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

This user has validated their user name. by: Shop and Ship

Mon Aug 3 14:32:20 2015

I hear you, LDS Brother. Something's not right, and hasn't been for a long time.

Even today, I see that one of my eBay listings sold 24 new items in July; my 3 nearest competitors COMBINED sold 9 identical items and None of them have 100% Feedback. My Feedback is 100% with 100% Shipping etc.

So, I am Number 4 in the ''Best Match'' column. I posted 8 professional  quality photos, added a dozen ''Item Specifics'', and drafted a beautiful Description Page that is focused entirely on meaningful details about the product. So, the other 3 used stock photos, a minimal title, no specifics, and a description that is simply a copy of the listing title, with a price that is 10, 50, or 75 cents lower. And at least one competitor has a Policy Violation (I guess) for initially copying my photo. He merely reposted with a stock photo and cut his price by 50 cents and now his listing ranks above mine in the Best Match. Go figure!

And do you know what I care about? The 24 Happy Customers that paid into my PayPal Account in July!

My point is that my listing should be in the number one position and I should be out-of-stock instead of seeing 110 new listings and wondering if the market for these items is about to collapse into the 99 cent sale with ''free shipping'' with a 180 day return window.

One of my other listings - along with 4 of my competitors - dropped from top of the ''Best Match'' heap to somewhere at the bottom of Page Nine even though we all offer a broader selection, better service, have better Feedback, and better prices. Like you, LDS Brother, I wonder at how my first 834 sales of that item were Top Notch but eBay has somehow calculated that my next sale is going to be a dud.

So, like you said, somethin' ain't right in Mudville.  

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

Mon Aug 3 14:47:17 2015

Owen wrote:
"The question I keep going back to is WHY would eBay not want to show all listings. Is it because they don't have the ability to show everything, either storage-wise, equipment-wise or IT-wise? That speaks to a lack of money. Why would a company deliberately devalue themselves? Even if they would want to be bought, wouldn't they put best foot forward? Nothing makes any sense."

=========================

Glassdoor.com is a site where employees of companies review their own workplaces. One top eBay engineer wrote that the servers are "outdated."

That's one reason Cassini was implemented. There's simple math involved. Pound for pound, eBay requires more raw disk space/bandwidth than Amazon. Amazon has one listing for each unique item, with 1-10 pics, and many small seller entries which don't require a lot of space.  eBay, however, has hundreds or thousands of full-blown listings for each unique product, each with pictures, text, etc.).

The above model would be okay if eBay were using a few dozen top-drawer mainframes, or even a few cryogenically cooled Cray mainframes like the government uses. But they aren't.

I can guarantee you that part of Cassini's "thinking" revolves around basic storage. eBay uses clusters of servers of one type or another and they're probably, as the guy said, outdated -- probably RS-6000 machines and other mini-mainframes. For all we know, some data (listings) gets put on old XP machines.  No one knows.

Instead of upgrading hardware appropriately and tweaking their old search engine a little for true "revolving" visibility, they decided to spend those millions instead on Cassini, an organ-grinder of Theft of Service.  They offset the charges by switching Best Match to key off of newest-first instead of ending-soonest, so that "savvy" sellers would do a lot of end-and-relist, racking up fees.

Donahoe should be arrested for gross corporate malfeasance, felony-level breach of trust and felony-level theft of service.  You know he was the one who approved "rotating" visibility, which, by definition, is fraud relative to the user agreements in place while he was implementing these changes.

This also explains the sudden rush to consolidate listings a la Amazon, by stressing the catalog and requiring UPCs.  They spent too many years ignoring the catalog.  There should have been a data entry department working on that stuff for the last 10 years, but they didn't.

Thus this push for UPCs and a working catalog is like trying to bail water out of the Titanic using drywall buckets.  Corporate turpitude and hubris ruined eBay.

The next owners of eBay need to level the playing field by upgrading hardware, for starters.  I'd be fine with "rotating" visibility if I'm selling something 10,000 other guys are selling, but I refuse to put up with any part of the rotation algorithm consisting of blackouts.  That's just outright stealing and misrepresentation.

