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Wed Oct 30 2013 13:34:31

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

By: Reader

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Dear Ina,
While eBay refuses to release exact details around Cassini search, there are a few things sellers know. First, Cassini will hide some listings from visibility (eBay tells us this but does not say why). Second, Cassini reads not just titles and item specifics, but listing descriptions as well when ordering items to present in search (eBay did tell sellers this).

We recently discovered something that eBay has not told sellers that will cause items to rank low or not appear in search at all.

Excessive HTML in listing descriptions is apparently a visibility killer as it seems Cassini does not read excessive amounts of HTML when ordering up items for search results.

Here is how we discovered this... We subscribed to eBay's Webstore app which creates a separate store front and URL while displaying eBay listings in the store front. Potential buyers check out through eBay. We figured the separate storefront with a unique URL might give us some additional exposure in search engines at very low cost. Our sales did increase a bit after we signed up for the store so something appeared to be working.

In the webstore app, there is an option to add a banner to the top of your listing description which links to the webstore. When we signed up for the app, we did not elect to add the banner, but a few weeks ago we decided to try it.

After adding the banner, our sales nosedived. We put the eBay store on vacation and took it off, but nothing helped sales. After a full week of declining sales, we happened to look at out listings and made the discovery that changed everything.

The webstore banner we added inserted HTML text to the top of each listing description so the banner would render when the listing was viewed. This was a considerable amount of HTML text that took up quite a few lines of code.

We decided to edit our listings and manually remove the banner. We opened our listing page, and clicked on the HTML tab which is how we found the large amount of HTML code.

We then removed all HTML text up to the first line of our listing description. To make sure our edit did not change our listing. Before saving our changes, we switched back to the standard tab to view the description and confirm we did not edit out too much.

It took quite a few hours, but we removed the banner HTML along with every other line of HTML at the start of our descriptions up to the first line of our description.

After editing our listings, we placed our store on vacation for an hour so our items would fall completely out of search, then took the store off vacation so the items would re-index.

This morning, we woke up, and found 7 eBay sales waiting to be processed, and while processing those orders, we received several more. A few of the items which sold had been going somewhat stale but suddenly, today, the items sold which would indicate they suddenly started appearing higher in search.

Based on our experience, I suggest that sellers try editing their listings, and remove any and all HTML which precedes the first line of their listing description.

eBay thus far has been silent on the issue, but based on my initial experience it would seem that when ranking items, if Cassini finds too much HTML text, it simply does not read far enough into the description thus sending the listing lower in search or burying it completely because items with descriptions which it finds easier to read are placed above those it does not read easily because of the excessive amount of HTML.

For sellers who use them, listing frames, templates or other decorative features added to listings may require so much HTML text be added to the listing description that it is preventing Cassini from reading the description and causing items to rank lower in search or even be eliminated from search.

Based on the difference I see in one day of sales, I would suggest sellers take a look at the HTML tab of their existing listing descriptions and edit out all HTML up to the first line of text in their descriptions even if it means sacrificing templates etc... to overcome the inadequacies of Cassini and see what happens.

Sellers may want to reconsider their use of listing frames, templates and the like when those add ons are inserting HTML to the beginning of their descriptions.

Cassini cost eBay millions to develop, yet it can not handle -search input, and apparently considers HTML to be jibberish which is preventing listings with too much HTML from ranking higher in search.

It is a shame that sellers must learn by trial and error how to work around the dysfunctional search engine eBay has wasted so much money developing.
Regards,
Ric

Comments (40) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 31 10:37:45 2013

I just checked, the minor code to create a table, set padding, and just simple stuff like that can be 124 chars.  

So if Cassini only looks at the first 150 chars as Neil Waterhouse says there is no way Cassini can give a relevant search for a decent looking HTML listing, like the one the SYI form makes.

This clinches it.  Cassini is just inappropriate.  

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Thu Oct 31 10:49:52 2013

@Steevo and Ric

This is all so enlightening, thank you.  I know for me, I will pay closer attention to this and make sure any new listings or listings I revise that I take a close look at the HTML.

While I have way too many listings to go and try to update all of the HTML, it seems to me that a quicker and easier way may be through the Item Specific Boxes.  Making sure that any and all KeyWords you want for your listings are in the title and/or ISBs.  In doing this, it kind of renders the description as just a plus in the cassini search.  If you have everything you need in the title and ISBs.

