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My Blog about SEO & eCommerce, Mitochondrial Disease & Disability, & the Good Life

Blog posts from Cindy Lou Who 2 - a little eCommerce & SEO, some discussion of disability issues (including mitochondrial disease), some jewellery info, & the expected topics of beer, travel & recipes. 

 

QUICK REVIEW OF ETSY’S 2019 SPRING & SUMMER TRENDS GUIDE FOR SELLERS

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Etsy releases periodic seasonal trends reports these days, and recently came out with spring & summer trends for 2019. If your shop relies a lot on hitting trends, or if you want more ideas for featuring the items you already have in stock, you will want to read the whole thing yourself. If those aren’t your main focuses, read this post!

My coverage mostly centres on the search term and keyword highlights (with just a few exceptions). These are terms you should use on your listings when they apply, and if you have any items or ideas that aren’t currently listed but fit here, then let me be the first to tell you to get those listings up as soon as possible! Some of the trends mentioned are still on the rise, so if you have stock, or even just an interest, consider putting a few new products in your shop (or on your website - many of these trends are not exclusive to Etsy).

Note that most of the stats about increases in search traffic compare 2017 to 2018, so there is no guarantee that they will continue to rise in 2019. However, I expect Etsy would want to focus on trends that aren’t yet post-peak, as it wouldn’t make sense to tell sellers to hop on a bandwagon that has already passed. Etsy wants sales, after all. Some keyword lists cover the spring and summer seasons of 2018; use those as a reference only, and check whether broader interest is still high by entering individual terms on Google Trends.

All quotes and graphics are from the linked pdf file; copyright belongs to Etsy. My editorial comments are in square brackets, including some Google Trends data I added for perspective.

Etsy Search Term Data for Optimizing Your Shop

The top searches across all Etsy categories, from April to August 2018, were:

  • slime 

  • engagement ring

  • bridesmaid gift 

  • home 

  • wedding decor 

  • jewelry 

  • decor 

  • enamel pin 

  • dog collar 

  • bridesmaid robes 

["slime” is slowly dropping in Google searches since 2017]


Page 5 did a chart with the top keywords and themes for the 5 spring & summer holiday and event occasions: Easter, Mother’s Day, Graduations, Fathers’ Day, & US Independence Day, shown below.


Words and phrases with an increase in Etsy searches from 2017 to 2018 (percentage increases in brackets):

  • sustainable (137%)

  • storage (129%)

  • “shelving-related searches” (51%)

  • DIY (49%)

  • wood toy (30%)

  • self care (211%) [this is still increasing on Google]

  • meditation (32%)

  • dried flower (81%)

  • reusable (in Home & Living; 106%)

  • flower (in Art & Collectibles, 31%)

  • botanical (in Art & Collectibles, 31%)

  • linen + clothing terms, or within the Clothing category [not sure which; see page 20; historically, this is a May-June trend on Google] (54%)

  • bow (in Clothing, 38%)

  • western (in Clothing, 33%)

  • hoop (in Jewellery, 76%) [yes, Google says this is still a big trend]

  • mismatch (in Jewellery, 85%)

  • men/him (in Jewellery, 59%)

  • custom (in Accessories, 66%)

  • boho [unclear if this is within Vintage only, or is site-wide. Check page 31 for context] (42%)

  • positive (in Paper & Party Supplies, 78%)

  • pampas grass [probably in Weddings only, as opposed to site-wide; see page 38] (758% - not a typo)

  • acrylic seating chart (461%)

  • sashiko (in Craft Supplies, 87%) [seems to be rising on Google as well]

Other random search term/sales info:

  • apparently, “boho” searches top out in May on Etsy. [Note that Google search hits for “boho” by itself hit top volume later, usually in July or August, and are still on the rise year to year]

  • 60% of the top jewellery & accessory items offer personalization [which is why Etsy promotes them so much]

Top Home & Living searches (pets & wellness/spirituality both saw big growth in 2018 over 2017)

Top 10 plant- and garden-related Home & Living searches in 2018:

  • planter 

  • gardening 

  • plant stand 

  • hanging planter 

  • macrame plant hanger [this one is still rising on Google]

  • garden gifts 

  • succulent planter [just past peak on Google, but still hot]

