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My Blog about SEO & eCommerce, Mitochondrial Disease & Disability, & the Good Life

Blog posts from Cindy Lou Who 2 - a little eCommerce & SEO, some discussion of disability issues (including mitochondrial disease), some jewellery info, & the expected topics of beer, travel & recipes. 


Will Etsy Ads, The New Combined Ad Platform, Work For Sellers?

Cindy Lou Who 2

Note how much smaller in size the amount I spent is compared to the amount I made. It’s almost as if they don’t want you to notice that part.

Note how much smaller in size the amount I spent is compared to the amount I made. It’s almost as if they don’t want you to notice that part.

For That Matter, Will They Even Work For Etsy?

We’re All About To Find Out

Etsy started rolling out its new combined ad-purchasing interface for sellers today (August 27, 2019), giving us the first real look at how this will work. While there are still some questions, and likely some upgrades coming to the stats and options, I am providing a quick summary now so no one is surprised when their ad costs suddenly increase overnight.

But first, a little background. Etsy Ads (EA) combines Etsy’s existing Promoted Listings (PL) with their little-used interface allowing sellers to buy their own Google Shopping ads. Once it has rolled out to everyone, sellers will no longer be able to purchase just one type of ad; if you want one kind, you will have to pay for both.

Why would they do this? CEO Josh Silverman claims that “Our sellers have found it confusing and a bit intimidating to try to manage 2 separate ad programs, and as a result, seller adoption of Google Shopping has been limited. We believe that sellers want a single, simple solution with a single budget, where they tell us how much to spend and we invest that on their behalf, on- and off-Etsy.” In addition, Silverman told investors that Etsy shop owners “have more appetite to invest than we have inventory to offer”, based on the fact that each day, more than half of the maximum daily budgets set for Etsy Promoted Listings go unused, as illustrated in the following Etsy graphic from the second quarter earnings presentation.

Etsy Promoted Listings currently spend less than 50% of the daily maximum that sellers set.

Etsy Promoted Listings currently spend less than 50% of the daily maximum that sellers set.

Now, I am sure he is correct on both points to some extent. There are a few sellers who find Promoted Listings and Google Shopping campaigns a bit confusing (as evidenced by questions asked in Etsy’s forum spaces). There are also some people who would like to spend more of their daily budgets on more ads.

However, these explanations ignore two points that likely represent a much larger portion of sellers interested in buying ads:

  1. Etsy’s version of Google Shopping ads has been widely panned as far too expensive for the average shop, with no control over maximum bids, and a low amount of sales. [Update (August 28): The program often bids on very generic terms that are unlikely to convert against commercial competition, and may not even be accurate for your items.] Furthermore, Etsy showed items from other shops across the top of the landing pages from Google Shopping, meaning that merchants are paying to advertise other merchants, not just themselves. [Update (Sept. 24): Etsy admin have confirmed with some people privately that Google Shopping ads paid for by sellers do not have other sellers’ listings across the top, while ads paid for by Etsy do. However, Etsy has recently been testing placing Etsy Ads across the bottom of listing pages, and that does include on pages that sellers are paying for in Google Shopping and in ads on Etsy.] In short, almost no sellers use Etsy’s version of Google Shopping ads because the return on investment (ROI) is very poor for individual shops, especially given that they are forced to pay to promote items that are not their own.

  2. Many shops find they have to set their daily Promoted Listings budget far higher than they want to spend, just to get a decent number of impressions and clicks. (Mine was set at $10 a day and I rarely spent more than $1; if I dropped it to $2 or even $5, Etsy showed my ads far less often.) This is the way this version of Etsy search ads has worked for a long time, and sellers have developed this strategy of high daily budgets to compensate.

While we can likely write off the CEO’s comments as spin, it is very possible that they didn’t realize point #2 was such a common practice. If so, Etsy has designed this new platform based on a false premise, which doesn’t bode well for its success. Looks like we are going to find out very quickly.

Etsy Ads - What you Need to Know

While the details are likely to change, given that the dashboard and tools seem so unfinished, there are some things you need to know right now:

  • Etsy Ads are available to some sellers right now, through the Shop Manager.

  • The new platform will be rolled out to all sellers by the end of September, and you will be automatically switched to it if you do not change voluntarily. Note that if you turn off your Promoted Listings or current Google Shopping ads, you will not be able to revert to them, and will be stuck with Etsy Ads as your only option.

  • Sellers still only pay for clicks, not impressions.

  • You can still opt to promote only certain items, but they will be shown on both Etsy and Google; you cannot select some listings for one venue and others for the other, as we can now.

  • You can no longer set maximum bids for individual items; Etsy’s software will do all of that for you. However, if you have an existing Promoted Listing campaign, Etsy will look at your current bid customization at first, then will revert to its own stats on what it deems will work best for you.

