Thursday, August 25, 2011

Etsy Relevancy and How to Get Noticed

I put off writing this article for a couple weeks to see how relevancy is working and work out what I think works and doesn't work. First of all I want everyone who hasn't read it yet to go read my posts SEO and Your Customers and Being Seen is Not Enough for some more background on my thoughts on how your writing effects your customers and why ranking well in search shouldn't be your only goal.  

This article is going to have a lot of images so I'm posting them scaled down, click to enlarge if you're having trouble reading them.

Determining Relevancy
Factors Etsy uses in determining relevancy according to their article on the subject.
Titles - In particular Etsy is weighting the words at the beginning of a title more than the words at the end. In particular the first 3 words are the most important.

Tags - Tags in this case also include the categories you pick when you list an item. I'm not positive on this but my own experiments seem to imply that those tags weight a little higher than the ones you type in. Keep in mind that Materials do not count as tags and are not factored into search (I tested this, using a material listed that I am not using as a tag and it did not show up in the search at all) so if the material is an important selling point of the item you must have it in the tags.

Recency - This is how newly listed or renewed your item is. In the past all of Etsy's searches defaulted to just the most recent, now it is just one factor in the search. This means you don't need to renew items all the time to be higher in the search but it's probably still a good idea to have items spread out in how recently they have been listed. If you previously renewed multiple items every day you can now just renew an item or two that are close to expiring. This of course is going to save you money in listing fees that you can better use on other advertising.

Attributes - These new options for recipient, occasion, and style. Etsy has stated that they will be used in search eventually but right now they do not factor into search (as proven by the fact that "unisex adult jewelry" has almost no results). So until these attributes are included in the search if they are an important selling point for your item they must be included in tags.
From my own experiments this is how I think the level of importance for relevancy goes:
  1. First 3 words of the title
  2. Categories (possibly the same or nearly the same weight as #1)
  3. Tags 
  4. Remaining words in the title (possibly the same or nearly the same weight as #3)
  5. Recency
I haven't been able to determine the exact weight of these factors but let's for the sake of simplicity give them point values (I am sure the algorithm is more complex than this but it gives you the idea):
  • First 3 words = 4 pts
  • Category = 3pts
  • Tags = 2pts
  • Other title words = 1pts
Okay so if I search "Octopus Necklace" we would have:
(Category -> Necklace)+(First 3 words -> Octopus)+(Tag -> Octopus)+(Title words -> Necklace) = 4+3+2+1 = 10
but if I searched "Octopus Pendant" I would instead have
(First 3 words -> Octopus)+(Tag -> Pendant)+(Tag -> Octopus) = 4+2+2 = 6. 
Thus I would expect that even though there are far fewer results for "Octopus Pendant" than "Octopus Necklace" that I would rank lower in the search results for "Octopus Pendant" (and I do, in fact when I just ran this search "Octopus Pendant" didn't return one of my items until page 16 while the same necklace was near the top of page 2 for "Octopus Necklace"). So where does recency play into this? I think Etsy uses recency to rank items that otherwise have "equal" scores with the newer one being higher ranked than the older one.

Improving your Relevancy
In many ways improving relevancy is the same as improving your onsite SEO (one of the reasons I've had to make very few changes in order to rank well in relevancy). Use good keywords that shoppers are going to think of in search, if you need a little help use a keyword tool like Google Keyword Tool. Also use the keyword tool to make sure the words and phrases you come up with are ones that people search for while still being closely related to what your product is.

Make sure you use all your tag spaces and select all 3 categories if you can. Don't waste any tag spaces. For example if your items colors have name variations (for example a deep purple could be tagged both "purple" and "plum") and you have a space to fill use the color variation. If you item has a number of different names for the style make for you use them (for example a woman's tank top could also be tagged with "camisole").

Write good descriptive titles with important words at the beginning. You don't have to sacrifice your cute item names either! For example if you are a baby clothing maker and you have a item currently called "Joshua" that is a blue corduroy jacket a title like this would have good relevancy: "Blue Baby Jacket "Joshua" in Soft Warm Corduroy for Age 16 Months". Now the title "Blue baby jacket corduroy 16 months" would be just as relevant for the keywords "blue", "baby", "jacket", "corduroy", and "16 months" but the first title has more consumer appeal. You have a 140 character limit for titles, that first title looks long but it's only 65 characters so don't be afraid to write longer descriptive titles if you need to.

