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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. 


Filtering by Tag: Google

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

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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's New Shop Home Page - SEO Implications

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Etsy announced a new shop home page design March 15, with this hard-to-miss banner across the top of seller shop pages. 

Etsy announced a new shop home page design March 15, with this hard-to-miss banner across the top of seller shop pages. 

After weeks of bugs that led most members to suspect major changes were coming, Etsy announced a new design for sellers' shop home pages on March 15th, 2016, with a full three weeks' warning before it goes live April 5th. You would need a whole website to collect and dissect the opinions and complaints about the new design, so I will instead skip directly to my specialty: how the changes affect search engine optimization (SEO), both on and off Etsy. 

There are four main areas you need to know about:

This sales total below the new shop sections no longer needs to be clickable; sellers can hide the page showing each of their sold items, if they choose to do so. 

This sales total below the new shop sections no longer needs to be clickable; sellers can hide the page showing each of their sold items, if they choose to do so. 

1) Hiding sales totals: one addition that has been long requested by some sellers, the ability to remove the Sold orders page from the shop home page did create some concern that sold listings would no longer bring in traffic from Google and other outside sources. Fortunately, each individual sold item page will still be visible to visitors if they have a direct link to it: from Google, a blog, their favourites or even a bookmark in their browser. The only difference from today is that sellers will have the option to hide the pages which show each item sold by date. This may make it a little more difficult for others to copy a shop's most popular products. 

2) Five new shop sections: each shop can now use up to 15 separate sections (up from 10) to organize their items, although it is still not possible to place a listing in more than one section. While these new section titles are additional keywords that Google and other search engines can read, they won't do much to help a shop home page move higher on Google for most searches, as they do not receive any special value from Google. 

3) Shop Announcement is now optional: Etsy announced that the shop announcement field could be hidden, by which they actually meant "could be deleted". Since Etsy currently uses the Shop Announcement field as the meta description for Google and other search engines - the part of the web page often excerpted on search engine results pages (SERPs) - deleting it would make it harder to compel searchers to click on an Etsy shop link from the SERPs. After some of us raised this concern, Etsy changed the coding so that the meta descriptions will now read:

"Browse unique items from [shopname] on Etsy, a global marketplace of handmade, vintage and creative goods"

and then refused to answer any questions about the change - see the posts here under the staff member's claims about SEO improvements. 

Meta descriptions are no longer important for ranking on search engines; their value today lies in compelling searchers to visit your website. Moz, the company that did Etsy's SEO redesign back in 2009 (which made Etsy shop announcements double as meta descriptions for the first time), describes the role of meta descriptions as follows: "[they] are extremely important in gaining user click-through from SERPs. These short paragraphs are a webmaster’s opportunity to advertise content to searchers and to let them know exactly whether the given page contains the information they're looking for." 

This Etsy change removes each shop's ability to present themselves to their target markets as they know best. The new meta description is simply an ad for Etsy as a website, completely belying Etsy's claim that the new design will "give you the tools you need to tell your unique story". There is no way "to express your brand in a way that makes sense for your business" when Etsy completely strips all uniqueness from each shop's links on outside search engines. The fact that staff refuse to discuss or explain this, unlike many other changes that are part of this redesign, shows that they were hoping to slip this erasure of individual shops' branding through without anyone noticing. 

Etsy could easily remove the shop announcement from the new home page design and still give sellers the ability to fill out a meta description field; many website builders offer meta descriptions that are not visible on the page. Management chose instead to put generic Etsy branding in the place of individual seller branding. This is in line with Etsy's approach in the last few years: making sure the Etsy stamp is seen on as many outside links to Etsy shops/listings as possible, at the expense of the individual sellers. (For a recent example, check out the orange E "tags" on Shop Updates, which were primarily designed for social media promotion.) Expect to see more "generification" - morphing specific shops into the generic Etsy whole - in upcoming changes. And definitely expect to see upcoming changes! 

UPDATE: Etsy completed the rollout of the new design today, but Google has already begun reflecting the changes in the SERPs. While many shops are showing up with Etsy's generic blurb as their snippet, Google is also showing various combinations of listing titles, parts of shop announcements, and even a few section titles in the SERP snippets for some shops. Most of the shops who are currently not showing the generic Etsy line in the SERPs are older shops, larger shops with more on their home page, and shops with a good web presence. There is no guarantee that Google will continue to do this, however, especially once it realizes that all of these pages have changed permanently. Also, you cannot control what Google does choose to show if it doesn't show the generic Etsy line; it will choose from any listings and elements on the page, as opposed to the previous almost blanket use of shop announcements as the snippet. 

(Note - the shop announcement will still be readable by Google and other search engines, but it won't get any special weight from Google in particular, and is very unlikely to be the entire snippet Google shows in its SERPs, although other search engines such as Bing and DuckDuckGo may show any text they consider relevant)

A screenshot of part of the new "simplified" policy template. Existing shops may keep their pre-existing policies, but will not receive the small advantage in search that is being given to those who use Etsy's template. 

