What is Going on with Etsy?

There’s no doubt about it. Etsy has made updates that have affected shop owners’ sales. It has many people wondering if Etsy is worth it anymore.


Pair that with the platform becoming more and more popular, and thus, competitive, and you have some frustrated Etsy sellers.


We’ll always be at the mercy of a platform’s algorithm changes.


(That’s part of the purpose of algorithm changes; to keep people on their toes. Making sure users don’t figure out the algorithm and then cheat the system.)


Platforms don’t always get algorithm updates right. They’re testing and working out kinks too.


But regardless of whether we agree with an algorithm update or not, the fact of the matter is, we’re at the mercy of it.


This isn’t an article suggesting you just suck it up and deal with it…I do have some actionable advice. I just wanted to point out…the first step is acceptance 😉




I commonly see posts like this in Etsy forums:

I just don’t get it. I’ve contacted Etsy several times to ask about my dropping sales and I get the same automated response about updating titles, changing tags, offering free shipping, running a sale, etc. I’m doing everything they’ve told me to and my sales still aren’t increasing. It’s so frustrating!


I feel ya.


Nothing is more frustrating than wanting something so bad and not knowing how to get it, AND doing everything “right”.


Here’s the lightbulb that went off after seeing that type of post several times:


If everyone is following the same advice Etsy is sending in their canned responses, how is anyone going to rise to the top?


Imagine a route to downtown that’s always gridlocked, bumper to bumper with cars.

One person discovers a new route that no one is taking.

They’re now getting downtown quicker and easier than everyone else.

But as other drivers see them veer off the well-beaten path, they begin to follow.

Soon, that path is no longer the least traveled. Hundreds of drivers are taking the same path and now the driver who discovered it is sitting in gridlock again, getting downtown at the same time as everyone else.


Think about that scenario applied to Etsy best practices.


If Etsy is sending a canned response to (what I imagine is) thousands of Etsy sellers dealing with low traffic and sales, the path to Etsy success is now very well-traveled.


If just a few people were getting detailed with their tags, playing with product titles, offering free shipping, etc. they may stand out to Etsy shoppers and get more sales.


But when everyone is offering free shipping, consistently running sales, using popular keywords in their titles, etc. no one stands out.


I don’t think this is the only problem causing a negative impact on sellers sales, but it’s one to acknowledge if you plan to continue using the platform.




The canned advice Etsy is offering has the basics that should be in place.


If you’re not using keywords in your titles that shoppers are searching, your listings simply won’t show up in searches.


Additionally, it sounds like Etsy is also favoring listings in search results that offer free shipping. So you don’t have to offer free shipping, but at this time, it may mean listings with free shipping will appear before yours.


Do I think you should take their advice? Yes…and with a grain of salt.


Obviously, you have to look at your business and its numbers and make smart decisions.


For example, don’t offer free shipping if it means you won’t profit. Find another perk that makes sense for your business or find a way to work your numbers, lower your expenses, and fit shipping costs into your price.

Don’t just jump into offering free shipping without looking at your numbers first.


If a platform is telling you something is important when it comes to success, you should do your best to follow their advice.


If you don’t agree with their advice or it doesn’t work for your business, perhaps another platform will be better suited for you. That may be focusing on another sales channel (e.g. your own website, craft shows, wholesale orders, etc.) or trying another online marketplace. Here’s a list of alternatives:





Etsy has given you the necessary ingredients for success on their platform but they’re NOT giving you the instructions to put your creative spin on it.


It would be impossible for them to do so because they don’t know your products inside and out, the market you’re targeting and the type of branding, images, wording, etc. they’re attracted to. They don’t know your strengths, schedule, goals, etc.


YOU know that information though.


And you can alter your techniques on Etsy’s platform so they’re a fit for your business and your customers.


There’s obviously more to it than simply “updating your titles, offering free shipping, etc.”. Etsy sellers must dig deeper than that. Don’t just update titles or tags with the obvious keywords for your category (which most of your competitors are probably using too) or update them once and then move that technique to the “doesn’t work” column if you don’t see immediate results.


Try new things. Keep trying new things. Get creative. Put your spin on it.


This doesn’t mean you’re going to see sales skyrocket overnight. But the more layers you add to create your unique formula, the more results you’ll see.


Let’s image the driver again; the one with the secret route that’s not so secret anymore.

The chance of them finding another secret route is slim. However, they can find small changes that get them downtown slightly faster than others.

They may find people to carpool with so they can use the carpool lane. Or, they may find a parking lot further away from downtown where they can park then walk or bike to their final destination…passing cars sitting in traffic. Or perhaps they may use a few side streets that aren’t as well-traveled and shave a few minutes off their time.

As people discover the driver’s other tricks, they’ll no longer have the advantage and will once again have to come up with new ways of beating traffic.


