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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by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 3 23:51:31 2015

Oh I forgot to mention--in that looong looooooong search of rare bikes parts--I found ZERO unique items.  Not ONE.  (What I look for is the interesting and the rare;  production team items and the like or things people make FOR this bike or ABOUT this bike---nope!)  

Some "stock"  items that people do list that are a bit different--and that we already have;  but nothing of the OOAK or similar.  Nada.  Usually even if it is something I don't WANT I see more than a few--and I don't think this is unique to THIS search!  How many items did I NOT see--either because I am not ALLOWED to view more than that 10k limit;  or because they were indeed avail but NOT SHOWN?  How many people are NOT seeing MY items?  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Bill

Tue Aug 4 00:14:23 2015

Comet,

The same few people here and there that see our items. eBay search has been screwed up since at least '09 and that is the same time our sales started going down.
Not only are they loosing sellers but they are loosing the buyers because the search is not set up at all as to how the human mind thinks.
That is how search is supposed to be. People do not want to do a search and come up with completely insignificant items. That is the main reason why people are turned off and until they realize that eBay will be broken and will wallow in its misery.

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by: Ebay's Slow Death This user has validated their user name.

Tue Aug 4 03:14:14 2015

@Eric Saeger

Great information! I think you have come close to the primary truth of why Ebay is failing.

Of course, they treat their Sellers badly. But the bottom line is, if Sellers aren't selling much, because the infrastructure is weak and not functioning properly, than the site doesn't work for Sellers or Buyers.

So many Sellers, who are also Buyers, have simply gone elsewhere to fulfill their needs. I've moved my business to Etsy, and am gaining ground. I don't mind putting in all the work of making a proper listing, and paying the fees, if I'm selling stuff.

Also, I don't feel like I'm selling out of a dark alley, waiting to be mugged, like I do on Ebay.

Donahoe was a money guy, and not a tech guy. I'm sure the tech department tried to tell him again and again they needed upgrades. But he probably kept putting them off, because there was no immediate money payoff for it.  I'm wondering if it is too late, or if they did invest in new hardware, and got rid of some of their oppression policies, if Ebay could improve?  It would never be like it was, but maybe it could be better then it is. Right now, it seems like the site is disintegrating.

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

Tue Aug 4 12:04:31 2015

There are layers of intertwined festering problems on eBay, as evidenced by how the platform bogs down when eBay runs one of its ''list 10,000 items for free'' campaigns. Customer Service is overwhelmed, feckless, and powerless. Misrepresentation and fraud are rampant. The ''Rating System'' is a sop to naive and gullible members. Shipping/Delivery ''defects'' are a crime. ''eBay Global Shipping'' is a sham with non-existent ''shipping insurance''.

Like ''Walking Dead'' inertia, the sheer momentum of eBay's market dominance will keep it moving erratically long after it's brain dead and rotted from the inside out; once infected there is no cure.  

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by: JR This user has validated their user name.

Tue Aug 4 12:28:25 2015

This explains why my auction sales are the lowest and worst they have been in the 17 or 18 years I've been on ebay.  I knew something was going on.  I didn't get hardly any bids til the last day, and then stuff sold at the starting price.  

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

Tue Aug 4 13:42:27 2015

@Ebay's Slow Death:

eBay is so close-mouthed about Cassini (only a handful of techs are allowed near its drag-and-drop interface -- that's what it is, a glorified canned program) that it's up to us to do the detective work.

Some pretty big sellers have talked about "rolling blackouts" for years, not just here but on eBay's own boards.  Everyone has the same story: at some point, after months and years of dependable income, sales suddenly stopped. People aren't making this stuff up to get attention. It actually happens.  Very scary stuff.

I'm doubly PO'ed, because I spent $600 on my own site 3 years ago and it got so hammered with viruses that I had to trash the whole thing -- the consultant was basically a regular joe with a basic canned package and he couldn't/wouldn't fix it.

I'm looking at the Ecwid widgets, which seem super easy, but it'd involve a financial outlay that'd take a few months to bear fruit. Cassini has left things too tight around here to make the jump. Kind of sucks really.


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by: maxmad This user has validated their user name.

Tue Aug 4 14:12:30 2015

There was once a time when you could use ebay as a full time only venue, but currently there is no way.

Sellers really need to find other platforms to sell on, once your established and have reliable sales on other venues, it's possible to try and use ebay, but only as a supplement or a small part of your overall sales,

Using ebay  full time, as an  only venue, only source of income, is currently a very bad business decision, and can lead to very stressful and unreliable, inconsistent sales patterns, it also can show a false sense of product demand, as ebay is the one who determines your sales,    

Today you cannot consider yourself in business with an only ebay venue, it's a recipe for disaster.

