How to Sell on Etsy: These Surprising Factors Won’t Help

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Still figuring out how to sell on Etsy? How to optimize your Etsy SEO? Well, I’m Etsy Coach Pam Duthie, here to share six factors that do NOT improve how your products rank in search. And some might surprise you!

Shows author pointing at text which says, "Surprisingly, these six factors won't help your Etsy SEO"

No. 1 : Your Etsy listing descriptions

So many Etsy sellers “keyword stuff” their descriptions! And this is likely why Etsy does not factor description content into its search-rank calculations.

NEWSFLASH: Etsy now factor in descriptions when ranking listings! You can learn more about it here:

Your descriptions should be written for shoppers. Specifically, shoppers in your target market. Aim to entice them to read beyond the first few words. Be sure to include answers for any questions they might have. And don’t forget to include links to related products in your Etsy shop!

Google also reads your descriptions. And Google is smart! So, don’t try to outsmart Google; it’s not going to happen. Google is well aware of seller shenanigans and hates it if you keyword-stuff. Therefore, choose relevant keywords which are descriptive of your items.

Google and now Etsy suggest you use them in full sentences, phrased naturally. In other words, don’t just randomly stuff in keywords. Google hates that, and sellers can find it annoying. Instead, focus on conveying the most important facts and details a shopper needs to know about your product. That is the purpose of your listing description.

No. 2: How many product photos you have per listing

Etsy allows us ten spaces for photos and some people think that means we need to fill them all. But this does not factor into Etsy’s search algorithm. It’s not thinking, “Oh, this seller has 10 images, so I’ll show them higher than this seller with only four.”

Like listing descriptions, product photographs are there to help the customer.

So if you only need two or three photographs to show everything about of your item, those two or three are enough.

For example, take a digital item. There’s only so much you can show of a digital item. The number of photos you need is the number of photos you need. That said, there are of course other things you can add in the space available. You can show the item in lifestyle shots. Show different ways it can be used. You can show matching pieces you have in your shop (and then provide links to those in your descriptions). Show how you package an item; show a bit of your workstation or studio. Even show some of your good reviews. Just know that if you don’t need 10 photos, you don’t need 10 photos. You won’t be penalized for having fewer.

No. 3: Whether your listing has a product video

The purpose of product videos is not to improve your rank in search. Instead, every time we create a new listing or even just renew one, Etsy keeps telling us this:

“Buyers are loving listing videos! We know that shoppers are more likely to purchase an item if the listing includes a video. Cha-ching!*

*Based on a July 2020 analysis of over 5 million buyers, comparing the purchasing behavior of those who were shown listing videos to those who were not.”

Quote taken from an Etsy listing template

Now, a product video is a lovely visual thing that people might share. They’re great to have; you can also use them elsewhere online to promote your products. On Etsy, a video can increase the time a shopper remains on your page. Just think what happens when a person is scrolling through their Etsy search results and something catches their eye. It makes them stop. A moving image accomplishes that very thing. In fact, our brains are hard-wired to prioritize paying attention to movement.

And if the shopper stops, they see your beautiful fabric flowing in the wind and catching the light. They spend a little more time on your listing. That’s more time to fall in love with your product. And then they’re more likely to buy. All of which is to say that yes, listing videos are awesome. They can help your buyer conversion – which is to say, listing videos might help you sell more on Etsy. Etsy itself keeps telling us so! But listing videos are not a factor in determining search rank.

No. 4: Repeating a keyword in more than one tag per listing

Etsy’s algorithm does not have a checklist. It’s not saying, “Wow, this seller has repeated ‘necklace’ four times in the tags of this amethyst necklace listing. Better rank it higher in shopper searches for amethyst necklace.”

Let’s use that as our “superstar keyword”. So, you want to rank in search for the keyword “amethyst necklace.” The first steps would be optimizing your listing for that superstar keyword. “Optimize” just means what you do to increase your product’s visibility in Etsy search. There are many factors that contribute to SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I’ll list some helpful posts about SEO at the end, under Resources. But here, let’s concentrate on what you can do in your Etsy product listing to optimize it. Be sure:

  • Your title is focused on that exact keyword;
  • You’ve filled out all the relevant attributes in the listing template;
  • You have clear, quality product photography;
  • Your thumbnail is a visual of that keyword (ex: an amethyst necklace without distracting props);
  • You have your superstar keyword in one of your listing tags.

Having “amethyst necklace” in one of your tags is enough for Etsy to include you in a search for amethyst necklace. Repeating the word “necklace” or “amethyst” in other tags won’t help you rank higher for amethyst necklace. Conversely, it won’t hurt your rank if you do repeat words in your tags.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you needn’t use all 13 tags. The more tags you have, the more chances you have to be seen for other search terms. Let’s continue with our example above. Adding a “sterling silver” tag would optimize you in a search for “silver amethyst necklace.” And for “sterling silver necklace.” Repeating them won’t harm their rank. But it won’t give them a boost either.

Instead, you could use a tag for style – one that isn’t already covered by the attributes you chose. For instance, if you have already selected “boho” as an attribute, you don’t need to have that in your tags. Instead, use a tag indicating the recipient or occasion if this product is gift-able. Or season, if it’s seasonal. You could use one for colors not on the color attribute list, like cream. Include other search terms relevant to your product, like: “February birthstone,” or “stone jewelry.” (Just be sure none of your tags contain trademarked terms like “shabby chic.”)

No. 5: Multi-word tags

Having the two words “amethyst necklace” in one tag will rank you slightly. That is, you will be more relevant for “amethyst necklace” than if you had a tag with “amethyst” and another tag with “necklace.” But if you had “amethyst necklace” in one tag, and the rest of your tags were one-word tags, it really doesn’t matter!

Etsy’s algorithm doesn’t care whether you have some one-word tags – nor whether they are sequential.

Let’s say you were aiming to rank for “amethyst necklace silver.” (An actual keyword that Etsy shoppers have used recently.) That’s too long to fit into one tag. It doesn’t matter how you split that up. Say you have “amethyst necklace” in one tag and “silver” in the very next tag. That won’t rank any higher than having a tag for “amethyst necklace” and “sterling silver” in another tag three spaces over. For “amethyst necklace silver” they’re both just as relevant.

True, Etsy does encourage you to use multi-word tags. But the reason doesn’t have to do with rank, per se. Rather, it is this. Using as many of the 20 characters allotted per tag increases your chances of getting seen by shoppers who use other keywords.

No. 6: Clicks and hearts from team games

Many Etsy sellers used to play team games. Each member would post a listing, then go look at everyone else’s listings to click on them and heart them. Back in the day, this did boost you in rank because Etsy was seeing activity on those listings. But Etsy got wise to that! Such team activity means nothing to a customer. It doesn’t reflect whether your item’s any good, or if it’s relevant for a given search term. All it tells Etsy is that you’re spending time on team games. Etsy doesn’t value that.

Hearts and clicks from teams don’t count toward rank. Nor do hearts and clicks from social media traffic which don’t yield a purchase.

Why waste your time on things that aren’t ranking factors? In the main, don’t try and game the system. Instead, strive to create awesome listings. How? First, figure out what people are looking for. Then tell Etsy you’ve made the thing that people are looking for. And the sales will start to come in.Coach Starla Moore with tools you can use for your Etsy business, SEO and marketing, communicate with customers and partners, and help organize your life!

Photograph of author Pam Duthie

Pam Duthie, Etsy Coach


Here’s a video version of this blog post on my YouTube channel

Read all about ranking factors and keywords in The Ultimate Guide to Etsy Search, from the Etsy Seller Handbook

Some of my other blog posts here about how to improve your SEO: