{Business Tips} ETSY SEO: Relevancy Over Recency

Last week, Etsy made a significant change to their search engine which impacts how customers find your shop via search.  The previous default search based on recency was replaced by a default based on relevancy.  For anyone who has spent time (and money) determining the appropriate re-listing strategy for a recency search, this change immediately impacted that strategy.  As a result, there have been a flurry of updates from Etsy, questions and concerns from shop owners, and posts across the web from individuals trying to sort it all out.

I have spent the the last week hunting down all the posts I could find on the topic and doing a TON of informal “testing” in my own shop to sort it all out and create a post that shares the many insights and ideas I’ve discovered.  My headline is that I believe the switch to relevancy search is a positive one for all of us.  There is a lot of work to be done, but the benefits to your business can be tremendous.  Before we jump into ideas for your shop in this new relevancy world, I want to step back and make sure we all have the same definitions of the difference between a recency search and a relevancy search.

Recency vs. Relevancy…What is the Difference?

We’ll start with recency.  This search is based on when an item was listed.  So, if I search for “blue dress”, I will see any items with blue dress in the title and/or tags.  The order of the items will be based on when the blue dresses were listed.  The newest listings are on top.  Two issues with this method of search are as follows:

  1. If a shop posts 5 blue dresses one evening, the customer searching may see all 5 of those dresses prior to seeing styles from other shops.  As the shop owner, you may like this.  However, putting yourself in the shoes of the shopper, this may not be as ideal.
  2. There is a belief out there that this form of search favors larger sellers because they are better able to afford to re-list items in their shops more frequently.  I didn’t really see results to prove/disprove this idea, but it does make some sense.

Now, on to relevancy. While not as straightforward as recency, the goal of relevancy is a great one – determine how closely a product is to matching a customer’s search terms.  The stronger the connection, the more relevant the product is to the search.  So, items with stronger connections are listed higher on the list no matter when the item was listed.

Pendant by LMG Design

My analogy for relevancy search is a puzzle – the search engine is doing the work to match the complex puzzle pieces…pairing your shop with the customer who is just the right fit.  Each puzzle piece, like your Etsy shop, is multi-dimentional and cannot be categorized into a box.  As EcoEtsy sellers we have the commonality of being eco-friendly, recycled, upcycled,etc.  In addition, we all sell different items – jewelry, bags, stationary, and more.  We also all have a different sense of style – traditional, funky, bold, classic, etc.  The combination of terms is what defines your puzzle piece, makes you unique, AND makes you RELEVANT to a specific group of shoppers.  So, the Etsy relevancy search is helping to find customers with a puzzle piece that perfectly fit your shop.

Etsy did a lot of testing before they made this switch to relevancy.  They said that in the testing performed, relevancy beat recency in number of listings clicked on from search, number of items favorited, and number of listings viewed per visit.  With that research, I agree with the Etsy point of view on relevancy:

Listing views and favorites lead to increased sales, so a search experience that leads to more of both is better for sellers….Relevancy is clearly a stronger experience for buyers as well.

So, What Impacts Relevancy?

The title of your item has a lot of weight in relevancy.  In fact, the title is the most important element to test and adjust in this new search definition.  Beyond a great title, item tags, and even recency play a role.  Developing a great relevancy strategy that is unique to your shop will take a bit of research and testing, but will allow you to gain tremendous insight on your customer and how they think when shopping on Etsy.  So, let’s  dive into each component of relevancy to determine how to optimize each of the listings in your shop and put your shop at the top of the relevancy search.

Creating a Relevant Product Title – Here are a few tips to get you moving towards great titles:

  1. Be accurate and descriptive – Creative titles may be fun, but they won’t work well in search
  2. Focus on words at the beginning of the title – they have the most weight.  Make sure these words explain what the item is.  So, instead of “Fun and Funky Blue Dress” the better alternative would be “Blue Dress with a Fun and Funky Pattern”.
  3. Exact word pairs matter.  So, if you sell unique wine charms, list “Wine Charms” and not “Charms for Wine Glasses”

Making the Most of Your 14 Product Tags

Tags have always been important in ensuring your products come up in search – both on Etsy and outside the site on search engines like Google.  These tags are your tool to describe your items in short soundbites.  In the recent enhancements to search, Etsy has also added a search feature that gives exact word pairs more weight.  This means that when a customer searches something like “wine cork jewelry” a shop that uses “wine cork” in the title or tag will be a better match than a shop who just uses “cork”.

