Macrame yarn in handmade workspace

When I started my Etsy shop many years ago, creating a listing was rather simple.  I made a design that I liked.  Took a photo or two.  And then wrote a product description (or cut and pasted one from another product).  Bam!  Listing done.  I didn’t even know what Etsy SEO was.

For awhile this strategy worked.  My sales increased steadily and customers found our products easily enough.

Over time, though, it’s become harder and harder to get discovered in the Etsy Marketplace.  Things have changed a lot.  The search algorithm (and now the advertising platform) work a lot differently. 

Some of this has to do with competition.  Whenever I check on an invitation theme to “see what else is out there”, I cringe.

In a marketplace where there used to be hundreds of designs to compete against, there are now thousands.  It’s hard to be the one that gets in front of browsers and chosen.

So, how do you make sure your customers are finding your shop?  That comes down to a little thing called Etsy SEO.

Although it’s not that little.  As I discovered.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.  It’s basically how the Internet organizes itself.  When you write your product listing, you use words – called keywords – to give search engines clues on what your product is.

Think about how many websites, products and other things are on the Internet.  Imagine that all of these things were dumped into a library. Now, you wanted people to be able to find what they were looking for.  SEO gives searchers the right clues to sort through the pile and make sure the correct result shows up on top.

Etsy SEO is no different.  It’s like walking into a store and asking a sales person to find you indigo blue jeans in short.  There are probably a lot of different blue jeans to choose from.  The words you just gave her are the “keywords” that she will use to search for your selection.

When you type in what you’re looking for in the Etsy Search bar, it scans through all of the items in Etsy to find you the best ones that fit your query.

The words that you choose for your product’s Etsy SEO will help the algorithm decide whether your item belongs in the results or not.

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But, does Etsy SEO really matter?  I know.  You just want to run my creative business and not worry about all of the techie stuff.

I get it.  Running a creative business is really cool.  But you’re running your business ONLINE.

If this is the path you’ve chosen for your business, than Etsy SEO really matters.  Without it, potential customers won’t be able to find your products let alone buy something from you.

Remember, Etsy is in the game of selling.  Like to the tune of almost $4 billion dollars.  They don’t want to waste their time showing products to people who aren’t interested in buying them.

The algorithm’s job is to match the right products to the right buyers.  If you don’t use Etsy SEO, the algorithm will never know if your product is a good fit for that customer.  So, you won’t even be included.

A few years ago, I didn’t think that Etsy SEO mattered.  Everything in my shop was humming along really well.  Then, Etsy made a huge algorithm change.   My traffic was turned upside down over night.

It made me start to look at listings more closely.  When I went to analyze some of my first listings, I realized they were completely missing any SEO.  Like, I didn’t use any tags or keywords in the title or description.  I started wondering how this was even possible.

So, I did my keyword research (Erank is one of my favorite business tools) and got my Etsy SEO back on track.

The result.  The listings that hadn’t sold well for years started to sell again.  It turned out that it wasn’t the design or product listing after all.  Instead, it was simply that I wasn’t using the correct tools to help customers find them.

So, yes, Etsy SEO is that important.  Here are the top 5 mistakes that I see Etsy sellers doing that is preventing their shops from growing. But, most importantly, here are some ways to fix them so you can get on the road to success.

#1 – You Don’t Believe in the Power of SEO

So, you ignore it altogether.

Or, even better, you don’t understand SEO at all, so it’s easier to turn a blind eye to it.

I get it.  Etsy SEO was a scary foreign language to me for many years.  But, guess what?  Ignoring it altogether doesn’t make it go away.  It just means that other people are going to figure out how to use it and you (and your shop) will be left behind.

If you don’t think Etsy SEO is important, then read this.

If you aren’t using Etsy SEO because you truly don’t understand it, then take some time to learn.  Check out classes on Skillshare or other online learning sites.

Get familiar with how to make Etsy SEO work for your business.  It’s one of the best marketing tools you can use.

And after you figure it out, it really does help your Etsy shop grow automatically.

#2 – You Select your Keywords Randomly

I used to do this when I first opened my shop.  Sometimes it’s easier to just guess than put in the time to research what people are actually searching for.

