Etsy Seller Woes: Why did Etsy put a reserve on my money

Tiny sellers with small processing volumes, unfortunately, have a bad rap when it comes to solving issues consistently. Etsy is just trying to be smart with this as there are probably hundreds of sellers who are actually flaking out and leaving them holding the bag every day.

A reserve is super common for payment aggregators, like Etsy Pay or Paypal once the volume is above trivial amounts. They don’t trust you’ll pay them back if a customer complains and wins – and any indications of risk (it’s a new account, a big change in sales volume, IP complaints, bad feedback, slow shipping, no tracking) all increase the risk that a seller will flake out.

If you apply for a real merchant account to accept credit cards in a storefront or online website, there is always a credit approval process first. This protects the middle guy (Etsy and their merchant bank in this case) from paying for a chargeback. If Etsy can’t prove the product was delivered, Etsy pays and then comes after the seller to get their money back. In the case of a reserve, they don’t need to loan you the money and then become a debt collector.

Many new business owners hit these roadblocks at some point and then build them into their business plan to keep some % of sales in reserve or learn how to always win the “game” of proving delivery.

If as an Etsy seller you’re thinking about leaving or shutting your shop down because of a reserve, you might consider reading into business cash flow management to calculate whether you have enough working capital for your sales and not taking a paycheck yourself until you do.

Etsy Marketing for ‘Help – My Store Has No Views!’ 5 Steps to Survive and Thrive

Are you one of the millions of entrepreneurs who opened an Etsy shop in 2020 or 2021? You may have seen or heard that Etsy is a great place to sell your product or homemade craft goods at reasonably high prices – in front of a very large audience – from the comfort of your own home.

But I’m guessing you don’t have a background in marketing, especially a background in Etsy Marketing or SEO. You’ve come to the right place!

My name is Joe and I’ve been running an e-commerce family of businesses for about ten years, having netted 7 figures and living the e-com lifestyle (finally) that’d I’d dreamed of when I started.

Maybe you’re thinking you’ll use your newfound Etsy profits to fund your next vacation trip, or even quit your job and work on your Etsy business full time.

But you’re here because your store has been up and running for a couple of months and the sales have not come as expected – maybe you even have exactly zero sales so far.

Why is my Etsy store getting no views, no clicks, and no sales?

The answer to this very common issue almost always comes down to just a few key Etsy marketing factors, all of which can be solved:

  • Your keywords, title, and description have not been optimized to show when people search for what you have
  • Your product is not in demand and there is no audience for it on Etsy
  • Your product is priced too high or too low to be taken seriously
  • Your main picture is not interesting of professional enough to compel buyers to click
  • Your store does not show enough trust indicators, such as reviews or total number of sales

I’m hopeful that the truths above have not sounded too harsh, but I want you to know that nearly every e-commerce store beginner runs into these exact hurdles and you have control over fixing almost everything so you can better promote you Etsy Shop! Read on, and I’ll show you how to improve your Etsy store and your sales.

Your Etsy Stats Page shows zero (or very few) Visits and Not Enough Orders

Does your Etsy stats panel look frustratingly like this?

Why is my Etsy store getting no views, no clicks, and no sales?

-Almost every new Etsy store owner

Unfortunately I might be the first to tell you that the hype is not real – running an e-commerce business takes a whole lot of work, knowledge of how businesses work and what makes buyers buy which is irrelevant to the product you want to sell. This is doubly important while getting started. It’s so much work that most budding entrepreneurs with a new Etsy shop will give up and never achieve the kind of success they are dreaming of when they start. You might actually sell less on Etsy than you could at your local craft fair.

If you’re still with me after that, I’ll tell you why you’re not getting any views on Etsy.

When you set up shop at the local craft fair with your hand-etched shot glasses or customized epoxy tumblers, you might be the only shop in the whole place with this type of product. If the show isn’t too large, your wares might even be seen by every single attendee. Finally, your prospective customers can talk to you, touch and hold your product, and build instant trust for what you’re offering.

On Etsy, as a beginner, you have a booth in the basement of the back building of the craft show that has leopards guarding the front door.

In other words, no one can find you. If they do find you, they don’t trust you.

So how are you supposed to get people to find you, if they don’t trust you? How could you possibly expect anyone would buy from you?

