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Etsy can be a wonderful place to sell your handmade goods. Still, if you're serious about your crafting business, then you should have your website. If you think it's too expensive or too tricky… 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.
Etsy is fantastic for testing the waters. But beyond that, there are many reasons you should create your site with your 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 to 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 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 stand out among the thousands of other shops. How many ways can you describe a blue and tan 8-inch glass vase? Lots of the product descriptions on Etsy are likely 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 easy to rank in the search engines for it. Google and other search engines value unique, original content. With your 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 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 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 site, you can get insights on data like this and bring those people back with abandoned cart emails. You 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. 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 would 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…
(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.
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.
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.
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).
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 quickly installing WordPress with Softaculous. Getting the basic installation done shouldn't take more than a few minutes.
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:
The most popular is WooCommerce, which has tons of features and many different addons, extensions, and themes that make it possible to set up any kind of store. It comes with built-in inventory and customer management, can be easily integrated with several 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 smart option is iThemes. The setup wizard will help you get set up fairly quickly, and you'll even be able to use Stripe for payments with no extra fees or charge. But while many benefits make it a viable choice, the community isn't as large as 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 more popular grid layout. There are dozens of extensions available for WP eCommerce, but that's not many when you see how many are out there for WooCommerce.
Now, these are all for being able to offer and sell your products directly through your site. If, for some reason, you'd rather have customers 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 site. It currently costs $85.
Advanced Etsy Widget – The Advanced Etsy Widget costs $13 but is relatively limited. It adds a widget to your WordPress site's sidebar where your Etsy shop items will be displayed in a vertical row.
Now that your store is set up and ready to go, it's time to start getting your Etsy customers to use it. How will they know you have your 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 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 terrific way to drive traffic to your crafts, and they're constantly adding new features that make it even better.
Also, I can recommend following these people (among MANY others) on Twitter for some great advice, guides, and even Twitter chats to get involved in:
Hopefully, you see how important it is to control your crafting business under your brand and domain. Sure, Etsy and other marketplaces are a great way to get your feet wet. But if you genuinely want to grow your business, it has to be treated like one.
If this article has been helpful, please share.
Written by Hostwinds Team / June 19, 2017