The Complete Low Down on Etsy’s New Search Ads

In late September, Etsy launched a search advertising program aimed to provide sellers with an optimum way to showcase their wares. Sellers may now purchase advertising space—called search ads– and have their ads listed on the top of the page in relevant searches. Because the search ad program is internal, only Etsy sellers can purchase ad space vs. allowing sellers off-site to purchase ads and drive business away from Etsy.

With over 10 million items and counting available for sale on Etsy, the website touts the new search ad program as a way for sellers to stand out from the crowd. Ultimately, it was only a matter of time before this handmade-wares powerhouse rolled out an advertising platform for its sellers. Keeping in tune with big social media and mainstream blog advertising opportunities, Etsy is offering one more way for artists and crafters to tap into their target market.

However, as with any advertising opportunity, the more you know, the better you’ll be able to spend (or not spend) your advertising dollars. Etsy’s advertising program is yet an infant and reviews from search ad participants are mixed. Despite the shiny newness, Etsy’s search ad program may work well for you—read on to lean more.

The Basics

Etsy had been hinting at some sort of advertising program for a while. Unveiling of the search ad program was met with enthusiasm by many sellers as a good step toward increasing sales. Luckily, Etsy’s advertising system is relatively simple to use so new and experience sellers alike can participate with ease. Says Etsy engineer, Jason Davis,

“Our primary goal was to make Search Ads simple to use while also being effective. One of the biggest concerns we had when building Search Ads, was that we would make it too complicated for sellers to use, or too time consuming for them to understand. We wanted to make a system that was accessible for all of our shop owners; one that could be understood and effective for people that have never purchased online advertising before and equally effective for those familiar with it.”

To this effect, Etsy created a system that could be used by anyone selling on the site. Simply choose the products you want to advertise, choose keywords that fit your product, set a budget and wha-la! You’re all set. The program uses a series of drop-down and check boxes so you may easily input information for your search ad. Once you’ve designed your search ad, Etsy rotates it through using a CPM, or cost-per-mille, system.

What is CPM?

Cost-per-mille, also known as cost-per-thousand, it an advertising system in which you pay for impressions. Each time your search ad is displayed on an Etsy page, it is counted as one impression. This is different than paying for Cost-per-click, in which you only pay if someone actually clicks on your advertisement.

Etsy search ads are rotated based on search results. Say you create an ad for a ‘woman’s cable knit sweater’. When someone uses Etsy’s search function to look for a ‘woman’s knit sweater’, your ad will appear at the top of the search results page. Because search ads are rotated, your ad will appear off and on throughout related searches.

When you purchase an ad, you purchase groupings of 1,000 impressions. Currently, about one dollar purchases 1,000 impressions. Etsy’s cost options begin at $5 for 5,000 impressions, and go up from there. To keep things easy, and affordable, Etsy also allows you to customize how many impressions you’d like to purchase, or the dollar amount you’re willing to spend. Each time your search ad is displayed in the Etsy system, impressions (and a fee) are deducted from the amount you initially purchased.

How to Get Started

Etsy sellers can opt in to search ads by going to their shop homepage and selecting ‘Search Ads’ under the ‘Promote’ section on the left-hand side of the page. Once you click on ‘search ads’, Etsy walks you through the set-up process:

  • Choosing Products

Before you dive into making a search ad, carefully consider what item or items you’d like to promote. Etsy allows you to advertise specific products, one section of your shop, or your entire shop if you like. What you decide to promote may depend on your current best-selling products, new products you’d like to promote, or the time of year (holidays, season changes, weddings, etc…).

Since I recently started selling on Etsy again, I decided to give Etsy search ads a try at the cost of $5 per week and chose only 2 products to start. The reason for this is because although I have over 20 items listed  in my shop (and growing daily), I wanted to have time to analyze just a couple products before moving on to the entire shop. Definitely experiment and you’ll discover what will work best for you.

Once you’ve narrowed down what you’d like to advertise, use the drop-down menu and select the item, shop section or entire shop. Additional drop-down menus will appear and allow you to further narrow down specific items that you’d like to promote.

