It’s been seven days since I posted part one about the experience of Etsy in 2014. I am floored by the response, honestly. Thank you everyone for sharing and commenting or following up via Twitter or Instagram or email. I really am sad to hear it is as widespread as I thought.
The thing that stood out to me most over the past week of reading through comments and discussing this all with people is that everyone thought it was just them.
I know for some people, going into the Etsy forums is like the number one thing you never want to do, and that is understandable. I’ve never spent much time there, I pop in now and then to check the announcements or see if anything new is happening (because that is where admin will post) and when things are wonky, i’ll check in there to see if anyone else has reported a bug or concern. Over the past month I have been checking in on this one thread that I linked to last week. Still no response from admin, but a lot of well established sellers continue to check in. All of this is to say: I was SURE it was not just you, or me. But I am still surprised that so very many people seem to be having an issue … that started in September.
For what it’s worth: Clarity
I want to clarify a few things right off the bat before I get into the second part of the discussion.
First, I am not criticizing Etsy for changing or for being a business that wants to make money. I was very clear in my first post that they have every right to do as they wish with the functionality and design of their site. I am, however, criticizing the changes they made. Change away, but please be mindful of the response – verbal or otherwise – to those changes, and consider the feedback. That’s really all I can ask. In the past, Etsy has taken certain things sellers weren’t happy about into consideration. The front page was one of those things. (What’s that saying? If we all threw our problems into a pile, we would fight to get ours back? Oy.)
Second, I wrote my first post as a voice. I wanted to be a voice for the many people I KNEW were feeling the changes.
Next, my personal FEELINGS about Etsy or their practices or design – they do not matter. What matters is numbers and figures and anecdotes. The truth is that a large number of sellers saw a downturn in their sales since September. This is more than your usual newbies saying things are slow. This is more than seasonal slump. (Also, certainly not THIS season. Hello, Santa.)
Finally, the truth is this is a serious love/hate relationship. I’m okay with admitting that. I think we have all felt that. I LOVE what Etsy has done for me in the past, I LOVE some of the people I’ve met who work there, I LOVE people i’ve met because of Etsy. and I LOVE to shop Etsy. I just feel challenged by it more than I ever have before – challenged to find what I want, challenged to understand, challenged to keep up with the changes, and challenged to stick to my own moral code. All I know for sure is what I’ve known all along – Etsy is not the be all, end all, it is an element – but I am still discovering how to keep it a viable element without pulling all my hair out. It might never happen. Who knows? I like to ride the waves, I like to try new things. That’s my $00.02.
Alright, let’s get into it.
Why you should care about the FP even if you were never featured on the old one.
In 2011/12 I was featured on the front page a lot. A couple times a day sometimes. I am sure that bothered some people. I understand that. It was a game and I played it. I liked to play it! I was on a number of treasury teams and I enjoyed making treasuries and I discovered a lot of new and fabulous things (and PEOPLE) this way. I will agree that the old FP was not perfect. But It was very pretty most of the time, people loved to comment on it and discuss it, it was cohesive and well organized, and most importantly it was easy to navigate. In 2013, I was not on the front page that often, maybe 5 times total. And I still did well… so I while it was nice to be on the front page, it wasn’t something I relied on and it certainly wasn’t the only thing that worked for making sales or getting found.
(It is worth considering that the idea of treasury teams evolved from the current state of things on Etsy at that time and it’s possible that other great things will evolve from the current state of things now too. The only difference is that now, people feel deflated rather than empowered. We can get it back though.)
I know that some people think that because the old front page didn’t feature them often or ever that it simply doesn’t serve them either way – good or bad. They weren’t featured there before so why should they care if the opportunity is no longer there? They don’t mind the new front page themselves or just don’t use it that often, so what does it matter?
Because user experience still has a bearing on your shop.
EVEN IF I personally LOVED the new FP, I still have to consider the fact that many users simply do not. If you are a shop that gets views/ sales from search or browse, the front page should be something you care about. The general experience users have on the site that hosts your shop should matter to you. The facts are that a lot of folks – buyers and sellers – dislike the FP enough to say so.
If you make nearly all of your views and sales from traffic you drive yourself without any help from Etsy, then maybe you don’t need to care about the FP as much. But I am willing to bet that in the past year, you had traffic from browse and search.
But consider the fact that the customer who comes to Etsy to browse and search - who might have normally (in old front page times) - might not find it as intuitive or welcoming as they did before. Which is what I keep hearing.
You might be thinking ‘why does search matter? it’s pretty easy to find the search bar on the new fp’ yes, true, it is. But consider what people are saying about the front page : “it’s jumbled” “there is no cohesion” “I simply can’t find what I am looking for” … People might not want to spend time on the site if they don’t like the way it looks. It’s really not that unreasonable.
