What is SEO?


SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. A search engine is a tool that companies use to help their users find what they are looking for. You type what you want into a search bar, and magically a list of items that might fit the bill appear. It helps users because they don’t have to browse through pages of stuff they may not care about. And it helps sellers because if their product is what a buyer is looking for, they can use SEO to be found.

SEO gets a bad wrap, but mostly it’s because sellers don’t know how to make it work for their business, and instead see SEO as holding their business back. SEO becomes an enemy, something to defeat, instead of what it really is, a tool that can help you be seen.


How Does SEO Work? 


Each search engine is made up of a complicated formula or set of rules that take all of the listings or blog posts or articles that sellers create on that platform and ranks them according to how much the formula or equation thinks a customer will be happy to see that item in their list of search results. 

This equation is called an algorithm. And each platform had developed their own based on what they believe customers want and need to see. When someone searches for a product or a topic, the algorithm goes to work. It evaluates tons of information about all the possible products or articles to decide which ones will really make the searcher happy and in what order the algorithm will show those results.

Think of the algorithm like a store manager deciding what to carry in a brick and mortar store. The manager has all these options of items to carry, but has to pick which ones are going to be in the store, which ones in displays, etc.

The manager is going to choose items that have gotten good responses before, are known sellers, are from quality manufacturers, don’t have lots of complaints, etc. They might also occasionally throw some new stuff in to see how it does, as well. But they are going to pick the stuff they think customers will like to stock and show.

The algorithm is just a robotic version of that store manager, using all the data it has from the listings and customer behavior to decide which order to show results in.


Why should sellers care about SEO?


It’s time to be blunt. Users rarely click to page 2 of results. And they even more rarely click to page 25. If your item is ranked last in search, then you will not be seen. And if you aren’t seen, you don’t make money. And to be honest, unless your item is near the top, you aren’t as likely to be seen.

That means you need to know how SEO works, and how to get your item found by potential customers. It’s not enough to know that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. You as a seller have to learn to optimize your listings for the search engines.

You should care about SEO because it is how your products get seen and purchased. In order to have a chance, you have to learn as much as you can about the algorithm, your customers, and the platform goals.


How do we know about the SEO algorithms?


Algorithms from platforms are secret. We don’t get a printed list of how to rank higher in search. Now there are some guides that will be produced by companies to show some search engine information and best practices. Etsy has a really nice guide to search. But more often than not we know about what works in the algorithm because of experience.

We’ve watched what works and what doesn’t. We’ve noticed and tested changes. We’ve set our listings or articles up to be the perfect user experience, because we care about our customers. And we’ve noticed that a good user experience, usually is rewarded in an algorithm.

It’s also good to get the advice of others, especially when you are first getting started. Etsy and Amazon Handmade are both very different. Trying to list a product on either for the first time can leave you worried that you aren’t putting the right words in the right spots.

Advice from experts and community members or accountability partners can help you set up listings to see how the algorithm and your target market will respond. You can go back and tweak your listings as you see what works and what doesn’t.


How Are Keywords Related to SEO?


If Etsy, Amazon Handmade, and your website are stores, then keywords are like the signs and labels you use to organize your store and make it easier for your customers to find what they want and need.

Keywords in their most simple form are the words a user types into a search bar to find what they are looking for. Maybe you typed in some keywords to find this article? If I’ve optimized this article correctly you likely typed in some variation of “What is SEO?” 

A keyword phrase is just what it sounds like one or more words that form a phrase someone would type to search for an answer or item. As searchers, we’ve learned that we need to search for more than one word to find exactly what we are looking for. So instead of typing “ice cream” in Google, we are more likely to type “ice cream shop near me” or “popular ice cream flavors” or “ice cream stain removal” depending on the problem we need solved.


How do you find Keywords?


You can find keywords in several way.

  1. Your brain. You are a searcher. You use these search engines. What would you type to find the item you are optimizing?
  2. The search engine itself. Most search engines have an auto suggest feature. If you go to the search engine and start typing some keywords, you are going to get suggestions of the most popular search terms using those words. 
  3. There are third party tools that you can use to do keywords, some paid and some free including Marmalead, Erank, Keywords Everywhere, and Google Keyword Planner.
  4. You can ask your customers or ask for feedback in business groups for help coming up with keyword terms that your customers or readers would be searching for.