  • Choosing Keywords

Once you’ve decided on what to promote in your search ad, Etsy will automatically generate keywords for you to choose from. Keywords are words specifically used by shoppers when they are searching for items like yours. Etsy pulls suggested keywords from those found in your product title and tags, and suggests new keywords based on what your product is. You may add select or delete from the keywords that Etsy suggests for you.

While the keyword platform is handy, Etsy hasn’t fully rolled-out an expanded or in-depth keyword selection for some product types yet. Some sellers find that keywords offered to them do not match their product type or marketing ideals. Etsy plans to increase keyword selections if the demand for certain keywords or phrases increases, and suggests experimenting with alternate keywords if needed. Alternately, because Etsy pulls suggested keywords from those you are already using in your titles and tags, if you aren’t using relevant keywords, Etsy can’t suggest them for you.

For instance, if you are promoting a ‘silver heart necklace’, but your title states ‘girls necklace Holiday gift’, Etsy is not going to suggest the better key words ‘silver’, ‘heart’, and ‘necklace’ because you’re not already using them. Be sure you have optimal keywords in your product title and tags so Etsy can suggest the best keywords for you.

Even if your titles and tags are full of relevant keywords, you’re still not offered suitable keywords for your ad; Etsy suggests contacting them for help.

  • Setting a Budget and Duration

The budget you set determines how many impressions you are purchasing. Setting a budget on Etsy is no different than budgeting for advertising space anywhere else; consider your likely return on investment, how long you want to test the ad, and the maximum fees you’re willing to spend before you commit. Because Etsy’s advertising
program is brand-new, it may be hard to judge how well it is working for all participating sellers across the board.

Without much performance data at your disposal (yet), you’ll have to determine if you want to just dip your toes in the water or jump all the way in. Luckily, Etsy allows you to decide how much you want to invest.

Etsy suggests investments for you, of 5,000 and 10,000 impressions which cost $5 and $10 respectively. You may choose one of these options, or input your own custom amount. Once you choose a monetary amount to spend, Etsy keeps track of how much of your budget is used when your ad is displayed. Your ad will continue generating impressions until your budget is used up, and Etsy promises to never exceed your set budget.

Search ads are run for seven days. Etsy allows you to automatically renew your ads each week, or manually start new ads after the current search ad is done. If you choose to renew search ads automatically, the budget you set will remain the same until you change it. At the end of each week, you’ll receive a summary of your ad’s performance. During the week; however, you can follow along with your ad’s performance in your shop stats section.

  • Analyzing Results

As soon as your ad goes live, you’ll be able to track how well it’s doing. Your shop statistics provide an up-to-date idea of how many views, and sales, your ads are pulling in. You’ll be able to see how much of your advertising budget has been spent, how many impressions and views you’ve received from your search ad, new favorites that have occurred and any sales that have resulted from your ads. Etsy’s search ad analytics are nicely in-depth to help you track overall performance and determine if your advertising dollars are well spent.


Etsy’s new search ad option should be considered another tool in your seller’s tool box, and not a magical solution
for generating sales. When worked into a marketing plan, search ads can be an effective way to gain exposure, and
hopefully, sales.

Sellers using the search ads have reported an increase in not just shop and product views, but ‘favorites’ as well. Others have noted more exposure in treasuries as a result of increased exposure from ads. When used as a tool for drumming up exposure, ‘favorites’ and being included in treasuries can help pave the road for future sales.

Additionally, sellers are reporting sales as a direct result from experimenting with ads. While sales from ads may be slow to come in, as some sellers tweak ads, sales do begin to crop up. As Etsy shop owner, needthosebeads, states:

“So far I’m happy with the ads. I have spent $17 and got three sales. Though it’s not a lot, it is more in revenue than I would have otherwise had, so I’d definitely say it’s worth it.”

