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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) | Permalink

Readers Comments

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

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Wed Oct 30 14:02:12 2013

Good find, Ric! Great tip!

It's pretty amazing that eBay programmers can't figure out how to do some basic pattern-matching to strip-out (or ignore) ordinary HTML tags.

Based on what you described, I'm guessing that the search engine only analyzes the first ''X'' number of characters in a description.

It's logical to assume that the most important information about an item will be contained in the first, say... 1000 characters or so.

Only... the eBay programmers should have applied that logic so that the search engine was analyzing the first 1000 VISIBLE characters!!

WHY won't eBay share these simple things with us?

IS this information shared with anyone? Do the diamond/corporate sellers have access to a SUPER-SECRET hints-and-tips booklet so that their writers can avoid these types of mistakes?

In the past, I've used HTML in my listings... but I never used themes or tons of decorative devices. The HTML served a purpose (to highlight features, flaws, policies... or to organize the listing for easy reading).

Could this ''flaw'' in Cassini be intentional?

Is it a way for Cassini to filter out the clunky listings that have ''too much'' HTML? (In my personal experience, too much HTML appears to be a typical error that newbies make... believing that if a little HTML is good, the *extra* HTML must be better, I suppose.)

So... if eBay believes that the listings with too much HTML are undesirable, WHY would they take the passive-aggressive approach of hiding them?? --- WHY NOT TELL PEOPLE, TEACH PEOPLE, ADVISE PEOPLE on ways to improve their listings.

And if we assume that ANY of my theories are valid, then the BIGGER MYSTERY is why eBay would offer to insert a Webstore Banner that would cause listings to be IGNORED by Cassini?

Programming-by-Committee, I suppose. No communication within the different departments. Everyone doing their own thing with NO regard and NO understanding of how the entire machine works... and NO comprehension of how one thing interacts with another.

Amazing.

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

by: sasikat9 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 30 14:53:14 2013

Amazing that programmers can't figure things out.

Heck I'm surprised anyone at Ebay can find their way to the bathroom without a roadmap and a flashlight....

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

This user has validated their user name. by: monkey

Wed Oct 30 15:55:35 2013

Ric, thanks for the excellent information. It's most helpful.

I remember a mention of this conflict between Cassini and HTML back when the new search launched.

I subsequently dumped my Auctiva account ... which loads up the HTML to create those pretty templates.

Now I'm back to listing straight-up on eBay's listing platform. No third party.

Sorry Auctiva.

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

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 30 20:01:25 2013

The terapeak analysis of Cassini (I think) said it only used the first 150 characters or so. It was posted here.  

But guess what? That is a Cassini shortcoming, IMHO you need your entire listing in a table so browsers can resize it.  Without that your listing looks like hell. The text and pics cannot wrap without that.  Not now, not ever.

But this is what we have now come to.  All these ads on ebay with a few misspelled lines, a few huge pictures with no captions to describe the item or any problems.  

It's just the lowest common denominator. Terrible. And if you don't make your listings terrible you will not sell anything.  

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

by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 30 20:34:51 2013

Confucius say: "Chinese sellers with broken English would have Cassini by the tail."

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

by: LAbay This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 30 20:55:55 2013

Thanks! Seems like we are going backwards in time when we had to design ''Plain Jane'' websites because the bandwidth wasn't there.

I wonder what is going to happen when everyone is searching using their Google glasses!

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

by: lemonsandlemonade This user has validated their user name.

Wed Oct 30 21:28:50 2013

@ monkey

You can still use Auctiva with the ease of the listing page and easy upload of photos and clicking them into the listing.

Just don't use a template or a scrolling gallery.  

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

by: Bidderboy This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 31 00:09:27 2013

I checked my listings and they are loaded with HTML. I am including some of what I saw in the hopes that someone in the know can tell me what it means. It contains several suspicious words:

LsdException Locked=''false''
Priority
UnhideWhenUsed=''false'' QFormat=''true'' Name=''Title''/

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

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Thu Oct 31 00:23:46 2013

@ Annie... great points.

eBay declines to inform small sellers because eBay stopped valuing small sellers the day John Donahoe was brought to eBay by Meg Whitman.

Donahoe is the "monkey" she referred to when she declared that a monkey could run eBay.

As such, the company does not care if small seller listings are at the bottom of search results because Donahoe wants all traffic directed to his precious Diamond sellers - which is why eBay spent so much to develop the CantSeeMe  search algorithms.


As to the banner insertion, eBay does not insert the banner.... The webstore third party app inserts the banner, and it is likely that they too are unaware of the HTML issue because eBay does not tell them either.

It would be interesting to hear from sellers using other third party listing tools to add templates etc... to know if their providers have heard anything from eBay.

The HTML issue may be the reason behind the rumors that eBay may eventually disallow templates including their own.

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

by: HereInMinnesota This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 31 00:25:14 2013

Why DID I know about this???  It seems to me that eBay pointed out problems with using HTML, frames, outside formats, etc. especially for mobile apps.  Check your traffic reports to see mobile access to your items.  Then check how your items appear on a mobile device.  I eliminated all the "pretty" to keep it simple.  

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

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Thu Oct 31 02:21:40 2013

@monkey

With Auctiva, if you were using that scrolling bar in your listings that they offered.  The only way to get rid of them is to go in the HTML and delete the script.  If this is something you need to do and don't know how, just ask.

