Etsy's CEO, Josh Silverman, put out a video yesterday highlighting the changes Etsy is working on to help Etsy become a better place for people to shop online.
Overall, I am encouraged to hear that Etsy is taking their platform seriously by developing tools and creating changes that are more likely to better compete with companies like Amazon, by encouraging more discounts & promotions, the ability for customers to filter through search results, and get access to high-quality listings that will encourage visitors to keep coming back to Etsy and make more and more purchases.
Below are 2 Big Takeaways that I see will be very important for you to think about and actively work on in light of what Etsy announced on December 6, 2017.
1. Context Specific Ranking (CSR)
This change is huge, and is surprisingly what I thought was actually happening earlier this year around March of 2017. Etsy's CEO gave an example of a "Laundry Basket" keyword search before and after the CSR changes were implemented. The images below are not the same as the presentation from the video, but roughly similar. Before, if you typed in "Laundry Basket" a lot of the results would have been printable art or printable stickers, or things like that. Now, if you type in "Laundry Basket" today you'll get results that are more likely what you meant, meaning physical products of Laundry Baskets.
While this is bad for shops that offer Printable items, it is definitely better for the average visitor's user experience. Most likely, a visitor typing in "Laundry Basket" would have meant that they were searching for a physical product. The way Etsy does this is by likely having a very large list of keywords that they associate with a "Category", such as "Physical" or "Digital." So that instead of a customer typing in "Physical Laundry Basket," which would be strange and redundant, they would only have to type "Laundry Basket" in order to get the result they wanted.
Because of this change, it's very likely that most Digital Download/Printable Etsy shops have seen a huge drop in their sales, unless they have worked to incorporate more physical products or worked on newer keywords that are more niche and less competitive. And some physical product shops are likely seeing some increases in certain categories, although I am sure physical shops are seeing some hurt from this as well, depending on what you sell. For instance, if you sell "Vintage Laundry Baskets" you were probably also effected as well, because Etsy is going to likely feature new and popular Laundry Baskets, instead of niche categories. This is a huge change that, unfortunately, is going to negatively or positively change your Etsy business is some way.
2. Less Focus On Titles
The Etsy CEO, Josh Silverman, made it clear that lots of changes will be happening to Etsy Search and keywords. He also made it clear that "keyword searches" are still the number one way people shop on Etsy, which makes it incredibly important for you to continue to learn and implement keyword strategies.
Unfortunately, we do not know what changes Etsy plans to make in the future. But we can make educated guesses on how to improve our Etsy Shops right now in order to prepare.
The main announcement that Josh Silverman made regarding search changes is a "Less Focus on Titles." Right now, Etsy's searches rely on a very old search algorithm called "keyword cramming" where you just stuff as many keywords as possible into your Titles and Tags.
I have felt for a lot time that this will eventually change. And Josh Silverman is making it pretty clear that this will definitely change in the near future. It will likely be more sophisticated to what Amazon and Google do with their searches, which is give you the best selling items, allow you to better filter through keyword results based on price, color, category, free shipping, and other important options.
For instance, take a look at the left-hand side column for "Laundry Basket" Etsy searches in the image below. On the left side, you can see options like "On Sale", Category, Shipping & Lead Times, as well as Color.
Compare this to Amazon, which allows you to also filter by Category, Delivery Day, Amazon Prime/Free Shipping, and Average Customer Review.
As Etsy continues to refine the left-hand sidebar, customers will most likely start to use this frequently. The Etsy CEO make it clear that the new changes regarding shipping/lead time, free shipping, and sales have significantly increased an Etsy Customer's ability to shop and find what they want, just as if they were shopping on Amazon.
In light of these announcements, here are 4 areas I highly recommend you focus on as you develop your Etsy Shop over the coming weeks:
1. Continue to expand your product line on Etsy into new categories.
As things change, you want to have stability on Etsy by offering items to a wider range of customers. This way, as things on Etsy change, you can be better prepared to adjust. For instance, if you currently sell Digital Downloads only, consider how you can expand into Physical Products as well. If you only sell Vintage items, consider also selling newer or modern items as well.
2. Write quality listing descriptions with good keywords.
Both Google and Amazon pull keywords from an entire product page when indexing the keywords they will use for a search result. In the past, Etsy has only used Keywords from Titles and Tags. But Etsy will not stay that way forever. Etsy has been way behind the times in terms of their SEO search result quality. For future listings, write quality Listing Descriptions that will incorporate more keywords that are highly relevant to what you are actually selling.
3. Use the Category and Attribute options when creating new listings
For instance, the Category, Primary Color, and Holiday/Occassion are all going to be more helpful for people in the future to help them find what they are looking for as Etsy continues to focus on filterable searches.
4. Offer Free Shipping, Shorter Processing Times & Discounts/Promotions
Etsy's CEO made it clear that Etsy shoppers are no different than Amazon shoppers when it comes to shipping and good prices. Etsy customers want their orders to arrive quickly, and without having to pay extra for shipping. Changing your processing time down to 1-2 business days, and building your shipping costs into your item's cost is going to greatly help you increase your sales as Etsy continues to promote the shops who actively offer those kinds of options. This also goes for options like Gift Wrapping or other shipping incentives.
Over the next few months and years, Etsy is going to change quite a bit. But I think these changes are for the better, especially if you can take advantage of all the changes they are doing. I can tell that Etsy's goal is really to rival and get up to speed with Amazon. Amazon is a place where people can find basics like toilet paper, toothbrushes, cheap dinner plates, and so on. And their Amazon Prime option has made them the most popular tool for online shopping.
But not everyone wants mass-produced, cheap items. Today, Etsy is still the best place to find unique, handmade items that you cannot find anywhere else. Which is why I am excited to continue to grow my own business on Etsy.