Marketer | Writer | Global Citizen

Best Practices in Etsy SEO

When my sister and I started our Etsy shop, we had no clue on how to make our products stand out among the 45 million sold by 1.9 million sellers.

Happily we managed to sell half of our stock within 3 months of operation, during one of the most competitive retail seasons of the year, a development we hadn’t expected.

Even more stupefying, we managed to get on page 1 of Google Shopping for the Apple Watch leather bands we were flogging.

Was it luck? There surely was an element of that, but I’d attribute it more to SEO (search engine optimization) for Etsy.

First off, this isn’t a full-on Etsy SEO guide. There are lots of them online, from sources more authoritative than my sister and me. What I can contribute are the steps we took to our modest achievement.

Do be reminded that these worked for us. They may not work for you because — and I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’re an Etsy seller — you’ve got entirely different merchandise, challenges and so on and so forth.

Take from the below what you think is applicable, and let me know if it worked at all.

Get a better idea of SEO

Boring, right? Who wants to familiarize herself with search engine optimization when it’s just so much more fun to design and create products, then list them?

Because — and this is becoming my mantra more and more, not just with Etsy but for every marketing initiative:

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your stuff is if no one can find it.

Knowing even just the basics of SEO will add a new layer of consideration to what you eventually sell and how you list it on Etsy. So many of us just get the urge to create then rush to market, thinking dreamily that it’s going to sell like hotcakes. Except maybe it doesn’t.

SEO will teach you how to look at search trends to uncover potential opportunities, like what to produce for selling on Etsy. It’ll also teach you how to choose names for your products and how best to provide a description so that Google can helpfully point out your creations to potential buyers.

In this day and age, we are selling to two entities: People and Google. The former is turning to the latter for answers to their questions. Structuring your offerings so that both parties understand what you’re selling is essential if you’re ever going to turn a profit.

Having worked at a digital agency where SEO was the core competency, we were all told to kick off our learning with Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. As of this writing, Moz is updating the guide but it’s still a comprehensive, non-intimidating place to start.

Invest in an SEO tool specific to Etsy

If you’ve been good and at least paid a visit to the Moz site, you’d have seen that SEO is a pretty wide landscape.

As such, SEO has subsets such as local SEO, where the methodology is refined for the purpose of ranking better in local search. Local SEO is most applicable to local businesses and the approach here is focused on how, say, a local dry cleaner pops up when a customer searches for ‘dry cleaner near me’.

So of course there are Etsy-specific SEO tools. The one my sister and I chose was Marmalead for the following reasons:

  • It’s clear and easy to learn, even for a beginner
  • Your listings get graded and there are suggestions on how to improve them
  • It has a keyword tool that grades keywords and offers alternatives
  • Great competitive intelligence – Discover the shops in your niche that are doing well and study their characteristics
  • Market intelligence – Find out if the product you’re planning to make has any demand before you even get swept up in making it

Like all tools, Marmalead also has its flaws. The biggest one for me is this: Keyword suggestions are based on Bing recommendations.

If you, a Chrome baby, don’t know of the existence of Bing, it’s Microsoft’s search engine that’s bundled into PCs. Bing and Yahoo (yep, it’s still alive!) make up approximately a third of desktop search engine market share.

Bing is the go-to search engine of the less web-savvy. At the agency where I once worked at, it was standard practice to tell older clients that no, they weren’t using Google when they searched, they were using Bing. I attribute the confusion to Bing being bundled in with their PC. Most of these clients had no idea that they could switch to another search engine in their preferences, much less that there was a choice.

I asked Marmalead, out of curiosity, why Bing? Marmalead’s Kevin had this reply:

‘We use Bing instead of Google because way back in 2015 when were building the app, we tested this and Bing provided us with more keywords that are related to crafting, arts, and other more relevant keywords than Google. So from then on, we used Bing because we think that there’s a better chance that Bing will serve us keywords that sellers can actually use.’

If their buyers are on Bing, though. The reality is that 2/3 of desktop search is conducted on Google. And desktop search has now been surpassed by mobile search. According to this report, nearly six out of 10 searches are now done on a mobile device. And guess who owns nearly 100% of mobile searches? Our dear friend, Google. You can’t even see Bing in this chart, it’s pretty much the x axis.

To my sister and me, however, that wasn’t a gamestopper. We felt that Marmalead offered more upsides than this one downside, and we could always do keyword research with other sources.

