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Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon Jan 14 2013 21:29:36

eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings

By: Ina Steiner
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I posted a Letter to the Editor this evening that describes a phenomenon worth discussing - the stale eBay listing, and what sellers can do to revive their listings and get better exposure.

eBay attempts to bring back the best, most relevant, listings using "Best Match" search as the default sort order in search results. eBay shares a certain amount of information about its algorithm - the formula it uses to decide which listings are most relevant to the search terms shoppers enter - but the exact weight given to various factors remains a mystery to most sellers.

The reader going by the name "Mass Howler" said he believes relisting and using the "Sell Similar" feature causes listings to fall in eBay search results. He wrote all of his eBay listings from scratch with new photos and said his sales have taken off.

eBay introduced a metric in 2009 in which Best Match looks at a listing's recent sales in relation to the number of recent impressions it received as a key factor for Fixed Price listings. An impression is any time a buyer sees a search results page that includes the listing.

Others agree that refreshing a listing can unburden it from its old baggage, so to speak. Sellers shared some interesting experiences in this Letters to the Editor blog post from 10 days ago.

One seller who lists 30-day Fixed Price listings said he puts his store on vacation and hides his listings every other day. "We take the store off vacation after about an hour which restores listing visibility and in about 15 minutes all of our listings are visible in search again. We have found that this process ends up re-indexing our items in search and seems to keep them from going stale in the middle of the 30 day run. Our views and sales seemed to increase after we started doing this, so we keep at it."

However, eBay differentiates between auctions and fixed price listings in its Best Match algorithm. What works for one format might not work for another (and its algorithm has category-based differences as well).

eBay offers advice for sellers on how to optimize for Best Match and shows a seller's "sales funnel," which consists of impressions, clicks and sales (sold items). "An Auction-style or single quantity Fixed Price listing may also have multiple sales if it has been successfully sold and relisted with new inventory," eBay writes. eBay also offers a Listing Analytics Application.

It's best to run tests to see what works for your listings before making wholesale changes to all of your listings. (For instance, if you have a consistent best seller - it gets lots of impressions, clickthroughs and sales, you probably want to keep relisting it!)

Feel free to share your thoughts on optimizing listings for eBay and what you've found works and does not work for auctions and fixed-price listings in the categories in which you sell.



Comments (46) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
This user has validated their user name. by: Ric
       
Mon Jan 14 23:24:09 2013
As a Fixed Price seller who has a store and runs auctions very rarely, here are some other strategies to consider.

Rearrange wording of titles in stale or slow listings so your listings re index.

Revise prices - even by just a few pennies - again your listings will re index.

An easy way to do this would be to download Turbo Lister and synchronize your current listings to import them into TL.

You can edit your stale, slow or unsuccessful Live Listings in Turbo Lister and easily revise multiple listings.

Reword your titles and descriptions, try subtle changes (higher or lower)of your pricing. If you have alternate pictures, change the pictures in the Turbo Lister listings.

When you complete your edits and changes, simply synch TL with eBay again and the changes you made will be applied to your live listings in a batch while you do other things.

You can also use Turbo Lister to update your listings that have included shipping for the upcoming postage increases on your own time and schedule so your listings are ready to go when the postage increases hit later this month.


Another advantage of Turbo Lister is that you could set up a folder with listings for items that you would plan to run if and when you are blessed enough to receive an invitation for a free listing event. Since eBay gives little or no advance notice to free listing sales, having listings prepared and ready to go will allow you to take maximum advantage if the miracle invitation arrives without having to rush and throw listings together on short notice.

If you have a store, and are selling fixed price, inflate the prices of slow or stale listings by 10%. Then go to Markdown Manager and create a sale for those listings by putting them on sale with a 10% or less discount. Your items are more likely to be picked up in search and gain visibility when they are 'on sale'. If your sale is set for 8%, your items may suddenly start selling with an additional 2% profit, so experiment.






Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
by: nsc This user has validated their user name.
       Web Site
Tue Jan 15 02:09:35 2013
ric,
If you list from a third-party lister, such as Inkfrog, would ending your listing in ebay and relisting from inkfrog work? Have you tried that?
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
by: gutspiller This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jan 15 07:08:00 2013
There are a lot of policies that are destroying the marketplace and best match is certainly one of them. It just doesn't work. Which items are being boosted? Mainly the ones with a selling history.

I've lost the number of counts where once I sold a very slow selling item, I sold several others because my item got a boost in exposure when relisting. So why didn't it sell before? Because it was burried in the search result? Or did it sell because the item got a boost in visibility?

Best Match is just another way to favour certain sellers. It can make or destroy a business. My sales were pretty ok until a few months ago. Then as with so many other sellers my sales fell from a cliff. This has been going on for a couple of months now. Due to a lack of sales visibility in best match has become zero.

I have no exposure, so no sales. No sales = no boost in Best Match. No boost in visibility = no sales. This is a catch 22 situation. A few months ago I had plenty of plans. Now I don't even know if my business will still exist in a few months time.