  • Since the goal of Etsy Ads is to spend all of your daily budget, those of you who chose a high daily budget solely to increase your Promoted Listings impressions should decrease that now, before Etsy converts your PLs to EAs.

  • The cost for one click in Google Shopping is still very high compared to Promoted Listings, with sellers who tried it today reporting clicks up to 90 cents. [Update: (September 17): some are now reporting clicks costing up to $1.50 USD.]

  • Etsy put out a video summarizing the new platform. The example of the monthly overview shows a roughly 2 to 1 ratio for sales and costs, far worse than the vast majority of sellers would likely tolerate. Remember, this is the example Etsy wanted you to see; they could have used far better numbers if they thought far better numbers were going to be common. [Update (August 28): Etsy will be updating the video, and stated that the return shown is $5 for every $1 spent, which they consider “a pretty great return”. In contrast, many sellers have been posting vastly better return rates from PLs, suggesting they won’t agree with admin on this point.]

  • It looks like one thing that isn’t changing much is the fact your Google ads will be limited to one country in most cases, unless you have a big budget. “On Google, our smart advertising platform will determine the best region for you, so you can reach shoppers that are interested in products like yours and most likely to make a purchase. Etsy Ads targets the country of best return. As your budget increases, we regularly evaluate whether it makes sense to target multiple markets.”

  • Etsy is still displaying other listings at the top of your landing page from Google Shopping ads that you pay for. I set up the ads in my SEO shop as a test, and clicked on one; here is what I saw:

I am so glad Etsy decided I needed to see a completely irrelevant listing from my jewellery shop…sigh

I am so glad Etsy decided I needed to see a completely irrelevant listing from my jewellery shop…sigh

So, sellers are still being asked to pay to drive traffic to other shops. I expect that this will be a deal breaker for many.

  • Finally, Etsy is asking for seller opinions in a very short survey. If you are unhappy with this change, I urge you to fill it out and be specific about the perceived deficiencies of the new platform and in their reasoning. If you had a high PL daily budget, or previously tried and ended Google Shopping ads, tell them exactly why.

Things We Hope To Learn In The Next Month

At the top of my list of questions is: Will Etsy continue to buy Google Shopping ads for shops that do not participate in Etsy Ads? Right now, they spend a big chunk of their advertising budget on these ads, and have stated that they are Etsy’s top-performing promotions. It seems really unlikely that they will stop that entirely, at least not right away. I don’t think they can afford to lose that income. [Update (Sept. 6): so far, Google Shopping ads are continuing to run for people who are not buying any ads, and for listings that are not currently included in Etsy Ads, even if others from the shop are in Etsy Ads.]

Update: (Sept. 17) : some shops, especially those with relatively low daily budgets, can see that Google Shopping Ads were turned off for their shop, even though they are enrolled in Etsy Ads. I took the following screenshot of my stats page for my SEO shop on a day when stats were broken and reporting zero views, so I thought it might be an error, but many others are seeing the same thing:

This was the day I turned Etsy Ads on for my SEO shop; as you can see, Etsy immediately turned off my Google Shopping ads.

This was the day I turned Etsy Ads on for my SEO shop; as you can see, Etsy immediately turned off my Google Shopping ads.

Despite this, both of my items are still showing up in Google Shopping, even though I am only advertising one listing at the moment (as a test). So, Etsy seems to be paying for all of my Google Shopping appearances for the moment, although they have not confirmed this yet in my contact with Support. [Update (Sept 24.): Etsy has confirmed that they are still buying Google Shopping ads for sellers who do not participate in Etsy Ads, and even for some listings that are enrolled in Etsy Ads. The latter seems to happen more with shops with smaller daily budgets. The above screenshot shows Etsy opening a Google Shopping account for my SEO shop, but then putting it on hold while the new Ads algorithm learns about how my listing perform. This explains why some people who saw the same thing in their stats later saw Google Shopping Ads turned back on by Etsy.]

The next question is, are they going to be improving the Ads dashboard? (It is shown at the top of this post.) Right now, it is pretty sparse, and the amount spent is tiny compared to the earnings. You can only choose 30 days or the past year as date ranges, which means that older shops that have been using PLs would lose their keyword data older than 365 days, if this format continues. I have copied all of mine into Google Docs so I don’t lose it; sadly, there is no way to download it. [Update (Sept. 6): Etsy has added more date ranges, and the ability to sort the listings table by various factors. Also, if you have turned off all ads but want to see your old PL keyword data, you can still use this URL: (change XXXXXXXX to your listing ID number) to access it. (Sept. 17): if you see zeros in your Ads stats, there is a workaround for that.]

My last question is, how many more bugs are they going to introduce, and are they planning on fixing the old ones at some point? Promoted Listings have been showing completely irrelevant ads in many search results, and some of them are leading to click costs. Most sellers who advertise their shops through Etsy’s tools have previously found that PLs provide way better results than Google Shopping; reducing the effectiveness of the existing ads while combining them with less effective ads just seems like a bad strategy for the corporation.

