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.

Interesting video about search says that Etsy is no longer weighting the beginning of the title more than the end. (Google still does, and the beginning is what buyers see, so do not discount the beginning of your titles altogether.)


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

More on item descriptions next...

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Etsy Quick Trick: keeping buyers in your shop

Etsy Quick Trick banner
Improve the bounce rate in your shop
It is hard enough to get shoppers into your shops... sometimes they bounce right back out. (This increases your "bounce rate" which search engines do not like.)

How can sellers prevent that?


Have lots of interesting items, photographed well.

On every item page, eight of your items are displayed to the right (from your shop section). Fourmore are on the top right, your most recently listed items. Make sure everything has enticing, clickable photos. Style your photos for your target market.

Item descriptions

Write compelling item descriptions. Tell a story. Do it in the way that your target audience prefers. Make your product listing descriptions appealing to the buyers who are searching for them.

Link to more similar items

Another way to keep buyers in your shop is to provide a link lead at the bottom of every listing. Most websites try to keep you in their store by linking you to an attractive gallery of similar items.

Use phrasing that you see on other websites:
More things you might like [link]
My picks for you [link]
Browse my latest listings [link] 
[Style or item type] selections [link]
[Style or item type] gallery [link] 
[Style or item type] finds [link]  
[Style or item type] selections [link] 
Or personalize it in a way that your target buyers might prefer:
Check out the rest of our [style or item type]: [link]
We have more [item type] here: [link]
More similar items here: [link]
Please see the rest of our [item type] here: [link]
If you liked this/these, you might like more of my [item type] at [section link or shop search]
Shops that sell limited lines of items have an advantage, as you can really target your buyer. Shops that sell a broad range of items and styles will require more effort to implement this. (I have been working at this for some time now.)

On a page with an animal item, I present a link to other animal items. On a listing with sterling silver brooches, I show other brooches. You could show more art deco items on a deco piece, more mid-century modern items for that style. "See more great baby shower gifts here." Whatever items you have that might be of interest a shopper for that particular item. Sometimes I use two or three lines (farmhouse, bedding and boho for example) if the item for sale fits those genres.

This method requires careful attention to tags. It works best if your items that will be presented together have a similar look, make an attractive collection. Think... treasuries!

I put mine at the bottom of each listing. They can go anywhere within your listing text, though. If you think that a buyer might not finish reading the listing and move on, try placing your back links higher in the listing. "Grab" them, prevent them from bouncing out.

According to Etsy admin, these back links do not affect rankings in Etsy search.

Tip: when making the link to your similar shop items, be sure that you you are in the public, customer-facing shop view, not your shop manager view.

Tip: use short links from a site like to streamline (and track) your link.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Keywords: develop and use a purchase phrase list

find and use effective keywords for vintage online selling
Etsy search is all about keywords and key phrases. 

Many sellers still try to draw buyers with general phrases. Phrases with a lot of competition like "[holiday] gift" "vintage gift" and "silver necklace" have thousands of search results on Etsy. There is no need to be concerned with placing highly in broad searches.

Instead sellers need to concentrate on long-tail keywords. These are browse-phrase keywords and purchase-phrase keywords. These are words, specific phrases, that a customer types in to the search bar when they are ready to search for something and buy.

Use specific keywords that say what the item is. Select terms that tell people what the item actually is in different ways. Use terminology that your target customer would use.

Advice is out there to have at least 100 relevant keywords available. Have terms at your fingertips for any product genre or type you might sell. If have 2 or more types or genres of products on Etsy, consider having 100 keywords to use for each one.

That might seem like a lot, but it is not.

How to brainstorm for more keywords

Other sellers can help out with this. Check out listings on Etsy or other venues. What keywords are they using? Check out their sold items. Titles are at the top of course. Tags can be found at the bottom of any listing page. (Recently those disappeared for some sellers, so changes could be afoot there.)

Follow a blog, like Apartment Therapy. Note terms that they use to describe items, trends and styles. Their readers will also be searching using those keywords.

Here is another method of market research.

Read magazines for keyword ideas

Read a magazine for keyword ideas
Try magazines for keyword research

Try magazines for keywords. Magazines that are of interest to your target audience. You will not necessarily be reading the magazine, but rather the advertisements.

Magazines devote teams of staff dedicated to using proper keywords in their ads... key words that cause viewers to want to buy the product! Those marketing people have done their keyword research. Why not apply it in your own shop?

Note the terms used for products in magazine ads. These writers must be on-trend with their use of key words.

If you could, which vintage magazine sums up your customer base? Use it to harvest new terms to attract buyers.

There is no need to subscribe... look at them at your library, or supermarket check-out. (You might even stay there until they kick you out.)

Make a keyword list

notepad graphic
Once you have keywords, make a list. (Here is a sample for vintage shops.) Keep that list handy to use when you compose listings.

While writing your listing text, keep an eye on your keyword list. Your goal is to use important keywords in a natural, conversational way. 

Be sure to write your first paragraph for your target buyer, not for a machine. The more you understand about your buyers, the better you will be able to write for them.

Happy vintage selling!

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