Seller Handbook

Advice and inspiration for successfully running your Etsy shop

Seller Handbook

Your Search Questions, Answered

Three pros dive deep on everything from titles, tags, and attributes to misspellings and plurals. (Don’t worry—we’ve got those typos covered!)

By Etsy Staff Mar 18, 2019
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Photo by BIGGSandQUAIL

After we published the Ultimate Guide to Etsy Search last year, we heard from you in the Forums, on social media, and in the comments on the Seller Handbook. We gathered your questions about Etsy search and took them straight to the experts.

First, we sat down with Sam Litt to get some answers. Sam and her team work to optimize Etsy search and make it easier for shoppers to discover items on Etsy. We also chatted with Jenny Benevento, a taxonomist at Etsy. She and her team are responsible for the navigation, categories, and attributes on Etsy. Jenny gave us an inside look at how they determine which categories and attributes to add, and shared her tips for using them.

You can hear our chat for yourself on the Etsy Success Podcast. Subscribe to the podcast and you’ll never miss an episode.

A quick note: Etsy Search is always changing and every shop is different. These are some of our current best practices that we recommend.

Your questions about Etsy search

Sam answered some common questions we’ve received about Etsy search.

How do titles and tags work together?

The most descriptive and relevant keywords for your listings should appear in both your titles and your tags. Given that you have 13 spaces for tags for each listing, all of the keywords that you use as tags don't necessarily need to appear in your title, too. A long title stuffed with a bunch of keywords also might make it difficult for shoppers to quickly find the items that you’re selling when they’re scanning search results.

Instead for your title, think about prioritizing the most descriptive phrases and keywords that best describe your products, or the ones that have been most successful in matching shoppers with your listings in the past. For example, in our shop stats tool or Search Analytics, you can see exact phrases that shoppers have used to find your listings and make sure that those superstar keywords are included in both your titles and your tags.

How should sellers think about using keywords in their categories and attributes?

Search uses your titles, tags, categories, and attributes when trying to match you to buyers, so when a buyer enters a query, we’re looking for all the keywords that you’ve added across those four dimensions. Adding the exact same phrases that appear in your categories and attributes is actually a missed opportunity to maybe add an additional tag that’s unique to the item you're selling.

For example, adding the attribute color “gold" will help your listing match with searches that contain the keyword "gold." So adding the tag "gold" is somewhat redundant. And those keywords that appear in the categories and attributes can still be helpful in a really descriptive phrasal tag, like "gold diamond ring." Because when shoppers are searching for something specific they’re more likely to use a compound descriptive phrase like that, so you're covering all your bases.

How does Etsy search handle misspellings and singular and plural searches and keywords?

Let's focus on plurals first. When we think about plurals or other variations of words, Etsy search, and also many other search algorithms, use a process called stemming. Stemming basically converts a word into its root word. At Etsy, we use stemming on both a shopper's search query and the keywords in your listing. For example, a search for "diaries," which is plural, would still be matched with searches that use the keyword "diary," which is singular, because they have the same root word.

This is true for less complex plurals as well. For example, a search for "hat" would still be matched with listings tagged for "hats." You don't need to add plurals as separate tags because Etsy search is looking at the root words that appear in the shopper's query and your listing’s keywords.

Now let's get into misspellings. If a shopper is searching for something and they misspell a word or make a typo, Etsy search makes an educated guess and corrects the search to the correct spelling. For example, if someone accidentally searched for "party flavors," we still show the results that match the query "party favors," with the option to look at results for their original query, which was "party flavors." Because Etsy search corrects spelling for shoppers in the moment, you should do your best to spell things correctly in your titles and tags. There’s really no advantage to purposely spelling things incorrectly.

We talked about listing quality score in the Ultimate Guide to Etsy Search. As a reminder, this is a score that’s created for listings based on how well that item has converted, or how many people have taken an action such as favoriting or purchasing the item after seeing it in their search results. What does this mean for shop owners who make one-of-a-kind items or sell vintage?

When we’re determining a quality score, we look at things like past shopper behavior to predict how likely shoppers are to purchase listings from your shop in the future. So if you’re a seller who sells one-of-a-kind items or vintage items and you’re frequently creating new listings, Etsy search looks at how popular listings from both your shop and similar shops have been in the past to predict how popular they might be with buyers in the future. Similarly, don't worry if your shop is new to Etsy. New shops on Etsy get a neutral listing score until we have time to learn more about how those listings perform.

An inside look at Etsy’s taxonomy

Jenny shed light on how her team handles categories and attributes on Etsy, and what that means for sellers.

What is a taxonomist? What do you do at Etsy?

Taxonomists make items “find-able” for buyers on Etsy. We collect standardized information from sellers, in the form of categories and attributes right now, which we use to help buyers find the items they’re looking for. To do this, we create those categories and attributes that sellers can add to their item, and then we create categories that buyers can use when browsing on Etsy.