What Should Sellers Do?

Wait to see what gets changed; I cannot believe they will continue to expect everyone to pay for ads with other people’s items across the top, with few stats, and with no maximum bids.

At the very least, they have to be planning to add something in that makes them think more people will pay for this. There are signs that they are going to be upgrading the Etsy Plus package, and perhaps finally releasing Etsy Premium. If both of those subscriptions contain lots of things most sellers want (many of which have likely been taken away recently, such as more detailed stats), and also continue to include “free” Etsy Ads budgets, they could end up maintaining most of their ad numbers. [Update: (Sept. 6): increasing the “priority placement” in US searches for listings that ship free, now up to 48 items from 24, is another way to push ads on sellers, if they don’t ship for free.]

And of course, if the ads end up having much better ROI than most of us expect, Etsy could end up making even more money on this than they did before. While I can’t see this new interface working for me, I am sure it will work for somebody.

But maybe they really did blow this one. If so, all of you who have heeded my constant advice to diversify your income streams will be pretty thankful you never got dependent on Etsy’s Promoted Listings!

This post will be updated as required. I’ll also probably fix most of the typos while introducing new ones - it has been a very long day!

UPDATED: Sept. 17, 2019

Etsy Free Shipping Priority Placement In US Searches - How It Works

Cindy Lou Who 2

The top rows of US searches on Etsy now have items that ship free - except for the ads, of course.

The top rows of US searches on Etsy now have items that ship free - except for the ads, of course.

Etsy’s Push To Get More Sellers Offering Free Shipping to American Buyers Is Now Part Of The Search Algorithm, But It Isn’t As Powerful As Some Sellers Feared

Etsy’s announcement that items that ship for free will get “priority placement” in US search results upset many shop owners who felt they would be buried in search if they continued to charge for shipping, but so far the reality has not been as bleak as some had predicted. While there are no guarantees that this search change will continue working the same way, two weeks of this revised algorithm is enough time to get a strong idea of how it works now. Let me outline what me and my team of volunteers found.

  • In most searches, the top 24 items that are not paid ads (aka Promoted Listings) will either ship for free or have free shipping with a minimum order of $35 USD or less. This means that only half of the first page is reserved for items without shipping charges. The main exception is searches where there are fewer than 24 items that ship free; in very small searches of half a page or so, even the top-ranked item may not ship free. [Update (Sept. 6): Etsy sent out an email today saying that the top 48 listings in a search - the whole first page - will now be reserved for priority placement.]

  • Adding free shipping did not automatically mean your items moved up in ranking when the algorithm change kicked in on July 30th. Since Etsy search results change frequently now, some of the items the test team tracked actually moved down, even if they had free shipping activated. However, I added free US shipping to a few listings after July 30th and all did move up a bit, at least at first.

  • As I expected beforehand, items that already did well in search seem to see the biggest benefit from switching to free shipping.

  • There is currently no difference between an item that always ships free and items that have the $35 free shipping “guarantee”; you don’t rank higher by offering one instead of the other.

  • Note that digital download items are included in the priority placement spots even though they do not have a free shipping “badge” or a “free shipping eligible” notice underneath.

  • As mentioned above, the Promoted Listings slots do not have to ship free to be at the top of the page, so paying for Etsy search advertising is one way to secure a higher slot. However, some ads are now costing more they used to be as sellers experiment with this tactic, so it may not be affordable for many. This also may stop working as when Etsy combines Promoted Listings with Google Shopping Ads later in August. (There is more discussion and detail on the new “Etsy Ads” here.)

  • As can happen when Etsy alters the search algorithm, some sets of results shifted a lot, and many people are reporting more “clumping” (when several listings from the same shop appear on an early page of a search). If very few sellers are offering free shipping for a particular type of item, those who do could get more of those top 24 priority positions. The flip side is that if listings that used to appear at the top of certain queries do not offer free shipping, they may end up clustered on the bottom half of the first page.

  • Some searches have more irrelevant items at the top than they used to, but that is also normal whenever Etsy changes the algorithm, and usually sorts itself out within one to two months.

  • Items from outside of the US are just as able to receive priority placement as US listings are. Furthermore, I’ve not seen any major shifts in non-US searches, so while free shipping may have a small part of other countries’ algorithms, only Canada has pages and pages of free shipping in big searches. Countries outside of the US, haven’t changed much yet, but do not count on it staying that way indefinitely.

One of these things is not like the others …

One of these things is not like the others …

So, that is how everything worked as of the first day, July 30th. However, a few days later, some people saw one item that didn’t ship for free sliding into the top 24 slots, almost always in slot 24. Take a look at the search screenshot kindly provided by Ashley of Digitaldoodlebug to see what I mean. (Note that one of the other regular search results is a digital download, so it does ship free even though it doesn’t have a badge.)