Why does Etsy put some stores at the top, and why do people buy from those stores?

Let me back-of-the-napkin this idea.

Sales bring reviews and store stats which are the e-commerce version of a reputation. People buy on reputation, especially if they are going to buy at a “high” price (whatever you feel your time is worth). But, as you can see, you can’t develop a reputation until you already have sales.

Another factor to consider: Etsy doesn’t trust you either. They have twice the problems you have. They need to attract great buyers who will pay high prices AND attract the best sellers who deliver an exceptional customer experience. So you better believe that Etsy will only put your store up front once they are pretty sure you can deliver. But how can you prove you’ll deliver if you’re never given the chance?

Ahh. A Catch 22.

Now for some good news. Every successful Etsy shop has overcome this problem too. I’ll tell you how to become successful on Etsy below.

First, a super short primer on keywords (KW):

  • short tail keyword: “wineglass
  • medium tail keyword: “wineglass for red wine
  • long tail keyword: “wineglass for red wine at country themed weddings

More searches on Etsy are going to match the short-tail keywords.

If you are using short-tail keywords, your store will only get listed on the first or second page if you’re already among the top stores of Etsy. Otherwise forget about it! Short tail keywords are hurting you more than helping.

Go search Etsy and give it a try – You’ll notice almost every store on the first page has dozens, possibly even thousands of 5 star reviews already. The few you see that don’t have many sales yet are Etsy testing whether they might be early winners.

You’ll also notice that Etsy says there are more than 7,000 matching results (as of September 2021). Let’s call all those guys the keyword competition. Short-tail keywords are almost always competitive.

Using this keyword would be like running a store in the back of a shopping mall with 7000 other wineglass stores closer to the front door

The problem with short tail keywords: A potential buyer who is searching with just one word isn’t being very specific about what they want.

Even if they find you, your product may not closely match their intent!

Conversion rates will not be high (that is why I don’t recommend Ads for un-optimized stores – more on that later) and there are too many other stores for you to try and outrank for these super competitive words.

The problem with long tail keywords: very few people are searching with them, maybe just a few dozen a month.

But think about this – if someone searches Etsy with wineglass for red wine at country themed weddings and you happen to be the seller with the best cowgirl-themed red wine glasses? Boom – you’re going to get that sale. (I’m not sure if this kind of product even exists, it’s just an example, ok?? – Joe)

I think you probably see where I’m going with this.

The Goldilocks Keywords

The secret, which I’ve now put out in the open so it’s no longer a secret, is to find LOW COMPETITION keywords, that still have HIGH ENOUGH SEARCH VOLUME to be worth your time. And you’re in luck! Computers can do this work for you.

Keyword Research on Etsy

For Etsy, there are two major players in the KW (KeyWord) Research space:

  • Marmalead
  • Erank
  • Bonus option #3: Hire a freeelancer on Fiverr who has one of the above two tools

I subscribe to Erank and use it with my Etsy shop, so I’ll show you what this looks like. I’m not affiliated with either Erank or Marmalead and can’t endorse one over the other. You can click the picture to get a bigger version.

Erank Keyword Search result for Wineglasses

See, KW Research isn’t all that hard! Enter your topic, and it will show you the Average Searches (your search volumes), and Competition levels. And thank goodness, it will show you a bunch of related keyword ideas in the event you’re having a hard time figuring out where to start.

Now you have every reason to spend a half hour gathering your top 13 high search volume, low competition keywords so that people who want to buy your stuff can find your store.

Why 13?

Etsy gives you 13 keyword slots. Each one of those is an opportunity to show on the first page of 13 highly-focused, primed-to-buy search search queries. Etsy also gives you about 50 characters at the start of your title, so put your best keywords first.

Erank shows you which part of your title is helping your Etsy SEO (search engine optimization), and which part is ignored. It’s not a lot of space, so use it wisely.

Erank also says that “The first 160-500 characters (of your description) tend to be the most important to external search engines” which is another source of views. Use this space carefully to build trust and confidence that you’re the best.

Ok. Phew! Take a breather and give yourself a cliche pat on the back. Now you know enough to be dangerous with Etsy SEO, and you didn’t even know you were learning about Etsy SEO! It’s not that complicated, is it?

