This morning I was looking for a turquoise necklace on Etsy for a friend’s birthday.
A search for ‘turquoise necklace’ in handmade yielded 110,542 results!
What do you think I did?
That’s right. I skimmed the first page, then changed my search term and tried again.
Let’s assume for a moment that you are selling turquoise necklaces. Well, you really, really want to be on those first 1-2 pages of search results or your potential customer isn’t even going to see your painstakingly-crafted jewelry.
And that’s why understanding SEO is vital if you want to succeed on Etsy.
What is SEO?
SEO or ‘Search Engine Optimization’ is the process of ranking highly in search results. i.e. Showing up on the first page when someone searches for a product like yours.
The term SEO is usually used for search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing. But sites like Etsy often have their own internal search engines.
In the example above, Etsy used its own engine to find all those results for ‘turquoise necklace’. The goal of Etsy-specific SEO is to rank well within Etsy search.
NOTE: Best practices for Etsy SEO sometimes differ slightly from those for Google SEO. This post deals with Etsy-specific search.
Keywords – the holy grail of SEO
A keyword is a word (or phrase) that describes your product. Keywords should be used in product titles and tags to help you be found in Etsy search results.
The aim is to choose keywords that are used as ‘search terms’ by potential customers.
(A search term is the word – or words – that a user enters into the search box. In my case, the search term was ‘turquoise necklace’).
The first thing you need to do is figure out the best keywords for your products.
1. Phrases rule:
The more specific your keywords (or keyword phrases), the more likely you are to be found for that search.
For example, if you had chosen the keyword ‘blue’ to describe your turquoise necklace, it would probably have figured very poorly (if at all) in my search. Instead, the phrase ‘boho turquoise necklace’ would have ranked much better.
But what if you had just used the word ‘turquoise’?
Well, this is relevant, but the competition for generic words like ‘turquoise’ would be much higher than the competition for an exact phrase like ‘boho turquoise necklace’. For instance, anyone selling a turquoise ashtray or skirt might also use the keyword ‘turquoise’. Your chances of ranking well for such generic terms are much lower.
NOTE: a phrase like ‘boho turquoise necklace’ would figure highest in searches for ‘boho turquoise necklace’, ‘boho turquoise’ and ‘turquoise necklace’, but would also be relevant for ‘boho’, ‘turquoise’ and ‘necklace’. You would not, however, rank well for ‘boho necklace’ because of the extra word in between.
2. Order is important:
Now what if you chose the keyword phrase ‘necklace boho turquoise’? Well, this would rank as well for the individual words (‘turquoise’, ‘boho’ and ‘necklace’), but wouldn’t be as relevant for the search phrases ‘boho necklace’, ‘turquoise necklace’ and ‘turquoise boho’.
This is even more important for high competition keywords. E.g. If you are selling a Tom Selleck Mustache Necklace (yes, I’ve seen this on Etsy), then you are probably okay choosing ‘mustache necklace Selleck’ as your keyword, but with a more popular item like a turquoise necklace, you need to be more precise.
3. Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes:
Think about what you would have searched for if you were looking to buy your product. That’s it. There’s your first keyword phrase.
Now do this again, trying not to use the keywords that you have already got. There’s your next keyword phrase.
Ask your friends and teammates what they would search for. Use these as your keyword phrases.
4. Suggested keywords by Etsy:
Once you have decided on a couple of keyword phrases, start typing these out in the Etsy search box.
You will see a list of ‘suggested keywords’ by Etsy. These are not just similar keywords, but actual search terms that customers on Etsy have been using.
For instance, when I started typing in ‘turquoise necklace’, I could see which similar terms actual buyers are searching for on Etsy.
When a buyer starts typing in a search term, she sees the same suggested keywords and is likely to choose one of these instead of typing a whole search query. So these are great keyword phrases to optimize for.
NOTE: Only 10 suggestions are shown at a time, so you could keep typing in slightly different search terms to get more suggestions from Etsy.
5. The long tail:
Long-tail keywords are keyword phrases which have very little competition. This means that they are not searched for very often.
It may seem counter-intuitive to use these – no one’s searching for these, right? But if you can get your long-tail keywords right, you will rank very highly for them.
