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Etsy Advertising: is it worth it?

Have you ever wondered about Etsy advertising? I’ve been selling on Etsy for 14 years, but I’ve never looked into paying for Etsy ads until now. Read on to hear about my Etsy advertising experiment (and maybe save yourself some money on Etsy ads…)

I’m testing out a few new automated marketing options this year, in an attempt to make it easier for people to find PlanetJune and discover all the patterns and tutorials I have to offer. And in case this is useful for you too, I’ll share some of what I discover here.


About Etsy Ads

It’s important to realise that there are two types of Etsy ads – those that are internal and external to Etsy. I’ll briefly explain both so you know what we’re dealing with here.

External Etsy Ads: “Offsite Ads”

These are the ads you see if you search for a crochet pattern on e.g. Google. Lots of patterns sold on Etsy will come up in your Google results, and the pattern seller will pay Etsy a 12-15% commission on top of the usual Etsy fees if you click on the ad for their pattern and then buy it within the next 30 days.

As an Etsy seller, you can opt out of appearing in these ads if you make under $10,000/year via Etsy. I’m over that threshold so I have to participate, but I’ll show you my stats for 2021 (so far) so you can see how it’s working out for me:

Etsy offsite ads

It has actually proven worthwhile to me: yes, I’ve paid Etsy over $100 CAD already this year for the ads (that’s in addition to the usual listing fees, 5% sales commission, and payment processing fees), but I only pay when people actually buy something, and I sold an extra $880 CAD (about $700 USD) of patterns because of those ads, so I can’t complain.

Internal Etsy Ads: “Etsy Ads”

Internal Etsy Ads are the subject of my test. These are the adverts you see if you go to Etsy.com and search for something. The first row of results will show the seller’s name as “Ad by PlanetJune” instead of just “PlanetJune”, and the seller will pay for that prime placement if you click into one of those listings (whether or not you go on to buy the item).

The ads are run by Etsy using a bidding system, so the price the seller pays for that click depends on how much competition there was for that search term, up to a limit of the seller’s maximum remaining daily budget.


My Experiment

I’d read that you should setup your Etsy Ads and then leave them running for at least 30 days before making any changes, so you can monitor what’s effective.

So I decided to run a 30-day experiment, for a budget of $1 per day (the minimum amount you can set), and featuring a mix of my most popular patterns (Succulent Collections 1 & 2, Bearded Dragon, and my Turtle Beach Blanket & Baby Sea Turtle Collection bundle):

Etsy ads experiment

With 30 days, 3 pattern options, and $30 worth of data, this should give me enough of an idea to see what’s working, what’s not, and what I could try for my next test.


Results

As the days progressed, I kept watching my ads to see what was happening. And it didn’t look good. Halfway through the experiment, my results looked like this:

Etsy ads experiment

As shown above, after spending $15 on Etsy ads, I had over 5000 views of my ads, and only 69 clicks. But, of those 69, not even one person went on to buy the pattern.

That’s not a good return, given that it had already cost me $15 in advertising – I’d need to sell at 2-3 items to cover that cost, let alone make a profit.

Before flushing another $15 down the toilet, I thought I’d dig a little deeper into what was going on, and what I found made me give up on the rest of the experiment!


What Went Wrong?

Almost all of my advertising budget was spent on my Succulent Collections listing (that’s not something I had any control over – it’s automated by Etsy), so I just looked at the results from that ad, as it had the most data.

Here’s what buyers were searching for, when Etsy showed my succulent pattern to them:

Etsy ads experiment

The top two results were by far the highest performing in terms of views and clicks, but look what those people were actually searching for:

  • crochet patterns: that’s such a generic term, it’s no surprise that most of the people searching for ‘crochet patterns’ weren’t looking for potted realistic succulent patterns – they could have been looking for blanket patterns, or clothing, or dishcloths…
  • flower pot kit: I’m pretty sure that nobody searching for a flower pot kit was actually looking for a succulent crochet pattern – or anything related to crochet whatsoever.

It’s no wonder that none of these people went on to buy my pattern – Etsy’s targeting for these ads is woefully inadequate, and most of my budget was blown on showing my ads to people who weren’t at all interested in buying my patterns.

After seeing this, I decided to stop my experiment early. Spending another $15 wouldn’t make a difference to my conclusions. My adverts aren’t being shown to the right people, so I’d just be another $15 out of pocket.

(There is still a chance that one of the 69 people who clicked on one of my ads will return and buy the pattern, but it’s been several more days since I stopped the experiment and that hasn’t happened yet – I’m not holding my breath.)

Conclusions

Yes, this was only a small experiment, but I can confidently say that I doubt Etsy ads are a useful marketing tool for most people selling relatively low-priced items such as patterns and other digital downloads, or handmade toys (where the profit margin is already slim, as they are so time-consuming to make).

Not being able to customize your ads at all beyond selecting which items to advertise is a real problem. Your budget can disappear very quickly on people who like your photo but aren’t actually searching for the thing you’re selling, so you pay for their click but there’s no way they’re going to buy your item.

If we could target only specific search terms, or only a specific demographic, or only people who have bought items from a specific category in the past, I might give Etsy ads another go. But, unless Etsy significantly improves the customizability and targeting of their internal ads, I can’t recommend it for anyone with a business remotely similar to mine.

Of course, your results could be different from mine, but I’d recommend you save your hard-earned money for something more likely to pay off!


Have you had any success with Etsy ads? I’d love to know! Please share your experience and tips below 🙂

5 Comments »

  1. Ruth Lister said

    I was interested to read your findings June. I have found searching to be very frustrating on other pattern sites as well as Etsy. I am a buyer, not a seller, but it is so frustrating when things with no relevance pop up in the search!

  2. Ruth said

    I was interested to read your findings June. I have found searching to be very frustrating on other pattern sites as well as Etsy. I am a buyer, not a seller, but it is so frustrating when things with no relevance pop up in the search!

  3. Becka Rahn said

    I did a similar experiment to yours for a class I was teaching and I think I ended up losing money – spending more in ads than I made in sales. I also sell small $ items and my results were a lot the same as yours.

  4. Kay Lyn Chase said

    i had tried selling on Etsy and found i had better luck selling my Project Bags on consignment at my local yarn shop. a lot less frustation and work. i figure with photographing and listing i have a lot less frustration dropping them off and using what doesnt sell as bags for myself or gifts for friends.

  5. Andrea said

    Personally, I _dispise_ the internal etsy ads. Even when I use a fairly specific search, it will find the most expensive thing and stick it up at the top, even if I’m sorting low to high. I might consider clicking on one, if they wern’t always things that were 100x my budget.

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