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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2090 - July 29, 2009 - ISSN 1539-5065    2 of 3

eBay Changes Best Match Search, More Data for Sellers

By Ina Steiner
July 29, 2009

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eBay said on Monday it would update its Best Match search algorithm beginning in September. Todd Lutwak, Senior Director of Seller Development, told AuctionBytes that the listing performance score is "recent sales" divided by "recent impressions." An "impression" is when a buyer sees a search results page that includes the listing.

"This helps small and medium sellers get their listings started on eBay," Lutwak said. "Now, if you put an item up on eBay, and it's well-priced, and the buyers are interested in it, it can have a higher average, kind of a listing performance, than something that's been on the site for a lot longer."

eBay said the listing performance score will be a more accurate measure of how buyers perceive a listing than recent sales alone, and on the page describing the change, uses an example: In the new Best Match, a listing with 100 recent impressions and 10 recent sales will score higher than a similar listing with 1,000 recent impressions and 10 recent sales.

New multi-quantity and single-quantity Fixed Price listings will be given a certain number of initial impressions in search results based on the relevance of similar listings. eBay said this is designed to improve the exposure of new Fixed Price listings that are relevant to buyers.

Lutwak elaborated. "When an item is listed on eBay, we'll be doing a listing performance analysis. We will look at the category, the keywords, if it's listed with the catalog, we'll look at the specifics, and the item attributes that the seller selected as well as the price and the shipping, and we'll give it a listing "score" if you will, and then, based on that score, we will give it different levels of impressions, based on our assumptions of how high-quality that listing is, in order to test our assumption, and then, if it performs through the test, we'll give it more impressions, and if it underperforms, we'll give fewer impressions. This is very beneficial to sellers coming onto the site with new listings."

He said this approach makes relevance the primary factor in search, benefiting both buyers and sellers.

Two additional changes Lutwak mentioned were eBay's new policy for auctions with the Buy It Now option - "we've added the policy that there needs to be a 10% difference between the start price in the auction and the Buy It Now price - we think that this adds more vibrancy to auctions" - and, "we have eliminated a lot of the Features that sellers sometimes added to their listings, therefore again, making the primary factor in search results the relevance and the performance of the listing." He said Featured First would remain and would be available only to eBay Top-rated sellers.

Top-rated sellers will get promoted in Best Match for Fixed Price listings. eBay said it would continue to consider shipping costs in Best Match, and Auction-style listings will continue to receive a boost in search results when they're about to end. Other factors include the seller's track record, Item title relevance, and Item cost.

Search Visibility Tool
eBay also announced a new Search Visibility tool for sellers to be able to monitor their performance in Best Match. "After we launched Best Match in the past, a lot of people called up and asked Best Match-related questions," Lutwak said. "Where is my Listing. And why is John's listing above mine? So in this new visibility tool, you'll be able to look across your listings, and it'll actually say, here is your listing performance across all your listings."

Sellers will be able to drill down to the listing level and see how many listings there are on eBay for that item, and see their own listing's performance score, Lutwak said. Sellers will be able to see the attributes of listings on Page 1 of search results and will be able to compare them with their own listings. And, he said, "at the bottom of this analysis, you even have an update link that you can click on, and you can go in and update your listing and change anything that you want in order to improve its visibility."

Given that factors like free shipping might be more heavily weighted in one category over another, will this tool give sellers more information about which factors are given more weight by category? Lutwak said the tool would basically be telling sellers what the factors are on page one of search results, such as how many of the items offer free shipping. "Because you do this at the listing level, if you sold in collectibles and you sold in ipods, you would see that free shipping is more often used in the sale of ipods than it is used in the sale of collectibles. And you'd be able to see that pretty easily from this report."

Included in the tool are a seller's recent sales - "it tells you at the listing level how many items you've sold on that listing, how many impressions it got and what its listing performance score is. But you cannot see the attributes of other peoples' listings."

"Link to eBay's announcement

Learn about AuctionBytes survey of readers on eBay's changes

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 ina@ecommercebytes.com.

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