Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Fri July 31 2015 00:00:18

eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay's search engine has a serious problem relating to Item Specifics and filters. I worked with a seller today to try to understand what she discovered with her listings, and the results are disturbing.

For some of the examples she supplied me (clothing), if I filtered search results using all the item specifics she had set in a particular listing, eBay search excluded her listing from search results - even though some other sellers' listings appeared.

This is exactly the opposite of how it's supposed to work - the seller is being penalized for using Item Specifics when listing her products. And in these cases, she wasn't alone.


Along the way, I also discovered that despite certain listings containing a particular attribute in their Item Specifics, that attribute didn't always show up as an option in eBay's filter. The example I found was for a brand of cookware called Lagostina - I hadn't heard of it before, but it certainly was well known to Google's search engine and shopping ads and appears to be a somewhat popular brand.

Despite finding four listings where sellers had been able to add the Lagostina name under the Brand attribute, it didn't show up in the search filter - meaning shoppers who searched for skillet and tried to narrow down search results to that brand would be unable to.


That's two problems: one is that your listing may be excluded from search for using an Item Specifics attribute. The other is that a particular attribute you use may be excluded from eBay's filters.

The end result is the same in both instances: shoppers ain't gonna find your listings if they do broad searches and use eBay's filters to narrow down the results.

The second phenomenon you can try yourself. Go to eBay, enter the word "skillet," and try to find the brand "Lagostina" in Item Specifics under Brand. 

Yes, you can find items if you search for "Lagostina skillet" in eBay search, but a shopper who doesn't do that to begin with is going to see the long list of other brands in eBay's filter, and the shopper is most likely going to think there are no Lagostina-brand skillets on eBay.

And remember, this is not about the fact that eBay isn't including Lagostina as an attribute. You can see the Brand=Lagostina inside each of the four sellers' product listings.

Note that the reason I selected that particular term was because I read about a person having a problem finding that brand of skillet on eBay in this discussion board thread from yesterday, so I started testing it for myself.

The first phenomenon is in my opinion much more worrying, and a bit harder for someone to test - I could test it because the seller gave me actual examples of her listings. But based on her description of the problem, it shouldn't be too difficult to discover on your own.

I suggest you try using eBay search - enter a broad term for your item (i.e., "pants" or "sweater"), then try using the filters for all of your Item Specifics and see if your listings show up in search results when you narrow it down all the way (size, color, material, pattern, etc.).

The more I tested the seller's listings and experimented myself with Item Specifics, the more confused I became - I couldn't find a pattern to explain the cause of the malfunction.

What's so insidious about this problem with eBay search is that it isn't readily apparent. You really have to be looking for it to realize it exists. And since eBay is excluding relevant listings in search results, buyers may end up leaving the site unable to find what they were looking for, not realizing there are actually matching products for sale on the site.

Does anyone in eBay's search department know about this problem with Item Specifics? Does anyone in management know about it?

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Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: hopeforthebest This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 10:29:00 2015

People are very confused about what search is intended to do. They think search is intended to INCLUDE certain terms.

Search is intended to whittle down the list of possibilities into a manageable number, so it  EXCLUDES most results.

For example: if you type in 'green blouse' you'll get hundreds of thousands of hits because there are very few EXCLUSIONS.

Type in 'dark green long sleeve 100% cotton button front Lane Bryant blouse' and you will EXCLUDE listings that don't include those terms in the primary engine parameters. The list will be short and precise.

Simple enough to grasp. But after this is where people start to go wrong in their logic.

A 2nd set of parameters then decides if the list generated is optimal in terms of DESIRABILITY, meaning 'likelihood of being sold'.

In the case of a search whose terms bring up too few or no results, the system will EXCLUDE search terms according to a preset priority tree until it returns a certain minimal/optimal number of what it thinks are MOST DESIRED results.

In the article's example, the search engine has made a decision that in this case the name brand term inhibits the secondary 'likelihood of selling'/DESIRABLE parameter.

In this case the name brand causes the pan to be EXCLUDED, not INCLUDED, because the search engine is a tool of EXCLUSION.

