Monday, November 7, 2016

Etsy search, the fairness algorithm

Of course, sellers want to get found when buyers search on Etsy. Here is Etsy's basic information.  (Effective November 1, 2017, please note that Etsy's help page no longer states that a diversity of shops will be shown. What is known as “clumping” is now the norm.)

In the past, Etsy wanted to give each seller a chance, to be fair. That meant that search results were spread among many shops.


Etsy has algorithms, or special programs that adjust search results. All big websites use them. (On eBay, it is called "best match.") 

Theories abound as to exactly how Etsy's search algorithm is working. It changes all the time.

One issue of late has been that many sellers report that their sales fluctuate. High, then low, then back up again. This is an example of this phenomenon from my shop:

Sales up and down

Here is a blogger who tackles the subject.  She has interesting theories. Here is a second post on the subject.
Three points made in the above-referenced blogs:

1. Fairness algorithm. Once you make a sale (at least some of) your listings go to the bottom of search. This allows other shops' items to shine. Until their item sells.

2. "Lights out" or "carousel" theory. Whole groups of shops are rotated lower, then higher in search. It explains why many shops see "nothing for days then ding ding! 4 sales in one evening. Then dead again."

3. The "bucket" theory is based on some admin comments, as well as questions Etsy asks when you start a shop. Etsy puts us into a bucket depending on if we are a new seller, hobby interest, part-time seller or full-time seller. The full-time seller gets a bonus.

This is a new article on the cycles that our items' rankings go through that provides an interesting scenario.

Fairness Algorithm / Rotation

Here's the answer given during Etsy's recent question-and-answer session:

Q: Do you implement a Cap System where listings are hidden/penalized in search when they sell (X number of times) or generate (X amount of revenue), and replaced with listings for (X amount of time) that are less relevant? Are shops given Quotas for Orders/Revenue they are allowed to make per month?
Admin: Hi Athena, we don’t set quotas on shops for the number of orders they are allowed to fulfill a month but we will routinely experiment with different search ordering which might happen to give less popular listings a more prominent position.…..
Admin: Hi everyone, I'm sorry if my initial response wasn't clear. We don't actively rotate successful sellers out of searches. We have been running experiments for as long as Etsy has been around to ensure the mix of results we show users is relevant. This is not a new change we have implemented.
So, the admin comments state that they have been routinely experimenting with "different search ordering" "for as long as Etsy has been around."

Do you see patterns in your shop?

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