Etsy Search Ads: The Missing FAQ

on Sep 27th, 2011 | in Etsy Tips | 10 Comments

UPDATE: Etsy Search Ads will be replaced by Promoted Listings on September 9th, 2014.

Last week’s debut of Etsy Search Ads left many sellers with questions and concerns. Etsy admins have gone to great lengths to answer questions in the Etsy forums, blog posts and interviews – but the results are scattered and difficult to find. I’ve gathered many common questions about Etsy Search Ads in this unofficial FAQ.

Ad Display

Where will the ads be shown?

The ads will be shown above the top row of search results, in a row of four boxes. They will replace the row of “Recently Listed” items. The screenshot below showing ad placement is from the official Etsy blog post.

How are the ads chosen for each page?

When someone searches on Etsy, sellers with keywords that match the search terms are eligible to appear in the ads on the search results page. For each search page, four shops are chosen at random from the pool of sellers with matching keywords.

The ads are not pre-generated, they are chosen on-demand each time a search happens or when a shopper clicks through the pages of search results.

Will my ad be on the first page of search results?

The ads on the first page are chosen randomly from all sellers with matching keywords for a search. With your ad running for a week, it will be featured on the first page of search results a great number of times. It can also appear on page 2, page 13 and page 40 – assuming someone is patient enough to go through that many items! All Etsy sellers with the same keyword will have the same chance of showing up on the first page for a matching search.

Can my ad show up even when the same item is listed in the search results?

Yes, the ads and the organic search results are two separate systems and the same item can show up in both on the same page. This will generally be beneficial, since the ads are place more prominently than search results – especially if your item is lower down in search results on the page.

Can two of my ads appear on the same page of search results?

No, the ads will be from four distinct shops; no shop will be featured twice on the same page.

Are Search Ads replacing Showcases?

No, Showcases will continue to be shown on the top of Category result pages.

Will my items only show in the appropriate category (Vintage, Handmade, Supplies)?

No, the ads are based only on keywords. Vintage items may show up for a search in the Handmade category, if the search term matches the ad keywords.


Where do the ad keywords come from?

The ad keywords are taken from the tags and titles on your items and matched with the most popular searches on Etsy. The words and phrases must be listed on Etsy’s keyword pricing page to be eligible for Search Ads.

Why is my keyword not on the keyword pricing page?

The keyword pricing page only tracks keywords that have enough people searching for it to bring significant ad views. Keywords that are not on this list are not popular enough to consider for advertising keywords, or do not meet Etsy’s policy. The keywords are generated based on historical search data. Etsy will add to and evaluate the keyword list over time to make sure it contains the most popular searches.

What if the keywords only apply to some of my items?

The Search Ads system is smart enough to know which keywords apply to which items, so that you don’t have to organize items and keywords when purchasing advertising. Though the keywords all presented at once, they will only advertise appropriate items for each keyword.

Can I pick my own keywords?

No, you can’t chose your own keywords. Etsy suggests up to 30 keywords based on the titles and tags in your items. The goal of this simplification is to make the advertising process easier for inexperienced sellers and to maintain an excellent experience for the shopper. Etsy is looking into ways to add more keywords for you to choose from.

Why do I have to have at least 5/10 keywords?

Search Ads requires at least 10 keywords for an entire shop of items to make sure that there are a variety of searches that will match your ads. Sections of a shop require at least 5 keywords. If you’d like to use less keywords to advertise a limited set of items, choose “Selected items from my shop” when setting up the Search Ads.

Can I change my keywords while an ad is running?

Yes, you can make changes to the keywords at any time. Any changes made by 10 a.m. GMT will take effect at the beginning of the next day of the ad campaign, which starts two hours later at 12 p.m. GMT.

Will my ads show when my keyword is only part of the search term?

Yes, keywords can be matched as a subset of the search term. For example, if you purchased the keyword “slipper”, your item may be advertised on a search for “glass slipper”. It will only count as an impression for the keyword you purchased.

Will I be charged for multiple keywords if they match the same search term?

No, only one impression will be recorded for a single advertisement shown. Etsy’s RobWhite offers an example:

You have purchased search ads for keywords “bright,” “green” and “avocado.” Someone searches for “bright green avocado.” You may have an ad that turns up for any of the three keywords, but it will be just one ad, and as a result it will count as just one impression for whichever keyword the algorithm used to bring up your ad.


What does it cost to run Search Ads?

Etsy suggests a minimum budget of $5.00 per week when trying out ads for the first time, but the Search Ads system will let you go down to $1.00 per week. The budget can be adjusted – more money will make your ad appear more often during the week. Etsy suggests a minimum budget of $5.00 when trying out ads for the first time.

How much do keywords cost?

Keywords cost from 30 cents to $5.00. Etsy’s Frank Harris explains keyword pricing in my interview:

Etsy’s search technology sets keywords and prices based on Etsy sellers’ use and historical search data. One of those points is the popularity of the search, but others have to do with how many searches lead to purchases, average pricing of those purchases, etc. So it’s not as simple as which searches are most popular in terms of keyword pricing.