I personally checked over 100 searches in the first few days of this new algorithm element, and I did not see this happening until several days in, even when other people did see it. As of August 14th, I am now finding it in a minority of searches, but rarely when logged into my main Etsy account.

What is happening here? you may ask. A very good question, one I do not know the answer to. It could be:

  • a bug

  • a test

  • personalization (which Etsy is finally using more often in search these days, after years of promising it)

  • an intended feature of the algorithm, where items that perform well can move up into the “priority placement” rows in the top half of page 1.

At first, I was leaning towards the last possibility being true, since it made sense that Etsy would want to reward a top-selling item with slightly better placement if it made them more money. However, it has been happening for a week, and these items are not moving up further, and it is not always the same item in that final slot. I’m reserving judgement on this phenomenon right now, until I see more examples. [Update (Sept 6): I’ve stopped seeing this now that Etsy has moved to 48 slots of priority placement, except in small searches, and only in my main account, so it could be personalization. If you see any other examples, please let me know!]

This, and all of the priority placement positions, could change at any time. Etsy may decide next week to fill the entire first page with items that ship free, or they could add a few rows at the top of every single page in large searches. I suspect that if they were going to move to fewer than 24 places reserved for free shipping, they would have already done it by now, but we can’t be sure they won’t do that tomorrow, either.)

So, do not assume that what you see today will continue for the rest of the year. In fact, we know there are other search changes coming which could affect this new factor, in addition to the possibility that Etsy will change how the “guarantee” works. They don’t plan on promoting the “guarantee” to American buyers until September, and could make further changes then.

Your best approach at the moment is to do what I always suggest:

  1. optimize for plenty of small searches so that you have a better chance of being seen

  2. do not rely on Etsy search for all of your Etsy sales

  3. do not rely on Etsy for all of your income

  4. do not spend too much time learning how to game this new algorithm, because it is going to change

Why do I keep saying things will change? Because Etsy has made it clear they want more free shipping, and this is only the US introduction of their tactics aimed at getting it. They will be featuring more items that have shipping included, and will probably also be linking to searches with the free shipping filter already checked. If you are like me and haven’t seen any dramatic impact yet, do not assume that our luck will continue.

Furthermore, Etsy has told me that the listing quality score part of the algorithm will soon involve more elements, with photo quality likely to be a factor. (I have been testing for this but haven’t found direct evidence yet; it will likely have little weight overall.) They said to expect more details by the end of the summer. Etsy is also getting more involved with shops that have what Etsy deems to be customer service issues, and the types of issues that lead to an email seem really stringent. They’ve promised to release more information, and I would not be surprised to see more negative ratings like this to be added to search. I could be wrong, of course!

This is what some US visitors are seeing at the top of the Etsy home page on mobile right now. Expect this to be the norm for all US visitors come September.

This is what some US visitors are seeing at the top of the Etsy home page on mobile right now. Expect this to be the norm for all US visitors come September.

[Update (Aug. 15): they are already testing various promotional banners and prompts for the $35 minimum order free shipping guarantee, although most visitors are not seeing them yet. I saw a thin dark blue banner across the top of the entire page on my laptop, and Angela from Arrowsarah sent me the phone screenshot shown here - thank you! They are going to push this a lot, to try to direct people away from the main search pages to a page where the results are all items that ship free with a $35 minimum order.]

So, expect more of my blog posts this fall, as Etsy search continues to evolve. If you see or hear anything interesting, please send me an email through the link on the top right, send me a convo on Etsy, DM me on Twitter, or send me a message on Tumblr (where you can read more short posts about SEO, ecommerce platforms, and other small business topics you are probably interested in.) Questions about this post? Please comment below.

Updated September 6th, 2019

Etsy's Push For Free Shipping For US Buyers - An Example From Their Search Testing

Cindy Lou Who 2

A Etsy search for “stone jewelry” from Canada - is this what the US searches will look like as of July 30th? Maybe, maybe not.

A Etsy search for “stone jewelry” from Canada - is this what the US searches will look like as of July 30th? Maybe, maybe not.

Etsy tested prioritizing free shipping listings in US search in late May and early June - was this a preview of their new campaign that will launch July 30th?

Last week I told you about Etsy’s campaign to get sellers to offer free shipping to US buyers, but said we didn’t know of them testing any major changes to the US search algorithm involving free shipping. I was wrong: they did run a test starting around May 23rd, and ending around June 3rd. While very few sellers seemed to notice it, it is worth reviewing how it worked, in case they do decide to use something similar as of July 30th. [Update (August 14): they decided to use something similar.]

The most interesting part of that experiment was the fact that for most observers, only the first 3 rows of US searches displayed items that shipped for free; the “normal” search results continued after the top 3 rows. In larger searches, that meant that the “normal” results were merely pushed down a few rows, unless they shipped for free. A few people reported seeing 6 or 7 rows of listings with free shipping badges, but no one saw entire pages. That means there was still decent visibility for listings that had shipping charges attached.