Think of it this way:

Ebay wants to sell as many frying pans as they can. In their opinion, MOST people who look for frying pans don't care very much about name brand, they MOSTLY care about physical characteristics, ie size, shape, color, nonstick, insulated handle, materials.

Ebay believes people who buy pans won't buy a 10'' aluminum pan that's the wrong shape if they want a 9'' iron pan, just because of the name brand. Function trumps branding.

In my own case, that is true. I want a certain size and  shape pan, at a particular price point.

If it happens to be a brand I like that's a bonus, but brand is the last thing on my list. Therefore, of the 5-7 important pan characteristics, BRAND becomes an EXCLUSION.

The lesson from this is choose the keywords that are most likely to get eyes on your product, not the ones YOU think are important.

I hope I've explained this clearly enough for people to understand.

This truly is a counter-intuitive concept, but if you put enough time into considering it, you'll start to get where it's coming from and why the system works this way.

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Fri Jul 31 10:49:43 2015

I searched eBay for: "lagostina skillet"

Search came back with 4 results.

I use Lodge skillets in my kitchen

eBay search came back with 1640 results for "Lodge skillet"

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Fri Jul 31 11:11:03 2015

I noticed that list did NOT have Griswold listed.

A eBay search for "Griswold skillet" returned 1112 results.

I don't use refined search when I look on eBay. I just use the wording of what I'm looking for.

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: Frank Abagnale This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 11:21:23 2015

"Everybody should cut this article and send a copy to Wenig at Ebay."

Better yet. All those people attending the Ebay 20th Year Bash should have the privilege to pay the $65 (or $95 after today) to tell them to their face.

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Fri Jul 31 11:24:55 2015

hopeforthebest says "People are very confused about what search is intended to do."

No offense intended, but I think that you are confused about what search is supposed to do, at least from a buyer's perspective. When people use search, they want to find what they are looking for. They don't want to see everything that they are not looking for.

I think Ina's article pretty much explains what we are talking about. Most of us here remember when search DID work on eBay.  It does not work anymore, which is why so many just get frustrated and fed up and go elsewhere.

The acronym KISS--keep it simple stupid comes to mind.

I think what eBay have created related to search is self-serving.  eBay is not the buyer, so self-serving as it relates to eBay should not be what search is all about.

Of course they can leave it alone, and ignore the voice-of-the customer, which they are known for doing, and we will continue to see eBay Marketplaces decline.

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: ignatz This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 11:31:45 2015

Cassini has been "sub optimal" ever since it was unleashed on the public.  eBay thought they were being smart by hiring "Buzzword Boy", aka Hugh Williams, away from Microsoft.  But they were wrong.  

As we all know, eBay ultimately released Mr. Williams from his employment, so he could "spend more time with his family."  IOW - he was fired when the dim-witted execs finally realized what a total disaster Cassini was.

A few months later, Wenig stated that it could take years to "fine tune" Cassini.

Says Mr. Williams on his LinkedIn public profile:

"I'm an entrepreneur, innovator, executive leader, and engineering and data science expert. My passion is creating great ideas with smart people, and delivering thought-leading, massive scale products that impact millions of people."

Yeah, right Hughie. Your badly designed, poorly implemented, bug-riddled software has had an impact on millions of people alright.

The funny thing? Nowhere on his public profile does the name "Cassini" appear.  Yet Mr. Williams seems to take credit for virtually ALL of eBay's marketplace technology.

Mr. Williams now lists himself as "self-employed." (Might as well say "between disasters.")

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: meci This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 11:46:42 2015

The problem will only be fixed when eBay decides to hold itself accountable for more than dictating policy that's enforced on the masses and allowed on the select few.  With all the changes in management and policy its hard to imagine if anyone truly knows wtf is going on.

Just another glitch to add to the pile of rubble.

