Monday, May 2, 2016

How To Protect Your Online Store From Freebie Solicitors

The other day I received an interesting email through my Etsy shop. It was from an individual soliciting me for free jewelry. In exchange for the jewelry, she said, she would wear it, take a photo of herself wearing it, and then put the photo on her blog. In exchange for doing this "review" she would then get to keep my jewelry. As soon as I saw the words "send me jewelry" my danger meter started to go off because these types of situations seldom end well. But, before I declined, I figured I would give her the benefit of the doubt and first take a moment to check out her blog to see if there was any value in this proposed exchange. I had never heard of this person or her blog. At the bottom of her email was a link to her blog, as well as her email address.

Getting back to that danger meter for a moment... first and foremost, I knew that soliciting someone through Etsy is considered spam and is against Etsy's policies. That was red flag number one. She could have contacted me though my website or blog, but instead she chose the Etsy route. Right away that gave me the impression that there was a high possibility that she was "shopping" Etsy sellers for products that she fancied. 

Red flag number two was her long email. It was clearly of the copy and paste variety and did not seem to be personalized to me or about the specific items that I create and sell. That made me think that she was most likely sending this same exact email to numerous other Etsy sellers. Instead, a simple one sentence email sent to me through my website or blog to the tune of, "Check out my blog and let me know if you would like to exchange product for advertising." would have saved us both so much time. But that's just it - she didn't have anything of quality to exchange with me. How do I know this? I checked out her blog stat numbers and they were nonexistent. 

How did I find out this information? I ran a domain report on her blog. A domain report is obtained through a traffic insight website which is a webpage that compiles the basic information about any URL on the internet. This report will give you a rough estimate of the US and global ranking of any website or blog. (The #1 ranked website in the world is the one with the most internet traffic - right now that's Google, by the way, followed closely by YouTube.) Though this ranking number is a rough estimate, it still provides you with some critical information. 

Other useful information found on a domain report are the URL's web traffic stats, the number of other sites linking in and out of that particular site, how many visitors that site has per day, as well as an idea of the site's bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who visit and then leave, rather than stay on the site) as well as other useful information. Basically, by looking at a domain report you can find out whether a particular blog or website is active or static, popular or not popular. For example, for my own blog, a few of the sites linking in to me are Home Depot and Huffington Post. Those are quality sites with tons of traffic. Now, everyone's blog rankings go up and down and experienced bloggers know that this is directly related to a number of things, some of which are: the frequency of publishing blog posts, the quality of the published blog posts, and also the promotion of your blog across social media, aka the visibility of your blog. Statistic numbers for blogs and website rankings and traffic fluctuate up and down. That's to be expected. 

I copied and pasted her blog URL into a few different traffic insight websites  ( and are two, and there are plenty of others out there as well), clicked search and checked out the results. I noticed right away that there was very little information available about her blog (which told me that it was either very new, not promoted, or had no traffic or followers). There was only one ranking: global, which was around 8,000,000. Eight million. There was no US ranking, meaning the blog had so little popularity that it didn't even register on the charts in the United States. I pulled my own blog status up in another window just as a comparison. My own global ranking read 461,037. Wow, what a difference. Now why would I want to be promoted by someone whose own blog stats were a mere drop in the bucket compared to my own? Think I was being scammed? I sure do. 

But just in case the numbers I had pulled up were not a true reflection of her content, I also visited her blog to see what it was all about. Perhaps it was brand new but still amazing. Unfortunately, it wasn't. There were a few blog posts that dated back a year or two that consisted of photos of herself, pet, and child, but there were no written articles or quality information. It was bland and contained no useful information whatsoever. There was no block or list of followers on her sidebar, nor were there links to Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest accounts - all of which are good indications of social media presence. 

To successfully promote someone else you need to have these things:

  • Quality content that is fresh and well-written
  • A very strong organic social following
  • A visually appealing blog

Don't get me wrong, there are great bloggers out there who can successfully promote your shop and your items, but to be completely honest, they really are few and far between. They need to have quality content that is fresh and well-written. Look for great articles that are both interesting and informative and that have reader comments. They need to have a very strong organic social following - by organic I mean followers that are not purchased (and I'll be writing a future blog post about this too, so be sure to check back!) Lastly, their blog should look good. It should be clean and well-organized and free from too much clutter. But most importantly, it needs to be on the charts.  

Final word?  No matter whether you sell your goods on Etsy, through another online venue, or through your own website, be alert to scammers and those who are out to take advantage of you. A little bit of research can save you a lot of headaches and wasted time and can prevent you from being taken advantage of. Have you ever received a shady, soliciting email like the one I did? I'd love to hear your experience, so please share your comments below!

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Enjoy the rest of your week! 

My broken china jewelry is always available for purchase at