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Etsy Starts Year by Testing Search

Etsy initiated some tests of its search feature this month, but it will be difficult to see since some shoppers will be included in the testing and others will not.

The tests will tailor search results to individual shoppers based on their history on Etsy, explained Jaime DeLanghe in an announcement on Thursday. The goal of the testing, she explained, is to identify signals that best match individual shoppers to individual items.

“Etsy’s search algorithm already considers how shoppers across the site interact with a listing,” DeLanghe wrote. “The new tests will look at similar interactions, but from an individual shopper perspective.”

She said the tests won’t affect search results as a whole, but will be specific to the individual, “allowing each shopper to find listings relevant to their search that may be more interesting to them.”

Some sellers were receptive to the news. “They’re copying Amazon’s algorithm, should be a benefit,” wrote one seller. Some said they had already seen more traffic to their listings in the last few days. (We asked Etsy if the technology was comparable to that of Amazon’s, and when the testing began – see the AuctionBytes Blog for more information.)

Others expressed some concerns based on their experiences of Etsy’s behavioral-based marketing – “you look at one fluffy bunny and you’re deluged with them,” one seller wrote.

One seller pointed to the challenge of trying to optimize her listings. “The problem with this is since everyone’s search will be different you will no longer be able to figure out how to be in the front in any search.”

Another wrote, “For every listing they “Boost” there are other listings suppressed. How do we adjust our SEO for this monkey wrench?”

Etsy addressed the issue of search optimization in Thursday’s announcement, saying the factors included in Etsy’s search placement would not change during the tests – “instead, we will be boosting items that we think shoppers will be more likely to purchase based on their history.” The marketplace said sellers would continue to control the most important factors: tag and title relevancy, listing quality, customer and marketplace experience, and recency.

Some sellers feared it would favor established, successful shops. “The rich get richer,” a seller wrote. “That’s not great news for those of us in crowded categories that don’t sell “typical” styles. Only time will tell.”

The most frequent reaction was summed up by a seller who wrote, “I really don’t want my past searches to influence the results of my current searches. I look for a wide variety of items.”

You can the full post on the Etsy Announcements page.

Comment on the AuctionBytes 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). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.