I’ve optimized my keywords, but I’m still not selling anything

I know. That’s why I’m not going to wrap up this article yet. Getting optimized is just the first step so that people can actually find you.

But so far, they don’t trust you. Because you have no sales or reviews yet.

Between you and I, I’m sure you’re trustworthy – but how does some random stranger on the internet know this?

I’ll tell you what the trust signals on Etsy are:

  • Every picture of the item is perfect – Click here for Instructions on How to Take Perfect Product Pictures and choose a Youtuber you trust
  • Multiple pictures of the product in realistic settings, with human faces if you can (why faces? this blog explains a 100%+ increase in conversion rate by adding a face)
  • You’ve filled out the “About Us” section with something interesting and uploaded a real profile picture. It makes you and your brand “real”.
  • The price is middle of the range considering similar products – not too high or low
  • Shipping is free
  • Returns and Exchanges are gladly accepted
  • The shop has many reviews, almost all 5 stars
  • The shop has many sales compared to other shops
  • Customers have left photo reviews of this exact product
  • The customer’s reviews mention a specific element of the product, indicating the reviewer is trustworthy
  • The seller is a “Star Seller” (more on this in a moment)
  • Any responses to negative feedback are very professional (which can even improve your trust rating versus not having received the negative review in the first place!)

Some of these you can control today, and I recommend trying to implement every trust indicator you can.

Some of these you can’t directly control, but you can definitely influence them, and now I’ll show you how.

Three options to get more sales for your optimized shop and listings:

  • Wait it out – eventually some of those millions of other sellers are going to give up and the competition will be lower. I think.

    I’m being a little facetious (sorry!) but you will indeed get some sales eventually – especially if your product, like its keywords, is in high demand and has low competition. But this is the slowest way to a larger and successful shop.
  • Offer a big PROMOTION. Don’t lower your prices – that’s a negative trust signal – but offer a promotion to show you’re willing to put your own money behind your store and your product. Think of it like investing in your reputation. You might decide to sell 50 or even 500 items of your product at cost or cheaper, to get the needle moving. Once the sales start, it’s much easier to keep them going. Now you can play with your promotion discount % and find a sweet spot where you’re not losing anything as you develop the trust signals of a bigger store.

    The increased volume might enable you to find cheaper suppliers, better ways of shipping, and iron out any inefficiencies in your operation. In turn, this can bring profits sooner.
  • Buy Ads on Etsy. DON’T BUY ADS UNTIL YOU’VE OPTIMIZED YOUR KEYWORDS, or you’re going to throw money into the wind as the wrong people will find and click (and then you pay). Assuming you’re optimized already, you should expect a negative return on your ad spend (you’re going to lose money) while you’re doing this until you have ENOUGH TRUST SIGNALS to get a better conversion rate.

    Do the math on Etsy ads:

    If it’s fifty cents a click at 0.1% conversion rate, it means every sale will cost you $50 in ads. Does your item have enough profit to cover this? Low profit items need very high conversion rates to be marketable with ads. Get your calculator out and play with those numbers to figure out how to not lose your shorts!
  • Buy Ads on Facebook or Pinterest. DON’T DO THIS YET EITHER (or do, but let me know how it goes!) I typed that as a bit of a placeholder for a future update to this article. I don’t recommend this strategy yet as I’m still trying to determine if Facebook or Pinterest have better targeting capabilities than Etsy (I think they do for the right products) – so before I recommend this idea, I want to better understand it

Let’s summarize what to do if your Etsy store has no views:

  1. Optimize your keywords
  2. Improve your store’s trustworthiness indicators
  3. Wait, Promote, or Pay (for Ads) to get more people on your listings, and thus more sales

After you’ve gotten through all of the above improvements, sales will come and your store will begin to rank higher. This will eventually allow you, like the bigger stores, to upgrade to higher volume keywords that will bring even more organic traffic. And when your store is brimming with 5 star reviews, more of those searchers will feel confident in buying your product, leading to an increased conversion rate, which further moves you up the ranks.

Etsy doesn’t share much about how exactly they rank shops or precisely how they decide which product listings to show for which keywords, but you can bet the stores that make Etsy more money and give the customer a fantastic Etsy-esque experience go straight to the top.

