Etsy SEO is hard. But why does it have to be? Read to learn the reasons that it's complicated as well the factors that impact Etsy SEO.

I get this question a lot from Etsy sellers.  Why does Etsy SEO which stands for search engine optimization have to be so complicated? (If you’re not sure what SEO is, click here to learn the basics.)  I also see a lot of veteran Etsy sellers talk about the good ol’ days when it didn’t take so much effort to generate sales.  I want to try to explain why it needs to be so complicated.  This is a lot of info but hang with me and at the bottom you’ll be able to grab a free Etsy SEO Checklist. First, some stats on Etsy as of the end of 2016:

Number of Active Etsy Sellers – 1,748,000

Number of active Etsy buyers – 28,566,000

Those numbers are super high.  Etsy is growing at lightning speed.  Almost 200,000 active sellers joined Etsy in 2016.  That’s over 500 new Etsy sellers signing up every day.  Buyers are becoming more aware every day of how corporations are taking over and they’re making a bigger effort to spend their money supporting small businesses.  Also, when people are buying gifts, it’s harder than ever to find something unique that the recipient doesn’t already have.  What better way to solve that problem than with a unique handmade gift?

What does this have to do with Etsy SEO?

All this means that Etsy needs to help buyers zero in on what they’re looking for.  The number of products currently appearing on Etsy is staggeringly large.  In May of 2016, there were over 35 million active product listings.

Etsy is working to make a sale, otherwise, the buyer will leave unhappy and shop somewhere else.  This means they need to present Etsy shoppers with products that are most likely to result in a sale.  How do they do this?  With a complex set of rules called an algorithm.  These rules help determine where Etsy products will appear in the Etsy search results.

Which factors make up the Etsy SEO algorithm?

Etsy updated the search algorithm in September of 2018.  The info below has been updated to include these changes.  To learn more check out this page from the Etsy seller handbook.

Tag and Title Relevancy

  • The words that a buyer uses to search on Etsy must be in the title and/or the tags or a listing won’t appear.  If you have the phrase ‘blue necklace’ in your title or tags and a buyer searches for the phrase ‘blue star necklace’ your listing won’t appear if you don’t have the word star within your title or tags.  This helps the buyer view only items that contain exactly what they’re looking for.

Item Attribute Relevancy

  • Keywords entered in the attribute section of a listing are considered in the Etsy search results in a similar way to the keyword phrases in the titles and tags.  These attributes are just another way to describe your items and will help buyers search in a different way in the future when Etsy adds search filters based on these attributes.  Try to fill in as many attributes that are relevant as possible per listing and don’t use the exact phrase you’ve used in an attribute in your tags because you’ll already be appearing for that phrase.

Category Relevancy

  • Keywords that appear in the category names of a listing are considered in the Etsy search results in a similar way to the keyword phrases in the titles and tags.  Try to choose the lowest level category possible so that your listing will appear in that category and all above it and don’t use the exact phrase you’ve used in the category name in your tags because you’ll already be appearing for that phrase.

Listing Quality Score

  • Etsy looks at how well a listing converts—how many people view it and then make a purchase—to determine whether buyers are interested in it, which boosts that listing’s quality score and placement in search results.
  • If you get a lot of views but not a lot of sales Etsy will see that people aren’t interested in your product.  For this reason, I don’t recommend playing favorite games that are popular on Facebook or sharing your product with groups that likely aren’t your target market because they result in empty views.

Customer & Market Experience Score

  • Reviews have an impact on the search results.  Great reviews will give you a boost in the search and negative reviews will hurt your shop’s ranking.  This helps reward shops that are delighting their customers.
  • Having a completed about section and a completed shop policies section using Etsy’s provided template will give you a slight boost in the search results. This helps reward shops who have taken the time to properly set up their shop.
  • Recent cases opened against your shop or any past reported intellectual property infringement listings will have a negative impact on your search engine ranking.  This discourages poor customer service and the trademark or copyright infringement.  (Things like using words or phrases from a movie, tv show, sports team, song lyric or directly copying another seller’s work).

