Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Etsy is Beta Testing Stats

After years of pleading, Etsy sellers may finally be getting the ability to track traffic to their Etsy shops.

Etsy has always relied on the outside promotion of its sellers to bring in significant buying traffic, and the absence of any way for sellers to track this outside traffic was a serious gap in Etsy's service. The stats service will be based on Google Analytics, a platform many people are already familiar with, and which is a powerful tracking system that can provide highly detailed information.

Exactly which information will be provided has not been announced yet. At one point in the long discussion of stats on Etsy, founder Rob Kalin brought up the possibility that access to some stats info might be a paid service.

"Give us Stats!" has been a rallying cry for the Etsy-bashing bunch that is now flocking to Artfire, which offers stats only as a paid service. Artfire has been touting its stats as a major reason to ditch Etsy and make the switch. If Etsy can offer some real stats as part of their free seller accounts, Artfire will have lost a major marketing edge.

UPDATE: Within hours of Etsy's announcement, Artfire switched course and made shop stats a free service once again, and says it will be implementing Google Analytics as soon as possible.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Handmade History: Embroidery

Roberta Smith has reviewed an exhibition of embroidery at Bard College for the New York Times. The exhibit includes this amazing woman's jacket from the early 17th century.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is Mintd dead, or what?

I don't see many signs of life. The same items have been on the front page for months and the last company blog entry is from May, 2008. The forums are essentially silent. Are any of you Mintd sellers still seeing sales? Has the owner just left it on autopilot?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Introducing Feed Handmade

Feed Handmade is a new RSS feed that brings together blogs from all over that are talking about handmade items! You can subscribe by clicking on the image, or by clicking here.

You can also Subscribe to Feed Handmade by Email

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New Blogs added:

Five blogs added to the Blog Handmade search this afternoon

My Charmed Life
Dirty Pretty Things
Gumball Grenade Illustrations
Inside a Black Apple
Kitty Genius

Send me yours!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another look at

Last month I reviewed, a Canada-based handmade commerce site with a clean, professional look. Since then, has started offering a 25% subscription rate discount if you sign up before the end of the year, making it a pretty good value, as well.

iCraft has a sliding subscription rate based on how many listings you have (and multiples of a single item in the same listing count as one listing) You can list up to five items for free, 5-15 for $5.00 CAD/month, 5-45 for $15.00 CAD/month and up to 100 items for $35.00 CAD/month at the regular rates. With the discount applied and allowing for the exchange rate, the middle "Professional" subscription comes to about $9.00 US/month for up to 45 items. The "Starter" subscription for up to 15 items at once works out to just $2.60 US/month.

Considering that most Etsy sellers have fewer than ten items listed, iCraft might be an attractive alternative for many. iCraft takes no commission on sales, and items are "interchangeable" - meaning that you can take one item down and replace it with no re-listing fee or penalty. One huge benefit that Etsy does not offer is the automatic submission of seller items to Google Base, greatly extending the reach of an iCraft listing without the extra work needed to re-format all your items.

iCraft has been around for a while now, and the site is stable. A dedicated topic in the community forum keeps users up to date on site issues and fixes (usually - a recent server reboot came as a surprise.) Staff are active and responsive in the forums. Most pages have an easy-to-find tech-support link near the top.

Where iCraft compares even more favorably with other similar sites is in the overall appearance of the site. Although it is somewhat spread out in places (the product browsing page is one notable example), the look is consistent, appealing and simple. One thing that iCraft does that others do not is charge a one-time sign-up fee of $25 CAD (about $20 US at the current exchange) which serves to raise the bar of entry and assure that sellers are serious about their business. As a result, the quality of photography and items is generally higher than at sites such as Artfire, which allows sellers to sign up with no fee or credit card information and list items for free.

One area of iCraft that might feel different for users of other sites is the search function. While iCraft does allow for searching by keywords, the system is heavily reliant on a multi-field browsing system. While this does limit flexibility, this is offset by the benefits such a system provides. Not relying on fuzzy tag words means that items are more specifically defined - paintings are not muddled with prints of paintings, for example. A price range filter is built in, and can be set by currency.

iCraft has some features missing from the other contenders for your handmade listings, and is possibly the best value right now unless you need the room to list more than 50 items at a time.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What Etsy Isn't Telling You

Some time ago, Etsy started adding referral codes to the links to seller items that appear in various areas on the site. This appears to be another way for them to track traffic internally, although they are already using google analytics as well.

