Saturday, April 7, 2018

In 2018, matchy-matchy is out for Etsy search

The algorithm


Etsy's search algorithm is transitioning into a completely new animal. The days of meticulously matching up phrases in your tags and titles for guaranteed Etsy relevancy will soon be past.

Etsy is in the process making search more human... The old way of search was not natural, the necessity to laboriously match titles and tags.
search algorithms are usually secret
Etsy's algorithm is in flux

Compliments of Etsy seller Deborah McGregor:
"SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. 
It does not mean “Match Words Up" 
In a nutshell, Etsy has leveled the playing field for sellers.


The algorithm just does not like me...


An algorithm does not "do" anything of its own initiative. It is only a middleman. Its job is to find common factors between a search query and the information on your listing page. It serves up results (called Search Engine Results Pages, or SERPs) based on common denominators... The more commonalities, the higher the item places. The algorithm does its job according to what its code tells it to do. No emotions are involved.

The order of search results is what has changed. In fact, the order changes from search to search on Etsy now.

How do I get better placement in search results?


There is only one way for any product to place well in a search query. Create your listing so it has as many common factors with search queries as possible. In order to do it well, you must know your target market of customers. What search queries will they use to find your items? If you do not know who is searching the internet for products like you sell, how can you use the same words as they do?


How do I even know where I place in search results?


Etsy seller CindyLou says that it is now impossible to even do test searches because of contextualization and personalization: every searcher will see something different.

You can ask someone else to search, but there is no guarantee that what they see is what someone else will see, either. Remember that in 2018, search is changing all the time, so search placement can vary by a lot even repeating the same search.

The best way to "see" how you are do
ing is to use your shop stats.


Where is Etsy's search heading?



Etsy search in 2018
Machine learning takes time
Google's driverless cars and Etsy's search have something in common. They are both being driven by machine learning, or so-called artificial intelligence. Both are going somewhere.

But of course the technology is new. There are some unknowns, some unintended consequences.

I believe that things will get better. But the process of machine learning will take time (some say as long as two years). In the mean time, mistakes may be made. Mistakes that could discourage sellers if they fail to see these changes in the long run, as "training" the new algorithm.

Etsy sellers have been accustomed to doing a lot of tweaking. Sellers routinely made changes to listings to make sure of word-matching, which is how Etsy's search worked in the past.

The goal of the new search algorithm is to show the best, most relevant listings to buyers. It is designed to do that without the need to constantly adjust listings. Won't that be a relief?

As mentioned, the days of matchy-matchy titles and tags are fading. This is because the new algorithm is smarter than that. Or it will be, eventually.

In reality, nothing has changed. But on another hand it has...

Vintage selling


Vintage sellers continue to complain about being the proverbial red-headed child. I try not to have any big expectations that things will change for vintage on Etsy. It is what it is and has been since the beginning... Vintage seems to be tolerated, but Etsy is primarily a handmade "creative" site.

I can deal with that. If it is working, fine. If I am not selling, then I try to figure out why and deal with the issue.


Please note


I make a number of observations here. If your shop is selling just fine, there is no need to change anything. 

Make any changes slowly. Check for effectiveness in your case.

Conclusion


Etsy is in flux. Search is rife with change. 2018 may be the year to "wait and see."


How do you feel? Is Etsy moving your shop to the next level?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Etsy Quick Trick: use your SKU's

organize your vintage items for sale
A SKU system can work for vintage
In the mid-1980's I worked at a major chain garden center. (Ever heard of Flower Time or Frank's Nursery and Crafts?)

I remember when SKU (stock keeping unit) numbers arrived there... the cashiers hated them, as they had to enter a whole string of numbers rather than just the price. But inventory became much more accurate.

SKU numbers have come a long way since then... In fact, Etsy has recently added searchable SKU numbers. Have you harnessed their power in your shop yet?

Quick tricks to improve your Etsy shop
Another quick trick for your vintage shop
We might brush it aside and tell ourselves it is more for bar codes and big companies. Not so.

It can be super simple and easy... I have some SKU names like “small metal bin” “bracelet bin” “glass shelf” and “hanging” to describe where listed stuff is located. 

Have you ever listed several similar items? You were worried about mixing them up so you put "1," "2," and "3" in the title. But that can look rather unprofessional... Now you can hide that and make it a SKU.

Your SKU will show up before the title of your item when you process an order. I really like it.

