Pearl Lemon’s Guide to Etsy SEO For 2021 – What’s Changed, What Matters Now and More

It is 2020 (still, sorry, but 2021 is just weeks away!) and Etsy is now 15 years old. It has also been five years since what was once a tiny digital market for artisans was floated onto the stock market. In those last five years, A LOT has changed on Etsy, especially when it comes to Etsy SEO.

Yes, in case you did not know – although you probably did – Etsy SEO is a thing. For serious Etsy businesses, a big thing. But it has also become a very confusing thing. There is a lot of old, outdated and just plain erroneous information out there.

We want to change that. In this guide to Etsy SEO in 2021, we want to show you how to improve and solidify your SEO standing while demystifying a bit of the process for you. However, before we dive into the meaty bit, let us start by answering a question almost every new Etsy seller has. WHY should I even bother with SEO on Etsy? Or even Etsy at all?

Why Etsy Works

etsy seo

The fact is that whatever you decide to sell, for most vendors there are lots of options when it comes to just where you set up shop online. There are some basic, but important, reasons that so many choose Etsy as their main selling platform though:

It is Easy and Costs Less

Etsy, even the bigger, ‘better’ Etsy that exists in 2020, offers a way to begin selling your arts, crafts, apparel etc. quickly, efficiently and for less. It is great for the technically challenged – no complicated website to set up, no fretting over which POS system to choose no hosting fees.

Built-in Traffic

You can also take advantage of the fact that Etsy is a worldwide, established brand, and one that is still growing. By listing your wares on Etsy, you get to take advantage of all the built-in traffic it generates. Or you can if you get your Etsy SEO right.

It takes a long time to build traffic to a standard web store. Etsy’s online reputation and traffic stream will mean that you can get your business off the ground there and then later, perhaps, start branching out ‘on your own’ on the wider Internet.

You, Will, Reach a More Targeted Audience

Everyone shops on Amazon. eBay has no real set demographic either. But Etsy’s major demographics are rather special.

etsy women

According to Statista, 81% of all buyers on Etsy are female. Of that 81 % of females, 15% of them were younger than the age of 25, with the majority of Etsy buyers being between 25-40 years of age and earn, on average, over $50,000 per annum.

They are those unicorns – more affluent Millennials – that it seems like everyone is trying to reach. They make lots of repeat purchases too, with more than 50% of Etsy customers surveyed stating they had made more than one Etsy purchase within the past six months.

As the rules are still reasonably strict and the handmade and/or artisanal nature of Etsy offerings you will find lots of things there not found elsewhere. Which is just what these folks love and why they keep coming back. To give you an idea of what they have been looking for in 2020 according to Etsy the top searches for October broke down as follows.

If your products fall into any of these categories, good Etsy SEO is even more important than ever.

What is Etsy SEO?

the child etsy

We have talked about the why of Etsy SEO, but for absolute beginners, it will be helpful to take a quick look at the what as well.

To define it in very basic terms Etsy SEO, or Etsy search engine optimization, is making it easier for people to find your products on Etsy.

When a potential customer heads to Etsy and starts to type a word – or a keyword as it is known in SEO – into the search box – SEO kicks in.

But…how does Etsy SEO – or Google SEO, or Amazon SEO come to that matter – actually work?

SEO is designed to help search bots – not real creatures but bits of computer code – that spend all their time scouring for information. They then feed that information into an algorithm that serves browsers the things that the bots have deemed the most relevant to the keyword query first.

Keywords (or “keyword phrase” — the terms are often used interchangeably) are words used to describe your goods to these SEO bots and are the single BIGGEST factor in determining where they rank on Etsy, Google, Amazon, and every other search engine out there.

Etsy does NOT use Google search, in the way that many online stores do though. It makes use of its own bots and its own algorithms to create search results that are unique to the platform. You may later see your products showing up in Google searches too (more on that later) but for now, we are going to discuss the state of Etsy search in 2021.

