3 things I’ve learnt in my second month of Etsy Optimisation 

Ok, it’s been more like 3 months than a single month, but the title read better that way…

Background – I’m still learning about Etsy, but here’s some of the stuff I’ve learned from the brilliant Etsy UK Sellers Networking Group and Etsy UK Sellers Help Group which I’ve interpreted and coloured with some of my own knowledge.

This is a long post, I’m going into a bit of detail here – feel free to shout out if something needs more explanation.

Thing # 1: Don’t confuse acquisition, conversion and fulfilment.

Every facet of your listing, your shop and the products you deliver to a customer can be seen as doing one of three basic things:

a) Acquiring/attracting a potential customer

b) Converting a potential customer into an actual paying customer

c) Fulfilling the order (and potentially converting that customer into a repeat customer – i.e. the loopback)

In almost all cases, each component of your listing or shop or everything else does just one job, and must do it well.

Let’s step through.


SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

This is the big one, and it’s how people already on Etsy find your products, it’s also how people on google find both you+Etsy in one fell swoop from a google/bing search, though I’m less convinced this will have any meaningful impact on most traders.

SEO is simply the art & science of understanding what people who could buy your product will type into the etsy search box, and then making sure your product listing is optimised to match those terms. You do this in your title and tags and also in your description (I wrote about that in 5 things I learned in my first month on Etsy and you can also read tips from the master at the Fairy Fountain Gift Shop blog).

If you do this well, and if people start finding your products in search and favouriting them, then your search listing rank will increase, and you’ll appear nearer the start. The first 3 pages of results are considered a useful place to be. I wrote about how to find your Etsy search rank in this blog post, but keep in mind that it has limited use (it’s no silver bullet). It’s possible to force yourself to the top for any given keyword, but that has very limited use since you’ll quickly drop back down.

Some bad news/good news. The bad news is that you can only rank once for each keyword on etsy. By that I mean you can only rank highly once for each keyword. So if you have 2 products which emphasise the keyword ‘birthday card’ which are otherwise identical, one of them may well get into the first 3 pages, but you’ll be very lucky if the other one gets into the first ten pages. It could happen, but it will be rare.

The good news is that you probably have more than one listing for similar products. So although similar listings can share many keywords in their title/tags, you have the opportunity now to cover a wider range of possible keywords, each one being the focus on one of your listings. If you also have internal links in your listings to other products, this means you can build quite a wide net to catch lots of different search terms and funnel people into your shop (and keep them there).

Here’s a completely made up example where I’ve picked 18 fairly relevant keywords and then selected 13 for each product. The focus keyword  / triple lock is different for each as that’s what I’m trying to rank for.

Planning tags for multiple similar items whist avoiding conflict on your focus keyword
Planning tags for multiple similar items whist avoiding conflict on your focus keyword

The final step in acquisition from a search listing is your main image (the ‘click grabber’ or ‘thumbnail’). This has to be the best image. Opinions vary as to whether it should just be the product, or whether it also sells a little bit of promise of lifestyle, but that’s something you’ll need to work out for yourself. It must be clear, bright, inviting. It has one job and one job only, to get a click. That’s it. It doesn’t have to sell the product (that would be quite a burden on a single image), it just has to get a click. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be a full image, you might only show part of it. Smartphone cameras are decent enough now, and if you try third party apps like Camera+ you have more control over exposure and white balance. Post processing apps can whiten the background, brighten the image and adjust colour depth – have a play (and play constantly with this – literally if you take 30-40 images a day of random objects and use various apps and features to get the best out of them you’ll be a pro in a fortnight…)

Acquisition from social media

Similar principles apply as above. The click-grabber image is the one you’ll get people to pin or share, and ideally they’ll use this to come straight into your listing. It can be argued that acquisition from social media is more valuable than from within Etsy search because it means that someone has already found your product and is interested enough to click the link. It’s certainly more valuable for Etsy Co to have external users driven to your Etsy listing on their website. But conversely, these people could be less ready to actually purchase (i.e. killing time on social media) so the assessment of how valuable these acquisitions are is up to you. If you get lots of tourists from social media but no purchases then it may be time to put less effort into social media and more into other forms of advertising and marketing.

The same can hold true for acquisition from your own blog, other people’s blogs, paid adverts. It’s fine to put time and effort into these areas, but don’t commit endlessly and blindly to them – assess after a while to ascertain whether your traffic increases and is the kind of traffic that converts well into paying customers – you might get the same traffic and conversion from a single 600-word blog post per week as you do from an 800-word blog post every day. Don’t be afraid to revisit acquisition sources every few months. If a blog isn’t working well now, that doesn’t mean it won’t work well in the future.


Converting visitors into paying customers is the next and arguably most important step in the chain. Once a customer lands on your product listing, they’ll be in one of 3 states:

  1. Not going to buy anything and never were
  2. Weren’t intending to buy anything but could be convinced
  3. Are intending to buy and are looking for reasons to complete the transaction with you

People will often dismiss the first category. But just because they’re not going to buy now doesn’t mean they won’t in the future, so almost everything that holds true for the ‘Maybes’ and the ‘Yeses’ will also hold for the ‘No’ group, except that you’ll simply be playing a long game with them and hope to get their business some other time (don’t get trapped with time wasters though).

‘Maybe’ customers can be convinced to part with money if the conditions are right, and the ‘Yes’ customers are there to buy. So how do you convert?

