Print-on-demand corporation CafePress has implemented new terms for its “Marketplace” search engine that results in higher prices for the people who buy bumper stickers, buttons, and t-shirts and lower payments to the graphic designers of those items. Because of this, we’ve withdrawn from the Marketplace and are relying fully on our own system of links to progressive political gear, under which customers get a better price and we get slightly higher pay for our designs. Our direct links go to our “shop” on CafePress, on which we still have the power to set those lower prices for you.
Some other people who sell through CafePress are considering withdrawing from the Marketplace and relying on direct links instead, as we already have. For those contemplating the move, allow me to spell out the timeline of Marketplace withdrawal and its consequences. These are based directly on our experience.
Day 1: You log on to CafePress.com and opt out of the Marketplace system. This is done by selecting the “Your Shops” tab, clicking on the name of a shop, clicking again on “Edit Shop Profile,” and then clicking the box at the bottom next to the statement “I do not wish for this shop, its designs or products to appear in the Marketplace…”
Day 1-3: Your items remain for sale on the Marketplace while CafePress waits to update its system.
Day 2-5: Your items no longer appear directly on Marketplace search results, but old direct links to your Marketplace items still may work, leading web surfers to items that may or may not successfully offer anything for sale.
Day 2-21: Google, Yahoo, Bing and other mainstream search engines go through the process of reindexing search results. Until this process is complete, people using search engines to look for the sort of items you sell will still encounter links to the CafePress Marketplace. Upon clicking these links, folks looking for your stuff will be presented with a “404″ page declaring that there is no such item for sale. These old lingering Marketplace links prevent CafePress from making a sale, but they also prevent you from making a direct sale on the shop you control.
Day ??: Freedom. The old CafePress Marketplace links have disappeared. If you have diligently set up direct links to your own CafePress shop (or have constructed new direct links to a shop on an alternative provider such as Skreened or Zazzle), then your sales through those direct links will rise in relevance and you’ll make sales that way.
The lesson? Patience through the pain of withdrawal. Don’t jump back onto the marketplace after a day, or three days or even a week of pitiful sales. Wait until the last remnants of your presence on CafePress’ tightly-controlled Marketplace search engine are expunged; only then can you reasonably evaluate the effect of independence on your bottom line.