =-.

  20. Erin says

    I admit I was one of the bemoaners (but not on the forums or in public, other than one comment to an article on this blog) in the first week. Worst week I’ve had in months in my shop. However, now that I’ve spent some time (translation- hours and hours) revamping MOST of my titles and tags, and figuring out what can work, I’ve seen my sales/views pick back up. An interesting note is that I’m selling less of what my biggest money maker used to be, and more of a diverse range of my listings. I think that’s a direct result of the new searching.
    I’m not spending nearly as much on resliting (old – $2-3/day, now, 2-3/week), but I have found that relisting a few things works a little bit. It puts me in that top banner and may move me closer to the front page. I also have made several listings for many of my products, using different titles and key words so I can make sure and hit all markets. Since my items are all made-to-order, I can do that, but I can see how that may not benefit other sellers. I also really like how they changed the tagging rules. I realize now that I had been tag-stuffing (not knowing what that even was), but now i’ve changed to single words and 2-3 word phrases, and I think that’s helping my sales too. So….I’m cautiously optimistic.
    The forums can be so frustrating with all the “the sky is falling” talk. I’ve started to come directly here to this site for my etsy news and tips. Now I’m very interested in this new option you mentioned…

  21. says

    I’ve read articles, I’ve tried different key words, search terms, SEOs, CEOs, UFOs and whatever else, and all I’ve done is stress myself out and get depressed. Things were going so good! How can things go from 60 to 0 so quickly????

  22. says

    Now I can just search on Etsy and get a variety of items which is simply wonderful. Before when searching for specific types of items or putting a treasury together, I would go to the last item in a category and move backwards. That way I didn’t see the same things over and over. And I now see my items here and there instead of not at all in a search.

  23. says

    I’m in such a habit of renewing, it’s hard to break it! I’m tapering off, but wonder if there’s still a benefit?? I was really convinced previously before this change, that Etsy probably made most of its money from the renewing. If you think about the number of sellers on Etsy, who are hungry for sales, and continue to renew all day, compared to the ones who land sales, you would think the renewing would be a huge part of Etsy’s business model. How can they give that up over night? It doesn’t make sense, unless sellers really tapered off renewing in the bad economy, and Etsy decided that sales overall are the better way forward? I’m really curious to know what renewing made Etsy, and what sales make Etsy?? The other interesting thing I’ve noticed, is my activity feed and views are huge now, but a buyer will come out of the blue. I keep checking to see if that buyer was browsing through, and favoriting things before a purchase, but it doesn’t really happen that way. Does anyone else notice this?
    .-= Courtney~Mommy LaDy Club´s last blog ..Melissa’s Mr. Darcy…From Across The Room =-.

  24. says

    I think the new search idea from etsy will benefit a majority of all sellers so yeahhh to that. Bottom line is still keeping up with communicating with your buyers and good traditional customer service ALWAYS goes a long way!


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