Thursday, August 11, 2011

How People Search For Things On The Internet

As you probably already know, Google is the largest search engine. Period. End of discussion. They have more traffic than all other search engines and indexes combined- times three. They are so big in fact that the word "search" has almost been completely replaced by the word "Google." You don't "search for it," you "Google it."

How do people find what they are looking for with millions upon millions of pages on the Internet? Even more importantly, how do they find your shop or your product? To answer that you need to understand how people search for things. Knowing how someone is looking for something can tell you exactly how to put your shop or your product in front of them.

When people are doing general research they tend to use single words for their search. For example, let's say someone is doing research on what you would wear to the Renaissance Faire. (It is easier for me to use myself as an example, because I know my product very well.) The first thing they might search for is the word "renaissance." Of course, in my experience it will be misspelled. Fortunately Google is more than likely going to recognize that it is misspelled and offer a search with the correct spelling.

That brings up around 158 million pages. It would take quite some time to weed through all of that. So the person searching decides to narrow their search by adding a word. The search is now for "Renaissance Fair" although most actually spell it "Faire." This brings the number of pages down to around 2.9 million results. They then decide that what they are really looking for is a "Renaissance Fair costume." Using this search term they manage to bring the number of results to 425,000 or so results.

In this list of results there are usually some pictures involved in the search page. These images actually help people to figure out what they are looking for. They see something in the picture that they really like and might even do a completely new search for it. For this example we are going to pretend they saw a picture of chainmail and they decide to look for "Renaissance Fair chainmail." They put it in the search bar and 63,000 results show up. Chainmail is spelled differently depending on who you ask. Chainmail, chain mail, and chainmaille are all accepted spellings of the word.

They happen to see a picture of a woman wearing chainmail jewelry, so they refine their search even more. They type "Renaissance Fair Chainmail Slave Bracelet" and there are only about 3600 results. Of which I happen to have four of the top 10 results on Google.

For me, optimizing my listings or my webpage or even my shop for the word "Renaissance" is just too daunting of a task. For one thing, someone typing in "Renaissance" is probably not looking for my chainmail jewelry. I concentrated on a much smaller niche. One that has far fewer searches but it more specific.

When people are doing research they tend to use one and two word phrases in their search. When people are looking to actually purchase items they tend to be very specific in their search terms. Three to five word searches make what you are looking for very specific. By optimizing your page, shop or product for three and four word searches, you can have a much better chance on getting your item in front of those who are looking for what you have.

Tomorrow, I will delve into the ways to actually optimize your page listing for people who are searching to buy your product. Just remember this is an ongoing process. There may be some quick fixes but much of what you do will take time to show results. Try not to get frustrated.

If you have any questions about how people search, leave a comment and I will do my best to answer your question. If you have more information to add, feel free.


  1. Have you noticed any conflicts between optimizing for both Etsy and Google? I'm feeling pretty comfortable with doing it for Etsy but I don't want it to be at the expense of a google search.

  2. Karen,
    I generally try to optimize for both at the same time. If you are optimizing for Google you will be optimizing for Etsy. However, some keyword phrases work better for Etsy than for Google. As long as you are working with sound keyword phrases and mixing them into your title, description and tags you should do fine. Remember there are far more people on Google searching than on Etsy.

  3. So far you are making sense - the first time that has occurred while I've been trying to see how this new Etsy search default is supposed to affect my particular shop where I hand make soft toys!

  4. You want to be found, so you have to figure out how people will find you. That is just 1/2 the battle though. The other half is converting views into sales.

  5. I, for one, would be interested in you thoughts on optimizing for people who will buy as opposed to people who are looking around.

  6. Kara, Using multiple keyword phrases seem to really target buyers rather than searchers. My article on keywords should help you out.

  7. i have a question, i'd like to add a 3 word keyword phrase to my Etsy tags but it says no more that 20 characters?

  8. Jille, You can have three or four words as a phrase, but yes, Etsy only allows for 20 characters. The only way to optimize for more characters is to put it in your title. Of course you could do two separate tags with less than 20 characters each that way you'd be optimizing for 2 half phrases and I think that would work. So if someone searched for a four word phrase the Etsy search engine would see you have two phrases in your tags that match and would show the item. I have not experimented with that but it would be worth a shot.