  • plant pot 

  • garden 

  • garden tools

Popular Clothing searches April-August 2018:

  • lingerie 

  • maternity dress 

  • t-shirts 

  • linen dress 

  • kimono 

  • bikini 

  • mommy and me outfits [still rising on Google]

  • one piece swimsuit 

Etsy also provided some suggestions on clothing & seasonal occasions on page 19:

clothing occasions Etsy.jpg

Popular Accessory searches, April-August 2018

  • enamel pin [not yet over, according to Google]

  • patches 

  • keychain 

  • lanyard 

  • personalized leather 

  • baby headband 

  • flower crown [definitely a spring trend, and dropping a bit every year on Google]

  • iron-on patch 

  • cufflinks

Popular Jewellery searches, April-August 2018 

  • engagement ring 

  • earrings 

  • name necklace

  • initial necklace 

  • rings 

  • statement jewelry 

  • necklace 

  • opal ring 

  • celestial jewelry [surprisingly big on Etsy; flat demand on Google]

Popular Vintage searches, April-August 2018 

  • vintage clothing

  • vintage t-shirt

  • vintage engagement ring

  • vintage dress

  • vintage rings

  • vintage jewelry

  • ‘90s clothing

  • vintage wedding dress

  • vintage ring

Top Paper & Party Supplies searches, April to August 2018

  • wedding invitation

  • gender reveal

  • bachelorette party

  • planner

  • graduation party decorations

  • pregnancy announcement

  • baby shower

  • unicorn party [a rare search that dipped then rose again on Google]

Top Weddings searches, April-August 2018:

  • bridesmaid gift

  • wedding decor

  • bridesmaid robes

  • wedding invitation

  • wedding dress

  • wedding cake topper

  • wedding gift

  • groomsmen gift

  • flower girl dress

[I think it is really interesting that one of the top wedding searches is for “wedding gifts”; that expands this category considerably. Do you have anything that could be a wedding gift?]

Top Craft Supplies & Tools searches, April-August 2018

  • cross stitch pattern

  • succulents [still rising on Google, but definitely bigger in spring]

  • washi tape

  • terrarium

  • planner stickers

  • fabric

  • crochet sunflower pattern [probably past peak]

  • embroidery kit

  • crochet pattern

  • address stamp

Easy/beginner level craft supplies and instructions are big right now:

craft supplies easy.jpg


Page 43 offers some tips on how to make use of this data. Note they suggest putting crucial keywords in both titles and tags; these are very competitive searches and require that repetition for optimization. Remember, though, even if you cannot rank for the most competitive searches, you can still show up well in “long-tail” (very specific) searches by using these terms with niche words, because long tail searches often have the most popular terms as part of a longer phrase.

Update on My New Business Forum, and Other Developments

I am still working on finding new places to host my business/SEO forum. My shorter news posts are now on Tumblr, and I hope to move my forum off-Etsy soon, and open it to new members at that time. If you have ideas on where I can start a new forum, please let me know in the comments, or email me. Sign up for my blog emails, or follow me on Twitter, to keep up to date on Etsy news and where I am reporting it.

UPDATED: April 18, 2019

Free Shipping Is Part Of Etsy's Search Algorithm, In Canada At Least

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Notice anything similar about these listings? Every single one of them ships free, and they all rank at the top of the search for “baby” in Canada (Jan. 29 2019)

Notice anything similar about these listings? Every single one of them ships free, and they all rank at the top of the search for “baby” in Canada (Jan. 29 2019)

Is Canada A Testing Ground, Or The First Country In A Slow Roll Out?

We Don’t Know Yet

Back in September 2018, when Etsy released their Ultimate Guide to Etsy Search, and stated that shipping prices could factor into the search algorithm, I blogged that I wasn’t seeing any ranking impact when I tested changing my shipping prices, including offering free shipping.

That is no longer true, at least within Canada.

Since November, I have been able to move a few of my items up and down in Etsy search by turning free shipping on and off, but it only had an immediate effect domestically (in Canada); my items did not move in international searches, including in the United States, even when I offered free shipping everywhere. (By “in Canada”, I mean when the search filter is set to ship to Canada, not just with items from Canada.) The most obvious movement appeared with items that already had a good listing quality score, and only within large searches; an item that jumped from page 25 to page 1 for a generic query might not move at all for a very specific search term. For example, a listing might leap up the rankings for “stud earrings” but not for “red abalone shell earrings”. Most of the items I tested didn’t move at all, so I didn’t make an announcement.