Remember the "long tail" while a lot of people will search popular but general terms like "red dress" a person searching for "red polka dot retro dress" is more likely to be interested in and buy your item if it's a red polka dotted 40s inspired dress. This is why it's important to write descriptive titles and use all your tags, to make sure people using those long tail search terms find your items because they are more likely to buy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Best Days

Digging into the statistics for your business can give you a lot of valuable information. Today I decided to figure out what days of the week people buy the most from my shop. This information can help me better plan when to list new item, run ad campaigns, and whether a sale is likely to be successful. I took all my sales data from the last year and broke it down into the percentage of sales for each day of the week. Here is the result:
So what does this tell me? Clearly Thursday and Friday are my best sales days with a over 43% of all my sales (24.4% and 18.9% respectively) while the very next day, Saturday, plummets to just under 9% of my sales. There is also a significant bump in sales on Monday (14.75%). So my customers like to shop at the beginning and end of the work week and not on the weekend. Even if I break it down by month, every single month in that date range Thursday and Friday had between 30-50% of all sales. It's very consistent for my shop. The interesting thing is that this is despite the fact that my busiest listing days are generally Sundays and Mondays (because I create over the weekend and list Sunday night and Monday) so the bump on Mondays may only be because that's when I average the most new items listed.

My data also shows that Cyber Monday is not a busy day for me, in fact it's about average for the holiday season. Instead it's usually the first week of December that is the busiest with Wed-Fri being the busiest days. Of course I only really have two years of data for the holiday season since I started my Etsy shop October 2008 so that first holiday season I was still getting things rolling. I'm interested in seeing it this trend hold up.

I'm not encouraging anyone to take my data and use it for their own shop. You should look at your own shop's data, if you don't have many sales yet look at what your highest traffic days are (they tend to match sales patterns fairly well). I wish I had more data to go on but my google skills have failed me and I haven't found any good statistics online of when people shop to compare it to my data.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Being Seen is Not Enough

Back around February I started making some changes to my Etsy listings. I started adding cute little stories the the start of every listing. It was a disaster.

My traffic didn't change, the number of visitors didn't change, my Google rankings stayed about the same but my sales tanked. For the first month or so I chalked it up to being a slow time of year but then one of my usually busy months was a lot slower than usual. I took the stories out of the beginning of the listings and put them further down the page, below the descriptions. Sale bounced back almost immediately.

The lesson here is this: just being seen is not enough. What is seen has to be compelling to people. In my case while the stories were fun visitors wanted to see information on my jewelry first. Lesson learned.

This is the reason I wrote the post last week SEO and Your Customers often a listing that looks good to search engines or looks good to you as a creative person doesn't look good to customers.

So what about the stories? I have plans for those, I want to do a series of cards with illustrations on the front and the stories on the back but for now they are being retired from my shop.

Also if you are working on editing your titles and descriptions I recommend Craftopolis' Edit Express to make it go faster. Unfortunately it doesn't have a batch tag editor though.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Weekly Inspiration

Bird Tango Mirrors with Packaging, originally uploaded by Hi Ni.

Submit your photos for consideration as a Weekly Inspiration by adding them to the Flickr Group.

A Real Look at Your Etsy Search Rankings

Are you panicking over Etsy's change to make relevancy search the default? Should you be? Visits can fluctuate widely from day to day for reasons that have nothing to do with Etsy's internal search. To really see what's going on you need to look at only visits coming from Etsy's internal search. Here's a quick way to check if it has helped or hurt you. For this you need Site Search tracking set up on Google Analytics (if you don't go here to see how, but I'm not sure if it will give you site search stats retroactively). You could also do this with Etsy's new shop stats but I prefer Analytics for it's ability to do direct comparison of date ranges.

Log into Analytics and go down to Content->Site Search. Set your date range to August 9, 2011 - Yesterday's date (because we want stats for whole days not partial we don't want to include today's date). Then check the box that says "Compare to past" and it should select an equal number of days right before August 9th then click "Apply".In my case the number of searches on Etsy leading to my items increased by 31.85%

Now I don't think this change has been around long enough to get really meaningful results yet, my increases could just be a fluke or because I've added new items, but it's a start and if I had found I was doing worse I'd be in changing my listings to improve them.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Handstitching the Long Tail

There's recently been a lot of stress in the Etsy community over the search being switched from Recency to Relevency. I'm not stressing. Why? Because the same things that help you in the Etsy relevancy search are also the things that help you in Google searches and if you've read this blog enough you know that I think Google is what you should be focusing on.