What if I don’t use my entire advertising budget for the week?

Etsy will only charge for impressions served. The budget entered is the maximum you can be charged in that week. If only $4.50 of ad impressions are shown in a week with a budget of $5.00,  you will only be charged $4.50.

Can I cancel my ads?

The ad campaign can be canceled at any time, but the ads will not stop running until the start of the next day at 12 p.m. GMT. You will only be charged for impressions that have been served up to that point.

Why do Search Ads use CPM instead of CPC?

Etsy’s Jason Davis offers an explanation in his blog post, Behind the Curtain:

Cost-per-click pricing works best in a sealed-bid auction (like Google or Facebook) where you can’t see anyone else’s bids. Given that Search Ads on Etsy is not auction-based and that we want to be as transparent and open as possible about pricing, we decided against using a quality score and to charge directly on a CPM basis. We also openly publish our prices.

Measuring Results

How do I see how many times my ad has been shown?

The Shop Stats page on Etsy now features statistics from Search Ads, including impressions and views.

How can I determine my best-performing keywords?

The click-through ratio (CTR) is an advertising term for the ratio of clicks to impressions that your ad produced. The Search Ads section on the Shop Stats page does not directly list CTR, but you can figure it out by dividing each keyword’s views by its impressions. If your keyword had 800 impressions and 56 views, the CTR is (56/800 * 100) = 7%. Compare the CTRs for each keyword to find the best-performing keywords.

Other Information

Do I need to run Search Ads?

No, Search Ads are a promotional tool to help Etsy sellers increase exposure to their shop and items. If you’re pleased with the amount of orders and exposure you’re already getting on Etsy, or if you determine that Search Ads are not working for you, there is no need to run Search Ads.

What happens if I all my advertised items sell?

Search Ads will stop running if advertised items are sold out. If new items are added to the selected Search Ads shop or shop section, the ads will resume.

Will I suffer a penalty in search results if I don’t purchase advertising?

No, the organic search system is unrelated to the Search Ads system. Search results will be shown in the same manner as before.

What sort of security is in place to protect ad impressions from bots, scrapers and other sources of false ad impressions?

Use of bots, scrapers and other automated tools is prohibited in the Etsy Terms of Use. Etsy has systems in place to monitor for robot, spiders, scrapers and other suspicious activity. Sellers are not charged for impressions suspected to be used in fraudulent activity. Frank Harris also addressed this question in my interview.

Will I be charged impressions from other sellers searching for treasury items, or checking their own search placement?

Etsy’s Frank Harris responds in my interview:

Treasuries are a great marketing tool, and inclusion in them often leads to more exposure and ultimately sales. In addition, some of our best buyers are sellers, so sellers should not be worried about impressions shown to other sellers.


What other questions do you have about Etsy’s new Search Ads system? Leave questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them – and add them to the FAQ for other readers.

Cover image by EJP Photo on Flickr.
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10 Responses

  1. Leslie says:

    If my ad is on page 40,
    does someone have to be
    on page 40 to be considered
    am impression,or can it just be
    there and you get charged?

    • Brittany says:

      You will not be charged until someone reaches the page you are “on”. In reality, the ads do not even exist in the cyber world until someone requests a new page. So say someone is searching on page 39 and none of your ads have appeared before during their search. When they click to go to the next page, the next four ads are generated–one of those ads is your ad. Now you will be charged an impression.

  2. Dixie Cutler says:

    Really, really helpful. I had figured a lot of it out but this should be titled Search Ads for Dummies!

  3. Natalie says:

    Awesome! Thanks for putting this all in one spot.

  4. Simone says:

    Fabulously written! Thanks so much for writing such a well thought article. Makes things much clearer.

  5. OK here’s an observation that doesn’t seem to synch with the FAQ. I had carefully set up keywords & selected pieces (45 & 59) but the 1st couple of hours I sensed that over 300 impressions & zero views might mean I was just wasting my $ as thousands of Etsy shops scrambled to see their ads & to test the system. I hit the ‘stop’ button–& it stopped-immediately! So this was about 9 a.m. CST. I thought I understood there was a delay for changes like this? Was I just lucky to stop the clock like that?

  6. I don’t understand the “time” being used-what is GMT? I’m in CST but don’t know how to translate! Thanks for your terrific FAQ–very helpful!

    • Brittany says:

      GMT is Greenwich Mean Time, a time standard that most local times are based on. CST is GMT – 6 hours, so 12 p.m. GMT is 6 a.m. CST. Daylight savings time can affect the GMT offset too.

  7. That was a really great write up to read. It cleared up a lot of confusion for me. Found this post via the Etsy forum. Cheers!

  8. April says:

    Very helpful post, and a great idea to bring all this info to one place – Thanks so much for helping us out! 🙂

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