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

Mon Aug 3 14:55:42 2015

One other thing. Large databases also require indexing segments, in other words, huge data chunks where searches are saved. If the servers can't handle that data in any sort of timely manner, you'd see problems like Clothing Seller's "full length text" searches not working properly.

It's the hardware.

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

This user has validated their user name. by: Shop and Ship

Mon Aug 3 15:09:49 2015

I agree 100% with Eric Saeger's opinion about what the problem is at eBay.

Two weeks ago I couldn't relist some of my items because my photos were ''outside acceptable parameters''. So after months of being prompted to upgrade my photos, now I was being blocked from uploading until I degraded my photos that had already been uploaded to eBay 30 days earlier without incident.

And earlier this Summer I was blocked from uploading ''Item Descriptions'' because they ''exceed eBay parameters''. Well, that too was strange since I was re-listing using an identical descriptions to prior sold-out items.

A buddy of mine is an electrician who helped install hardware for an ISP - and we're talking about units that would fry the lot of us in mili-seconds - on the fiber optic super-highway. Seems odd that eBay is so dependent upon the Internet for its revenue but no electrician knows of any jobs up for bid for installing modern equipment for eBay. It has to have juice to run.  

So, I suspect what Eric Saeger suspects: eBay has not been investing in itself as it needs to do to keep up with an expanding market.

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

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 15:17:40 2015

@Shop and Ship :)

Slightly off topic - but something you mentioned - so if its ok - I'll add my 2 cents.

You said "I posted 8 professional  quality photos, the other 3 used stock photos" (I edited your words) ...

%99 of my competitors use Casios photos which are IN CLEAR violation of eBays policies and US trade laws for copyright infringement.

I asked eBay OUTRIGHT and they basically told me to "DROP DEAD" ...

My point is - I know how you feel and Im sorry that eBay is doing to you what they do to me.


good selling and best regards

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by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 15:21:18 2015

Good explanation, Eric. So it is basically a financial problem. Too much invested in things that don't work, and too little invested in infrastructure.

Sounds like they better get busy fixing potholes, shoring up bridges and paving roads, or the whole thing will collapse to the ground.

And we are the ants on the ground under the decaying bridge.

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.

Mon Aug 3 15:57:27 2015

@Owen: I wouldn't say it's a financial problem. Cray recently unveiled an air-cooled super-computer in the $500,000 to $3 million range. Regardless, they could have bought a couple of the old-school ones for less than what they gave that idiot Donahoe as a parting gift.

Really makes you wonder what Bain was thinking. Follow the money. Who benefitted from all that money wasted on licensing the Cassini-building interface? Was the Cassini job outsourced? To whom?

They could have done their push to rope in the Chinese junkers and the corporate nimrod accounts and new seller accounts and upgraded their hardware.  Instead, they did all the other stuff and committed theft of service on a grand scale.

Good old Bain, huh?

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

by: whathappened This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 16:20:00 2015

One thing I have noticed lately is items that I have entered a UPC for are selling much quicker than items that do not require a UPC (such as new clothing that is the majority of my ebay store).  Previously owned clothing does not require it either and my sales are extremely slow on both new and used clothing.  Strange but true.  The items that have a UPC entered seem to show up more in search and index better.  I cannot figure it out -- just my observation. I do not know anything about servers, etc., but I do know one thing -- Ebay servers are WAY outdated and need replacing......... I agree wholeheartedly with @owen, @eric saeger, and @shop and ship.

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by: nsc This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Aug 3 16:28:06 2015

@Eric, informative posts, thank you.  

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

Mon Aug 3 16:38:28 2015

@nsc: Thank you. It's nice that this site exists for such dialog.  

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by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 16:40:48 2015

Not only would they have to buy new huge servers, but they would need additional IT people to program the servers, while the already employed IT people keep everything stable while doing that, wouldn't they? Programming new mainframes and transferring huge amounts of data, seem like a mammoth chore to me. So you have got hardware needs and additional personnel needs. Of course there would be large amounts of glitches while this is going on, draining the already employed IT people's time as well.

There might also be business interruptions during this time, outages, etc. causing loss of sales.