The Etsy team says that, unlike the title, the order of the tags does not impact your ranking.  Make sure you use a diversity of terms to describe all dimensions of your item.

For tagging ideas, here are a few things to try:

  1. Look in your descriptions for words that “pop”
  2. Follow the Etsy merchandising tips and use key words that align with the trends and apply to your items
  3. Use the search suggestions on Etsy.  When you start to type in a search, ideas come up.  If any of those ideas are relevant to your item, that might be a good one to select.
  4. Look at your list of tags and if you haven’t filled your 14 spots, consider synonyms.
  5. Check out your shop stats to see what is working
  6. Search the Etsy blog for “Tagging”.  There are many posts with great ideas out there.

Role of the Materials Tags

Just like your item tags, material tags can be used to more completely describe your item.  Material tags do not carry the importance that the item tags do.  However, you should still take care to have descriptive tags of the materials you use.

The Role of Recency in the Relevant Search

While the importance of product title and tags are stronger in the relevancy search, recency still plays a role.  When shoppers search broad terms, like “purse”, and there are thousands of results priority will be given to the most recently posted items.

Also, at the top of every relevancy search four of the most recent items appear.  The strategy you move forward with for updating your listings may shift with the priority on relevancy.  However, keeping items fresh in your shop is still very important.  In addition to re-listing items, make sure that you are consistently adding new items to your shop.

The more listings you have in your shop the more opportunities you have to be found by your target audience.

Where to Start – Step #1 – Brainstorm and Update

So, we know what relevancy is…now what do we do?!  Updating for the relevancy search can seem big and daunting, especially if you have a shop full of items.  My advice is “just start”!  You can pick 3-5 items to do testing on or jump in with both feet and make initial tweaks to all of you items in one day.  Either way, the important thing is to do something and not put it off until “tomorrow”.

As you enter this project, enter with a new set of eyes – those of your customer.  Look objectively at each item and really think about how they would search.  Check your stats for ideas and go out and search a bit on Etsy looking for different items and see how you think.  Your customers may have a similar thought process.

Step #2 – Monitor What Works

After you make some changes in your shop, you can begin to monitor what is working.  There are a number of places you can begin to check to see which listings are performing better/worse than the others.  While in many cases Google Analytics is a great place to monitor your business, for this project there are 3 other sites that can provide more insight into what is happening within the walls of the Etsy site:

Etsy Shop Stats – Your shop stats within Etsy is a great place to start.  If you haven’t checked your stats yet, log into Etsy and then link to your shop stats.  Within the stats you will see how many people have visited your site, where they are coming from, and what search terms they have used to get to your shop.  Last week Etsy created a blog post and an Etsy Labs tutorial on the using the new Etsy Stats.  The video is about 25 minutes long and both the video and blog post are full of information.

Craftopolis – There are several things I like about Craftopolis.  While you can view some general information about any shop you want, you have the ability to create a direct link to both your Etsy shop and Google Analytics.  From Etsy, Craftopolis pulls your shop hearts and sales and from Google Analytics they pull visitor counts and page views.  As you can imagine, these links provide much more depth of information!  For my relevancy testing this week,  there were two features that I used a LOT to determine what keywords were working better/worse than others.

  1. Page Views – On the right of the main page, you see a thumbnail photo of each item page that is viewed, the number of times it is viewed, and the number of hearts received.  As I changed title and keyword strategies for my items, I’ve been able to watch those items move up and down the count list.
  2. Tag Report – On the tabs at the top of the page, there is one called “Tag Report”.  This page shows thumbnail photos of items searched, lists the keywords that the customer typed in, and notes on what page of the search results your item was found on.  I’ve been using this one to gauge if my items are moving up from “Page 15 or worse” to “Page 1 or 2”.

CraftCult – This site has an awesome set of tools to show who is “hearting” your shop or items. The tool lets you look at the information over different time periods – day/week/month.  I really like how the heart charts show trends over time in a very visual way.  The site also lets you know if you’ve been featured on Etsy’s front page or in an Etsy Gift Guide.  For the relevancy search project, I used the heart charts quite a bit.  I was able to look across days/weeks and see if changes I was making were having an impact on increasing hearts to both my shop and my items.

