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Fri July 23 2010 13:06:59

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

By: Laura Haggarty

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Today's AuctionBytes Blog post features a guest column from online seller Laura Haggarty who shares her opinions on how to optimize eBay listings based on her experience selling ephemera on the site.

I've been selling on eBay, on and off, since 1998. Over the years, and especially in the past two years, I've worked on learning as much as I can about the best way to list items to make sure my items show up well in the Best Match search algorithm eBay uses.

In the past, things were much more straightforward than they are now. And I'm not claiming to be an expert of any sort on how eBay sets up Best Match. But there are a few things I've learned that seem to be working for me, especially since the last several rounds of changes for sellers.

DO: Use good keywords in your item titles.

Follow the eBay Rule of Three: the first three keywords in your item title should be those that your potential buyers will most likely use to search with. Your item title doesn't have to read like a sentence, it has to bring buyers to your listing. For example, let's say I have a vintage postcard with artwork by Frances Brundage, published by the Raphael Tuck Company in their series number 204. It's a Valentine's Day card, and has an image of a beautiful woman holding a yellow rose. You could, using the 55 Characters eBay allows, title the item something like "Beautiful Woman Holding Yellow Rose by Frances Brundage." But that wouldn't be using the keywords in the most optimal way.

A far more effective way to list such an item would be to put the three most important keywords first, to ensure your item pops as close as possible to the top of the search list, like this: Brundage Valentine Tuck 204 Beautiful Women Yellow Rose. Such use of keywords puts this item in the top three shown out of 69 items that come up with the search terms "Brundage Valentine." So it pays to think like a buyer, and study how your buyers use keywords to search for items, so you can use the system to your advantage.

DO: Use Item Specifics to include more keywords that will allow your item to be seen by more potential buyers.

Again, I'm not an expert on how they work, nor do I know for sure how eBay factors them into the Best Match algorithm. But in my experience, listings that have them sell better than those that don't. So use them, they're free! Be creative, put in things that you'd like to have in the title but don't have room for. Can't hurt, might help.

DON'T: Keyword spam in your item titles.

This is a big no-no, and could get your item pulled by eBay if they notice it, or someone reports it. Keyword spamming means using words in your item title that do not bear directly on your listing. eBay takes a dim view of this, and all sellers should know the specifics of their rules, which can be found here: Search and browse manipulation policy.

DON'T: List things as Good Til Canceled.

When I started out, I had a number of items I knew would be "long tails," those that might sit in my store for a while, but would eventually sell. For such items GTC seemed perfect, they'd just keep rolling over until they sold, and I wouldn't have to worry about manually relisting them. That's fine, in theory. However the way Best Match works with regards to GTC goes something like this:

List an item. It doesn't sell during the first 30 days, although a number of potential buyers view it (let's say 30.) eBay's Best Match algorithm takes into account that you had 30 views but no one purchased. So the next time the item rolls over, it's pushed lower down in Best Match (the default way that items are shown to potential buyers.) The more months that pass with the item unsold, the lower and lower it ends up in Best Match.

eBay has given sellers a tool that can be used to determine how well an item shows up in Search, called the Search Visibility Analysis. I am still learning to use this tool, and will note it contains some pretty good data that sellers can use to tune up their listings. You can search by specific item number, or check how your items are doing in a specific category. One of the things eBay does tell us using this tool is "The ratio of sales to the number of times the listing has been displayed to members in search results" has an impact on where the item ends up in Best Match. And in my experience, using GTC lowers that ratio, and thereby lowers an item in Search.

So how to work around that problem? A simple suggestion:

DO: Re-list items using either Sell Similar, or Relist as Fixed Price.

I've had an eBay store for a long time. In the latest round of changes, eBay put all "store" items into "core" search (theoretically anyway.) What was interesting to note for the several months after that happened was, items that ended and were GTC relisted, were still called "Store Items" by eBay in the end of listing email I got. Items that I manually ended and then relisted using either Sell Similar or Relist as Fixed Price, somehow got shoved back into Search as brand new items. I have many items that sat in my store for months which, when I relisted as Sell Similar, sold the very same day, or within that same week. It's almost as if they were sitting still invisible (as store items used to be hidden from Core Search), even though they were, theoretically, in core.

My conclusions are based only on my own experience, and as such are anecdotal. But the suggestions I make here have worked for me, and may well work for other sellers too. I know my sales have stayed pretty even during these changes, while other sellers have really struggled with drops in sales and exposure. Try some of these tips and see if they help. At this point, some of us will use all the help we can get to increase our sales on eBay! Best of luck to all you sellers out there, and I hope this will be of some small help to you.

Laura Haggarty has been selling on eBay off and on since 1998. She specializes in ephemera: vintage postcards, trade cards, and other printed matter. She lives on a farm in northern Kentucky with her family and their horses, goats, and chickens. You can find her online at Katydidscards and Pathfindersfarm.

