Exclusive: eBay Confirms Changes to Best Match Search Algorithm
By Ina Steiner
eBay is rolling out changes to its search algorithm that impact auction sellers and could have a profound affect on the way bidders search. The issue came to EcommerceBytes' attention when a seller noticed a drop in sales last week and said when they called eBay, a customer support rep told them it had started implementing a new Best Match (BM) search algorithm on Friday the 13th, and would complete the process this coming week. "They completely altered the BM ranking for ALL sellers and this change started last week and it is completed by now, which means if you have items used to show up in front of BM now you may see the same item at a much lower ranking."
eBay spokesperson Johnna Hoff said in an email in response to our inquiry that eBay launched a Best Match test covering auctions late last week. She then went on to write, "Best Match will be using relevance and popularity factors and reducing the importance of end time in sorting auctions." We're awaiting confirmation that this "test" has actually rolled out permanently to the site.
The change is quite significant for both buyers and sellers. Bidders typically scour eBay for auction listings that are close to ending and have no bids in the hopes they can get a bargain. Bidders are notorious for placing last-minute bids, called snipes.
Hoff said time ending soonest continues to be a factor for auction listings, however, there are others. "How important it is can vary under different circumstances and at different times. Many factors are considered in ranking listings including seller track record, competitive pricing (including shipping cost), and the relevance of the listing in relation to what the buyer is looking for."
When Google makes such changes to its algorithm, website owners around the Internet bemoan the impact it has on their livelihood. Getting buried in search results is any merchant's worst fear, and on eBay, the search algorithm is just as mystifying and as impactful on the bottom line as on Google.
Unlike Google, eBay charges sellers for auction listings, and the company promised to give sellers at least 60 days notice of any significant changes that could impact them, which they have yet to do in the Friday the 13th Best Match algorithm change.
Hoff said, "The real key to getting and keeping a good position in Best Matchis to focus on sound business practices and delivering great value and service to buyers, and follow best practices better than competitors," and offered the following tips:
- Offer a good start price and reasonable shipping;
- Provide good service;
- List in the right format and the right categories;
- Write accurate and relevant titles;
- Write clear item descriptions;
- Include great photos and state your terms clearly.
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Update 7/21/12: See new information on the latest Blog post (Saturday).
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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