|Mon May 28 2012 21:25:08|
eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search
By: Ina Steiner
Over the past few months, eBay sellers have contacted EcommerceBytes with reports that their items are not showing up in search results the way they had been. Many sellers have been complaining about a drop in sales beginning last fall, and the latest reports from sellers indicate they believe their sales are suffering either as a result of glitches in search or thanks to eBay's reported "tinkering" with its search engine.
eBay has been openly critical of its own search engine and originally planned to launch a new one this year called Cassini. Some sellers have said they suspect eBay has been testing Cassini on its live search engine, and they may not be far off - eBay's Hugh Williams told the Register last year the Cassini search engine would enter A/B testing late in the summer of 2011 with plans for full launch in 2012.
Whether it's Cassini or not, sellers say something is causing changes in the order in which eBay sorts search results.
Auction Listings No Longer Sorted by Recency?
In the days before eBay introduced its Best Match search algorithm, which is designed to sort search results by relevancy, eBay presented listings by recency - known in eBay lingo as "time ending soonest." This was helpful, since bidders liked to place bids at the closing moments of an auction.
Even after the launch of Best Match, "time ending soonest" was a major factor in the search algorithm for auction format listing (since bidders continue to like placing last-minute bids).
But an EcommerceBytes reader and longtime eBay seller said he noticed a recent change in how eBay sorts auction listings, and pointed to searches that showed auctions that were close to ending appearing 200 pages later than the first search results page.
Seller Appalled by Drop in Search Exposure
When another seller named Chuck, who's been on eBay for over ten years and is a Top Rated Seller, noticed significant downturns in sales, activity and traffic, he "dove into" his Omniture traffic reports. He said he was "floored" by what he found on two of the charts.
The first chart is for the year 2011 and tracks searches - "basically, how are people finding our stuff," he said. "All was well until late August going into September. In fact the final quarter was our worst final quarter since 2005."
According to eBay, these charts identify which search engines people use to find sellers' Store and listings. Pages tracked include: "All Store pages, including custom pages, custom category pages, and search results; Item listings in all formats, including auction and fixed price; and other eBay pages about you as a seller, including your other items, Feedback Profile, and About Me pages."
The next chart shows Chuck's searches for the current year thusfar.
The yellow line is labeled "eBay Search," and the blue line is labeled Google. The charts show the seller's traffic from eBay Search dropping in late August 2011 and never recovering.
"Our inventory level is quite similar to 2011, same types of items, no dramatic shifts or changes, no closures or business interruptions," Chuck said. "We generally keep from 2200 to 2600 items up at any given time."
He said he wanted to know if other readers were experiencing similar results. "Sadly," he said, "this is not a report that I typically view,...certainly one I should have."
Schizophrenic Sales Patterns
Another seller named Mike wrote, "Like many sellers on eBay, I have experienced apparent traffic declines since the first of September correlating with lower than normal item sales. More troubling, however, is the extreme deviation in items sold from one day to the next. Prior to September, the number of items sold per day were relatively stable, within a band. Now it's either all good or all bad."
Sellers are also convinced there are "rolling blackouts" and report strange traffic patterns, including this report about eBay seller Wigs US on the EcommerceBytes Blog ("Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay").
Cassini Postponed til Next Year
While eBay told the Register it would launch Cassini this year, it appears eBay has postponed the launch of its new search engine. This May 4th Reuters article says Cassini is set to launch in 2013.
In response to a recent question, eBay spokesperson Johnna Hoff told EcommerceBytes that when Cassini implements any business-impacting updates, eBay would give sellers appropriate notice, as was its practice, and had nothing further to share about Cassini.
If you're seeing changes in eBay search results or in the visibility of your listings, let us know.