Etsy Jam

Etsy SEO Advice 2018: A Chat with SEO Veterans Kara And Tara

This week we double down and have TWO very special guests with us! Kara Buntin from ACakeToRemember and Tara Jacobsen from MarketingArtfully join us to discuss a plethora of Etsy SEO topics. Keep reading to find out a ton of fantastic information and opinions from these two awesome Etsy SEO veterans! Their advice is sure to help with your Etsy shop success

This week we double down and have TWO very special guests with us! Kara Buntin from ACakeToRemember and Tara Jacobsen from MarketingArtfully join us to discuss a plethora of Etsy SEO topics. Keep reading to find out a ton of fantastic information and opinions from these two awesome Etsy SEO veterans!

Tried and true

Both Kara and Tara have been on our Jams before today. They are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to selling on Etsy and knowing about not just Etsy SEO, but SEO in general. Their shops and businesses are a testament to how SEO savvy these ladies are. We’ll be diving in with them to discuss a whole plethora of things, so buckle up and hang on tight!

What do you do when there’s “hot” SEO news from Etsy?:

Kara: It depends on if it’s directly from Etsy or from an Etsy forum. The first thing I do is to go to actual Etsy sources to see if I can find anything to back this news up. If I can’t, I keep it in the back of my mind, but I’m not going to put a lot of stock into things that don’t come directly from Etsy.

Currently, the “hot topic” is the Etsy seller success group that Etsy started. They’re going to be doing a revamp of the forums, search articles, and the community space on Etsy in the fall. A recent admin of Etsy has said this publicly, so it’s not just speculation. I think this group has something to do with that but I’m not sure what. Etsy invited sellers to be in this group and I happened to get an invitation. I was one of MANY people so it’s not like they’re handing out secret information to a select few. The guy who’s in charge of the search ranking team came to this group and answered some SEO questions people had posted.

Now, because he’s in charge of the search ranking team, I believe him. What this guy shared with us is, I believe, a precursor to the updates Etsy will be doing to their search articles. One of the key things I took away from the information he shared is that Etsy will no longer weight the front of titles more strongly than the end of titles. So, you can put your keywords anywhere in your title and they’ll still be found, which is what I’d been seeing in search anyway.

Tara: I would just like to remind everyone that it IS possible to be found in Google search for your Etsy items. I know this because I have stats that show this happens. I think something people often forget is that what you do in that first part of your title affects your Google rankings too. Google is not going to find a keyword at the end of your Etsy title. Also, Google can’t find “handmade” or “vintage” if it’s an attribute. One of the things that drives me nuts is that people take all this Etsy talk and then they don’t think about real-world ramifications.

Kara: That’s very true! Tara, you tend to think about Etsy SEO and Google interrelatedly more than a lot of sellers. Even more than I do! I tend to think of Etsy and then think of Google as it relates to my personal website. But, this is something the new admin said as well: Etsy isn’t going to look at the front of your title, but Google is. He also said to always make sure you’re writing your titles for your customers. If the most descriptive part of your title is at the front where they can see it under the thumbnail on the search results, then that’s going to help your customer too.

I don’t think people often think about writing for the customer because everyone’s so focused on the search engines. I’ve always written for the customer! For example, I’ll say “twenty-four rainbow edible butterflies” as opposed to “edible butterflies”. This way, if someone is looking at the thumbnail in the search results, they can see how many, the color, what it is, and it’s all right at the front of the title. I tend to write this way and the admin confirmed this. He also said several times to keep your titles short and sweet. Basically, if you’re doing your SEO in the correct way now, you don’t need to go and change anything because of that.   

So, what are your feelings on keeping your titles short and sweet?

Kara: My thoughts about this are short and sweet is relative to the amount of space Etsy gives you. If they give you all that space, I’m filling up all that space because it’s there and Etsy reads the whole thing! Why waste your space by leaving it empty? Keep your most important part right at the front, short and sweet, and then put some more keywords in there.

Tara: Etsy has said that the description doesn’t count. I believe them at this point. But if you’re then saying, “Oh, I have room to put thirty-five keywords in there but I’m going to keep it down to five,” why would you do that?! And then, this is my BIGGEST PET PEEVE which I came on this Jam to say: DON’T CHANGE EVERY ONE OF YOUR LISTINGS THE NEXT DAY BASED ON INFORMATION YOU GET FROM A RANDOM STRANGER, EVEN ONE THAT WORKS AT ETSY! What are your thoughts on this, Gordon?