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

Tue Aug 4 14:40:58 2015

@maxmad: Yeah, I'm about 40% Amazon, but it's mostly CDs, which no one cares about. During xmas I threw some prime eBay stuff over there and it sold in hours. I'm mad that I got sucked back into being a mostly-eBay shop again this year.  Course, it didn't help that 11Main was such a massive fail.

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by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Tue Aug 4 15:24:46 2015

I have had great luck on eCRATER. They have an excellent rapport with Google, well, as excellent as you can get with Google. You can set up your own store there, and they treat you right and fair. You can still get a free store there, but recently they have added enhancements that really help sales and they come with modest fees. I have way exceeded my sales on eBay. I do have over 1500 listings there, and that does help to bring visibility. It's easy to list, no rolling blackouts, no throttling, no nastiness, no drama.

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by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Tue Aug 4 15:25:37 2015

Oh, yeah, no Bain!

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

Tue Aug 4 16:00:24 2015

@Owen: I ported all my eBay stuff over to eCrater a couple weeks ago, and all I've done so far is delete stuff that sold on eBay.  But hope springs.
Someone will surely come along and kick eBay's butt... I thought I saw something last night about something-or-other-5.com, which is some kind of app-based (I thought) marketplace. Who the heck knows. The dust is still settling from the aftermath of Bain ramming eBay broadside. Sure ain't pretty at the moment.

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by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Tue Aug 4 16:58:43 2015

When you import your things from eBay into eCRATER, it doesn't import everything. You will have to go into your listings and format them according to eCrater's format. You will have to eliminate some of the boulerplate that is in the eBay listings and do other things. Google wants no boilerplate in descriptions. That belongs in your FAQs. Use the eCRATER forums to get help with your listings, so they are appropriate for Google. The folks there are very friendly and will critique your listings so they are optimized for eCRATER and also Google. It takes a little work, so do a little at a time. eBay does not optimize for Google at all, which is why they don't get along. But eCRATER does. Totally different animal.

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

Tue Aug 4 17:09:27 2015

Owen wrote:
"When you import your things from eBay into eCRATER, it doesn't import everything. You will have to go into your listings and format them according to eCrater's format."

Stop right there, LOL. I literally get hives and feel nauseous these days when I have to add an "Item Specific." I'm tired of practicing data entry instead of selling things.  :)  

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by: maxmad This user has validated their user name.

Tue Aug 4 17:11:13 2015

Yes, every seller needs to find what works best, for them, and their items, for us, it's a combination of many venues, with our website being our best platform, which we invest about 1/3 of what we paid in ebay fees in  our own advertising,  

it was not easy, It took major commitment this year, to not rely 100 percent on ebay sales, we originally thought it would be impossible to do, but today I can honestly say, we are selling on average 10x what we were selling last year with ebay only platform.

I won't say no stress, but way way less, then ebay, and we can start planning our future, instead of ebay planning it for us

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by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Tue Aug 4 17:16:45 2015

Eric, after the first couple of Item specifics, it becomes very easy to do. It's nothing to get hives over. If you are selling vintage items, you don't need to enter any UPCs. Go to the forums and ask questions there about item specifics. I guarantee you that others will tell you it is not hard at all.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: IDKwhoIare

Tue Aug 4 17:21:21 2015

@Eric Saeger

You are thinking of Close5? Ina just did a story on that one - it is eBay....grrrr.

http://www.ecommercebytes.com/C/blog/blog.pl?/pl/2015/7/143814
0510.html

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

Wed Aug 5 00:42:04 2015

Yeah, "something-or-other-5.com" is an eBay product; apparently they are too wary of the consumer backlash to put the eBay name on it—LOL ...

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: Eric Saeger This user has validated their user name.

Wed Aug 5 10:06:37 2015

LOL, okay, okay. Heh heh. So Close5 won't help either.

Owen, I'm just burnt out from tweaking stuff. I dunno, the only way to get set-it-and-forget-it these days is to do Craigslist or brick and wood or become a premium Amazon seller and set all my prices to "race ya to the bottom."

I need a vacation from all this online selling stuff! Going to the beach again this Saturday. Re-reading "Jaws" for the first time since I was like 12.

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by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Wed Aug 5 10:25:00 2015

Eric, selling on eCRATER is actually much easier than eBay, once you get the hang of it. Even on eBay, you have to do a lot of data input. Same on Etsy, etc.

But, I hear you about being sick of it all.

Just try one or two entries on eCRATER and see how that goes, before you throw in the towel.

It is definitely set and forget, if you do it correctly.

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

Wed Aug 5 10:58:06 2015

If I get a chance this weekend I'll try.
But I'm at the part where Mrs. Brody's about to have sex with the shark-cage guy. Priorities!

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