One Weird Trick – How Etsy Search Works

For every person wondering how to get found on Etsy, there’s another person who has just stumbled across this article which Etsy hid in plain sight (how dare they!).

How Etsy Search Works:

Have you read it? Did you catch everything in it? Me neither the first time. It took about 5 re-reads to pick up everything, and I still might have missed something.

Here’s a line by line analysis with my interpretation and recommendation.

How does Etsy Search Work?

When a member searches for an item on Etsy, 
Etsy’s search algorithm works to return the most relevant matches. 
Details of this algorithm change regularly so we can help buyers 
find what they're looking for.

Nothing surprising here, but they key thing is ‘change regularly’. So not only will Etsy not tell you exactly how their algorithm works, they’ll also change it without warning, and not tell you that either.

Sellers control the most important factors in Etsy Search placement. 
Please read on to learn what Etsy Search looks for, 
and what you can do to help improve how buyers find your shop.

However, they don’t just want you to give up, so they dangle a carrot. An artisanal, hand-marketed, raw-vegan #natural #carrot. But I digress.


Factors in Etsy Search Placement

The following factors combine to determine which items appear 
and the order (or placement) in which those items are displayed. 
Keep in mind that these factors are not equally weighted to 
determine the order of the results.

Note: ‘are not equally weighted’ but we’re not told the weighting. This means that many things you’ll hear about how to optimise for Etsy will be at least part opinion.


Tag and Title Relevancy

First, every item in the results must match the buyer’s search word or phrase. 
Items that do not match a buyer’s search won’t be included in results.
For example, the search “banana backpack” will only return items that 
match both “banana” and “backpack” in either the listing tags or titles.

Several things here:

  1. ‘Word or phrase’ – so both single and multi-word keywords are supported
  2. Items not matching the phrase won’t be returned. So if customers are habituated to searching for something specific, then be specific in your keywords. Don’t just use ‘card’ when a customer is going to be searching for ‘birthday card’.

It also says either the listing tags or titles. But as you’ll see in a few paragraphs, unless your keyword is in both the title and tags, it won’t be seen as important as one that is in both, so for now, ignore ‘either’.

Once the search algorithm finds all of the items that match the search, 
we also use keywords to determine the order of those results.

Firstly, go to Etsy and type in a huge search term like ‘birthday’ and count the results (1.5m) and then count how many pages of results are returned (250). you can’t fit 1.5m results on 250 pages. So ‘once the search algorithm finds all of the items’ is a misleading phrase. It will only find the first 250 pages which, at 56 results per page gives us 14k results. So if you’re picking a keyword that returns more than 14k results in Etsy search, you’ll need to work hard to even get it on the map.

Now consider ‘we also use keywords to determine the order of those results’. This is the nub and crux of Etsy SEO. Read on.

Exact phrase matches are stronger than matches on individual words. 
For example, a search for “banana backpack” would return all items 
with the words “banana” and “backpack” in the tags or title, 
but items with “banana backpack” in the title would be considered a closer match.

Exact phrase matches on multiple words will be stronger than individual words. So again, don’t be too generic unless you’re strong enough to compete with other sellers on the big keywords. But let’s also try another experiment. Type in ‘birthday card’ to etsy search, and then type in ‘birthday cards’. identical number of results. So there’s the first exception to ‘exact’. Etsy will ignore or perform some dictionary matching on plurals.

We also run into another problem with tags; they have a 20 character limit. Which means your title phrases also must have a 20 character limit. Conversely, I’ve had some success with a 4 word, 24 character keyword that I split down into 2 x 12 word tags, and anyone else competing for this will have the same problem.

Interestingly, although ‘birthday card’ and ‘birthday cards’ return identical results, ‘card birthday’ returns two more results than the other two terms. I don’t know if there’s any advantage to knowing this, but I’ll experiment and let you know.

If a word or phrase in a buyer’s search appears in both the 
title and tags of a listing, the search algorithm considers 
that listing more relevant than a listing with that word or 
phrase in the tags or title alone.

Read that again, and again, and again. There’s the money shot. The follow-through is next:

Words at the beginning of titles are considered more 
important than words at the end.

What does all this mean? It means that Etsy completely wasted the opportunity for tags. They’re pointless. Because you have to copy and paste your title into the tags field and get it to match in order to rank. Utter waste of functionality.

Notice something else? The description field is conspicuous by its absence. Etsy doesn’t care what’s in the description (Google does though – the first part of your description is what Google’s SEO relies on so it’s worth getting right in the same was as your title).

So you have to put your most important sub-20 character keyword at the beginning of the title and duplicate it in the tags.

Listing Quality

In an effort to show items that buyers are likely to purchase, 
Etsy’s search algorithm also considers how well individual items 
tend to do in search. We call this “listing quality.”

If a buyer clicks, favorites, or purchases an item after they’ve 
seen it in search results, that action contributes to the 
listing’s quality score.

Ok, so any of you doing those ‘click like on 24 other people’s listings’ games will probably want to reign it in after reading this. The key is ‘after they’ve seen it in search results’. So posting a link to your listing and asking people to give it some dumb likes will do, at best, nothing. Zero. Zilch. You might get some sales incidentally from friends of friends who have just seen it pop up, but you’d probably be better off spending the time doing social media marketing.