Is Ebay still worth the effort? When I list a new item (so new pictures, new description,...) it's often for days on Ebay without a single page view. I've read this several times lately. With the new Cassine, redo your entire listing to get exposure.

Well, I've got about 1000 different used items. I'm definately not gonna redo all of them. Not even knowing it will have any result. This will have my hands completely tied up to Ebay. I want to have time for my own website and other venues.

I've tried edditing my listings, relisting unsold items, sell simular,... For me nothing makes any change. For me this is just another new hoop to get rid of some sellers.

What will be the next hoop to jump?

I've completely had it. I'm not jumping any new hoops. For the moment I'm just sitting on my stock. Just gonna wait until the end of this quarter. If there is no change, that will be the end of my business. A few months back Ebay hit as switch for me. Since then it's a if I'm hardly visible on Ebay.

I've been top rated non-stop since this status has been introduced. Recently I lost it. 4 low starts for object description in the last 3 months (a + 99% socre but not enough for Ebay), I have a near perfect feedback and give a free shipping on about everything. I've jumped all hoops Ebay has confronted me with the last years.

You have no idea how many hours I spend on my Ebaylistings. But here I draw the line. I see no point in continuing to use a platform with a complete different playing field for different sellers.

Compared with a year ago my sales and traffic have halved. The moment my sales nose dived, sales went up with the competition, and sales with my competitor doubled. This year I've had no holiday sales whatsoever. Sales were just a bit higher than the months before but only 50% of last year.

I've contacted CS several times. I've even got an email in which a CS officer says my lack of sales have to do with decissions from Ebay. I've asked the which decision and why in my category I'm the only seller affected? I've even written to Ebays headquarters in Luxemburg. The only answer I've been getting for the last months is "please have a little more patience, where looking into it". I've got a reply from Luxemburg they would answer me within 7 working days. This has now been almost a month ago.

We'll still need to have some more patience, but there will come a time where this company goes down. A company that treads its customers (=sellers) in such a way must go down at one point.

I'm very eager to see their results for the last quarter. But I'm sure it will be all smoke and mirrors again.
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford
       
Tue Jan 15 08:30:48 2013
It's just exhaustive what you have to do to keep your items relevant on eBay.

What this tells me is Best Match clearly doesn't work.  If it did, it would not matter if a listing was new or stale.  Best Match would find the "best match".   eBay over think everything including their dubious search mechanisms.
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
by: KEEPING A CLOSE EYE ON THEM ALL! This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jan 15 09:38:37 2013
Yea, definitely something 'strange' going on at eBay.
(Well, stranger than usual we mean)

While we moved away from ebay years ago due to seeing what direction they (J.D.) were going we do still have a few very small (+/- 150 listings) sites on there...

We can't remember the last time each and every one of those sites didn't make at least 1 sale (if not 10) on any given day up until a couple of months ago here...

Now?
We have 1 particular site, (that with all things being equal and the same as they always have been) has not produce even ONE single sale in over 14 STRAIGHT DAYS now?!

Out of 165 listings, MOST of which are the lowest price for those exact 'widgets' on the entire internet, much less just ebay - not even ONE sale in 14 days?!

But NO, of course ebay doesn't tamper with listings or ads and search visibility, right?

ROFLMAO.

Our other sites on ebay are about the same, go days at a time without a single sale when in the recent (say a year ago or so) past they were producing anywhere from 5-15 sales a day...

It's just sickeningly comical to hear ebay spout their drivel about how it's 'YOUR' fault the ads you paid for aren't generating sales when they know damn good and well THEY are pulling all the strings and STEALING fees from sellers for ads that will never see the light of day.

All we can say is Thank a Higher Power we had enough sense to move on to other venues and our own sites or we'd be bankrupt about now and having to lay some very hard working staff off if we had depended on ebay.

Don't know what they're doing over there but the sooner that venue crashes and disappears for good the better for ALL concerned.
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
This user has validated their user name. by: Marie
       
Tue Jan 15 09:42:32 2013
@gutspiller

Best Match has been around a long time.  So your problems that started a few months ago most likely has very little to do with BM.  As a whole bunch of sellers have reported, starting about the last week of April 2012, there was a significant difference in sell through rates.  While BM probably has a little to do with that for various reasons, the bigger problem is Ebay search.

And it is getting worse.  I can't tell you how many times I've gone into my own listings, did a search and it returned nothing or changed my search to something I didn't want.  Most times if I do the search the second time I get what I'm after, but sometimes it take a bit more effort.
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
This user has validated their user name. by: elpereles
       
Tue Jan 15 09:52:06 2013
"...did a search and it returned nothing or changed my search to something I didn't want."

I saw that problem some months ago. You write something in the search bar ant it automatically change your words to items not related in nothing.  
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
by: AuctionMonkey This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jan 15 10:02:54 2013
I agree with Gutspiller... Maybe they ARE keeping us busy trying to keep up with their latest stupid rule, so we never have time to go elsewhere. TOOOOOO BAD, we're working on it anyway and even took extra staff to make sure the move is quicker than ever... eBay has gone DOWN the toilet, sales are half what they were at this time last year, despite double the listings and free shipping being added.... and those sales a year ago are half the year before that. UGH! Disgusting.
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
This user has validated their user name. by: Nan
       
Tue Jan 15 10:11:57 2013
Thank you Ina, Ric, and MassHowler (in the linked letter)!!  This is concrete advice that I can put to use immediately.

