Today, running Darkhorse Gifts is a full-time job for Aydon Cuddington and Kirk Quesnelle, but it wasn’t always that way. Before they had a firm understanding of search engine optimization (SEO), they were running an Etsy store that sold high-quality, custom-engraved gifts, but they weren’t maximizing their traffic — and by extension, their revenue.
However, once they understood Etsy search and the power of keywords — particularly how to utilize long tail keywords — everything changed. “Once I figured out what people wanted, I would target longer-tail keywords and all of a sudden, sales started coming in,” Kirk said in an interview with Marmalead.
Etsy SEO is the process of improving the visibility of your shop and its products in search engines like Google, as well as within Etsy’s own search function. SEO can be challenging, especially since search engines are constantly changing the way they search, but it’s important for Etsy sellers to have a basic understanding of SEO best practices, so they can optimize their shops for search and get their items in front of more potential buyers.
Not sure how to optimize your own Etsy shop for SEO? Read on to learn how Etsy search works and discover eight simple ways any Etsy seller can help customers find their listings.
How Etsy search works
Etsy’s search tool is designed to provide shoppers with items they’re looking for, and there are two phases to how it works: query matching and ranking. These are complex factors, but understanding them will help you learn how they can be influenced, allowing you to drive more visitors to your shop.
Query matching is simply how well a user’s search term matches Etsy’s inventory listings. When a shopper enters a search term, Etsy sorts through listings’ titles, tags, categories, and attributes to find the best match.
Then, to determine the listings’ rankings in search results, Etsy uses information about each listing and shop to display items that shoppers are most likely to purchase earlier in the results. The factors Etsy uses for search ranking include the following:
- Relevancy: When tags, titles, categories, and attributes match a user’s search term, listings have the potential to appear in search results. Keywords that are an exact match appear higher.
- Listing quality score: This essentially means how well a listing converts. To do this, Etsy looks for clues to decide how appealing a listing is, so the more people who view a listing and make a purchase will increase that listing’s quality score and placement in search results.
- Recency: How recently the item listing was created. When a new listing is created, Etsy temporarily boosts it in the search results to help determine the listing’s quality score.
- Customer and market experience score: Each shop has a score — based on customer reviews, how complete your shop’s About section is, and any negative feedback — which affects its ranking.
- Shipping price: Because shipping price factors heavily into a user’s decision to purchase, Etsy gives priority search placement to stores that ship for free or shops that offer a free-shipping guarantee to shoppers in the U.S.
- Translations and language: All shop information, including individual listings’ titles and tags, must be in the language you selected when you created your Etsy account.
- Shop location: In the EU, Australia, and Canada, the seller’s location is taken into account, and local items are slightly more prominent in search results. Location isn’t a factor in searches done within other countries.
- Shoppers’ habits: Search results are also customized for individual shoppers. Etsy learns what buyers are interested in and shows them items they’re most likely to purchase.
In addition to these factors, Etsy also ranks listings using context-specific ranking (CSR) technology, which learns what buyers are interested in to show them items they’re more likely to purchase. So if you and a friend were to both enter the same term into Etsy’s search tool, you likely wouldn’t receive the same results — your search results will be customized to you.
Now that you understand how Etsy determines which search listings to display and how to rank them, read on to learn how you can use this knowledge to improve your Etsy shop’s SEO with these eight tips.
1. Choose a shop title that describes your products.
Your shop title is a brief bit of text that describes your store, so shoppers know what you make and sell, and it’s one aspect of your shop you can use to influence Etsy SEO.
This title will become the page title for your shop page and is the first text a user will see when a search engine links to your shop, so take advantage of the opportunity to title your shop appropriately. Think of a title that indicates the kind of products you sell. For example, Etsy shop SoapMakingTools sells soap-making tools.
If you know that shoppers are likely to find your products by searching for your actual name, include your name in the shop title, so you can easily be found.
Your shop title can be up to 55 characters long, and when you enter a new shop title or edit the existing one, you’ll be able to preview how it will appear in Google search results.
2. Determine your keywords.
How keywords work in Etsy search
First, you need to know a bit more about how Etsy determines the placement of listings in search results. Items in Etsy’s search results must match a user’s search, and items that are an exact match will appear highest in search results. For example, if a shopper searches for “cat shirt,” the search algorithm will find all items that match both “cat” and “shirt” in either listing tags or titles. Then, the algorithm will use keywords to place those items in the most relevant order.
