Etsy Search: The Changing Landscape of Etsy SEO in 2018

The Changing Landscape of Etsy SEO 2018

Just a few months ago, it was easy to optimize Etsy listings for search AND to measure Etsy SEO success.

Etsy sellers could update their titles and tags, wait a few hours, perform an Etsy search, and see their listings within the first few pages of results.

It was satisfying, wasn’t it?

Not so anymore. Today, you can SEO the hell out of an Etsy listing, pick the best titles and tags, and generally be amazing. Yet, when you search for your keyword with the Etsy search bar, you may never find your item.

This is frustrating when you are working on your Etsy SEO, especially when it doesn’t seem like any of your changes are making a difference.

Because Etsy is now using artificial intelligence (AI), the search system is getting smarter, especially when it comes to ranking search results for buyers. As a result, Etsy sellers are finding it increasingly difficult to optimize their shops and measure their Etsy SEO success.

So why can’t Etsy sellers see their listings in search anymore?

To gain a little bit of insight, we should look at the clues Etsy is providing.

(Why it always has to be a mystery…well, that’s the real mystery, isn’t it?)

Anyhow, Etsy CEO Josh Silverman posted a December 2017 video update and conducted a Q&A in the Etsy forums on December 13, 2017. At this time, he emphasized both personalization and context-specific rankings.


According to Silverman, the Etsy search system is now attempting to highlight “results most relevant to the specific buyer” based on a variety of factors, including time of day and personal preferences.

This is generally good for buyers because (in theory) their searches will be more efficient.

But what does it mean for Etsy sellers who are attempting to gauge how their listings are performing in search?

In the video, Silverman explicitly tells us, “personalized results mean that you will no longer see the same results every time you type in a search.”

So basically, you won’t be able to type your keyword into the Etsy search bar anymore and see exactly where your item is ranking. 

Therefore, some people may still be seeing your listings on page 1 (if your items are relevant for them) while others (possibly including yourself) may be seeing your listings on page 15.

Etsy isn’t going to show you your own listings because they know you aren’t going to purchase them. Your items are not relevant for you. 

Even when you go incognito or perform a search while you are logged out, Etsy still has your IP address. Etsy knows who you are. And you aren’t going to trick the system.

So in theory, it’s possible that your SEO is not as bad as you think it is. You may not be finding your listings on page 1 of search results anymore (because your items are not relevant for you), but it doesn’t mean that customers aren’t seeing them.

The real problem then, is that as Etsy sellers, we’ve lost our primary assessment tool (performing Etsy searches) for measuring our Etsy SEO success.

How to Measure Etsy SEO success in 2018

We are accustomed to typing our keywords into the Etsy search bar to determine where our listings are ranking. Since this is no longer a reliable system of measurement, we need to explore additional tools for measuring Etsy SEO success.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Etsy Rank-This program provides a rank checker tool that searches Etsy for your items and filters out personalization results. The good news is that Etsy Rank allows you to do this for free when you sign up for an account. The application also allows you to perform bulk rank searches with a paid Pro subscription.
  2. Etsy Stats- Use the “Search Terms” section to determine the keywords customers are using to find your items.
  3. Google Analytics- Here’s an article from Etsy about how to get started with Google Analytics. 

Real Changes in Etsy Search + Why Our Etsy SEO Strategies Need To Evolve in 2018

That all being said, many Etsy sellers are seeing a real drop in views and sales. It’s not at all perceived. In fact, it’s very real, and it’s even more frustrating than not seeing your items on page one of search.

Let’s return to some primary sources to gain more clues about how Etsy search is changing.

Context-Specific Rankings

One major change in the Etsy search algorithm involves a concept called context-specific rankings.

Silverman first introduced this term in his November 6, 2017 Quarter 3 Etsy Earnings Conference Call, when he announced that CSR was implemented in September 2017 and defined it as technology that “uses query and user-level information to rank results in real time.”

Silverman further illustrated the idea of context-specific rankings in his December 2017 video by displaying results of a before-CSR and an after-CSR keyword search for “laundry basket.” In the before-CSR example, the search provided results for a variety of laundry-basket related items, including stickers picturing laundry baskets, a laundry tote with pictures of laundry baskets, and a rack for holding laundry baskets. In the after-CSR example, the search results prominently feature actual laundry baskets.

I have to agree with Josh here. CSR does make it easier for buyers to find items that they are more likely to purchase.

How then, as Etsy sellers, do we let our ideal customers know that we have something they would like? How can we improve our Etsy SEO strategy?

Etsy has been reticent to make official announcements about search changes, but Silverman gives us a few clues. His forum Q&A tells us that Etsy is

“…working hard to get better at understanding what your item actually is, based on all of the information in your listings, including image recognition, with less focus on your titles. Eventually, our goal is to have you design your title and item description in a way that most appeals to customers.”

Does this mean that Etsy will begin to focus more on your item description? It seems like it.

And image recognition? Yep, that too.

The Etsy Clumping Apocalypse of 2017-2018

All of these changes in Etsy SEO might have been manageable for Etsy sellers if Etsy hadn’t started showing multiple search results for the same shop on the first pages of search.

