Aug 30, 2010

Shop Critique: Dark Ride Jewellery

One thing that most Etsy Help guides will tell you is that you’ve got to keep improving, growing and trying new things. A dynamic and exciting shop is the key to being found and followed by lots of loyal customers.

The Oh Canada Team hopes to help our members and readers to grow as Etsy sellers by offering in-depth shop critiques. Today’s examination is for Caroline of Dark Ride, which has been open since July 2010.

Store Front

First Impressions Store Front

The banner photograph is really fantastic. It’s a nice close up shot of one of your designs, so the first thing visitors see is a large example of your work. The piece you’ve chosen has plenty of color, and really draws attention. I might recommend adding some text to your banner, particularly your shop name, especially if you refer to your shop differently than your Etsy username - like two words instead of one. If you have Windows 7, you can add text to JPEG photos in Paint without getting that blurry effect.

Your avatar is nice, but it would be great to have a similar close-up picture here as well. Whatever subject you choose to show, it should be clear and easy to see. A picture that shows just a small component of one of your designs would make a great teaser. Your avatar should shout “Click Me!” to everyone that sees it. If you use a design style that you make often, you can keep your avatar fresh without losing any recognition around the site.

The new Etsy layout has really changed the way existing Etsy members view and scan shop fronts, but search engines still view them the same way. Your shop tagline - the text that appears under your username at the top of the sidebar - is great. It describes your shop and provides good SEO keywords.


Now that all Etsy shop announcements are cropped, it is even more important to keep them relevant and up to date. The first few lines that show should be direct and to the point, while providing the most essential information about your shop, and a few keywords for search engines. Deciding what goes here can be tough, but always keep in mind that visitors who want to buy from you, feature you, or follow your progress will find their way to your profile and shop policies on their own.

Your announcement describes your products, is cheerful and welcoming, and enhances the pictures by showing your unique personality. Well done!


An alarming number of shops have not updated their featured listings to fit the new wide format. You’ve got four beautiful pieces displayed, which is great! There are a variety of styles, and some different price points, so you obviously know what you’re doing here.

Remember to always have at least one more item in your shop starred in case a featured product sells, and rotate your featured items periodically to keep your shop - and Etsy Mini - looking fresh.

At first glance, I get the impression that you have organized the layout of your first page listings. This is good. But, even as a jewelry designer myself, I can’t quite tell what the theme might be. When rearranging your shop, always keep the customer in mind. Using simple themes like color or style make your first page beautiful and easy to browse.

Handmade Jewelry from Dark Ride


Perfect! You’ve got simple, clear sections that are easy to understand and browse. I’m sure many jewelry shoppers find this a relief when they visit you! When you have very basic categories to work with, it can be tempting to squeeze some extra keywords in there, but it’s important to put real people before search engines whenever possible.

Remember to always put new listings into a section, so that shoppers have one more way to find and purchase the type of product that they want most.


Gasp! It’s empty!

Although the profile section is totally and unofficially optional, any big empty space in your shop can be a turn off to both shoppers and other sellers who might want to feature you. This is the perfect place to let visitors know who you are, and why they might want to build a long-term buyer/seller relationship with you.

Some things that are always good to include in a profile are:

Your first name. This lets people send you a message that doesn’t start with “Hello.” or “To whom it may concern”.

Your story. How did you get into this craft, why do you love it, how do you do it differently from the thousands of other sellers out there?

Your community.
Are you on any teams? Do you make lots of treasuries - how about a link to your treasury list?

Your links. This is the best place to share your off-Etsy business content like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or whatever you use. You can also share links to places where your work has been featured, which can tell visitors that you’re not totally undiscovered, and that you appreciate their custom.

Shop Policies


Good news! You can save lots of time by moving the first two paragraphs into your Profile section.

The third paragraph makes a nice opener, so leave it where it is. I always encourage sellers to mention their email address here, so that potential customers can contact you before going through the Etsy sign up process.

The fourth paragraph can stay, but I think it would be better in Additional Policies and FAQs. It would make a nice closer for the page, because if anyone scrolls down that far, it reminds them of all the beautiful jewelry back in the shop.


This is one section where you have to really state the obvious. Although linking out of your shop can be dangerous on Etsy, it can really benefit your customers to include a link to the Buying FAQ here, and remind everyone that you don’t need a PayPal account to pay by credit card. (Most links within your shop will open in a new window anyway.) Let customers know how to contact you if they wish to pay by money order.