The only screenshot I could find of the US free shipping test from late May; credit to Sara from  Mayday Labels.

The only screenshot I could find of the US free shipping test from late May; credit to Sara from Mayday Labels.

However, it wasn’t all good news for buyers or sellers. Some smaller searches displayed far less relevant results in the top 3 rows than is ideal. Check out the screenshot above, showing the search for “clip art sewing” in the US at the end of May. (Thank you to Sara from Mayday Labels for having the good sense to capture this!) The items with the free shipping badge mostly have nothing to do with sewing, in their images at least. Only the Promoted Listings ads and the partially-cut off 4th row include images of sewing implements and related items. If you do that search today (July 15, 2019), the top results are dominated by listings that look relevant.

In short, this test seemed to fill at least 3 rows of search with “free shipping” listings, sometimes at the expense of matching the search query as closely as the ads and remainder of the first page did. The worst part of this example was that most of the other items on the first page were digital downloads, so they had no shipping charges anyway! (Last week, the Etsy Q & A thread revealed that instant downloads would be included in the “priority placement”, although they would still be excluded from the standard free shipping filter in search.) The best part was that items from non-US sellers did appear in the top 3 featured rows if they offered free shipping, so there was no localization in effect.

What Does This Tell Us?

Unfortunately, not much. There is no guarantee the new search rankings starting July 30th will act like this. However, I suspect they will look more like this test than the current Canadian searches that sometimes show many pages of free shipping listings before anything else. Why would I think that, you ask?

My reasoning is that most of Etsy’s literature on this search change defines “priority placement” as “in the top and most visible rows of search.” The don’t say in the top pages, just the top rows. Now, that might mean the top of each search results page, not just the top of page 1 as this test had. That would drive a lot of items further down in the results. It might mean nothing, however; you can’t always parse Etsy-speak as if it were normal language.

But, if this test was a trial run, the US free shipping “guarantee” push might still provide substantially more exposure for items that don’t ship free than the Canadian version does in big searches. Remember, many of us haven’t had any loss of Canadian sales despite not shipping for free, so whatever Etsy ends up doing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be invisible. Let’s wait and see what happens.

I’ll be continuing to follow all new developments, and will update this post and the earlier one as needed. Once the search algorithm change is finally revealed, I will blog again, so make sure you sign up to get on my blog email list.

Updated August 14, 2019

Etsy's Free Shipping Announcement - What We Know So Far

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Above is a screenshot of the top 2 rows of a search for “kids” on Etsy in Canada as of July 12, 2019. All of the listings ship for free in Canada. You will be seeing something similar in the US as of July 30th.

Above is a screenshot of the top 2 rows of a search for “kids” on Etsy in Canada as of July 12, 2019. All of the listings ship for free in Canada. You will be seeing something similar in the US as of July 30th.

Etsy Will Give Items That Ship Free “Priority Placement” in US Search Results; A Lot Remains Unclear

As you have probably already heard, Etsy announced that as of July 30, 2019, items that ship for free to the United States, either by themselves or in orders over $35 USD, will get “priority placement” in US searches. This blog post is not about whether or not this is a good idea; I’ve already warned you in the past that Etsy would continue to push free shipping and that we should all expect more of this in the future. As I wrote in January, “…make your peace with free shipping now, because it isn’t going away. You don’t have to use it, but you do have to accept that Etsy will.”

Instead, I am going to get into the details that have been released so far, so that we can all be prepared for this algorithm change. Note that I can’t give much optimization advice yet, as my team and I will need to test this once it goes live on the 30th. I will write another blog post once testing is complete; sign up here to receive all of my blog posts by email so you will be up to date. [Update (Aug. 14: Here is my review of how it works.]

Etsy put out a lot of information with this press release, including the video I have linked to, an updated Ultimate Guide to Shipping, which contains sections on strategies for non-US shops, and tips for businesses who offer large or heavy items. They did 3 days of questions and answers in a massive forum thread. You don’t have time to sift through all of this, so I did it for you.

What they failed to mention in the vast amount of material they put out with this announcement is that Canada has had free shipping items at the top of generic searches since the end of January 2019. Back then, I speculated that Canada might be a testing ground, or the beginning of a very slow roll out, and it turns out it may have been both. Since we haven’t noticed Etsy testing this in US searches up until now [Update (July 15): there was a small test in late May-early June, which mostly reserved the top 3 rows of US search for free shipping listings/shops, and didn’t necessarily give shoppers the most relevant results.] the Canadian data will likely be extremely useful to them. However, that does not mean that US searches will look like the Canadian ones on July 30th; we don’t know if they will use the same algorithm weights in the US. In fact, CEO Josh Silverman stated that the change “…means that shoppers in the US will primarily see items that ship free and shops that guarantee free shipping on orders of $35 or more in the top and most visible rows of search”, which could mean that there will be fewer items with free shipping on the first few pages of US generic searches than we see in Canada.

