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Mon Nov 10 2008 08:37:33

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

By: Ina Steiner

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In my Ecommerce-Guide column this month, I talked about the problem sellers faced in optimizing their listings for eBay's Best Match search algorithm. This is because eBay reveals little about Best Match criteria. In the past, eBay presented search results by "time ending soonest"; now it uses a number of factors, and sellers are scrambling to figure out what those factors are, and which ones count the most in helping their items get to the top of search results.

Some believe eBay's new "Recent Sales" criterion is the number-one factor in getting better exposure for fixed-price listings, more important than high DSRs or offering free shipping. When it launched Recent Sales, eBay said its Best Match search algorithm would give more weight to multi-item listings that have experienced some sales, explaining that "a purchase from a buyer is a great way to measure satisfaction." Recent Sales only applies to 30-day Fixed-Price format listings with multiple quantities.

Two different sellers who both agree that "Recent Sales" is the major factor in getting fixed-price listings exposure in search actually disagree on whether it's a good or bad thing.

One seller believes Recent Sales disadvantages better quality items and, instead, brings up cheap products to the top of search results pages:

The new search rewards sellers with lower feedback, lower dsr's, and policy violations. Here is how it is. Those sellers are pricing their items dirt cheap, when they do so, they sell more. They are placed as the first item at the top of the page if they sell more, no matter if it is bad quality, bad customer service, bad shipping , or whatever, they get top search because they sell more. So ebay telling you that you have a raised search is not true, the truth is if your cheaper and I mean a lot cheaper you are number one in ebays eyes. If your selling a better quality item you are cheated.

Another seller says Recent Sales is a good thing, as it brings popular items to the top of search results pages: "So what's the magic? Selling popular items. Wow, who'd of thunk it. To get the best placement on ebay you need to be selling stuff that people actually want." He said the secret to great exposure on ebay for best match are the following:

1 - Number of sales - for FP30's, if you've sold 20 out of 100, I don't care if your DSR's are low and you charge $20 shipping, you will be in the top 10-20

2 - Number of people watching - My top "best match" items also are my top "watched" items - regardless of number of sales - so I know for a fact that they are counting "watched lists".

3 - Time remaining - no matter what, items ending within a few hours will always appear on page one.

Everything else being equal, free shipping and high DSR's further boost your positions.

Note that for auction listings, Recent Sales does not apply - instead, "Time Ending Soonest" appears to be a major factor in getting exposure.

Of course, Recent Sales favors high-volume sellers of commodity items - to use it, you must be listing multiple quantities of identical items.

If you've studied search placement on eBay, let us know what you're finding, and whether you think Recent Sales is useful to shoppers or not. And for those wanting to understand a little better eBay's thinking on Best Match, here's an email eBay sent to PowerSellers last month with some advice.

Make Best Match work for you

At the same time we lowered upfront fees, we optimized Best Match to consider recent sales as a key factor in search results for Fixed Price listings. The more items sold in your listing, the better position it can get.

Tips to build your "recent sales" advantage:

List in multi-quantity Fixed Price listings with the new 30-day duration-included in the new low fee-to build your recent sales.

Use the new "Good 'Til Cancelled" option, also included in the new low fee. Your listing will automatically renew for the same low fee every 30 days. As long as you don't change the title, item condition, or category or increase the price, your listing's recent sales will be carried over.

If your listing sells out or expires, don't create a new listing-just add inventory and "relist." As long as you don't change the title, item condition, or category or increase the price, your listing's recent sales will be carried over.




Comments (53) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: leslie

Mon Nov 10 09:08:41 2008

While the best match may be finding the "Best Stuff" for eBay's profits, I've learned to search on Google for the things I want to buy.
I sure don't find them using eBay's search.

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

This user has validated their user name. by: Doc

Mon Nov 10 09:12:12 2008

I'm thinking best match is tied into Google search results.

I needed a RR window regulator for an 01 Deville so i searched Google to see what could be found.

There were several online stores that offered the part in aftermarket. One was partstrain.com with shipping was 58.39 and i bought that one.

Interesting enough there were 2 eBay stores that came up, only one had that part complete with the motor that never goes bad. The cheap cables break and the motor just bolts to the regulator.

The eBay sellers price was 160.00! So best match is allowing this sellers store to be visible in Google search probably because the price is much higher and eBay profits from more expensive items.

I'm sure there is probably a seller on eBay offering the regulator only, but why try to search eBay when the part is easily had elsewhere.

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: Donna

Mon Nov 10 09:41:57 2008

3 - Time remaining - no matter what, items ending within a few hours will always appear on page one.

That is definitely NOT always the case as I have discovered multiple times in my own items.

I TRIED buying a halloween costume on eBay.  I TRIED.  But I couldn't find the same results two times in a row when I searched.  Finally, I just googled the costume I wanted, bought it and it arrived without incident.  Tell me again why anyone would go to eBay?

I am feeling doomed!

