Having a market on Artizan Made means paying special attention to how our members are selling their handmade products. Most of us have shops on Etsy, but increasingly, we have been reaching out to stand alone sites which use other cart solutions: Big Cartel, Shopify, Bigcommerce and others. I would like to see some consistent practices on our Market and hope that this post will help our members and others think about what makes a good product listing for their shops.
A basic listing has the following elements: Title, Description, Categories and Tags, Images, Price. These are displayed in different ways depending on the site design. Let’s take a look at some examples.
A few product page layout examples
We are using WooCommerce on this site, so here is a nice example from a different theme, The Retailer:
You can see that all of the elements are there. In WooCommerce, we have a field for a short description (which normally shows up at the top, close to the price) and a long description (showing up below the product info). Notice how this example does a good job of showing the skirt in different views: close-up, on the model, and full view. Themes that have a magnifying lens on the product pages are great because they help zoom into the textures and details of the product.
How about the title? Sleepy Skirt of the Seamless Eggplant? This is just a demo, so they are not worrying about whether someone will be able to find that product online. But, I know I would never do a search for those words in looking for skirt. Good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) demands us to think of words that people will actually use when they are looking for something online. People often come up with cute names for their products in their shops, but do they really help customers find it? How about Taupe Mini-Skirt with Pleats, 70’s Retro? What would you call this listing if you were searching for it online? And, how do you make that title effective enough to compete with the millions of other skirts that are listed online?
Etsy Product Listings
Etsy has done a great job with their product listings, but they are constantly changing how their search engine works which can lead to craziness with people trying to figure out how to show up at the top. They also strip all of the images out of any identifying keywords (the titles just become a long stream of numbers) which is a lost opportunity as the image titles and meta tags, which other sites have, help those images get found in image searches. But, let’s take a look…
This listing belongs to one of our members, Sue Canizares. You can have five images on Etsy and Sue has used them all to show her lamp in different ways. Her title starts out with an exact description of what it is: Porcelain Pendant Lamp. Google likes that. However, if you have many similar items, Google does not like to see repetition, so you have to come up with other versions of the same product or it is perceived as spam. Aaargh!
What is this?
A floral ceramic lamp, a hanging lamp with flowers, a ceiling light with vines, and so on…
Sue has done a good job with her text. Google likes to see 300 words on a page in order to consider you as an expert in what you do. That’s not easy! And, it can be very boring on a site. One way to do this is to have the first half of the text be original to that product and then copy and paste info for the rest. Who you are, about the technique, what else you have available, yadda, yadda… Google and spiders crawling the web only look at the first three sentences, so after that you can improvise.
We all want to show up on the web, but remember: The main reason you are setting up this listing is to inform a potential customer. They need to make sense of what they see. Images are extremely important, but so is the text. How big is this? How heavy? Easy to break? How do you clean it? Can you hang it over your stove? Does wiring come with it? What are the dimensions in inches and centimeters? What light bulbs can you use with it?
A potential customer will want to know everything they could ask in person if they were shopping at a brick and mortar shop. Here’s an exercise: Ask someone you trust who knows nothing about what you do to ask you questions about what you are selling. Do they understand what they are seeing? Do the Mom, sister, brother, friend test and see how they respond.
Educate with your photos
Whether on Etsy or elsewhere, you can use your images and text to direct people to what you want them to do: follow you, like your product, give a review, sign up for your newsletter and so on. This is an example from Gilgulim, another of our members where she uses the last two images to show her working in her studio and how to favorite her shop on Etsy.
Many people are good at telling their story on their About page or somewhere on a site, but they don’t think about how each product in a shop is an entry point for someone who may never have heard of them or who doesn’t really “get” what they are seeing. I have seen so many artist sites where there is just something like “mixed media, 12″x12″, hanging wire on the back”. Really? That’s the story behind this work?
Wrapture by Inese started out on Etsy, but now has the main shop presence on an indie site through Big Cartel. Inese does a great job both with her images and with story telling. She approaches her listings almost as a blog post narrative.
There are many, many different templates of themes out there for each of the indie platforms. You can see that the main elements are here, but in a different order. She chose the font, background color and other display options. Her extra images follow below this text area, but they are huge and I couldn’t capture them on a screen print. Big images are so important for textiles! You can really see and imagine the feel and the drape of something, as well as have a careful look at seams, technique and so on. Notice that she also has a “Subscribe to our mailing list” right there, where anyone can take action right away. (I HATE pop ups that ask you for that!) Inese also does a good job of using people and mannequins in her listings. She alternates and having both keeps the listings page fresh and uncluttered. She also uses many different ages for her people images, which I think is very important.