The first page of any Etsy search is 40 items, that means that you can't be on the first page of every search that would be relevant for your items. It's impossible. What you should be striving for is a well rounded listing that isn't trying to be at the top for only one or two searches, but a listing that ranks well if not at the very top for a wide range of related searches.

There's a concept called the "long tail" that is very important whenever you are talking about search engine rankings. The idea behind the long tail is that many search terms are only search for rarely but if you rank well for enough of these little searches you will get a lot of traffic. So stop worrying that you aren't on the first page for "dress" and start making sure you are titling, tagging, and writing descriptions so you will rank well for "blue cotton seashell print dress" in either Etsy or Google.

Wish all you want but Etsy, Google, and any other search engine is never going to tell you exactly what will put you at the top. The best you can do is write as relevant and accurate listings as you can that use good keywords that describe your items (and for Google build good backlinks). Don't pull your hair out trying to rank best for one narrow term in one search engine as your main way to get traffic, a broad approach to SEO and promotion will give you more consistent results that will protect you from major changes in just one area.  I would rather have 50 small traffic streams bringing me 5 visits each than one source sending me 250 visits because if one out of fifty disappears I'm not going to be devastated, I can just roll with the changes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

SEO and Your Customers

Users come first. That should be your number one rule whether you use Etsy, Artfire, or a self-hosted webstore. What this means is that while you should be using important keywords in your titles and descriptions, those are useless if your customers are turned off by the way your titles and descriptions are written or how your photos look they aren't going to buy no matter how well you rank in search.

This concept is called "conversions", you want the highest conversion rate you can get (for a web store that the % of visitors who make a purchase). If you have 5000 visitors a month with a conversion rate of 1% you are doing the same amount of business as a shop with 1000 visitors but a 5% conversion rate (50 sales per month). If you have 10,000 visitors a month but no one buys anything you might as well have had no visitors at all.

Here are three fictional titles for the same fictional product:
"Marvin the Robot"
"Soap robot lavender scented blue soy moisturizing handmade vegan"
"Marvin the Robot soap, moisturizing lavender scented soy soap"

The first is terrible, it doesn't even tell you what the item is. You can have creative names for your product, a memorable name may stick in a visitors head better than something descriptive but generic. However if the not having many clues, or misleading clues, about what the item is will hurt you as well. If visitors are clicking on "Marvin the Robot" expecting a toy or artwork not soap then that's not going to help your sales.

The second is better but a visitor is going to see it as either boring at best and spammy at worst. Why? because it's just a list of attributes of the product. People react to language in certain ways and if words don't read like a meaningful statement people aren't going to perceive it as valuable. Try reading your titles out loud and see how they sound.

The third title strikes the right balance. It both is descriptive, telling you a lot about the product (that it is a robot shaped soap, made of soy, moisturizes the skin, and is lavender scented) while also giving you product personality. If you don't know about the importance of telling a story about your business please go read All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin he describes the concept far better than I can but the gist of it is that people respond far more to being told a good authentic story than they do just being given the bare facts.

I used titles in this example because Etsy's new CEO just released an update on improvements to relevancy search and how to make titles better for search. I applaud the Etsy team for making much needed improvements to the search engine but I think it gave people the wrong idea. Ranking higher in search will not do any good if your customers aren't enticed by what they see.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Keep an Open Mind

I'm currently working on a wholesale jewelry order however it's not one of my standard designs. Not even close in fact. My usually jewelry designs are sea creatures not food however I was contacted about doing a large number of vegetable earrings. One of my twitter friends who also makes jewelry (but not in polymer clay) wanted some pieces to sell at a local festival that was geared towards it's theme. We worked out a price per piece and I've been busy creating them. If I was to keep rigidly to my usual jewelry themes I would have missed this chance for a pretty good order. I don't plan to expand my own lines to food or anything of that nature but for a custom wholesale order? Absolutely.
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