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: Bruce

Mon Nov 10 09:52:24 2008

If you are looking to buy, Best Match is a total waste. And you can't opt out of it permanently. The morons at eBay are so in love with their great innovation that they won't let it go away. You can opt out after you do a search but it comes right back on the next search. Items ending soonest is the ONLY way I want a search sorted. I would rather not know what eBay thinks about anything.

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: Wilma

Mon Nov 10 10:14:19 2008

As a buyer I have given up on eBay. Sellers I bought from for years are no longer there. I can't find what I am looking for. New search is horrible and will NOT let me look the way I want to. Google is so much easier and eBay is rarely the best deal.

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: Michael Ward

Mon Nov 10 10:24:21 2008

An additional problem I discovered in trying to figure out how to get decent placement in the best match search is that not everyone gets the same results.  I was told by power seller support that the algorithm also included buyer performance and preference in the search results.  Since I seldom purchase the same type of items that I sell on eBay, my results are different than that of my customers.  

A customer in California may not necessarily get the same results and certainly not in the same order as someone from Illinois due to the distance from item location factor in the algorithm.

I personally have returned to my original methods which are write a good description and title and let it land where it lands.  If an item does not receive decent placement and limited sales, then I pull that item from eBay and sell it elsewhere.

As a buyer, I have my default search set to ending soonest.  I have tried the best match only to get to the second page just in time to see something I would have bid on or purchased, end before I could review the item.  Anyone with any sense should change their preferences to ending soonest and show the sellers feedback.  That makes it so much easier to pass the junk sellers and get to the decent listings.

The other thing is to have a calculator handy and to add the price and shipping cost together before bidding.  Since there is no such thing as ''Free Shipping'', raising a product listing due to ''free shipping'' just complicates the situation and you still need to compare the total price. an example is where I have the same item priced with free shipping and at the real price plus shipping.  For most of the country, it's cheaper to purchase the item plus shipping.

I personally don't like the idea of a company like eBay deciding what I should buy or as a seller, how I should sell.

We still offer products on eBay, but we have since started 2 new websites to offset the decline in eBay performance.

As I told several people that worked at eBay (they don't seem to want to let me talk to the policy makers), ''The less I sell on eBay, the less I sell on eBay'' I had to explain that to a couple of them :)

How's your bottom line doing, eBay?

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: Michael Ward

Mon Nov 10 10:40:02 2008

To Bruce and Wanda,

It is possible to set your default search back to ending soonest.

When you do a search, next to the search by drop down box, click on customize display.

If you are on the old version of search results:

Near the bottom of the page under advanced settings is a sort order drop down.  You can also set other defaults.  Once you apply changes, they will stay that way.

If you are on the ''new'' page (which I don't really care for), you need to click on Advanced Options on the right side of the page that pops up.  you can make your choice permanent there.

I recommend adding all of the additional information available that will help you decide to read the description or not.

Tell all your friends.  Maybe if enough people set there defaults this way....

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: Et tu, Brute!

Mon Nov 10 10:42:08 2008

I also use Google search almost exclusively.  With the exception of Amazon, for most of my unusual purchases I Google.

I used to have tunnel vision where ebay was concerned.  (As stated above, excluding Amazon)  With all the changes I abandoned ebay as a venue to sell, and consequently buying also, and now rely on Google for search.

Best thing that ever happened!  Did ebay eviscerate themselves, or what!

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: Ric Roe

Mon Nov 10 11:02:58 2008

Best Match does not necessarily present the items a potential buyer is looking for, but rather returns items that eBay wants the potential buyer to see.

The very fact that search results are manipulated and 'presented' by eBay indicates a favoritism exists based on the ranking of items returned.

Buyers become frustrated when they see non relevant items presented on page one or two of results as they interpret this as eBay is running out of relevent items so they are showing me this.

This leads to buyer frustration and untimately a trip to Google or Amazon where search results are more accurate.
This happens often enough and sellers stop coming to eBay first.

Potential buyers do not care about items eBay wants to 'present' but instead seek relevant results when they type their widget into a search box.

Amazon and Google do a much better job of presenting accurate results because they get the fact that buyers will make a purchase when they can efficiently view accurate search results and quickly find what they are looking for.



Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: Just a thought

Mon Nov 10 11:17:12 2008

Why doesn't eBay just use Google's search engine?  If they were to submit all listings to Google for indexing, they could then use Google search results (using the site:eBay.com feature) to pull back the best search results.  "Best" based on the fact that everyone seems to love Google results.

Or would that be too simple?  :)

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: so sad

Mon Nov 10 11:32:24 2008

Ebay is getting more like the government.  Ebay's computer geeks like to play around with statistics, variables, high tech solutions (aimed at getting ebay more money and control).  

They are fixated on their little internal world and they are not focused on what the customer wants or needs.  They just keep fixing problems that don't need fixing.

But it is so disgusting when they try to tell us (the customer) that they are making changes to "enhance the buying experience" or to "assist sellers".  

What a joke ebay has become.  And Meg Whitman wants to go to work for the government and spread her wisdom.  Pitty the folks that will be affected if she does find a home in government.

I wonder how many votes McCain lost by trotting out Meg Whitman as the executive who created thousands of jobs and millions of small businesses?