So, you select random keywords to use as tags and in your title.  It won’t really matter anyway.  So you think.

The problem is that when you use keywords that your audience isn’t using to search with, you get views on your listings.  But no sales.  Have you ever had this issue?

Basically the wrong people are showing up in your shop.  Not the ones who actually are interested in what you’re selling or would ever purchase it.  But just people.

When these views don’t convert to sales, you have a problem.  One – you aren’t making any money.  And two – Etsy starts to lower the probability of showing your listing since it isn’t selling.

Remember, they only show listings they think a customer will buy.  And listings that are purchased often have a high likelihood of selling again.

When setting up your listing, it’s important to put effort into your keyword selection.  Do your research.  Figure out what your potential audience is searching for right now.  Use keyword tools – such as eRank and Marmalead – to find answers.

All of this research will pay off with increased sales and a more successful shop.

#3 – Your Keywords Don’t Match What Customers Search For

One thing I’ve noticed on other shop’s listings when I’m looking at the tags that they use is a lot of short little words.

The little keywords are usually very popular words, which you might think is smart since clearly they are being searched for.

The problem is EVERYONE uses them.  So, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd and get your product found when hundreds (sometimes thousands) of them turn up in a search engine result.

For example, you make baby car seat covers.  You use the key words “baby”, “baby gift” and “handmade baby” in your listing.

The problem with these keywords is that your listing could fit under a huge number of searches.  When it doesn’t really fit under a specific search, the search algorithm doesn’t know what to do with it.  So, it doesn’t really do anything and you never appear in front of the people that matter.

Instead, you need to use something called longtail keywords.  A longtail keyword is a 3 to 4 word phrase that is very specific to the item that you are selling.

For example, in the baby car seat cover example, you might use instead “car seat cover”, “car seat canopy” or “infant seat cover”.  (Please note that these longtail keywords were taken from the top selling car seat cover on Etsy, so they must be working.)

When choosing keywords for your listing, select longer phrases that your potential customers will likely search for. 

Not sure where to start?

Use keyword research tools such as eRank and Marmelead to get some ideas on what word combinations people are looking for.  You can also use the keyword planner in Google ad tool.

Or spend some time browsing the popular listings in the product categories that you sell in.  Scroll to the bottom of the listing to see which tags they used.  See if you think any of those longtail keywords would be ones your customers would search for too.

Once you think you’ve found the perfect longtail keywords, test them.  Type the keywords into the search bar and see what items show up.

Are the results similar to the product listing that you are trying to sell?  If so, you probably found the best words to use as keywords for your item.

One more side note… When you type in the keywords in the Search bar, other similar keywords that people search for appear as terms underneath.  This is similar to when you search for terms in Pinterest.

Use these clues to your advantage.  See if there are any longtail keywords in these recommendations that you could add as well.  It’s a great way to discover what your customers are searching for.

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#4 – You Only Use Keywords in Product Tags

Most Etsy shop sellers get product tags.  It’s easy to write a bunch of words (hopefully, keywords) in the tags and hope to get found by potential customers.

But, many shop owners don’t realize that the product tags aren’t the only place that Etsy scans when trying to match a product with a customer’s search query.

Etsy’s algorithm searches many different places to come up with best result for the search.  It will also scan the product’s titles, categories and attributes.

When writing a product listing, it’s important that you use keywords in these places as well as your product tags.

Write a product title that includes words and phrases that your audience will search for.  Fill in the categories and attributes section on your listing description to include “Category”, “Colors”, “Occasion” and “Holiday”.

These details are important since Etsy search will scan them when choosing whether or not to show a potential buyer your product listing.

#5 – You Forget to Focus on the Other Things the Algorithm Does

The thing that I find hardest about Etsy SEO is that I’m not in control.  Or at least it seems that way.

The listings that are shown in an Etsy search sometimes seem random and I’m not sure why one shop’s listing shows up and another is never viewed.  

The thing is that these listings are random.  Many years ago, when you searched for a product on Etsy, the algorithm gave you the results based on an item’s popularity.  If an item made lots and lots of sales, it was shown first.  Usually leading to even more sales and securing it’s placement at the front of the pack.

