Thinking about starting an Etsy shop?
There is one free tool that is absolutely critical to succeeding with any online store. No, it’s not beautiful images. It’s not a flashy website. It actually has nothing to do with what customers will look at when they reach your store.
So what is this secret that’s so important to Etsy success?
Search engine optimization.
More commonly known as SEO, search engine optimization uses a combination of technical and creative elements to help bring traffic to your items organically. This happens through the use of keywords, which are used throughout your listing title, description, and tags, which helps tell Etsy and Google what the product is and which searchers would like to see it in their results. The better you are at SEO, the more your items will show up on web searches, regardless of your social media presence, how long you’ve been selling, or how much you spend on marketing. Good SEO is the backbone to all of that, which is why it’s the first thing you need to understand before starting an Etsy shop this year.
How to Use SEO for Etsy Success
My first introduction to SEO was in the early-2000s when I sold handbags on eBay and wrote a beauty blog, so at this point it’s a skill that comes naturally to me. When I opened my Etsy shop back up in 2017 to sell printables, my goal was to get all of my photos and designs listed, then sit back and not have to touch it for months. Thanks to SEO, this wasn’t difficult to do. Check out my stats from 2018, where more than 60% of my visitors came from search:
Social media, on the other hand? Not my strong suit.
Here are my top tips for SEO beginners who want to open an Etsy shop:
Think like a shopper.
SEO requires you to know a lot about your customers. Don’t have any customers yet? Then you’re going to have to know a lot about your target customers. When you’re selling online, SEO is the most surefire way to get your products in front of these people before your competition. This is done using keywords that describe your item and include words that your ideal customer might type into Google when searching for your product. If this sounds overwhelming, keep in mind that SEO is more about having an intuitive understanding of your target customers and how SEO works for you rather than about becoming a technical expert at SEO algorithms. Once you get some experience with it, this all becomes second nature.
Back to keywords. For example, let’s say you’re selling baby blankets. Some of the keywords your customers might type into Google could be:
Crochet baby blanket
New mom gift
Elephant baby blanket
Custom baby blanket
Keep in mind that Etsy likes details, so don’t be afraid to get specific. In my example, “crochet baby blanket” is much more effective than just “blanket.” That doesn’t tell me shit about what kind of blanket, what it’s made of, who would want to use it… nothin’. Get into the details and that’s where you’ll find your customers.
Google Keyword Planner is a free tool for researching keyword popularity and trending Google searches.
For more advanced SEO research that’s specific to Etsy I use Sale Samurai, mainly for their Chrome extension and competition trackers. The Chrome extension will automatically include search volume when you type a keyword into Etsy, like this:
You can then click on the number at the end, which will bring up a full list of search volume and how many listings are currently using that phrase:
Use the search boxes at the top to narrow the list further. I recommend using a combination of keywords with high search volume and keywords with low competition to increase your reach. If you’re ready to give Sale Samurai a try, you can use the code AGIRLSGOTTAEAT for 20% off when you sign up through my affiliate link (I only share products on this blog that I personally use and recommend, and this is currently my favorite Etsy SEO tool). If you sell print-on-demand products, Sale Samurai also has an uploader that allows you to automatically upload your designs onto POD merch.
Related post: How to start a print-on-demand store (this is the perfect starter biz if you know you want to start a shop but don’t yet know what you want to sell).
Prioritize the First 40 Characters of Your Listing Titles
One obstacle between Etsy sellers who want to succeed and search engine optimization is creativity and overthinking. When you’ve spent months working on a painting or piece of jewelry, it’s only natural to want to give it the perfect name that will live with it through time. You have every right to name your piece Mourning Lobster and refer to it only as such, but you’re not going to get your Etsy listings seen if the listing title only says “Mourning Lobster”. Great name, but terrible for SEO. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to give up on the idea of using your Etsy titles artistically. If you want to be seen, you’ve got to please the algorithms.
Your listing title is the most important spot for prioritizing SEO. Google results show up to the first 66 words of a listing title, so you’ll want to make those count the most. Titles are less about being artsy and creative and more about getting the right keywords in without looking clunky or overwhelming. That’s why you’ll see lots of Etsy shops (mine included) with titles that have several phrases when only one or two are needed to describe the item.