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: Patricia

Mon Nov 10 11:44:53 2008

Best Match fails as far as antiques, collectibles and arts are concerned.  These sellers are not assemblyline workers - nor do they buy their items wholesale - in the case of arts - evey item is made by the seller - yet Ebay's best match judges them right along with the iPod seller who has thousands of items listed!  My standing in the listings was recently downgraded from "raised" to "standard" and I have a 10 year 100 percent feedback record of over 3,000 total - with never a neg.  My DSR's are 5.0 across the board.  When I wrote and questioned ebay they replied that I did not have enough feedbacks for the past 30 days to keep a raised standing....this even though I have almost 300 for this year alone!  Ebay is not only treating me unfairly, they are shortchanging the buyer who doesn't get to see sellers like myself! Of course, they are so "automated" that they're willing to ignore things like this...all things that make their site more mediochre by far then other online sales sites.

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: noneya

Mon Nov 10 13:14:21 2008

Have to agree with Patricia, the search for unique antiques and collectibles STINKS. I'm fascinated to see what fresh load of garbage Ebay will put on my start page under the heading of ''Great FINDS for you''
Not sure what criteria they use to ''find'' this stuff for me but it's generally NOT what I'm looking for or would generally seek out. I don't need ebay's suggestions for what I am looking for, I don't want ebay's bizarre version of 'help' locating the things I am seeking and I do feel that the search values have been skewed.
I might search for Teco pottery and my great FINDS will show me Pottery Barn plates. I'm searching for an antique art deco pottery company and ebay decides I want to see 50 thousand posters newly produced and losely based on art deco advertising.  

Part of it is due to Ebay's inability to police the antiques section for new items with misleading keywords in the title. But the other part is that searches are based on taste not words.
A White Art Deco vase is not exchangeable or on par with a White deco style glass Vase from Target.

Basing search placement on recent sales is a poor idea especially since a lot of sellers took time off this summer, and the economy has helped to drive off sales of higher end items.
As more sellers with 100%, 5 stars and no negs or neuts get pushed further down in the searches due to lack of recent sales, their sales decline further, creating a downward sales spiral that is impossible to climb back from.
I also have noticed sellers with lower percentages, lower DSRs and negs and neuts placed before my listings and it annoys me.
What is the point of busting butt for high DSRs and 100% feedback?

Sellers of quality items that cost more are getting hosed. Ebay is rapidly becoming a poor man's flea market. Sellers of unique items cannot compete and are pulling back from listing leaving gaping holes in the Quality of items available on Ebay. As the quality goes down, the buyers disappear.
The more my searches pull up wonky ''did you mean this?'' the less likely I am to look for that item again.

Ebay is standing on the edge of freefall into the abyss. Customers wonder where did all the sellers go? But they aren't sticking around wringing their hands. They are going to Google and finding items on other sites.

If Ebay planned on getting rid of the unique factor, they couldn't have found a better way to do it than this suicidal Best Match.

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: RJ

Mon Nov 10 13:15:24 2008

EBay's Best Match algorithm has absolutely nothing to do with showing the "best stuff."  EBay uses Best Match to manipulate the sort order, to "best serve eBay."   At least I believe that is what they have tried to do.   I see no evidence of it really working for them.  LOL  

I have seen so many different algorithms "tested" both on the old regular search platform, and on the New Search Experiment/F2/Playground or whatever they are calling it this week.    In addtional to the Best Match algorithm fiasco, eBay has also implemented rules in regards to only showing 10 items per seller per page, and also hiding FP items with duplicate titles from the same seller.  





Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Mon Nov 10 13:44:16 2008

Has anyone tried GetItNext.com? It lets you search eBay in a simpler, more traditional way, but I'm wondering what people's experiences are with it?

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: Ann

Mon Nov 10 13:55:04 2008

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

In a word, NO.

Most of the time you find little to nothing of what you are searching for and lots of irrelevant items. It just doesn't work, period.

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: John

Mon Nov 10 15:25:06 2008

I don't know what everyone's problem is!
Ebay has been working well for me for years. Last week I sold 98% of my listings. Prices are up and buyers are paying for the items they bid on.
Ebay is the best place on Earth to sell with the auction format. I don't use fixed price, it doesn't work well for me.
I guess very few successful sellers post here.
John

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: Joe Ebay seller

Mon Nov 10 15:30:40 2008

Best match just plain "SUCKS" BIG TIME.

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: Bobby

Mon Nov 10 16:22:44 2008

I never use best match. It is simply NOT the best match for me. I like the old way: Ending Soonest ! It is just annoying to switch from best match to ending soonest all the time. Why did they change something that was good ? If something looks good or works good, then simply DO NOT TOUCH IT ! If people don't like best match, then take if off line ! Ebay, listen at least for once !!!

Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?   Does eBay's Search Algorithm Find the Best Stuff?

by: John who ?

Mon Nov 10 16:26:15 2008

To John (2 or 3 posts up). It seems you just had a daydream. Or, if the bottle in front of you is empty, you must be drunk. Your sales are good ? hahahaha, you were probably kicked off ebay long ago.

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