Now you’re on your way! You’ve learned about marketing on Etsy, Etsy SEO, How to Promote on Etsy, a even a few Etsy Store Tips! I hope I’ve helped you in your journey how to be successful on Etsy.

Cash App – Your Account Has Been Closed in 2021: The hidden downside to Digital Nomad life

The digital nomad life comes with a lot of perks. No one complains about working from a seaside condo while downing a beer on a budget that costs a fraction of most American lifestyles. But there is one hidden dark side to the Southeast Asian lifestyle that occasionally rears its ugly head and sends you spinning: Doing business with companies that are extremely sensitive to fraud.

The story started in the usual way: I woke and stumbled over to hit the button on my coffee pot to get that transition from sleepy to focused underway. While I waited for the reassuring steamy sounds from the machine, I casually opened my Cash App app (?!) to see if that refund from Aliexpress had made it back to my account.

I was greeted with an excruciating sight that got my blood pumping faster than the coffee brewing in front of me ever could:

Get Lost! -Cash App

I can’t think of any shady P2P transactions that I may have been involved in, or any deposits or payments I’ve made that might warrant such a brash accusation. For the most part, Cash App is a nice way to keep some online purchases separated from my credit card and toy around with a few stocks.

“We found activity on your account that goes against our Terms of Service.”

Underneath the generic tone, it’s so harsh, yet so un-informative. This sounds serious, and yet there is no apparent way to appeal, or contact customer service and plead my case. Did I really inadvertently break the rules? Or did some overexcited bot misfire it’s whistle, trip the alarms, and nuke my account.

After a few minutes of frantic poking around, coffee mug finally filled to the brim, I was able to Google the “Terms of Service” that were now somehow (and surprisingly) unavailable from inside the application. As I scanned it looking for some clues as to how I could have earned the ban-hammer, I came across this foreboding little tidbit from the Cash App Terms of Service:

Now I had already verified my identity: that happened 2 years ago when I linked my bank account, ordered a Cash card, scanned my driver’s license, and started to use the app.

What caught my eye is “U.S. Resident”. What does that mean, exactly? I own a house in the US. I pay a power and water bill in the US. I get my mail in the US. I vote in every major election in the US. And I regularly travel to and inside the US since I am an American and it is my country. But… I’m not always inside the US.

Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore…

For nearly a year and a half now, as we’ve all suffered through this global pandemic, I’ve been hunkered down here in a developing Southeast Asian country, happily working from my balcony overlooking the sea. My mind in both eastern and western hemispheres, my banking scattered around the world, and likely, an IP address that is telegraphing a little secret detail:

“February 15, 2021 – Access from SE Asia”…

“March 22, 2021 – Access from SE Asia”…

“August 2, 2021 – Access from SE Asia”…

Each and every time I open Cash App, it gave away a little clue.

I’m going to take a wild swing and guess the Cash App’s security bot had enough of this and decided the account might not actually be in use by a US Resident.

I have a memory of the olden days when a concerned bank might give you a call and ask for clarifying information, such as “this check seems unusually large, do you want to authorize it?”

Or a business partner might call you to say “we noticed your volume is changing, is everything ok?”

Heck, even our friends sometimes call to say “I’ve not heard from you in too long, how are you doing buddy, is everything ok?”

Not any more. This is 2021 and our lives are now monitored by bots. Cold, calculating, strictly-rule-based, only partially informed bots that have been instructed to look for unusual activity. Then flag it. Then kill it.

They don’t ask how or why that information seems unusual, but it strays from the mean. They aren’t smart enough to suspect there’s a good reason it’s unusual. They don’t alert internal teams who then go and investigate – in fact human interaction is no longer necessary. Those reality checks and verification steps were apparently just getting in the way of progress. So the final result:

Banned from Cash App.

Frustratingly, this is not my only sorry tale of losing access to banking, stock and crypto exchanges, selling marketplaces (looking at YOU eBay) or other online platforms because of my geographic location at the time of access. Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix have all caused problems. The online bill pay system for one of my credit card accounts cannot be accessed unless I connect through a VPN. Let me say that another way – I cannot pay my credit card bill online unless I fake my IP address. All of these companies have limited or even blocked me entirely after deciding my IP address comes from somewhere they don’t like.

It doesn’t always happen on the first access, but eventually, after more and more use, my accounts become marked and the ban is then only a matter of time.