For example, if I were making a title based on the baby blanket keywords listed above, it would look something like this:
Crochet baby blanket | Baby shower gift | Nursery blanket | Grey baby swaddle
You can use dashes, commas, or whatever separators you prefer. Google and Etsy don’t care if it looks like that or like this:
Crochet baby blanket baby shower gift nursery blanket grey baby swaddle
But one is easier on the eyes than the other, so it’s up to you how you want to do it.
Crochet baby blanket is #1 in the title because that’s what I want prioritized by Etsy and Google. In your titles, it helps to do a combination of general keywords (baby blanket) and more specific keyword phrases (grey baby swaddle) to increase your reach without getting too niche or too broad.
The First 160 Characters of Your Description are Crucial
The first 160 characters in your description are what show up as the meta description in search engine results, so it’s important to put it to good use. The good news is that this is where you can FINALLY get creative, but also make sure to include every detail a customer might want to know about your item, including:
I like to give my items a brief description that includes keywords and looks good in search results, followed by a list of attributes. Example:
Wrap your baby up warm and cozy with our crochet baby blanket. Handmade with love using organic materials, our baby swaddles make the perfect baby shower gift and look adorable in newborn photography sessions.
Fill in EVERY SINGLE TAG
I cannot stress this one enough. Etsy gives you 13 tags to describe your item. That’s 13 unique opportunities to attract a new customer coming from a different direction. With tags, the order you type them in doesn’t matter, but they do have a character limit of 20 characters which can be frustrating when you’re trying to describe a Ruth Bader Ginsburg Sweatshirt.
Ruth, your name is as long as it is legendary.
Instead, I can break up my tags into different general and specific phrases, like this:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Gift for Lawyer
For maximum efficiency, at least a few of these should match the exact keywords in your title. If “feminist sweatshirt” is in your title then you better have a tag for “feminist sweatshirt” as well. The order of your tags doesn’t matter, the capitalization of your tags doesn’t matter, all that matters is you USE THEM ALL.
Avoid Keyword Cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization means what it sounds like – if all your listings have the exact same keywords and phrases in their titles, tags, and descriptions, search engines will not know which one to show and they will eat away at each other’s ranking. Bad news when a couple words could be the difference between a slow month and fat stacks of cash.
For example, my digital items all qualify as “printable wall art,” a popular search term on Etsy. I use that phrase in most of my listings, but sometimes I will use “printable art” or “printable home decor” instead. I also maximize my reach among some of my most popular keywords by starting a few listing titles with these more general phrases instead of my go-to approach for my title, which is to start it with a more specific description like “feminist quote print” or “Michelle Obama digital download.” This information can all be added in the title as well, but changing up the first 40 characters and bringing diversity to your tags will prevent them from eating away at each other’s ranking. This is another reason why Sale Samurai is beneficial: it will help you come up with a larger variety of keywords you might not have thought of on your own.
Space Out Your Published Listings
When a product on Etsy is published, auto-renewed, or sold and renewed, Etsy says that it gets a temporary bump in search results. Take advantage of this by spacing out your listings and publishing a few each day instead of listing everything at once. This is an easy way to increase your reach and prevent burnout on your end.
CHECK YOUR ETSY STATS
The shop stats in your Etsy dashboard provide a wealth of information, including which search terms have brought people to your shop. You don’t need to look at this every day – once or twice a month, go through your stats to see what people are searching for that’s bringing them to your products. This will help you better understand your target customer, and it’s a great indicator of what kinds of products you should be prioritizing when you add new listings.
Remember – Good SEO Takes Time!
SEO is one of the best tools out there for getting your items noticed on Etsy, but it is not going to make you an overnight success. Good SEO can take weeks to expand your reach, so my suggestion is to get all your titles and tags optimized how you want them, then wait AT LEAST a month before touching it. Seriously – DON’T TOUCH IT. Be patient, keep researching your customers through your Etsy Stats, and before long it’s a second nature practice.
I hope this makes it easier for you to get a successful Etsy shop up and running. If you haven’t started one yet, use my link and we’ll both get 40 free listings!
Check out more of my Etsy content:
How to make and sell printables on Etsy
20 types of printables you can sell on Etsy
How to start a print-on-demand store on Etsy
How to sell stickers on Etsy
How to avoid trademark violations on Etsy