In this article, we’ll be exploring what SEO is, how it works, why it matters and what you should do as an Etsy seller to make it work for you. This guide assumes no prior knowledge of SEO, so it’s ideal for beginners.
This article makes references to web pages and Etsy listings, but for the purposes of understanding this topic, they can be considered one and the same.
What is SEO?
Let’s start at the beginning. SEO stands for search engine optimisation. While this may sound technical, all it really refers to is the process of improving web pages (or in our case, listings) to make them more likely to be used when a visitor / buyer performs a search using a set of keywords.
How do search engines work?
Before we can begin to employ optimisation, we first need to understand how search engines actually work behind the scenes. Instead of getting super technical, we’ll look at things from a higher, simplified level…
Building an index
In order to enable searching, an engine such as Google, employs what is called a “crawler”. This is an automated program, usually referred to as a “bot”, that scours the internet looking for web pages.
When it comes across a web page, it performs an analysis of the page content. It looks for keywords and other relevant content that it can use to categorise the page. In addition, it will also use its own proprietary ranking system to score the content and determine how “valuable” it is.
The bot then files the analysis and the link in a database. This process is repeated on a regular basis so that the database is as up-to-date as possible.
Searching for content
When a visitor goes to the search engine website and performs a search using a set keywords or a sentence, the engine reviews its database and tries to match the query to records with a relevant analysis.
Once it has a bunch of records, it will then use the score the bot assigned to each page to order the results. The idea, is that you should hopefully find what you’re looking for on the first page.
How does Etsy search differ?
One thing to keep in mind is that, unlike external search engines, Etsy has direct access to the database that contains all of the content that appears on its site. As a result, it doesn’t have to do any crawling. In addition, it can also use data that does not appear on the webpage to further improve results.
It might therefore seem that our approach to improving Etsy listings will be different to what we might do if we were targeting Google. While there is an element of truth to this, when it really comes down to it, what we as sellers are actually able to do isn’t all that different.
Okay, so how does SEO factor into this?
At its core, SEO is about altering the content of our listings to make the “bot” categorise and rank them more highly. We do this to make our listings more “appealing” for particular search queries in the hopes of being chosen.
If this sounds like a less than scientific process, then you’re absolutely right! There is no “do this and you’re done” solution for SEO. It’s a constant process of refining your content through trial & error.
Further, our efforts to improve a listing can sometimes have a negative effect on what was previously a successful listing. As a result, the preferred strategy is to only target the listings that aren’t performing well.
Why is it this complicated?
This is inevitably the question that arises when people first learn about SEO. How is that someone hasn’t solved this problem with a killer app?
The short answer, is that the search engines (Etsy included) don’t really want you to solve it. There’s one very simple reason for this, which is SPAM.
If bad people knew exactly how search engine algorithms worked, they could alter their content to ensure that (for example, porn appeared on page 1 of a search for a children’s cartoon).
Instead, we have to play a cat-and-mouse game of refining our content and attempting to understand or guess how the search engine will rank our work.
It sucks, but that’s just how it is and it isn’t going to change…
Don’t get discouraged though! While SEO is hard, it’s not impossible. In fact, even a small amount of effort can sometimes lead to big improvements.
Let’s see what we can do to stack the odds more in our favour.
What areas should I focus on?
Etsy listings contain three important sections that will always require your attention when working on your SEO:
- The title.
- The tags.
- The description.
Etsy also offer “shop sections”, but it is unclear if they factor into search. So to be on the safe side, use relevant keywords where you can.
A listing’s “category” is important, but since its a list of options to choose from, you can’t really “improve” it, you just need to select the right one.
When someone performs a search on Etsy, a listing’s title and tags are used to determine whether it is relevant and on what page it should appear.
At present, a listing’s description does not factor into the search process employed by Etsy itself… but, it will be considered by external search engines such as Google, so you shouldn’t ignore it.
The Listing Title
In general, your title should be short, clear and constructed in a way that ensures that the most important words are at the beginning. Using this tip is particularly relevant for mobiles, which display a small number of characters.
Avoiding non-descriptive words such as “and”, “the” and “is” is also a good strategy to follow, as it will help to keep the title short.
You also need to strike a balance when it comes to word choice. Distinctive words are great, but using something rare or archaic is not a good choice, as people are unlikely to search for it.
You can read more about what rules Etsy recommend you follow for your listings in their Ultimate Guide to Search.
The Listing Tags
Choosing tags is not easy. Fortunately, there are tools out there that allow you to search for keywords, see how many Etsy sellers are using them (the competition), as well as find similar alternatives (with lower competition).
As with titles, you need to strike a balance between obscure keywords with low competition (which no one is searching for) vs. highly popular keywords (which everyone is using).
You can also take advantage of Google Trends to see how those keywords perform over time / whether they are seasonal. Depending on what you are selling, altering your listing tags to include seasonal keywords might yield significantly better results.
You should also try to avoid including your title in your tags, and vice-versa. Why? Because you’re sacrificing valuable space that could be used for alternate or similar keywords in order to duplicate content.
Etsy uses both the title and the tags when considering your listing, so as long as the keywords appear in one of these places, that’s all that matters.
One final thing to note is that Etsy increasingly favour the concept of “long tail keywords”. Despite sounding fancy, they’re usually just a few words (instead of one) and they tend to be a bit more specific in their phrasing e.g. “large canvas wall art” as opposed to just “wall art”.
The Listing Description
While it isn’t officially stated as such, it appears that Etsy’s position is that titles and tags are used to find a listing, while the description should be used by you to actually “sell” the product.
As a result, they favour a short description that explains anything the buyer needs to know, and includes anything the buyer may actually find valuable or enticing, such as the story or branding behind the listing.
It’s also considered a best practice not to include your tags in the description. There is debate over whether this is still a good decision following Etsy’s removal of the tags themselves on the listing web page. An argument can be made that since they are no longer present, they should be included in the description to better improve your SEO score with external search engines.
Either way, try to write your description in such a way as to include vital keywords.
The above section is a good example of the back and forth that goes on when it comes to SEO and how there is rarely consensus on what to do.
Can anything help me with this?
We’ve only scratched the surface of how many tips, tricks and rules you can use to improve your listing SEO. As you’ve also seen, these recommendations are changing all the time and can be tough to keep track of.
If you’re looking for a tool that includes a regularly-maintained, whole bunch of recommendations and suggestions, then check out my app, Crest.
It includes real time SEO editing, so you can alter the content of your listing and get immediate feedback on the improvements it has made.
Crest also includes SEO ratings and keyword tools to further improve SEO.
Crest also includes location-based analytics, allowing a deep dive into what your customers are buying and what they are interested in at a national, county, and even city level. You can learn more about it here.
In this article, you learned what SEO is, how it works, why it matters and what you should do as an Etsy seller to make it work for you. Hopefully, you you no longer feel in the dark and can begin to tackle SEO better.
Just remember that it is an ever-evolving process that requires constant review and refinement. There is no one-size-fits-all. Good luck!
If you don’t have a Crest account, now is an excellent time to sign up for one. It offers location-aware customer analytics, real-time SEO editing and advice, goal & forecast reporting, keyword search, and more.
Thanks for reading!