SEO or paid ads – what is more important for your Etsy success?

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Introduction

In business, like in life, a certain goal can be achieved in many different ways. The same holds true for your success with Etsy. There are various strategies you can employ to get your brand recognized and make big sales. Some of them take more time, but require modest financial resources. Others demand a more significant investment of funds, but yield faster results in return. There are approaches that can be used independently, as well as such that are more effective when used as part of a combined solution.

SEO and Etsy ads are two ways to have your listings ranked higher in search engine results. But how do you decide which method to lean on predominantly? Unfortunately, there is no single answer to the question “What is more important for your Etsy success — SEO or paid ads?” To identify the correct answer for your business, you have to be familiar with the specificities of both methods and with their efficacy under different conditions.

Can we rely on Etsy ads without SEO?

Etsy ads are only effective if you have good optimization. In other words, if you decide to invest funds in improving the visibility of your Etsy listings, you must ensure that you have done well with their optimization.

If you invest in ads without having optimized your titles and tags, you’re basically pouring money down the drain. And the reason for this is simple: without the appropriate keywords, the algorithm of the platform cannot identify your target market. Thus, your listings won’t reach any prospective customers, but will instead be featured in the results of irrelevant searches.

Imagine you’re selling women’s silk blouses. If this keyphrase is not present in the title of your listing, Etsy will have no reason to show it to clients looking for this product, no matter how big your advertising budget is. Instead, the item will appear in the search results for completely different products. And you can be certain that no one will open a women’s blouse listing when they’re looking for a rattan stool, for instance. Even if someone opens the listing — attracted by the image, let’s say — the probability of them actually buying the item is extremely low. At the end of the day, your conversion rate will fall, and you will lose money.

The best way to identify relevant keywords is to use a tool like Koalanda. It can save you tons of time when you are doing your Etsy keyword research. You can also follow the advice in this blog post to improve your SEO.

Is there a difference between SEO for listings with and without Etsy ads?

There are certain factors to take into account when it comes to the optimization of titles and tags for listings you plan to advertise.

A common strategy of newly established shops is to rely on broad and diverse keyphrases. The idea is to make a specific product appear in the results of as many searches as possible.

However, when you’re paying for every single click on your listing, you wouldn’t really want it to attract people who are not looking for this particular product and are thus unlikely to buy it. Therefore, when you are planning on launching an advertising campaign, it’s better to only use keywords that are specific, characteristic, and descriptive of the respective item. Make sure to remove any general, non-specific tags that could take you listing to the wrong target audience.

When should I also use Etsy ads?

While optimization is a necessary requirement for getting your products to reach buyers on Etsy, ads are not. Even if you don’t use ads, quality listings (those with well-selected keyphrases, informative descriptions, nice images, appropriate prices, and good conversion rate) will sooner or later get to your target audience.

However, it could in fact take several weeks, or even months, to “teach” the Etsy algorithm to start showing your listings to users searching precisely for what you have to offer. This is why many experts advise newly founded virtual shops to gain some traction through an advertising campaign. In this case, promoted listings are ranked higher in search results even when they don’t have a strong conversion rate.

Consider this as an investment, even if it doesn’t lead to sales and profit. The ads will make your brand more recognizable, more consumers will see and add your products to “Favorites,” and any potential sales will generate valuable feedback. In this way, the ranking of your listings will improve and stay better even after the end of the campaign.

How many listings should I advertise?

Make sure to optimize all your listings, so that they rank well. Regardless of whether you decide to resort to Etsy ads, you cannot afford to skip the SEO part.

On the other hand, there is no need to advertise all your products. Depending on the terms and goals of your campaign, you can choose whether to promote 1-2 or all the products.

However, be careful not to end up overwhelmed by the large number of orders that an ad campaign can generate. Consider preparing some of your products in advance in order to be able to meet the stated deadlines for processing and shipping. Alternatively, you can extend those deadlines prior to releasing the ads, which will help you ensure that you will meet your clients’ expectations.

SEO and Etsy ads

So, it’s not about choosing between SEO and Etsy ads, it’s about identifying the situations where it would be beneficial to use both.

When you are making this assessment, it’s important to take certain factors into consideration.

The lifecycle of the shop/listings

While optimization is essential for all shops and products, advertising is an adequate (but not obligatory) approach for both new and established shops.

Some experts recommend avoiding using ads during the first 6 months in order to get an idea of the organic traffic generated by your chosen keywords. Others would advise you to launch an advertising campaign as soon as you set up shop.

In the end, it’s important to bear in mind that under equal conditions, the algorithm will always prioritize optimized listings with a sales history, positive reviews and more viewings (i.e., better ranking) over listings that “don’t have a history yet”.

Level of competition in the particular niche

Paid ads can be an effective additional tactic when the keywords for your titles and tags are highly competitive.

For instance, if you’re using the keyphrase “women’s silk blouse” in your title and there are another 100,000 listings optimized for that same keyphrase, the chance of getting your listing on the top page of the search results is relatively low. If you pay for ads, however, and if your listings are optimized, you may tip the scales in your favor.

The price of the product

Don’t forget that ads are an expense that reduces the profit margin. You should use them sparingly.

If the cost-per-click stays the same, the following rule applies: the lower the price of the product, the greater the added expense for advertising, seen as a percentage of that price (therefore, the lower the profit margin). Conversely — a higher price of your product would lead to a lesser impact of advertising on your financial result.

Therefore, advertising low-priced items (such as digital products, for instance) is a risky move.

Getting faster results from tests on your Etsy shop

Whenever you experiment (e.g., change titles and tags, prices, images, descriptions, etc.), it takes some time to gather enough data to analyze the effect of the applied modifications. Ads are a way to curtail the waiting period, as your listings will be shown to more customers within a shorter time span. In this way, you will accumulate the necessary information more quickly.

Your financial situation

Even if slowly, good SEO will definitely work in your favor. Therefore, if you don’t have funds for advertising, it’s better to focus your energy and efforts on optimizing the listings in your shop.

Can Etsy ads do you harm?

The purpose of Etsy ads is to help you reach out to more prospective clients, which would in turn lead to a higher number of sales. Everyone would probably tell you that the more traffic your shop or specific products get, the better. And that is true to a great extent.

However, there are moments when advertising could have negative effects and should better be left off. If the listing reaches a high number of customers, the majority of which view it without buying, the conversion rate drops. That’s why it’s recommended to stop the advertising if your ads conversion rate is too low.

Conclusion

What is equally valid for SEO and Etsy ads is that you have to analyze the results of both on a regular basis. You should be ready to make changes when the statistics and financial results reflect the need for it.

However, don’t be too quick to make conclusions. It is advisable to let an advertising campaign run for about 30 days before you evaluate its impact. That said, if your financial resources are tight, or if you see that something is wrong from the outset, don’t be afraid to suspend the ads and reflect on possible improvements. And don’t stop experimenting until you find your ideal balance when it comes to Etsy ads.