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.