But just under a week ago, I noticed that many broad searches in Canada changed quite a bit, and 100% of the listings (other than ads) on the top pages offered free shipping.

Yes, you read that correctly. All of the top ranked items a Canadian customer sees in generic searches within Canada at the time I am writing this have the free shipping badge. (You can see this by changing your country settings to Canada.) I was able to move a few of my listings that used to rank near the top back to page 1 just by using free domestic shipping. When I removed free shipping, the items dropped again.


This Could Be A Test, Since It Isn’t Showing Up In Other Countries, Yet


I contacted some of my volunteer testers in other countries, asking them to

  1. pick a listing that does reasonably well in search

  2. find a few broad search terms they show up for in their country

  3. add free shipping to the listing

  4. track what happens in the next hour

I coordinated the tests so I could track them as well, searching incognito with the “ship to” filter set to their country, and even with VPNs in a few cases. None of the listings moved up once their shipping charges were removed. So, that’s the good news; we are only seeing this in Canada, currently.

Furthermore, we couldn’t find any broad searches in other countries where 100% of the listings had shipping included. If you see any, please let me know!

While Canada is a localized/regionalized country (where items from Canada rank higher in generic searches than items from elsewhere), there is no obvious reason that free shipping products should dominate searches here, especially considering that products jump in ranking within 15-20 minutes of changing the postage costs. This is not about the preferences of Canadian shoppers being more skewed to not paying extra for shipping; that effect would be more gradual. I just woke up one morning and suddenly every top listing had free shipping.


What You Need To Know, even if you hate “free shipping”


First, do not panic! This might be a test. Now that the word is out, Etsy might even end it.

Second, it currently only happens in very generic searches, the ones I am always telling you not to worry about ranking in. If you have been listening to me, this isn’t going to have a big effect on you, even if you are Canadian. If you haven’t been listening to me on that point, then this is your wake up call - ranking in large, generic searches is not guaranteed, since Etsy can change the algorithm at any time. This is only one of many different ways your ranking in a broad search can tank. If you currently are on page 1 of a big search and are getting a lot of sales from it, congrats! But consider that a bonus; don’t assume that you will stay there, or that anyone can stay there indefinitely.

Third, since most buyers use more specific searches, you are all still visible in Canada if you ship to us.

Fourth, if you are Canadian, including the shipping costs in your item prices will not automatically boost your search ranking. You have to be well-optimized, and have a good listing quality score (meaning that buyers click on, favourite, & buy the listing when they see it in search), and show up in very broad searches. Even with a good quality score, I wasn’t able to make this work for the vast majority of searches.

Fifth: however, in my testing over the past 18 months or so, many listings where I include the shipping costs in the item price are gradually ranking better overall, even outside of Canada, than the ones that do not have free shipping. It doesn’t happen immediately, though, and there are some items that it never seems to help at all. So, sometimes free shipping works, even if it isn’t a direct algorithm factor.

Finally, remember back in September when I said that Etsy is “going to continue to push free shipping”? This is just one of many examples that will be coming. Even if this is only a test and they end it soon, expect Etsy to add low postage costs into the algorithm at some point, and to give benefits to shops who offer it. Research shows that most buyers are attracted to lower shipping prices, and Etsy wants that bigger pool of customers. So, make your peace with free shipping now, because it isn’t going away. You don’t have to use it, but you do have to accept that Etsy will.

If you have done any testing yourself, or have seen odd search results, please let me know: leave a comment below (no sign up required), convo me, tweet me, email me by clicking the little envelope icon at the top right of this page, or comment on Google+.

This post will be updated as developments happen. Stay tuned!



What We Know So Far About The Etsy Forum & Team Migration, January 2019

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A screenshot of the new Etsy forum, as shown in an Etsy blog post.

A screenshot of the new Etsy forum, as shown in an Etsy blog post.