Here’s what Etsy considers when ranking search results:
- An exact phrase match is stronger than matching the search terms individually. For example, “cat shirt” will be placed higher than a match for “cat” or “shirt.”
- If a word or phrase in a search appears in both the title and tags of a listing, Etsy considers that listing more relevant than a listing that features the search term in the tags or title alone.
- Words at the beginning of titles are more important than words at the end. For example, “cat shirt blue size large” would rank above “blue size large cat shirt.”
Finding keywords for your Etsy listings
When deciding which keywords will perform best for your listings in search, first think like a shopper. If you were looking to purchase a specific item or type of item, what terms would you use to search for it? Test those keywords by typing them into Etsy’s search tool to see what comes up to determine if it’s a good fit.
You also want to think in terms of specifics or long tail keywords. These keywords contain three or more words and are closely linked to sales because there’s less competition, and users searching for precisely what they want are more likely to make a purchase. For example, if you include “gold personalized name necklace” in your keywords list, users who search for that exact term will easily find your listing, and shoppers in the market for a gold personalized name necklace are likely to purchase one.
When considering potential keywords, it’s easy to rely on physical item descriptions, such as an item’s size or color, for example. But don’t overlook other opportunities to reach shoppers who may be searching for items for certain occasions or that fit certain aesthetics, for example. In addition to describing your product in terms of what it is, consider other search terms a buyer might use, such as the following:
- Occasions: Etsy users may search for terms like “bachelorette party,” “stocking stuffer,” “first anniversary,” or “tacky sweater party.”
- Style: Shoppers often have an aesthetic in mind, so consider how this affects how your listing is found. Is your product “rustic,” “minimalist,” “nature-inspired,” “art deco,” etc.?
- Solutions: Does your product offer a solution to a buyer? Consider how a user may search for a problem solver like “drawer organizer” or “microchip pet tag.”
Finally, use SEO tools to research which keywords are most searched for. You can use a popular tool like Google Keyword Planner, but there are Etsy-specific search tools, such as Marmalead, which helps Etsy sellers find and analyze keywords specifically for their shops.
3. Avoid using the same keyword too often.
When a buyer searches for something on Etsy, the search algorithm won’t display more than one or two listings from a particular buyer regardless of how well the listings match the user’s search. This is known as de-clumping, and Etsy does it to ensure that a variety of different shops appear in search results.
For example, a search on Etsy for “blue vintage dress” reveals several different shops, as illustrated in the screenshot below.
FlyingAppleVintage has only two listings that appear in the above results even though a search for “blue vintage dress” within the shop itself reveals pages of listings that meet that criteria, as indicated below.
Because of this de-clumping in Etsy search results, you shouldn’t use the same primary keyword for more than a few of your items, or you’ll simply be competing against yourself in search.
For example, if you sell a variety of vintage dresses in your shop, it doesn’t benefit you to use the keyword “vintage dress” for every dress you have for sale. Instead, vary your keywords, using “vintage dress” only a couple of times and coming up with similar keywords like “vintage gown” or “antique sundress.”
4. Use all 13 tags in each listing.
When you’re setting up a product listing, you’ll be required to fill out certain fields, including the listing title, category, and description. These fields are mandatory as indicated by the asterisk beside them, and Etsy considers the information provided in all of these fields when displaying search results.
However, the tags section isn’t mandatory, but it’s extremely important to include a variety of tags to optimize your listings for search. You can use up to 13 tags, and it’s best to use all of them.
When you’re brainstorming tags, consider synonyms that people may use to search for your item, such as “cap” and “hat.” Also think of how differences in shoppers’ regions could affect how they search for an item. For example, if you sell flip-flops, you might also want to use “thong sandals” to reach buyers in other countries. You can also include longtail keywords in your tags.
Here are a few “don’ts” to keep in mind when it comes to tags:
- Don’t repeat tags. For example, if you sell headbands for babies, you don’t want to use both “baby headband” and “infant headband.” Instead, diversify tags to get your items in front of more sellers by using a variety of tags such as “baby headband” and “infant headpiece.”
