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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Readers Comments

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

by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 08:43:43 2015

Sellers, go into your own favorite category and see for yourself what "filters" or identifiers are in eBay's official lists of brand names. My bet is you'll find it's pretty pathetic.  

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by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 08:45:26 2015

@Chicago48

Sending this to eBay's [mis-]management will accomplish Zippo! as they operate in a total state of denial.  Devil Wingnut was hand-picked by The Hoe.  

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by: Volvo351 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 08:48:05 2015

BTW, kudos to Ina for following eBay's "discussion board" and following it up with independent verification.  Remember, these boards are available to eBay's [mis-]management but like all information resources they choose to remain in willful ignorance of reality.  The Emperor - now Devil Wingnut - has No Clothes but proudly parades around stark raving naked - of common sense!

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by: rhawk This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 09:11:26 2015

LDS Brother....

The same happened to me.  

Very well stated and written.

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by: whathappened This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 09:50:08 2015

One of my listings under the title ebay has added "Top Selling Product".  Top selling product means to me that is sells quickly and is a sought after product.  Funny how it only has three views in ten days and those are probably bot views.  Proof again ebay has my items hidden.  If it is such a top selling product how come no one is even looking at it?  This weekend I had two sales both located in the south.  Coincidence?  I think NOT!

Devin I know you read these boards.  Just know that hiding listings and rotating views is unethical.  You need to tell your programmers to fix it.  Why would you want to destroy someone's business when Ebay makes money from me when I sell something?  The sellers have proved to you over and over again that Cassini does not work.  The very idea ebay tells sellers their sales are slow or non-existent is because their pictures are terrible or their descriptions are not well written is NOT the truth.  Read my feedback and you will see otherwise.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Mon Aug 3 09:52:13 2015

@ philip

"Is Devin Little going to carry on with Johnny Ho's failed plan? Who knows? I don't think it matters:"

It doesn't matter!

It's business as usual when Meg was here, when John took over and now with Devin.

I could care less who runs eBay as long as the site is up and running.

That's all that matters, buyers will find my merchandise. . .

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by: WillNeverAgaineBay This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 09:52:38 2015

eBay's search has been seriously messed up for years, well prior to the changes over the past 8 years.  Some of the issues are most certainly not accidental glitches; they are methods and coding used to control, restrict, throttle, and deny certain sellers' sales. Other issues are likely due to the fact it is all built on a flawed platform to begin with.  eBay has ''fixed'' problems that did not exist for years. Just when things were going smoothly, an ''improvement'' is made that does just the opposite of ''improving'' anything...that is, aside from improving eBay's profits, garnered from the fees charged to sellers for services that in actuality eBay is  failing to provide.   I no longer sell on eBay, being blocked from selling due to a bizarre glitch that even a 15 year vet tech from eBay was pulling out his hair over trying to figure out (quote from tech: ''This should not happen.'') and after a 3 hour telephone call, it was never resolved, and likely left the tech with an ulcer that I suspect is still growing to this day.  My exasperating experience with eBay over several years culminated with my gales of laughter, as the whole situation was SO utterly ludicrous.  The flaw, should the same circumstances ever replicate itself, but involve a huge corporation as the seller (rather than a small seller who eBay ignores anyway),  will most CERTAINLY result in eBay being sued into the stone age by the corporate seller's legal department. Yes, we're talking about a flaw, a glitch that would take eBay down. So, the fact that eBay has serious issues all over the site is of no surprise to me. I am just sitting back awaiting the Goliath's untimely, and dramatic demise as a result. I may be denied that, only because all the other issues the site is fraught with may have the same result, or in the least cause eBay to wither and die a slow, painful death from the cancer that seems to be spreading throughout the site, despite the amputations that are occurring, though those amputations are for profit, not to save the life of the site.

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Mon Aug 3 10:41:38 2015

Millions upon millions of items sell everyday on eBay.

How do buyers find all this stuff if search doesn't work?

If I need a 3x rivet gun I search for "3x rivet gun"

If I want a Atlas Copco 3x rivet gun I search for "Atlas Copco 3x rivet gun" or maybe a "Chicago Pneumatic 4x rivet gun".

It doesn't get much easier then that!

PS: I happen to like eBay's:

CAN YOU SEE ME search engine

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by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 10:42:50 2015

Search is ridiculous on ebay.
ebay hides or simply deletes the listing from view.

That is the recipe for a company to fail.

The CEO and the BOD are paid millions???  It really looks like an intentional act of STEALING.

As long as JD is buddies with Obama, no one can touch them for anything.  

Wall street boys get paid on ''action''. Buy-Sell. They get a cut both ways. As bonus money, they get little ''gifts'' indirectly from certain companies to push.

IMO ebay will have to totally clean house. New BOD, new officers, basically start all over.  Then and only then will they have a ''chance'' to survive.  I'm not talking about being number one again. That ship left years ago and is not coming back.  