So, let’s go over the facts, keeping the speculation to a minimum.

Things we know:

  • there are two ways to make your listings eligible for “priority placement” in US searches on the 30th: you can have free shipping to the US on one or more listings, or you can use their new $35 total order shipping guarantee tool to give US buyers free shipping on all orders over $35.

  • any listing with no shipping charge for US buyers will get the search boost, regardless of what country it ships from. Sellers outside of the US are included, but buyers in other countries are not.

  • free shipping minimums must be created with their “guarantee” tool to be eligible for priority search placement. So, if you want to offer free shipping to customers who purchase at least $35 USD of goods in your shop, you will only get the search boost through the new guarantee tool, which is still rolling out. Using the old Sales and Coupons settings to offer a free shipping sale with a minimum will not work for priority search placement on July 30th .

  • the $35 order tool will only change shipping prices for American buyers; everyone else will still pay for your set shipping rates. The $35 minimum purchase is calculated before tax but after any other sales discounts or coupons. [Update (July 21, 2019): this last point is now in dispute, as Etsy Support staff are now telling sellers that the guarantee will use the original price of the item, not a sale price. Stay tuned for further updates.]

  • the $35 guarantee tool takes effect as soon as you enable it, but the search benefits do not kick in until the 30th. You are also able to turn the guarantee tool off.

  • Promoted Listings will not be included in this change; items can still appear at the very top of search ads even if they charge for shipping.

  • you can still offer a shipping upgrade for a fee; only the base shipping price must be free for your listings to be included.

  • digital downloads are eligible for priority placement, but still won’t be included in the old free shipping search filters.

  • The smart pricing tool will help people with items over $35 USD adjust listing prices to compensate for the free shipping offer, but it will not be available to non-US sellers until August. Etsy will demonstrate how to use the smart pricing tool on Facebook Live on July 16. [Update (July 18): link to demo and the question and answer thread on this tool in the forum.]

  • the other elements of Etsy’s search algorithm will remain in effect; this is just one search factor. In other words, free shipping won’t automatically guarantee you top placement. [Pro tip: if you only want to offer free shipping on some items come July 30, consider the ones that already do very well in search, as listings that get very few search hits today likely won’t magically rise to the top row by offering free shipping.] Remember that the smaller the search result, the easier it will likely be to be found if you do not have free shipping.

  • this initiative will also affect Etsy promotions. “We’ll also begin to prioritize these items wherever Etsy advertises in the US—in email marketing, social media, and television ads.” Most people seem to be ignoring this point, perhaps because they do not realize how much traffic comes from Etsy advertising. I expect, for example, that all of the search links in the US version of Editors Picks will now go to shops with the free shipping guarantee. [Update (July 18): Etsy staff have confirmed via email that “prioritize” does not mean that shops without free shipping will never be promoted in emails, social media or on television. It just means that listings that ship free to the US, & shops with the $35 free shipping “guarantee”, will be more likely to be promoted.]

Good news - you can turn it off, and it does work.

Good news - you can turn it off, and it does work.

Things we want to know but don’t know (yet):

  • what does “priority placement” really mean? They’ve said it is different than the normal shipping boost that has supposedly been part of the algorithm since last year, but have not given more detail, other than the quote about “the top and most visible rows of search”.

  • why won’t the “smart pricing” tool be available outside of the United States until August?  Since Etsy has also announced that they will be introducing country-specific sales options and will be doing more promotion and ads in non-US countries in the fall, and admits that we may need more tools for offering different prices in different countries, it does look like they fully expect that at least some non-American shops will suffer once this search change takes place. Shops outside of the United States have always had a disadvantage compared to US sellers, and Etsy is intentionally compounding it by transforming the algorithm before giving all of their tool solutions to all sellers.

  • why can’t sellers use the free shipping sale option we already have in the Sales & Coupons section of the shop manager to give US buyers free shipping on orders over $35? Possibly because we can’t use it to set a sale for just one country other than your own, so that would only work for shops that want to give every other country they sell to a free shipping deal as well.

  • does the statement about advertising include the Google and Google Shopping ads Etsy pays for? They did not mention search ads in their statement about promotions, and they ignored my question on this point in the Q&A thread. [Update (July 18): in an email to me, Etsy staff stated that the Google Shopping ads that Etsy buys for us are not affected by this change.] If it does, that likely means they will end up spending more than they used to on ads for those shops with free shipping in the US, since many of us who received traffic from Google Shopping ads would be removed as of July 30. Etsy has stated that those ads are their best performers, so they will have to feel very secure that the free shipping shops will be able to pick up the slack after removing so many other listings. Then again, they said “prioritize”, which does not necessarily mean that they will only promote listings with free shipping.

