Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon May 28 2012 21:25:08

eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

By: Ina Steiner

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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.




Comments (38) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

by: PFergy This user has validated their user name.

Mon May 28 23:45:27 2012

My eBay sales have followed a similar pattern and I'm getting very frustrated with it.  Before September, my sales were pretty good.  Never had the Holiday bump.  It is still going on - much lower than last year.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Mon May 28 23:45:30 2012

We knew they were tampering with search, right?  

Their search keeps going back to best match even if you change it, maybe in a week or so. That's so they can tamper with it!

The best match (most buyers likely don't know about it, so that's how it's set for them) favors eBay's preferred sellers, the big box retailers, big national companies they made a deal with, diamond sellers (whatever that is).  

Abandoned are the organic search results that other makers of search engines proudly say they give you.  Companies like Google.  

So like Chuck said in the article, you might be the best source for the product being searched for, you might have the best service, lowest price, best shipping, you name it. If eBay says so, you are on page 200 in the results.  

So no one will find or buy from you.

This is how eBay plans on getting rid of their non-favored sellers. They will be so nice to you on the phone but you won't sell anything.

Har.  What a time we live in.  Conflicts of interest on the part of the eBay search provider.  

 

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

This user has validated their user name. by: TrentDep

Tue May 29 00:02:38 2012

Indeed - I am seeing very similar results, and of course eBay ''support'' has a canned response, offering to help me ~better serve my customers~ so I can improve my search rankings...

I guess 100% ( 1310, 3 negs in 12 years ) and 5 stars in every category just doesn't cut it...

Considering the fact that so many of us have this same result, both anecdotal and backed by stats / reports, how is it that eBay is not addressing the issue?...

Really?  Is there nobody out there that can hold their feet to the fire long enough for SOME kind of explanation?...

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Tue May 29 00:32:12 2012

Add my voice to the chorus of long-time experienced sellers who has seen a DRAMATIC change in both traffic and sales. Almost identical to the results and patters described by Chuck (in Ina's blog).

It's absolutely insane.

If we were able to take a peek at the traffic reports for the ''big-boys'' and the ''No-Touchy'' boys... would their results be the same? Or would it be the exact opposite?

Folks, we know what's happening here. I have no proof, but I believe this is intentional manipulation. The die-hard small sellers who just keep hanging-on in spite of everything just won't go away. So eBay has run out of ideas... and now they resort to this??

Everything that we've ever suspected in the past has come true, or been proven true. I'll bet this will eventually be proven true as well.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

by: tb This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 29 00:44:23 2012

I second the comments about custom sort reverting backing to Best Match. It has happened to my account countless times. I set it for lowest price, and in a week or so it's back to Best Match. It's the "Evil Empire".

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

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

Tue May 29 00:45:54 2012

Bad search technology pushed and approved by an even worse management is primarily responsible for ebay's continuing slide into oblivion.

Manipulated search was an extremely risky gamble, it failed, and ebay falls further and further behind Amazon.

But these guys are just too arrogant to admit they screwed up, and their interlocking directorate yes man BoD doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to clean house and that includes Donahoe, Wenig, Griff, and that sadistic seller experience department.

Congratulations, geniuses. You've fubared ebay superbly.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Tue May 29 02:11:11 2012

--- ''Congratulations, geniuses. You've fubared ebay superbly.''

At this point, I think it's too late for anything to make a difference. Even a thorough housecleaning would result in a ''clean'' house that's STILL in ruins... completely dysfunctional... reputation shot to hell and back.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 29 02:12:16 2012

I was researching for an item (handbag) I was thinking of listing on FleeceBay this week and discovered that there were NO listings now or sold items.  So I decided to see if there was any info on Google about the maker of the item---seemed much too nice to have no presence on ebay.

Lo and behold I discovered that there was indeed at least ONE of this makers items for sale----on EBAY.  

Being the stubborn type I went back to ebay and tried again using the exact terms of search--which were pretty much the same terms I had used anyway---and still a no-go on ebay.

