Avoiding the Shop Site Trap
This is the second in a series of articles developed to help artisans and crafters build their online business.
One of the biggest things I’ve been telling my fellow artisans for years; always, always, always buy the domain name that matches your business name and put something, anything up on it. Even if it’s only a single page with your name, shop name and a link; to steal a phrase, “Just Do It!”
Why? Too many artisans and crafters, who sell their items online, have put their businesses totally in the hands of a third party. Their entire business is run from a shop site they have little control over. And, if something goes wrong, they get caught in what I call the “Shop Site Trap.”
What is the Shop Site Trap?
Shop sites make it fairly easy for anyone to sell their finished items or instructional materials online. You create an account and post what you have on offer. When it sells, the shop site takes care of the payment process and takes a commission or fee (or both) for providing you with their service. You complete the transaction by making sure the customer receives whatever they purchased. That’s a simplistic explanation for sure, but, basically the artisan gains access to a huge marketplace to sell their items and it is a great way to earn a living from your artistic endeavors. But, that’s where the Shop Site Trap is set.
Then, the artisan is told, if they want their little piece of that very big site to get noticed; they should do SEO on their product descriptions and get links to their shop. But, think about what you are doing when they ask you to do that. You’re promoting their site. You put your shop address on your business card. And backlinks you garner for your shop – are for their site. If you opt not to have a blog or website of your own; all of your branding is tied to your continued presence on that site.
But, what happens if they close? When Dawanda, a company that many called the “German Etsy” ended operations at the end of 2018, it had around 70,000 active sellers. While Dawanda and Etsy worked together to make it easier for shop owners to move their listings; that didn’t pay for new business cards, update backlinks or let past customers know where they were moving to. And, it assumed vendors wanted to select Etsy for their shop’s new home.
And, what happens if they raise their rates, make a policy change you can’t comply with or you want to start selling your items directly from your own website? Once again, you’ll need new business cards, waste time begging everyone who linked to your shop to change your link and keep your fingers crossed sending former customers your “I’ve moved!” email won’t cause you to run afoul of GDPR or get your email placed on a spammers list.
And, thus the trap has sprung.
The shop you’ve spent years building is suddenly gone. If you’re lucky and have a decent Instagram or Facebook following, you’ll be able to direct your favorite customers to your new home. If you don’t have a website, blog or social media following; your choices are to stay where you are (assuming that’s even possible) or basically start rebranding your business all over again.
The Reality of the Numbers
Domain registration for 1 year = around $12 USD.
Web Hosting for 1 year = under $10 a month unless your site is absolutely huge or has some other special requirement; then budget say $20 a month.
So, to have a web presence for your business name that you 100% control, you’re looking at an expense roughly equal to 1 or 2 movie tickets, a few six-packs of domestic beer, a blooming onion at Outback or 3-5 gallons of gas for your vehicle.
How much will it cost you if your online shop has to be closed? How much will it cost you to replace all of your pre-printed marketing materials? How much business will you lose while you move your shop from one location to another?
You Don’t Have to Be a Programmer to Have a Website
Meet the greatest thing to hit the web – Word Press! Before you start making excuses about not being a programmer, hear me out. Did you know that many of the entry-level web-hosting plans come with free installers to make setting up a WordPress site process easy peasy? Some even offer what’s called “WordPress hosting” where they help you run your site – it’s usually a little extra charge each month but in some cases the upcharge is less than $5 a month.
There’s literally thousands of free “themes” to pick from and if you just want a basic, out-of-the-box website, you could use the theme that comes pre-installed and have your website up and running in less than an hour. And, if you want to get fancy, there’s other WordPress users providing thousands (perhaps millions) of free written and video tutorials out there to help. And, with the arrival of their new “Gutenberg” editor, it is even easier for non-programmers to build a site.
Considering Free Webhosting?
Considering using a free webhosting platform? Guess what? While trying to escape one shop trap you’ll just be jumping into another one.
What if they stop offering free hosting like Yahoo! did? What if you outgrow their free plan? And which would you rather have? – mybiz.wix.com or mybiz.blogger.com or mybiz.com?
Free Domain with Purchase – Another Trap
Oh, and don’t purchase your domain name and web hosting from the same folks. If anything goes wrong, they can make it extremely difficult for you to move your site. Particularly, if you took advantage of their free domain with hosting offer. Trust me, been there, done that; learned my lesson the hard way. I was lucky someone broke some rules to help me. Otherwise, I would have had to wait for the domain to expire and hope no one got to it before I could.
You Don’t Have to Be a Copywriter or Poet
I’ve lost count how many times people have told me that they can’t write or simply don’t have the time to write blog posts. And, yet, they spend hours on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. They’ll spend hours each week talking about their projects in a forum and then proclaim, “I don’t have time to write blog posts.”
Make time. Even if it’s just a few sentences to say, “Check out my latest ______. I just posted it on ________. Here’s a link.”
Whenever you add something new to your shop, make a post. Put lots of photos. Explain what makes it great. Get people so excited to buy what you’ve created that they would never think of using the search function on the shop site to “just see what else might be available.”
If have your own website or blog and find yourself without a shop site to call home, prospective customers can still see your great work and get in touch with you while you find a new way to sell your creations. Sure, you’ll have to go back and edit every one of the links to point to where ever you’re going. But, meanwhile, all of your marketing efforts can continue to bring you new business. And, you won’t even have to order new business cards.