Are VPNs the solution?

In many cases, I’ve been able to resolve “permanent bans” at other businesses with a phone call or an online chat, followed up with a scanned drivers license or utility bill to prove my case. At other times I’ve contemplated using a VPN connection to hide my true location, but I’m afraid this cat-and-mouse game will eventually break some other Terms of Service provision and land me a truly irrecoverable ban.

But why has it come to this? Is it not reasonable to develop a security system that asks questions first, and shoots later? Maybe the idea is that asking questions only leads to more fraudulent answers, but is giving a presumed bad actor insight into your security processes so bad? If it is, maybe the process is faulty to begin with. Maybe they are so inundated with fraud that they can ban away and assume fraudsters won’t even try to recover their accounts, leaving just those legitimate customers to try and repair.

Some corporate digital security teams look at the IP connections coming from Southeast Asia, and other developing countries, and assume that nothing good could possibly be coming from them save the periodic tourist remote connection. With this information, they train their bots to treat every connection from these regions as suspicious, and negatively flag every connection coming from the area.

Over time, they build a profile of your account (and you), ranking your account as “good”, “suspicious”, or “bad”. Of course, using IP-region blocking security is easily bypassed with VPNs, so it’s really more of a “keep the honest ones out” approach.

Some online hacker forums even discuss how they can totally evade these rankings and which tools to use avert them, so to an extent, the strategy is obsolete from a security perspective. The bank, or other online business employing IP-region blocking gains nothing meaningful except frustrated users.

Unfortunately, us digital nomads, expats, and long-term working-from-a-foreign-country-while-on-vacationers get lumped in with a group that we are not really a part of, leading to occasional, sometimes even frequent, classification as a high risk customer. Someone to be feared, rather than trusted. Someone to be suspicious of.

Is there a way out of using automated bans?

Some businesses have developed appeals processes and customer service teams that can step in to mend damage left in the wake of security bots gone awry. But many businesses offer no grace – no pathway back – relying on the likelihood that a very small loss of good customers is a low price to pay to get a cheap and wholesale block from regions of fraudsters.

Stripe’s Customer Service team acted quickly to resolve a bot’s misdirected ambition

But is this approach really an effective way to get away from the bad actors? I’d argue they don’t work, as fraudsters will continue to use VPNs or even connect directly from inside the country they wish to attack. Most companies cannot churn their customer base with negative experiences before it eventually catches up to them. And does our world need to be so cold, so uninviting, and so defensive?

I personally don’t want to be in a relationship with any business that accuses me first and then re-opens the door after I submit my life story to their whims. But when it’s your bank, your eBay or Etsy account, your credit card company, what else can you do except reluctantly accept this approach?

The future includes a lot of remote workers

A high percentage of people are never going to work in an office again after the disastrous pandemic of 2020 and 2021. The tools for working remotely are great now, so why not live wherever you want and work over the internet? This will result in a lot of people living in one region while maintaining business, banking, and other types of relationships in another region. Clearly this alone should not flag accounts as suspicious.

I’m hopeful there can be a future where we can trust first (and then verify) rather than assume bad actors are pounding on the door at all times. I’m hopeful that businesses take a stance that accepting 10 bad customers is worth keeping 1 good customer.

And I’m hopeful today that I might get my Cash App account back sometime, because I really did think this fintech startup has something useful to offer during my travels.

Stay tuned for next piece covering my saga trying to run an eBay business from abroad.

2021-08-13: As of the writing of this piece, my Cash App account remains banned. I’ve reached out to Cash App several times by email and have not received any response whatsoever. I will update if the situation changes.

2021-08-27: And….. it’s back! How did I get my Cash App account unbanned? I’m not exactly sure. After writing this article, many people commented to me that I had clearly broken the terms of service and should be banned. To my dismay I found hundreds, maybe thousands of online reports about people losing Cash App accounts for unclear reasons and never getting a clear response from customer service.

After the first contact, chances were looking dim.

Cash App support confirms: A violation of the terms of service has closed the account.

But this seemed all to random and automated. I’ve been using this account in the same way for years. I know without a doubt that all my personal information is in order and I’ve not transacted with anyone that I think is shady. So, as they say, never give up!

But, they agreed to take another look!