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

by: KathleenJohnson This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Thu Oct 31 04:08:53 2013

Excellent insight. Thank you for taking the time to share!

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

by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 31 04:20:56 2013

Hmmm, interesting.

if I may ask, as I am an old dinosaur, if we alraeady Keep it simple with no borders; colors etc, should we still go into the description HTML first line and delete the starting HTML and review it?
Thanks for your helpful post.
MH

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

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Thu Oct 31 04:23:07 2013

Figures. The newest iterations of HTML and CSS do require more coding than the old. All that fancy "bling" you get for "responsive pages" takes code. And so of course, eBay will regress and make things more difficult for sellers trying to make their listings look decent. That's not to say you can't go simple and still have something nice, but eBay seems to be taking an ass-backward approach instead of giving us the information and tools we need to make our listings nice and efficient so that they'll show up properly in search on whatever device you use. No, they figure just ignoring it is better.

As for programmers, well, most simply do what their told. The problem is too many pointy-haired managers who don't talk to each other and who thing they know the effects of what they're asking them to develop. I've been in that situation as a developer and have had managers demand all sorts of features and nifty stuff, then complain when it runs slowly or isn't compatible with the stuff the other department uses. Never mind they didn't bother to listen to the experts who told them the different projects wouldn't work together. Too many people thinking they know best and ignoring those who are in the trenches actually living it. Sound familiar in eBay-land?

Oh yeah, Go Red Sox! (sorry, had to say it for my hometown boys :-)

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 08:40:25 2013

I'm as rabid for page views as any small seller on eBay, and I'll surely squeal with glee if the OP's suggestion yields consistent improvements, but--with respect--I don't feel that I know enough about how search engines process page code to hop right onto the bandwagon.

Every eBay listing page has tons of code besides the HTML you can add or edit when you create your listings. Right-click on any page in the Interwebs (you can do it right here) and select an option that says ''View page source'' or ''View source.'' Your browser will open a new screen showing all the code that makes the page work. If Cassini can wade through that but gets stymied by a few user-added font-face specs and color codes, I'd guess it was a deliberate, calculated addition to the search engine's processing code rather than a deficiency in the programmers who created it.

Not that it would surprise me for a nanosecond to learn that the problem is there by design.

I add and edit my own HTML when I create listings. I keep it very simple these days, but in my opinion, the default font size for eBay listings is way too small, and I always ratchet it up a little. I've done a lot of experimenting with my HTML, based mainly on tips I've picked up here in the ECOMM forums... but so far nothing has given me clear-cut results.

I'll definitely test with an eye to those initial 150 words, though. The OP's observations serve as a good reminder that what you say up front counts the most.  

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

by: gitasan This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Thu Oct 31 09:08:23 2013

I just went into applications in eBay and just unsubscribed to all and it changed in my listings. we will see if anything changes. I am so not computer literate so not sure if it will change anything but I guess it was worth the try!

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

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Thu Oct 31 09:13:49 2013

@e-bonked

Excellent questions / concerns. While I found the OP's observations extremely interesting and insightful, I'm unsure of how it really plays into the searches.

My reasoning is diamond sellers.  So many of them have  borders, pictures, animations, just all kinds of stuff in their listings.

So if they are still getting what they want in sales, that would mean they are coming up in the searches and if that is true, how does Cassini distinguish between the HTML of other sellers vs diamond sellers.  Is it programmed to ignore what it considers to be  much HTML by seller size?

Sounds like it could be pretty complicated.  Still I find the OPs post pretty compelling.  

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

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Thu Oct 31 09:16:32 2013

Massachusets Howler asks: "... if we alraeady Keep it simple with no borders; colors etc, should we still go into the description HTML first line and delete the starting HTML and review it? "

I would sample your listings and check them.

I list with Turbo Lister, and find that most if not all listings created in TL have unnecessary HTML at the start of the listing. An example of unnecessary HTML would be:





Delete that junk and the first line of your description should appear with something similar to the following:

   Dell SK 8135    


To those who use scrolling galleries... you do not want to use galleries that appear at the top of your listing.

I use the eBay app for Froo scrolling gallery which appears at the bottom of my listing description, so the HTML for that gallery is added to the end of the listing.

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

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Thu Oct 31 09:23:29 2013

Take 2

I forgot that posting HTML that was meant not to be seen would not be seen... so let me try that again...


I list with Turbo Lister, and find that most if not all listings created in TL have unnecessary HTML at the start of the listing. An example of unnecessary HTML would be:

'' TABLE cellSpacing=28 cellPadding=0 width=''100%''>
TBODY>
TR>
TD vAlign=top ''

Delete that junk and the first line of your description should appear with something similar to the following: ( The switch ''    Dell SK 8135 Internet and Multimedia Keyboard    

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

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Thu Oct 31 10:25:55 2013

I was wrong, it wasn't the Terapeak blog about Cassini that mentioned the first 150 characters, it was this

''Now, I mention the short description, this is the 1st part of the HTML and although we do not know exactly how many characters Cassini takes into account, we believe it is approx. 150.''
- See more at: http://neilwaterhouse.com/is-html-bad-for-your-ebay-listings/#sthash.7
M96ePpT.dpuf''

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