Building up to a buying decision will be down to description, photos and price. Your description should be factual and enticing, if you don’t know how to write one like this, copy a successful seller’s style. Photos are a source of great angst for many people. We’ve already talked about the click-grabber, and that has a minor role here too, but you have 4 other photo slots so make the most of them. Close ups, different angles, in use, twinned with props or complementary products. Pricing is another huge topic. Every seller I’ve met so far, me included, devalues their own work. Also remember, this is Etsy, not poundland. Customers are here because they want hand crafted and unique. Of course there are people who want something for nothing, and if you don’t ask for a discount you don’t get, but this is a premium product marketplace.

What does that mean? It means that if you under-price, you’ll do as much or maybe more damage to your conversion rates than if you over-price. Price it too low, and people will think ‘what’s wrong with it?’

Do your research on prices for similar products, and price yourself either in the middle or a little above. Also forget about .99 pricing – it’s considered aggressive and cheap. Round numbers are friendly and seen as more authentic especially in a handmade setting.

The final part of the decision to buy may well come down to your ‘About Me’, shipping prices, shipping upgrade options, policies and general look and feel of your shop. They may check you out on twitter, Facebook etc. Getting these things right could be the difference of a few tenths of a percent of conversion rate (which could mean a sale or two each month). They may also be looking for discount codes. one thing I’ve started doing is offering a 10% discount for people who sign up to my mailing list. They don’t have to hunt hard to get it, but it could away the person who really wants a discount.


To be honest, this is the area I was pretty sure I had nailed even when setting up my Etsy shop. The secret here is to get prepared. All my greetings cards, posters and notebooks are packaged and ready to go. My fulfilment process is simply:

  • Print picking slip
  • Collect right sized envelope
  • Collect product
  • Print label
  • Assemble
  • Crack open a beer

I used to write a note on the picking slip/receipt but I’ve largely stopped now because I didn’t really think it was doing much, especially for ‘commodity’ products like greetings cards that I make up in batches. For personalised or special/large orders I still write a thank you by hand.

Because I print the receipt on good paper, because I use good quality board envelopes and wraps, because I have good quality printed labels and because I have a super-fast (‘frictionless’ in modern-toss parlance) fulfilment process and usually get everything out same or next day, I’ve conveyed quality and competence which I believe are the two biggest factors for repeat customers. I may revise my opinion on this in the future.

(Repeat customers are awesome because they’re much cheaper to acquire than brand new customers).

Thing #2: Lies, damn lies and statistics

There are two important metrics on Etsy (in my opinion) which combine to make the only statistic worth worrying about. Those metrics are Number of Views and Number of Sales.

If you divide Sales by Views and multiply by 100 you get a conversion rate (i.e. how many tourists parted with cash).

This isn’t infallible. In fact in some cases it can be downright misleading. Firstly, if a customer orders 5 different greetings cards from me, that’s 5 sales. You can argue the pros and cons of counting these individually, for now I think they’re worth including (and it would be fairly cumbersome to discount them and only count unique orders).

What’s a good conversion rate?

One percent. Two percent is bloody good. Personally I’m on 1.3% for October/November which is ok. I know I have a lot of gaps in my shop so I’m over the moon with better than 1%.

What if I’m under 1%?

Don’t worry too much – like I said, it’s pretty fallible and will vary a lot from industry to industry. I sell £2.50 products which are almost throwaway amounts of money for many people. If you’re selling £50 pieces of jewellery, you’re going to get more tourists anyway, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you were hitting between 0.5% and 0.75% in a pricey jewellery category on a good week. Same goes for niche products.

Being a part of like-for-like networking activities may also skew your conversion rates down, and January is never going to be as good as the run up to xmas.

If you’re getting really low conversion rates, and your views are good, then consider putting less effort into views and more effort into your conversion factors above. If you’ve done that, and still not getting sales after months of trying despite stellar visitor figures, then it could be your product or the Etsy marketplace.

What if I’m over 2% – good right?

Yes and no. Yes, you’re doing an amazing job of converting visitors, but if you’re getting that many customers, are you leaving some profit on the table? Could you be getting slightly fewer sales but making more profit on each one? Could you be driving more visitors to take advantage of that amazing conversion rate?

What about favourites?

I don’t really worry too much about favourites, they’re basically an opinion poll, but they do help push your listing higher in search results (as long as you observe the conditions for Etsy’s search algorithms). Anywhere between say 10% and 30% of views is probably fine. Significantly lower than 10% and I might start thinking about redesigning that product, especially if it hasn’t had many sales.

What about proportion of reviews?

I’ve heard the figure 20% mentioned and I’m sat on that right now personally, so all I’ll say is that if you’re significantly lower than that and getting multiple reviews less than 5* then think about your fulfilment processes. You’re only as good as your last sale.

Thing # 3: Only change one thing at a time

It’s overwhelming to read an article like this and think “fuck…now I have to remember to do about 20 things on all 200 listings and I’ll have to shoot another thousand photos and rewrite all my descriptions….”


Pick one product, and improve your titles, tags, photos. Use research tools like Etsyrank and Marmalead or Etsy’s own search. Read the fairy fountain gift blog (linked above). Get comfortable with social media, just for that one product. Once you’re on to a winning formula, pick the next product, and so on.

The other problem with changing lots of things at the same time is that you won’t know which one had the positive or negative effect. This is called “running a multi-variant experiment” and that way lies madness.

Change something, let it settle, see what happens. If you do want to make multiple changes, then change different things on different listings. On one listing, change tags and titles, on the other improve your photos. Track what happens, and use this information to inform your next action.

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