A screenshot of part of the new "simplified" policy template. Existing shops may keep their pre-existing policies, but will not receive the small advantage in search that is being given to those who use Etsy's template. 

4) Shops Using Etsy's "Simplified" Policies Get a Small Bump in Etsy Search: Part of the shop home page redesign includes a new simplified policy template, which will appear at the bottom of each shop home page instead of on a separate "Policies" page as it does now. This template has been a flashpoint for most of the anger surrounding the redesign, in part because it does not comply with many countries' laws, and, when introduced, did not reflect the circumstances of many types of sellers, including digital download shops (who have no shipping times or Customs issues to mention).  Etsy also caught flack for prepopulating the EU-required seller information form with members' names and addresses, but have since reversed that action. 

But the biggest complaint has been that, despite the poor wording and actual illegality for some jurisdictions, Etsy wants every shop to use this template, and will therefore reward sellers who adopt it with "a slightly higher boost in search", to go along with the small boost you already receive for having policies written out at all. 

In response to the complaints, Etsy has modified the "Shipping" section so digital sellers can remove it, and has introduced a special template for German shops, since Germany's commerce laws are quite different from most other countries. However, they have not modified some of the questioned language, nor have they removed the search boost for shops using these policies - that boost will kick in once the new design rolls out April 5th. 

Etsy first added the "Customer and Marketplace Experience" elements to its search algorithm in November, and admin claim this new addition to those factors is very slight. Given that most observers have not been able to detect significant effects from the November algorithm changes, I suspect they are not misleading sellers on this point. However, it remains to be seen what the cumulative effect of multiple "slight boosts" will be, given that Etsy seems to be adding new search factors all the time, and some of them are not going to be adopted by some established sellers. A shop that follows Etsy on each of these factors could end up with a much larger boost over a shop that adopts none of them. 

To test the effect of this algorithmic change, I will not be using the new policy template in my jewellery shop, and will carefully track my search standing with various types of queries both before and after the new home page launch. I will update this blog post next week with a summary of my observations. Update: as of April 14th, I am not seeing any real drops in relevancy; I summarize my observations here

What Will Etsy's Next Changes Be?

I expect that Etsy will continue to tweak this design and adjust some of the major sticking points, such as the wording of the policy template, over the next month or so. It is possible that some of the less-widely known changes, such as the disappearance of the meta description, will create a surge of complaints after the launch, and Etsy may choose to respond to those concerns. Some complaints have already caused Etsy to retreat from their plans, so more change is possible. I do not expect they will remove the policy-search boost, however.

Sellers should look for a new listing page this year, as the current one is now going to clash with the shop home pages; Etsy has not announced any plans for that development, but it could happen fairly quickly, once the home page is debugged. I also anticipate we will continue to see more "carrot & stick" attempts to get shop owners to follow Etsy's preferred methods of operation, and to use more Etsy products such as Direct Checkout and shipping labels. The small benefits for following Etsy's brand dictates, and the punishments for refusing to do so, will increasingly become standard operation for the company, as it continues to grow and try to keep stockholders happy with larger gross profits. Etsy still remains a viable platform for small business, but no one should expect that platform to be stable over the next year or so, as Etsy rapidly evolves into a different type of company.

UPDATE, April 6: It appears that some of the impetus for this redesign was the launch of Etsy's "Pattern" option for Etsy shops. 

Google Errors & Etsy Links; Search Results Redirected

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Some Etsy links on Google currently make no sense for the search

Some Etsy links on Google currently make no sense for the search

As I discussed on Google+ yesterday, Etsy currently has a serious problem in Google search results, with link hijacking through redirects to another website. I also briefly mentioned that some Etsy search results on Google were leading to the wrong page on Etsy, sometimes with absolutely no connection between the pages. The example in the screen shot above would usually be a link to another page of my shop, but it currently shows another member's profile page instead. There is another example below. 

The person above has done nothing wrong personally (but she may be getting some extra traffic from me).  In fact, many of the examples seen do not involve individual shops at all, but instead Etsy Market pages or searches. This can only confuse searchers, especially when the page inserted into the results usually has nothing to do with the initial search topic. There was even one example of an Etsy ad on Google leading to the wrong link, which is quite odd - usually the advertiser would have control over the page linked to. (I cannot find that ad when I search now, so it appears Etsy has pulled the ad instead of fixing it - a good indication that this problem is not within Etsy's control). 

Is this related to the scraper hijack? Impossible to say, but if it is not, the timing is a very interesting coincidence. 

Another example, this one of a search for a specific Etsy shop leading to a completely unrelated Etsy Market page full of different goods 

Another example, this one of a search for a specific Etsy shop leading to a completely unrelated Etsy Market page full of different goods 

Have you seen this type of Google error on a widespread basis before? Do you have any current examples? Please post in the comments below, or in this thread on my SEO team.