SEO…it’s that three letter word that strikes fear into so many sellers leaving them thinking “handmade SEO is too complicated. I’ll tackle something more interesting, like social media or branding, instead.”
Learning Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been a frustrating journey: I’ve been overwhelmed with technical mumbo-jumbo, so many jumbled acronyms and lots of promotions trying to up sell me on something.
At the end of the day, SEO is the art of getting your shop found. It’s the delicate process of balancing your products, shopfront and website so that they’re relevant to both search engine robots and humans.
In this lesson, my aim is to break down handmade SEO techniques and present them to you in a human way. Let’s get into it…
What the heck is SEO and why should you care
By now, I’m going to assume that you’ve created your own line of handmade goods (or you’re in the process of it). I’m also going to assume that you care about getting your ideas in front of more people. Because as more people see your stuff – many more will join your customer list.
Here’s a simple (and human) explanation of SEO:
SEO is anything you do for your shop that makes it easier for people to discover your products online (without paying a cent!)
Now let’s break it down even further…
“SEO is anything you do for your shop…”
SEO is any series of actions and techniques that will make it easier for robots (or search engines) to read and analyze your site.
These activities look something like:
- Updating the titles for your products and website pages.
- Adding product tags to your product listings.
- Writing unique product descriptions.
- Grouping similar items into categories.
- Formatting your text by giving things headings, adding links back to useful information and giving your images and photos descriptive names.
- Approaching bloggers to talk about your product and include a link back to your shop
- Making your shop load faster
- Crafting a mobile friendly website
- …and more
There’s a countless number of small tweaks you can make to your shop when you’re running a handmade SEO strategy. These barely scratch the surface, but throughout the next few lessons we’ll touch on these in detail.
“…that makes it easier for people to discover your products online”
The goal of your SEO actions is to make it easy for both robots and humans:
- When you create categories, tags, titles and format your content in a super clear way – you’re giving the search engines robots an easier map to navigate your shop. In robot terms, this is called “crawling” or “indexing”.
- When it’s easy for the search engines to read what you are trying to say, your shop will start to appear more often on search engines. The higher up you appear in search results – the more people will see your products. This is called your “ranking” and it’s determined by the “relevancy” between what people are searching for and the content that you’ve published.
“Without paying a cent!”
Now, when you go into Google or a Marketplace like Etsy or Amazon and search for an item, you’ll receive two types of search results:
- Paid. these results will usually be seen near the top and side of your search results or are highlighted to let you know that they are promoted listings. When you click into these, the owners of the business will be charged a small fee, or a “cost per click”.
- Organic. The rest of the search results are free and sorted by their relevance – these are the results you can influence with SEO. Your ranking is determined by the position of your listing on organic search results. If you rank first for “handmade gold jewelry”, then your product will be the first result shown below the promoted results. Now imagine getting your products shown on the first page of Google for something that’s searched thousands of times every single day, for free – how great is that?
Keep in mind, that before all of this happens you need to know what people are typing in their search bar when they’re looking for products like yours.
Know your keywords
Put yourself into the shoes of your future customer and ask yourself the question:
What words, sentences or phrases would I type into Google to discover items like mine?
These search terms are called “keywords”.
Before you can even start to think about applying SEO actions to your craft shop, you need to have a deep understanding of keywords that your customers are using to describe your products.
That means if you sell handmade jewelry, you might consider using the keyword phrase “10k fine stampato necklace” for your product title, because that’s what you call it. You might even consider giving your product a whimsical name like, “Secret Garden necklace”.
But is that what your potential customer is searching for?
I want you to transport yourself into your perfect customer and imagine the kinds of searches they will type into a search bar.
If you’re a jewelry maker, then your keywords might look more like this:
- Delicate necklace
- Gold necklace
- Fine necklace
- Chain necklace
- Handmade necklace
- Personalized necklace
- Engraved necklace
At the same time, if these are your only keywords, it would be difficult to stand out and be noticed because there could be thousands of other businesses trying to compete to be seen first for the exact same keywords.
Find the fine line between broad and narrow keywords
It’s important that the keywords you focus on are broad enough so that it will appear in search results but also specific enough so that you’re not being drowned out by too many similar items.
For example, “personalized necklace” is on the more general side. But you can pinpoint it down to, “personalized initial necklace for bridesmaids gift”. Perhaps, “handmade soap” means your item will be shown on the 15th page. But “handmade goats milk soap for eczema” will push your product to the first page for that search term.
In robot SEO terms, a broad keyword is known as a “short-tail keyword” and something more specific is a “long-tail keyword” (it’s also longer in length!)
When you target specific long-tail keywords, you might end up with less search traffic, but the traffic you do get is super targeted and these are the people looking for exactly what you’re selling.
Someone searching for “red shoes” might only be browsing for a pair of red shoes but they don’t have a specific style or event in mind. Another person browsing “open toe suede red prom stiletto shoes” will know exactly what kind of shoe they’re looking for. Even more likely, your product matches their search criteria and they are ready to become a customer.
Start brainstorming words
Before you string together keyword phrases, start by writing out a bunch of individual words.
- What’s your item? If you create notebooks, are there other ways people would describe it? It’s also a journal, a notepad, book or a diary.
- What color is it? Is it brown, or is it tan or caramel? Can customers customize colors?
- What materials is it made out of? Is it leather, linen or moleskin?
- How is it made? Is it hand-sewn, hand-printed or upcycled?