- Don’t use a tag that’s already included in attributes. For example, if you’ve already indicated that you’re selling a red-and-gold scarf when you filled out your item’s attributes — the extra details you can add about your listings after selecting a category — you don’t need to add a tag for “red and gold scarf.”
- Don’t include plurals or misspellings in your tags. Etsy looks at root words when a user enters a query, and it also redirects users who make common spelling mistakes.
- Don’t add tags in multiple languages. Use only the language you selected when you set up your store. Etsy will translate listings for you.
5. Front-load listings with keywords.
Put the important details about your shop or item — in other words, the keywords you want to rank for — at the beginning of every field when making a new listing. This not only catches a shopper’s attention, but it also helps Etsy determine which items fit with a user’s search term.
When listing products you have for sale on the items’ listing page, consider how you can get the most important features of your item in the first few words of the following areas:
- Item title: Clearly describe your item at the beginning of the item title, and use keywords a shopper would use to search for this particular item.
- Item description: The first 160 characters of your item description are used to create the meta description for your listing page, which is the text that appears beneath your page title in search engine results. While your description can be longer than 160 characters, it’s important to place your product’s vital keywords within the first 40 characters.
- Shop sections: Your shop can have up to 20 custom sections, each of which will have its own landing page. Each landing page will have a page title based on the section name.
Like your shop title, these page titles are what a user will see in a search engine that links to your shop. Section names can be up to 24 characters.
6. Renew your listings regularly.
Because recency plays a role in how Etsy’s search algorithm works, when a new listing is created, it gets a small, temporary boost in search results so that Etsy search can learn more about how buyers interact with it to determine the listing’s quality score. Renewed listings get a similar — but smaller — boost, which can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on how often users search for particular items.
While Etsy cautions that continually renewing or re-listing your items isn’t an effective long-term SEO strategy, it can occasionally be useful to renew specific listings at certain times. For example, if the keyword your item is optimized for is extremely competitive, it can be helpful to give it an extra boost, especially during times when more people are searching on Etsy and making purchases, such as during the holidays.
If you decide to manually renew a listing, do so at higher traffic times when Etsy users are online and shopping. If you renew a listing at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday, for example, you likely won’t see much of a boost as this isn’t a peak traffic time.
7. Promote your shop to get inbound links.
Both SEO’s algorithm and search engines’ algorithms strive to provide search results that are interesting and relevant. One way they do this is by displaying pages or listings that are often linked to from other sources. While you can link your Etsy shop to your personal website or blog, it’s worthwhile to pursue other linking opportunities. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Share items from your store on social media sites where they can be easily re-shared, such as on Pinterest.
- Reach out to other websites and bloggers about your shop to have them feature your listings.
- Request reviews from influencers in exchange for free product.
- Connect with other Etsy shop owners to discuss ways you can do cross-promotion of your products.
- Start a referral or affiliate program for your shop. Check out this article from FollowUp to learn more about effective referral programs.
8. Provide a great customer experience.
Etsy wants to provide customers with the best possible shopping experience, so the marketplace considers whether a shop is in good standing with Etsy policies and the shop’s customer service record. If the shop is, this will increase the likelihood that their listings will appear ranked higher in search results.
To ensure your shop is in good standing with Etsy’s policies, complete every section on your store, including About, Shipping, Payment Options, Returns & Exchanges, and Privacy. Stores with these sections filled out appear to be more established, giving them greater selling potential and higher rankings in search results.
The quality of customer service you provide can also help or hurt your shop’s SEO. Answering customer queries promptly, processing returns and exchanges, and responding to negative feedback can lead to great reviews and have a positive effect on search ranking. However, disputes with buyers or issues with intellectual property infringement can have a negative effect on search ranking.
Start improving your own Etsy SEO
As you gain experience selling on Etsy, you’ll find that you have endless opportunities to refine your SEO skills and help customers find your listings. Whether you’re experimenting with different keywords or improving your customer service policy, there are always steps you can take to make your shop more searchable and successful.
After all, that’s exactly what Darkhorse Gifts did. As more and more users purchased from the shop and engaged with Aydon Cuddington and Kirk Quesnelle, it allowed Darkhorse Gifts to grow the business and offer more items for sale. “We’ve even been able to start building a team to help with the demand,” they note in their Etsy bio.