All of a sudden, almost out of nowhere, SEO has become a buzz word in the craft community. For all this hype, there’s a very weak understanding of what SEO entails and how you can SEO your Etsy shop. Etsy has tried to get into the SEO game by using properly optimized URLs and title tags, but the truth is, there’s more to SEO than that, and if you want to rocket to the top of the search engine rankings, what they have to offer probably isn’t going to get you there.
If you want search traffic, truckloads of visitors that come to your online shop every day, just because what they searched for is what you sell, you probably need your own website and you probably need to be prepared to do some work. Here’s why:
1. Content Matters
Sites like Etsy simply are not set up for content creation. You can’t create carefully crafted landing pages with just the right bolding, anchor text and H1 tags. You don’t control the HTML, and you’re essentially paying 20 cents for every “page” you create on Etsy.
Let’s contrast John Brana‘s website with random Etsy shop selling handmade silver jewelry. First of all, how’d I find this guy? I did a search for “handmade silver jewelry”. He’s the number 4 listing on Google. Why him and not an Etsy shop?
His site has a ton of pages, and they’re nicely optimized pages that make use of proper keyword placement and SEO’d title tags and URLs. He’s got bolding, he’s got links. His site is full of content for search bots to crawl through and all those pages give him more tickets to the search engine lottery. He’s got a blog, he’s got a press page, he’s got his products merchandised in a variety of ways.
Contrast this with how few pages an online shop gets you on a site like Etsy. You don’t get a blog, you don’t get a press page, you don’t get an upcoming events page. All you get are product pages, and you’re paying for each of them.
When you have your own website you pay a flat fee for the domain and hosting. Beyond that, you can make a million pages if you like. Every one of them is content on YOUR website as far as the search engines are concerned, and all those pages score you points and help you drive traffic. When you’re on Etsy your pages are essentially very low profile buried links on a very gigantic site. Not the kind of thing that attracts the search traffic so easily.
2. Keywords are Tricky
The keyword game is like a Transformer. It’s more than meets the eye. Yes you want to use words that describe your product, but there are many words that do that. You need to research the words that:
- Describe your product
- Have search volume
- Don’t have the most competition under the sun
Once you find these phrases, you need to work them into your title tags, your URLs, your copy, your anchors, your bolded/h1 copy and so forth. You can find these words using programs like Google’s keyword tool, but this process takes work and research. It’s not about just coming up with flowery language that appeals to humans. It’s about getting robots to behave the way you want. To do this most effectively, you need more control than your Etsy shop allows.
3. Links Matter A Lot
Link building is a big part of SEO. Search engines like websites and web pages that other sites have vouched for. If you’re on Etsy this sucks for a few reasons.
1. You don’t have permanent links. Once your product is sold/expired, your URL is pretty much gone. Even if you re-list, the URL won’t be identical. So even if you did go to the trouble of scaring up some links to your pages, they wouldn’t be all that useful.
2. Those links are votes for etsy.com, not yourdomain.com. Sure you could get a zillion pages to link to yourstore.etsy.com and this would make your shop URL more interesting to search engines, but you’re still doing an awful lot of work to build links for a domain you don’t own. A domain that hosts your competitors.
Links are very valuable, they’re essentially a vote for your site among search engines, and they’re hard work to come by. At least, links worth their salt. They’ll have a lot to do with whether search engines promote you or ignore you, so if you’re going to work to get them, it’s in your best interest to have control of the site they’re going to. This way if you ever leave Etsy, you haven’t lost all your SEO work.
Does this mean I can’t succeed at SEO as long as I just sell on Etsy?
Not necessarily. It will be harder, but it could be done. You could get your own website, still sell on Etsy, but keep all the SEO work focused on your own site. Then you could direct people to Etsy to make a purchase. If you really don’t want to get into handling your own ecommerce, this compromise might be a solution.
You might even want to create product pages and link them to Etsy product pages, that way you can have SEO’d product pages. Depending on how much you sell, this could be a hassle to maintain, but if you’re in the early stages of your business, it might work for you.
Note: Although I reference Etsy specifically in this article, other sites like Etsy have the same problems. This includes Ebay, 1000 markets, Art Fire, etc. I don’t think these sites are bad selling venues, but it’s important to be objective about what they can and can’t do for you.
They’re great ways for an established business to reach an audience that might not otherwise find them. They’re fine for someone starting out who’s still testing the waters of selling online. They’re even okay for someone who wants to sell online but does not want to go to the trouble of managing their own ecommerce website (though such a decision definitely limits your marketing opportunities). What they aren’t great for is a be-all-end-all destination for someone trying to grow a serious online retail business.
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