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Sat Jan 8 2022 15:54:50

Should eBay Rewrite Your Listing Titles in Search Results?

By: Ina Steiner

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How would you feel if eBay rewrote the titles of your listings when displaying them in search results? We haven't heard any reports that eBay is doing it, but the company filed a patent describing the concept.

At first glance, this may seem like a really bad idea, but there are few factors that validate the rationale for doing so.

eBay describes its reasoning in the patent filing:

"It is challenging to present a long description for a product listing on a mobile screen. Specifically, a screen size of a mobile phone is less than a screen size of a computer (e.g., laptop, desktop), and long titles in a listing may not be displayed fully on a mobile screen."

and:

"In some cases, displaying a listing, or a search result that includes a long description, may consume screen space on a mobile device, and may impact the user experience for a buyer querying for one or more items."

The other reason we can think of: sellers often try to use the title field to optimize for search. In other words, sellers may put lots of keywords and include model numbers in the title so eBay's search engine will find their listing, resulting in a title that doesn't necessarily read easily or grab shoppers' attention.

But how would eBay re-write all of those listing titles? Using Machine Learning, of course. It explained in part, "The raw titles and user behavior data may be used to train a machine learning model to identify one or more parameters that may be used to refine a raw, seller-supplied, title to generate a refined title that leads to a desired outcome."

It all comes down to execution. How confident can sellers be that eBay could create a system that re-writes a shorter title that would be ideal to grab buyers' attention?

If sellers are skeptical about eBay's skills in title-writing, the feeling is mutual: eBay wrote in its filing, "Often times, a seller may input unnecessary or duplicate information when providing a description for an item for sale."

It also wrote, "Moreover, some descriptions included by a seller in a listing may, unintentionally, negatively impact the seller's goal of selling an item at a desired price (e.g., a highest possible price)."

If eBay thinks having a separate title to display in results is a good idea, why not allow sellers to create two titles when listing an item for sale: one that's optimized for the eBay search engine, and a shorter one that's optimized for shoppers' attention (and mobile devices) that would be displayed in search results?

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Readers Comments

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by: lessthanthreerecords This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jan 8 16:27:21 2022

eBay already does this with catalog titles, but doing it with a seller's listing title would be making a bad idea even worse.  I have long taken issue with eBay's message of "Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing[,]" when, in fact, eBay often adds item specifics and other details on their own and makes it incredibly difficult (if not impossible) for a seller to remove them (if a seller even knows they were added/changed, since eBay does not communicate this information to sellers).  And to address this "machine learning" thing, the machines apparently aren't learning all that well.  I've noticed it with titles of catalog items.  It seems that in some cases, the catalog title is stolen (though eBay would likely take issue with that word, since it is in their terms that they can use elements of a seller's listing) from a seller, but in some cases, it is altered.  I've noticed a lot of times, eBay will select a certain listing title to steal... sorry, "borrow"... but will remove words that it "thinks" apply only to that seller's listing.  For example, the word "new" is often removed, presumably since eBay thinks it is describing condition, and other sellers may be listing a used copy.  However, that is problematic, since "machine learning" is still incredibly bad with context.  For quite some time (I'm not sure whether it's been fixed yet), the 12" vinyl single for U2's song "New Year's Day" was given the title "Year's Day."  Thankfully, my account was blacklisted from the catalog some time ago, which fixed some (not all) of these errors on my listings.  I do NOT need eBay changing MY title.  If they're going to hold me responsible for accurately describing my listings (which, as we all know, they do!) they had better let ME describe them!  If they instead want to let machines describe my item, then they had better require those machines to cover the cost of a refund when their misinformation leads to a payment dispute!

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by: 1st Armored Div. 1971-1973 This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jan 8 17:05:29 2022

I have seen some of their recommendations. They completely miss-describe the listing.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jan 8 20:44:18 2022

As long as they want to pay my fees and taxes sure!

Where does the line between MY business and ebays extend to?

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by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jan 8 22:05:27 2022

“ Where does the line between MY business and ebays extend to?L

How much you got?

