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.

Use This Handy Asset Checklist For Branding or Rebranding

The exciting thing about branding is starting a new identity from scratch. In the case of rebranding, it’s giving something old and tired a new lease on life.

What’s not quite as fun are the million-and-one fiddly details that go into the exercise.

Stuff like:

  • Are the design team and me talking about the same thing? Like, is a stacked logo a square logo?
  • Are we covering all the items we truly need? Are we forgetting some that are actually important or, conversely, overdoing it and thereby incurring more expense?
  • Are we all on the same page about approval circuits and building in approval time before launch?

There are many excellent and free branding brief templates to furnish your agency or designer, such as this one from FreshSparks. What’s not so common is a laundry list of all the assets that should be covered by the process. A list sets the foundation for budgeting, timing and organizing. A list grounds you.

So here’s my version that I’ve used several times, from rebranding a 44-country international firm to creating a brand new identity for a digital agency. You can download it as a Word doc as well.

It’s a rare case where all items on this list will be checked off. B2B companies would require more of the digital templates while an e-commerce outfit would need a fuller range of ad formats. Feel free to adjust as necessary.

Logo/brand mark

Tesla logo guidelines

Tesla’s brand guidelines specify the amount of clear space required around the brand mark, as well as where it should appear. For example, the logo should never be placed on a highly patterned background or photograph is

  • Landscape
  • Portrait
  • Square/stacked
  • Black and white
  • Reverse
  • Favicon

Files should be in as many formats as possible: JPG, PNG, EPS, AI. Include sizes that can be used for larger formats such as outdoor signage and as small as a favicon. The wide range of measurements will test the skill of your designer, as the brand mark has to look good at 16px (a favicon’s size) as it would wrapped around the side of a building.


Beats By Dre typography example

Beats By Dre’s typography embodies its brand: Solid and contemporary, almost masculine.

  • Serif
  • Sans serif

A normal number of fonts to start with would be two, a serif and a sans serif that complement each other. Depending on the brand’s needs, you may also want to commission a script or another distinct font for headlines.

Exercise good sense in choosing fonts. The more fanciful or rare ones require a license which can be cost-prohibitive when purchasing it for multiple users.

In addition, clients who do not have these fonts in their systems will find that any documents you sent them have defaulted to Times New Roman or Arial, not to mention the formatting has all gone off. Remember that Google Fonts are good looking and free!

Color palette

AirBnb color palette

AirBnB’s color palette has 9 shades but 6 shades is a good number to start with.

  • Dominant color 1
  • Dominant color 2
  • Accent color 1
  • Accent color 2
  • Accent color 3
  • Accent color 4

Picking brand colors must be one of the most enjoyable parts of a brand exercise. If you want to play around with colors yourself, have a go using these tools.

Digital templates

Future Prospect Powerpoint template

From cover slide to bullet styles, your PowerPoint presentation should be consistent with your brand. Future Prospect PowerPoint template by Jumsoft.

  • Letterhead
  • PowerPoint or Keynote presentation
  • PowerPoint or Keynote charts – Pie, bar, stacked bar, line, etc.
  • Infographic
  • Icons
  • One-page brochure
  • White paper
  • Invoice
  • Receipt
  • Email signature
  • House ads – Leaderboard, mobile leaderboard, wide skyscraper, large rectangle, medium rectangle, billboard

Digital templates are the workhorses of your brand asset library. In the absence of guidelines, users tend to put their own creative stamp on common documents. Nip these in the bud by providing a full spectrum of branded applications.

Social media assets

Aman Instagram account

Aman’s Instagram account is serene and luxurious, just like the resort company itself.

  • Headers – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn
  • Profile photos
  • Social ads

Normally social media assets are cobbled together internally by the marketing or social media team. If so, it never hurts to run mockups by the brand steward or designer to gauge brand cohesiveness. Future iterations can then be created with pointers in mind.


Jukebox Print cards

Print can be a surprisingly strong way to anchor your brand. Cards by Jukebox Print.

  • Business card
  • Letterhead
  • Letter envelopes
  • Window envelopes
  • Catalog or document envelopes
  • Invoice
  • Receipt
  • Note card or compliments slip
  • Presentation folder
  • Mailing label
  • Brochure

We like to think that print has gone the way of the mastodons, but marketers are discovering that in the mad rush to go digital, emptier mailboxes mean better opportunities to showcase your brand. Did you know that direct mail as a percentage of all mail went up in 2016? And never underestimate the power of the humble receipt to carry brand messaging.

Corporate signage

Slack offices Toronto

Lobby signage doesn’t have to be boring. Slack offices in Toronto, courtesy of Office Snapshots.

  • Lobby signage
  • Directional signage
  • Glass vinyl graphics
  • Exterior signage
  • Event signage

Think of signage as another canvas for your brand. How can you use that space to communicate your brand’s key attributes?

Trade show assets

Ray Ban tradeshow booth

This Ray-Ban tradeshow booth certainly turned heads at an ophthalmology conference in Milan. Photo courtesy of Trive Digest.

  • Retractable banners
  • Trade show booth
  • Table drapery

Apart from their networking benefits, conferences and trade shows are prime opportunities to build brand awareness. You may not have the budget of Ray-Ban in creating a stunning booth, but never underestimate how a well designed retractable banner can stop traffic.

Other applications

New York Post gummy bears giveaway

People are still talking about this bucket of gummy bears that the New York Post gave away during Advertising Week 2014.

  • Branded premiums
  • Branded attire
  • Vehicle wrap
  • Photography
  • Other application 1
  • Other application 2

Want to make this list yours? Download it as a Word document.

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