New Listing Attributes and Etsy Studio Mean Lots of Changes to Search Optimization on the Horizon
Sellers on Etsy, the ecommerce site for handmade, vintage and supply items, were hit with a flood of announcements about upcoming changes on Tuesday. Many details are still uncertain, but I am going to lay out what we know so far in regards to search changes, and will update this post with new information as it becomes available.
Don't panic: it will be at least a few weeks, and perhaps a few months, before search changes take effect [UPDATE: Etsy has begun testing the attributes in search as of March 27, and so far, none are permanent for everyone, although some attributes are searchable for most people as of the week of July 20th], and the filters will not be added until after that point. It's always best to gather information before changing all of your listings. These new options are being rolled out slowly, so you may not even have them available yet. Also, Etsy is working on a tool to speed up the editing process when adding these new attributes, so editing may become easier very soon. [UPDATE: the tool is now live as of March 9, although not everyone will have it immediately]
New Item Attributes - More options to categorize products
Etsy has been developing new attributes for listings for a few months now; I was lucky to be on the prototype team since November, giving me a bit more insight into how they will work. We can divide them up into three different areas: pre-set occasion and holiday attributes, primary and secondary colour options (involving both pre-set and customizable slots) and item-specific attributes such as pendant height, clothing size and pillow length and width.
As you can see on the left, all of these fields are optional, but Etsy staff have stated that these fields will be searchable, and will also eventually be used as search filters, so it is best to fill them out whenever they apply to your items. For colours, choose the closest option possible (then tag and title your item with your preferred colour word/phrase, if it is different).
Have variations that are long lists of colour options? No problem! Etsy offers 19 different pre-set colours (including "rainbow"), plus the option to add your own custom hues. If Etsy does not import your existing variations into the new format, choose "I offer more than one" at the bottom of the colour drop-down, then select or enter each colour in the variations section of your listing page. Both pre-set and custom colours will be searchable once Etsy activates those functions, but only the pre-set choices will be available as search filters when they are introduced later in the year.
Note that if your listing is in the Weddings category, the "Wedding" attribute will be pre-selected for you under Occasion. If one of the attributes, for example necklace length, is something that you already offer as a variation, Etsy *may* convert your previous options into their permanent ones, as they did with many of my old "necklace length" variations. But pay attention - sometimes they are getting it wrong. You may need to do some editing if they don't fix these issues quickly. And unfortunately, that doesn't mean you will get an extra variation; we are still limited to two per listing.
If these attributes do not apply to your item, then don't use them. No listings will be directly penalized in search for not using attributes; there is no extra bonus in search for using them, unlike the search benefit from renew sold, for example. I have seen a lot of people misunderstanding some admin responses and thinking that custom colour and other variations will not be searchable, but that is not true; any custom colour or other variation you type in yourself will be included in search in the near future once these changes roll out. [UPDATE: custom variations still aren't searchable as of July 20th] This will be a big improvement for people with lengthy variation lists, as it is currently impossible to fit all those options into tags.
However, if someone searches for an "aqua doll dress", then filters that search using the "blue" colour option from Etsy's filters, your item will only show up if you have selected "blue" from Etsy's colour choices. That is not a penalty; it is just common sense, as they can't filter search by every colour word 1 million shop owners come up with. (Too many options is worse than having no options at all, from a buyer standpoint.) So if the attributes do make some sense for your shop, make sure you start updating your listings soon. If more than one option could apply, use different options on different products, so that you maximize your exposure.
Admin on the prototype team told us that Etsy will eventually be converting between metric and imperial measurements for these attributes, a long-overdue tool on an international site. Problem is, they haven't done that yet, and the dimension attribute fields will not accept characters other than numbers, so you cannot add both systems to each variation option (as I have been doing up until now). You can still set up new custom variations instead, but they will not be included in Etsy's search filters, once those become available.
Bonus of this new addition: more details about your products will now be visible on mobile and the Etsy app, as shown on the left. For those who are tired of answering questions that are covered in your item descriptions (which are hidden on mobile), this is a welcome improvement.
However, these changes will be very onerous for large shops, and already some sellers are bitterly protesting the work required, especially since there are no bulk editing tools, and Etsy has removed the ability to enter all variations at the same time separated by commas. If Etsy rushes the search changes before people have had a chance to edit everything, expect a huge outcry.
How will this affect search?