You won’t be able to post on Etsy Teams or in the main Etsy forum

for almost 2 weeks; here’s what you need to know

In case you missed it, Etsy is suspending the forum and teams from January 10th to 22nd; you will be able to read the current forum as well as public teams and teams you belong to, but will not be able to post during that time.

As of January 22nd, the new forum will be open and available for all members to post in, as will all teams that have had posts since November 2016; older teams will not be moved to the new format. So if you have an inactive team you want to save in the new format, make sure you post a thread on the team by the end of January 9th.

Etsy provided a short blog post with more details including a few screenshots, and has also written a help file for team captains and leaders, providing more information about this transition. (Please read that if you are a captain or leader; I don’t summarize every detail below.) But some of this is written in Etsy-speak, and as usual, staff have clarified some points elsewhere, so I’ve compiled the most relevant details below to keep you informed. If I have missed anything, or have made any errors, please post a comment to let me know, or send me an email or convo with the new content.

Key Points About The Etsy Forum & Team Transition

  • They really did mean it will take 2 weeks. I have seen some debate about how long the closure will be, but Etsy has confirmed that they meant the whole time period. Of course, they may finish earlier, or it may take even longer.

  • The Bugs forum will remain open for new threads and posts. No explanation was provided as to why this one section can stay open while the other ones will be frozen.

  • Etsy is transferring forum threads with posts in the last 3 years, but note that they closed all threads older than 2017 many months ago, so none of those threads will show up in the new space, according to staff. That means over a decade of community history will vanish. Make sure you copy or screenshot anything you want to save for posterity!

  • All existing team threads will move to the new space. We were told last September that only the last 2 years of posts would be be part of the new Team space, but after many of us protested last fall, they delayed the migration and decided to move everything. Please note that does not include threads captains have deleted, which captains can currently see, and even restore, in the existing format.

  • The new format will include new tools, including the ability to like posts, to indicate that your question has been answered (which should cut down on those 7 page threads where everyone says the same thing because they didn’t read the other posts), and basic formatting.

  • We’re getting a notification feed which will include all replies to our posts and any mentions. Yes, you will be able to tag people in posts! (I will find that useful; right now some people post that they hope Cindy Lou shows up to comment , but I don’t necessarily see those in any timely fashion! Feel free to send me a message if you want me to post anywhere.)

  • No more closed teams that do not accept new applications, and no questions for team applicants to answer. We will still have the ability to reject new applicants if we chose, but we won’t be able to close applications entirely as we can now. Please note that I will simply be ignoring all new applications to my SEO team, as it will remain closed for the time being.

  • Teams will automatically see a banner with “important” Etsy news when it occurs. I expect that will mostly include new tools they want us to pay for, and will not necessarily include everything we need to know. Think of all of the notifications on your shop dashboard that people complain about! (e.g., the holiday banner) I am quite disturbed by this, & am now more actively looking for off-Etsy alternatives for my SEO team.

  • The new forum and team spaces use the same software that eBay and PayPal use for their forum spaces. This software can be substantially modified for each site, however, so Etsy won’t necessarily work exactly as those sites do.

  • There was a beta testing group, but they are not allowed to talk about what they saw during the test. Of course, some people have posted what they saw anyway. Apparently, there are going to be many new forum sections, and some of the existing ones, including Promos and Chit Chat, did not appear in the beta test. That does not mean that Etsy will not keep them in the new format, since the beta test was supposed to be a way to get user feedback on what needed to be changed. Also, team posts are apparently private only, meaning certain promotional threads, or posts like my recent ecommerce and SEO news thread, will no longer be available to non-members. I am actively searching for an alternative in case this happens; please let me know if you have any ideas. We will have to wait and see if all of this is true.

The reaction of a few forum regulars when they found out their fix will be closed for almost 2 weeks.

The reaction of a few forum regulars when they found out their fix will be closed for almost 2 weeks.

Why Is This Going To Take So Long?

We don’t know. They said it is because there are so many posts and teams to transfer, and also that they need to put finishing touches on the new spaces. However, many of us have participated in larger system transfers that have been completed in far less time, and Etsy originally meant to do this in the fall, so they have had plenty of time for testing to see if everything works.

I would not be surprised if they drop something new while the forum is closed, but please note I do not have any inside information that leads me to believe that. It just feels like something bigger is going on.