Gordon: I think you’re going to have a really bad time as a seller if you change everything at once. The best case scenario is that the information you’re getting is correct. But even if it is and you need to change your listings, I wouldn’t do them all at once! I wouldn’t want to start from scratch on all my listings with all new titles and tags. As a seller, you build credit for the keywords you’re targeting and the ones you get found for. When you swap all those out, you’re starting from ground zero to build up credibility again.

Richie: Also consider that even if that person was correct in what they told you, what if you just misunderstood them just a little bit? Then you went and changed four hundred listings thinking you understood what was said. Now, you’ve changed all those listings and done it wrong. This happens a lot!

Tara: Tracey Ghazal asked both Kara and me in the Marmalead Facebook group if we were going to change our listings based on this new information. Now, I have over four hundred and fifty listings between my Etsy shops. I don’t see the value of wasting your time acting productive, doing something like that. Why wouldn’t you add more listings in? I’m also a huge believer in using the Etsy stats. If you are going to go in and change something, please look at your stats! They have your bottom ten listings there, so change those. DO NOT go in and change your top ten listings today…or ever! At least not until you’re certain you have a change that will be effective.

How many listings would you both suggest that a seller should change at any given time? And how long would you suggest they wait to see if those changes are working?

Tara: I definitely mess around with listings, especially with my digital products. For my vintage people, I wish this was a better answer for you, but for vintage, there’s really no way to track it because you don’t have sales volume over time. For my digital products, I will go in and change some of the bottom listings, and then I wait about a month before judging how well those changes are doing.

Kara: First off, I’m a really bad girl and I don’t usually change much. But, I have over nine hundred listings in my shop. I can’t go in there and monitor everything. It’s simply impossible. I can tell when they come up and renew if it’s a listing I made when I first opened my shop and didn’t know what I was doing. Of course, I’ll redo those completely. But I rarely go back and check stats.

Tara: And I LOVE stats! I have found for vintage, the one thing that does help us is stats and looking at those longtail keywords. If your store is already doing good for certain keywords, make sure you know those keywords and do your best to keep showing up in search for them. Etsy did recently say this as well.

Kara: The new admin for Etsy also said you should target niche keywords as opposed to the more general ones. The way the new admin said to do the titles and tags, was to get your title with your main keywords and match the ones you want to be found for to send Etsy the signal. So there’s nothing new about that. Then, use your tags to put in a variety of keywords that your item could also be found for so you’re found for more longtail searches. This is what Tara and I have already been doing. But, I don’t think people understand that when you put more terms in, you’ll be found for more niche searches.

Tara: I agree that sellers often don’t understand this and they’re very frustrated. I’m not going to criticize anyone for being frustrated, but I have an example of someone not understanding this. This person was in an online group I was in. For the purpose of this example let’s say she had a listing for vanilla candles. She literally had “vanilla candle, lavender candle, etc.” and said, “How else would I ever describe a candle?” Well, you need to go to the search bar and do several searches! Pinterest is also a great place to find different keywords. Once you get your new keywords, then go back to Marmalead and see which one has the highest search volume. If you’re looking at “vanilla candle” and “vanilla candles” you must also be aware that there will be a difference in search volume because one is plural and one isn’t. They are absolutely not the same. Often singular and plural forms of the same keyword can be quite different in their search volume.

Are sales down for everyone, just me, or is it a seasonal event?

Kara: And the answer is, maybe all of the above. It’s wedding season so my sales are currently up. In November and December when everyone else is really busy, my sales will be down. Instead of worrying what everybody else is doing, I’ll look at my year-over-year stats. Every time I have a freak out that my sales are dropping compared to the previous month, I go back and look at last year and say, “Oh it dropped last year too compared to the previous month.” Then I calm down and go about my business. Don’t go worrying about what everybody else is doing. Everybody else has a different product and there are different cycles of sales for everything. You can’t compare apples to oranges that way.