This set-up made it hard for new sellers to break in.  Even if their products were equally good or even better.  Once the ranking for an item was solidified, it seemed to stay that way for awhile.

When Etsy made it’s algorithm changes in 2018, they turned this system on it’s head.  Instead of showing items based on sales numbers, Etsy now uses a tool called Context Specific Ranking.

Basically, Etsy tracks a customer’s shopping behavior over time.  Then when the customer does a search, they show them the product listings that they are most likely to be interested in.

This algorithm change is great if you are a new seller because it gives you more of a chance to succeed in the marketplace.  Even if you’ve just created a listing, you still have an opportunity to show up in the search bar.

On the other hand, seasoned sellers saw a hit in their sales.  Some of their best selling items stopped selling because suddenly they were being hidden from view.

Although this change wasn’t complete doom and gloom, it has meant that we have to change how we’re playing the Etsy algorithm game. And a good reminder about why you need to build a marketing strategy outside of Etsy.

In addition to using Context Specific Ranking, there are other things that decide whether or not to include your product in someone’s search results.  (I’m amazed that the search engine is able to consider all of these things in seconds.)

Other things to consider when looking at your Etsy SEO include:

Shipping Cost

In July, Etsy announced that it’s search engines would be giving priority to shops that offered free shipping on their products. (You can read more about this announcement and how to manage free shipping here.)

If possible, consider providing free shipping to customers.  This could automatically increase your search ranking without a lot of effort.

Quality Score

Your quality score is how well your product listing converts.  Etsy wants to show customers items that actually sell and others have bought.

Work on keeping your conversion rates up.  It’s never helpful to have a ton of views and very few sales.

Create product listings that are optimized for sales.  Use professional photos (even if you have to learn how to take amazing product photos yourself) of your products. 

Write stellar product descriptions that are clear and highlight the benefits of your product.  And make sure that you drive focused traffic that wants to buy to your shop.

Volumes of traffic – as good as it can look in Google Analytics – doesn’t help you if no one is buying.  So, if you find that you have traffic with no sales, try some of these strategies to fix the issue.

Customer Experience

The customer experience refers to the experience that customers have when making a purchase from your shop.  You guessed it.  This comes down to reviews.

Etsy looks for shops that have mostly 5 star reviews and where customers are leaving positive comments.  Don’t expect to be ranked highly in this area of the search algorithm if you have a few open cases against your shop.

This means that you need to work hard to provide amazing customer service.  Answer all of your customers’ questions promptly.  Have clear shop policies.  Ship items on time.

And, most importantly, don’t be afraid to provide a refund.  If a customer is really unhappy with an order, it’s okay to give their money back. Receiving a bad review can sometimes be worse than eating an order.

Bonus Tip – You Forgot to Update Based on New Trends

Keywords are great, but they’re ever changing.  The words a potential customer used to search this week could be different in a year.

Stay on top of the trends in your industry and pay attention if the keywords start shifting.  For the longest time, unicorns were popular in stationery.  Then, everything was about unicorn horns.  Now, we seem to be back to unicorns.

Keep your listings updated with new keywords.  This helps your listing seem fresher and more up to date.

Final Thoughts…

Although Etsy SEO may seem daunting at first, it is one of the best things to focus on to get your shop on a successful footing.  Especially in the beginning.

Do your keyword research and figure out the words and phrases customers are using to find your products.  Add these words into important sections in your product listing to help your product get found.

And remember that your ranking in Etsy Search varies based on many factors.  Some of these things you can control more than others.  Do your best.

Not crazy about Etsy SEO?  I get it.  Although it can seem overwhelming, Etsy SEO is important for finding new customers and increasing sales on the platform. 

It also gives you an organic tool to use to promote your products without spending a lot of money.

Another option is to focus on building a marketing strategy outside of Etsy.  You can find more ideas to help you get started here.

But even with an independent marketing strategy, you will still need to use some Etsy SEO.  So learn and research well.  There’s no telling how far your creative business can soar.

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