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

Well, Hey There!

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

You’re in the right place.

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.