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: JQ This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 11:57:23 2015

Ina, Huge thumbs up for writing and posting this article. Problems of this nature are completely common on Ebay. Like many sellers I simply do not feel my ability to sell items is under my control. I can work hard and do everything I think I need to in order to help shoppers find my products and accurately describe them, but in the end there is a very large chance none of it will matter because Ebay will either exclude my items entirely from search results, or suppress them well down the list in order to promote other items that the shopper was never interested in to begin with. Ebay's traffic manipulation has completely demoralized sellers who know they are largely powerless to succeed on the site using factors under their own control, and alienated shoppers who have increasingly come to see Ebay as an annoying high-pressure sales pitch site, not a site on which to find and purchase the specific products for which they are looking.

If Weing were truly serious about reviving Ebay his first step would be to eliminate all Ebay efforts to manipulate exposure and search results. That one step would go a long way to fixing the core problem on the site, a problem actively created and fostered by Ebay management.

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 12:01:23 2015

Problems will only be fixed when eBay is hurting enough from lack of sales, to decide that they have to change things. I am not convinced, at this point, that getting more sales from the "noise" is a big priority for eBay. They get so much money from other sources, ads on your listing pages, directing sales to the BIG sellers, manipulations of all kinds to bring in money, they even get money from some of the glitches they have going on. Small seller sales, may just be a big PIA for eBay. So they have little motivation to correct the things we find obvious to make it easier and more profitable for small sellers.

Lest we forget, eBay's ONLY motivation is to make money for eBay and shareholders, not the "noise".

They really don't care much about small sellers making money.  

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by: Clothing Seller This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 12:15:05 2015

I am the seller Ina worked with.  There are things that I need to say and add to this story but at this moment I am in the process of relisting every single one of my products as fresh new listing.  I will be back with some very important points I have learned from this experience.  I wanted to say before this article dies down and gets buried by the next story that I am here and there is additional information sellers who take their livelihoods seriously need to be aware of.

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: brokentoys19 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 12:25:10 2015

"People are very confused about what search is intended to do."

yeah, right.

Seems to be more for Big Data mining and increasing clicks/traffic/time on site. Because it fails miserably for searching & finding. It. just. doesn't. work. Borked ! lmao

However, it functions perfectly as a way to vend "service not rendered" to gullible sellers.

Don't forget the removal of the wildcard* function either, and the lame excuses they gave. They wanted people to run a search for each individual term and gave long convoluted "search and finding reeducation" instructions that know one is going to do...  lmao

Not only that, but it's not trustworthy, even/especially from the buyers point of view. Waste of time once you know it shows you what *it wants, not what *you are looking for.

and also don't forget, buyers are stupid. They don't want to be educated....

and... Depends what the meaning of the word "is" is.

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 13:56:55 2015

Well, here is some very bad news for eBay

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/why-ebay-inc-ebay-could-1243
12361.html

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

This user has validated their user name. by: LDS Brother

Fri Jul 31 14:12:46 2015

MAXMAD said : "For example one product that was always a best seller for us, became our worst seller almost over night, we could not understand, it just never became popular again on ebay, and stayed like that for years"

Exactly, one of my best sellers for years and years on eBay, tried true and proven I could not give away now if my life depended on it ! My items sell elsewhere but eBay

eBay has no explanation for this ! They tell me I have good placement, Top Rated, best price blah blah blah and not a valid explanation for why something that used to sell everyday for a higher price, I cannot give away anymore at rock bottom price !

SCREW YOU eBay !!!!! I and others are sick of your games, either roll it back to Pre - Donahoe, or close the internet doors forever on eBay !

We sellers, are not going to listen to the BS anymore, we sellers do not buy on your site, as most of us make nothing compared to what we once did.

Do you honestly thing we tell people to shop/sell on eBay ? eBay is dying, it is time to close it Wenig ! Unless you roll it back Pre - Donahoe stop the BS ! The gimmicks, the games, the crap !

I am so grateful I no longer rely on your pathetic, unfair manipulated ugly platform !

And I suggest all other sellers leave also !

Game is rigged, eBay lies ! Google killed it also !

Man eBay is so dead and done for ! Please Wenig roll it back, or close it forever that is the only 2 choices !

None of the gimmicks work, and they won't ! Cassini sucks eggs !

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: ajeweler This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 14:28:04 2015

not surprising at all always something at freebay, I sincerely think they do this for the free advertising bad attention better than no attention..............