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 31 10:56:10 2013

Can you believe that ebay's own SYI form generates code that chokes ebay's own search engine?

That is just ridiculous.  

If the Wall Street analysts were to get wind of this thread they would start looking deeper into what's going on at ebay.  

There'd be big trouble.

Maybe someone should send Jim Cramer a link to Ecommercebytes.com.  

Har Har

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

by: brokentoys19 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 31 11:27:15 2013

Ah yes, also known as finding_treatment_86. Next week the secret criteria will be something else now that this is publicized.

Put away your tinfoil helmets. Nothing can protect you from the meddle in JD's head.  

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Thu Oct 31 12:07:32 2013

@brokentoys

How cassini ranks sellers in the searches is Different than what we are discussing here.  Certainly that is top secret info that is very fluid.

But what is being discussed on this thread is HOW Cassini searches a listing for info.  it is important to understand the difference between the two issues so you can best help yourself be seen in the searches.

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

This user has validated their user name. by: Captain Nemo

Thu Oct 31 13:00:26 2013

The OP might be correct - or it might be completely irrelevant.  

Fluctuations in views and sales happen all the time without changing anything at all.  

Also, this ''first 150 characters'' search indexing limit - this appears to be a rumor based on speculation.  If you read technical reports about Cassini, the goal is to index the entire description in the same way Google indexes the entire webpage.

Hugh Williams, the ebay engineer in charge of Cassini, told the Auctiva Product Manager -

''He was asked specifically if the HTML in templates would hurt a listing's visibility in search, and he said that the search engine strips out HTML and only looks at the actual content in the description.''

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

by: gutspiller This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 31 15:22:46 2013

Call me stupid, call me simple but I absolutely can't understand how thing can just continue.

For the last 2 years or so I haven't read a single positive comment about Ebay. Ecommercebytes, Ebay discussionboards, internet...

100% Bad press. People working in Wall Street, shareholders must not only be stupid but also completely deaf and blind.

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

by: thebobman This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 31 16:21:10 2013

I use a background for my listings (I hate plain white pages), I bump up the text size, use line breaks and LI bullet points and inline images. I *HATE* with a passion listings that cram all the photos in that box in the upper left.

As for the banner using tons of HTML... why? I'd make a static image, host it on my server and just do an img src

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Thu Oct 31 17:03:48 2013

@gutspiller

It is human nature to vent and express dismay, disappointment, perceived mistreatment, etc.  It is less likely to come and post kudos.

However if someone does post anything positive about Ebay some of the other posters feel compelled to verbally attack them, dismiss them or otherwise discourage them.

But I have to admit, with Ebay, much of their bad press is self inflicted and extremely avoidable.  They are just arrogant and do not see the need in treating their customers with respect.    

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
Web Site

Thu Oct 31 17:12:52 2013

@e-Bonked,

I doubt that eBay/Cassini parses the listing web page that we see; it will be working on only the underlying listing data that you supply, surely; and if, by their cretinous standard, you don't comply, you don't get to be output as a web page ...

eBay / PayPal / Donahoe: Dead Men Walking ...

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

by: e-Bonked This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 31 17:34:19 2013

This 150-character HTML issue has me puzzled. When I start creating a listing using what I *think* is an unadulterated SYI form, there is no HTML at all under the HTML tab. Why are my forms different? (scratches head)

(aside, @thebobman)
At the risk of running off-topic, could you (or anyone) please PLEASE point me to some instructions on how to insert inline images in my descriptions?

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 31 18:10:06 2013

e-Bonked, the way you have to do that with the SYI form is ridiculous. It's the inserts.  The pulldown menu. So you have to create an insert and then you can use it.  Which would work for things you use all the time but it's completely too much effort for inline images of products, unless you have only one product.

It's a PITA. Waste of time

Not worth fooling with. I have a big template that I use with frontpage.  

That may be why I don't sell much, frontpage makes pretty awful repetitive code.  

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

This user has validated their user name. by: Captain Nemo

Fri Nov 1 09:39:20 2013

I wouldn't do anything based on this theory.  Both the HTML and character indexing limits sound like complete rubbish.

Simple tests any of us can do can prove/disprove this.

In my tests it appears that they are NOT including description text at all in regular searches yet.  It's only being used when there are very few or no keyword hits.

According to Hughes, that's exactly what should be happening right now.  Sometime over the next few months this will be integrated into regular search.  But we can see what is being indexed right now by doing selective searches.