Shopify and Supadupa
The feedback I get from our people using various cart options is that Shopify really makes them happy. They have done a really good job on the back end, especially with SEO and tools that allow you to get your products listed on various listing services. Siamese Dream Design uses SupaDupa but is moving to Shopify. Although SupaDupa has some great features, it is lacking in the larger tools that Shopify offers. Here is one of Barb’s listings:
Barb has done a lot of research on SEO practices and you will notice that her title is clear and short and says what it is. Siamese Dream Design has a ton of products, so they can create variations and test different words and see what works best for them, while having the ability to describe things in many different ways. My one complaint about this display is having the thumbnails butt up against each other with no separation. I would prefer a space between them.
All of the listings we are looking at have share tools which really helps get products out on different social media channels.
Bigcommerce is another of the most popular platforms used by online retailers. They also have a ton of tools, but from what I have heard, are more complicated to use than Shopify. Our Hot Moon Collection is there.
Gaby keeps her titles short and to the point. She has used several images to show the textile in different ways. Her text usually gives the provenance and a bit of history, although I think she could elaborate some more on the stories and how to use what she has. And, I really think it’s important to show products in a context of how it could be used with “in situ” photos. I don’t see the price on this photo…. I must have cropped it off. Sorry!
Back to Woocommerce
We have a shop on our sister site, TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List, where our members can submit three items on consignment. We only sell textiles and fiber art there, so I have asked the members to submit images of the product in as many ways as possible. For a regular textile hanging, I want to see the full front, full back, close-ups of the front and the textile hanging in an environment. Cindy Grisdela did a nice job with hers:
Her photos show as much as can be expected from a piece. The goal is to give the customer the opportunity to imagine how this would look in her or his space. If you just have the full photo, it’s really hard to imagine, even with the dimensions listed, what this might look like in an actual space. The more information you can give visually and verbally, the better you will help your customer understand what this is, how it might work, and you will greatly reduce the potential for returns or unhappiness.
We also use the long narrative available to tell more about the story behind the maker and process (Yadda-ya at the left <-).
Bad photos will ruin a listing. This refers to images that are too small (what is that detail? I really can’t tell…), blurry, poorly cropped, boring… There are basically two kinds of images: catalog ones and lookbook ones. The catalog ones are normally the straight on photo of a product with a white or neutral background. (I prefer white…). The lookbook ones tell a story and a whole shop can reflect that story through the images. A successful look will make that product stand out as an artistic signature that goes beyond the product. This includes coming up with themed backgrounds (rustic barn wood, prairie flowers, objects in motion, and so on…) and once customers and followers become familiar with the look, they will recognize it easily anywhere. Branding!
I’ll do another post just on images, but for now, head on over to our sister site, TAFA, and check out this post on how Ariane Mariane evolved in her photography: Photo Tips for Wearable Art by Ariane Mariane. It’s wonderful because it really shows how her photos also became art for her and a signature for what she does.
This post is just meant to be a broad overview of listing options and good practices. There are many other things to learn including variables like colors, sizes, and so on, and I find that YouTube is the place to go to learn specifics about whatever platform you are using. However, here are some tips that I think can be applied almost anywhere:
Title: Keep it short and to the point. Vary the descriptive words in similar products. Think about how you would look for something online. Do not use keyword stuffing. (This is a repetition of the same thing in different ways: Pink scarf/fluffy pink scarf/handknit scarf pink/pink scarf alpaca. Search engines will pick up on the words in any order and stuffing looks messy.)
Keywords: Repeat your three most important key words from the title into the body and image title. Google sees that as being authoritative about whatever you are talking about. But you have to figure out how to do it in a smart way. My key words for this post are “good product listing” and you’ll find them in the first paragraph and I just scored extra points by using them again here. Ha, ha! 🙂
Use Words: 300 words is ideal for Google, so describe the product, tell a story and then copy and paste info that you can repeat at the bottom (who you are, what else you offer, what you want from the customer, etc.)
Images: Use as many as you can think of. Imagine a customer handling your product. How would they look at it? Turn it over, see it’s drape… Make them feel like they are looking at the image in a brick and mortar shop.
Shipping and Policies: Make sure that you are clear about them or that they are visible on every listing. Avoid confusion. If you can build free shipping into your price point, that will save time and trouble.
That’s it for now! Questions or other tips that you have learned along the way? Leave them in the comments. All of this is a constant learning process and we may reach different practices through trial and error. I believe we can all learn from each other. Listing products can be tedious and time consuming, so if you can find ways to make it fun, it will probably rub off on your customer. Turn up the music, listen to a good story and get into the groove!