Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Thu Sept 21 2017 14:46:18

eBay Patent Reveals Search Ranking Secrets

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay filed a patent that gives detailed clues into how it ranks search results. One criteria it uses: the projected demand for the item in a listing. Another: the "quality" of the seller. 

The patent describes ways that eBay could (and likely does) use a variety of factors beyond mere relevance in its Best Match search rankings, which is the default order in search. For each type of criterion, eBay may create a component score, which are then used to derive the overall ranking score.

- Relevance score, representing a measure of the relevance of an item listing with respect to search terms provided in the search request; 

- Listing quality score, representing a measure of the likelihood that an item listing will result in a transaction based at least in part on historical data associated with similar item listings; 

- Business rules score, representing a promotion or demotion factor determined based on the evaluation of one or more business rules.

When determining a listing quality score, for example, eBay may factor in such criteria as price, condition of the item, shipping method and cost, duration or length of time the item listing has been active, a seller's prior conversion rate for all items or items in a particular category, and a seller's rating (e.g., based on feedback provided by buyers).

Some excerpts plucked from the patent filing provide further insight into factors eBay considers important when ranking search results:

RELEVANCE
Relevance score may be based on an analysis of an item listing's title (e.g., title relevance) as well as an item listing's item description, and historical data indicating how users have previously interacted with item listings having similar item attributes when those item listings were previously presented in a search results page.

LISTING
Many item attributes may be considered in various embodiments, in some embodiments the price of the item and the shipping cost are the primary predictors of quality. 
...
For instance, if a particular item listing is offering for sale a television set at a particular price (e.g., $100), the particular price may be compared with the prices of similar television sets that have previously been sold. If, for example, the price of the television set is lower than the mean, mode, or median price (e.g., $200) of similar television sets, which have sold recently, then the listing quality score should reflect the "good" price of the television set offered via the item listing.

BUSINESS RULES
For example, it may be desirable to promote or demote item listings that have certain item attributes or seller attributes. If, for example, an item listing has free shipping, the listing may be promoted. Similarly, if a seller has a low seller quality score (based in part on feedback from buyers), an item listing of the seller may be demoted to reflect the poor seller quality score. 

In some cases, when the business rules are transparent and therefore known to both the sellers and buyers, promotions and demotions might be used to encourage certain behavior.

As indicated under the description of Business Rules, eBay has wielded carrots and sticks to encourage sellers to offer free shipping. It's worth nothing that lately eBay has been doing likewise to encourage sellers to offer generous returns policies.

The patent indicates eBay takes into account product categories when determining the importance of various criteria when ranking listings in search. For example, it stated that "with some types of items, such as antiques and/or jewelry, the seller trust factor may be more important, as there may be more fraud prevalent in the trade of such items."

The eBay patent also describes a scenario in which its demand metric takes into account transactions (sales), views, search impressions, and watch lists. For auctions and single-quantity fixed price listings, the demand metric may be based on the number of views, the number of bids (for an auction), or the number of watch lists associated with the item listing. Or, it may be based on the performance of similar listings.

You'll notice under Business Rules eBay references "seller quality score." While there is no mention of it, eBay could conceivably give its diamond powersellers, large brands, and big-box stores a higher quality score if it wished, boosting their listings in search. 

Note that currently eBay references buyer feedback as contributing to the seller quality score - and some may like the concept of demoting "bad" sellers.

Let us know if any of the criteria or practices come as a surprise, and what you like and dislike about the methods of ranking search results.

Comments (94) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

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by: eBay Shill Buster This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 23 18:36:17 2017

I find it hilarious that Devin hires some moron from Home Depot (Hal Lawton), then all of a sudden you get all these return programs and search filters based upon returns, then the clowns come up with price matching and guaranteed shipping to make a vain effort at competing with Amazon Prime and Walmart who is offering free 2 day shipping now.

So Devin has completely ruined eBay and made it the laughing stock of ecommerce by trying to compete in areas that eBay and it's sellers are not positioned to compete in, it is no wonder eBay is failing with flat sales while Walmart.com grew 67% in their last report.