If a customer support team at a bank, or bank-like business is still talking to you, the security team probably hasn’t interjected on your account and you’re more likely in a gray zone. That leaves an opportunity to plead your case (as politely and professionally as you can) and see if you can recruit their help.

We kept missing each other because of timezone differences

Support never replied to explain the ban or even to say that they’d un-banned my account. But something seemed a little different when I opened Cash App this morning. I didn’t see the usual warning! So I gave something a try, and SUCCESS:

The account is 100% back!

In some shock, I added some more cash, and it worked! Then I bought $1 worth of bitcoin, and then $1 worth of Tesla. All successful.

So the truth is, I don’t know why they un-banned the account or even if they intended to, since there was never any formal response. However, it pays to ask customer service to take a closer look, even if the first interactions seem unlikely to produce a result. Be kind, don’t accuse or insult, and your chances are good that Cash App will check again to see if your account can be opened again.

Do you want to know how easy it is to set up a part-time marketing business?

Maybe you’ve heard about affiliate marketing. Maybe your eyes roll at the very mention of making money online. But I want to tell you that it’s not as hard as most people think. It’s really not, and let me tell you – I’m the biggest procrastinator around and I love when I come across something that I understand.

Wouldn’t you love to work from home, choose your own hours, and earn passive income while you sleep?

Then you wake up and start every morning like this:

Think for example about the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry. Are they really coming up with secrets every few months that no one in history discovered until just now? Of course not. The secret is… wait for it… you just have to figure out how to eat less. That’s it! Every weight-loss program in existence leads you to this one “secret.”

It’s the same with internet marketing. You already have the tools – an email account, Facebook, and the screen you’re on right now. That’s all you need. So what’s the simple “secret”? What’s that one thing you have to figure out?

My colleagues have put together an easy-to-follow webinar that explains everything:

Best Shoes to Work from Home in 2022

Well folks, now that the new normal is pretty much the… normal – there may be a few things you need to shift around in your life. For example, maybe you’re now working from home permanently. Perhaps that’s a great thing, but have you checked the bottom of your feet lately? I bet they are either turning a questionable shade of dirty or your callouses are getting a bit thicc.

Time to get comfy.

So let’s take a look at the modern version of house shoes, now that those old pumps are gathering dust in your closet. I bet you never even knew you needed such luxury for your toes, but once you give a pair a try it’s not likely you’ll go back to naked from the ankle down. In fact, you might even buy a few extra pairs just for the other members of your household too.

Most comfortable Women’s House Shoes

The Minnetonka Women’s Cally Faux Fur Slipper is rated 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon and features a 100% Leather design. The best part is these women’s moccasin slippers are made to stretch to the contours of your feet and wear pattern over time, ensuring that each pair of moccasin slippers fit snugly and get more comfortable as you wear them.

Wishcotton Womens Cozy House Slippers, Memory Foam House Shoes with Closed Back

The first review on Amazon for the Wishcotton Womens Cozy House Slippers says “Best slipper I’ve ever owned really” and it only gets better. These comfy foot snugglers have a memory foam footbed, indoor non-marking soles, and can be machine washed if they ever lose their luster. They are so cheap, you’re going to want to get 2 or 3 pairs.

Jessica Simpson Women’s Comfy Faux Fur House Slipper Scuff Memory Foam Slip on Anti-Skid Sole

Nothing else says “I never want to work in an office again” quite like a pair of Jessica Simpson Comfy Faux Fur House Slippers. Memory foam, faux fur, microsuede – wearing these is a little like walking around in the clouds. Heck, you might even forget that you’re on that Zoom call.

Honorable Mentions

I’ve seen a lot of indoor work from home shoes, and want you to know the above three aren’t the only game in town.

Never thought about wearing slippers in your house before? Or think maybe a pair of socks are enough to do the trick? Consider that all the dust in the air settles to your floor and then gets on your feet, which later will make their way to your sofa, your bed, your carpet – I think you get the idea. Socks can be mega-comfy too but without a sole you might slip around more than you like. Especially while running to get that third cup of coffee before the incoming Teams call gets missed!

When you’re looking for the best women’s house slippers, consider the following points:

  • Machine washable
  • Non-marking sole designed for indoors
  • Warm enough for your particular foot
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