Research demand before producing anything

I’m aware that this is probably advice no one takes, at least when she opens a shop on Etsy. But you could use this pointer before you start down the path of creating anything new.

My sister makes excellent, excellent leather bracelets. Yes, I’m biased. But even if she wasn’t my sister, I’d still think they are outstanding. We haven’t sold any though because of enormous competition, our unwillingness to compete by price, and the fact that the market is very saturated.

What has sold and landed us on Google Shopping’s page 1? Apple Watch leather bands. They are a headache to produce but people are searching for them, there aren’t too many sellers of genuine leather Apple Watch bands on Etsy and you can still command a fair price.

As sellers, we get attached to what we make and are affronted when no one buys merchandise that we’ve put our hearts and souls into. One lesson we learned from our Etsy experiment is that we need to be pretty cold-blooded in judging what the market wants versus what we want. They’re not necessarily the same, and they reiterate another lifelong marketing lesson I learned years ago:

People buy for their own reasons, not yours.

List regularly to improve your rankings

Etsy’s algorithm is unknown, of course, but it definitely favors stores that are constantly updated, which makes sense. As a shopper, do you like getting a newsletter with the same old tired product shot? Do you click through to the store? Probably not.

Do your organic (i.e. unpaid) rankings a favor and make it a habit to list frequently. If you can’t post new items, renew your current listings, take new photos and revise the descriptions.

It’s in Etsy’s interests to have shops currently refreshing. More variety –> more shoppers –> more sales. Having a stagnant shop come up in search results turns off buyers, which hurts Etsy’s share price.

Keyword the life out of your listings

Keywords are the gasoline that fuels search, on Google, Etsy, Amazon and any other platform. If there’s one practice that should take up at least a third of your time building your Etsy business, it’s optimizing your keywords. Think of it as good housekeeping in the same way that you do laundry every week.

Some of the more obvious and easy ways to work on your Etsy keywords:

  • Save your photos with file names that tell Google what they’re about. That means swapping that IMG1234 file name for detailed descriptions like ‘Blush pink cotton fabric by the yard’.
  • A good tip from Marmalead: The first 40 characters of your product title are the most critical. Resist the temptation to put in something witty and put keywords that are mostly likely typed in by your potential buyers.
  • Use all the 13 tags that Etsy generously provides. Put in keywords such as ‘blush pink’, ‘blush fabric’, ‘blush cotton’, ‘fabric BTY’ until you’ve used up all 13. If your title was off the mark, the tags might just save you.

In closing, I particularly like what Marmalead said about running a successful Etsy shop:

‘Most shops fail. Most shops think more is more. Don’t be most shops. Spend time on the things that matter and ignore the rest.’

Amen to that.



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Going For Woke: How Brand Activism is the New Path to Profit

‘These creatives are trying to make their toilet paper save the world.’
So opined fellow creative Rob Baiocco of BAM Connection, who was wryly commenting in a Guardian article about marketers’ new pursuit of social justice cred.
Is endowing the most banal of products with meaning as ludicrous as one would think? In October 2017, because the subject intrigued me as a marketer, I conducted my own research using SurveyMonkey.
The findings showed that, increasingly, consumers choose brands that are aligned with their values and shed those they perceive as a mismatch.

How To Pick Colors Like A Pro

When it comes to choosing colors, people are almost always confident about what looks good on them. After all, they’ve had years to experiment with every shade possible, and know for a fact what works and what doesn’t.

The same can’t be said for picking brand colors. Not only do you not have the luxury of time to experiment, it’s very easy to get things horribly wrong. So we tend to leave color decisions to the experts, ie the agency or the graphic designer.

That said, dabbling in the parts of the color picking process is educational and fascinating, especially if you’re a person who has always been intrigued by colors, color psychology and the like. But if colors bore you, then think of the 5 tools below as simplifiers of irksome tasks, like making your Powerpoint deck look more professional.

Adobe Color Wheel

Cost: Free

Adobe Color Wheel

Think of Adobe’s Color Wheel as the digital version of hand mixing paints on a palette. Move or stretch the arm on the circle to find a shade you like. Choose the color rule — analogous, monochromatic, complementary, etc — from the menu on the left. A palette will be produced showing the right shades.