See, continuously contriving ways to ‘help’ with things nobody is asking for while artfully ignoring for quarters infinitum things like correct category application of media mail rate is expensive work.

You can pay now.  Or you can pay later.  Or you can pay now and later.    

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by: angryllama This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jan 9 06:59:40 2022

Texas Joke fits PERFECTLY.  eBay couldn' pour beer out of a boot with instructions printed on the sole.  ....  Among my favorite EBAY scr*wups is to ONLY show a single photo, ONLY of the cover for a DVD and.... PICK a Unique HOLIDAY cover with "banner" as though ALL copies of of that chick-flick were for CHRISTMAS, Mothers' Day or VALETINE's Day.   ICEBERG AHEAD CAPTAIN.....!

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by: Old School Seller This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jan 9 09:04:14 2022

Just what exactly is the human brain useful for anymore?

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by: ebayout This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 10 01:00:14 2022

What's most disturbing is that EVERONE is thrown into the same dolt bucket.
I know EXACTLY what my headline should say...precisely, even.  

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by: johnny This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 10 01:38:44 2022

The entire eBay Motors platform is not what it was in the past. You  must use an HTML editor, that prior,  was built into the platform. Simple submissions of photographs etc are no longer simple. eBay motors is not and easy platform to advertise on any longer.  

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by: leavingNY This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 10 05:23:05 2022

Ebay gave the sellers more characters to use in the titles a few years back so we could ADD to the title. NOW, they want to take that away and make up what they think my titles should be ? ? WTF do they think they are ? They think they know my items better than me ? Tltles and descriptions are two different things. I already keep my descriptions short and to the point.  

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by: Jono77 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 10 05:41:49 2022

They always do what they like and to hell with ''the noise'' as it's their site and it's in their seller terms that they can change their terms as they please.

It's an exceptionally stupid idea anyhow but why do they need to patent it? How can such a daft concept be patented?

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by: Nothingnewecrater This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 10 10:15:13 2022

The gates of eBay hell never close with their ridiculous changes. Hahahaha Hahahaha

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by: JohnGermaine This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 10 10:24:16 2022

Maximizing THEIR profits once again.  I am on my way out.  They have forgotten that they are a platform which provides a space for ME to run MY store.  I've had enough.

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by: rfm This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 10 11:57:33 2022

Never ceases to amaze me what asinine thing someone at ebay who doesn't even use the site will come up with next, while completely ignoring existing problems and valid suggestions from their users.  

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 10 14:08:14 2022

@johnny - that’s why “Bring a trailer” outsold them handily

Back in the good old days - eBay was “the king”

They always do the wrong thing, always!

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by: Mazdaman This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 10 14:56:44 2022

There may be both good and bad things about a company doing this as the original  post points out.

However, concerning eBay, I can see only bad things happening from this, as my 40+ year computer programming experience  and eBay's claim of using "AI" in their system clash tremendously.  eBay claims they use "AI" to "prevent those that have been banned from the system from creating another account", which anyone who has more than one account or has been on eBay for any length of time knows is absolutely false.  There are so many places that eBay instead employs Artificial Ignorance that I have to just laugh at this concept when applied by eBay.

IMO, eBay has done this before, preemptively filing a patent on something THEY don't have but they've heard someone else might be doing this, so they want to obstruct those who are really doing that.

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by: 4yourinfo This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jan 10 15:30:47 2022

No way! As mentioned earlier eBay already messes with listings when they try to create their catalog listings or whatever that multiple listing that comes up especially from Google searches. They take one persons listing and decide that should be the title to all the listings with the same UPC. Well guess what  one person decided they will sell a pack of 4 so now the title says pack of 4 for all listings with the same UPC - Crazy!! Or how about my best by date is different than the others - it won't show up in the title.. besides eBay has a pretty short character allowance in titles so I'm not really sure what their trying to do..all these silly patents seem to do one thing - block out anyone that tries to come up with a competition to ebay...



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