|Tue Mar 17 2009 12:13:30|
eBay Removes Seller-Exposure Restriction on Search Results
By: Ina Steiner
eBay said it would be posting an announcement at 9 am Pacific time today letting sellers know it was removing a restriction on Best Match search exposure. eBay currently limits the number of listings from a single seller to ten per page in Best Match search results (unless the only available listings that remained were from the same seller). Later this week, it will remove that limitation. (This is similar to, but is not, the de-dupe policy.)
I expect sellers' initial reaction to be concern that some sellers will be able to dominate search results. First, here is a timeline to give the announcement some context, then on to what eBay had to say.
Old eBay: eBay had limited sellers to 15 identical listings at any one time
June 2008: eBay removed this restriction but limited the display of duplicate listings from the same seller in search results to one listing (known as the de-dupe policy). In other words, sellers could have an unlimited number of identical listings at any one time, but only one of the listings would show in search results.
In addition, eBay began limiting the number of listings from a single seller to ten per page in Best Match search results (unless the only available listings that remained were from the same seller). Internally eBay calls this Even Selection by Seller.
November 2008: eBay rolled back its Identical Listings (de-dupe) policy and began showing all identical listings from the same seller for Fixed Price items.
March 2009: eBay is now taking away the restriction that limits the number of listings from a single seller to ten per page.
Senior Director of Finding Jeff King told AuctionBytes that eBay has been watching the seller dynamic. The popularity (Recent Sales) algorithm in Best Match gives more weight to multi-item listings that have experienced some sales, thus giving those items greater exposure in search results. By rewarding sellers for using multiple-quantity listings, eBay has had less of a need to put in hard-and-fast rules like the de-duping policy, according to King.
"Now that a track record of recent sales is a key factor in the sort order for Fixed Price, most sellers are combining identical items into single, multi-quantity, 30-day listings," King said. "We've reached a threshold now where we think we can also turn off Even Selection by Seller. We've been doing a whole bunch of analysis, and we believe it's just not necessary. In Best Match, we will be basically turning off by the end of the week or so the ability, or the limitation we currently have, that only ten items from a seller will show up on a per-page basis."
"You have to earn your way on to the page. There is no time component in Fixed Price at all, so your only chance of exposure is to actually have a very high Recent Sales score."
He said if you have a single quantity and/or unique item, the best way to get exposure is through the auction format. This is especially true if you're selling in a market where there's lots of that same item that are being sold by sellers that are turning the inventory. In clothing and collectibles, it's not as big a problem. "So like everything on eBay, it depends on the category."
What about sellers who will be concerned that some sellers would be able to dominate search results pages?
Jeff said this is essentially how the old days of eBay worked. eBay had been worried that it would overwhelm the market with fixed-price listings when it droped fixed-price listing fees. That was the initial reason for the de-dupe and Even Selection policies.
"The auction marketplace is essentially driven by the auction insertion fee. It's reasonably expensive compared to Fixed-Price. The combination of the pricing incentives and the increased exposure you get are basically preventing this dangerous dynamic from happening in fixed price marketplace. Frankly it's something that could happen in auctions, but people tend not to because it's a reasonably expensive strategy. It's not effective, and it's not a sustainable strategy long term."
"We think we have the right pricing and exposure incentive in place to prevent any kind of really negative impact from sellers gaming it."