  • is it against the law in any jurisdictions to follow Etsy’s advice of combining shipping prices into the item price? Maybe, although I don’t necessarily agree it is in Canada, depending on how you do it. France’s law only applies to books, and only those shipped within France. I strongly suggest anyone worried about this consult legal advice in your jurisdiction. Note that Etsy’s solution for any illegality is to come up with another way to offer free shipping, which in essence means eating the cost and reducing your profit.

Things To Watch For:

  • an Etsy staffer has told me that more search changes are coming by the end of the summer; they will possibly include photo quality and more personalized results than we have seen across the board up until now. This free shipping prioritization might end up rolling out all at the same time as those changes, or at least as tests for those changes, making it more difficult to separate out the true effect of this free shipping prioritization.

  • Etsy said they will start increasing promotion and advertising in non-US countries in September, at the same time they start promoting the free shipping deals to American buyers. They’ve also previously said they want to give us more advertising and promotion opportunities, so I will not be surprised if increased Etsy ads involve increased ads that sellers pay for at the same time.

My Advice:

  • Don’t panic! While we do not know exactly how this is going to work, Etsy cannot afford to completely hide shops without free shipping to the US, so listings that have mailing costs will still be found in search. They want you to have shipping included in all of your listing prices, so they will really be pushy about this, but they also know that can’t happen, for a variety of reasons. For example, if you can’t ship free because your items cost $40 to ship within the US, then your competition will be in the same situation, and free shipping getting priority ranking will not matter.
    Canadian searches have shown free shipping items for more than the first 25 pages of big, competitive searches since the end of January, yet a shop like mine, with only 6% of listings shipping to Canada for free (many as tests), has had no loss of Canadian sales.

  • Test this for yourselves, but also watch for people like myself to do testing and report in after this goes live on July 30. I have assembled a special team of sellers from around the world, and we will be designing a variety of tests, including both listings with and without free shipping, from US and non-US sellers. I will blog once we have full results, but will also update this post a bit, so keep checking in.

  • wait for the bugs to be worked out of the tools before using them, if at all possible. There is no benefit to using them before July 30th, as you can use the existing sales and coupons function to do a free shipping sale today if you want.

  • Remember the things I always say: 1) don’t rely on Etsy alone for your business income; 2) don’t rely on Etsy search alone for your Etsy income; and most importantly 3) don’t rely on ranking in the big, general searches for the bulk of your Etsy search sales. Make sure you are optimized for lots of niche (aka long tail) searches, as they constitute the majority of ecommerce sales. The sellers this will hurt the most are folks who can’t ship for free (including many sellers outside of the US) but who still think that the most common searches are the ones that will work best for them.
    I’ve had sales in the past 30 days from searches with as few as 24 results. In examples like this, ranking by free shipping will not matter much. On that note, my goal in the next few weeks is to release my long-promised guide on keyword research (with a focus on niche keywords), and a new basic post on the other search algorithm elements.

  • We all knew this was coming, and it is not the end. Accept that this is how Etsy functions now, and make your business plans accordingly.

    Updated August 14th, 2019


Cindy Lou Who 2

Etsy releases periodic seasonal trends reports these days, and recently came out with spring & summer trends for 2019. If your shop relies a lot on hitting trends, or if you want more ideas for featuring the items you already have in stock, you will want to read the whole thing yourself. If those aren’t your main focuses, read this post!

My coverage mostly centres on the search term and keyword highlights (with just a few exceptions). These are terms you should use on your listings when they apply, and if you have any items or ideas that aren’t currently listed but fit here, then let me be the first to tell you to get those listings up as soon as possible! Some of the trends mentioned are still on the rise, so if you have stock, or even just an interest, consider putting a few new products in your shop (or on your website - many of these trends are not exclusive to Etsy).

Note that most of the stats about increases in search traffic compare 2017 to 2018, so there is no guarantee that they will continue to rise in 2019. However, I expect Etsy would want to focus on trends that aren’t yet post-peak, as it wouldn’t make sense to tell sellers to hop on a bandwagon that has already passed. Etsy wants sales, after all. Some keyword lists cover the spring and summer seasons of 2018; use those as a reference only, and check whether broader interest is still high by entering individual terms on Google Trends.

All quotes and graphics are from the linked pdf file; copyright belongs to Etsy. My editorial comments are in square brackets, including some Google Trends data I added for perspective.

Etsy Search Term Data for Optimizing Your Shop

The top searches across all Etsy categories, from April to August 2018, were:

  • slime 

  • engagement ring

  • bridesmaid gift 

  • home 

  • wedding decor 

  • jewelry 

  • decor 

  • enamel pin 

  • dog collar 

  • bridesmaid robes 

["slime” is slowly dropping in Google searches since 2017]

Page 5 did a chart with the top keywords and themes for the 5 spring & summer holiday and event occasions: Easter, Mother’s Day, Graduations, Fathers’ Day, & US Independence Day, shown below.