Real Life Test Example

From testing in my shop this week, here is the headline of one test I did on three of my keychains.  All three keychains are similar in design and all posted in the last couple of week.  Prior to my test, each keychain was receiving 1-2 views per day.  On Monday of this week, I changed one headline to “Keychain – Wine Cork and Recycled Glass”.  The other two are quite a bit more complex and I left them the same.  After four days, here are the number of views on each one.

Keychain – Wine Cork and Recycled Glass – 12 Views

Classy, Upcycled Wine Cork and Orange Recycled Bead Keychain – 5 Views

Red Guitar Wine Cork Keychain – 5 Views

While the numbers are small, the simple change in the headline along more than doubled my item views!  If I could double the views of every item in my shop, awareness for my brand would skyrocket!!  I will definitely be out there making many more changes like this over the next few days.

Step #3 – Continuous Improvement

Just because you do some initial changes and testing this week, this is an area that you need to revisit frequently.  Trends change, seasons change, and you should consistently look through your shop for “tweaks” that will make your items more relevant at any point in time.

Summing It Up

Friendship Pair by Molecular Muse

There is no silver bullet answer to the “right” way to list items and ensure you come up in the Etsy relevancy search.  What you can do is leverage all the tips and advice that is being provided by the Etsy team to make each of your listings as strong as possible.  The more descriptive and focused the listing is, the more likely that you will find that perfect customer match for your shop.  Etsy has been posting many blog posts and Virtual Lab videos on the relevancy search topic.  I would encourage you to go out and check out the many tips and hints they are providing.

Most important – Get out there, get focused, and try some things!  As you learn, take the time to share what you are learning with the EcoEtsy team either here or in the Yahoo! forum.  The more we test as a team the quicker we will all move up the learning curve on this new priority of relevancy search!



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  1. this was a very informative article. Thanks so much

  2. This post has been so helpful and informative. Should have read it sooner.:)

  3. What a helpful article!!! Thank you for taking the time to write this for us!!!

  4. WOW! Brilliant research and excellent article. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge in such a clear and relevant way. I am glad there is a change to relevancy. Thanks too for your links to Craftopolis and Craft Cult, I use Google Analytics a lot for information but it is great to get different perspectives. Well done, Christine

  5. Darryl Black says:

    Thanks sooooo much for this article – extremely helpful if not daunting how much work to be done now.Love this team and all the support.Thank you again

  6. Fabulous article!!! This is one of the best articles that have been written on this change! thank you so much, I am tweeting and liking this one! :)

  7. Thank you so much for this post!!
    I’ll continue to work on my listing with your great tips!!!

  8. Herbfriend says:

    Thanks for this really helpful Eco etsy blog post!! I am ready to try some of your great suggestions.
    We really appreciate it!

  9. I’ve been playing around with the title part for 2 days now, sadly I haven’t seen any difference. By playing I mean I really put the important words in front! But I’ll try a few more days and see how it goes. Thank you for the post! :)

  10. Thank you for sharing those tips with us. It is going to be very helpful indeed! :)

  11. This post kicks butt and I am so thankful that we are all in this together.
    Thank you ever so.

  12. Great job and so much information in this post! Thank you for your efforts.
    I applaud etsy for finally making the switch to relevancy.

  13. Lori,
    Totally awesome job! With all the buzz on the team’s forum this week, on soaring sales for some and slumping sales for others, this post really sheds the light on the “Why’s”.

    Now that the slow summer season is coming to an end, this is a perfect time to re-evaluate our shops and really get to work.

    Thank you for your insightful research for this post.

  14. Lori Awesome job! Thank you for breaking this topic down. As I was reading I was working on refining some of my product titles, then I set off to test and was very pleased with the results. Since Etsy has been making all its changes, my shop visitors have also increased. Before I was getting lost in a sea of Etsy Beauty because I’m a bad relister. So the switch to relevancy is definitely working in my favor. I know they have some tweaking they still have to do but I’ve been happy over all. Thanks for putting this whole concept in plain English. You Rock!

  15. This is AMAZINGLY helpful! I will be re-reading it a few times to absorb it all…I feel so lucky to be part of this team! Thanks so much!

  16. Thank you for this great information!