Updated May 31, 2021: I’ve created an updated version of this article since some of this information is now out of date.
Have you ever listed something on Etsy with high hopes of making lots of sales and then…crickets?
The reality is that Etsy is a really crowded marketplace. There are currently 2 million active sellers on Etsy. What can you do to make your shop, and your listing, stand out and get seen?
One of the most important factors that leads to increased sales on Etsy is for your products to get found in search. When a visitor comes to Etsy looking for products like the ones you sell, they may not actually ever find your listings. You’ve got to understand how Etsy search works so that you can optimize your listings. Otherwise they’re likely to simply get buried, never to be found by potential customers.
Before we dig into Etsy search, it’s important to mention that there are other factors that need to be in place to build a successful online business on Etsy, or elsewhere. Offering well-made products that fulfill a customer need, showing them off with beautifully shot and well-styled photos, and offering a competitive price are all aspects of successful ecommerce businesses. But, there’s no denying that if you want to sell on a marketplace such as Etsy it’s worthwhile to optimize your listings for search.
1. Shipping prices are a factor in Etsy search ranking. Etsy has run extensive testing showing that customers frequently back out of purchases when they see a shipping charge that they perceive as too high. To increase the number of purchases that are completed on the platform, listings with lower shipping prices will rank higher in Etsy search. I know this feel frustrating for sellers with products that are especially expensive to ship. If it’s at all possible, work some of those charges into your product pricing.
2. Etsy search doesn’t scan descriptions. When a visitor enters a query into the Etsy search bar, the search algorithm scans the titles, tags, and attributes on the marketplace’s listings to find a match, but it doesn’t scan the descriptions of each item. Does that mean descriptions are unimportant? Of course not. A strong description that answers the key questions about a product while also engaging them with some storytelling will definitely help convert a visitor into a buyer. And, while Etsy’s search function doesn’t take descriptions into account, Google’s may.
3. Etsy assigns every shop a “customer and marketplace experience score” and each listing is evaluated for listing quality. Etsy wants customers to have a good experience on the site. To help ensure this, each shop is evaluated based on its customer service record and assigned a customer and marketplace experience score. (This score isn’t something you can get access to as a buyer or a seller. It’s just part of Etsy’s search algorithm.) Shops that have had cases opened against them for poor customer service, or shops that have previously been shut down due to intellectual property infringement have lower scores and will be depressed in search. Shops with great reviews, a fully filled out About page and a complete set of shop policies will do better in search.
Once an item comes up in search if the customer then clicks on it, favorites it, or buys it, that listing’s quality score goes up. Etsy favors listings that convert visitors into buyers.
4. Don’t add tags with common misspellings and only use tags in your own language. If you signed up to sell on Etsy in Spanish and your tags are in English they will not bring up your listings in search. Etsy will automatically translate your listings for customers so write in the language signed up with.
5. Use short phrases in tags. You get 13 tags and should use every single one of them. Rather than repeating yourself in your tags (i.e. “fox pin” and “fox jewelry”) vary them (ie. “fox pin” and “animal jewelry”). It’s hard to compete on broad keywords (i.e. “tote bag” and “scarf”) so see if you can hone in a little further by using what’s called a longtail keyword. This is a series of a few words that get more specific (i.e. “canvas tote bag” or “cable knit scarf”).
6. Repeat the most relevant keywords in the title and tags. A listing in which the same keywords are repeated in the title and the tags is more likely to come up in search for that keyword. Once you’ve decided on the strongest keywords for your product, repeat them in both places.
7. Words at the beginning of the title are weighted more than words at the end. Lead with the most important words. This makes sense because on mobile only the first few words of a listing are visible so you want those words to really do a good job describing the item.
8. Attributes and shop sections factor in search, along with titles and tags. Choose them carefully. The names you give to your shop’s sections can help you get found in search. Using descriptive keywords that accurately describe what each section contains helps shoppers find what they’re looking for in your shop and Etsy favors shops that help customers have a good experience.
9. Recency plays a small role, but constantly relisting products isn’t a good strategy. Etsy wants to please frequent shoppers so newer listings will rank higher. That being said, constantly relisting products just to get a bump in search isn’t a good strategy because it only addresses a single part of optimization which is much more nuanced.
10. Add your location so that your listings come up in local searches. Etsy visitors have the option of entering a location to help narrow down their search. Some customers value shopping locally and want to view shops near them. Here’s how to add your location.
Implementing all of these optimization tactics can feel overwhelming, but I’m betting that there are one or two things you could tweak right now to make your Etsy listings more searchable. Over time update other aspects of your listings until everything is optimized for Etsy’s search engine. Each small changes will add up to better discoverability for your products in the marketplace. Selling on Etsy is like a game. You do better when you understand the rules.