Note from the Editor: This is a good opportunity to remind sellers about Google's Editorial policy on feeds. Google will reject listings in feeds that contain all caps or bad grammar and spelling - see its policy here. This applies to creating titles on your own websites and on marketplaces such as eBay. Example: Don't use ALL CAPS in your titles. If you want exposure in Google, follow these guidelines!




Comments (40) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: Doris Knight

Fri Jul 23 13:25:24 2010

Laura Advises: ''DON'T: List things as Good Til Canceled.''

Interesting observation, Laura! Thanks for sharing that one with us. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that my GTC listings aren't getting the views that I hope for.

It's a pity that eBay doesn't share things like this with us. By not sharing such basic information with Sellers, it indicates that they are more ''paranoid'' and fearful that Sellers will try to game-the-system by optimizing their selling/listing habits. (Heaven forbid that a Seller is actually SUCCESSFUL!)

I think your advice on creating listing titles is RIGHT ON TARGET too! This is something that I've been doing for a long time, but it's advice that needs to be repeated often. ---- I'm constantly amazed at how many people still use things like ''LQQK!'' and ''L@@K!'' and ''WOW! CHECK IT OUT!'' in their titles. (After all, when was the last time you searched a listing to find a good deal on ''LQQK's''??)

Thanks for a great article, Laura! (Note to Ina... more please? :-)

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: lauren marems

Fri Jul 23 13:38:36 2010

Thank you Laura.
I just relished one of my things that was a GTC. AND what a surprise?
As I was completing the auction listing there was an option to accept money orders and checks as payment! What is going on?

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: buck efay

Fri Jul 23 13:40:24 2010

I figured out the best way to use Best Match.... SELL ELSEWHERE! Why should I have to waste precious time figuring out this joke of a search engine on a failing venue?

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Fri Jul 23 13:47:12 2010

Lauren Marems: I've been hearing this from sellers, and sent an inquiry to eBay. Here's what spokesperson Johnna Hoff said:

"Do you happen to have examples of what your readers are seeing (and where) on the site? I can tell you that we haven't made any policy changes.

There are a few exceptions where checks & money orders may be accepted, but if your readers have more specific examples of what they're seeing, it would help us further explore this.

- The UK, Germany and Australia allow checks and money orders. (I'm assuming your readers are referring to the U.S. site, though?)

- Certain listing categories on the U.S. site allow other payment methods: http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/accepted-payments-policy.html"

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: 765510

Fri Jul 23 14:09:58 2010

Thank you Laura for taking the time to share this information. I think it will be very helpful. I use GTC, caps and paid no attention to my first 3 words in a title. I have noticed that my listings were burried. I kept lowering the price, but it hasn't helped. Checking with Terapeak and people were buying other sellers items even when they were priced more-- Been a very frustrating month. I really think this will help. Thanks Again!!!!

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: lauren marems

Fri Jul 23 14:11:40 2010

I almost don't want to alert them.
I'm wondering if they're running small tests to see if revenue or sales increase with more payment options.
My item was listed in collectibles.

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: old timer

Fri Jul 23 14:29:47 2010

Laura, Thank you for the article.  These are all good tips for selling on eBay.  And of course, your title and keywords comments are just as applicable on other sites as well.

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: Bob@eBay10K

Fri Jul 23 15:40:06 2010

Thank you Laura for an insightful and constructively helpful article.

Doris Knight writes: ''It's a pity that eBay doesn't share things like this with us.''

So true.

I'm thus reminded of the November 09 town hall call held shortly after their previous advertised BM 'tweaker' party.  It was attended by what was identified as a 'panel of experts on BM.'  A number of callers were questioning them in attempts to gain knowledge about the best methods to advantage themselves accordingly.

For others listening, do you recall their answer (after a number of pregnant pauses where faint arguments could be barely overheard, and followed by a sudden burst of  associated 'static')?

This panel of eBay experts - their own people who designed this abomination - the best they could come up with were words to the effect:

''Try a number of different things.  Experiement.  See what works for you.''

That's it.  

Even THEY were clueless and in disagreement over what was 'supposed' to work relative to the apparent infinite and uncontrollably dynamic elements that a given seller could wrap around.

Then again, most who are so severely impacted by it seem to rightfully postulate that no matter what they try, it's actually gamed to serve eBay's own definition of their preferred seller base - and their 10,000 identically cheap and imported preferred FP items with 'free' shipping and continually depressed ASP and STR.

Nevertheless, it's reasonable to believe your excellent suggestions certainly couldn't hurt, and may even serve to at least give the rest of us our best chances.

And it's certainly clear that it is much more constructive and specifically helpful than anything eBay in their imperialy wiser than thou fashion has offered.  

