Etsy can be a wonderful place to sell your handmade goods, but if you’re serious about your crafting business then you should have your own website. If you think it’s too expensive or too difficult… or simply not worth the hassle, I very much encourage you to read this article. It’s not as difficult as you may think. It’s not going to cost a lot. And it’ll help you expand your audience and grow your business.
Why not rely solely on Etsy?
Etsy is great for testing the waters. But beyond that, there are many reasons you should create your own site with your own brand. Here are the main reasons why…
Their site – Their terms
Etsy is its own company and will do what’s best for them. And that might not be necessarily best for you. But you have no choice but to go along with any changes they want to make. If they decide they want to make a layout or design change of their website, they will. If or how it affects your shop isn’t their concern. If they decide they want to change their algorithm and show search results on the site differently, they will. If that means your items aren’t showing up as often, well… get used to it or redo your shop over and over in hopes of cracking the code and getting your items in front of customers again.
And guess what? You could wake up one morning and find your entire shop is… GONE. Just ask Lisa Jacobs. You’re not in control. And that’s not a good thing for any business.
It’s hard to stand out
Everyone on Etsy is unique. Everyone has handmade items. And there’s only so much you can do to make your shop even look different, let alone really stand out among the thousands of other shops. How many ways can you describe a blue and tan 8-inch glass vase? It’s very likely that lots of the product descriptions on Etsy are similar. How do you make yours get more attention and attract the visitor searching for it? That leads to the next point…
Search engine traffic can be hard to come by
With so many items that share the same features and similar descriptions, it’s probably not going to be easy to rank in the search engines for it. Google and other search engines value unique, original content. With your own website, you can have an entire page dedicated to that product with as much content as you want. You can create blog posts that talk about your product or feature groups of products. But in your Etsy shop, you’re strictly restricted to what they allow you to post.
Branding and professionalism
There’s only so much you can do to your shop on Etsy to stand out. You can’t really improve your branding once you’ve added a logo and some color themes. There’s no personality – only Etsy’s personality. And what about word of mouth referrals? How many people do you think are going to remember the exact name of your shop on Etsy? Or… how likely do you think it is that they’ll say something like “Oh, I got this on Etsy, isn’t it great?”
That’s not going to help you much. But if you had your own site, it’d be “Oh, I got this online at The Sassy Shoe Stash with free shipping! Isn’t it great?” (Of course, with your business name instead of that silly name).
If someone visits your shop on Etsy, adds an item to their cart then decides not to purchase… you’ll never know. With your own site, you can get insights on data like this and use it to actually bring those people back with abandoned cart emails. You simply email them with a gentle reminder about what they had in their basket and better yet, offer them a discount on it. About 40% of abandoned cart emails get opened and almost 30% of those clicks will result in a purchase on site (Stats according to Econsultancy). Another study showed that nearly 60% of consumers who receive an email or see an ad offering a discount on the item in their shopping cart will return to the site.
Running specials, building an email list and growing a social media following are all also easier with your own website – and are all important.
So why would anyone choose to operate their business on Etsy? There are, of course, several good things about doing so…
… But there are a few benefits of an Etsy shop
(Pro) Ready to roll – Most of the legwork is already done for you when you start setting up a shop on Etsy. Sure, you’ll have to add some customizations, add your products and content and set your preferred settings. But you don’t have to worry about setting up the technical aspects or design side of running an online store or anything. The design, navigation, payment processing… it’s already built-in.
(Pro) Active community – Etsy has a thriving community of sellers that are always posting in the forums, sharing ideas, asking and answering questions. If you’re stumped, you can probably get some help pretty quick just by being active in the community.
(Pro) Consumer confidence – Etsy is a well-known marketplace. They’ve worked hard at building their brand and developing consumer trust. Many millions of people visit every month that have no problem trusting that they’ll get what they pay for and that their information is secure. By being part of the bigger picture, you instantly gain some form of their trust. You don’t have to prove yourself trustworthy, as Etsy has already done it for you.
That’s about it. Is that enough to ignore all the reasons you wouldn’t want your business to depend on Etsy? Surely you can see why that’s not a great idea. But wait… that does NOT mean you have to stop using Etsy.