Tara: I think people need to hear this from me because they often hear Etsy “gurus” talking about how well they’re selling: my vintage stuff is not selling right now. But my planners are selling great! Probably because people are freaking out that their kids are home and they’re struggling to manage their business and family. What does this tell us? I feel like it tells us a couple of different things. First off, I’m diversified. I sell consultations, planners, and vintage. This makes me prepared to weather these kinds of storms.

So, what if you sell t-shirts and your sales are down right now? I’m currently obsessed with the trends of Holidays, especially because Etsy does this. If you sell t-shirts, why not ride that wave for any holidays that come up?

Kara: I do have some specific things that are for Holidays in my shop and can usually see those Holiday sales coming. Usually, you have to plan about ninety days ahead for Holiday sales. Make sure you use your calendar and look ahead to see what Holidays are coming up and then start your planning. You can also see what Etsy is advertising on the banner on their front page. As soon as they start advertising whatever Holiday it may be, you better have it in your shop.

Tara: Kara, if you have something in your shop that’s, let’s say red for example, would you use this red thing for Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, and Christmas? Or do you make them very Holiday specific?

Kara: That’s an interesting question now with the AI that Etsy’s search is doing. If you have something that’s not specifically for a certain holiday, Etsy doesn’t want you to put that in the attributes. For example, I have some edible butterflies that I made specifically for Valentine’s Day with little hearts on their wings. The listing for these butterflies has Valentine’s Day in the attributes. But, if I had some butterflies that were just red, I don’t know that I would put Valentine’s Day in the attributes. I might put it in a tag, like “valentines day party” or “valentines day cupcakes”.

Gordon: Yeah, it’s really important that your keywords apply to your listings which is why checking your stats is a good idea if you’re not sure. If you’re putting keywords on a listing and showing up in search but people aren’t clicking on your listing, it’s probably doing more harm than good on your listing at that point.

Richie: And keep in mind that if you use a keyword and your listing is showing up and doing well, Etsy’s going to keep showing that listing. This is validation for whether your market thinks certain keywords are a good fit for your product. The only thing you can do is make an educated guess and if it works that’s awesome, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, change it and move on.

If you have multiples of one product, should you have separate listings for each color?

Kara: Yes. This is one of the reasons I have almost nine hundred listings in my shop. With my edible butterflies alone I have multiple listings of the same butterflies that are different colors.

Tara: Yes, there are two marketing reasons you should do this as well. First, you will be found in search faster for certain colors. Second, you’ll have a higher conversion if the picture they see is the color you described in your listing.

Should you list the same color item multiple times with different SEO strategies?

Kara: I definitely do this in my shop. For example, if I have pink edible butterflies that are SEO’d for Valentine’s Day, I’ll also have a separate listing SEO’d for let’s say, a little girl’s birthday.

Tara: I feel like I see a lot of seller’s very hesitant to have multiple listings for the same item with different SEO silos.

Richie: Yeah, I feel like sellers also make a lot of assumptions about what their customers know. A seller might think it’s obvious that a customer should know once they click on a listing, they can go pick a different variation or color. You can’t assume because you have a picture of a blue butterfly that your customers know you have different colors. Stop making these assumptions. Remember, the more any of us know about any given topic the more we lose that novice status. If you make an assumption, assume your customers have no assumptions.

Kara: Sellers often don’t understand that customers don’t necessarily know how Etsy works with all the variations. You really have to go as simple as you can so that when they’re scanning the pictures on the search results,  what they’re seeing matches what they searched. Otherwise, they’ll scan right past it because it’s not what they’re looking for. When I ended up separating my butterflies out by color and created individual listings for those colors, my sales actually went up. Then, in those listings, I have keywords that apply like “valentine’s day” or “little girl birthday” to go along with the correct color.

Gordon: One thing I’ll add to this is that a lot of sellers seem to have an aversion to having multiple listings to what they see as the same item they’re selling. They often think Etsy’s not ok with this, kind of like when sellers think they can’t email their customers. This is a myth about Etsy. Etsy is ok with you having multiple listings for the same item, provided that you have the inventory to support those listings. Now, if you’re a vintage seller and only have one unique item, you can’t make multiple listings for that one item. You must have the inventory to support multiple listings for the same item.

Kara: The main objection I hear about this is that sellers say they want that one listing to gather all the “points” or quality rating. So, if you have three listings for the same color of something and all three sell individually, then you don’t get the same boost in search as you would have had if you’d sold three of the one listing. The listing quality is the main concern in this situation. Also, it can often be difficult to think of relevant keywords that would be enough to split up between three or four listings.