That’s exactly how business works too.


It would be amazing if we all had a secret to getting great results and could rely on it forever.


But competition is never far behind and the world is always changing; forcing our businesses to change too.


Etsy was that secret at one time. You could list a product without fears of it being copied or mass-produced by another company, and be pretty much guaranteed shoppers would see it.


As more and more handmade businesses are started, and more and more people learn about Etsy (that secret route to sales), sellers need to get more and more creative to stand out.




All types of businesses selling all types of products, being run in different ways by different types of people with different business backgrounds are finding success.


There isn’t one way to achieve success.


For most things in life, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all. That’s why there are thousands of different skincare products, diets, ways to workout, etc.


Some people will give a moisturizer a 5-star review while others wish they could give it negative stars. Some people love being vegan while others could never give up meat. Some people stick to a workout routine by getting up a 5 AM and running on the treadmill while others stay active by playing team sports in the evenings.

You won’t find your perfect moisturizer, diet, or workout routine on the first try or by blindly following one person’s (or business’s advice. It takes trial and error to discover what works for you and that’s usually a unique combination of what has worked for others.


The same idea applies to finding your success on Etsy, or any other platform.


You’ve got to think outside the box and keep trying new things. Here are a few ideas to get you started:


1 – Look at all the variables on the platform

Which areas allow you to get creative and adjust the details? Consider how you might:

  • Substitute – maybe instead of photos and words in your About section you substitute a video
  • Vary – play with the levels of certain elements adding more or less (e.g. using more words in your titles and descriptions)
  • Introduce – introduce new elements Etsy hasn’t suggested (e.g. if free shipping works for your business, perhaps offering free shipping AND free gift wrapping will give your shop that extra advantage)
  • Add – add your creative spin on existing elements (e.g. use a specific type of editing for photos that makes them look different than the typical iPhone photo of a product on a white background)


2 – KNOW your customers

When consumers are close to the “buy” stage (they’re ready to choose an item and pay for it), they’re more detailed with their searches and they pay closer attention to the details of a product and shop.


Their search might start with Google-ing “Blanket scarf”, which then brings them to Etsy. They may look around and slowly narrow down their search. E.g.:

Blanket scarf (start of search) -> plaid blanket scarf -> buffalo plaid blanket scarf -> red and black buffalo plaid blanket scarf (ready to buy stage)


Get inside your customers’ heads.


Which terms are they searching when they’re narrowing down their search? What have they seen, know they love, and just have to find the perfect one?


Consumers are going to choose the product that best suits them. There are lots of options to choose from when it comes to blanket scarves (over 14,000 listings and 250 pages worth). But once they narrow their search to “red and black buffalo plaid blanket scarf”, there are less than 100 listings and only a couple of pages.


They’ll then click on listings that are best matched to their style and preferences. It may be that they love the model’s hair and makeup, or the outfit the model is wearing the scarf with, or the way the scarf is styled.


Birds of a feather flock together and no one thinks of themselves as bland. So they’re not going to feel the same attraction to a bland photo of a product as they do to one that’s being showcased in the same environment they plan to wear/display/consumer/etc. it in and in a way that emulates their dream scenario (e.g. Looking stylish as they wear their red and black buffalo plaid blanket scarf over a denim jacket, with their hair in a top-knot, sporting aviator sunglasses and a red lip on a fall day as they grab a coffee and run errands).


Know your customers inside and out and make every aspect of your listing speak to them.



3 – Inject more of your strengths

That may be:

  • Using your keen eye when it comes to the composition of photos and not just having good photos, but great ones that look like pieces of art on their own.
  • Using your writing skills and sprucing up your titles, descriptions, about section, shop policies, etc. Where other sellers are outlining the product features, you’re sharing a story and painting a picture shoppers want to be in.
  • If you’re a people-person, can really get in people’s heads, and always seem to know what they’re looking for, use that skill when it comes to the keywords you use, products you list, or the customer service you provide.


4 – Think OUTSIDE of Etsy

You can no longer open an Etsy shop, add listings, and have shoppers come to you.


You have to drive shoppers to your shop.


Where can you place links online that take people to your shop?


Which platforms do you LOVE to use when it comes to marketing?


Which form of communication do you thrive at? Writing, creating videos, taking photos, speaking with people in person?






When you find an advantage, take advantage of the scenario.


Your sales should not be dependent on attracting new customers all the time.


If you had a bunch of customers in the past and have now seen sales drop, how can you re-engage past customers?

Perhaps you can send them a mailer. Remind them about your shop, encourage them to come back and buy by sharing a discount code, or ask them to visit a landing page (you can create one for free without a website, here’s how) and sign up for your newsletter so you have a way to stay in touch with them that’s cheaper and more effective than mailing a flyer.