Having an inventory system is never a bad idea. This is especially true come tax time. (Ask me why I know.) I am in the process of adding a SKU system to my shop. How about you?

Give SKU's a try!

Here is more information from Etsy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sample keyword list for vintage sellers

keyword list ideas for vintage sellers
A hand written list is even more effective
When selling, we need to know our target buyer. Writing up and using a keyword list can be helpful. Well crafted listing text can lead to more sales. Really, it can.

What can such a list look like for a vintage shop? Here is a sample.

Descriptors


Sensational, fabulous, wonderful, lovely, great, fantastic, drool-worthy, stunning, incredible, enjoy, appreciate, delightful, fun, precious, glowing, luxurious, enticing, classic, beautiful, glorious, garnished, superb, distinctive, aesthetic, charming, fascinating, make you smile, striking, dramatic, cheerful, statement piece, lovable, special, sure to please, colorful, muted, perfect, superlative, understated, serene, eye candy, attractive

Regional terms (for me of course)


Northeast, New England, Maine, Pine Tree State, American, Primitive, Americana, Canadian, Acadian, Quebecois, Canuk, [words translated into language of target market buyers], folklore, cultural heritage, geographic detail, Maritime Provinces, Penobscot
hand write a keyword list
Do you have your key word list yet?

Vintage, conveying age


Vintage, antique, early, authentic, aged, old, ancient, last century, historical, bygone era, artifact, aged, prehistoric, antiquated, archaic, rarity, yore, classical, venerable, relic, decades

Styles


Timeless, classical, traditional, inspired, whimsical, compatible, industrial, rustic, primitive, ethnic tribal, Native American Indian, Southwestern, Southwest, art nouveau, art deco, arts and crafts, mission, mid century modern, retro mod, kitsch, Victorian era, aesthetic, colonial, cottage chic, boho, bohemian, Victorian revival, Georgian, abstract, brutalist, modernist, pop, country farmhouse, French apartment, Kawaii, Edwardian, Civil War era, Navajo, European, Scandinavian, Asian, Hollywood regency, essence of the period, tailored, modernist, steampunk, granny chic, folk art, coastal, beachy

Details of design and craftsmanship


Intricate workmanship, rich detailing, skillful craftsmanship, consummate professional, fine finishing details, lost art, artistic detail, pleasing dimensions, fine art, great proportions, classic lines, superb design, patented (including information), artisan, realistic design, made with care, finely executed, traditional methods, at the top of their game, finely crafted, well crafted, carefully made, durable, versatile, useful, finished with, topped off, plain, simple, high quality

Collector-friendly, words conveying uniqueness:


Collection, valuable, uncommon, unique, prized, one of a kind, OOAK, hard to find, rare, desirable, exclusive, only, sought after, curio, memento, remember, heirloom, specimen, trophy, keepsake, museum piece, souvenir, curious, singular, Wabi-sabi keepsake, memory, curio, treasure, special edition, signed, showpiece, keystone, conversation piece

Condition


Pristine, excellent, outstanding, museum quality, pre-owned, vintage, lovingly used, patina, signs of previous ownership, evidence of loving use, distressed, wearable, original condition, crisp, manufacturing flaw, wear consistent with age, complete, functional, scuffs, shows its age, strong, sturdy, secure, usable, for display only, original detail, factory finish, works as intended

Girly


Dainty, pretty, sweet, feminine, romantic, ethereal, delicate, confident woman, elegant, understated, silhouette, darling, cute, adorable, glam, confection, frilly

Jewelry


Glamour, pizzazz, sparkle, flowing, classical lines, designer, brushed, textured, stylish, flourish, glowing, luxury, scintillating, flashy, simple elegance, formal occasion, bling

Crafty


Embellish, repurpose, remodel, refurbish, easy to install, versatile, customized, salvaged, art assemblage, create, rusty, ornamental

------------------------------

The narrower your target buyer, the smaller this list will be.

Handwritten lists are supposed to be even more effective. (Who knew?) (Let me know how those Japanese characters for Wabi-Sabi go for you.)

Make a list and add to it as you think of more terms.

Use your keyword list as you compose listings.

Take your item descriptions to the next level with a buyer keyword list!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Etsy search in early 2018: algorithm factor list

colorful data graphic
No one really knows Etsy's algorithm
This post is about Etsy's search factors in 2018.

This is all theory and conjecture. Information is based on my observations and those of many others. If you want facts, please move on to another blog post.