I will use the same keywords across listings to help with this. The new Etsy admin also suggested doing this, especially for the one-of-a-kind sellers, which Tara wrote an article about. He used the example “rustic home decor”. He said if you have a lot of things that would fit with that description, use it in every single one of your listings if you’re a one-of-a-kind or vintage seller. This sends Etsy a little signal that since a shop has sold one of these, maybe they can look in this shop to find another listing with similar keywords since it’s popular and selling things.

Tara: And since our stuff is so weird, I know this works. I sell a lot of door stops because I sell a lot of door stops. I have four hundred things and three door stops, and my door stops will sell out. Also, I can sell asparagus tongs like crazy! Which is super specific. As soon as I list them, they’re going to sell. So, I can’t tell you about having multiple iterations, but I can tell you about having similar keywords.

This correlates with a huge question vintage sellers ask: do I renew that listing rather than selling a similar one? I never do “renew that listing” because then the reviews and the background information is for an entirely different asparagus tong, which could be confusing. So, what I do is to “sell as similar” and that way they don’t get confused about their asparagus tongs.

Kara: With that idea of using the same keyword though, it goes hand in hand with having multiple listings for the same item. You’re getting the same kind of boost or you’re sending the same signal to Etsy that you’ve got a lot of this particular thing. 

Tara: Right, you’re getting credit for it. This is where I’m saying that this does work from my experience. It doesn’t have to be that same listing for them to give you credit across multiple things. It even has longevity because when I sell out of asparagus tongs, I can list another asparagus tong later and they still give me that credit.

Kara: Also, people often say not to use the same keywords because you’ll be competing against yourself. Number one, that phrase is two years old, get rid of it. It doesn’t matter with the algorithm now, so forget “compete with yourself”. I’ve got four hundred silicone mold listings and you can bet every single one of those has the phrase “silicone mold” in there somewhere. Etsy knows I have a lot of them and they’re going to give me credit for that. If someone is looking for one, I’m probably going to show up in their search. Same goes for my edible butterflies, I use the phrase “edible butterflies” in every single one of those listings. There are just some things you can use in every single listing and it will make a web between all of your listings for Etsy to find you.

If people really don’t want to do multiple listings they can try the same keywords in different listings. And as long as it’s relevant, that’ll work.

If it’s a low volume keyword, will you use it?

Tara: I come down on the side of, if there are no searches or not high volume, but it’s something that human beings look for, I’ll use it. When you say there are “no searches” it doesn’t mean there are literally no searches. It means that it hasn’t hit a certain level to show up. I think because I’ve been playing in Google’s world for so long, I’m a little more zen about the whole thing because they will tell me that there are literally no searches for this month and I’ll go look at my analytics and I’ll see three searches! If I got three so did other people. I wasn’t the exclusive beneficiary of those three people. And I love the competition because I sit in competition and I’ll see which lever I can pull.

Kara: What I’ll do is to find a basic keyword. Two words usually, I don’t want to get too short tail. I’ll find one that has good search and good engagement and I don’t care about the competition at that point. This tells me that people are searching for that thing in general. Then, I’ll go back with a specific thing about it. For example, I’ll start with “edible butterfly”, then I’ll go “green edible butterfly”. As soon as you get to a longtail keyword, the search and engagement data just drop because that’s just how longtail keywords work. But, I want to see the competition at that point and I don’t care for a short tail keyword. So, at that point, I’ll say “Oh, there’s only two thousand competing listings, that’s a good one!” I use the different data at different points and definitely do not shy away from the Marmameters when it says 0-50. Then I look at the competition and know that someone is searching for that root keyword, so I’m not worried about that.

Tara: If you literally think that nobody is searching for something and you’ve tried that keyword, please go into your stats. I spend a lot of time in my stats in my longtail keywords because you can find gold there! If you’re brand new it doesn’t work, but if you have any time under your belt selling stuff, there is gold down there because you have never thought about how some of these people searched for and found your stuff.

