It might seem like a no-brainer to sort search results by most relevant items rather than most recent. But on marketplaces that allow third-party merchants to post listings with expiration dates, it's not so simple, as eBay found out when it made "Best Match" the default sort order on its search pages.
Yesterday, Etsy made the same move by making relevancy the default sort order on its search engine. And it says it has the data to back up the decision from tests it ran on the site:
- Shoppers were 4.4% more likely to click on a listing from a search results page when given results sorted by relevancy.
- Shoppers viewed 5.5% more listings per search visit when they were given results sorted by relevancy, vs. sorted by recency.
- Listing views and favorites were significantly higher when results were sorted by relevancy, resulting in higher sales.
Etsy also said its relevancy sort allowed it to show items from multiple shops so that a single shop would not dominate the search results.
Previously, sellers were able to list new items and renew current ones in order to boost an item's visibility in search results sorted by recency. In responding to a seller's concerns, an Etsy administrator wrote, "Today we changed to relevancy exactly FOR the small shops, so that sellers with more money wouldn't dominate the marketplace."
The administrator later clarified her post, writing, "I wanted to clarify my post. Today we changed to relevancy to establish fairness between sellers big and small in the marketplace, so that sellers who paid more money to renew their items wouldn't displace relevant content in the marketplace and so that all items that are properly titled and tagged have a fair chance to rank at the top of search results. We do not in fact prefer big or small sellers, that has nothing to do with our algorithm, the point is that sort by relevancy levels the playing field. We feel that showing more variety gives buyers more chances to find shops that interest them."
Recency of items does factor into Etsy's algorithm, especially when searches are broad. Etsy also displays the top four most recent items in a section at the top of the search results; clicking arrows allows searchers to view more recent items.
Sellers commented about the importance tags played in Etsy's relevancy algorithm, and expressed concern about "tag stuffing" by sellers to try and get higher placement in search results.
Etsy provided tips to sellers on optimizing their listings for new relevancy sort in this blog post last week, and it will stream a Q&A with the search team in the Online Labs on August 11, 2011 at 3 pm ET.