Words and phrases with an increase in Etsy searches from 2017 to 2018 (percentage increases in brackets):

  • sustainable (137%)

  • storage (129%)

  • “shelving-related searches” (51%)

  • DIY (49%)

  • wood toy (30%)

  • self care (211%) [this is still increasing on Google]

  • meditation (32%)

  • dried flower (81%)

  • reusable (in Home & Living; 106%)

  • flower (in Art & Collectibles, 31%)

  • botanical (in Art & Collectibles, 31%)

  • linen + clothing terms, or within the Clothing category [not sure which; see page 20; historically, this is a May-June trend on Google] (54%)

  • bow (in Clothing, 38%)

  • western (in Clothing, 33%)

  • hoop (in Jewellery, 76%) [yes, Google says this is still a big trend]

  • mismatch (in Jewellery, 85%)

  • men/him (in Jewellery, 59%)

  • custom (in Accessories, 66%)

  • boho [unclear if this is within Vintage only, or is site-wide. Check page 31 for context] (42%)

  • positive (in Paper & Party Supplies, 78%)

  • pampas grass [probably in Weddings only, as opposed to site-wide; see page 38] (758% - not a typo)

  • acrylic seating chart (461%)

  • sashiko (in Craft Supplies, 87%) [seems to be rising on Google as well]

Other random search term/sales info:

  • apparently, “boho” searches top out in May on Etsy. [Note that Google search hits for “boho” by itself hit top volume later, usually in July or August, and are still on the rise year to year]

  • 60% of the top jewellery & accessory items offer personalization [which is why Etsy promotes them so much]

Top Home & Living searches (pets & wellness/spirituality both saw big growth in 2018 over 2017)

Top 10 plant- and garden-related Home & Living searches in 2018:

  • planter 

  • gardening 

  • plant stand 

  • hanging planter 

  • macrame plant hanger [this one is still rising on Google]

  • garden gifts 

  • succulent planter [just past peak on Google, but still hot]

  • plant pot 

  • garden 

  • garden tools

Popular Clothing searches April-August 2018:

  • lingerie 

  • maternity dress 

  • t-shirts 

  • linen dress 

  • kimono 

  • bikini 

  • mommy and me outfits [still rising on Google]

  • one piece swimsuit 

Etsy also provided some suggestions on clothing & seasonal occasions on page 19:

clothing occasions Etsy.jpg

Popular Accessory searches, April-August 2018

  • enamel pin [not yet over, according to Google]

  • patches 

  • keychain 

  • lanyard 

  • personalized leather 

  • baby headband 

  • flower crown [definitely a spring trend, and dropping a bit every year on Google]

  • iron-on patch 

  • cufflinks

Popular Jewellery searches, April-August 2018 

  • engagement ring 

  • earrings 

  • name necklace

  • initial necklace 

  • rings 

  • statement jewelry 

  • necklace 

  • opal ring 

  • celestial jewelry [surprisingly big on Etsy; flat demand on Google]

Popular Vintage searches, April-August 2018 

  • vintage clothing

  • vintage t-shirt

  • vintage engagement ring

  • vintage dress

  • vintage rings

  • vintage jewelry

  • ‘90s clothing

  • vintage wedding dress

  • vintage ring

Top Paper & Party Supplies searches, April to August 2018

  • wedding invitation

  • gender reveal

  • bachelorette party

  • planner

  • graduation party decorations

  • pregnancy announcement

  • baby shower

  • unicorn party [a rare search that dipped then rose again on Google]

Top Weddings searches, April-August 2018:

  • bridesmaid gift

  • wedding decor

  • bridesmaid robes

  • wedding invitation

  • wedding dress

  • wedding cake topper

  • wedding gift

  • groomsmen gift

  • flower girl dress

[I think it is really interesting that one of the top wedding searches is for “wedding gifts”; that expands this category considerably. Do you have anything that could be a wedding gift?]

Top Craft Supplies & Tools searches, April-August 2018

  • cross stitch pattern

  • succulents [still rising on Google, but definitely bigger in spring]

  • washi tape

  • terrarium

  • planner stickers

  • fabric

  • crochet sunflower pattern [probably past peak]

  • embroidery kit

  • crochet pattern

  • address stamp

Easy/beginner level craft supplies and instructions are big right now:

craft supplies easy.jpg

Page 43 offers some tips on how to make use of this data. Note they suggest putting crucial keywords in both titles and tags; these are very competitive searches and require that repetition for optimization. Remember, though, even if you cannot rank for the most competitive searches, you can still show up well in “long-tail” (very specific) searches by using these terms with niche words, because long tail searches often have the most popular terms as part of a longer phrase.

Update on My New Business Forum, and Other Developments

I am still working on finding new places to host my business/SEO forum. My shorter news posts are now on Tumblr, and I hope to move my forum off-Etsy soon, and open it to new members at that time. If you have ideas on where I can start a new forum, please let me know in the comments, or email me. Sign up for my blog emails, or follow me on Twitter, to keep up to date on Etsy news and where I am reporting it.

UPDATED: April 18, 2019