Monday, November 20, 2017

Who is in the driver's seat?

What is up with Etsy's search?

Etsy's search algorithm has changed
Hold on tight!

Reports vary... some shops are doing all right and some are not: theories abound.

Things have changed with Etsy's search. That is a fact. As one seller put it,"relevancy is no longer relevant on Etsy."

This may sound radical, but it is time to reassess everything that what we think we know about how search works. Everything. The entire ball game has changed.

Why are sellers holding their breath?

Artificial Intelligence is now in the driver's seat of Etsy search. 

Etsy feels a bit like driverless car... No one, not even the programmers, know exactly where the search "vehicle" is headed with the new "recommendation technology." Sellers will have to be patient. "Machine learning" has to do its thing. It will be seeking connections between searches and purchases. Its goal is to figure out what searchers want to see, what motivates them to buy.

Artificial intelligence at work
Analyzing data takes time
It takes time to examine millions of pieces of data. The algorithm will be looking for connections, called "context-specific results." This new technology will be seeking common factors between millions of buyer search queries and actual sales. It will be connecting the dots.

Add to that personalization of results. Everyone will see something different.

Etsy's search has become more complicated than any human can understand... "machine learning." That is why no one can even begin to predict search results at this point.

The thought is that search will change all the time for a year or two. Search results may at times be bad due to the learning curve. Of course, sales can suffer in the short term.

This "deep learning" technology is calculated to "deliver even more relevant search results and a shopping experience that can be even more tailored to individual buyers." Ultimately, things should improve.

Google's driverless car goes places... It is basically doing what it has been "trained" to do. Eventually Etsy's search will get there.

Can Etsy's machine learning figure out vintage?

Vintage is vulnerable at Etsy. It seems like the proverbial red-headed step-child. Etsy is stressing its "made by someone" mystique, which is not vintage.

Etsy stressing creative goods
Etsy is stressing handmade in this sale banner from late 2017
Being in on the ground floor of a revolutionary new search experience has its pros and cons. Etsy sellers are about to find out the good, the bad and the ugly.

What can be done now?

Until more information is provided, making major changes would just be a shot in the dark. Let common sense prevail.

For now, the rules appear to be the same as always... When listing, accurately describe your item. Use understandable and descriptive language. Carefully word your titles and tags. Fill out any slots for attributes. (Those are material, size and other search factors that are different for each type of item). Use great photos.

Etsy's instructions have not changed. Yet at least. (Please let me know if you see that they have.)

Hang on tight, though. It could be a rough ride when machine learning is driving search.

Want to know more? Here is some more in-depth information about recent changes in Etsy search.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

On machine learning and other Etsy search changes...

Navigating Etsy's sea of changes
Hold on tight... Etsy is a sea of changes
Sometimes it feels like there is a sea of change at Etsy. I know that I felt that way earlier this year. Since then, there have been further transformations afoot.

For one thing, Etsy stated that they are doing even more testing than in the past. They use the term "experiment velocity."

Etsy has not announced these changes per se. But they are happening.

Etsy has added many new search features:

  • Item attributes can now be searched in some cases. (Make sure yours are all filled out.)
  • Badges may appear for things like "best seller" and what they call a "scarcity".
  • Guided search, which are orange-toned buttons that appear at the top of some broad searches.

Etsy guided search
Some changes to Etsy search

  • Shop feedback (star ratings) now display in search results.
  • Similar items buttons are under search results (only show up if your cursor is over that item).

Artificial intelligence & search

Etsy has begun to use machine learning technology ("artificial intelligence"). That is why Etsy purchased the company Blackbird Technologies last year.

No one knows Etsy's algorithm
What is Etsy's algorithm?
The goal is to determine the intent of a buyer when making a search. (Here is more about the related "Context Specific Search Ranking.")

In the past, search results were returned to shoppers that best matched their exact phrases in tags and titles. And the best "quality scores." 

Items used to be shown one per page per shop as per the "fairness" part of the old algorithm.... but that has changed...

Some things have been removed

Gone is the "shop diversity" element. There is no longer a limit of one item per shop per page of search results. "Clumping" is now the norm. This is a big change for some shops.

Also gone is the opportunity to test search to see how your items place. Why? As mentioned above, your search results are becoming contextualized and personalized. Results are different for each buyer. 

As artificial intelligence is self-learning, the personalization is still developing. It is learning to make connections between the terms that searchers use and what their real intent is. (For example, when someone types in a word, what is it that they eventually buy?) Etsy stated that factors include search history, user data and "as a first step" sales data. It is far from perfect, but you can expect it to get better with time.

Any improvement in Etsy search is good news, right?

What is next at Etsy?

We do not know. And there is no recommendation to make any major changes to titles or tags. As always, use a variety of long-tail keywords. Use accurate titles and tags. Those are the best ways to capture different queries that buyers might make. And ultimately sell your items.

(And, of course, offer cool stuff.)