Because online shopping is a fast paced activity, you need to make sure that your customers have as few unanswered questions as possible, so they can buy right away. Otherwise, they might just go looking somewhere else.

Some questions your visitors might have: What postal service do you use? Do you ship worldwide? Do you refund postage overages? Can I request faster shipping? (Especially important during the holidays). How long does it usually take for your packages to get to my country?

Refunds and Exchanges

"Oh, man. Is there a problem? Please convo me right away! I'll do my best to work out a solution agreeable to you."

I like the paragraph that you have here, except for the first line. I know what tone you’re using, because I’m familiar with you, but keep in mind that humor doesn’t always come across well in text.

On Etsy, having strict refund policies doesn’t really work well. Too many written rules can scare new customers away, and not being flexible when problems do arise can prevent repeat business. What you have in this section now lets customers know pretty much everything they need to - that you’re always willing to help.

The only other thing you may want to mention is how you might handle wear-damaged items - do you have a lifetime, one year, or 30 day guarantee, and who is responsible for return shipping, etc?

Additional FAQs

This is a great place to mention things like:

Allergens - what types of metals do you use in your work?
Custom orders - with link to your Alchemy section
Jewelry Care tips - can I wear my new necklace at a 3 hour aquacise class?


"Like some of this, but would rather see it with some of that? Convo me!"

I love this line! Your shop has so much personality, it makes browsing a lot of fun. But, not every visitor will know what convo means. This is another great place to include your email address. If you say “Contact me by email or Etsy convo”, you’ll satisfy 99.9% of visitors.

Request a Custom Item from Dark Ride Jewelry

I say this a lot, but it’s always worth repeating: Custom work can be a huge part of your Etsy business. Try to answer as many questions as you can up front. Some examples:

Do you make exact duplicates?
Approximately how long to orders take?
Do you ever require a deposit up front?



Your item titles are very nice. You’ve got color and style keywords, like “Moss Green Choker” which pleases both shoppers and search engines. There is a little wiggle room for most of your listings to add more information. The title-inclusive listings URLs are great for gauging how long or short a title should be, give or take a few words. You could experiment with adding more information here to see if it helps your item views.

For instance, “Blood Red Choker” could be “Blood Red Choker with Beaded Tassle” or “True Blood Inspired Deep Red Choker” or “Choker Necklace in Chain and Blood Red Glass”.

Blood Red Choker by Dark Ride

You get the idea! Just don’t get too carried away. Remember to put the customer first here - short descriptive titles are better than overstuffed strings of senseless keywords.


Your photos are lovely! The lighting and backgrounds are great, and really show the beauty of your designs.

Although you do use all 5 photo slots, many of the pictures you show are a bit redundant. Because customers can’t pick up and examine your jewelry, your photos have to answer as many questions as possible. A helpful Etsy form thread once stated “Take pictures like you have no description, describe like you have no pictures”.

Customers would really like to see a close-up of clasps and important components, and a wide shot of the entire piece to see the overall design. Here are a few shot types to consider:

Teaser - The first photo should be the most stylish, showing just the most beautiful part of the piece to entice clicks.

Wide Shot - Show the entire piece, spread out as much as possible but still displayed attractively.

Close Ups - Show important components like clasps, pendants or unique design aspects up close.

Scale - Show a component or the entire piece with a reference object like a ruler, penny or playing card.

Model - Use a jewelry display, model or decorative object to show design details like drape, or how to wear the item.

You’re already doing a lot of these. I especially like the aluminum ’models’ that you use. The rustic look really accentuates the beauty of your pieces.

Drop of Fresh Air Necklace by Dark Ride


You’ve got great descriptions. They include details like technique, style and color, but don’t go on and on or include anything totally irrelevant. Your descriptions let your customers know that you really did make the item, and that you’re proud of your work, which can turn a casual looker into a confident buyer.

Keep in mind that the first few lines are what search engines see first, and what searchers will see when your items turn up in places like Google or shopping directories. Try to use lots of keywords here while still being yourself.

Remember: “Describe like you have no photos”. Dimensions are really important for selling and shopping online, so the more detail you can give here, the better. Measure the overall design, important components, etc. If you ship worldwide, you really must provide metric and imperial measurements. Don’t make your customers Google the inches and centimeters for themselves.