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by: whathappened This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 14:34:10 2015

My mother has bought and sold on ebay for twenty years.  The other day she searched for fabric remnants for her next quilting project.  The search gave her doll parts, dolls, pans, and everything else but fabric remnants.  She gave up - why bother??

As an ebay seller my sales have plummeted 90% lately.  I understand it should be slower in the summertime, but my sell through rate was 80% before the bottom fell out.  The search engine is definitely broken since I sell one brand of new boutique clothing -- you are either looking for that particular brand or you are not the way I see it.  My regular buyers cannot seem to find my items lately and when they do there seems to always be a glitch with the check out system.  Nothing works anymore on ebay.  It is just one mess after another.

I have moved my items to other websites but not much luck.  They just don't have the traffic ebay has or had.  My business has collapsed like many of you -- and I PAY ebay for this?  Most of the time I know I am not showing up in searches anyway -- my sales come in two at a time within a thirty minute time frame from one state and then no sales for seven days or so.  I would venture to say they are hiding smaller sellers so all the traffic goes to the overseas sellers in order to meet their ''quotas''.



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by: Clothing Seller This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 14:37:07 2015

I am the seller Ina worked with on this article.  What I have to say is in reference to the many different variations of what I have come to know as, canned, conditioned responses.  Phrases such as or similar to, "best match is working as intended", is not the base of this article although it relates to it directly only for the knowledge that "best match" is the search mechanism ebay is defaulted to.

I went two weeks with self generated traffic from pinterest which I'm sorry to disappoint, does NOT have a viable conversion rate.  One of the most important moves I made was to create an advertising account from outside sources where I have access to the data ebay is not providing to it's sellers.  I used varied key phrases, words and terms, broad catches, specific catches and utilized all of the data gathering tools available to me.  The filters I had in place captures exactly the way people are searching for products. With the knowledge I gained from having access to such data,  is that my product choices are spot on. It makes sense to me that my product choices are spot on because with in depth knowledge of the fashion industry, I spent my entire summer researching what products I would be offering, and forming a business plan.  For all practical purposed the fruits of my labor should have started to make it's appearance 3 weeks ago and be in full swing by November.

When ebay tells it's sellers that "best match" is based on what is most desirable, I stand tall and adamantly disagree as loudly and fiercely as humanly possible.  ebay "best match" is functioning on multi-channel sellers who offer specific niche products and excludes pertinent information based on it's own functioning.  The data ebay has can not possibly reflect accuracy because of the biases within it's own data gathering mechanisms.  The results are more than inaccurate, it is the reason ebay growth rate is under performing.  We'll leave Carl Icahn and all financial market influences out of this discussion because these are issues beyond our control as sellers.  Our issues are inventing ways to stand out, sell our products and not just survive but thrive in the current climate.  may the best man win!

Whether or not my findings of my products being 100% unsearchable and 100% excluded from ebays best match portion of it's engine, being a glitch or a deliberate action, doesn't matter.  What I find most striking is the level of complacence by employee's of ebay through out the levels of bureaucracy and the willingness of ebay corporation to offer it's small sellers up to sacrifice as consequential collateral damage.  I can appreciate it because I do believe being in business involves game theory but I also recognize the definition of madness.  The two are incompatible.

Fact:  Whatever goes on behind closed doors, one thing I do know is there is no such thing as security or comfort in business.  People will make deals behind closed doors, shake hands and congratulate each other for conquering their challenges, but as Mr Donahue can attest to, no one person has all of the knowledge and the decisions we make today affect our tomorrows.



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

Fri Jul 31 14:45:03 2015

“Finally, we began layering in something called "best match" into our core site. Those of you who use eBay, if you look in your search box, you can select best match as an option which will help you get to the items you want more quickly.”—John Donahoe (26 Sept 2007).
http://www.leggmason.com/thoughtleaderforum/2007/conference/
donahoe.html
 
[Another of Johnny Ho’s cruel jokes on consumers: he’s now reading our minds.]

