AuctionBytes Blog
Covering auctions, collectibles and marketplace selling.

AuctionBytes Blog The AuctionBytes Blog has been giving a voice to online merchants since its launch in 2005. Named one of the world's top 30 blogs in 2008 by "Blogging Heroes." Weigh in with your thoughts on the joys and pitfalls of selling online.
Tue May 25 2010 22:48:15

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

By: Ina Steiner

Sponsored Link

An eBay user wrote me recently about a problem he noticed when conducting a search for a common Canon lens. He sent screen shots showing that a search for "canon ef 70-300" brought back zero results, while a search for "canon ef 70-300*" brought back 29 results. The asterisk he used is called a wildcard search designed to bring back listings that include any characters that might follow "70-300," such as "70-300mm" - the correct term for the lens.

His search demonstrated that eBay's search engine failed to bring back search results with "canon ef 70-300mm" in the title - A camera lens is always followed by mm, but shoppers don't always include it in the search box. (And I'd bet most people are not familiar with wildcard searching.)

I conducted some searches this evening to see how many results would be brought back depending on how a buyer might search for such a lens:

canon ef 70-300 38 results
canon ef 70-300* 262 results
canon ef 70-300mm 247 results
canon ef 70-300 mm 5 results

In 2008, eBay said it was rolling out a new finding platform that it said would bring back results relevant to searches even if the seller hasn't included the keyword search terms in their listing. An eBay manager used the example of a search for "birthstone for January," that would bring back listings for garnet rings, even if the word birthstone or January was not in the listing. So it is difficult to figure out why a search for camera lenses would present any difficulties, 2 years later.

However, guessing what people want to see in search results can be risky - people on eBay are used to conducting searches a certain way, and don't necessarily appreciate change. This discussion thread shows someone recently thought eBay Motors sellers were improperly engaged in keyword spamming. However, another user theorized that eBay Motors' new compatibility feature (called fitment) was bringing back listings for items that did not have the search term in the listing title.

Another seller raised the issue of whether eBay compensates sellers when they have technical issues with search when he related this search problem:

"An example is a search of "501 Tracker" brings up tires which have no relation to the search terms. Now try "501 Tracker II" and you'll see what should have come up in the original search." He wrote back the following day to say the problem was fixed, adding, "I thought I'd mention it because eBay should be crediting sellers for a percentage of their listing fee since it wasn't working as I'm sure it's affected everyone's sales during that period."

eBay's search engine is one of the critical features of the site. There are more than 80 million searches performed each day, in more than 50,000 categories, in multiple formats. And with Stores inventory now in core search results, it's even more important than ever. The intelligence of eBay's search engine is no small matter.




Comments (57) | Permalink

Readers Comments

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: Hardrock Rules

Tue May 25 22:57:14 2010

Don't know, but it appears someone in 5th Grade designed Best match

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: RicRoe

Tue May 25 23:06:44 2010

People of a certain age will remember a time when milk was delivered by milkmen to your home.

Deliveries were left in a milk box which was an insulated container usually provided by the dairy the driver worked for.

Try searching eBay for a Milk Box and see how ineffective eBay search is.

A recent search using Best Match with 50 items on a page returned 4 items out of 50 which were actually a milk box. The rest of the items included, milk glass items of every imaginable style, milk duds candy, empty milk duds boxes, cosmetic cleansing milk, train cars, collectible Hershey's Chocolate tins...you get the idea.

eBay management wonders why they are hemorrhaging  buyers...with results like these, they need not spend too much time scratching their heads or crunching data to figure it out.

It is 2010, eBay is a marketplace where you almost need a college degree in entering search terms to get relevant results.

This is about as surprising as a finding a retail site that does not have a shopping cart....Oh wait...eBay does not have a shopping cart....never mind.

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: Lawrence A Dickerson

Tue May 25 23:44:25 2010

Those of us who do remember home delivery for milk know that the milk was delivered in a milk crate and the milk box was the  container beside the door where the delivery man place the milk:203 listings

In my opinion the search is not affected by eBay but with sellers not knowing how to adequately and correctly label their items.

I depend on those variances to get some excellent deals without the competition from all of the buyers.

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 25 23:47:09 2010

All I know is innovations haven't worked so far and perhaps Ebay should consult a few fifth graders to see what they should do next ;-)  That would be better then asking those invisible buyers and sellers they tend to consult with!

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: sparky

Tue May 25 23:47:12 2010

I noticed 'celluloid necklace' brought up even bakelite plus charms and all sorts of unrelated things.  I tried 'vintage fruit necklace' and 'vintage flower necklace' and saw more items of what I was looking for. Hmmmm.... I guess I do need that engineering degree to figure out the search.  And, this is after April 1st when trillions of items are now supposed to show up.

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: buck efay

Wed May 26 00:02:02 2010

Search results for a volkswagen toy using the exact title I listed it with came in 4th page behind pink wifebeaters(1st result), and other unrelated trash. That was the day I realized ebay would have trouble finding their own behinds with 2 hands & a mirror. I left shortly thereafter.

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: jill

Wed May 26 00:36:20 2010

Best match stinks. Mostly irrelevant based on a word they pick upl When I look for something I want to see all the choices. Would be much better if they would allow me to whittle it down  in the side column instead of selecting for me. Definitely not what is used to be. Sad for all of us;

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: Chris Goddard

Wed May 26 03:21:12 2010

As the search engine has been built by ebay staff how on this gods earth can it possibly be better than a fifth grader!!! It is a well know and indisputable fact the whole system at ebay runs upon something stuck together like a *Blue Peter Toy!!!

chris

(*UK show for YOUNG children.)