Backlinks are a must on Etsy. Every listing should include a link to some other area of your shop. It could be your main page, a similar item or related shop section, or even your policies. Keep random visitors in your shop with interesting things to click.

I really like that you include a bit of your shipping policies in your listing. Many of the item views you receive will be direct - from searches and not from your storefront. It’s always a good idea to include a bit of general information about your shop so that people will want to keep looking around.

To make the listing process easier, you can create a generic paragraph for the end of each listing, and keep it in your spell-check file - a file that you hopefully use to proof-read listings before you publish them! It might go something like this:

Free shipping to Canada and the continental US, and to all other locations for a small fee.

Thanks for looking at my tiny little corner of the etsy universe!

Want to see more? Check out my current line of handmade necklaces:

You can, of course, change it up a bit for each item you list when appropriate.


You’re using all 14 tags, and selecting relevant subcategories, which is the most important thing. Shoppers can’t find you if you’re not reaching out to them with your tags. Some of your tags do need to be separated. Although it’s tempting to fill up each line as much as possible, each tag must be an individual word or phrase.

You can free up a little bit of space by removing your shop username from some of the listings. You only need one or two darkride or dark ride tags for searchers to find you this way. And because most shoppers use the basic search, you can also move Free Shipping to your shop titles.

Spring Buds Choker by Dark Ride


You’re using this section, which is a bonus in itself. Even if you’re not expecting to be found by Materials tags, this helps customers get a better idea of what they are buying without having to gather it from the description.

You do have some more opportunities to be found, though - particularly for treasuries and features. You can have up to 14 tags in this section, so feel free to get creative.

For instance, the Spring Buds Choker materials list could go something like this:

nickel and lead free antiqued brass, rope chain, leaf charms, bead caps, Czech fire polish, oval beads, box round filigree clasp, flower clasp


Your prices are very reasonable, yet still reflect the quality of the materials and craftsmanship. You could probably increase your prices and see steady sales - remember that pricing too low is a shopping turn off, too. Depending on how you calculate your wholesale and retail prices, you could simply increase your labor costs or markup by a small percent.

It’s up to you to determine if your profits are great enough to pay yourself and improve your business. A good goal to reach for is being able to spend your sales on things like new materials and business cards, but still have some leftover for yourself.


There are a lot of Etsy shops out there that aren’t near as fantastic as yours, so keep doing what you’re doing! But, also keep in mind that there are lots of other fantastic shops that you have to compete with, so it’s important to stay on top of things.

I highly recommend subscribing to all of Etsy’s newsletters. It only takes a few minutes to scan them, and delete them if they’re not interesting to you. But you’d be surprised by how much information you can get each month that will help you improve your business.

I think success is in your future!

Shop critiques are provided by request to our members and guests. This critique was written by Mortira, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Oh Canada and it’s members. All forms of Etsy advice and tips are given from a personal perspective. Before trying out a new method for your shop, we advise you to conduct your own research, and do what’s right for you.

Please also note that the shop featured here may have changed since this critique was published. While you are welcome to use any of the tips provided, we do not recommend making a comparison between the featured shop and your own.

Copyright 2010 Oh Canada, Dark Ride and


DarkRide said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Oh, Mortira! This is going to be soooo helpful. I can't imagine the time it took for you to do this, and you are so freakin' diplomatic. I was very nervous about baring my shop like this, but you've handled this critique so diplomatically I feel more inspired than kicked to the curb;-)
There is so much helpful information here, and lots of practical stuff that I can get started with right away.
Thank you, Mortira, for your honest evaluation and kind comments!

Mortira said...

You're very welcome! I remember how hard it was to get useful, honest feedback in the forums when I first started out. I realized that I was learning more about selling on Etsy by giving advice than by taking it. This is a great exercise for me, too!

bstudio said...

DarkRide, thanks for exposing your shop to the critique!
Mortira, you are so thorough in your critiques and as DR said, diplomatic! I found the one you did of my shop and this one very helpful.

Thanks once again, outstanding job!

GThreads said...

Excellent critique. I certainly learned from it. Now to go and check out my own shop.

Littlebearsmom said...

Thanks to both Caroline and Mortira for this amazingly informative and helpful critique! There are so many great tips in here to implement in my own shop!!!

UxCritter said...

Thank you Caroline and Mortira for this very helpful shop critique blog information. Lots of great ideas that start the gears working towards making each of our own shop improvements.

~ Ux

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