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by: maxmad This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 24 10:29:20 2017


At least there is some good news for ebay, they will never have to worry about anyone stealing their ideas ,,,,,,

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This user has validated their user name. by: eXtinctBay

Sun Sep 24 11:24:53 2017

About the ''Seller Quality'' score:

This reinforces what many of us have posted on ECB- if you as a seller receive a negative or neutral feedback, count on little to no exposure for at least 48 hours.

Of course, this only applies to small sellers. If you are deemed a large (or ''diamond'') eBay vendor, many bad feedbacks are allowed. And this also applies to big arbitargers / drop shippers. In these cases, most often there are many problems with non-delivery and broken items due to poor packing.

But even high volume sellers with 98% feedback have their listings front and center, and continue to do business with no penalty. If a small to medium seller has a 98% score, their account certainly will be suspended or limited due to poor performance.

In my case, after 20 years I am still awaiting my first DESERVED negative or neutral feedback. Every transaction is given the personal touch, and I very, very rarely do get a bad review. It is scary, though, that I can basically lose my eBay business if two uninformed buyers in one month post a negative feedback to my account.

By allowing the mega sellers to continuously and constantly screw buyers over with poor quality service, how does this improve the eBay buying experience????

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This user has validated their user name. by: eXtinctBay

Sun Sep 24 11:33:29 2017

TO ADD:

Perhaps eBay is stealing another page from Amazon's playbook.

Want a good laugh? Check out Amazon Warehouse Deals. They have over 500,000 items listed. And their feedback is 79% for the last year.

It is also 90% lifetime (out of over 3 MILLION+ reviews left). So there have been over 300,000 unsatisfied buyers associated with this account over the years. This number is staggering. But, of course, it is their business.

Again, how does allowing a multitude of unsatisfied customers improve the buying experience in ANY sales business, whether online or B & M??

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Sun Sep 24 11:37:31 2017

The eBay buying experience.

What better place to find that 3/32 AN470 rivet set you need to repair your Cessna 180 with. ~ eBay has it

If you need a original HP 901Xl ink cartridge ~ eBay has it

My 1964 Corvette needs a spark plug shield for the drivers side ~ Yep, eBay has it

If you can't find it on eBay you probably don't need it. . .

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 24 11:41:01 2017

Theres a few misunderstandings here that need clarification:

1) large (enterprise sellers), manufacturers, Chinese sellers etc DONT get scored the same way small sellers do. Small sellers are considered NOISE and are no a steady source of income. Therefore THEY and only they (small and medium sellers) get scored, get baby sat, have to deal with eBay rules, have to deal with eBay returns, have direct access to eBay reps - their business on eBay is %100 OPPOSITE of what the rest have. I know as I spoke to one of the large guys on Monday last week - they LAUGHED when I spoke of returns and feedbacks ... "we just call our rep to get rid of the problem(s)".

2) theres NO reason eBay cant show everyones listings 24/7/365 - they just dont want to. Listing everything costs money - something eBay does NOT spend on its site. eBay NEVER makes improvements - it sitll looks like 1998 and it always will. The tinkering is ON THE MARGINS - change a few colors, move a few boxes. EVERY penny made goes into stock perks (its in the 10k filling)

3) eBay SHOULD have limited who can sell on the site (like Amazon and Walmart do) but their PRIDE (read stupidity) wont allow them. They believe (being dopes) that their measure of success comes from attracting new sellers of ANY caliber. THAT NUMBER (which if you notice is ALWAYS quoted - new sellers) is what they think excites Wall Street - as apposed to box moving.

Problem is they now have to much JUNK and not enough buyers (smart buyers for main stream item wont touch eBay) so eBay hides listings and pretends that they do it so that "everyone can have a chance" ... %100 BS.

4) eBays growth is pathetic at best - its now 2 + quarters at %3 and thats WITH Stubhub!  People here can crow about eBays stock going up 50 cents here and there - but its NOTHING compared to others in ecommerce.