When we said that Etsy search and Etsy SEO has changed a lot in the five years we were not kidding. So even if you are a veteran of the platform you may still be using Etsy SEO techniques that are now outdated, have been rendered ineffective by platform changes or were always ‘fake news’ in the first place.

With this firmly in mind let us get to an ESTY SEO tip list that will work in 2020, 2021 and beyond.

You Cannot Check Rankings on Etsy (Anymore)

etsy girl

Years ago, on Etsy, this was a huge deal. Sellers would waste hours constantly checking the platform and searching for their own items to see how they stacked up against their competitors. However, this DOES NOT WORK ANYMORE. And we can explain why.

After the company went public, Etsy acquired a startup, BlackBird Technologies, to revamp their search functionalities. Over time the Etsy search algorithms have become far more personalized to each user and take into account a slew of factors – past searches, purchases – that it once did not.

Now, if you search for your own items, you might see them three or four times on page 1 of a keyphrase search. But that is because you have been actively interacting with said listings, so that is what the search bots will deem you should be shown.

Here is a real-world example. In years past both, you and your friend could type ‘handmade scarf’ into the Etsy search box, and you would have both seen the same results. Back then the products and the listings with the best Etsy SEO for that keyword phrase would show up first, regardless of any other criteria.

Location did not matter back then either. If you were in the UK, but your friend was in the US you would still have seen the same results. As would a third friend in, say, Australia. That is no longer the case.

The ‘old way’ was great for a number of reasons. Sellers could track how their Etsy listings were performing in search by just “searching” for it. It was super easy to determine if your optimization efforts were working or if they needed to be tweaked.

Not so in 2020. Or 2021.

Now you can search for “handmade scarf” and your US pal can search for “handmade scarf” and your friend in Oz can search for “handmade scarf” and each of you will see a separate set of results– based on your personal history and past interactions on Etsy.

This is CRUCIAL to understand. But does it mean that Etsy SEO is no longer relevant?

Not at all.

Products with the best executed Etsy SEO for the keyphrase are still going to be displayed first in these ‘new’ personalized results– just to different people at different times. And you cannot predict what they will see. So, for those of you who still were, stop obsessing over this issue. And focus your Etsy SEO attention and energies elsewhere.

Renewing Listings Now Has Almost No Effect on Etsy Search Placement

Once upon a time on Etsy paying a new listing fee and ‘renewing’ your existing listings would give you a nice little boost in Etsy search. And as it usually costs less than a buck to do so, lots of sellers did.

However, thanks to those (pesky) personalized search results this practice is no longer effective or an effective way to spend even a penny of your money.

Keywords are Important, But NOT the Only Factor in Etsy SERPs

etsy meme

Keywords are a big deal for Etsy search, but they are not the ONLY way to get discovered (of course they’re not…)

Here is a look at some of the additional factors that Etsy takes into account that determine the who/what/when/where/why/how of showing up in an Etsy search.

Listing Quality Scores

Your listing quality score is simply the algorithmic “score given to each of your shop’s listings by the Etsy internal algorithm”. The factors that go into your quality score for the listing, based on what Etsy has told us in this regard:

Strong Sales Record

As in when browsers have clicked in this listing in the past it has resulted in a sale on a regular basis. Etsy wants to make money too, so listings that convert as well as attract eyeballs will be given a boost in Etsy search.

High Search Engagement

If people are clicking on your items in a certain keyword search more often than others Etsy determines that the keywords you chose to target are so relevant that you deserve a SERPs boost.

Completed Attributes

Here’s some very basic Etsy listing wisdom. If they give you the option to fill something out as you list…DO IT.

Shop Quality Score

Etsy assigns a quality score to your shop as well as your products. In that score they take into account customer service reputation, ‘authenticity’ and positive reviews. This means yes, you need a good ‘brand story’ and the more positive reviews you can get the better.

