Should I open an Etsy shop or build a website?
There's a good chance that you're reading this because you either already have an Etsy shop and you’ve been thinking about making the switch over to your own website or perhaps you are just starting out and trying to decide between an Etsy shop and your own site.
Now we would love to say, "forget Etsy and go ahead and hire us to build your website!" However, as web designers, we must admit, there’s a lot about Etsy that can be beneficial to you as a small business owner, especially if you are first starting out (hence the need for an entire blog post).
Either way, this blog will hopefully give you some insight on what they both entail to help you make a more informed decision on which route you want to take.
Costs of doing business:
We have talked to several Etsy shop owners, and the common denominator seems to be that the fees on Etsy are ridiculously high. Because of the fact that Etsy does allow you to essentially set-up and establish your own shop on their platform for free, (and because nothing in life is really free) they end up taking a high percentage of your sales to make up for it.
For a frame of reference, here's a list of Etsy fees (as of January 2021):
*note these numbers can change in time, please view Etsy's website for the latest and most up to date statistics*
Transaction fee: 5% of the product price.
Shipping transaction fee: 5% of shipping costs.
Payment processing fee: 3% + $0.25 of total (including shipping)
Listing fee: $0.20 (listings expire after four months)
Total Fees: 8% (of the total cost of product and shipping) +$0.45.
Subscription fee: $120/annually.
The principles of SEO on Etsy are quite similar to those of a search engine like Google. To increase your visibility, it is essential to use keywords that your target customer is likely to type into the search bar. While it may be tempting to come up with a catchy or creative name for your unique handmade item, this could actually hinder your search ranking. Therefore, it's important to use a title or name that accurately describes your product and contains relevant keywords to improve the chances of being found in search results.
For instance, if you're selling a candle, simply naming it, "Candle" won't do much to boost your visibility. A better strategy would be to use a name like, "All-Natural Coconut & Mint Non-Toxic Candle." This not only accurately describes the product but also incorporates relevant keywords that a person may be using to search for related products.
In addition to using relevant keywords in your product titles, including proper product descriptions is also crucial for optimizing your SEO on Etsy. Search engines like Etsy use various factors to determine the relevance of a product to a user's search query, and a well-written product description that includes relevant keywords can drastically help improve your search ranking.
A clear and concise product description not only helps the customer understand what they're purchasing, but it also helps search engines better understand the product and its relevance to a particular search query. In fact, Etsy's algorithm looks for listings with complete and well-written product descriptions and considers them to be of higher quality, which can result in better search rankings and increased visibility for your products. Therefore, it's crucial to write descriptive and accurate product descriptions that include relevant keywords to boost your SEO and attract more customers to your Etsy shop.
Difficult to establish brand recognition:
When you have a shop on Etsy, it’s easy to get lumped into the phrase of being “an Etsy shop owner” rather than your own unique brand or business that you’ve worked so hard to establish. But because Etsy is a major platform that provides trust and easy access for consumers, many consumers don’t go on Etsy in search of one particular brand or business.
Instead, they search through countless different shops, and the chances of that person remembering the name of where they purchased the product are not high. Most times when asked, “where did you get that _____?” the reply is typically, “oh, I got it on Etsy!” Rather than stating the name of the brand or business, which consequently doesn’t help improve or establish your brand recognition.
Difficult to increase reach:
When you are on Etsy’s platform, this means you have limited ways of expanding your reach organically. Whereas, for example, when you have your own website, you can start a blog and talk about different (but relevant) topics, share information or the ingredients in your products or even your overall creative process.
By implementing a blog onto your site, this will help to increase the use of keywords. And the more that you implement and use keywords throughout your website, the more that your website becomes enriched in the eyes of a search engine like Google. However, again, on Etsy, this is limited.
Etsy is credible:
The greatest thing about Etsy, especially if you are brand new to business and have no idea where to start, is that Etsy already has strong brand awareness and has established their own recognition in over 80 different countries. Therefore, consumers who browse through Etsy will more than likely already trust you because you have been approved by Etsy to set up shop on their platform.
Customers trust Etsy:
Again, because Etsy is already established, customers trust the platform. Therefore, when you first set up your shop, you won’t necessarily need to worry (too much) about having customer reviews or social proof as people already trust making a purchase through Etsy.