As mentioned above, the new attributes will be used as filters in the future, so buyers will be able to narrow down selection. The attributes, both pre-set and custom, will also now be searchable, just like titles and tags. It is impossible to predict how that change will alter search rankings, because we don't know whether the attributes will get the same weight as tags, or if repeating words will be necessary in all 3 places (title, tags, and attributes). Etsy will announce when the new fields are an active part of the search algorithm [UPDATE: attributes will begin testing as of March 27], but they will not announce any of the testing that may give us some clues. [UPDATE: it looks like attributes might have about the same weight as tags, as admin says you can get rid of any tags that are exactly the same as an attribute, but my testing as of July 20 is giving them very little weight (after initially giving them extra weight), meaning you might not need attributes in addition to tags and titles for search alone. We don't know if Etsy will keep it this way, however].
The truth is, no one knows how Etsy's search results will change, not even the search engineers at this point. When you introduce a major new element, an algorithm isn't usually predictable. Until a significant number of shops are using attributes, and Etsy actually releases the search changes for everyone, we won't be able to say how important these changes will be to the existing rankings. Keep checking back for an updated post on these issues! [UPDATE: recent developments can be found here, but nothing is finished yet]
Etsy Studio - Etsy's New Website marketplace for DIY
The announcement about a new crafting website, coming in April, took a lot of people by surprise, but it is a natural expansion of Etsy's long term business plan, which goes well beyond the main website. I expect there may be more such announcements in the next few years.
The site will focus on people interested in do-it-yourself projects, providing detailed tutorials with various levels of difficulty. Staff will curate lists of all supplies needed for each creation, which can be purchased with just one click. Unlike most new websites, Etsy Studio will be populated with all supply products for sale on the existing site, and staff have stated there will be no extra cost to sellers for all of their supply listings to appear in both places. Many expect that that setup will change within a year or two if things go smoothly, however. Note that any listings which do not take Paypal or Etsy's Direct Checkout will not be shown on Studio.
Supply listings will get a special set of new attributes, which Etsy has not yet released [UPDATE: the new categories and attributes for supplies have been released as of March 9]. You can get a sneak preview in the video on the right at about the 16:35 mark, where they show searching and shopping on the new site. Buyers will be able to filter items by such qualities as "recycled" and "free shipping", as well as item-specific attributes. For example, the search shown is for yarn, so filters for both fiber type and yarn weight are available. UPDATE: supply sellers now have early access to all of Etsy Studio, as of March 23. Read my review, including search testing, here.
Etsy has not released much information on these new supply attributes, except that they are coming soon, and that they will affect search on both sites, as both searchable terms and as filters, eventually.
UPDATE: in addition to the new attributes, the supply listing categories will also be getting an overhaul, on both sites. This includes adding commercial party supplies to the supply category. Many other items are moving into the supply category for the first time, such as baking pans and finished picture frames. The full list of new categories across the site is here. These changes are so extensive that I will be doing a separate blog post on them soon.
Some are concerned that having listings on both websites will be a problem for Google SEO, which doesn't like duplicate content. Etsy claims everything will be fine. While it is true that altering the title tag codes and adding different elements to each page can help avoid Google issues, repeating product descriptions on different websites was a large reason that some sites were heavily affected by the Panda algorithm a few years back. Furthermore, no one knows when Google could tighten up their definition, so what works today may not work in a few months. Fortunately for sellers on the main Etsy marketplace, the site that would be penalized would likely be Etsy Studio, not the existing site. Established individual listings would probably still get better weight than Etsy Studio copies, although it is hard to say what would happen with new listings.
Sellers do not need to do anything to make sure their supply items are included on Etsy Studio - the process is automatic. Do check to make sure that all of your supplies are properly categorized as supplies so that everything eligible will get this extra exposure.
Will Etsy Studio Affect Etsy Search?
Yes, search on the existing Etsy marketplace will be affected by the introduction of Studio. First, selling something on Studio will give a listing a renew-sold bump on Etsy, since the listing exists in both places. This works the same as items that sell off of Pattern sites or in person using the card reader, but is likely to be a much larger number of sales once Studio gets going. Second, Etsy will be using the new supply categories and attributes on both sites, meaning any listing that uses them might gain additional search terms, and will have the ability to be found in searches filtered by these attributes and categories. As with the other new attributes, everyone should do their best to make sure that all eligible listings have the correct variations and sub-categories chosen, if any apply.
I will update this post with any new announcements or clarifications, and will write more about the search algorithm changes once they are live for everyone [UPDATE: that update is here]. Sign up here to get all of my new blog posts via email. If I have missed anything, or you have a question, please leave a comment, send me an email, or contact me at my SEO shop, and I will be happy to update the information!
***Last Updated July 20th, 2017