This is how the referral codes work: An item has a code added to its URL to indicate where it appears. In the case of the front page treasury items, they will have a referral code of fp_feat_1 through fp_feat_12 attached to the URL for each item, with the number indicating the position. Position 1 is the upper left, and they number left to right up to position 12 in the lower right.

A "normal" item URL looks like this:

An item URL with the referral code for the item in the first position on the front page looks like this:

These location codes are added to the URL in several places around the site, such as the search results and the showcases. They seem to have the purpose to tell Etsy (and maybe, someday, the sellers?) where the traffic to an item comes from within the site. Sounds like a good idea right?

But there's a potential downside. First of all, as far as the internets outside Etsy is concerned, the "normal" URL and the appended URL are different locations. Why does this matter? Well one reason it might is that Google and other search engines rank pages based partly on how many other sites link to them. Let's say two different bloggers copy and paste a link to one of your items, but one of them finds you through a search and the other finds you by browsing the categories. The links they copy will have different referral codes inserted in them. Google seems to treat them like two different pages Take a look at the Google results for this Etsy item:

Look at the URL in green. Google has indexed this single item as four similar but separate pages. The top result is one that links from a search in gallery view. The "normal" link is next, the third one is also from a gallery view search and the fourth one from a third-level category browsing page. All have the same item number, all link to the same item. Google keeps its ranking system a secret, but it appears as though giving one item several different URLs may divide up its traffic in Google's eyes, potentially reducing an item's ranking in search results. Maybe someone with more SEO savvy can weigh in on this?

Anyway, for your edification, here are some of the location codes you may see in item URLs on Etsy:

ref=Link Location
sr_list_1 through sr_list_21 Search results in list mode
sr_gallery_1 through sr_list_21 Search results in gallery mode
fp_feat_1 through fp_feat_12 Front page treasury items
fp_gg_0 through fp_gg_100+ Front page gift guide items (upper left scrolling window)
fp_feat_13 Front page - three items from the featured seller's shop
sc_main_0 through sc_main_49 Main showcase
sc_storque_main_0 through sc_storque_49 Storque showcase and so on, using the showcase title (sc_children, sc_candles, etc.)
em "Related items" in Storque articles
cat1_gallery_1 through cat1_gallery_21 Top level category page gallery view
cat1_list_1 through cat1_list_21 Top level category page list view
cat2_galley_1 through cat2_galley_21 Second level category page gallery view (note the typo)
cat2_list_1 through cat2_list_21 Second level category page list view
cat3_gallery_1 through cat3_gallery_21 Third level category page gallery view
cat3_list_1 through cat3_list_21 Third level category page list view

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Brown Knows: Get ready for Dec. 13!

Every year UPS forecasts its busiest shipping day of the year - the day on which it delivers the most packages. They also usually predict how many packages they'll deliver on that day, but this year they are not, citing the economic times.

This year, the busiest UPS day will be Thursday, December 18. What does that mean for online sellers? Well, most UPS packages are three days in transit in the US, so to be delivered on the 18th, most of them were shipped on Monday the 15th. That means they were probably ordered a day or two before that on the weekend of Dec. 13-14.

And where were they ordered? Why on the internets, of course! So wipe "Cyber Monday" out of your minds and be ready for the real holiday rush next weekend.

(I don't find a forecast from FedEx, but the USPS is forecasting Dec. 17 as their busiest day. Canada Post's busiest day was Dec. 17 last year, I don't think they've issued a forecast this year - labor problems have been causing some delays there)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cyber Schmyber

Sorry, folks, Cyber Monday is a myth. An invention of the retail industry to make you think that everyone else is shopping online. According to, it's not usually even in the top ten among busiest online sales days - it comes in 12th.

The term was coined by a retailing organization looking for a counterpart to Black Friday, and it has become a busy day for online retailers (I just realized that I ordered something online today! It was work related, though) and there may even be some records set for the year to date - but stay tuned. As far as the biggest sales days online, the Monday and Tuesday in the two weeks before Christmas have been bigger.

Just like Black Friday has never really been the biggest shopping day of the year (the Saturday before Christmas is), Cyber Monday has never been the biggest online sales day. So don't be discouraged if your Cyber Monday isn't what you hoped. Get ready for the 8th and the 15th.