In the interim, I have opened a Google+ collection that will provide the usual Etsy, SEO and ecommerce news I post on my team. Please post there or in the comments here, or email or convo me, if you have any news you want to share.

Many teams and forum regulars are migrating to Slack, Reddit, Facebook and other forum/chatroom options while the Etsy community is read-only. Check your team forum now to see if anything has been set up.

I will update this post as necessary.


UPDATED January 7, 2019.

Canada Post Alternatives: Other Shipping Companies in Canada

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There Are Many Different Ways To Ship Into And From Canada Without Using Canada Post, Including Options For Small Businesses

Worried about backlogs at Canada Post after the strikes (get updates here), but you don't know any other affordable shipping companies to fill the gap for your small business?

Need a cheaper way to ship within Canada or to the US?

Need an alternative for shipping into Canada from other countries?

Fortunately, there are many established options out there, including several services that will truck packages across the American border to ship via the United States Postal Service, incoming and outgoing.

Note: The following lists do not mean I am endorsing any of these companies, and I have not received any compensation to link to any of them. I am sharing this list because I spent some time compiling it for Canadian Etsy sellers I know, and thought it might be useful to others too. 

National Courier Companies

Most large courier companies in Canada have locations in most provinces, and provide national and international services. However, coverage can be minimal to nonexistent in many remote or rural areas, and prices are all over the map. One company may be cheaper for mailing between points A and B, while another company gives the best rates between cities C and D. Also, courier prices are often more in line with Canada Post rates for a larger package, but small items are several times the cost of regular mail, so this is not a viable option for many of us.  

The following list shows the cost to ship a small bubble envelope with a $50 value from Calgary to St. John's, Newfoundland on October 19th, 2018 (tax not included, cheapest/slowest rate selected, no customer discounts applied):

Signing up for an account may make you eligible for discounts (e.g., UPS gives me a small business rate of 20% off the price listed above), as can a high volume of packages. Note, however, that couriers will sometimes limit their services to existing customers for the duration of any Canada Post disruptions and during the busy holiday season, so you will need to contact these companies to make sure they will be able to cover your needs.

There are also numerous companies which offer access to better rates at couriers and for Canada Post than many of us can get on our own, including Chit Chats. Their prices, reliability and customer service can vary, so check reviews carefully before signing up for their services.

Regional Shipping Services That Deliver Outside of Canada

There are many businesses that provide shipping and freight services within a city or region; therefore, I have restricted this list to those who ship outside of Canada (although some also provide in-Canada service as well). Do check with each company for more details on their current service levels and time frames, and other details regarding requirements, as some request a spreadsheet detailing each of your parcels being shipped. 

(If you are a high-volume seller but don’t live near one of these options, consider couriering your packages to the closest office; contact the company you wish to use to get their recommendations on the cheapest way to reach them.)

Chit Chats Express: the most national and established alternative that ships via the United States Postal Service (USPS). Opened in 2001, they now have multiple offices in Ontario, BC, Quebec, Alberta and Nova Scotia. Fees are 65 cents to $2 per package, plus the US postage cost. They also have courier arrangements to ship within Canada and internationally. Print US postage at home or in their offices; check with your nearest location for details, as services vary by city. (Note: they did not reply when I emailed a few questions, which is a bit of a red flag for me)

DYK Post: shipping via USPS from their offices in Calgary and Edmonton, with drop off locations in Edmonton North, Red Deer, Innisfail and Lethbridge; they also offer pickups in Calgary and Edmonton. Costs $1 and up per package to ship via USPS through their location in Montana. Print your own USPS postage or do it at their office. They also offer discounted DHL and other services to ship around the world.

Parcel for Less: southern Ontario shipper with main offices in Hamilton and Mississauga, with some services in other surrounding cities. Their fees start at 60 cents per package for shipping to the US and other countries. Print USPS postage labels online or at their offices. 

Runnin’ Red: based in Winnipeg, they ship with USPS and UPS from North Dakota, starting $1 per package. You buy labels online yourself then drop your packages off.