Soooo----I went back to Google and used that link to go see what I could see on ebay.  There was the item altho the owner had the site on vacation.  Now I don't know if that affects search.  But it did seem---odd---to be able to find an item on ebay using Google and NOT to be able to find it via---ebay.

And who knows---there could in fact be 1000 of these on there that NO ONE CAN SEE.  And doubtless some of the listings are PAID listings not my paltry Free 50 and everyone elses Free 50.  

Isn't this Restraint OF Trade????

ANd the same thing has sadly happened to MY sales too---since the late summer I have stuck it out but it has been hardly worth it.  I sold virtually NONE of the things I usually sell in the winter--and yep it was a warm winter BUT I start listing this stuff long before the winter gets underway.  And now I am not selling summer stuff even tho one would think that with the extra warm spring and what seems like it will be a summer to rival last year shorts and swim wear and sports wear would be flying outta here.

No such luck.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

by: vero This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 29 03:00:12 2012

checked this afternoon the following:



all active items on ebay:



shirts     best match                          2,694,390

            lowest price incl. shipping     7,106,817



cds        best match                          3,280,905

            lowest price incl. shipping     4,702,833



jewelry   best match                          4,168,470

            lowest price incl. shipping     7,416,572



that is a difference of



                                                      9,082,457 items



which are NOT searchable in best match, and best match is what most buyers see first !!!!!!!



I also checked the SHIRTS a bit more, the differences appear at men's clothing and unisex,

women and children seemed to be ok.



Then I checked



tokyo mew mew



best match                              362

lowest price incl. shipping         159

BUT there is a button to click

= SEE ALL = and then you see 362



buyer which are not often on ebay don't see this button,

they go from best match to lowest price and see only 159.



How does it come, that ebay can list over 1,000,000 shirts etc.

without having a button SEE ALL,

but when there is only at total of 362 items active, they can't list these without pressing this button???





I also checked toys, cars, books, ads, pants, shoes, boots

with these search words there was almost no difference.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

by: Digmen1 This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue May 29 05:03:23 2012

What about search results for items that ebay does not have big box diamond sellers, eg antiques, collectibles, one off stuff.

What are they like ?

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

by: alaska This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 29 05:37:36 2012

Digmen1 said ''What about search results for items that ebay does not have big box diamond sellers, eg antiques, collectibles, one off stuff. What are they like?''

I intensively search eBay for antiques & vintage collectibles. I believe that low sales are a result of many factors. Search problems, server problems, indexing problems, best match and TRS glitches, and buyers freaked out over economic news. On February 20 eBay changed something that broke many of my bookmarked eBay searches. I have worked with a search team member to solve these problems with no success. My two most serious problems are that many of my more complex bookmarked searches that I run each week on Firefox are no longer working, as search is putting commas between every word in all of the exact phrases in my ''exact phrase'' searches. Single keyword searches are not affected, unless they end in an asterisk (wild card), then they often don't work anymore. The second problem, that is particularly frustrating, is that in Firefox (on a mac) the results pages will not stay on 200 items per page. After the first page of 200 results, page two reverts to 25 items per page, and stays on 25/page, except for the occasional 50 or 100/page, then back to 25/page. If I click on 200 it just goes back to page 1. I have to move these searches over to Safari where they will stay on 200/page. I get this same behavior on different computers. After a while I just give up. If I have a search that gives a thousand results I can't go 25/page, it would take me forever. EBay has known about this for many weeks and doesn't seem to care about fixing the problem, or working with Mozilla to find a fix. I know that I'm not buying as much as usual because so many of my one thousand bookmarked searches will no longer work. And it all started on the evening of February 20. I think the best course of action is to alert AuctionBytes.com to these problems. I would use their LETTERS or CONTACT US links to let them know about the problems sellers are having. I’ve been alerting them to my searching problems regularly since February.