Even More Etsy Ranking Factors

Wait, there’s more…

Localization

Remember your pal in Oz? They will now always be shown Australian listings over those from other countries. Short of moving there is little you can do about this one.

Image Recognition

etsy image

Etsy is going for a more visual search experience—so it is important for the first picture to be crystal clear about what you offer. They are even adding AI, although that is still a function in ‘beta’ right now.

This means when it comes to first images, the main product image, there should be no busy backgrounds, no wild props—what your item really is, make it obvious. However, you can style additional images to your heart’s content with no effect on your place in Etsy search. Although we still recommend keeping them relatively simple to avoid buyer confusion.

Free Shipping

This is a subject of HUGE controversy in the Etsy community this year and will likely to continue to be.

You were in good company if you went into a mad panic when Etsy rolled out this feature.

And we are not going to explore the virtues of whether this is a positive or a bad step by Etsy. If that is what you are looking for the Etsy forums can give you your debate fix.

Instead, we want to discuss whether free shipping really affects conversions among shoppers who go through those keyword searches and find your shop and listings.

Does free shipping make a significant difference? Yes and no. (The answer is never clear, is it?!)

All comes down to YOUR particular niche and what YOU offer.

But this is something that you will need to study for yourself in order to see whether you can consider it.

What we suggest you do is jump on a keyword analysis tool such as Marmalead, which is the tool we prefer, and you can easily find out what percentage of shops in your niche offer free shipping with their orders… and which ones are not. You will then also be able to check what they ARE charging for shipping.

You do not have to do anything either if hardly anyone in your niche provides free shipping! Yes, it may give you a competitive edge for anyone explicitly searching for a store with that offering, but you will not be “buried” in search because you do not offer it—especially if no one else in your industry offers it either!

Free shipping is not going to break your Etsy SEO plan—but as part of your overall marketing approach, it is something to consider—and whether or not it is worth it for your particular niche and product.

Focus Keywords Matter

Focus keywords are a KILLER aspect of your Etsy SEO plan and will give you a boost over competitors who are not using them. As well as a boost in general Etsy search.

In any specific ranking, a focus keyword is a keyword term (2-3 words long) that you pick and have determined you want to rank for.

Now you could be thinking, “Well, then all my keywords are keyword focus! All of them, I want to rank for all of them!” And that is obviously why you should be using different keywords—so you can appear under more search terms in more places.

But your focus keyword helps you to put a greater emphasis on one specific keyword for a listing and then boost your chances of ranking for it by strategically listing it in several locations within your listings.

Once you have chosen it your focus keyword should be placed in:

  • The listing title
  • The listing tags
  • The listing description

Make sure you put a lot of thought into picking each of them out—because there’s a fine line of between too broad and too niched—and with your focus keyword, you will want to find the middle ground.

You Need 3 Kinds of Etsy SEO Keywords

Focus keywords are important but they are not the ONLY forms of keywords that you can use. There are two others that also need to be included in your listings—broad and long-tail keywords—:

Broad Keywords for Etsy SEO

Broad keywords are essentially keyword phrases of 1-3 terms that target a very wide section of the browsing Etsy consumers and have a huge amount of search results.

Why do this? People are not in the “buying” phase when looking for these keywords—they are still searching. Prior to making a purchase, they will refine their search a few more times. But you might be able to catch their eye right away if your listing is displayed in that very first search.

Examples of these broad keywords might be

  • t-shirt
  • baby headband
  • art print
  • beaded necklace
  • knitting pattern

Long Tail Keywords for Etsy SEO

On the other hand, long-tail keywords are usually 3-5 words long and are more focused on what they represent. In general, they get lower search results + interaction, but they tend to translate into sales on a more consistent basis.

Why? In general, people looking for these more specific keywords are in the “buying” stage. They have searched for the broad keyword already and are now refining their results to get what they are actually interested in buying.