Another helpful article I read recently, suggested that the first 100-300 words of the description are probably critical.  And if you have any boilerplate up front, or excessive html (templates) they might be read as duplicate, similar, or stale.

So I guess I have my Action Plan for the week :)
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
by: Just My Humble View This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jan 15 10:14:39 2013
Over the past few weeks, I've been running a similar ''experiment''.
I cancelled groups of fixed-price (store) listings, starting with the oldest and working forward, and changed them before listing again as new listings. I have had a lot of success making the following changes.

Removed all borders, backgrounds and other html.
Took new photos of items that were not at least 800 pixels on longest side.I have a better camera than I had when those were originally listed, too.
Re-worded titles (some were still within the old 55 character limit) and removed any ALL CAPS words.  
Reviewed the wording of the listing to ensure that it was catalog-type rather than the old ebay-friendly-type language.
Included shipping costs in price of items whenever possible. I have some items that weigh over 30 pounds, and it is not practical to include for those.
Removed all GTC (good til closed) duration and replaced with 30 days. I intend to review any unsold again as they close.

It IS a LOT of work, but so far my results are giving me a return on that investment of time. Listings without a sale for the past several months are now getting sales -- multiple sales.

Like Howler, I hope that this helps anyone out there who is struggling and ready to pull out what is left of their hair. I'm honestly encouraged.
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
by: Just My Humble View This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jan 15 10:18:41 2013
I should mention that I use a 3rd party management program that makes all of this smoother and easier.
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
by: Just My Humble View This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jan 15 10:18:41 2013
I should mention that I use a 3rd party management program that makes all of this smoother and easier.
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
by: AngelaTC This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jan 15 10:21:00 2013
I am on a eBay hiatus at the moment, but as a user of eBay's Blackthorne software, it was common knowledge that using the "relist" function was a bad idea because it penalizes you in search.

I'm not sure the eBay algorithm is smart enough to pick up relists that are not submitted through the relist function.  
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
This user has validated their user name. by: Marie
       
Tue Jan 15 10:32:11 2013
@Just My Humble View

What 3rd party management program do you use?  Are you using QM?
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
This user has validated their user name. by: Nan
       
Tue Jan 15 10:42:53 2013
@Just My Humble View -
Can you expand on: "Reviewed the wording of the listing to ensure that it was catalog-type rather than the old ebay-friendly-type language." a bit??

I'm guessing you mean (by ebay-friendly-type) the descriptions that begin with "Here we have up for auction a lovely old glass vase . . . "

What did you mean by catalog-type?


Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
by: Will This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Jan 15 10:48:45 2013
Another problem is that to keep up with Best Match, sellers will use a high price point on items (that either they have no stock or just a one item slow seller). They make the price very high so nobody buys it, but it helps keep their store indexed. I realize that it's come to down to doing stupid stuff like that, but it doesn't give a customer an incentive to buy, which is counter-productive.
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
This user has validated their user name. by: Marie
       
Tue Jan 15 10:57:36 2013
@Will

Explain more please.  How does that possibly help them stay indexed.  I don't understand.  And why would a store become Un-indexed altogether?  I was not aware [other than rolling blackouts] that some stores weren't indexed at all.
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
This user has validated their user name. by: thehosst
       
Tue Jan 15 11:22:21 2013
Hello everyone, have you notice that all this started to happen between September and October? Before this, there was a different indexing issue, eBay was rotating exposure every 2 days, just to keep everyone selling.

But if you doubt this timing, do you remember when the so famous analytics tool stop working? To this day, it does not work, so sellers can't have a way to see this issue.

Ina, what really hurts sales is the inexperienced and desperate sellers who lower prices so much, thinking that being the cheapest, will give them more sales, this is true to a certain point but most of us here know that no matter how cheap you price an item, if it does not show, this cheapest price option will do nothing but kill your business.

I have also reported an issue where customers see different quantity of items in my store, I even sent screenshots that customers sent to me showing only 1 item in my shop, so many times I contacted them and to this day, they have never replied to the emails they asked me to send.

All the issues mentioned here sound bad, all solutions great, I really encourage sellers to call and report the issues, perhaps they will notice it then. Very good article as usual, thank you.
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
This user has validated their user name. by: Marie
       
Tue Jan 15 11:26:49 2013
This isn't a new issue.  I'm not sure what you see has a relatively new issue, but what the OP describes has been an issue for as long as BM has been in existance.  It does however change from time to time as Ebay messes with the program.  
Perminate Link for eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings   eBay Search Algorithm Penalizes Stale Listings
This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow
       
Tue Jan 15 11:40:12 2013
How sad is it that sellers have to play all these games (taking stores on and off vacation, using new photos and descriptions) for the chance of getting some sales for listings they are paying for?  
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