“The version that eBay will roll out sitewide is nowhere near the perfect fix eBay's been looking for, I was told, but it is designed to allow the company to continue to launch and test iterations to see what works and what doesn't. (eBay's current mantra is, "test and learn," something not reassuring to the test subjects!)”—
http://www.ecommercebytes.com/C/blog/blog.pl?/comm
ents///1370438902.html/
[Ah,
yes, still trying to work out what works best to direct searchers to eBay’s preferred sellers. What a shame it is that no matter how much they test, they never learn.]

“eBay's goal is to treat search as a way to connect every shopper to the listings and sellers that are most interesting to [i]them[/i], as quickly and as painlessly as possible.” … “Shoppers should quickly see the results that they [i]intend[/i] to see and/or [i]want[/i] to see, rather than having to dig through results that don't matter to them.” … “eBay is not focused on showing you, any other particular seller, or even any particular product to shoppers in response to a search. Instead, eBay wants to show every shopper the listings that are [i]most likely to result in a completed sale with a high-satisfaction outcome.[/i]” … “eBay wants to create search results that simply [i]make sense[/i] to buyers, that serve them well as customers, and that drive repeat business for eBay and eBay sellers over the long term. Buyers will see the items they're most likely to actually buy, from sellers that are most likely to keep them coming back to eBay the next time around.”—Todd Alexander, Director of Onsite Search at eBay.com.au (11 June 2013)
http://www.terapeak.com/blog/2013/06/11/terapeak-how-to-cruci
al-factors-in-ebay-search-for-the-new-cassini-platform#.UeBHTbV-9zl
[Ah,
the eBay Ouija board at work again …]

“To those experiencing decreased sales have you looked around the marketplace at what your competitors are doing? Do you review your prices in line with them to stay competitive? You can run listing analytics reports on your Seller Dashboard to see how often your items are showing in search and the sell-through rate is also shown versus the top performing items in your category, if they are not performing well it might be time to give listings fresh photographs or better descriptions. …”—eBay UK Forums Moderator (20 June 2013)
http://community.ebay.co.uk/topic/Business-Seller-Board/Switc
hed/18000498295?start=1080
[And
this is the sort of advice eBay is going to offer “every leading retailer, brand and manufacturer across the world”…]

“… eBay is recruiting Strategic Account Managers who will ‘proactively provide direction to the merchant on Search & Listing Optimization, marketing, inventory management, shipping economics, fulfillment strategy, improving the buyer experience, risk management, fraud, Trust & Safety policies, negative account actions, and other strategic and operational needs to ensure eBay store is optimised for sales growth.’”—
http://jobs.ebaycareers.com/ie/dublin/marketing-an
d-sales/jobid3775253-strategic-account-manager-ebay-jobs
[Too
funny—LOL …]
 
“In general, Williams advised sellers who want to be successful with eBay search that they 1) need to be found in search; 2) have someone click on their item and 3) sell that item. …”—Hugh Williams (June 2013)
[Is it any wonder that Hugh is now retired from eBay “to spend more time with his family” …]

Many more classic quotes from the cretins in the eBay executive suite at ... http://bit.ly/12xvzyA

The eBay executive suite—where the incompetent mingle with the disingenuous, the malevolent and the outright criminal, and the just plain stupid … http://bit.ly/11F2eas

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Fri Jul 31 15:06:30 2015

Punishment for not using their new promotional li$ting $cheme?

Perminate Link for eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up   eBay Search Is Seriously Messed Up

by: Eric Saeger This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jul 31 16:30:26 2015

Criminal negligence is what's going on with Cassini. It's either that or Donahoe was purposely trying to tank the marketplace for hedge purposes. There's no third option.  A class action suit is way overdue.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Fri Jul 31 17:40:48 2015

I usually only filter out other countries when I search for clothing.  And most times gender - BUT you can lose out on some items if you do even that.

No point in ever filtering tops and blouses from sweaters as a knit top to one person is a sweater to another.  Coats and Jackets are a mess.

For clothing - After brand and size in the search box, the less filter the better, imo.  

I do think clothing is a bit easier than some antique or collectible categories - I still have trouble finding specific things without running about 3-4 searches in different ways.  

No wonder less search-hardened buyers give up.  



Is OP planning on excluding all non-mandatory filters when re-listing?


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