The quickest way to find what you’re looking for on Etsy is to search for it, but Etsy serves you Promoted Listings first. If you’re a regular customer, not clicking on these to get to the item you want is a massive help to me, and all your other favorite Etsy artisans. To explain why, and show you how it works, I’m going to give you a behind the scenes peek at what I see as a seller.
This came up because my very tech-savvy friend (and customer) admitted to clicking on a Promoted Listing to get to Fire Genasi. While this is honestly perfectly all right, we had a chat about how most people probably don’t even know that’s what they’re clicking on, or what it costs a seller. Given how much people enjoyed my How (and how NOT) to Ask for a Discount on Etsy article, I figured it was worth sharing.
Behind the Scenes
I know people who are already my customers click promoted listings to get to my items because this is what I see when an order comes through (and before you fret wondering if this is YOUR order, no, it’s not, I did a Photoshop mashup of a few to make sure it was totally anonymous even with the blurring.)
- Red Arrow: Buyer Info & Order #, nothing too fascinating here
- Teal Arrow: That little orange star indicates that this person has purchased from me before, they’re a repeat customer.
- Purple Arrow: The megaphone means that this person got to this listing AND purchased it by clicking on a Promoted Listing.
- Yellow Arrow: The tiny tag and code behind it shows that this customer used a discount code, or took advantage of a sale I had running (I have to name sales, so they both come up as codes here even if sellers don’t have to actually enter a code to apply them).
What I can tell from this listing is that one of my lovely, repeat customers did a search, clicked on a promoted listing, and picked up some Fire Genasi when it was on sale.
Back up… what’s a Promoted Listing?
Promoted listing are listings that Etsy sellers pay to have served early on in a given search. Let’s say you’re searching for “Henna Hair Dye” on Etsy. Here’s the top half of the first page of results (I’ve highlighted the Promoted Listings in yellow boxes):
(And yes, I did this search in incognito mode so my own browsing habits aren’t affecting the results.)
How can you tell the items in yellow boxes are Promoted Listings? This tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiny little “Ad: indicator right here:
Easy to miss, right? They’re DESIGNED that way, so if you suspect you’ve clicked on a Promoted Listing in the past because it’s the shortest way to the thing you want to buy, please don’t feel bad. Etsy’s doing the bare minimum as required by law to flag them.
Promoted listings are huge for Etsy because they make a ton of money from sellers off them, and they’re huge for sellers because…
83% of purchases from search on Etsy come from the first page
Meaning that if your listing doesn’t appear on the first page of whatever someone plugs in for a search query, your item, no matter how lovely or perfect a match to the search results, isn’t likely to be seen, much less purchased.
A lot of things influence if an item lands on the first page or not. Some of these things include:
- Recent Clickthrough to Purchase: Have other Etsy shoppers clicked this listing recently, looked at it, and then purchased it?
- Recent Favorite: Have other Etsy shoppers Favorited this listing recently?
- Recent Feedback: Has this item recently received a positive review?
These items affect an items relevancy, meaning that over time the AI in Etsy’s search will learn what items from a given search produce the most sales (based on purchases, favorites, and positive feedback) and Etsy serves these first figuring that’s what most people are looking for when, in this case, they type in “Henna hair dye.”
As an aside
This is why I’m always so, so grateful when you take the extra time to favorite and leave reviews on my items, even if it’s the same Fire Genasi you’ve purchased every single month for the last 5 years. Every one of those purchases, hearts, and reviews gives Fire Genasi a tiny bump in search, helping it be seen by new customers and grow NightBlooming. You, honestly, have way more power over how many people see my items than I do!
I can influence search in two ways: “Free” Shipping & Promoted Listings
- “Free” Shipping: Etsy really turned the screws on sellers for this in the last year. If you don’t offer free shipping either on this specific item, or on an order totaling $35 from your shop, you don’t appear on the first page of results, no matter how favorable the other items on this list are. While this is very technically my ‘choice’ to offer free shipping, it doesn’t often feel like one, given that, as we saw earlier, 83% of sales come from the first page of listings.
- Promoted Listings: I set a daily ad budget and a cost per click maximum. What happens in the fraction of a second after you type in your search and hit Enter, all the possible promoted listings bid against one another. The ones that bid the most get served up to you. If you click on a Promoted Listing, I’m charged the amount that was bid on my behalf. When my daily budget for Promoted Listings has been chewed up by this bidding process, Etsy doesn’t show any more Promoted Listings for my store until the next day. If I get through the day and my budget hasn’t been eaten up, then that’s money I keep.
Cost to Sellers
My daily budget for Promoted Listings is $7. In the last 30 days my Promoted Listings have been seen 174,746 times, clicked 2,332 times, and produced 45 orders. Roughly speaking, that means every order that I get through promoted listings can cost me up to $4.67.
It all adds up.
Here are my actual, unaltered 2019 Etsy Fees & Taxes
The teal arrow is my marketing costs, which totaled $1,968. Note: that’s more than I pay for the entire year in listing fees to Etsy. It’s more than half what I pay in transaction fees to Etsy. Etsy makes a LOT of money off sellers who feel they have to use Promoted Listings to be seen on the vitally important first page of search.
(And holy shit, just look at all that “free shipping”. That’s just the cost of postage, it’s higher when you factor in boxes, mailers, tissue paper, labels, packing tape, etc.) This all, of course, also doesn’t count the cost of materials, ingredients, web hosting, and silly things like my time. And here you lovelies wonder why I still have a day job; it looks like I make a ton, but my fees, materials, and expenses keep my profit margins modest.
A Long Post to Ask for a Simple Favor:
If you’re searching for a specific item from one of your favorite sellers, do us a favor and click on a non-promoted listing. By doing so you’re either leaving us with unspent ad money (good!) or allowing that money to be used to promote items to potential new customers (also good!).
(It only took me 1200+ words to get to the point this time! This is why I write novels and hate Twitter.)
How else to find your favorite items:
Etsy actually makes it super-hard for you to get from a given listing to my store (try it sometime, it’s a tiny, underlined link), which is why most people use search in the first place. To make it easy to not click on promoted listings you can:
- Never click on the first row of results: Those are always Promoted Listings.
- Favorite the Shop: Here’s mine. Just click on the little button that says “Favorite Shop” with a heart. When you go to Etsy you can then go to your Favorites > Favorite Shops and head right to NightBlooming from there.
- Favorite the item: I know some of you have literally THOUSANDS of favorite items, which is why you can then also
- Create and add the item to an “Owned” list. Doing this is super-simple and it’s my favorite way to keep track of things I want to repurchase.
Then, when you go to your Favorite Lists, you’ll see all those items in one handy place:
Thank you so much!
I love that I can tell you all these things because I know you care passionately about supporting your favorite artisans.
I’m always happy to answer questions and comments that you might have below!