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Mon Sept 2 2013 21:22:01

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

By: Brian Cohen

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Last August in my post, "LQQK Goes from eBay Title to Streets of New York City," I discussed how some sellers are using embedded commands it the titles of their auctions in order to stand out and compel bidders to look at their listings.

eBay looked into this practice and in response filed a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). "Marketplace Listing Analysis Systems and Methods," patent number 20130204730 describes how sellers use character patterns for attracting attention to marketplace listings and as a result eBay will create a "marketplace listing analyzer" that will request the non-compliant seller to create a new listing title.

eBay's Best Practices rolled out in fall of 2011 specifically recommends against special characters: "Don't include special characters or gimmicks like "L@@k" in your title. Buyers don't use these terms in searches and they make your title less readable and relevant." The practice appears (too bad I didn't capture this data back in 2011) to have remained constant according to a search comparing a typical August day, year over year:



However, I'm not entirely convinced that just because buyers aren't searching for these terms doesn't mean that buyers aren't attracted to the listings. This is eBay's opinion and not necessarily a statement of fact.

The patent further details the "Listing Analyzer" that will be implemented to delete these type of characters from an auction title:

The system will "...identify character sequences intended to attract attention.....extract features, such as character sequences or character patterns, from a marketplace listing title..."

The seller will "...receive a request to revise the marketplace listing in a manner that removes the character pattern used to attract attention to the marketplace listing..."

"... For example, a user creating a listing may include the following character pattern in the title: "U*N*I*Q*U*E". In this example, the user may intend to attract attention to the listing with the particular character pattern. By using these character patterns, the user is attempting to make their listing stand out visually from other listings that utilize conventional listing techniques (e.g., using "Unique" instead of "U*N*I*Q*U*E")."... and... " "***", "!!!" or "###"."

"...some users may try different techniques to circumvent the known character patterns... {so} new patterns for attracting attention {will be} identified..."

Like eBay's Best Practices, the patent application states that "... in practice, this type of character pattern may not attract potential buyers because the character pattern is not typically searched by a user or entity."

eBay does not address the possibility that non-standard titles have a psychological impact that might compel a class of potential buyers to actually view a listing because of this. However, I suppose if there was a scientific study that proved this statement to be true that this in turn would have the opposite effect as the number of "non-standard" listings would begin to pollute the eBay ecosystem.

This comical effect is similar to why 8068 was the safest secret four digit pin number until it was revealed that it was the safest four digit pin.

However, the patent further explains that:

"...a search for "unique" in a marketplace listing will not identify a listing with the character pattern "U*N*I*Q*U*E". Thus, an attempt to attract attention to a marketplace listing using "U*N*I*Q*U*E" may produce the opposite result (i.e., the marketplace listing receives less attention due to the unconventional character pattern). Other types of character patterns used to attract attention include "r_a_r_e", "N_E_W", "U n I Q u E", "**New**", and the like. Regular or irregular patterns are possible..."

Sellers can promote their items with listing upgrades. Bold Listings are the most expensive of these upgrades at $2 for most listings with exception of 30 day listings which costs sellers $4. eBay has not increased the price of Bold Listings since 2008 when it cost $1.

Since then eBay has increased the number of characters permitted in listing title from 55 to 80 characters. However, in what might be a harbinger of things to come, eBay India discontinued several listing upgrades including Bold title upgrades earlier this year to provide buyers with a "cleaner visual experience and relevance-based search experience."

It is unknown if and when eBay intends to implement this technology as a patent application is not necessarily indicative of an imminent rollout. While non-standard character listings are annoying to a large number of people in the eBay community and may actually have the opposite effect than intended...censorship is a slippery slope.

It is also unknown if eBay intends this to act as more progressive recommendation system to encourage best practices or outright block non-standard character listings. Moreover it opens up the possibility that buyers may have the option to filter out these type of listings from search results sometime in the future.

eBay's quest to become more uniform and provide a consistent catalogue shopping experience is increasingly at odds with sellers who are struggling to stand out from a crowd of more than two hundred million items for sale.

Do you want eBay L@@king out for non-standard character auction listings? Should they be banned? Let us know below!

Note: Since last year, eBay rolled out the new Cassini search engine. This year I had to perform an advance search "L@@K -LK" because eBay was capturing both "L@@K' and "LK" in the title search which would more than double my 124,378 figure above. This filter removes stock numbers such as "LK25723" from the search results. I don't recall having to create this filter last year but it's possible that I did.

About the Author
Brian Cohen has been an active member of the eBay community since May 1998, and he currently trades under the member name Bidofthis.com. His first AuctionBytes article was published in May 2002. Brian's reporting on Bitcoin in 2013 has been referenced in numerous publications including The Register, Tech Week Europe, TechCrunch and PC World. Brian can be contacted through his website at BidofThis.com where he always has a "little Bid of This and little Bid of That."




Comments (24) | Permalink

Readers Comments

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: Mr. Me This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 2 22:43:16 2013

while were at it lets get rid of the gimmiky "free shipping" and daily pics from ebarf homeepage..... and that annoying "buyer protection" shield, all cheap gimmicks!

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: sells-a-lot This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 2 23:39:44 2013

They are doing it because Google is going to start cracking down hard on items in Products Search with that kind of stuff in the title. Ebay wants to make sure their feed doesn't get messed with.  

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 3 00:02:31 2013

Wait---I thought ebay doesn't LIKE Google?>  And won't do anything to promote the site there?

But----they are willing to spend money to make LQQK etc go away--but--NOT to protect their CUSTOMERs from deadbeats and to provide REAL customer service?

Am I missing something here?

Disconnected much from what REALLY turns site users OFF ebay???

