The changes, announced February third in this announcement post, were supposed to achieve the following ends:
More precise results: The example given here is for "cat eye glasses" spitting out any listings with "cat," "eye" or "glasses." The new search will only bring up listings with all three words.
When I search "cat eye glasses," my first result is, in fact, an eyeball ring. There are 2,835 results. The second is a necklace. The third is an eyeglass lanyard. There are socks, earrings and a painting, all in the first dozen or so results.
Smart filtering: The automagical alogrithm will bring up the most relevant category for you when you search. "Cat eye glasses" should take you to accessories. Since most of the first page results are jewelry, I would say that this isn't working either.
Spell check: Another name for "autosuggest with a drill down," actually. The examples given are "amethyst" and "amigurumi," because only spelling bee champs know how to spell those words. We are not, by and large, spelling bee champs. Okay, I may have won a spelling bee or two, but I never learned the term "amigurumi" until I got to Etsy. If you're searching for an amethyst amigurumi, the idea here is that life is probably not going to treat you kindly.
Let's try it!
If you search "amethyst amigurumi," spell check will not help you. The good news is, you get a page of seven purple little crocheted critters.
So, what do these changes mean to you, the Etsy seller?
Sellers now need to repeat important keywords in their titles, descriptions and tags, all three places. Google searches pull from titles and descriptions. The new Etsy search pulls or will pull from tags. The words that sellers use to search will have to exactly match your tags, supposedly, for your tags to come up as relevant. Therefore, it's best to keep your tags to either one word, or use phrases that you are sure your buyers will use for searching. Tag stuffing isn't going to work.
Also, most recent listings will still default over most relevant. Hit that renew button, people! Hit it again!
No official word on when these changes will go sitewide, if they already have, or what they're learning while testing, but you can find the forum discussion thread here. Here is a non-admin thread with a lot of great info.
Many sellers have noticed a decline in both views and sales since these changes were announced. Since they coincided with the forum and other changes, it's hard to determine any true cause-effect relationship. Also notice that at no point does anyone in admin clearly spell out how to improve your tags to get your listing seen. If I'm a seller, how do I make this work for me?
And, if I'm a buyer, why do you assume I can't spell amethyst?