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

Mon Aug 3 17:06:13 2015

@Owen: You'd be pleasantly surprised, I'm sure. Old-timers remember when we'd get notices saying things like "eBay will be down for 8 hours for maintenance" back in the early days. You could basically tell they were adding an AS-400 mini-mainframe or something of that sort. It wasn't a big deal. Back then, they walked the walk and did the right thing.

My take is it'd actually be the opposite during a massive hardware upgrade, and we'd hear the cheering from the IT department all the way out here in New England. Once the data segments and index segments and rollback logs and all that happy stuff were ported to the super-computers, simply by copying, they'd shut the site down for a few hours, roll forward any new data, and that'd be it.  Easy peezy.

The sort of problem you're describing is exactly the corporate constipation that's already going on now: lots of "busy work," worthless meetings, late-night emergency calls to some-such database administrator who's in charge of, say, the US west coast server cluster, things like that. All the idiotic changes and updates are vivid symptoms of that stuff.

eBay could fire a lot of people who wouldn't be missed, especially if the load was being handled solely by super-computers and/or mainframes. Just a simple fact.  

While we're at it, I don't know if they have a marketing department, but if they do, all those people should be fired, like today.

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This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Mon Aug 3 17:25:51 2015

I wish there was a regulation where eBay was implemented a due date to have the outdated servers replaced and then imposed a hefty fine each day past the due date. Ebay took the Cassini route IMO to justify their books for several quarters to appease Wall St. They couldn't just pocket ALL the money and had to show some money being invested back into eBay. JD & his cohorts aka ''The Bain Gang'' never cared about eBay since none of them were going to stick around. After siphoning as much as they could out of it, they simply walked over the dead and dying eBay carcass.  

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by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 18:05:12 2015

You are right, Eric. I would be pleasantly surprised. Shows you what I know. You are a wealth of info. Wish eBay would listen to your sensible information.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
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Mon Aug 3 18:10:21 2015

With respect to eBay’s claims of making “courtesy” payments, those claims were always likely to be disingenuous—like their claim to have “sophisticated systems” in place to combat shill bidding fraud—LOL …

Anyone that can believe that eBay is interested in “fairness” (to anyone else other than eBay) is naïve in the extreme. In eBay’s case, every action/manipulation/deception is all, and only, about making as much money as possible, in the shortest possible term, before the rusting old scow finally slips beneath the waves …

The fact that Johnny Ho’s plan to convert eBay into the world’s greatest online “Westfield Mall” has been an utter failure does not seem to have yet seeped through to Devin Little and the other Keystone Kops that Johnny Ho has left holding the bag; but, Johnny Ho recognised that eBay had no future without PayPal; why else would he have left the waterlogged old scow and moved to “PreyPal” with—literally—all of the eBay shareholders’ funds? …

That Devin Little is apparently still desperately trying to direct sales to the few remaining international brand merchants shows how little this guy understands about what made eBay the great marketplace in used to be in the first place—RIP eBay …

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

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by: JohnGermaine This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 19:37:22 2015

LOL!!!I didn't read the whole article as eBay's SEARCH has been all fouled up since they enacted Best Match as the default!! It got worse when they went to Cassini!!

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by: VeryGoodVintage This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 19:40:53 2015

ebay's Search, See Similar, Best Match, etc won't show my items up for sale, but they sure have no problem with revealing to anyone else the items that I took the time to uncover. When able, click on the ''See Suggestions'' which appears atop one of the (another joke) ''See what other people are looking at'' and ebay will show you what those people have uncovered. The best buys that I've gotten in vintage jewelry lately made me feel bad for the seller because I knew that ebay did not give the item the proper search placement it deserved and that I just happened to luck into it. I even paypaled a few sellers a couple extra bucks so I could live with myself. While on the topic, can anyone tell me how to make my trail disappear when I do uncover a great item? Do I need to sign off and on so that what I'm looking at isn't revealed to others in the ''see suggestions''? Thanks.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Shop and Ship

Mon Aug 3 20:32:51 2015

@pace306 - I hear you about eBay's claimed photo images policies.

While on the phone with eBay CS to have my photos with my copyright mark and my watermark with my name on them removed from the interloper's counterfeit listing, I was told that "they must be stock photos because of the way they look" - even though CS said they could read my copyright notice and my watermark on the listing photos. So, out goes the Take Down Notice to eBay legal.