Possible Algorithm Factors


Remember that these change all the time. And some are weighted differently.

(The algorithm is kept private. That maintains fairness for all sellers.)

Okay, here goes...

*Asterisk means factors that I have seen said by Etsy Admin that DO count. But factors can always change.

#Pound key means factors that I personally have seen at work.

->Elements seller can work on


Item quality

Beautiful click-worthy photos*
Titles and tags*
Accurate item category*
Attributes completely filled out*

Seller shop activity

Regularly renewing items and listing new#
Using Shop Updates in the last period of time (week? month?)#

Shop completeness

Completed About section*
Returns Policy* (have something)
Canned Policies* (Etsy prefers that sellers use their preset policies)

Shop services

Offering some free shipping
Offering some sales
Using Promoted Listings (internal Etsy ads seems to have an indirect positive effect)

Shop quality, buyer experience

Shipping quickly (do not go past your stated shipping time)*
Customer service cases*
Review score (stars)*
Copyright infringement cases*

Factors some feel play a part, but I disagree with

Use all 5 About photos
Using FAQs (in canned policies)
Frequent renewal of items
Using Etsy shipping labels
Using a cover photo (I do not)
Using Integrated PayPal (I do not)

Things that Etsy has stated do not factor in but may have changed

Content of Descriptions (admin has said that it may eventually be a part of search)
Using Pattern (website)

->Elements that sellers cannot directly control


Quality scores of the competition
Random rotation (of items within search)
Time of day
Buyer location (some countries are regionalized)

Buyer behavior

Shopper's recent search history
Shopper's overall Etsy search history
Shopper's social media activity through Etsy

Item quality

How long listing has been listed without sales#
Hearts (to a degree, within reason)
High click rate (can work negatively if no one buys)
Item conversion rate*#

Specific to search terms

Shop score for those search terms
Sales in that specific search*
Sales in similar searches#
Clicks in that specific search*
Clicks in similar searches
Favorites in that specific search*
Favorites in similar searches
Details (context) of current search*

Shopper data

Etsy Purchase history*
Shopper location*
Shopper age, gender and other demographics (this just makes sense)

Clicks of similar shoppers
Favorites of similar shoppers
Purchase history of similar shoppers

Shop quality

Shop conversion rate*
Backlinks to your shop
Backlinks to your listings

Items that are not a direct factor


Price (can certainly be an indirect factor)
Using all ten photos (could become an indirect factor if Etsy adds photo recognition)

-------------------

Phew, that was a lot of factors. No wonder artificial intelligence is necessary to sort it all out!

Have I missed something? Let me know and I will add it.

In another post we will cover what sellers can do with the information.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Vintage buyers: are yours collectors, trend setters or thrifty?

If you are a vintage seller, you already have a defined target market. Etsy defines it for you by limiting "vintage" to items over 20 years old. Plus, not everyone wants to buy pre-owned merchandise.

So we just limited our target market by, say, 50%. Every vintage seller is a niche seller. That was easy!

Within vintage there are at least three types of buyers:


target vintage buyers trendy thrifty collectors
Know your target market

  • collectors
  • trendy shoppers
  • thrifty shoppers

Who are your buyers?

  • What motivates them to buy? 
  • How does your shop appeal to those motivations?

Consider the buyers who come to Etsy and browse vintage shops... They want to buy something. Sometimes they will buy something they had no idea that they wanted until they saw it

What made them decide to buy? You need to crack the code.

Great product selection helps, but it is not the only factor.

Sellers need to identify why some items sell well. Harness that information and use it to sell more stuff.

Pinpoint your most effective listing style


Separate yourself from the products you sell... just consider the listings themselves. Not the "what" is being sold but "how" it sold. What is it about the listing's style and makeup that buyers are responding to?

Consider the details of some listings that sold right away. Look at a few items that were barely in your shop before they sold.

Ask yourself some questions about the makeup of each listing.


Wording & listing setup


  • Keywords. Check for keywords common to the titles or descriptions of your best-selling listings.
  • What was the opening sentence in the first paragraph? 
  • Description: how did you "talk" to your customers?
  • Were listings more effective if  you gave some history of the item? 
  • Were listings more effective if you suggested ways to use the item? 
  • Where in the listing did measurements appear?
  • vintage bottles on a shelf
    Collectors are unique buyers
  • How did you manage the "attributes" fields on the listing creation page?

Photos


Here is more information from Etsy about taking effective product photos.
vintage sellers photo style
Are you styling photos?