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

Mon Aug 3 10:43:48 2015

Thank you rhawk !

At least you agree, and have experienced unfortunately what I have, and countless others

Volvo, you can complain for 8 more years, and point out all that is wrong, and it is all moot

It will not fix, or turn around, or restore buyer or seller love for eBay

eBay is as toxic as toxic can be

Donahoe burnt all bridges, destroyed everything, while reaping handsome rewards for himself

He could of cared less about us as sellers, human beings, or eBay itself

Apparently Pierre could of cared less, as soon as Amazon started to grow Donahoe should of been given a pink slip immediately

Think about this, Pierre has become rich from eBay, Donahoe has become rich with millions upon million the last 7 years

Do any of you honestly think these 1% er's are concerned about our families ? Our Mortgages ? Our business ? Our future ? Absolutely not

Folks yer wasting your time selling on eBay, and complaining to them !

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Mon Aug 3 11:14:34 2015

@ LSD Brother

"Folks yer wasting your time selling on eBay, and complaining to them !"

You're right complaining will do no good!

But you're wrong about selling and buying on eBay!

You just need to know what to buy and sell.

Ebay works and works well if you know how to work it. . .

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by: Tornad0sRul This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 12:01:32 2015

@Rexford, no one in management at EBay cares. They have read for many years about how inept, inaccurate, and manipulated their searches are and they have done absolutely nothing to change or to fix it.  That is why everyone is leaving.  When EBay knows that there are problems, or they are made aware of the fact that sellers are not happy, they simply don't care and they take no action to rectify their problems.  EBay is not an ethical company so we must never expect them to do the right thing.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 12:16:38 2015

Search - who shows up, who shows up when, and who shows up where are ALL manipulated by eBay, PERIOD. And it was all done for financial gain. NO SEARCH ON EBAY IS ORGANIC.

Cassini was designed for that specific reason and it will NEVER go back to what it was PRE JD. JD was hired to monetize eBay and thats EXACTLY what he did. That is why he received $23 million extra aka golden parachute. Like some weird VD strain - its the gift that keeps on giving.

JD was nothing more then a mad doctor Frankenstein who created Cassini to terrorize the towns people (aka his sellers). JD Always believed that there were "more where that came from" - sellers would always duly arrive - so no need to keep the old ones once they ran their course. Pay homage (back end money) to the good doctor, and YOU TOO will get prime placement. If you DON'T pay up, then like the Mafia ... "things may accidentally break". "Cause it sure would be a shame if you didn't come up first, or at all, right??"

Ask buy aka buy.com aka Rakuten - in electronics, THEY used to come up first ALL THE TIME.

Or you can ask Macys. They too used to be one of Johnnys "boys". They came up first all the time too. Now they like Rakuten left, and whats left is the next group - in electronics its Sonic Electronics ... no idea who it is in home goods.

Things cant change, since eBay is saddled with debt (they took Paypal's debt hoping people would find dealing with Paypal more palatable and actually want to do business with them)(but it seems that VISA already knows Paypal is radioactive).

When I called eBay about a search issue a few weeks back they told me "despite your perfect record, despite your being here since 1998, despite your fast moving items - we cant always put you first - its not fair". I asked "to whom?" They answered - to all the other sellers. I asked "even if they have higher prices, worse records or just started selling?" They said YES. (the interesting part) "We rotate ALL listings in all categories all the time". "If you search for a specific item, and at that time you have the best price and record then YOU MAY / SHOULD come up on the first page, maybe on the top of the page".

Thats it isnt it? You can have the best record, you can have the best price - but eBay still ROTATES you out of your spot "just cause".

One can argue the merits of the rotation - but the point here is - its NOT organic, and it doesnt seem to matter what you really do - since you can "earn" your way to be shown and shown up front/first.

eBay also crows about taxes (write in to your senator... blah blah) but lies about its intentions. They show NY sellers to CA people and CA sellers to NYers - trying to cheat those states out of tax funds. eBay says its honest and above board - but its playing fast and loose with the laws!

As well (why I called in to start with) eBay lets overseas sellers into the first page/top section when they shouldnt.

I asked them why Hong Kong sellers werent in the bottom overseas section when their seller name is "HK_watch_sellers" and the listing says "may take 2-3 weeks - ships from Hong Kong".

Its unfair that US sellers selling on eBay.com should have to face off with overseas sellers. They are supposed to be in the International Section on the bottom of the first page.

eBay told me "too bad they have a USA contact address which is enough" ... I asked "enough for forced returns? ...... I was told NO - overseas/Chinese sellers dont "participate" in that program.

eBay = den of thieves

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This user has validated their user name. by: cfrphoto

Mon Aug 3 12:29:53 2015

In the eBay Stamps category, filter drop down list does not follow generally accepted philatelic terminology. An egregious example is "mint no gum". No reputable dealer would describe an unused stamp without gum as mint. It would be better if eBay eliminated the drop down lists in the stamps category since they seem to be unwilling to pay anyone with the necessary expertize or reach out to professional organizations like the American Stamp Dealer Association or the American Philatelic Society.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Mon Aug 3 12:37:35 2015

The solution to search

Sell items that only have 1 or 2 pages of results!

