In this Etsy SEO basics article, I’m going back to the beginning and approaching Etsy search from a foundational perspective.
We’ll start with a general definition of SEO. Then we’ll specifically discuss the Etsy search process. Finally, we’ll identify some key factors that will help you make positive changes in order to get found in Etsy search!
Disclaimer and Disclosure: My primary source for this information is The Ultimate Guide to Etsy Search, and I would encourage you to be a responsible seller and (at some point, though not at this very moment) read it all for yourself! Clearly, this is my interpretation, and I have no inside information.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization.
This isn’t a term that is specific to Etsy.
You probably already know that Google, Amazon, Pinterest, and YouTube, for example, all have search engines. When content creators optimize their product listings, pins, videos, or blog posts (on any of these platforms), they set up their content so that the search engine (on that particular platform) is more likely to find it and show it to content consumers on the other side of the computer who are looking for information.
SEO & Search Ranking
To take this explanation a step further, it is important to realize that the order in which search results are displayed to a content consumer is incredibly important.
Because there is so much content on the internet, one search could return hundreds of pages of search results.
Content consumers who are quickly trying to find something aren’t going to wade through all of these results. Instead, they will trust that the search engine has found the most relevant content for them and has placed it on the first page of their search results.
Therefore, the true goal of SEO is to get the search engine to recognize a piece of content as the most relevant content for any particular search.
Understanding Etsy SEO
Etsy SEO works in the same way.
As an Etsy seller, you want the Etsy search engine to recognize your listings (your content) as relevant for specific keyword searches.
Then, when customers search using those specific keywords, you want the Etsy search engine to find your listings and to rank them at the top of the customers’ lists of search results, making it more likely that the customers will click on and purchase your items.
So how do we get the Etsy search engine to recognize our listings as relevant for any particular search?
The Etsy Search Process
To start, it helps to understand how we can prepare for the two phases of search.
When a customer comes to Etsy looking for a specific item, she typically finds the search bar at the top of the Etsy home page and types in words or phrases (keywords) that describe the item for which she is looking.
The Etsy search engine then kicks into gear, using its algorithm to work through two phases of search before eventually displaying a long list of search results for the customer.
Etsy Search Phase One: Query Matching
The first phase of Etsy search is called query matching, and it answers the question:
Which listings are at all relevant to the customer’s search?
During this phase, the Etsy search engine scans all of the listings in the Etsy marketplace, looking for matches for the customer’s keyword.
If specific parts of your listing contain any of the words the customer typed into the search bar, the listing is relevant for that search.
The specific parts of the listing that factor into this query phase of Etsy search include:
- Categories and Subcategories
- Listing Title
- Listing Tags
The number of unique words you include in any of these areas of your listing will determine the number of searches in which your listing will be considered at all relevant.
So if you use lots of different words in your listing, your listing will appear to be relevant for lots of different searches.
That’s why it’s important to:
- Choose the most specific category and subcategories for your listings. (More specific categories simply contain more words.)
- Include any relevant attributes when listing your items.
- Avoid repeating words from your categories or attributes if you can. (This gives you space to add more words.)
- Avoid repeating words in general. (Impossible, right? I’m a big offender of this.)
Etsy Search Phase Two: Ranking
The second phase of Etsy search is ranking, and it answers the question:
Which listings are the most relevant for this customer’s search?
The ranking phase is more complicated than query matching because it adds a judgment factor to the process, and this is where the Etsy search algorithm works its best magic.
Etsy Search Ranking Is All About The Numbers
Because the algorithm is a set of formulas, it can really only look at numbers.
And because Etsy is a business that is held accountable to shareholders, the most relevant number in your listing (to Etsy) is its potential profit.
Therefore, the search algorithm’s job is to make Etsy money by showing customers the listings that they are most likely to purchase.
(Flawed logic? Maybe. Reality? Absolutely.)
In Etsy SEO speak, relevancy = the potential for a listing to make profit.
The question then becomes: How can we prove to the Etsy algorithm that our listings have a great potential to make a profit?
The answer that makes the most sense to me is to take a two-part strategy to Etsy SEO.
- Prepare every listing for Etsy search.
- Prepare your shop for Etsy search.
In practice, this strategy looks like this:
Optimize Your Etsy Listings for Search
When listing our products we can:
- Use only keywords that really and truly describe our items. (Customers will ignore listings that don’t seem to belong in their search results.)
- Use keywords that we know our customers also use to search. (Do keyword research to determine what search terms people are actually using.)
- Create listings that customers view and purchase. (Work on your conversion rates.)
- Ensure reasonable processing times and shipping costs.
Optimize Your Etsy Shop For Search
Also important to note is that the Etsy search algorithm is able to place a numerical value on how well we represent their brand.
This numerical value is called your Customer and Market Experience Score, and it is most definitely factored into the Etsy search algorithm.
You see, Etsy wants to ensure that their customers have a positive experience, tell people about Etsy, and then come back with more of their money.
We don’t know the exact formula for a great Customer and Market Experience Score, but we do know that we are judged on the following:
- Completing our “About” sections (Make it professional, my friends…)
- Getting positive reviews
- Responding to messages in a timely manner
- Not acting like complete jerks in the Etsy forums (They’re public, people!)
- Providing exceptional customer service so we don’t have cases opened against us
- Not copying other people’s work, using trademarked terms, or in any way using intellectual property that is not our own.
So that’s it. All you ever wanted to know about Etsy search, right?
Just kidding. Obviously, there’s a lot more to learn about Etsy SEO and Etsy search.
Here are my best resources:
For the most up-to-date information and support, I would highly recommend joining my Etsy Seller Happy Hour Community. It’s a supportive group of people who care about accurate information and want to make positive incremental changes to grow their creative businesses, all while drinking lots and lots of coffee…
If you want a quick checklist to help you get started working on your Etsy SEO, download my simple Etsy SEO checklist. Print it out and work your way through your listings.
Finally, here are some additional articles for your reading pleasure!