Recency

  • To help keep the search results fresh and to give new products a chance, recently listed or renewed products will be given a small temporary boost in the search results.  This temporary boost can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on how often people are searching for a particular item.
  • Regularly renewing your items or creating new listings just to get this small boost isn’t an effective search optimization strategy.

Shipping Price

  • To encourage Etsy sellers to keep shipping prices as low as possible Etsy search factors shipping price into search ranking to make it easier for shoppers to find listings with competitive shipping prices. Listings with lower shipping prices are more likely to rank higher in search.

Translations and language

  • When you set up your shop on Etsy, you choose a shop language. The titles and tags you add to your listings should be in the language you choose during setup. Etsy will translate your keywords and show shoppers results that match their query and language settings.

Shoppers’ habits

  • Etsy also customizes the search results to specific shoppers. Their Context Specific Ranking technology learns what buyers are interested to show them the items they’re most likely to purchase.
  • When you search on Etsy, what you see isn’t always what another buyer might be seeing. Searching for your own listings and comparing the results over time or across devices isn’t an effective way to determine where your listings are appearing in search, since the results you see are just a small slice of a much bigger picture.

But why does ETSY SEO need to be so complicated?

Etsy truly is doing their best to help buyers find products they are looking for and to capture a sale.  I think all handmade sellers would agree that it’s important that buyers are presented with items that they are most likely to purchase.  This means that a fellow Etsy seller has a better chance of receiving a sale.

The alternative is that the buyer getting frustrated and leaving Etsy to shop on a site where a corporation will receive all the profits.  The Etsy SEO search algorithm helps ensure the future of all of our handmade businesses by giving the Etsy buyer a great experience that ends in a sale.

So how can I get my products to appear in the search results?

I know all the factors above can be extremely overwhelming and seem unnecessarily complicated. It would be so amazing if we could join Etsy, quickly add a few listings and make some sales.  But rarely in life is something worth doing so easy.  It requires research and effort to succeed in an ever expanding online retail space.

The competition is intense!  Hundreds of new Etsy sellers are signing up every day.  It’s possible to stand out among the competition but you have to put some work in.  Fortunately, this blog, as well as the Handmade Journey Academy will save you time and effort by giving you my tested Etsy SEO tips and tricks.

The first place I recommend that you start working on SEO is in your titles.  It’s the most efficient and effective way to start seeing results in your Etsy shop.  Check out this blog article that has all the tips you need to construct Etsy product titles that will help you get found in the Etsy results.

Once you’ve worked on your titles and your tags, the next area to focus on is your photos.  Having great photos is the key to getting views and sales.

Want even more help optimizing your listings for Etsy SEO?

Disclaimer:  The above info is what has worked really well for me in my experience of running a successful Etsy shop.  While it has worked for me, you may experience a different result.  Make changes slowly and be sure to save any previous information you are replacing in case you find that your previous choices worked better for you.

8 comments on “Why is Etsy SEO so Complicated?”

  1. As always Jamie i find you to be forthright and right on the money. What I find frustrating is there are only so many variations of the same keywords we use and in that instance they favor the companies that put up huge numbers of sales!

    • I can definitely relate to that frustration. It can be slow to build momentum but once you do you’ll be one of those sellers who has the huge number of sales. I teach a few different strategies to help build that momentum. Renewing listings is a big one which you can read more about at https://handmadejourney.com/renew . Another one is promoted listings. There are some other things I’ve tried with good success like offering an introductory price on a new listing or duplicating listings. I’ll be covering these topics in some upcoming blog posts. Let me know if any questions!

  2. Great job! Often times it can be hard to explain the importance of SEO and all the little details that go into it. This is a great list for bloggers to reference!

  3. Thank you. I find myself feeling a sense of excitement when I see you’ve sent another helpful article. Easy to understand, broken down in segments, simple explanations and clear language…I can handle that while my mind is full of everything else I need to do for my shop and my life.

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