If you’ve done something recently to stand out from the crowd and have attracted a bunch of new customers, make sure you do everything you can to keep them.

Create a great buying experience: communicate, increase perceived value (i.e. make them think the value of your products is higher than what they paid), send orders on time, follow up to ensure satisfaction, gather a review, etc.


But most importantly:




How else are you going to keep in touch with people who have purchased from you?


Your email list is like an EASY button.


When you need to boost sales, send an email.


It immediately connects you to people you know love your work and who you know are willing to spend their money with you.


  • There are more email users than social media users (source)


  • 99% of consumers check their email every day (source)


  • Emails make you money! For every dollar you spend on email marketing, you can gain an average return of $32 (source)


Get that newsletter started so it can start making you money! Here’s how: HOW TO START, SEND & GROW A SUCCESSFUL NEWSLETTER



Are you planning to stick it out on Etsy and try new things or are you shutting your Etsy shop down this year?

How to take Etsy's advice and make it work for you
What's going on with Etsy? Sales down and don't know what to do?

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  1. Great advice! We must always find ways to reinvent ourselves AND the wheel!!

  2. Dani Simone says:

    This was excellent advice. I’ve been on Etsy for an insane amount of years and it definitely changes all the time I’m going to take a lot more Time to do my relaunch and give people a reason to want to work with me, instead of just updating my titles and tags and then pay really close attention to what’s working and what’s not. Two things I immediately thought of was 1. How I present my products via photos and styling and 2. Doing some split testing by playing around with reposting the same products with different thumbnails, titles, keywords, etc.

    Kudos for this well written post!

  3. Andrew Wilkerson says:

    I will be moving away from Etsy more this year. I know all this advice is great but it is a lot of work to keep on top of, with little reward. And a lot of keeping fingers crossed hoping for the best because so much is out of our hands now and can change overnight despite your hard work. It’s just not worth the stress I’ve found.

    I’m much happier ignoring it all and will continue to focus on my own website, spending time on my mailing lists, new product launches, making my own online courses etc. Whatever the reasons or how to fix, this fact remains – Etsy is now pretty useless for my business, it takes too much work, it doesn’t deserve my time or money. They get enough already. Time to move on.

    1. Diana Leigh says:

      I wish you luck, I am going through the same with Etsy.

  4. Thank you for this great article! One thing that may also be a factor is the marketplace shoppers. Like local pop-ups, some attract clients that are a better fit for our work than others. My products aren’t anything like what Etsy promotes and yours may not be either.

    To research what is selling well on Etsy, go to their site and don’t log on. Scroll down and peruse the ‘what’s popular’ section,’ then go to the very bottom and see the ‘Shop for Gifts’ topical sections. Click on your product type and you’ll see the current round of ‘Editors Picks.’ This will give you an idea of the price point and style the ‘typical Etsy shopper’ is in to.

    For an experiment, try doing similar research on another site like Artful Home. Just taking some time to look at markets online (kinda like going to a pop-up as a customer before investing in a booth) can be a good indicator as to whether they’ll be a good fit for you.

  5. Hi there! Very informative, thank you. What I don’t like about Etsy is that they come off as a strictly handmade forum…but it’s not. It has become nothing more than a venue for reselling…allowing shops to open offering products that other shops actually spend time & money to make which is not fair to them. From their Seller handbook: “Reselling is prohibited in the handmade category”. There are many shops that are reselling soap under the category “handmade”. And when I asked the shop owner “did YOU hand make these soaps?” Their response is “YES”. In advising Etsy of such shops they do nothing about it. It’s deceiving and I think the public should be made aware.

  6. Thank you Deb for calling out Etsy on things that are NOT handmade. I, on occasion, have to explain why some of my handcrafted items cost more than those that are manufactured. Years ago I did an outstanding business on etsy, but unfortunately they have gone the same route as ebay…all about the Benjamins. It’s very frustrating for the smaller businesses to try and compete.

  7. Andrew Wilkerson says:

    Yes, such a shame that Etsy now makes it even harder for us who make all our items by hand. They used to be all for the maker when they first started. Now it’s actually the complete opposite. What they do now is destroy our business and make it so much harder to compete in a world already saturated by mass-produced rubbish. I’m thinking of starting a new website one day and keeping it just for those who truly make the items they sell. It’s not that hard to at least try to enforce this. Etsy makes no effort. It’s no longer in their best interests to.

    I will start with Australian Made items as I think we have got a rough deal on Etsy with the money we make for them getting spent on local ads that are only shown in USA. This is also very unfair.

    If anyone is interested in trying to sell their items on my website please let me know.
    Australian Workshop Creations
    Send me a message through my website, mention this post and we’ll see what we can do.
    Andrew Wilkerson

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