eBay Tips for Search Visibility and Cassini
By Ina Steiner
eBay's Vice President of Experience, Search, and Platforms Hugh Williams had some advice for eBay sellers on his personal blog this week. He presented information for sellers on how to get better visibility in eBay search results and discussed the status of eBay's new Cassini search engine.
The topic is an important one to sellers. Ever since eBay introduced Best Match as a default sort order, sellers have tried to optimize their listings to ensure their listings get seen by shoppers. eBay doesn't reveal much about how the Best Match algorithm works, saying it fears sellers will try to game the system, much in the same way Google handles its search algorithm. So when anyone at the company talks search, sellers listen.
In his post, Williams had specific advice on getting found in search, a summary of his nine tips follows:
- List in the correct category with a meaningful title.
- Use item specifics and item condition.
- When it makes sense for your business, use a long-duration, multi-quantity Buy It Now format
- Study what it takes to be a Top Rated Seller on eBay.
- Have great, large, clear pictures for your listings.
- Be price competitive (and be prepared to make changes).
- Specify shipping costs.
- Have a clear, structured, and comprehensive item description. Stay "on topic" and describe your item accurately.
- Offer fast shipping and international options.
Williams' fourth tip was "Study what it takes to be a Top Rated Seller on eBay," and although some sellers say they do not get better exposure despite following these practices - some are particularly skeptical about the tips around return policies, for example - it's worth reviewing eBay's TRS requirements:
- Have an eBay account that's been active for at least 90 days.
- Have a positive Feedback rating of at least 98%.
- Have at least 100 transactions and $1,000 in sales with US buyers over the most recent 12-month period.
- Upload shipment tracking to your buyer's My eBay within your promised handling time for at least 90% of your transactions with US buyers in the last 3 months.
- Have no more than .5% 1 and 2 detailed seller ratings (DSRs)
- Have no more than .3% closed cases without seller resolution
- Offer a 14-day or more, money back return policy.
- Offer same business day or 1 business day handling.
- Listings from Top Rated Sellers offering same business day or 1 business day handling and a 14-day or more return policy with a money back option also receive the greatest, on average, advantage in Best Match search for fixed-priced listings.
Full details of TRS requirements are available on the eBay website.
Williams also said eBay's search team focuses on three tenets of delivering a great experience for buyers: "Trust: ensuring our buyers get a retail-like experience from great sellers; Value: ensuring our buyers find great deals, including shipping costs; and Relevance: ensuring our buyers see items that match what they want."
"If you focus on these three tenets," he said, "you will be successful in gaining visibility in search." However, he did not explain how sellers could influence relevancy, since sellers have no control in how eBay's search algorithm determines what is relevant for a particular search.
eBay's Cassini Search Platform
Williams' blog post was a follow-up to a talk he had given recently where he also provided some additional information about Cassini, the new search technology eBay has been working on for some years now. Cassini will ultimately completely replace Voyager, he said, and eBay would become an entirely Cassini-powered platform.
A feature of Cassini that Williams made a point of reviewing was "description search." Cassini will search not only titles and catalog data, but descriptions as well. "Sellers will no longer have to rely on the title to ensure their items get visibility."
And, as EcommerceBytes previously reported, Cassini's "description search" feature is already powering parts of eBay search today. "Cassini has arrived for Completed search, and Null and Low results search," Williams said. And Cassini has been powering completed search for the past 6 - 9 months. "It was the first scenario shipped out to the site that was powered by Cassini," he said.
eBay has tested Cassini in "active items" searches in North America since late last year ("a small fraction of users get Cassini by default since last December"). And Williams said Cassini will power all active items searches in North America within the next couple of months, followed by an international rollout of Cassini "by 2014."
However, Cassini will initially mimic Voyager before eBay launches some of Cassini's more powerful features.
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About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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