Do It Yourself Shipping from the United States

Live close to the border? You may want to try shipping via USPS (or other American service providers) on your own. Make sure you do your research first, including contacting your closest border crossing to get their advice on the quickest legal way to bring your packages into the US. There is a per-crossing fee (or you can pay for a yearly pass), and border agents generally prefer any parcels remain unsealed so they can be inspected if necessary. While many USPS offices allow you to use a Canadian return address on their packages, some online merchants prefer to set up a PO box in the US to avoid any issues. An American address is also necessary to use some online label services. 

Services That Ship Into Canada

Outside of Canada and want to ship things to your loyal customers here? If you don’t want to use the courier companies listed above for shipping into Canada due to the high brokerage fees, there are other options for your Canadian customers. Most common are cross-border services that allow Canadians to receive mail at a US address, and then have it brought across the border for local pickup or delivery. DYK Post, Runnin’ Red and Cross Border PIckups are three companies that offer US PO boxes to Canadians, and bring the mail back over the border for pick up in their respective cities.

Other companies such as My US Address will let Canadians pick up their mail in the US, or will reship it in Canada for them. Some businesses such as Kinek have multiple US locations that their customers can drive to for package retrieval. Note that the prices on these services vary, and may not always be cheaper than using conventional couriers, so it is best to ask your customer what they want to pay when giving them these options.

If I have missed any useful tips, or if you know of any other companies that should be included here, please send me a message or leave a note in the comments. This post will be updated as required. 

For media enquiries, please email me by clicking the envelope icon on the top, or contact me on Twitter. I will get back to you as quickly as possible.

UPDATED: November 27, 2018

Canada Post Labour Disruptions 2018 - Updates On My Shipping

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Mail in Canada might be a little slower for the next little while …

Mail in Canada might be a little slower for the next little while …

UPDATED: The strikes at Canada Post are now over, as of November 27, 2018. The company is warning customers that there may be delays within Canada as they work to clear the backlog, however, and all delivery date guarantees are currently suspended.

So far, my Canadian orders are at most 1-2 days late, and many have been delivered within normal time frames. Customers in southern Ontario will probably see the biggest lags. I am currently offering pickups in the Calgary area for people who want to avoid Canada Post for the time being.

How Canada Post Rotating Strikes Work

Rotating strikes involve union members striking for 24-48 hours in a different cities each day. The strike locations are currently not being announced until each strike is about to start.

Although I have not seen any serious delays in my packages arriving, as of Monday November 19th, Canada Post is now warning Canadians that domestic mail delivery could be subject to significant delays, especially in Southern Ontario where 1/3 of Canadians live. The rotating strikes & the union’s refusal of overtime (which is generally used a lot during the holiday shipping season) has caused large backlogs in and around Toronto in particular. Canada Post even anticipates having to start refusing mail in the Toronto area as they do not have enough places to store it.

At this time, I will still be using Canada Post for all of my orders, so please note that tracked and express packages may be delayed within Canada by more than 1-2 days, especially if your location becomes a strike target. UPS is available if you want to pay the additional fees, and Calgary-area customers are welcome to arrange a pickup if they want to avoid this problem.

International customers (including in the US) will not likely see any major changes to their deliveries during rotating strikes. However, it is possible I will have to delay shipping by 1-2 days if Calgary is chosen as a rotating strike location. I apologize for the inconvenience.

What Happens If This Escalates To A Lockout Or Full Strike?

While the contracts may be settled without any further effects on mail delivery, I am planning ahead for the possibility that the dispute escalates to a full strike or lockout.

The following services will be available in my Etsy shop and here on my website if Canada Post suspends all mail:

1) Shipping in Canada via UPS courier services, if you wish to pay the additional fees, as well as local pickups for customers in the Calgary area. All other Canadian orders will be held until Canada Post resumes service. 

2) Shipping to the United States using USPS (regular mail), via a courier that will take packages from Calgary across the border into Montana a few times a week. Shipments will include USPS tracking. 

3) Shipping to most other countries using the service explained above with a non-USPS carrier. I can also hold your orders until Canada Post resumes service, if you wish. 

I strongly suggest that you order now for the holidays so that you are less likely to experience any additional delays in delivery. My international packages generally leave Canada within 2 business days, so non-Canadians ordering now should not be affected by any significant slowdowns.

This post will be updated as the situation changes; please bookmark this page for ease of access.

UPDATED: November 27th, 2018