Plus, the customer who has entered the term is searching for a very specific product. If you match this criteria, your chances of a sale are very high.
For instance take the keyword phrase ‘turquoise nomad choker’. Not many people will search for this, but the ones who do will definitely be interested in your product.
I would recommend using a mix of popular keyword phrases along with a few niche long-tail phrases.
Etsy states that it already takes into account certain synonyms or geographically differentiated spelling. They recommend not cluttering your tags and titles with different spellings of the same word.
However, this is worth testing. I found slightly different results for ‘jewelry’ and jewellery’. So try a search for any keyword synonyms that you are uncertain about. If you get different results, it may be worth keeping both as keywords. E.g. If you sell cloth diapers, you should have both diaper (US) and nappy (UK, South Africa, Australia) as keywords.
Also, you could try testing common misspellings like pendent (instead of pendant) or broach (instead of brooch). If these bring you traffic, it may be worth keeping them as keywords.
NOTE: the same is true of plurals. Etsy admin has indicated that plurals are treated the same as singular forms. But my results for ‘green stone earring’ was slightly different from the results for ‘green stone earrings’. So make sure you test plurals for your keywords.
What does Etsy search look for?
Etsy says “When someone searches on Etsy, the system looks at your titles and tags for matches.”
This means that your most important keyword phrase must be in BOTH your title and your tags. This product will then be ‘optimized’ for that keyword phrase.
Your title can have up to 140 characters.
While it is tempting to use them all, this may not always be the best practice. Etsy recommends keeping your titles short but descriptive.
Try to keep your most important keywords towards the beginning of the title
This has an additional advantage. Etsy crops your title in the storefront and search views – only the first 3-4 words are visible. By having the most descriptive keywords in the beginning, you can ensure that all viewers will see these and know exactly what your product is.
Example – Say you are selling an acrylic painting called ‘Mystic Moments’. The name is not what a user will be searching for so don’t start your title with it. Instead try something like “Original acrylic painting on canvas, abstract art ‘Mystic Moments’”. This includes the potential keyword phrases – ‘Original acrylic painting’ and ‘abstract art’.
Etsy admin has indicated that keyword stuffing (repeating your keyword multiple times) hurts your ranking.
However, I have seen some high ranking products for competitive keywords which have the keyword repeated in the title. So repeating a keyword once or twice may not be too bad as long as it does not come across as looking spammy to the buyer.
Example of a bad title – ‘acrylic painting abstract painting abstract art painting modern art’.
NOTE: keyword stuffing will definitely hurt your Google ranking.
But what if you only sell acrylic paintings? Is it a good idea to start all your titles with ‘Original acrylic painting’?
Short answer – no.
If you optimize all your products for the same keyword, you will be competing with yourself for search relevance. Instead try to choose different keywords for different products and optimize for these.
This is because Etsy will rarely show multiple products from the same seller on the first page for a search. If you have optimized 10 products for the same keyword, only 1 will rank well. The other 9 are wasted. Instead, optimize each product for a sightly different keyword.
Remember, different buyers may be searching for slightly different keywords.
Example – You could optimize one painting for ‘original acrylic painting’, another for ‘abstract art’, a third for ‘modern art’ and yet another for ‘abstract painting’ or ‘abstract landscape’ (remember to check the suggested keywords by Etsy when deciding which keywords to optimize for).
Length and number:
You can add up to 13 tags per item. In addition to these 13, products categories are automatically added as 3 tags by Etsy – resulting in a maximum of 16 tags in your product.
I strongly recommend using all 13 tags.
NOTE: Each Etsy tag can have up to 20 characters. Punctuation and symbols aren’t allowed in English tags, with the exception of: ™ and ©
The order of tags is not important. The tag in the first position and the tag in the last position will carry equal weight.
Order of words within a tag:
This IS important.
As we discussed above, ‘boho turquoise necklace’ is different form ‘necklace boho turquoise’ so choose the order you feel your user is most likely to type in or the order that appears in the Etsy suggested keywords.
Repeating your keywords in your tags will not hurt you in Etsy rankings
Since the exact order of the words in your tags matter, you could repeat keywords in different tags to be found in more specific searches.