It's hard to compete with other sellers of the same items.

I wouldn't be selling aircraft tools if 50,000 other sellers had those items listed!

It's bad enough competing with 1000 other specialized tool sellers.

When I came to eBay there was maybe 25 aircraft tool sellers, today that number is close to 1000

I'm happy and thankful with the buyers eBay brings me.

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

Mon Aug 3 13:13:47 2015

Toolguy good for you

But I can assure you for what I sell there is no logical explanation to my failed eBay sales

Other than throttling, blackouts, or manipulated search

I do not care no more if I get 1 sale every 2 weeks, or every 2 years, eBay is no longer my main source of income

Maybe your an Uncle Grief to blogs ? To counter the severe negative reviews eBay truly has earned since John Donahoe ? Who knows, and more importantly who cares

For you toolguy, there is probably 90 sellers who disagree with you, but that is irrelavant, what is relevant for the masses excluding Toolguy is we have been put out of business and the site sucks, and Google SEO has demolished it !

I still think Google was the straw the broke the camels back for virutally all of us excluding Toolguy, and maybe a few others

And to those who were ruined I say don't waste yer time or money on the nauseating eBay platform

Don't help Uncle Grief, he is a waste of payroll !

What the heck has Grief done for you an I since 2008 ?

NOTHING !

He is like one of those guys in the old war movies, who think the leader is dick, jerk, clown, etc. and secretly hoped someone would replace the leader, but smiles and brown noses to keep his pudgie little belly fed with pastries etc. !

Toolguy your 2 eager to cheer on eBay which is very suspicious to me !

So your doing good ! Do you lack the wisdom, empathy and sight to clearly see that the mass majority are not ?

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

Mon Aug 3 13:30:36 2015

Toolguy, I do not tell you not to sell on eBay, your one of the rare ones, and I mean rare that must make a go of it !

But realize this, we sellers who have all been put out of business, are experienced, season veterans of eBay

I had it growing each year, yes growing, every year up and up till 2008

When Donahoe took over, down down down ! Each year less income a consistent downward trend, $10,000 last year, and only $900 this year and I am in August

Even though you maybe doing good, show some empathy and respect for those of us who have a legitimate gripe with eBay !

I do not insult eBay for fun, or to just talk trash about it ! I was a huge advocate of it ! I promoted it ! I loved eBay and loved it like you could not imagine !

Then in 2008 Donahoe showed me what he thought of my loyalty, hardwork, and my future to continue to earn a living and many others like me !

He more or less showed me the door, and I refused to take it from being in shock !

I felt like a fighter who was knocked down and should of stayed down, and each time I got up seller releases hit me harder and harder !

All the fine folks on this blog encouraged me for years to find another venue, my own website etc. which I finally did !

So you do good toolguy, masses no longer do, and in my opinion you should be able to see that as serious issue for once dedicated sellers who did absolutely nothing to earn the demolition of their hard earned business, efforts and time and money

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

Mon Aug 3 13:45:28 2015

Clothing Seller wrote:
"Per Bloomberg Business, '[Donahoe] has been Non-Executive Chairman and Director of PayPal Holdings, Inc. since July 17, 2015.'
This is not a position with any significant amount of decision making authority.  He's sort of the equivalent of a token or honorary participant."

Bain insisted on an expendable dingbat to watchdog the mess. Donahoe is the voice no one wants to hear at meetings.
What a train wreck. Side-splitting stuff.

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by: Troy Stiffler This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 14:24:26 2015

@Clothing Seller - "I am literally bankrupt.  I am losing everything as a result of this."

That sucks.  I've been through it.  Everything hinges on Ebay - and then BOOM.  If I were you, I'd hurry up and get a job, and treat Ebay as a hobby until you can figure out how to make your business work without them.  When they canned me, I tried to reason with them, write letters, etc. - every possible way.

Ebay is too big (and dumb) to treat you like a person.  It doesn't matter how big you are, or how many fees you've paid.  They do not care about you.  You might be a sidenote, to their team, who might fix this problem a year from now.  But don't expect anything to happen.

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Mon Aug 3 14:31:14 2015

toolguy states: "Sell items that only have 1 or 2 pages of results!"

The items must be extremely rare or hard to find that there are only two pages maximum of results. What, toolguy, do you suggest we sell on eBay? Faberge eggs? A Lamborghini Veneno? A 1913 Liberty Head V Nickel? Maybe you can give us some pointers about what items are in demand and without a lot of competition.  

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