So thank you.  And best of luck to you and the rest of the survivors after eBay finishes bayonetting the wounded with their future planned 'tweaking'.  

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: NO laura NO

Fri Jul 23 16:26:16 2010

No thanks Laura. Sounds like you are a eBay pusher and that disgusts me. Best Match is to list ELSEWHERE. I felt real good hanging the phone of some eBay goon that called us today to talk about the new "rules for conditions" on empherma, paper, etc. I hope the sound of the phone slammed on her ear went right to her "best match"

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: fallonthalia
Web Site

Fri Jul 23 16:42:21 2010

A couple of people on the eBay forum: Re: 5 DAYS STRAIGHT, NOT 1 SALES. SELLING FOR 10 YRS.WHAT THE IS GOING ON HERE! have also noted that the Good Till Canceled was not a good thing to do.  They felt that re-listing items using Sell Similar was a better way to go.  I suspect that eBay does not want people to stop using Good Till Canceled because it makes more money for them.  Probably most people wait a day or two or three (or more) before relisting if they do it manually.  This, of course, means less money for eBay.

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: Lisa This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Fri Jul 23 17:33:10 2010

why would you even bother listing on a site that does not share positive listing techniques to help its sellers succeed? The fact a seller has to give instruction on listing and warn against using some of the pushed ebay features seems like the site is unethical.

But good luck.

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: Gone from there 08

Fri Jul 23 17:34:00 2010

The people still on Seller central (all 6 of them) are mental cases. If they had the slightest idea what they were doing they wouldn't be wasting their time there, they would get jobs instead of whining about the changes 24/7.

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: Lisa This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Fri Jul 23 18:39:02 2010

what is seller central? is that the power seller DB?

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen

Fri Jul 23 18:55:47 2010

The best point made here is, think like a buyer. What key words would you use to search for a particular item. And, of course, it goes without saying that ALL CAPS are inappropriate for anything except newspaper placards, for two reasons: ALL CAPS en mass are ugly and, more importantly, illegible and, as said, Google don’t like them either, undoubtedly for the same reasons. Frankly, anyone who has not attempted to glean at least a basic understanding of visual communications should probably not be trying to sell on sites such as eBay where all sorts of hideous apparitions are enabled to appear; better to stick to Amazon where the typography is predetermined by someone with an understanding of such matters.

The thread with approaching 7000 whinges from over 700 whingers (including me) is at

http://forums.ebay.com/thread.jspa?rw=true&anticache=127986270
3348&threadID=520194234&anticache=1279885324634

eBay/PayPal/Donahoe:
Dead Men Walking

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: summer in the city

Fri Jul 23 19:19:07 2010


People, please don't displace your loathing of Ebay onto this innocent person who's just trying to help. We're all free to decide where to sell our stuff.

I'm glad she's found a formula that works for her...so far today, that is, until ebay gets wind of it.

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: Lisa This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Fri Jul 23 19:48:03 2010

right, but we are all free to post our valid opinions regardless if a blog entry is innocent or not. It is important for readers to know that there are other opinions and facts to help guide them in an on line endeavor. That is the point of blogging.

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: whatever.

Fri Jul 23 21:47:14 2010

''by: Gone from there 08
     
Fri Jul 23 17:34:00 2010
The people still on Seller central (all 6 of them) are mental cases. If they had the slightest idea what they were doing they wouldn't be wasting their time there, they would get jobs instead of whining about the changes 24/7.''

@Gone from there 08,

Thank you for your insightful comment. Regarding your nickname: when you left in 08 did you get hired as an assistant to the Griffster?

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: Richard The Geek

Fri Jul 23 23:20:31 2010

Maybe her merchandise actually gets views. But, whether or not it does is only partially because of her efforts and she has done well. Most of the issue comes from how broken EBay's site actually is. Nothing ever seems to work, and thousands of people scream about suddenly getting zero views and no sales indicates that they broke something, or as JD admitted the other day, that they ration exposure.

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: My Own Website Not Quite Paying My Bills Yet

Fri Jul 23 23:23:38 2010

Thanks Laura for trying to help the people who want to continue on Ebay but I have one question--are you selling on Delcampe?

Ebay's largest seller of postcards had left Ebay and went to Delcampe and is making more sales and has less fees. That seller has posted here on the AB forums. Anyway, I'm just curious.  

Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller   Guest Column: Optimizing eBay's Search as a Seller

by: buck efay

Sat Jul 24 00:30:35 2010

When Ebay decided most recent sales was more important than THE ACTUAL TERM SEARCHED FOR, they lost the Ecommerce war. WHAT KIND OF AN IDIOT DECIDED THAT??? Gee, let's put artificial barriers in the way of cash paying buyers. Buying on Ebay now is like going into a bank with a long twisty velvet rope & a guard that won't let you cut thru. MORONS.

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