Example – you could use the tags ‘acrylic painting’, ‘abstract painting’, ‘canvas painting’, ‘abstract art’, ‘original painting’ and ‘original art’.
NOTE: Repetition may hurt your Google ranking.
Since you cannot include all your tags in your title, use the keywords you want to optimize for in both places and include your other keywords only in tags.
Tags are a good place to include your niche (long tail) keyword phrases. Since these are less competitive, you may rank well for these even if you have not optimized fully for them.
Example – ‘abstract cubist art’ or ‘cubist female figure’.
What else affects my search relevance?
Buyer search behavior in aggregate:
This refers to the action buyers takes when they see your product in search results. It includes:
- Treasury inclusions
- Numbers of clicks, pins, shares, likes etc
The important thing to remember is that not all ‘Favorites’ (or views, clicks etc) are considered the same by Etsy.
A view or a ‘favorite’ that comes from a team is given less weight by Etsy than a view or a ‘favorite’ that is a result of being featured in search results.
Example: If a user searches for ‘abstract acrylic art’ and clicks on (or ‘favorites’ etc) my product, that product will then be given a higher ranking for the keyword phrase ‘abstract acrylic art’ in future. However, just having someone from a promotional team click on (or ‘favorite’) my product will not give me the same advantage.
NOTE: recency matters for buyer search behavior – a click from search results today carries more weight than a click for the same search last month.
While photos are not directly relevant, they do affect how many people click on your image in search results which in turn affects future search ranking (by increasing your product views form search results).
Etsy automatically adds your shop categories as your first three tags for each listing. These are given the same weight as other tags.
However, since categories are usually just single words, these have too much competition for you to be competitive in a search for them.
Example: You can rank well for ‘Abstract modern art’, even without adding the category ‘art’.
This has become much less important with the shift form recency to relevancy in Etsy search.
However, it may still matter for items with keywords which have a large number of listings. If multiple listings are optimized for the same keyword and are otherwise similar, then a recently listed item may rank the higher amongst these.
NOTE: However, relisting does help you be found when someone browses Categories as these are sorted by recency.
What does NOT affect my search relevance?
The following criteria are not taken into account by Etsy search:
A good description could lead to a sale once your product has been clicked on, but it is not relevant for Etsy search results.
This includes the materials and attributes (recipient, occasion and style) that you added when listing your item.
NOTE: descriptions do matter for Google search.
Number of listings:
If you optimize different listings for different keywords, then having more listings could increase your chance of being found in search, but just having more listings will not increase your relevance.
Your shop sections (the list that appears in the left column of your shop) are not part of your product listing and are not relevant for search results
Punctuation does not affect Etsy relevancy at all. Use punctuation to make your title more readable and attractive.
Tweaking your SEO is more of an art than a science.
While the above guidelines will help you optimize your listings, you will need to keep tweaking and testing your listings to figure out what is optimal for your products.
Some final tips:
- Don’t make too many changes in one go. Make one change and wait a few days to see how effective it has been before making your next change.
- Change one (or few) listings at a time, not all together. Sometimes changes can worsen your performance instead of improving it.
- Leave well enough alone – tweak only those items which are performing poorly.
- Keep a copy of your original listing in case your changes are unsuccessful and you want to change back.
- Don’t be in a hurry – give a change a few days to show results before judging it.
- Competitive searches (e.g. turquoise necklace) are difficult to rank in. Instead try to optimize for multiple niche searches.
- If it’s overwhelming to look at your entire shop at once, consider tweaking titles / tags of each item when it is ready for renewal.
- Test, test & test – eventually, there is no substitute for this.
NOTE: Etsy periodically rotates products in search results so don’t be discouraged if you suddenly disappear for a few days. If your photos are eye catching, you’ll probably regain your ranking.
And remember, optimizing your product’s SEO will help it be found in search, but whether or not you are able to convert this view into a sale will depend on a number of other factors including your photos, descriptions, reviews, About page, shop policies and price.
I hope you found this post useful. Do share your experiences with SEO in comments.
Would you like us to write a follow up post on Google SEO?
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