There are other search problems. I was on page 3 of my search results (Page 3 of 197). The search was for auctions only, listings ending within 7 days, sorted by time ending soonest. I look at 24 hours of this search each night. The last auction on page 3 was ending in 16h 1m. I clicked on the next page and should have seen something like 16h 5m. Instead I got 6d 10h 5m (page 4 of 33). So it jumped from auctions ending in 16 hours to auctions ending in almost a week. Search is so messed up it's almost not usable. And yes, I cleared my cache, history, etc. Another very serious problem for buyers is that eBay took away the option to view search results as ''End time/date'' and now we can only view results as ''Time Left.'' The problem with this is that ''time left'' is a floating point, not a fixed point in time, so the buyer can't keep track of where they left off searching the day before. Here are many discussions to show that losing the ''End time/date'' is bothering a lot of buyers:

http://tinyurl.com/7eg8x45

All of this is making searching and buying very difficult, and I know that, personally, it takes me twice as long to run my searches each week as it did before February 20, and this means I'm finding a lot less to buy.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

This user has validated their user name. by: Stockmiser

Tue May 29 06:32:24 2012

Sorry, but the Omniture stats are wrong.

My stats show the same pattern, but it has nothing to do with ''search methods'' since referring domains did not change.  

You can't go from 12% Google search finds to 90% Google search finds and have your referring domains (where people are actually coming from to your listings) stay at 4%.

Obviously the stats are messed up - which is not unusual for Omniture.

I also track stats using my web server, which serves my graphics to my ebay listings.  There is no change in those stats for that month.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Tue May 29 06:58:10 2012

My standing searches cover a wide variety of categories, for ALL conditions, not just new or used. Recently - I would try to save a new search & got a pop-up saying I had reached my maximum. I deleted a few, but still got the same pop-up. After a few days, I could save a search again.

I have noticed that there are less and less NEW listings with the "new" icon showing up in the searches when I search under "newly listed" approx the same time each day. I've done some searches for years: there used to be 2-3 pages of "newly listed" stuff to look at each day, then last year "newly listed" stuff dwindled to 1 page, now it typically doesn't even fill 1/2 a page.  Could be warped search results, but could it be sellers are just leaving or not listing as much? As a buyer, it sure seems I have a heck of a lot less to choose from these days. Saves me money to make up losing my TRS discount, I guess.

AND: When I sell items, for research I look at completed listings. These days there are HUGE amounts of (red)unsold items, when in the past those same brands would almost all have shown as a (green) sold item.

Something I have observed: many times, through a wide range of categories I've searched in,  the "sold" items are "used" in a sea of unsold "new" items. I'm not sure if that reflects the economy, eBay's most loyal buying base trending toward "used", or if "completed" is warped too.  

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

by: jdbok This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 29 09:21:47 2012

similar pattern
devastating financially
I have decreased auctions considerably as they don't seem to show up when ending which is the only reason to pay the fee for the search control
there is no way to plan a listing schedule or optimize anymore
10 years of ebay full time selling-- usually 1000 products in CSA-- used and vintage
I am desperate to find an alternative -- still none viable.
Etsy a poor alt and the only one.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 29 09:30:33 2012

I sell vintage and antique jewelry--small seller. I had about 4k in sales every month last year. This year, I can barely get to 2k. I know something is terribly wrong, but I just feel helpless about it. And whatever will happen when I am only ''Above Standard'' instead of a TRS? Will any of us sell anything?

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

by: GetOverIt This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 29 09:43:07 2012

The issue with search traffic is in the Omniture tagging (the code that reports traffic data to Omniture) and not a real change in traffic patterns. eBay modified their search engine last August and ALL stores lost visibility to 99% of eBay search traffic via the search engine and search keywords reports.

However, you CAN still see this traffic in the referrers report. Open the referrers report and search for: http://www.ebay.com/sch and then filter the listings. You will see all of the eBay searches that drove traffic to you. With some Excel magic, you can even dissect the URLs to see what KWs drove you the traffic (extract everything after "nkw=" and before the next &.