5) eBay has no REAL plan for long term growth - and eBay itself ISNT a long term company. As the stock people have said - eBay will continue to growth month after month a few percent here and a few there - but never amount to anything major - its a safe stock with no excitement.

Based on that and what ANY seller (besides you know who) can see - they are right. eBay DOESNT want to be aggressive and change anything that goes on. All they do is circle the wagons and keep tightening the rules to try and get more juice from the same orange.

They arent loosing anything to off eBay sales - not enough that it would matter. But when the numbers are DIRE (and they are) you have to do what you can to try and stop the bleeding... aka try to charge sellers for what YOU THINK are off eBay sales ... just to fill the coffers.

eBay knows what it has to do to become a world class ecommerce site - they just dont want to. Its easier to pressure the same sellers over and over - thinking that because alot of them cant go to Amazon - they are forced to go to eBay and therefore eBay can do as they please cause "what else will you do".

THAT gives them the power to lie cheat and steal - the ONLY methods they have of doing business.

eBay no longer shows up at CES, is not talked about in TWICE, DEALERSCOPE OR INTERNET RETAILER NEWS - and all the "color" in the world wont change ANYONES opinion(s) of them ... and TOOL - is right - they dont care, they wont change and they will continue on at %3 until one of them jumps ship (like that last idiot to Macys) (from the Lusitania to the Titanic).

eBay help "eBay OPEN" ... and so? besides pictures of women in big goofy hats - what changed? NOTHING ... millions of dollars of yours and my FVFs down the toilet, so eBay management could get drunk and act like 3rd graders .. nice.

Visa via eBays TOS. MOST Of eBays BOD are ex lawyers. They know full well that most courts WILL sadly uphold quasi illegal shrinkwrap licenses aka eBays TOS (regardless of whats in it) since the vast majority of courts enforce shrinkwrap and "clickwrap" licenses even though the individual terms are not negotiated and even if the licensee did not read them.

eBay made sure that will NEVER (or almost never) be challenged in court by making Class Action Suits against them null and void. No single individual has the time or money to go up against them and they count on that very fact. If you have the money to take on eBay - you just leave - why bother staying to fight? Lone little sellers just give up the ghost and leave - since taking eBay to court is like trying to sue a sitting head of state - IMPOSSIBLE. In this type of contracting, assent to the contract often comes by doing something the licensee has reason to know will be viewed by the other party as assent, such as by clicking "I agree" or by using the product after being informed that you should return it if the contract terms are unacceptable. Bad terms in these as in any contract that over-reach can be thrown out by a court under doctrines such as unconscionability, even though that seldom happens because it is seldom necessary.

There are 4 things that a TOS must include and eBays includes these 4 - and therefore does NOT get looked at by any states AG.

*The person must know or have reason to know that contract terms are being proposed for the transaction. Where the terms are not proposed until after an initial agreement (e.g., placing the order), there must be reason to know at that time that more terms will be proposed later.
*There must be reason to know what act will be treated by the other party as assent to the contract. An "I agree" button is an obvious act, but is not required.
*The person must have an opportunity to review the terms before it assents. The person does not have to read them however.
*The person must have a chance to say no and walk away from the deal, with a refund of what the person might have already paid.

eBay uses that power to deprive sellers of rights that would never fly in brick & mortar stores - simply BECAUSE THEY CAN.

eBay is and always was a crooked operator - and the "revelation" that eBay scores sellers should not be new to anyone. eBay fixes the card game to benefit ITSELF ONLY - always and forever.

'nuff said - back to packing Amazon orders

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Sun Sep 24 11:51:05 2017

eBay works for some of us and for others it does not.

I'm one of the lucky ones that eBay works and it works well.

My problems are few and far apart.

My customers are HAPPY and in turn I am also HAPPY.

Now back to packing my eBay orders. . .

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by: eBay Shill Buster This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 24 14:10:59 2017

Hey Tool, while Walmart is cutting  a major contract with Google to send traffic to Walmart.com on their Google speaker Devin is dreaming up idiotic return policies and filters for the worst search engine on earth to exclude sellers based on highly moronic reasons.