It does mean, however, that you could ask someone to enter your lead keyword in search, go through page after page until they find your item, and then click on it, like it and if they’re feeling flush, buy it. I’ve experimented with this and had some reasonable results. Be warned that getting to a high page doesn’t mean you’ll stay there, so gaming the system this way is a fairly pointless exercise. There’s another factor we’ll come to next that will exacerbate the problems in keeping a high position (with a possible remedy).

Since listings at the top of results tend to receive more 
buyer attention than those at the bottom, 
Etsy’s search algorithm adjusts for the expected buyer behavior 
for these different locations.

I can’t be certain, but I think this means that clicks/faves/buys when you’re already at the top of the page will count less than if you’re at the bottom. A possible solution to this though is the Etsy promoted listing feature. This will move you to a ranked advertising spot at the top or middle of the page you would ordinarily achieve anyway, and has the potential to move you to a higher page, though I’ve not proved this yet myself. There are 8 advert positions (4 top, 4 middle), and you’ll get position 1-8 depending on how much you bid for the ad. I usually advise this only for certain listings – those where you’ve achieved a page 1-3 rank and struggle to stay above the scroll. If you blanket promote, keep a very close eye on performance – both views and conversion rates.


Customer & Marketplace Experience

We want buyers to have a great experience when they purchase from a seller on Etsy.
Because of this, we consider a shop’s record of customer service and 
whether it’s in good standing according to Etsy’s policies.

Whoah. This is big. So it’s not just your keywords and listing quality over time, you’ll also rank depending on your overall shop. Read on to see how.

Great reviews, completed About section, and completed shop policies 
can all help your placement in search.

Do these now if you haven’t already. Reviews are tricky to encourage, but prompt service, good packaging, clear descriptions so they don’t feel ripped off by not reading the size properly.

Using the shop policies template will also slightly improve your placement
(FAQs and seller details are not factored).

Cheeky. They obviously want everyone protected and operating on the same page, but that robs sellers of nuance in dealing with custom orders in some cases. However, if it doesn’t affect you, then  it’s a no-brainer to adopt Etsy’s template policies. FAQ and seller details are still useful in my opinion, so I’d still do these if you can.

However, recent cases and past intellectual property infringement issues 
can have a negative effect. 
New shops have a neutral score, which has no impact on placement.

All the more important to keep people happy, but obviously don’t pander to people trying to pull a fast one. This does raise the question of malicious CI claims to troll competitors, but I’d hope that Etsy has processes in place to stop this. If you have CI (copyright infringing) items, then sorry to break it to you, but you’re stealing. Stop it now, be creative. You’ll get found eventually anyway and your shop will drop lower in rankings.


To keep search results fresh for frequent shoppers, 
Etsy’s search algorithm reviews how recently an item was listed or relisted.

Ever felt certain items had gone ‘on a run’? This could be because of the auto-renew feature every sale triggers which obviously helps recency, thus increases ranking so it gets found more easily and so on in a virtuous cycle.

Shop Location

Many buyers in certain countries, like the UK, Australia, France, and Germany, 
have told us that they like purchasing from sellers based in their own countries 
because they find it to be more convenient and less expensive.
In order to make local items slightly more prominent in 
search results in these specific countries, 
we take the location of the shop and the shopper into account. 
Searches made within other countries do not take shop location into account for search results.

I’m not sure there’s a lot we can do here.

Shop Diversity

Buyers on Etsy are looking to explore a marketplace of unique items. 
In order to meet this expectation, Etsy’s search algorithm 
works to show results from a variety of shops, when available.

Simply put, you won’t rank more than once on high pages for popular keywords (in large categories). So using the same keywords for different items is pointless (though I will sometimes start 4 or 5 new products off with the same keyword to see which one rises the highest and then change the rest). You can cover a wider range of keywords this way, and use internal hyperlinks inside your listing description to point back to other items in your etsy shop.

Edit: Promoted listings might help you have multiple products on one page, but this is a whole other topic


C’est fin.

The rest of the article covers some stuff that needs no interpretation and has some great advice too. It’s worth reading in full, several times, and bookmarking. As Etsy changes search, they should be updating that article.


Rumours and Anecdotes

I’ve heard 2 rumours that also affect listing quality and ranking. These are unconfirmed.

  1. Listing browse duration: the length of time someone is on one of your listings for. This could be a bounce rate type of measure.
  2. Shop conversion rate (the views to sales ratio) – so if you’re playing networking games getting dumb likes, you’ll actively hurt your ranking. As a rule of thumb, I’m generally happy with a conversion rate of 1% or better. The ecommerce average is about 2.3%, but this includes tat websites, so for a premium marketplace, 1% is probably ok.


Further reading

One of my slightly older articles talks about what else is necessary to get business by thinking of acquisition, conversion and fulfilment. Read it here:

I’m a big fan of Jennifer Dodd’s blog posts about keyword selection and SEO – you can find her work here:

Finally, I’m one of the admins on a 9k-strong facebook Etsy support group called the Etsy UK Sellers Networking Group. We’re not that strict about it being UK only, but if you post anything other than Etsy links there you’ll be swiftly removed.


If you liked this article, please leave a like or a follow here on WordPress, or check out my Etsy shop at:


  1. Hi Rob, great article! I’m storing all these really helpful etsy blog posts on my Pinterest boards. Are you able to add a Pinterest sharing button to your blog to facilitate this please?


    1. Thanks! I’ve enabled Pintrest share per post (in the footer of each article) and also added my own to the top menu – hope this is ok!


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