Silly? Yes. Conspiracy? No.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Tue May 29 11:27:50 2012

The sheer arrogance of Ebay is very evident by Hoff's remark at the end of the article.  It's that arrogance that drives us all nuts.  As getting a straight and honest answer out of Ebay is increasingly difficult as their arrogance level keeps climbing.

I as many sellers have notice increasing problems and decreasing sales.  However, I can say with confidence that as of the last week of April this year, sales fell off a cliff like I've never seen before.  It's been bad, but this is much worse.  This week sales has edged up a little bit, but certainly no where near where it should be as my personal history shows.  

Something is wrong, very wrong.  And why Ebay doesn't fess up and get this fixed I don't understand.  It has to be costing them money too.  If buyers can't find what they want, they can't buy it and they will move on to other sites where they can get what they need or desire at the time.  None of this makes sense.  Ebay attitude nor the significant decrease in sales.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 29 11:44:26 2012

THANK YOU MARIE!!!!

It doesn't make sense for ebay to blatently LOSE money yet this is the very thing that SEEMS to be happening.  IF they have lost interest in running the site I am pretty sure that it could be sold for billions and they could all go live in Tahiti without ever having to worry about a thing.  

It is puzzling tho that what one poster mentioned I see when I do searches for either myself or research---one or two scattered GREEN sales vs thousands of RED non-sales.

Makes you really wonder WHAT exactly potential buyers are being allowed to SEE.  But even THAT doesn't make sense as sometimes I see mostly USED items selling and other times it is NEW on the SAME searchs.  

Tis a puzzlement---and not a good Sherlock Holmes type either

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Tue May 29 12:08:34 2012

@comet

It has some to do with the rolling blackouts.  While Ebay, through their arrogance, will never admit this happens, there is plenty of evidence out there that is does.

I have days when ALL my sales are only to Canadian customers.  Or days When all I sell is in the mid west US.  Or the East Coast, or whatever.  There just are so many times that all my sales are from one geographic area.  Really, with well over 90 million active users worldwide, REALLY?!?!?  How on Earth is that even possible?

Then more recently, I've had groups of listings [I only tested auctions, not BIN listings] drop off the face of the earth.  No matter how I searched for them, they just would not come up in Ebay searches for days.

Since the last week in April, I could run up a couple hundred auctions for 7 days and most would have no views at all and only a handful would show any fews.  And even less than a handful sold.  This has picked up slightly and I do mean slightly in the past week and views are starting to happen a little more, but it is no where near what it was even two months ago.

So there is plenty of evidence out there that something serious is going on.  If I see this on my account, there are plenty of other people that see similar stuff on their accounts.  

Ebay has such an asset that they never seem to tap into to resolve issues.  Their sellers.  I realize they don't see us as an asset, but we are and we know it.  If Ebay would just really talk with some of their seasoned mid ranged and smaller sellers, they may be pleasantly surprised at what they may learn.  Of course it would mean they would have to have an open mind about things and that isn't likely to happen as they really ony see us as doormats most of the time.  Just somewhere to wipe their feet.

Perminate Link for eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search   eBay Sellers Dissect Changes to Search

by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Tue May 29 14:45:10 2012

I think eBay Inc. feels the key to their success is dealing with giant diamond sellers and turning eBay into a product based venue like Amazon.  

The trouble with that approach at Amazon is any seller can list an item on a product page even if it's not nearly the same.  

I actually called Amazon and complained about that.  Their sellers going nuts, selling a knockoff on the same page as an original manufacturers item.  Like they are the same!  Ridiculous.  

So you get the item and pay 10% less and find you get a Chinese copy rather than the original, and the original is described as a real OEM. The title says so. But what you get is another brand entirely.  This happened to me.

But eBay thinks that's what it's going to take to be successful and there's going to be little we can do to change their minds.  

Where eBay has been so great all these years is because you could find things on eBay that you just can't get anywhere else.  Because of the myriad of sellers listing those items.  They are throwing that away.  But that is what differentiated eBay.

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