I'm SURE THIS IS GOING TO INCREASE SALES !!!!!

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This user has validated their user name. by: eXtinctBay

Sun Sep 24 14:25:54 2017

@Tool

There is no doubt eBay works for us, some more so than others.

But how much BETTER can it work for ALL OF US without some of these rules and requirements, many of which make no sense??

As @Pace mentioned, eBay is stuck with low-to-mid single digit increases in revenue, and these numbers include StubHub. Take away the ticket site, and the company shows virtually no year to year improvement.

I worked in sales for the better part of 20 years, and we as salespeople were always told that if we cannot produce a minimum of a 5% increase in volume every year, the company is losing money.

If things do not turn around soon, this experiment to be like Amazon and largely ignore small & medium ''noise'' sellers must be considered a failure.

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by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 24 18:22:30 2017

There's just a 'few' caveats that seem to be lacking here:

''eBay works for some of us and for others it does not.''

''Some'', right.  But, what does that mean, precisely?  Are there any verifiable data that can possibly objectify this?  Certainly the megabox sellers make 'sales'.  And clearly there are 'some' of the less preferred variety who ship a box or two 'regularly'.  But how many, in comparison, do not, when they thrived in the past?  What's the ratio now?  And how has that changed say over the past 5 years or so?  Because clearly, and LOUDLY, it has indeed plummeted.  For way more than ''some''.  

Though ''some'' continue to remain in obstinate - and in irritating denial.

And - despite whatever make-believe response might be offered, why is it ONLY 'some' for whom it ''works''?  A few posts previous, it was claimed 'everything' was available.  So why don't THOSE sellers prosper too?  And is 'some' good enough?  THAT is what's worth bragging about?  Because that's just pitiful.

''I'm one of the lucky ones that eBay works and it works well.''

Well 'enough' is more accurate.  And ''lucky'' shouldn't even be a factor as a required foundation for success, even from a tide pool perspective.  Why not ask, what potential is lost and left behind as a result of eBay's obfuscation and interferrence?  Imagine instead, what SHOULD be possible - and realized.  That's what a REAL business does.  

And what sell-through rate (STR) is 'acceptable' these days?  How is it 'unworthy of consideration' that STR for....some...sellers has declined from over 95% to under 5%?  And that such kind of ENTERPRISE WIDE decline - at best spun as 'sustainable' -should be considered as working ''well''?

That's beyond pitiful.  It's obtuse.



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by: eBay Shill Buster This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 24 19:15:19 2017

Snapped, you get it, you summarize exactly what sellers who are in the right in condemning eBay's CEO's current and past have fought for on their own forums for years, that eBay could be a lot better marketplace without the stupid ideas these two CEO's have incorporated into the marketplace.

Donahoe calling his own sellers noise when they objected to his highly idiotic changes that Devin is continuing with his cross promoted ads right on sellers pages he calls 'Promoted Listings' that he wants to sell in his Sellers Hub interface he is forcing sellers into.

These kinds of ideas are those that have ruined a marketplace that has produced Billions in sales over the years.

eBay never needed Donahoe or Devin's 'ideas' to produce those billions, in fact eBay would have been a better marketplace today if these guys never existed in their history.    

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

Sun Sep 24 19:18:50 2017

The first major change The Ho made caused my sales to drop from $30,000 a month to less than $10,000. I worked myself back up to somewhat higher sales but never again to what they were pre Ho..

IF ebafia is actually using the criteria they set forth in the patent application, my sales should be much higher than they are because I exceed every one of their criteria with a near perfect record.

I wrote in this space then and repeat now. I will call out ebafia every day in every way I can think of for the rest of my life for destroying my what was then a growing and thriving business.

I loathe and detest this corporation with fiber of my being.














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by: eBay Shill Buster This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 24 19:23:57 2017

Hey Ming, Devin wants you in Sellers Hub buying promoted listings, that way your sales will move up again.........

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Tue Sep 26 06:25:33 2017

I have a feeling that eventually eBay will do as Thomson did......kick Devin to the curb.  I hope that the screen door that hits him on the way out has a few loose wires.

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