So, building on the broad keyword examples we just outlined, the evolution into long-tail keywords would look a lot like this:

  • ladies graphic t-shirt
  • flowered baby headband
  • abstract art print
  • gold beaded necklace
  • scarf knitting pattern

As you can see, they simply build on that broad keyword. And in a popular, but very specific niche you can make use of more long-tail keywords that are even more precise, like, for example, ladies’ anime graphic t-shirt or vintage abstract art print (or whatever fits your niche.)

Use Every Character Available for Etsy Listing Titles

Etsy said that shorter, easy-to-read titles are better for shoppers to be able to scan your listings easily and decide what you sell.

But if you are not using almost every ounce of title space available, you are missing out in a big, big way. Yes, make your titles readable and use descriptive keywords that explain the actual nature of your listing, but keep adding additional SEO.

The best Etsy listing titles read like two or three short sentences. Sentences that contain keywords. But not too many. And still, describe your product and are easy to scan.

Sounds like a really tall order, creating such things. But it is not. However, it is also not that hard to get it wrong.

What do we mean? Here are some practical examples.

etsy seo

A seller is offered a long, chunky scarf. So, they write their title as follows: “Chunky Scarf, Chunky Knit Scarf, Women’s Scarf, Knitted Scarf, Long Scarf, Infinity Scarf, Glitter Infinity Scarf’.

Why is that a bad listing title?

To begin with, there is way too much repetition. Yes, they need the keyword scarf, but only 2-3 times. This title looks keyword-stuffed and, like Google, Etsy seriously frowns on that stuff.

It is also too choppy. It is just keyword after keyword. Shoppers will get confused about what this seller is really offering.

So how could this seller make her title better, especially for Etsy SEO?

“Chunky knit women’s’ infinity scarf, red scarf gift for her” would be a good start, with the remaining space devoted to another keyword sentence that sounds natural and describes the product. She could use can use keywords like “winter accessory,” “cold weather wear” etc. to optimize her chance to rank for even MORE keywords.

Why is this better? It gets those Etsy SEO keywords in without keyword stuffing and it is natural and readable. It does not look and read like a crazy jumble of keywords.

Driving Traffic to Your Own Listings Will Boost Your Etsy SEO

Social media is a time suck. We know. But Etsy sellers can not only drive more traffic to their listings from social media directly is they promote their listings there, but they will also give their Etsy SEO a little extra boost.

That is because you build BACKLINKS and Etsy finds those amazingly useful and rewards you with higher overall placement in search results when you mention your Etsy store and products OFF the platform and new customers head to your Etsy store.

You do not have to stick to standard social media either. Etsy bloggers do very well, and they have the advantage that Google will, if their content is good, pick it up and list it in the SERPs, introducing your Etsy store, and products, to an even wider audience, some of whom may have never shopped there before.

If a blog sounds like an extra hassle and expense you do not need it does not have to be. A WordPress or Blogger blog or even a Tumblr is free to set up and free to host. And blogs detailing creative processes and creative ideas are a huge draw for many.

Bottom line is that couple of extra hours added to your Etsy management schedule a week to write a blog (which can be very image-heavy in this niche BTW) can pay big dividends in terms of additional new traffic and improved Etsy SEO.

Understand Etsy SEO Takes Time

Any SEO takes time to have a significant effect. Good Google SEO takes four to six months to ‘take effect”. Etsy is much faster, but it still will not work overnight. A good rule of thumb is to not make any changes until you have four to six weeks of data to access. Then, if things are not working out as well as you hoped, consider making Etsy SEO changes.

Get Help If You Need It

More than ever in this odd year Etsy sellers are relying on their stores as a primary source of income. Making the investment in professional Etsy SEO help can be well worth it. Etsy SEO specialists –like the Pearl Lemon Etsy SEO team – can help you maximize Etsy SEO for existing listings or new ones and achieve the kinds of sales that make becoming a full-time Etsy entrepreneur a realistic goal for 2021.