My team also creates the top navigation that shoppers use to browse on Etsy and the category-specific filters shoppers use to narrow down their search. We also use the data you enter in categories and attributes to make your products more discoverable on Etsy search, and in external search engines and websites like Facebook and Instagram.

How do you all go about deciding which categories we need to have on Etsy?

We look at so many things. First we look at what kind of products are being sold on Etsy and what words sellers are using to describe them. We also look at what buyers are searching for and how they’re wording it, and we look for differences in how sellers might describe an item and how buyers are searching for it.

Often we feel like we’re translating between the language of an expert artisan who has been in the field for a long time and someone who has never heard of that craft that was used to make the item they're looking for. So we do research with Etsy buyers and sellers and watch them search for an item or create a new listing.

Finally, we do a lot of research on the type of product itself: how it's made, how people use it, what are the make-or-break qualities when buying it, and how it’s categorized on other e-commerce sites.

We also do crafts ourselves, so if one of us has a specialty, we’ll have that person work on that section, or we’ll talk to crafters who make that kind of thing. We also look at feedback from sellers on Etsy through our taxonomy feedback form.

How do we use categories on Etsy? Why are they so important?

Etsy categories answer the question, "What is this thing?" Not "What is this thing made of?" "How is this made?" or "What can I use it for?" You can think of categories as the nouns that describe what an item is. It's a hat. It's a bowl. It's a necklace. Categories help us show the right listings to shoppers who are looking for something specific. They help us match your listing with shoppers motivated to buy that item.

While some shoppers come to Etsy and search for what they’re looking for, some browse by looking at the categories available on Etsy, and most do a little of both. So when you’re adding categories to your listings, make sure you’re describing the item accurately and as specifically as possible. This is really important because showing shoppers the relevant listings for them—and by that I mean only mugs in the mug category, for example—makes shoppers trust the results they're seeing, so they’re more likely to stay on the site and keep buying things.

Similarly, it’s important to be as specific as possible about what your item is instead of just using that top level category. We count on the information you add to make your item appear in all of the places shoppers would expect to see that type of item. For example, if you add your listing to the Engagement Rings category in Weddings, we’re also going to show your listing in Engagement Rings in Jewelry and in searches for “engagement rings.” And that's just a start. We’ll show it to as many people as possible who are shopping for that kind of item. Giving us the right category and attributes is the best way to connect your item to buyers who are looking exactly for that thing.

What are attributes and how do they work?

If we look at categories as the noun a thing is—a dress—attributes are usually the adjective—a blue, sleeveless, size 20 dress. So sellers can add attributes on the specific categories for items that they’re listing. My team asks the questions we know would be most important for buyers searching for that item on that category. For example, in dresses we know that buyers care about dress size, so that's the first thing we’re going to specifically ask you on dresses.

How do you decide what attributes are needed for each category?

We use a lot of the same techniques that we use for categories, especially looking at what buyers and sellers are already doing on the site. We look at what buyers are searching for to see what kind of modifiers they’re using, like a material or length or other adjective. Like if they’re looking for a gold, 18-inch necklace, we know those things are important.

We also ask, “Is this the kind of information usually included or needed to order this type of product?” For example, "How long is this fabric?" "Does the shirt have a button or zip closure?" One goal of all of this is to think about the questions sellers might get convos about, which we know takes up a ton of their time. By collecting this information from sellers in this standardized way, we can show it to buyers on a listing in a standard way.

What are some other ways that we use the attributes that sellers enter?

The more you add attributes to your listings, the more new filters we can show shoppers on Etsy to make it easier to find what they're looking for. For example, if you fill out the dress size attribute, eventually we use that data for a dress size filter on Etsy for buyers to use. Attributes are also used by search to help buyers find the item they’re looking for.

We’ve talked a little bit about how sellers should be using categories and attributes. Is there anything that sellers should avoid?

Categorizing your items inaccurately or adding attributes to your listings that don't actually describe your products can result in a bad experience for buyers. But more importantly, your item won't be seen by buyers who most want it. In the mug example I gave earlier, if you don't put your items in mugs, shoppers won't see them there. And if you put a non-mug in mugs, shoppers might see results that are irrelevant to the category or search they're looking in. That can leave them feeling really frustrated by their experience on Etsy and less likely to buy your stuff.

Inaccurate categories and attributes also make it harder for us to use the data to build tools for buyers to discover your products. We start with your good seller data to make a good experience for buyers. Right now, 20% of the categories on Etsy have at least one search filter that’s powered by attributes. The more accurate attributes sellers add, the more category-specific filters we can show to buyers about the things that they think are most important. We need sellers' help to make those experiences great.

You can listen to this podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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