Etsy is working on more interesting ("revolutionary") discovery tools... So plan on more changes!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Etsy quick trick: convert listings to free shipping

Are you offering free shipping? I am. In fact, I decided to permanently convert most of my listings to free shipping.
Help to sell vintage on Etsy
Quickly convert individual items to free shipping

I went into each one and manually made the change. It took some time.

The back story is this: we moved recently. That is something that can be difficult for those of us who sell vintage. Why? Our buying far outpaced our selling.

We collected too much stuff. Moving and organizing it is a lot of work. Especially with a roomful if extra items laying around, mixed in.

Inventorying books for sale
Inventorying stock
I lost a couple of orders. Yikes. We decided it was time for a full inventory, pulling every item and checking it off a list. This was helpful, identifying some errors.

As we inventoried, I realized that I could convert many listings over to free shipping right then. I just needed to do it quickly while keeping up with the inventory process (my husband checking off items on a big Excel chart).

Eventually I was able to simplify the steps to make listings free shipping. There is a secret.

Set up a FREE shipping profile 

Set up a "free shipping" profile from within "Listings." Then it is easy to convert individual listings. Open it and then one click. Even easier, use the "Quick Edit" feature from within Listings.

Etsy quick edit feature for free listings
Switching is easy-peasy. Use the "Quick Edit" screen
For each item I ask myself, “is it under a pound?” If so, I add a little to the price. (I generally use price points.) Click the “FREE” shipping button. Done.

Doing it this way makes the change a permanent thing, not a limited-time promotion.

(Note that Etsy sets up a separate “sale” section to your shop. For some that is a disadvantage. Others prefer to have no added shop section.)

There, that was easy, right? Have a great selling day!

(More details in the screen shots below about how to set up a free shipping profile.)

A whole article here about how to switch.

Setting up new Etsy shipping profile
Setting up a Free Shipping profile
Etsy seller screen: using Free shipping profile
Using your new Free Shipping profile from an open listing

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Etsy search: clumping is the new normal?

Etsy seller help manual quote
Shop diversity is no longer a part of Etsy search
For a long time, when buyers searched for items on Etsy, they saw a predictable mix. One item from a variety of shops on page 1, 2 and so on...

As usual, changes are afoot.

The “shop diversity” part of Etsy's search algorithm is no longer in place. We know that because the wording about it has been removed from Etsy’s seller help manual.

Etsy has been testing this for the past two months or so. Complaints of “clumping” have been made.

What is clumping?

Clumping is when you see a page of search results with the same shop repeated over and over. Certain shops seem to dominate search results for some searches.
clumping packaging lamps mushroom
What is clumping, anyway?

Why is Etsy allowing it?

Ultimately it comes down to making money. If items are not selling, then Etsy is not making money. Etsy's search results will favor what makes the most money for Etsy. End of story.

As mentioned, sellers had become accustomed to “fairness” or “diversity” in search results. That was when you saw one item displayed from each seller, especially on the first few pages.

Some sellers got used to having their items consistently on page one of search results. It is easy to feel that if your item placed highly for a year or two, then you are set for life. That is not the case. Etsy's search changes constantly. This might be a case for the expression: “adapt or die.”

How can I be the shop that shows multiple results?

There are many steps you can take.

Fill out all of your attributes. These are the new fields where you tell buyers the color, size and perhaps style of an item (as well as other attributes depending on the category). Search results are now being weighted with this information. Don’t get left behind.

Make sure your item categories are drilled down as far as possible.

Use all of your tags. Fill as many of the 20 characters in each tag as you can. For vintage items, be sure to use the word “vintage” in one of your tags. Try to use a variety of natural search phrases for “broader search presence.”

Do not obsess about getting found on a one- or two-word general search. Focus on niche searches (AKA “long-tail searches”). By focusing on improving your items' rank in these specific multiple-word searches, your items gain ground in the more generic searches.

Put the most searchable words at the beginning of your titles. The first few words (Etsy Admin keeps saying three) have the most weight. If you have more than one similar item, change up your wording (of both titles and tags). That way, your items may get found with a variety of search terms. 

Have the highest possible conversion rate.

Have the lowest possible conversion rate
A higher conversion rate is better.

Raise your listing quality. Have 10 great photos

Ship quickly. Provide excellent customer service. Have minimal cases.

Etsy free shipping search results
Offering free shipping could place your shop front and center

Renew items often. List a new item or two every day.

Offer more items. Larger shops seem to do better in searches these days. It also increases the odds that you will have something that someone wants to buy.

Give the market what it wants. Figure out what is selling. If what you are offering does not move well, try something else.

Try different price points. If it seems that cheaper is selling better, then offer lower priced items.

Try a sale or free shipping. Your shop can be front and center if a buyer clicks a check box and applies the filter.

factors in etsy's search algorithm

The algorithm

There are a number of factors that determine where our items land in search. (One informed seller says dozens of factors.) No one (outside Etsy programmers) knows what those factors are. Or how each is weighted. 

They change all the time. The above factors ("steps you can take") are some educated guesses.

How are sales in your shop? Is clumping good or bad?

More to come on this subject... stay tuned.

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