If you click on the Explore tab, you’ll find palettes that other people have produced, which you can upvote or download. If you wish to save your palette (retrievable in the My Themes tab), you’ll have to sign up for an Adobe ID.

Adobe Color palettes

Got a photo with colors that make your heart beat faster? Then you’ll love this neat feature. Click on the camera icon underneath the Sign In link on the right — if you mouse over the camera it’ll say ‘Create from Image’. Upload a photo and the program will extract the colors into a palette based on a color mood you choose. The dropdown menu on the left has five different color moods and one custom which allows you to cherry pick the shades you want from the picture.

In this example, I’ve used a screen grab of a page from Elle Decor France, an interior design magazine that always makes me want to rearrange my furniture and distress my walls. Adobe extracted the greens and chocolates and created a muted palette.

Adobe Color Wheel palette from photograph

Cost: Free

Coolors homepage

Adobe Color Wheel has so many useful features — it’s like the Swiss Army Knife of color planning — but sometimes you just want to mess around in one area without getting distracted by everything else going on.

Like what if you just wanted to play around with the palettes? This is where comes in.

The only thing Coolors does is spit out palettes. Fool-proof, pretty ones. All you have to do is click on the Generate link, which brings you to a row of five color bars. You can start with one hex code, then tap on your space bar for Coolors to come up with suggestions. You can also lock colors to remember the shades you want, or calibrate a shade up or down until you find one to your liking.

The palette below is the one I built for this website. I started with two shades that I really liked: Blush pink and a blackish purple like OPI’s Lincoln Park in the Dark nail polish. Once I put in the two hex codes, Coolors came up with the three other suggestions.

A sample palette from Coolors

It’s important to know that each shade must have a role to play and not just be merely decorative. In this informative blog post by Adobe, an ideal palette is broken down by one neutral color, two ‘pop’ colors and one call-to-action (CTA) color. You’ll find that having structure such as this in creating a palette will head off potential headaches in future, eg H1s or headlines that don’t stand out from body copy.

Hello Color

Cost: Free

Hello Color

Sometimes you don’t need an entire palette — all you need is a contrasting color that doesn’t look like dreck. You want to achieve what Pablo Picasso once mused aloud in wonder: ‘Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing?’

Hello Color is as minimal as it gets. Just type in the hex code of your preferred color in the URL’s c parameter (see the visual below on where to find it) and it’ll spit out a fine matching color that you’d never have thought of, as well as other shades. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

How customize Hello Color

Brand Colors

Cost: Free

Brand Colors homepage

Now that you’ve had a go at creating palettes and seen some not-too-shabby results, you may be interested in replicating the palettes of specific brands. Perhaps you’ve seen the below infographic that spurred the idea, or read up on color theory and want to apply these insights to your own brand. Hey if red works for Virgin and Tesla …

Color Emotion Guide by The Logo Company

Brand Colors is a library of colors for 600+ brands, with an even spread across US and international names. All the hex codes are spelt out and you can download them for reference. The logos are sourced from official documentation such as identity/brand guidelines of press kits. If you are the steward of your company brand and think it ought to be featured, you can certainly suggest it to the site’s owner, Galen Gidman.

Brand Colors is not perfect — Boise State University is on the list while Apple isn’t — but it’s a great place to start researching other brands’ palettes and noting how they’re used.

Color Name

Cost: $.99

How Color Name works

Let’s say you’re out and about and saw a very fetching scene, the colors of which are so ravishing you’re inspired to create a palette.

You can take a photo with your iPhone and upload the photo to Adobe Color Wheel. Or you could download the Color Name app for 99 cents and start on your palette right there and then.

What’s neat about Color Name is that it identifies colors by name — what’s scarlet for you could be fuchsia for me — thus minimizing confusion. Just tap your finger on any part of the photograph and the app will provide the RGB specs and its official name for the color you picked. Tap on the color’s name at the top and it will bring you to a screen with RGB, CMYK, HSB and hex codes for the color plus three similar Pantone shades to consider.

All these apps demystify what we’ve always thought of as a skill belonging only to the artistically gifted. Choosing colors that look great is actually much more a science that it is an art.

‘Not only can color, which is under fixed laws, be taught like music, but it is easier to learn than drawing, whose elaborate principles cannot be taught,’ said French Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix, who lived in the 1800s. He may not have foreseen the wondrous 21st century tools that can do just that, but would’ve certainly appreciated the vistas they have opened for the non-artists among us.