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Etsy Changes Search Algorithm – What Sellers Need to Know

Etsy is making some changes to its search algorithm that it uses to determine the order that listings are displayed when shoppers are searching for items. Going forward, Etsy will factor in seller performance metrics such as positive reviews and open cases – Etsy refers to these as “customer experience.”

Specifically, Etsy said, “Now, positive reviews, completed About pages and completed shop Policies can help your placement in search. On the other hand, recent open cases and intellectual property-infringement issues can result in lower placement.”

For new shops with few or no sales – therefore a dearth of positive reviews – the changes could be of concern, worrying that their listings would be pushed down in search results. In fact, they may worry about a chicken-and-egg situation, fearing the lower they are in search results, the less likely they are to accrue positive reviews.

Etsy Senior Product Manager for Search Jaime DeLanghe told EcommerceBytes new shop owners should not be concerned – “if you don’t have any reviews, it’s not going to do anything to affect your score.”

“You can do a lot of other things as a new shop to help improve your score in search,” including adding an About page, have policies, and optimize titles and tags. And “then once you do start getting reviews, then we’ll start to count the reviews as one of the many factors in the search ranking algorithm.”

We asked DeLanghe if a search came back with 100 results, and 10 were from shops with positive reviews and 90 were from shops with no reviews at all, would those 10 shops have an advantage in ranking?

“It depends on so many other factors,” she said. “It’s not simple math.”

Having positive reviews is just one of many factors, she said. “It’s not going to have an overwhelming effect like you described.”

Etsy said it was using Wednesday’s announcement to be more open about the criteria it uses in its search algorithm, which it revealed includes the following:

  • Relevance of titles and tags
  • Listing quality
  • Customer and marketplace experience
  • Recency
  • Shop Location
  • Shop Diversity

Sellers discussing the announcement had mixed opinions. One seller wrote, “I think that is great news, if like me you are transparent and have nothing to hide then that’s great and hopefully it might weed out the fly by night sellers, here one minute gone the next.”

Another wrote, “Most of those points are just “best business practices” for shop owners.”

Some decried the practice of making changes as the holiday shopping season gears up.

And one seller was concerned about a possible negative consequence of revealing that poor reviews could impact search ranking, writing: “I’m not a fan of these constant changes especially before the holidays but these things aren’t too bad like the about page and policies. BUT they should have kept the reviews as a secret part of relevancy. What could happen is that competitors can buy items to leave poor feedback because it can bump you down in search. eBay uses the feedback system as a way to show up under best match and it created competitor negative feedback. I’m sorry but Etsy should have shut their mouth on that part of relevancy.”

It’s unusual for a marketplace or any company for that matter to discuss too many details about factors that go into the search algorithm over fear that users could “game the system.”

DeLanghe said “I think a lot of stress comes from people not understanding what’s going on and feeling like there’s mysterious forces in the search world. And by being really open, I’m hoping that we can take this opportunity to help sellers understand how we’re thinking about the changes that we’re making as we’re making them, and to make this more of an open communication going forward.”

“We’re trying to design a system that rewards great behavior,” she said, and described some of those actions to optimize listings. “I don’t have any problem with sellers doing these things that we already know are good for the marketplace.”

You can find the announcement on the Etsy announcement board .

And sellers who wish to learn more can find a new guide to the search algorithm in the Etsy help pages here.

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.