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: auctionguy This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 3 00:05:34 2013

Banned or not, I will never use such gimmicks. I hate them. They look waaaaaaaaay to cheesy.

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

This user has validated their user name. by: Bijoux Dragon
Web Site

Tue Sep 3 00:43:03 2013

To me they are super annoying and I do the opposite - I don't L@@K or even LQQK at any of these gimmicks.  Give me a rude order and I can guarantee that I'll do the opposite!

I suppose that for some items it may make a difference - some people actually watch infomercials too.  

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: Sierra This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 3 00:43:48 2013

WhAt AbOuT wHeN tItLeS aRe TyPeD lIkE tHiS?  ;-)

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Tue Sep 3 02:20:01 2013

Trademark for "Marketplace Listing Analysis Systems and Methods"?

Good Lord.  Why isn't the US Patent Office laughing in their face.  Is there anything they aren't attempting to patent? I'm surprised they haven't tried to claim all the letters of the alphabet and all of the colors of the rainbow.

Qverbearing micrQ-managing tyrants always causing disruptiQn, instability and chaQs . Why dQn't yQu address the real issues Qn yQur site and get rid of your Qwn gimmicks?

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: Leesantiques This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 3 04:33:02 2013

Once again Ebay seems to be concentrating on something that is, at most, annoying to some users - while ignoring or further creating problems that have real impact.  

Sad.

And how can the Patent Office hand out a patent on something like this?  Sounds like the global search and replace - or search and find - commands I've been using on word processors for the past 25+ years...

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: beverly This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 3 08:30:11 2013

I agree with ebay..as a buyer a tites with "strange" words just bother me and I pass on the lisitng

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: out-of-the-attic-2u This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 3 08:38:44 2013

I am in favor of this. I always had a distaste for that. I for one when I buy I stay away from sellers that use that type of listings. I for one think ebay is doing a good job since when I first started in 2005. Their changes have been for the better.

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: sundance This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 3 08:40:25 2013

I have always avoided listings on any site that have those tricky looking titles. They only annoy me.  

My online shopping time is often limited so I skip right over them.  Seller's loss, not mine.  There's always another listing with the same item somewhere online. And without annoying titles.

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: sundance This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 3 08:47:30 2013

I have always avoided listings on any site that have those tricky looking titles. They only annoy me.  

My online shopping time is often limited so I skip right over them.  Seller's loss, not mine.  There's always another listing with the same item somewhere online. And without annoying titles.

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

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

Tue Sep 3 09:23:17 2013

eBay's new policy probably has nothing to do with making their own site adhere to a more conventional standard. It is driven, rather by Google's announcement that it will kill off anything submitted to Google shopping which uses text and punctuation as a gimmick. But, it get worse. Google is also now insisting that grammar be correct; correct subject and verb agreement, for example. Don't believe it? Read this:

https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/2700371?hl=en
&ref_topic=2701481

Have
a nice day.

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: Opalie This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 3 10:02:58 2013

The worrying aspect is if,as per ebay SOP,they employ bots to put this into practice all hell will break loose given the ineptitude of their code monkeys

If implemented I expect to see wholesale editing/pulling of non compliant listings that actually ARE compliant.

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

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

Tue Sep 3 10:23:41 2013

What is worse is some sellers have seen others do this and are to dumb to realize what a turn-off it is to buyers. They are the same people that can't understand why 'photo 45' is a poor title. We have seen this on ecrater and with enough posts back and forth with the seller, they actually can't seem to see why this kind of title is stupid to use as they will then do something equally stupid (although at least more descriptive) and change their titles to 'rose 45' or 'rose photo 45'.

I think a lot of it comes down to education of those who truly want to make good titles and think since they have been seeing the ones with the weird words for years that they must be good ones and separate them out from the sellers that apparently are heavily influenced by TV products of the 'but wait there's more!' type and truly expect good sales to come out of using those quirky words.

I too, don't LQQK at those kinds of listings.

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 3 10:45:40 2013

Hate those titles. It LQQKs like an amateur that cannot be trusted so why even bother to look let alone buy something from.
I prefer and more impressed with a professional title. However, there are some that copy what ebay has in ebays description info. A lot of the time it is wrong. When I question the title and state the title and picture do not match, get the response ''ebay made me do it that way''. I have been told by a csr in the past that if you do not follow ebays filled in description when available you get very little (if any) exposure. Doesn't matter that ebay info is wrong. To me it is a way for a seller to get a neg, which makes ebay happy.  

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

This user has validated their user name. by: monkey

Tue Sep 3 11:55:49 2013

I believe that I read somewhere that FULL UPPER CASE WORDS in your title can negatively affect your listing in search.

Also, non-alpha numeric symbols, like "&", "+" and "$".

Has anyone else come across that advice?

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: Terry in Texas This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 3 13:58:16 2013

So, is using NWT, NWOT, NIB or EUC in my titles to describe the condition of the item considered to be annoying?

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

by: Massachusets Howler This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 3 14:50:51 2013

That is true monkey.
MH

eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles   eBay May Ban Annoying Auction Titles

This user has validated their user name. by: monkey

Tue Sep 3 17:20:27 2013

@MassHowler

Thanks MH.

@Terry

Yes, I personally find those abbreviations slightly annoying.

Mostly because I need to stop my brain and figure out what they stand for. And I'm a seller ... what about an everyday shopper who is not familiar with those acronyms? Might just make them move on to the next listing.

However, your use of acronyms is justified on the basis of accurate description.

The use of L@@K is just a cheap and tacky gimmick. That's beyond annoying! It actually angers me a little. It affects and cheapens all the surrounding listings in my opinion.

Let's hope eBay drops the hammer on those.

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