- Are there additional features? Can it be personalized? Is it vegan or ethically sourced?
- What is the product used for? Is it for writing, scrapbooking, sketching or for a wedding guestbook?
- What is the style? Is it minimal, retro, feminine or classic?
- Who is using the product? Is it for business entrepreneurs, new moms or brides?
- Is it for a specific occasion? Weddings, baby shower, Christmas, Easter or Halloween?
From here you can start to make sentences and search terms by combining words together.
Now, try it yourself. Download the free SEO Keyword Research tool to start brainstorming and planning the search terms your customers use.
How to research the right keywords
Up until now, we’ve been making assumptions about possible keywords using gut instinct.
But how do we know these are the right keywords?
This is where keyword research becomes crucial to your overall handmade SEO plan. By doing research into potential keywords, you are validating whether your keywords will actually be a hit or miss with your customers.
There are five elements that you’ll be analyzing to make sure that your keywords are the right ones:
- Relevancy. How well does your keyword accurately describe your product?
- Demand. Is it a search term that many people use to discover items like yours?
- Competition. Is it a unique search term that not many of your competitors use to describe their items?
- Engagement. Is it a keyword that results in a high level of engagement with the products. Are many people liking, saving and talking about the products?
- Niche. Does it include a few words that target a specific type of customer or niche? Remember the previous examples: “handmade soap for eczema”, “personalized necklaces for bridesmaids” or “red prom shoes”.
Seems like a lot to think about, doesn’t it? With a bit of keyword research underway, you can balance out the ingredients in your SEO recipe. You’ll probably never find the perfect 5/5 keyword. But you’ll be well on your way to cracking the search engine “algorithm” by lining up these elements with your handmade goods.
Here are some tools to get you started for free…
Analyze your handmade keywords with EtsyRank
EtsyRank is a useful tool where you can analyze the most popular keywords on the Etsy marketplace (and it’s free!). So far it only collects data from Etsy but it will give you a general idea on what keywords perform well for handmade based items. Marmalead is also another option you can look at for getting some in-depth data into handmade keywords, but you’ll need to sign up for a paid account to get the most out of it.
Get a quick snapshot of competition, demand and engagement for your keyword.
Here I use the example “chunky knit blanket”:
- Competition. It has a medium level of competition. A fair amount of other businesses are using the keyword, which means that it might be a little difficult to stand out, but not impossible.
- Demand. There are quite a few people searching for “chunky knit blanket” products which puts it in high demand and many users are liking and saving items with this keyword to their collections.
Generally speaking, you want to find keywords that have high demand and engagement with low competition. This means:
1. More traffic to your products
2. Less people to rank against, and this results in;
3. Your product being more relevant to the keyword
Or you can just ignore all of this and make it your life mission to get all three categories (Competition, Demand & Engagement) turn green for your search term 😉
You’ll also be able to discover other suggested keywords that you can use by skimming over the keyword cloud.
Finally, you can snoop on competitors and listings who are killing it at SEO on Etsy. You’ll be able to peek into their strategy by seeing what keywords they’re using in their product titles and tags.
Compare your keywords with Google Trends
Google Trends is a super simple tool to help you visualize the popularity of keywords. I often use this tool to compare keywords, especially if I’m unsure of what individual words perform better.
For example, “ceramic planter” and “pottery planter” mean the same thing, but what keyword are more people searching for?
Simply plug both search terms into Google Trends and see which one is more popular. You can even compare the search terms over a long period of time like the example below. You can see how interest in “ceramic planters” has become even more popular than “pottery planters” in the last 2 years.
If you would like an advanced keyword comparison tool, I would recommend Google Keyword Planner. This lets you look into monthly search volumes for each search term. You’ll be able to pinpoint other keywords you didn’t even think of that might be even more popular.
Get new ideas with autocomplete
If you want to do some keyword exploration, what better way to find ideas then to talk to the search engine robots themselves.
For example, if you make crochet accessories, you might search for “crochet hat” and see what Google fills the rest of the search term with.
Fire up Pinterest and use their image search bar to see the autocomplete results:
And finally, you can do the same on a handmade marketplace like Etsy to see which specific search terms are most relevant to your keywords:
Ok, now where do I put my keywords?
So, you’ve got your perfect search term, but where is the perfect place to put them so that the robots can pick them up?
The key to placement is to put them in as many places as possible on your product listing and your shop while still maintaining readability for humans. This means you don’t mention your keyword 6 times in one sentence in your product description. However, you should work towards including your keyword in your title, product description, tags and in other parts of your website.
Here are the places that search engines will pick up your keywords for products:
- Product title
- Product description and product page
- Product tags
- Product URL
- Product image names
- Links from other pages on your website to a product page
If we’re talking about general keywords for your business, they can be placed in your:
- Home page or front page
- About page
- Shop overview page
- Contact page
- FAQ’s page
- Website description
More importantly, your keyword should be consistent in all the places you place them in. If your keyword is “retro New York map illustration print”, you should keep the order of each individual word in the same order. For example, you don’t want to use “map illustration of New York retro print” somewhere on your page because your keyword will no longer have the same impact.
Remember, handmade SEO is a long term game. Once you start using your library of high quality keywords, it might take a few weeks before you see any results. In the mean time, make SEO a part of your creative process. As long as you make it your mission to make things people are searching for, the robot tips and tricks will come through as a natural extension.
Do you have any questions or tips you’d like to share about search engines and keyword research? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.