Previously, Etsy included a factor for diversity when displaying search results. This factor made Etsy search seem fair by only allowing one listing from each shop on each page of search. It gave more Etsy sellers a fighting chance to be found.

Now when customers search, one or two shops dominate search results. Customers buy those items, and those shops continue to get boosts in ratings. (Also, Etsy continues to make a profit.)

If you’re one of those shops dominating, I’m sure you are happy with clumping. For everyone else, it’s been a real buzzkill.

Silverman had this to say in the Q&A:

I’d like to address search “clumping,” which has been a hot topic lately. Our system limits the number of listings per seller that can return within the first few pages of results for any given query. This allows us to help buyers experience the breadth of items available on Etsy, which, as we’ve learned through data and testing, increases the likelihood they’ll make a purchase. We’ll continue to analyze the data to make sure we’re helping buyers find what they’re looking for within our diverse collection of listings. We need to do a better job at delivering Breadth, and not just Depth. I agree this is an area where we need to improve, and we are making significant investments to do so.

Personally, I think this is just a really poor response to something that is ruining the livelihood of many Etsy sellers.

Since we can’t control clumping, as Etsy sellers, we need to strategize. What can we do to improve our search results for targeted keywords?

So how will your Etsy SEO strategy evolve?

Right now, we know that we can improve Etsy SEO by using these tips from the Etsy Seller Handbook:

  • Continue to use relevant keywords for your titles and tags.
  • Make sure your titles and tags match.
  • Use your best keywords at the beginning of your titles.
  • Select as many attributes as you can that accurately describe your item.
  • Complete your about section.
  • Use Etsy’s policy template
  • List new items frequently and renew old listings consistently.
  • Be as specific as you can with your categories.
  • Be as quick as you can with your processing times.

Without official word from Etsy, it’s difficult for sellers to understand how the Etsy search is evolving and what to do to implement effective Etsy SEO changes.

Given the clues, however, we can certainly experiment and perform our own tests. Here are some things you may want to try:

  • Give clues (including your primary keyword) to what your item is in the first paragraph of your description. (This is always good for Google SEO anyhow.)
  • Focus on smaller niche keywords and develop product lines to target those search terms. (You can play the clumping game, too.)
  • Feature photos that show your item in use.
  • Continue using Etsy SEO tools like Etsy Rank and Marmalead to research and test different keywords.
  • Experiment with free shipping
  • Consider faster processing and shipping times

Educate Yourself on Etsy SEO

Read How Search Works, the official word on Etsy Search.

Take note of new Etsy tests here. 

Check out Cindy Lou Who 2’s take on the evolution of Etsy Search.

See The Primary Sources From This Post

November 6, 2017 Transcript of the Q3 Etsy Earnings Call

Josh Silverman’s December 13, 2017 Q&A

Josh Silverman’s December 2017 Video

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29 Responses

  1. Thanks a lot! I experimented a big drop on sales since December and, although I tried to optimize my shop and list new items, I got no important changes in sales. Now It makes sense! I’ll work on a new strategy ☺️

  2. I am confused – I am new to Etsy for a few months and recently have read in several places that tags and titles should not match. You indicate that they should continue to match. I might add that my titles and tags match (for most listings) and out of 100+ listings I have a majority o A and B ratings so I am inclined to not make any changes

  3. Excellent! Thank you SO much for this! Finally an article that addresses the current changes and provides concrete advice! I was so worried thinking that all my listings are nowadays at the very bottom of search — but that’s just AI search not showing me my own listings, phew! And thank you for introducing me to! Super!

  4. To add: Unfortunately, I got my hopes up too high using Etsy Rank, I think… It appears that their search ranking tool is not that accurate. Maybe it used to be, but not anymore.

  5. I have searched for answers to niggling questions about getting my shop ranked but most results were focused on one or two issues …. then Bingo, I found your site and this post with ALL of the factors laid out in a sensible logical way that helped the penny drop. Thanks for this post, now with this information I believe I am ready to improve my shop ranking.

  6. Hello Elissa – great article with some excellent tips that will help me develop a better strategy to deal with the ever changing scenario of SEO in Etsy.
    So just wondering if you have an opinion on the advantages if any of linking from one Etsy shop to another – is it worth doing?

  7. My sales dropped dramatically in December, too. They are down 75% every month this year. Obviously, I have a product that some people want, …if they can find it.

  8. My sales have died completely. What about the geographical location of a store? I am in Australia and sell most products to the US and Europe. I used to rank on page 1 all the time, now can’t even find my listings. Very disappointing 🙁

  9. Ask 10 different “experts” and they will give you ten different reasons why your shop is failing. My shop did great, steadily increasing sales for 2 years and in January, sales dropped 40-70%! I renew my listings daily, use the right tags and key words. I have every theory from Etsy is only showcasing promoted listings to Etsy “drops” shops every couple years to give the new ones a leg up and a chance to hooked on the sales. No one really knows whats going on here. There is just no plausible reason I’ve heard why my business so suddenly and so dramatically lost so much revenue.