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: Red Ink Diary This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Wed May 26 03:33:01 2010

Re:
''eBay should be crediting sellers for a percentage of their listing fee since it wasn't working ...''
Another seller who doesn't know what they are paying for when they make a listing.

You got what you paid for, eBay owes you nothing. Read this http://tinyurl.com/2cfeo3a to learn what you are paying for on eBay.

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: Bait And Switch

Wed May 26 05:13:32 2010

"So it is difficult to figure out why a search for camera lenses would present any difficulties, 2 years ..." WHY? The best search result on ebay would have to say - Check the listings on Bonanzle.com. Even a 5th grader knows that!

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: matt

Wed May 26 05:22:12 2010

Ebay has just gotten to the point of being pure disgusting.

Donohoe should go back to the 5th grade.

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: Penny auctions
Web Site

Wed May 26 05:23:34 2010

The consumer public always rely on the search results as better search results yield better outcomes.
Ebay and other companies should realize this fact and build a better searching platform.
Considering the Ebay cannon example, you are right people dont use mm at the end of the search term as it is "supposed" to be understood by the searching algorithm what the user is asking it about.

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: ebay lies as usual

Wed May 26 06:27:22 2010

C'mon, dinosaur eBay is YEARS behind book/music sites like Alibris, Biblio, and of course Amazon with thier newest search ideas and offerings.. Keep dreaming corrupt ebay & your lies are humorous btw ebay. So glad we left. We are free to do what we what, cheaper, faster, better - off ebay.

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: John

Wed May 26 06:57:25 2010

Ahhhhhhhh , I can remember the days before search and best match....when you typed in ''milk box'' and actually got a milk box.....But alas the ''milkman has con the way of the Dodo and eBay has gone the way of the Donahoe

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: old timer

Wed May 26 07:56:53 2010

"I thought I'd mention it because eBay should be crediting sellers for a percentage of their listing fee since it wasn't working as I'm sure it's affected everyone's sales during that period."

That is such a novel concept for eBay.  If eBay were to compensate sellers (and buyers) where glitches prevent the system from operating as designed (or maybe it IS operating as designed), eBay would be bleeding money.

Sellers pay eBay for the chance of their products appearing in front of interested buyers.  There is no guarantee by eBay that your listings will ever be seen.  eBay knows that the system is full of problems, deficiencies and bad design.  Best Match is just the most widely known.

Can you imagine expecting a consumer to buy a new television and the manufacturer says you are paying to use the television, but there is no guarantee that it will actually power up, receive the standard channels, have sound, etc when you get it home?

That's what eBay offers sellers in return for their cash.  eBay's new tag line should be "We're only a venue... we don't guarantee any service for you!  But we do guarantee to make you pay for it whether or not you receive the service."

Bottom line, eBay's message to sellers: "Screw you!"

Which is why more and more sellers (and buyers) are looking to do business elsewhere.

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: Elizabeth

Wed May 26 09:41:48 2010

" the way of the Dodo and eBay has gone the way of the Donahoe "

Excuse me...but aren't these two the same thing?

I know 5th graders who could design better search systems than Pest Match or Best Mess which ever you are using.  A friend constantly reminds me that the initials BM are most commonly used for something you throw out when it hits the diaper.

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: 5th Grader

Wed May 26 11:08:17 2010

Did anyone else notice the related searches right underneath the search box?

Related Searches:  canon 70 300,  canon ef 70 300mm,  canon ef 70 200,  canon ef 75 300,  canon ef 70 300 is

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: Rich

Wed May 26 11:19:03 2010

This is interesting to know, but as long as they have best match; none of this matters.  Best match throws at buyers a completely scrambled and illogical order of items and auctions are now buried at the back until the final day.  With Amazon it's in order of lowest to highest which makes sense as would ending soonest.  When a shopper comparatively shops both Ebay and Amazon for the same item; with Amazon they see the same item with lowest price first and this gets any comparative shopper to buy on Amazon  

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 26 11:55:10 2010

Some sellers (myself included) received a message from Ebay in MyEbay stating that we can list auctions free for any starting price and pay FVF only if a listing sells....from now until June 1.  How come whenever Ebay slided further down the drain they turn to auctions to pull them up????  Aren't auctions on their way out ;-)  Not on your life!!!

eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?   eBay Search - Is It Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

by: Just me

Wed May 26 11:55:39 2010

I still see a sharp contrast between Donahoe's infamous 2009 analyst day quote.' ... We are not a retailer - We do not aspire to be a retailer..."
and the stated goals for 2010.
'...provide a more retail-like experience...'

That is a 180 degree turnaround, yes?
The entire situation is phony IMO

Again with the issue of lowered visibility and search placement based upon performance via a secret or confidential/anonymous rating system.
IMO, once they start that, the venue is more of a contest or a sweepstakes than a paid service.

People whom all pay the same amount for the listings deserve to get equal exposure. Simple.

I suggest filing complaints with the FTC and yes, the FBI and states' atty ag's as well over that and cite a pattern of fraud.

BTW new lawsuit filed against PP for the 21 day holds. letssuepaypal dot com. Spread the word.

Click to view more comments
1 2 3  [Next Page]


Login is required to post comments.
To sign in to leave a comment using your AB Verify User Name, fill in the form below. If you have not yet signed up for AB Verify, or if you'd like more information, go to the Registration Page
.

Login for AB Verify
Be sure and use your email address and password to log in.

 
Email:
Password:
 
 Forgot Your Password?
 Even though you are signed in with the AuctionBytes Blog, you will have to sign in to the EcommerceBytes blog. But you can sign in with your existing AB Verify info.