Free Etsy Advice: Categories and Tags

I’m the type of person who, if I have a question about something, and there’s a helpful forum for that something, I will search the forum for an answer before I ask my question. I figure that for the most part, if I need help with X, chances are someone else before me has also had a question about X.

So occasionally in my early Etsy days I would search through the forums looking for answers for questions about … oh, information on tags, or how people were setting up categories in a way that worked for them, or advice on shipping, or whatever. But lately it seems that the forums have become a haven for doom-and-gloom, a place of panic, a virtual rubber room where everyone bounces off everyone else’s manufactured crazy.

Here is something people are getting up in arms over right now, something that I am going to give some unsolicited advice about (only here on my blog, where I can drop the f-bomb, instead of on Etsy, where I want to shake people like a baby). And by “give advice” I mean “bitch about because come on people for the love of GHOD.”

When you’re listing something on Etsy, it has you choose a main category, a sub-category, and if possible, a tertiary category. So, for example, if I’m listing yarn, I would first put it in Supplies, then yarn, and then hand-dyed. So if a potential customer is searching by category, they would find my yarn. In addition, there are tags you can use for people searching by key word. So for that yarn, I would choose tags like orange, orange yarn, hand dyed yarn, hand-dyed yarn, worsted weight, bright orange, superwash wool, etc etc (but only 13 tags, and no tag may be more than 20 characters long — but that’s another bitchy post).

Lately I’ve seen a host of  people on the forums who are up in arms because “suddenly” they’re not showing up in more than one category when searching through categories that have to do with the tags they’ve used.

Well of course you aren’t — a tag is not a category. A tag is a key word, a hook out there in the sea of the Internet, that helps fishes find and bite on your item.

People are suddenly asking “do I have to take all of my items out of categories so that I can be found?” to which, after I stop laughing (or crying, because, really?) I want to say “only if you don’t want anyone to find your item, except perhaps by chance, with a pickax and a mining helmet.”

Now, I gather from skimming through some of these and other threads, that some people are saying there’s a new way to search coming soon (and that it possibly involves rocks falling and everyone dying). But I did find one thread where an admin piped up and said that finding one item under multiple sub-categories in Etsy (not in your specific shop, because of course sub-categories within your own shop might actually be HELPFUL, but when looking at Etsy as a whole) was actually a bug that they’ve just now gotten around to fixing.

So people are angry because Etsy has fixed something.

And to this, after I can pry my damaged forehead off the desk from where I have been bashing it, I say that if you are using categories and tags correctly, there’s nothing you have to worry about. Unless you’re one of those people who relists everything in their shop once a day in order to try to stay in the top page or two of your category. Unless you’re one of those people who tag your items incorrectly, on purpose, to try to snag customers (an example of this is tagging your hat as a coat, on the off chance that people searching for coats might see your hat and decide, “hey, nice hat! I totally wasn’t in the mood for a hat but all these coats look like ass! I think I’ll just buy a hat instead!”).

If you are one of those types of people, I feel very sorry for you indeed. For one thing, you possibly have a product that nobody wants (otherwise you’d be selling just fine inside your category). You might not be adept in tagging items (but there are plenty of articles on Etsy about how to learn to do just that). You  might  not be good at writing descriptions or taking photographs (did you know Etsy has lots of articles on how to do those things as well?). I feel sorry for you that you’d rather exploit a bug, and then waste a lot of valuable energy bitching about said bug being fixed, than learn to tag correctly or take better photos or maybe learn a little about relevancy.

Me? I put my shit in the right category. Ain’t nobody looking in the hat section for some handspun yarn (unless they’re looking for a hat knit out of handspun yarn). And I use my tags to their best advantage. And I don’t bitch about people who sell more than me having some sort of mysteriously unfair advantage. I just look at what works for them and think about how I can incorporate parts of that success into my personal business model. And then I go crack open a beer, because hey! Look at the time!

6 thoughts on “0

    1. Hee! Thank you! Wait until I write the one about people complaining about other people favoriting their items. Talk about your manufactured crazy! 😉

        1. IKNOWRIGHT?!?!?

          Apparently there’s this whole thing on Etsy about new sellers who will favorite about fifty of your items, in order to get you to click on their profiles to see who they are, and in doing so you will fall in love with what they’re selling and buy their stuff (meanwhile they will never buy your stuff and later will unfavorite all the items they favorited earlier). So any time someone favorites more than about three things in someone’s shop, that someone will start a thread about OMG SPAMMERS WTF.

          Now, I jump to a lot of conclusions, and I’m pretty paranoid. But before I started reading those threads, I just thought that people favorited so many things in my shop because I MAKE A QUALITY PRODUCT. Huh. Go figure.

  1. The thing that I am never sure about is categories for jewelry. Say I have dangle earrings that are made with stones that have been wire wrapped….there is a category for dangle, stones, and wire wrapped.

    Is there a proper “etiquette” or reasoning for choosing one over the other (other than seeing which categories have less items in general or which ones are towards the top of the category list…).


    1. There’s no real etiquette for something like that, no — I’ve found that whatever works best for the artist/maker is what works the best overall for the particular shop. I mean, you’re going to be more comfortable talking about categories and checking up on stock if they’re listed in a manner that’s intuitive to *you*, right?

      But the question you raise, about how it could be in any of those three categories, is one of the reasons I started moving off Etsy. Say I have a soup mug, which is essentially a giant bowl with a handle on it like a mug. So does that go in mugs? Or in bowls? It’s sort of both! But Etsy makes you choose one, and that sometimes makes me a little twitchy. “I don’t WANT to choose just one! It’s both! It’s all three!”.

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