Does Facebook use SEO?


Facebook has an algorithm that it used to decide what it will show to users, but it is not based on keywords. Their algorithm values interaction and engagement on posts to decide who gets to see what. So there is no need to keyword plan your Facebook posts.

That being said, Facebook does allow some places to use keywords that are important to take advantage of. These are usually called categories and can be used to describe a Facebook Group when you set one up for your business. Categories can also be assigned to each video you upload to Facebook. These categories along with titles of videos will help Facebook know what your video is about and potential help people find it when they search. But for the most part Facebook is not using SEO.

What Facebook does do is to help your SEO on other platforms. When someone shares a link to one of your items or articles on Facebook, it sends a signal to other search engines that this item has social proof and some value. It is often debated how much of a boost or help it gives to your items, but most people agree that a social media strategy can help your SEO on other platforms. 

If we go back to our store manager analogy, if Facebook is a store manager and decides to carry an item and show it to their customers, then Google might be more inclined to give it a boost in their store too.


Does Etsy use SEO?


Oh my goodness, yes. Etsy uses SEO. Etsy wants a high quality listing. And they want your seller account to be free of any bad issues. That’s the basics of what they want if they are going to show your items to other people. In order to optimize each listing, you need to research the keywords that users are searching for, and use them strategically and not spamily in your title and tags. Your description is important to for converting that looker into a buyer, and because Google uses the description to decide where to rank you in a Google search.

There are actually quite a few more factors that can affect your SEO with Etsy. If you want to learn more Etsy’s Guide to Search is a great resource that Etsy published free for sellers.


Does Amazon Handmade use SEO?


Yep. A lot of people wonder about the differences between Amazon Handmade and Etsy. But they both uses keywords and a search algorithm to decide who sees what on their platform. The biggest difference between Amazon Handmade and Etsy is the weight that Amazon gives to items that sell.

This is called sales history. And what it means is that if you can get an item sold once, that sends a strong signal to Amazon to show that item higher in search. This makes it possible on Amazon to have very long-lived top sellers. Of course hitting those keywords to be found for the first sell can be the hard part.

Recently Amazon has continued giving sellers guidelines for their titles and tags to make sure they are providing a good user experience, instead of trying to stuff a bunch of keywords in to their titles and tags. This is a spammy practice that users don’t like. So expect to see Amazon show less of those in results.


Does Pinterest Use SEO?


A lot of people are surprised to learn that Pinterest is not really a social media platform, but instead a visual search engine. Pinterest is all about that SEO. The names of your boards and the words in the pin descriptions you create affect how your pin will be found. But the text overlays on top of your pin images area also read by Pinterest and affect where you will rank in a search for keyword terms.

This means that keyword research on Pinterest is key. Did you see what I did there? But, seriously. You can use the auto suggest function on Pinterest to find keywords for your niche and topics as well. You need to use those keywords properly in your board names, descriptions, pin descriptions, and text overlays to optimize that pin to be found. 


Does Youtube Use SEO?


Yep. Video is not immune to the importance of SEO. And lucky for us the same rules for keyword research apply. Keep in mind that the keyword phrases popular on Amazon or Etsy or even Pinterest aren’t likely to be the same keyword phrases popular on Youtube.

So do your research in Youtube when you want to optimize a video for your channel. Youtube uses titles, tags, and descriptions as well. Not only do you use keywords on your channel and in your videos, but you can also use them in your about section and on your playlists.


How Does SEO Affect Websites?


Whether you have a product based website, more of an article based or blog site, or a mixture of both, you need to understand SEO. Many people get frustrated when you work hard to set up a website. Time goes by and you realize that your website isn’t making any money.  It can be frustrating to realize that you need to know SEO to be found.

But don’t get frustrated. Get the facts. Research your keywords. Use them properly. Get more visitors to your site. Get more sales.


How Can I Get My Items Seen in Search?


So what is SEO? In a nutshell it’s the process you take to get your items seen by people when they search. To make SEO work for you, you need to consider user experience. You need to do your keyword research. And you need to understand how the platform works and what they want. Most importantly, don’t give up.

It’s easy with all the things we have to do, to experience business burnout. But SEO doesn’t have to be an enemy to your business. It can be an ally that gets you the traffic and sales that you deserve.

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