(I am not much for conspiracy or any other sort of theory when it comes to stuff like this but it has been suggested in a couple places that 1- there is a rolling practice happening in search. Meaning, if you are in Guam and I am in NYC and we search the same thing, we might get different results. OR we will see the same thing but then tomorrow, we see totally different things mutually. And 2- maybe search just acts a fool so you feel inclined to try promoted listings. I have no opinion on this, just putting it out there. It COULD explain why there are no longer any patterns in shop stats.)
It was brought to my attention that many ecomm sites show you recently viewed or bookmarked items on your front page – and it’s true that many sites personalize the page you see when logged in – similar to Amazon. Fair enough. And the truth is, the content of the Etsy FP isn’t the biggest issue, IMO, it’s the layout that needs some work.
I think the main difference is that Amazon shows me suggestions based on my history or bookmarks – and site-wide popular items in categories I have shopped before (or not) Etsy shows me things I already know I like (favorites) and other people’s favorites. I can click to see “trending” or a breakout category, but I don’t see any product imagery for those the way I do on amazon. It’s also worth considering these are two totally different sites with different audiences.
You started following people for a variety of reasons.
When it first became a thing to “follow” (or “add to circle” as it was called originally) there was a separate activity feed where you would see the things people in your circle liked or treasuries they created. If you didn’t want to see them / didn’t want to shop that way, you just didn’t look there. So at that time, users would follow each other because they were teammates or friends or Etsy acquaintances. Not primarily because they had the same style or taste. But now, your FP experience pretty much rests on the activity of those people. Yes, you can go ahead and unfollow people and find new folks to follow.
:) If you are a buyer only, maybe it is worth your time. But as a seller I have bigger things to worry about than recreating my feed.
It’s NOT SEO. Nor is it because you aren’t involved with Promoted Listings.
Everyone could stand to improve their SEO, or photos, or descriptions, or whatever. No matter what – busy times, slow times – doesn’t really matter, there is always room – SOMEWHERE- to improve. The issue is that even sellers with stellar SEO and great photos and beautiful branding and strong presence in social media are still scratching their heads.
Because it’s NOT entirely those things that. It is really not a coincidence that all these “best practices” that Etsy still maintains are the current best practices suddenly stopped working for huge numbers of sellers at the same time.
It is very discouraging – I feel that. I know we are all frustrated.
I know SEO is confusing and can feel super intimidating. But It still works. Before I put my shop on Vacation Mode, many of my listings were ranking well in popular searches ( I think I mentioned this in the other post – the numbers just aren’t there. It’s possible that site-wide traffic is just down) so I know my SEO is working in that way. YES it could stand to be improved as I said. But I know it’s alive and breathing. I see people asking the same things about SEO all the time so I put together a little guide to go over the basics here in the coming weeks. I figure I won’t post it next week because everyone will be busy eating cookies and lasagna and hanging with their people, so after that, I will post it.
As I said in my other post, I haven’t participated in promoted listings, so I can’t say from experience, but I did do some reading about them and it seems most people aren’t happy with them or are spending a lot and not making a strong return. I have seen some people saying they were happy with their results – and they posted their numbers – and they are not numbers I personally would be happy with, but of course this changes for everyone. I don’t have much more to add to it since i don’t have any experience here.
Etsy evolves. We can too.
When I was in college, I would go to some of the big craft fairs -Renegade et all – and I was that annoying person who collects business cards. No one had their own website. Everyone was on Etsy. And these two things really just went together. It was like, of course you are on Etsy! Even when I started doing those shows 4-5 years later, most people primarily were on Etsy. By the time I was on my 4th order of business cards, I had my own website printed on them though. People would pick it up and say “are you on etsy though?” and I was so I would say yes. That’s what people expected. Often times people would opt to shop on Etsy - there could be a variety of reasons for that. And they are valid and they are part of the reason I’ll keep a presence on Etsy.
Over the past few years, viable options for creating your own site have come about and that is definitely part of the reason many artisans have their own sites now. Places like Shopify have made it easy and relatively quick to get a storefront up and running. Especially if you have an established product and brand.
Moving forward, Etsy is a tool.
Twitter is a tool, Instagram is a tool. Etsy is a tool too – a pretty decent one honestly. We would be foolish to not see the great things about Etsy. But we would be equally foolish to not see the full picture.
Use it the best you can. Learn what you can about it. Leverage it. Make it work for you. Here is great article about the realities of your “Etsy Business”. It is not the scare you, it is to educate you and help you see the big picture. Please value yourself, your work and your customers enough to know the possibilities at the very least.
I invite you to chime in again, email me if you would like email@example.com, leave a comment here or find me on twitter or Instagram.