Shop Etsy

More relevant search results

Jul 28, 2011

by hirefrank

Hi Everyone,

With over 10 Million unique items listed on Etsy, searching is the fastest way to find what you are looking for. Right now, we recognize that search can be frustrating, and that sometimes your first search doesn’t always lead you to what you want, or expect. That’s why improving search quality, and evolving the ways you can search, is a huge priority for Etsy. We are specifically focused on search sorted by relevancy, which we feel will be the strongest site experience and will help buyers and sellers alike.

Some of you may have noticed that there have been some improvements on search sorted by relevancy in the past couple months, and we want to share them with you. Additionally, we hope that letting you know how things work under the hood will help you list your items so they can be found and purchased!

Here are some of the recent changes that we’ve made to search sorted by relevancy:

• Item titles are given more weight. Tags are important but your item title is even more critical. As titles are the most direct way for sellers to explain what they have, we have given them more weight in our search results. This means as a first order of business, you should make sure you have complete and descriptive titles for all the items you list.

• Words that appear at the beginning of your title are given more weight. Translation: make sure to list the most important things about your item at the beginning of the title. For example, your item will be displayed higher in the search results when someone searches for “dress” if you list your item as “Silk Children’s Dress” rather than “Homemade hand painted children’s silk pink, blue and yellow dress.” That doesn’t mean it won’t show up at all, but you will see better results if you put the most important characteristics of your item at the beginning of your title.

• Exact word pairs are given more weight. When your search includes 2 or more words, we prioritize results that have those exact words next to each other. For example, if I search for “pink unicorn” results that contain “pink unicorn” in the title will appear higher than “pink ponies playing with a unicorn.”

• Recency factors into search sorted by relevancy. When a broad search (like “dress”) returns a huge number of results, we give some priority to most recently listed items.

• Diversity is important! Our marketplace is made vibrant by the wide range of products, sellers and styles. In a search sorted by relevancy, we divide up multiple items from the same shop, and prevent your search results from being dominated by one shop.

We are excited about these changes, and believe that they will improve search sorted by relevancy, and make the results of your searches more, well…relevant!! For sellers, we hope improvements listed above will help you understand how to list your items for placement in relevancy searches.

As we’ve mentioned before, search is not a solved problem for Etsy or anyone else. We will continue experimenting with other improvements and will keep you updated as they roll out. As we continue to develop search sorted by relevancy, our goal is to make this the default site experience. We believe search sorted by relevancy will connect buyers to sellers faster than any other experience on the site. But keep in mind, great search depends on you too! As we continue to improve the search experience, we need sellers to do their part by being as accurate and descriptive in titling and tagging their items, so buyers can find your goods.

We are also planning a web-cast on Monday at 12:30pm in the Etsy online labs (http://www.etsy.com/community/online-labs). So tune in and meet some of the Etsy Admins working on search!

Comments or questions? Please post them in this thread: http://www.etsy.com/teams/7718/site-help/discuss/8755739/

Thanks, Frank & The Search Team

* * * * *

Thanks for all of your feedback on our recent improvements to sort by relevancy. I just finished reviewing your feedback with the team and below are clarifications to the most popular concerns raised in this thread.

1. Tag Stuffing – We are not encouraging tag stuffing with this change to sort by relevancy. We had a typo in our original post and mistakenly said “in the title or tag” when we meant to say “in the title” in our example about “pink unicorn”. It should have read: For example, if I search for “pink unicorn” results that contain “pink unicorn” in the title will appear higher than “pink ponies playing with a unicorn.” (By the way, “pink ponies playing with a unicorn” exceeds the character link for a tag.) Given the overall confusion of tag stuffing policy we are going to revisit this to see if we can make things clearer to understand.

2. Titles – As we mentioned, we are giving more weight to titles. You should have descriptive titles for all your items and use words you think people will search for when looking for your item. As an example, if you think people will best find your item if you have “SALE 15% Off” in the title, put it first otherwise, make sure to list the most important things about your item at the beginning of the title.

3. Tags – There were a variety of issues raised by tags. Unlike titles, the order of the tags does not impact ranking. As always we encourage you to use tags that are relative and related to your item. You asked whether single word tags are given preference over multi-word tags. Single word tags do not necessarily perform better for all searches. We encourage you to use Shop Stats to understand which tags work better for your items.

4. Recency – We believe freshness matters in our marketplace which is why recency is a component of relevancy. However, it is just a component unlike sort by recency where it is the determining factor for ranking. Recency takes into account all new and renewed items with equal weight.

5. Diversity – We strongly believe diversity is important to our marketplace. In sort by relevancy, we show more diversity of shops on average than we do in sort by recency. We are not done and are evaluating other possible improvements.

6. Personalization – At this time, we are not taking any personalization signals into our relevancy ranking.

@cindylouwho2 wrote: “I really like the fact that Etsy is making the search more similar to Google’s – giving more weight to words next to each other, giving more weight to the beginning of the title. If this works, it will make it a lot easier to be relevant on both Etsy & google – which is only fair to sellers, they should not have to choose.”

We couldn’t agree more!

Also, some of you commented on inconsistent results when sorting by relevancy. This was most likely due to a couple of small A/B experiments we were testing. We have since turned off the experiments so you can better understand sort by relevancy.

Thanks,Frank & The Search Team

* * * * *

Just a quick update on tags–

The community has raised some valid concerns about tag stuffing. Given the overall confusion of tag stuffing policy we are going to revisit this to see if we can make things clearer to understand. As always, we encourage you to use tags that are accurate and related to your item.

Thanks,Frank & The Search Team