Kara: There was an article recently that said not to worry about longtail keywords and I was like, WHAT are you talking about?! I don’t know if people know what a short tail keyword versus a longtail keyword is. I’ve heard short tail is one to two words and some people say one to three. Longtail keywords are three and up. I went into my stats for my three best sellers and this is just for this past three weeks: I had three one word searches, twenty-five two-word searches, thirty-five three words searches, twenty-two four words searches, eight five word searches, and one that was six words long. The only reason I’m showing up for those is because I’ve got all of the words in the title or tags. But, if people are saying to not worry about the longtail keywords, no! Go look and see what people are searching for because that will give you ideas.

Tara: Something else I’ve been seeing popping up in the Marmalead group is that they’re really saying, “Well, I can’t find any words that I’m willing to use because they don’t show up with searches.” I think you do the research, you find the best ones you can get, you use those and then you use the rest of them. Put your good keywords in the front and put the rest after, but don’t abandon them and not use them.

Kara: Yeah and I don’t research tags. I’ll research the main keywords that I’m going to repeat in the tags and then I’ll do the same thing that you do with putting as many words in the tags as I can because it’s twenty characters and you should use all that space. Also, the tags don’t have to make sense. They just have to exist so that Etsy can pull those words out and match them for longtail keyword queries.

Tara: And Etsy has expressly said that the tags don’t match the order of the tag words. But, the bottom line is that if you just do really good work, if you research your stuff on the internet, if you go to the Etsy search bar and then go to Pinterest and then go to Marmalead and check it, you will have a really solid listing.

Where do you get keyword ideas?

Kara & Tara: We love Pinterest!

Kara: Pinterest has all kinds of ideas that you can get for different terms. Then I check Google and I use the Keywords Everywhere app on the Chrome browser. It will tell you the Google search data for that so you can kinda get an idea if people are looking for it at all. If you have Keywords Everywhere open, it’ll give you all the searches to the right that other people have used so you can write down some ideas there. I’ll also go to Amazon and look at their search bar and the customer ratings for things. I’ll go to the reviews on Etsy to see what words people use to describe the thing that they bought. And I’ll, of course, go to the Etsy search bar. Then, after you’ve gathered your info from all these places, you take it and you put it into Marmalead. This will give you a real-life Etsy related specific idea about which ones are the best to use.

Tara: I just emailed fifteen of my favorite people and gave them a very specific example of what I was selling and I asked them to tell me how they would search for this. You have to be very specific though. For example, if you’re selling baby clothes, you could email any moms you know and ask them what the top five baby clothes were that they had to have when they were having their baby. You’re probably going to get some weird words in return. But this is the point! It’s often hard for us as sellers to break out of the box we’re fixated on calling a particular thing. So asking others specific questions like this will give you new ideas you’ve never thought of before.

Kara: I feel like I see jewelry sellers doing this a lot with very specific gemstones and metals.

Tara: Yes but I will say specifically to jewelry sellers that I really believe a lot of them are missing out on sales because they’re so caught up in the specific names of gemstones and metals and are totally missing what anniversary or occasion a gemstone represents. This is why actually reaching out and asking people what they would use a specific item for really does help! Will you use everything that everyone tells you? No, of course not. But, this will help you to get out of your rut of thinking of the same words over and over.

The conclusion

Tara: I think it’s important to realize that Kara and I agree on SEOing your products correctly with integrity and hard work. However, our method of doing this is really different from each other. I think that often sellers want to hear us say here’s step one for SEOing your products, here’s step two, here’s step three, now you’ve won. This is just not how the world works. You should have an overall plan for your SEO for your store. You should pick one or two people to follow and try their methods. Then, choose one or two listings and do their methods for a while and then leave it.

Kara: Also, I just did a video on where to go on Etsy to sign up for great information that I don’t think a lot of sellers even know about. The big one is their investors’ page. Even if you buy one share of Etsy stock, they will send you all of their investor information and it’s totally worth it! A lot of the things they send is not stuff that they publish. Also, Etsy sends out an Etsy seller newsletter every single week and I bet people just go through and delete it, but a lot of times it has stuff in it that people absolutely need to be reading. 

Final thoughts

If you’d like to check out Kara’s shop you can find her at ACakeToRemember on Etsy or on her website or Youtube channel. To find Tara, be sure to check out her website or Etsy shop PaperlyPeople. 

As usual, be sure to also listen to this week’s Jam! If you thought this blog had a lot of info, the Jam has even more:)

Happy selling, everyone!

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