What is clear is that there is no character limit at all.  The entire description is being indexed, as it should be, and as it already is.  HTML is not relevant at all for search integration.

The only thing relevant to HTML is mobile viewability (also pointed out by Hughes).  HTML and large images that mess up mobile viewing probably drops you in mobile search - and may drop you somewhat in all search.  

I also found that if you use the mobile ebay android app, description text is not being used at all in the searches, at least for right now.  

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

by: gutspiller This user has validated their user name.

Fri Nov 1 12:10:01 2013

@marie

Yeah, I know people will be more tend to write something negative than something positve.

I've never used Amazon as a seller. I know they are no saints. But you hardly read any negative comments about them.

I'n my opinion the reason why Amazon has gained so much popularity is only to blame to Ebay. Until a couple of year ago Ebay had the chicken with the golden eggs. Until they decided to slaughter it.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't read something about new changes on Ebay or that I notice them myself. If I would do the same with my own website I wouldn't have a customer left.

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Fri Nov 1 13:06:16 2013

About the only thing I need to know about programmers is:::

I coded the Mars Lander in FEET.

But it was spec'ed to be in METERS

That is all.

(Seek out the hilarious stoned Robin Williams version of this story---just pee first!)

As a complete techo idiot--how would I KNOW if the HTML was even THERE on my listings?

I use the plain old eBay page--no outside company to host---and I use ebay's own templates. No borders banners dancing elephants sounds--I HATE when the lap top starts with other peoples music!  UGH!---or other distractions.

Now---I have noticed that I had one really GOOD week at the very beginning of Oct.  Then I had another one the THIRD week---after that--nada.  ONE sale of a product of which I am the ONLY distributer planet wide.  (I like to say that it makes me feel speshul!)

Any one else seeing this pattern?  Things that SHOULD be flying out the door--nope.  On two accounts with very similar items.

And as an aside---if someone is going to bid from overseas and IGNORE all of the copy I have about contacting me FIRST on this--then they DESERVE to pay the $28 postage for a registered package rather than the OTHER options I dare not name on ebay's own page. Right?

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

by: COH This user has validated their user name.

Sat Nov 2 18:17:54 2013

Here's some interesting facts about what Ebay is doing!:

According to Hugh Williams (eBay Vice-President of Experience, Search and Platforms) eBay’s search engine now automatically changes and rewrites the search queries of users. What’s more, eBay also “uses big data to make predictions on whether a listed item will sell and how much it will sell for, which affects how high an item ranks on the auction site’s search engine.” eBay has also expressed intentions to “mine” the text included in feedback comments, buyer-seller communications and even communications with eBay customer service – all with the goal of gauging sellers’ performance and respectability.

http://www.sensibledevelopment.com/2013/02/ebay
s-new-cassini-search-engine-causes-consternation-amongst-sellers/

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Sat Nov 2 21:04:26 2013

From COH's post: "eBay also uses big data to make predictions"

Predictions?  This "big data" is making predictions? Big data is making predictions and eBay management have no common sense.

I predict that eBay will continue to decline as long as "can't see me search" is eBay's search engine. What a train wreck.

 

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

by: Bloggo This user has validated their user name.

Sat Nov 2 22:21:55 2013

It figures that the nitwits over at The Bay would believe all the ''Big Data'' hype.

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Fri Nov 8 16:47:25 2013

@Steevo: You're probably correct about Frontpage. It adds a lot of bloat to HTML. I like Dreamweaver, myself. It probably requires a bit more geek knowledge to use, but does a pretty good job.

@Bloggo: Big Data is just a buzzword for data analysis or data mining of large amounts of information. True, there are new tools to make sifting through big piles of data easier, but it's really nothing new. I honestly think eBay should have outsource search to Google and worked with them as more of a partner than a competitor. It would have been good for all of us.

Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML   Cassini Penalizes eBay Listings with HTML

by: mjbocanegra This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 6 10:11:15 2014

Here is one for you all.  My Twin brother and I both sell the same items on eBay.  I use Auctiva and he just uses eBay to list items.  He sells about twice than I do in a month.  I've called eBay and told them to check my account and also asked why my brother was selling more than me when I started selling first and he later takes (with my permission) and even copies my descriptions for the items.  The eBay rep says ''I don't see anything wrong with your account.  All looks good''  I'm going to slowly let go of Auctiva and see what happens.  Same item, almost same title, and same description.  Only difference is he uses eBay to list.  STRANGE!

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