Thursday, January 28, 2010


This is the second Thursday that Etsy is tweaking the search feature and making 'relevancy' the default, as opposed to the usual search by recently listed.  The first Thursday was pretty eventful and the forums were filled with both opposition and support and pleas to give more information so people could figure out how to get their items in the top of the search.

As I expected, not much information was forthcoming, as I expect Etsy had to use that first test as groundwork to figure out what exactly they were going to do.  I found a few threads that had this quote in it by one of the engineers (?), though I can't seem to find which thread it originated in.

"jasondavis says:

Hi all. Sorry for taking so long to answer some of your questions. We've been working super hard to address some of the concerns everyone has brought up here. On Thursday you should notice several improvements over last week - I'll mention a couple of big ones here:

1) Penalizing extra-long titles: some of you noticed that some of the search results had very long titles. Titles with 5 or 10 words are fine. If your titles are much longer than this, the search will penalize them slightly (or more, if they're much longer than this).

2) More recency weight: We'll be incorporating more emphasis on item listing recency, something which many of you asked for. This will help promote your newer, more recently listed items over older ones."

It's good to see that they noted the excessive titles and are attempting to address them.  People are still claiming to see them in the first pages of their search so I'm not sure how this works.  I suspect that similar to google, while you may have excessively long titles, the search only actually picks up on the first 70 or so characters, so regardless of the title length if the first 70 contain keywords associated with that search they will still show up.  This is just a guess on my part.  I don't think that Etsy search would just automatically kick out excessive titles, but only use a portion of them, which would explain why they still show up.

As for weighting recency more in the search algorithm, I am totally against this.  My personal feeling is that when something is listed has no bearing on what I am looking for, it should not even be a factor used in that search.  A search based on listing dates already exists, if you weigh listing dates in a relevancy search, how are the searches going to differ from each other?  One's a little more recent, ones a little more targeted?  That makes no sense whatsoever.

I really resent the move to cave on this, I really do.  I was really hoping that Etsy was looking to actually improve the search capability of the site, not cater to the ones who are used to renewing and are now crying because relevance eliminates that tactic.

If all you were really going to do was make the current search a little more targeted to what a buyer is searching for then you should have said so in the first place.  Some of us actually thought you cared about what buyers want.

I will say again, recency has no place in a search based on relevancy.  At. All.  The date something was listed on has no bearing on anything I am looking for.  If it was listed 2 minutes ago, a week ago or 3 months ago, if it fits the search criteria, it should show up.

Perhaps if Etsy did take recency completely out of the relevancy search algorithm they could focus on making more folks relevant to the search queries.


PussDaddy said...

I admit I haven't been keeping up with this, and I have no idea about algorythims or however you spell it.


WindysDesigns said...

It's been a bit of an obsession of mine recently., if you hadn't noticed. I know what algorithms are, what they are supposed to do, but I don't know how to build one. It's the basis of how (in this case) search results are derived, by a selection of factors, and those factors are given a certain weight as to their importance depending on the end result.

It is my opinion that factoring in when something was listed, re-listed or renewed is irrelevant when the search is supposed to be based on relevancy.

Every website I buy from, I expect my search results to be what I am looking for, period. If I want to see what new stuff they've gotten in, there is usually a place designated to do that, but those items are also included in my search results.

For this to work on Etsy though, renewals would have to be treated much differently. Renewing a current item should do no more than just extend the listing another 4 months and not give it 'new listing status'. Renewing after expiration would give it a new listing status.

But the fact of the matter is, no one knows how far Etsy is willing to go in reducing the number of renewals, it's probably a significant revenue stream that they are reluctant to totally give up. And if that is the case, then nothing they do is going to work the way it should.

I hate to say it, but I let Etsy get my hopes up with this despite past performance, but I'm afraid it's just going to wind up another big disappointment.

PussDaddy said...

I don't think when something was listed is relevant to a search either. Just return back whatever I am searching for and give me something to sort it by when it was listed if I want. Which really I don't want to sort it that way. I have upon occassion though. Just to see if I could rescue something about to expire. But routinely I don't.