It all started with an article in which Marian Gorun was wondering why handmade online marketplaces such as Etsy or the Romanian Breslo don’t allow links in their shops. Marian was right in saying that both the blog of a handmade artist and the marketplace could profit from mutual linking. So why aren’t they doing it?
The answer is simple: because very many blogs act as an (independent) online selling platform and are therefore seen as fee avoidance strategies by online marketplaces. I am sure you’ve seen lots of blogs only with pictures of the artist’s creations, a few description words and a variation of the following text: “For orders please contact me at ….” Yes, these are the blogs I’m talking about. They are no real blogs, they are just catalogs of products, online shops without an implemented shopping cart (you usually have to write an email if you want to order something). Most people I’ve talked to don’t like this type of pseudo-blogs that are all about selling. If you want a selling platform you should either open up a shop on Etsy, DaWanda or another marketplace of your choice, or (more expensive), start your own real online shop. Marian has already explained why you should conduct your selling transactions over a dedicated handmade marketplace: you get an already-configured shop and a working shopping cart with payment options, you get the rating and feedback system and you are present where most of your potential customers will search for handmade items.
So now you have set up your shop on a dedicated platform, but you still feel the need for a blog. How should a blog of a handmade artist look like? What should it be used for?
Well, if the main reason for your Etsy shop is selling, the main function of your blog is PR, building a brand and creating awareness. I know that a standard marketplace-shop can be sometimes too impersonal, even with all the banners and avatars and product descriptions you can personalize. If you want to let your customers know more about you and the creation process, then your blog is the place to do that. Write about yourself and your everyday experiences. If you want to keep it strictly related to your craft, then write about fair experiences you’ve had, about buying new materials or about the process of creation (you can even do a step-by-step documentary to show people how you create the wonderful stuff they can buy in your shop).
Of course you can post products of your finished work! But instead of writing a neutral description and leaving your email address for orders, write a few words about why you created the item and your inspiration sources and then link back to your shop (“You can buy this awesome necklace here“). This way, your readers can buy something with just a few clicks – the advantage of a dedicated selling platform – but at the same time they won’t see your blog as a huge advertisement for your business.
It’s always a good idea to give something extra to your readers. These days, tutorials and giveaways are very popular. You can choose to bundle your giveaway with some SEO optimization by asking readers who wish to enter the giveaway to comment or link to your blog or to share it via Facebook. You can also give out a limited-edition coupon code for your blog readers to use in your shop or let them know first about sales and other special offers. I also like to promote other talented people in my blog posts. By showing everyone how great handmade items are, even through someone else’s products, you help raise awareness for this niche!
And in the end, some (hopefully) useful blogging tips:
DO write about your personal everyday experiences if you feel like it!
DO write new, original content! If you write about your newest creation, don’t re-post the item description that is already in your shop. Try saying something new about the product, tell your readers how you got the idea for making it, where you got the materials or even how you felt when you were creating and designing it!
DO include a shop widget or a link to your shop in your sidebar
DO tell people how they can connect with you (email, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter…)
DO include at the end of each post a plugin for showing other similar articles
DO include pretty pictures in your posts – of your handmade items, of your workshop or of today’s walk you had in the park!
DO choose a clean, simple blog theme that fits your style and personality
DO update your blog frequently (min. once a week, the best is daily!)
DO write useful, pertinent comments on other people’s posts.
DON’T overload your blog with too many useless sidebar-widgets
DON’T use any kind of background music! (I really mean this one.)
DON’T choose a huge header image that takes up two-thirds of the screen (unless it really tells something about you and your craft)
DON’T take up link exchanges unless you personally like the blogs. Or, if you really want to do link exchange with everyone, organize a separate page for all your links.
Whatever you do, DON’T spam people with links to your blog. Sharing the link to your latest post once on your Facebook/Twitter page is enough. Don’t go posting (just) links in comments, emails or on your friend’s facebook pages.
Happy blogging everyone