Especially if you’re already making sales there and have developed a crowd of passionate followers. Plenty of the top sellers on Etsy also have their own website. Using both can offer the best of both worlds. Diversify your marketing and sales channels… don’t keep all your eggs in one basket. And the sooner you make the move and take charge, the better.
So now what? Now you get started with your own website and building your own brand.
Building your own site
Remember… Rome wasn’t built in a day
Now that you understand the importance of having your own site, it’s time to plan. Don’t expect a snazzy, fully functional website overflowing with traffic overnight. The first thing you should do is figure out what your domain is going to be and buy it.
Buy your domain
Actually, if you can afford it, get all the major TLDs for it – at least the .com and .net at least (TLD is just the part of a domain that comes after the dot).
You should also make sure that the specific name you choose is also available for all the major social media platforms you use or might want to use in the future. You can use Namechk to check a names availability across pretty much all the social media channels you can think of.
If you’re going to offer the option to purchase items on your site (not just drive traffic to your Etsy shop) then you’ll want to also use an SSL certificate. You can see how to setup your SSL in cPanel here.
Get fast, reliable hosting
Now that you have a domain, you’ll need hosting. If you don’t have hundreds of items that will be sold on the site and you don’t foresee tons of traffic, then shared business hosting will probably do for now.
However, if you have lots and lots of items then you’ll probably be better off with a VPS (virtual private server) that offers dedicated resources for your site. It’s also easier to scale as your business grows. You can get a good, cheap VPS for as little as $7.50/month (Or faster, SSD VPS at $13.50/month).
Install and setup WordPress
The easiest and quickest way to get up and running is probably going to be using WordPress. If you aren’t sure how to do this, see this guide for easily installing WordPress with Softaculous. Getting the basic installation done shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.
Choose your ecommerce platform
If you’re going to sell your products directly from your site, you’ll need to decide which ecommerce platform to use. There are several good ones that you can look at:
Probably the most popular is WooCommerce, which has tons of features and many different addons, extensions and themes that make it possible to setup any kind of store. It comes with built in inventory and customer management, can be easily integrated with a number of payment processors and is well-documented.
However, because it’s so robust, it might feel a little overwhelming. And while there are tons of themes that work with WooCommerce, some may take quite a bit of tweaking to get everything to look right.
Another very popular option is iThemes. The setup wizard will help you get setup fairly quickly and you’ll even be able to use Strip for payments with no extra fees or charge. But while there are many benefits that make it a viable choice, the community isn’t as large as with WooCommerce.
WP eCommerce has been around for longer than most. But unless you’re up for buying the Gold Cart version, you’re limited to a list view/layout of your products. You can’t use the grid layout that’s more popular. There are dozens of extensions available for WP eCommerce, but that’s really not many when you see how many are out there for WooCommerce.
Now, these are all for being able to offer and sale your products directly through your site. If for some reason, you’d rather have customers actually order on your Etsy shop, there are ways to do that too:
Etsy Shop plugin – The Etsy Shop plugin has over 5,000 active installs as of this writing. It works with an API to let you display your products on your site.
Etsy 360 – The Etsy 360 Bundle is by far not free, but feature-rich. It comes with the cart extension and WordPress plugin to seamlessly integrate your listings onto your own site. It currently costs $85.
Advanced Etsy Widget – The Advanced Etsy Widget costs $13, but is fairly limited. It adds a widget to your WordPress site’s sidebar where your Etsy shop items will be displayed in a vertical row.
Getting your Etsy customers to your site
Now that your store is setup and ready to go, it’s time to start getting your Etsy customers to use it. How will they know you have your own business site now?
One of the easiest ways to do this is probably giving them a discount. Add a business card, note or flyer of some sort to each order you ship. It should have both your website URL and your social media accounts listed. And it should feature either a discount they can apply if purchasing through your site or you can simply price everything on your site a bit lower than your Etsy shop.
Start leveraging social media and connecting with people there. This is a whole other topic on its own… Being a crafter, please don’t ignore Pinterest. It can be a huge way to drive traffic to your crafts and they’re always adding new features that make it even better.
Also, I can definitely recommend following these people (among MANY others) on Twitter for some awesome advice, guides and even Twitter chats to get involved in:
Hopefully you see how important it is to take control of your crafting business under your own brand and domain. Sure, Etsy and other marketplaces are a great way to get your feet wet. But if you truly want to grow your business, it has to be treated like one.
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