  10. Just have to chime in here and say that I am able to see my listings. I also tweaked a couple of my description headers as those items weren’t showing up on the first couple of pages. Checked it later and there they were, on the first page (with Ships to Canada on) and 2nd page when I clicked that box off. So, perhaps they have changed how search performs. Again.

  11. My visits, views and sales have all dropped dramatically, (after finally reaching an average of over a sale/day) and it has been very frustrating! I have searched endlessly for articles to help with the SEO changes and FINALLY (!!), an article that is not just the same old text book answers! This has been very helpful and I hope that some of the ideas will work for me.

  12. Or, we can become a little smarter and wiser, and place our energy and effort into a platform we control rather than constantly jumping through hoops of compliance while paying for a failed system. Cut the cord and fly. AI is a total failure…for Etsy, for Ebay and for Google. It simply doesn’t work while we all make excuses and ignore the elephant in the room. Create your own website and take control of your promotions. It’s less time than chasing these Etsy and Ebay failures.

  13. Attributes for holidays, etc are only relevant if they are used for the specific holiday (an ornament for Christmas or a cake topper for a wedding cake) and not as a gift (a shirt or bracelet that is not holiday specific but can be a mother’s day gift), correct?

  14. We had a 90% drop in visits within six months, you can tune your SEO as we did also, with only small increases in visits. Yet, Its very simple, Etsy has gone ‘pay to win’. Their stockholders expect a dividend and the almost flat gains on consumer end of the market does not gain enough. The best way continue to ‘make money’ for Etsy now is to offer users, ‘seller services’. To gain sales, you must pay them upwards of $50.00 per month for ‘ Pattern’ websites and Etsy Plus. If you look close, and you compare what the basic level seller has and what these two items offer, which is very negligible and expensive) you can see that Etsy rolled these out for the sole purpose of ‘eating their own’ (users). The stockholder will win (for a while), the Etsy users are no longer the focus. Forbes magazine has explained it very well.

  15. The seller services is so smart on Etsy’s part. At almost 2 million sellers, even if only 25% bought into the seller services idea with the intro rate of $10 a month, that would just give Etsy an extra $500000 per month and 6 million a year. Double that after the first of the year. There is no extra cost to Etsy to give out the “services” and no real benefit to the sellers. It’s pretty much just free money. I wish I had more Etsy stock. The former and current CEOs are in the top ten share holders list.

  16. Thank you for the article, so helpful to understand what’s going on. I’m a French seller.
    Since Etsy bought the little French player, it was harder to sell on Etsy. Then sales even dropped, my bestseller not selling anymore. Now I better understand why, I’ll try to implement a better strategy but that will be the last try. Increasing fees and dropping sales lead nowhere but a waste of time and money for me.

  17. The sooner you understand why Google is sending you less traffic than it did last year, the sooner you can clean it up and focus on proactive SEO that starts to impact your rankings in a positive way.

  18. Have a basic understanding of Google Analytics (or whatever web analytics package your business uses). In Google Analytics, study the reports under Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. By clicking on “Organic Search,” you’ll be able to analyze performance for your SEO program.

  19. I am so discouraged with Etsy advertising fees! In the end lately I sell 2 items for $140 and end up with $35! Seriously! Between promoted listing fees. forget Google Advertising I have turned it totally off now., their percentage of 5% which is more than fair., but shipping for priority mail is more than Amazon for the same Small Flat Rate Box. and them taking a percentage of that too. With the new payment system all I see is money going out, and next to Zip coming in…..? I am confused. I have been with Etsy since 2011. Yes I am seeing sales now however the only ones making any money is Etsy! I am at handmade jewelry totally taking a bath! Going to see this through the holidays and then pretty much trashing any advertising at all! I will toss it all to Amazon FBA! Things there sell and fees or not at least they are upfront and I do not have to deal with it at all.. Etsy I loved you, but behind the scenes you are making me go broke! TV ads or not!

  20. There is no secret to keywords and you don’t need software to find them, many sellers all have the same keys words. It’s simple you have to sell products to get ranked, end of story. You must have something that people want and describe and display so that it will attract sellers and have a great price. If you can not offer something better than all the others why would anyone want to buy it from you? and if you can not answer this question you have found your problem.

  21. Etsy has become a crook !!!! Take 2 identical shops, same items, same tags, same titles ….., the “best seller” store will sell 10 items in the day, the second “non best seller” shop will not even have a put in favorites . All customer searches are directed to the “best seller” shop, so no chance for the second shop to evolve !!!! Everything is trafficked on Etsy, they give visibility to whoever they want, it’s a scam !!!!! I hope the new EU law will help sellers, Etsy will have to report on its search engine and algorithm. titles, tags are no longer useful for anything. Etsy kills sellers and their lives !!!!!

  22. Not an Etsy seller, but I happened on this blog when trying to understand why I couldn’t filter searches on Etsy the way I used to. I prefer to make my own choices and to experience a little serendipity when on-line shopping, instead of just being preyed on by an AI algorithms. What’s the best Etsy replacement?

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Well, Hey There!

Are you ready to build a happy and fulfilling  creative business (that doesn’t add more stress to your life?) 

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I’m Elissa Carden, and my goal is to inspire you to start an online creative business that you can love and to provide you with the tools you need to make it a success.