And the lesson learned, apparently, is to post crap photos on eBay if I want protection from CS? How charming is that?  

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 23:31:05 2015

Shop - what I RElearned today is that eBay doesnt care about anything except collecting fees.

I had time to read through the eBay vs Tiffany case back in 2007. Back then eBay SWORE that it wasnt responsible for copyright and trademark infringements because - they didnt know anything about it and they cant/have no mechanism to remove those listings.

The court in France "bought those lies" apparently.

eBay said it here: "eBay simply “provides the venue for the sale [of goods] and support for the transaction[s].”13 (Tiffany, 576 F.Supp. 2d at 475.)"

Oh really?

While Ive already contacted the Attornies General of NY & CA, my next stop is The court in France (if I can find it) AND Tiffany - maybe they are interested in talking to me about eBay and its actions.

Certainly they would LOVE to revisit the issue - and its where my journey will begin - tomorrow.

They made a grave mistake ignoring me. =)

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by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 23:35:06 2015

I recently had a "Down Day"  where I needed to SIT and rest a wounded body part.  So to amuse myself I went thru what I hoped was the ENTIRE category of items for our rare motorcycle.  Now--I SELL as a repeat item ONE part for this bike;  there is ONE other seller who has a completely DIFFERENT part that goes on the same spot on the bike (I think theirs is really ugly and yes I have seen them in person!)  Did my item show up?  Well yeah eventually and so did the othr guys.  So that was good--as long as it is showing up for OTHERS to see--and the "Other guy"  does NOT ship overseas;  I do.  Well needless to say--my one and only item for this pretty rare bike has not sold a single unit in OVER a month!  

Moving on---

But heres the thing----I was only ALLOWED to view 10,000 listings--which even on THIS bike barely got me to the 7 day (Ending soonest)  section;  I got a Notice telling me I was not allowed to view more.  So=--all those people who had items PAST that--SOL.  If some one was looking like I was--which I admit would be unusual.  

There is no way to winnow out the truely UNUSUAL items for this;  things that were given out, say, to the production team; OOAK items--that sort of thing.  So you DO have to either ask around the other owners--or do searches like this.  

And as for the recent NO DUPLICATE LISTINGS--Don't make me laugh!  In actual FACT there probably are only a few thousand listings TOTAL for this bike in all areas;  however--if I WANTED to see maybe 1000 batteries;  or 2000 headlight bulbs or brake pads---I could;  however ONE listing with the name of the bike and years (all years on this take the same equipment and bike was only made for 6 years)  would suffice.  But NO--we have thousands of EACH of these--cluttering up the Search.  

I "thought"--silly moi!!!--that these were to be SEVERELY PUNISHED--LOL!  

A recent Search for a hearing aid part for a friend turned up NONE listed--there were however somethings for DOGS--not hearing related;  and TENTS--again--not hearing related!  "Below the fold"  however was the BRAND I was looking for;  and altho I did not find what I was looking for at least I found SOMETHING related to my actual Search terms!  

While looking for bike accessories I had to do a Google and THEN I was re-directed TO ebay;  I actually was so annoyed at that I went to Amazon and bought the items there.  I am pretty sure they were from the SAME sellers in any case.  

AND--for the OP-----Recently I discovered all by my tech-phobic self a "Glitch"  on AMAZON.  I had a free trial of  "Prime"  and discovered something that they claimed should not have worked--well it did not in actual fact work FOR me;  what it did was just something so odd that I did a Live Chat and they looked into it and emailed me a $20 Credit for reporting this!

Can you IMAGINE in your wildest DREAMS any one at ebay doing that in the same situation?  

The NY TImes recently had a very interesting article on why going bankrupt as a "Senior Citizen"  can be a GOOD thing----no one can harass you;  presumably you don't need a fab "credit score";  and just plain and simple NOT PAYING certain bills might be a solution.  I am not advocating this;  but it is something to look into and it was well written with room for thought.  I think it was in the "Retirement"  section but Google is your friend.  Turns out there are a LOT of "assets"  that the creditors cannot touch;  and it might be do-able for some.  

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