Target buyer


  • Consider what you know about who bought the items (age, location).
  • Was the item a gift?
  • Look at their Etsy profile. Can you see preferences in their favorites?
  • Was the buyer a collector, trendy or thrifty? Does the same listing style appeal to all three?


After gathering this data, analyze it. What made the listing effective?

Now, go make more listings like that.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The art & science of item descriptions

The opening paragraph of your item description is crucial. It is both a science and an art.
Item descriptions are important

First the science: your description should clearly inform the AI (artificial intelligence) algorithm*:
  1. what is for sale
  2. context for which the item is appropriate (example: "shower" ... is it wedding or bathroom? See "LSI" at the bottom.)
  3. type of query for which your item would be a good response
Craft your opening paragraph to match as many factors in the search query as possible. You must know your target market.

At the same time, your opening paragraph must engage your viewer, converting them into a buyer. Search engines and Etsy love a great conversion rate.

how do you set the hook
Catching buyers
Capturing the attention of a shopper is an art. It is where your personal writing skills come into play. 

Use your persuasive ability to market your product. Use a writing style and terminology that are comfortable for your target audience.

If you capture the attention of viewers in the first few sentences, they will continue to read the page. They will see all the interesting details you have provided that will convince them to buy.

If you fail to engage your shopper, they will never see the rest of what you have written. Instead they will leave the page, bouncing to another listing in another shop 😟.

Improve your bounce rate
Reduce your bounce rate
To restate, an effective item description must:
  • accurately convey what is for sale (to the AI in the algorithm*)
  • engage your viewer (so they stay and do not bounce out)
  • convince your shopper to buy (of course!)

How long should product descriptions be?


One school of thought is to keep listings brief. Use short paragraphs (even one sentence). Use bullet points. After all, users of smart phones have that small screen.

Yet some guidance is saying to aim for 2000 words. Say what? Supposedly descriptions of that length are ranked better by search engines. (This is taken from advice that is directed to websites and blogs as well as selling websites. Note that even my most complicated my blog posts are not that long, let alone item descriptions...)

Which is best? Use the amount of text that is best for your target customer base. Higher quality writing can be a tool to make your products sound more appealing than your competitors’. And longer descriptions take longer to read, which pleases search engines.

Use longer descriptions for items that are extra interesting, have a backstory, or are ultra competitive. What will work best to engage buyers?

It can be difficult to provide long descriptions that are meaningful. Share some interesting or amusing details about the item. Educational facts are fine. But customers love reading short stories just as much.

Give it a try on a few listings. Craft longer descriptions for pricier items. Save the short and brief ones for low-end stuff. Mix it up. Observe if anything changes.

Insert a link to more items. Most websites try to keep you in their store by linking you to their "latest" items or picks "just for" their shoppers. That tactic works for online vintage sellers, too. 

Can I use boilerplate in my listings?


Boilerplate is repeating the same block of text in each listing. The short answer is "no." There are many reasons. Item descriptions should be just that, descriptions. It should not be returns or shipping information. 

Some feel that the very end of a long description could contain some repetitive material, so you could try that... But put your shipping and return information in your shop policies where they belong.



How to incorporate title words in item descriptions



From Etsy admin in 2016:

Q: Is it better to copy & paste your title at the start of the description, or to sprinkle the keywords from your title conversationally into the first few sentences?

Admin: we recommend using your keywords as naturally as possible throughout your item description because Google does not like unnatural keyword use. Therefore, describe your product in a thorough and accurate way to give yourself the best shot at ranking well in Google.

The importance of natural wording


Search engines do prefer natural wording. That is not the only reason to use it...

Consider the increasing importance of voice search. Many people now own and use Alexa or Google Voice.

(So artificial Intelligence is already here. It is in fact helping people to find what they are looking for online.)

Users of this technology speak their search terms. If necessary, they refine their query. They tell the device what they want, using natural spoken English language (in the USA). The words used are "LSI keywords" in SEO-speak.

Do item descriptions really matter?

*NOTE: Etsy does not use item descriptions in search right now. But indications are that they could begin to use them. For now, the algorithms referred to are only for outside searches by search engines. But that could change. Part of the goal of this blog post is to make you aware of possible changes in the Etsy pipeline.


Extra credit:

What are LSI keywords?


LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. They are keywords related to your main keywords. So write in a natural way, not for a machine. For example, when writing about old things, you might include words like "vintage" or "antique" and "patina." Mention what it might have been used for, its history. 