No cost/fees to setup a shop:
There are no costs in terms of website hosting, a domain name or web design associated with setting up your shop on Etsy. Which can be very beneficial as a new business owner on a budget. Essentially anyone can set-up a shop on Etsy without needing to pay fees and this is because Etsy takes a hefty cut on the items sold in your shop.
Super simple to setup a shop:
You don’t have to be a web designer or even hire a web design team to set up your Etsy shop. Setting up a shop on Etsy is super simple and user-friendly for all.
Unlike Etsy, there are costs associated with first establishing a new website. For example, depending on which platform you choose, there are often various fees associated to host your website on that platform (example: Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy, WordPress, Shopify, etc.). Some of these costs include things such as the set up fees to choose a premium plan, e-commerce plan, a domain and email fees. Not to mention if you have no idea what you’re doing when it comes to building a website, you might have to hire a web design team -- hint, hint ;)
This means that there is also time associated with this process. And as a business owner, it's understood that time is of the essence. Unlike Etsy, where you can essentially have your shop set up within the same day, building an entire website typically takes a bit longer than that.
If you are not a web designer, not comfortable making changes to your website or simply don’t have the time to make changes yourself, then you might also want to consider outsourcing a team to manage and maintain your website anytime it requires an update.
Good things take time:
Finally, if you’re brand new to business, and in the beginning phase, having your own website may be a bit difficult to build credibility and strong brand awareness or recognition. This is simply because you are new, and therefore this means that you will have to invest time (and possibly money) in marketing on your own or pay for advertisements in order to start to increase awareness, build brand recognition and drive traffic to your website.
Also, keep in mind, good SEO doesn't happen overnight. *To learn more about SEO and all that you need to know, check our blog post here.
If your goal is to establish a strong brand and build a successful business that people will remember, it’s difficult (not impossible) to do this on Etsy. This is because, while yes, Etsy is wonderful and can be seen as a great option for new business and shop owners, it’s also a busy platform with lots of competition and little-to-no brand awareness for shop owners. Not to mention, the platform itself is messy, meaning, each page is overcrowded and it's easy for a person to get overwhelmed by all the options and shops to choose from.
Websites help build a strong brand:
Owning a website provides ample opportunities to establish and strengthen your brand identity. You can achieve this by incorporating brand colors, logo, typography, content, photographs, and videos that reflect your brand's values and personality.
In addition, having an "About" section on your website can also be beneficial in giving your visitors insight into your brand and story. This, in turn, can help build trust as people are more likely to buy from brands they trust.
Finally, having a blog on your website can be highly advantageous in several ways. First and foremost, a blog provides a platform to showcase your expertise and knowledge in your industry. By creating high-quality and informative blog posts, you can establish yourself as a thought leader and gain credibility in your field. This can help attract more traffic to your website, which in turn can turn into more leads, conversions, and ultimately, revenue.
Moreover, a blog can help improve your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts by providing fresh and relevant content for search engines to crawl. Each new blog post creates a new page on your website, which provides additional opportunities to rank specific keywords and phrases. This, in turn, can help increase your website's visibility in search engine results pages and drive more organic traffic to your website.
Additionally, a blog can help you build and maintain relationships with your audience by providing them with valuable and engaging content. By creating a blog that resonates with your target audience, you can foster a community of loyal followers and customers who are more likely to engage with your brand and become advocates for your business.
Overall, by incorporating a blog into your website, you can position your business for long-term success and growth.
You have the peace of mind knowing that you own your own website and that you can't lose control (or access) to your shop (think if Etsy were to shut down one day or sell to another company).
This also means that you have control over your own email list, blog, and newsletter. You can do things to help to build up your email list and in turn create connections, build relationships and overall trust with your customers.
Blogs + Newsletters:
As mentioned earlier, blogs help to organically increase traffic to your site as you are able to use a blog to implement and utilize keywords in order to enrich your website in the eyes of search engines (SEO).
In addition, you can use a newsletter to do things like share the behind-the-scenes of your business or offer exclusive content, discounts, and specials for returning customers. In this way, you can continue to build trust with your community and improve conversion rates.
Learn more about blogs and newsletters here.
(Way) less costs of doing business:
Finally, and most importantly, you end up paying way less in fees when you own your own website. We previously discussed how you will have to pay initial set-up fees in order to get started with a website, however, these numbers don't come close to how much you would be continuously paying in total Etsy fees overall.
For more, check out our free guide, How to Start a Small Business for a full list of everything we wish we knew from day one.
Chief Creative Officer