As with any marketing venue, traffic and sales from ad placement may take a while to come in. Renewing ads, changing-up the products you advertise and tweaking the amount you’re able to spend on each search ad may help with a more satisfactory return. Etsy shop, IsabelleKnits, reports that it took two rounds of running ads before they nabbed sales from search ads—and they plan to try ads again.


Like any new gadget, Etsy’s search ads have some flaws. Most notably is the placement of the search ads themselves. When someone searches Etsy for ‘winter hat’, the top of the results page should display four paid ads for winter hats. Unfortunately, kinks in the system can throw off what search ads are displayed, and some ads are not being seen on the appropriate results page. Instead of winter hats, ads for candles and baby blankets may
appear. Since search ads first rolled out in late September, this problem has gotten better; however, some shop owners are still noticing their ads are showing up on odd results pages.

Additionally, the inability to control which keywords are chosen for your search ad is frustrating for some. Etsy only allows you to keep or delete the keywords it chooses for you; you’re not able to enter your own keywords or phrases. The keyword selection may not be as intuitive as it should be, either; a limited selection of keywords, and the inability to use keywords or phrases longer than 2 words may inhibit search for some items.

Should You Try Etsy Search Ads?

If you pop into the Etsy forums, you’ll find countless conversations about the new search ads. And one resounding question remains, “Should I try Etsy ads?” While some shop owners are willing to jump in and try the ads, others want to wait by the sidelines and see how it goes for everyone else first. There’s nothing wrong with either, and it all comes down to what you’re marketing goals are. If placing ads in general is part of your marketing plan, then trying Etsy search ads a couple of times can’t hurt anything. However, if you’re pinching pennies, even $5 worth of impressions without a guaranteed return can seem like a lot. So consider these things:

  • Can you fit Etsy search ads into your operating budget?

Your operating budget is the amount of money you have put aside to run your business. If you’re not making enough sales to cover your current Etsy listing and transaction fees, your operating budget likely has no wiggle room. However, if you are making a profit, or have money set aside for marketing, how much do you feel comfortable spending on a search ad? How much can you realistically afford?

  • Are you willing to take a risk?

We all know that no amount of advertising can guarantee a return. The lure of ad placement is strong, especially in times when sales are slow (or non-existent). Any ad that you place, anywhere—a blog, on Facebook or in print media—is a risk. You may never see a return on the money you paid for any ad; anywhere! You have to determine what your overall risk comfort level is. If your level is very, very low, consider starting small. A small Etsy search ad may be what you need to test the waters.

  • Will you give it time?

Ads typically do better with some longevity and consistency. Big business does it all the time—they saturate the market with a bombardment of ads. You can’t help but notice one company stands out over another simply because of the amount of advertising it does, and the frequency. While most Etsy sellers are not big business, we can take this same concept and make it small scale. One point of advertising is to be seen. When you’re seen over
and over again, you tend to grab people’s attention. When you run an Etsy ad, or any ad, consider it a long-term commitment. You may have to run that search ad again and again to keep yourself in front of your audience. With Etsy ads, you have the ability to keep your products in front of shoppers in your relevant categories. When your ad expires, it loses its ability to be at the surface. When you keep your ad going, it has a chance to stay fresh and current through relevant searches, and keep your shop at the forefront.

  • Can you make it better?

How you present your products is imperative to a good Etsy search ad. Perhaps more so than the keywords you use. How? Your product pictures are the only way potential buyers can really see your product. When you decide to advertise with Etsy, be sure the pictures you’re using are top-notch. Not only will crisp, clear pictures make your ad look better, they can help nab attention of people who may not be specifically looking for what you sell.

Because you want to draw the eye to your product picture, great product photography can be the difference between your ad being clicked on and passed over. Ask yourself how you can make your product images better and help boost your ad’s visibility. Use the best presentation and lighting possible to really draw attention and help make the sale.

Ultimately, Etsy search ads won’t work for everyone. No one type of advertising does. Making sure you’re doing all you can to get the most from your search ad; asking questions, monitoring results and being patient are the best steps you can take to a successful promotion. Happy selling!

{Top Image via SXC}

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