The terms you use give clues to the search engines what your item is. Even better, those terms lead searchers to your items.

Search engines look for topic and context rather than exact words. Real people do too. So write content for real people. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Etsy Search: Titles - Sending the Right Signals

Can you reach every buyer with one title?

writing titles for etsy listings
Best practices for writing item titles

The new "machine learning" algorithms simulate how people look for things in real life. Think about it: they search for the few items that are tailored to a particular need.  

Buyers seek a specific item (not something that fits the needs of the entire vintage-buying population on earth...) 

Use your title to speak to the perfect buyer for that item. No need to worry about everyone else, as they are not buyers.


Speak to your target market


This goes back to basic marketing: who is your target market? You cannot reach everyone with one title. Narrow your target audience.

If you try to market your items  to everyone, you will hold back your shop. Besides, no one can afford to market to everyone. Not even huge companies.

Think about the commercials you see on sports events,  versus those you see on Saturday morning cartoons... Yes, different markets.

The importance of natural wording


Search engines prefer natural wording. But that is not the only reason to use it.

Consider the increasing importance of voice search. Many people now own and use Alexa or Google Voice.

(Indeed Artificial Intelligence is already in use, helping people to find what they are looking for online.)

Users of this technology speak their search terms. If necessary, they refine their search query. They tell the device what they want, using natural spoken English language. The words used are called "LSI keywords" in SEO-speak. (There will be more about LSI keywords in an upcoming post.)

Search engines look for topic and context rather than exact words. Real people do too. So write titles for real people. 

How do I reduce my bounce rate?


Make your listings appeal to the people your title is set up to attract. Use keywords and buyer phrases that are relevant to your target customers. 

Make shoppers comfortable. Convince them that you are knowledgeable and trustworthy. This is easier if you specialize in what you sell.

Here are more ideas for keeping buyers in your shop.

Why is it bad to use the same word combinations over and over in titles?


Some sellers get into the habit of using similar word combinations over and over again in their item titles. When you do that, you miss out on marketing to buyers who use different terms to search for your items.

Mix it up. I know it sounds crazy, but varying the wording of your titles could make a big difference in getting found. Change up your word combinations. What kinds of terms does your target audience use? Use a purchase phrase list.


One word that it is OK to have in every item title is the word "vintage." Do avoid placing the word "vintage" in the valuable real estate right at the beginning. Put it after the first five or so words.


What about "word salad" titles?


Avoid stuffing your titles with keywords. Although this may have been encouraged in the past, Etsy is switching over to artificial intelligence, or AI. "Stuffed" titles will no longer be rewarded in search.

AI is dealing with one searcher at a time. There is no benefit to stuff your titles with terms that make it unclear exactly what your product is. (An example is naming every possible holiday gift your item could be. Instead, aim for niche, long-tail searches.) 

Etsy's AI scours the site looking to match up searchers and the items they search for. When your title is unclear, AI will find lots of clear titles that do match what it is looking for. Those items get moved up in search. The “muddier” titles get pushed down in ranking.


Etsy admin answers questions about titles


Now let us look at some information from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Etsy has been moving toward AI for a couple of years now. 

In October of 2016 Etsy Administrators fielded many questions from sellers about getting items found in searches. Here are a few questions answered about titles:


Q: Is it acceptable to repeat a word in the title?
Admin: We don’t recommend repeating a word [the same word over and over] in the title.

Q: Must word phrases [keywords] within Titles and Tags match exactly?

Admin: Word phrases within titles and tags don’t need to match exactly. However, tagging your product for “red boots” and having “red boots” in your title will give you a better chance of ranking for “red boots”.

Q: If using commas within a title, is it recommended to put one space after the comma?

Admin: In general, we recommend making your titles as readable as possible while still being descriptive. This would usually involve putting a space after commas when appropriate. Google definitely rewards well crafted, easy to read titles.

Q: I would like to ask why is it SOOO important to use the same keywords and combinations in your title, in the description and again in the tags. .... We are constantly working to improve our internal search practices though and eventually we hope to not rely as much on the quantity of times you use a certain phrase when listing your product.

----------------------------

What signals are you sending with your titles? Are you reaching your target market? 

More on item descriptions next...

In 2018, matchy-matchy is out for Etsy search

The algorithm Etsy's search algorithm is transitioning into a completely new animal. The days of meticulously matching up phrases in ...