Optimizing eBay’s Search as a Seller

I’ve been selling on eBay, on and off, since 1998. Over the years, and especially in the past two years, I’ve worked on learning as much as I can about the best way to list items to make sure my items show up well in the Best Match search algorithm eBay uses.

In the past, things were much more straightforward than they are now. And I’m not claiming to be an expert of any sort on how eBay sets up Best Match. But there are a few things I’ve learned that seem to be working for me, especially since the last several rounds of changes for sellers.

DO: Use good keywords in your item titles.

Follow the eBay Rule of Three: the first three keywords in your item title should be those that your potential buyers will most likely use to search with. Your item title doesn’t have to read like a sentence, it has to bring buyers to your listing. For example, let’s say I have a vintage postcard with artwork by Frances Brundage, published by the Raphael Tuck Company in their series number 204. It’s a Valentine’s Day card, and has an image of a beautiful woman holding a yellow rose. You could, using the 55 Characters eBay allows, title the item something like “Beautiful Woman Holding Yellow Rose by Frances Brundage.” But that wouldn’t be using the keywords in the most optimal way.

A far more effective way to list such an item would be to put the three most important keywords first, to ensure your item pops as close as possible to the top of the search list, like this: Brundage Valentine Tuck 204 BEAUTIFUL WOMEN Yellow Rose. Such use of keywords puts this item in the top three shown out of 69 items that come up with the search terms “Brundage Valentine.” So it pays to think like a buyer, and study how your buyers use keywords to search for items, so you can use the system to your advantage.

DO: Use Item Specifics to include more keywords that will allow your item to be seen by more potential buyers.

Again, I’m not an expert on how they work, nor do I know for sure how eBay factors them into the Best Match algorithm. But in my experience, listings that have them sell better than those that don’t. So use them, they’re free! Be creative, put in things that you’d like to have in the title but don’t have room for. Can’t hurt, might help.

DON’T: Keyword spam in your item titles.

This is a big no-no, and could get your item pulled by eBay if they notice it, or someone reports it. Keyword spamming means using words in your item title that do not bear directly on your listing. eBay takes a dim view of this, and all sellers should know the specifics of their rules, which can be found here: Search and browse manipulation policy.

DON’T: List things as Good Til Canceled.

When I started out, I had a number of items I knew would be “long tails”, those that might sit in my store for a while, but would eventually sell. For such items GTC seemed perfect, they’d just keep rolling over until they sold, and I wouldn’t have to worry about manually relisting them. That’s fine, in theory. However the way Best Match works with regards to GTC goes something like this:

List an item. It doesn’t sell during the first 30 days, although a number of potential buyers view it (let’s say 30.) eBay’s Best Match algorithm takes into account that you had 30 views but no one purchased. So the next time the item rolls over, it’s pushed lower down in Best Match (the default way that items are shown to potential buyers.) The more months that pass with the item unsold, the lower and lower it ends up in Best Match.

eBay has given sellers a tool that can be used to determine how well an item shows up in Search, called the Search Visibility Analysis. I am still learning to use this tool, and will note it contains some pretty good data that sellers can use to tune up their listings. You can search by specific item number, or check how your items are doing in a specific category. One of the things eBay does tell us using this tool is “The ratio of sales to the number of times the listing has been displayed to members in search results” has an impact on where the item ends up in Best Match. And in my experience, using GTC lowers that ratio, and thereby lowers an item in Search.

So how to work around that problem? A simple suggestion:

DO: Re-list items using either Sell Similar, or Relist as Fixed Price.

I’ve had an eBay store for a long time. In the latest round of changes, eBay put all “store” items ‘into core” search (theoretically anyway.) What was interesting to note for the several months after that happened was, items that ended and were GTC relisted, were still called “Store Items” by eBay in the end of listing email I got. Items that I manually ended and then relisted using either Sell Similar or Relist as Fixed Price, somehow got shoved back into Search as brand new items. I have many items that sat in my store for months which, when I relisted as Sell Similar, sold the very same day, or within that same week. It’s almost as if they were sitting still invisible (as store items used to be hidden from Core Search), even though they were, theoretically, in core.

My conclusions are based only on my own experience, and as such are anecdotal. But the suggestions I make here have worked for me, and may well work for other sellers too. I know my sales have stayed pretty even during these changes, while other sellers have really struggled with drops in sales and exposure. Try some of these tips and see if they help. At this point, some of us will use all the help we can get to increase our sales on eBay! Best of luck to all you sellers out there, and I hope this will be of some small help to you.

5 thoughts on “Optimizing eBay’s Search as a Seller

  1. I wish you luck. Initially, I was one of the lucky ones as well. I’d read countless eBay forum posts by sellers who said their sales had ‘gone off a cliff.’ Mine were still good, and continued to be good, until about a month ago. Now it’s as though my listings are invisible. I’m an experienced seller; I know how to optimize titles, etc. I’m just simply no longer getting the same level of exposure that I was. I now feel lucky to get 1 sale a day, whereas before I was getting multiple.

  2. Wow – never knew that last one – so everything (709) items that I still have that shows as GTC instead of Fixed Price is invisible?? That’s annoying because that stupid eBay radio show person said to just let it roll over, not to end it and relist it.

    709 items going away on 7/20/10…. BYE eBay
    NO this is NOT my user id…I’m not crazy.

  3. Gosh, thanks for the great info!
    I am going to try all your suggestions to see if they improve my business that experienced an 80% tank at the end of March!!!

  4. Have you ever considered about adding a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is important and all. Nevertheless just imagine if you added some great graphics or video clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and videos, this blog could definitely be one of the most beneficial in its niche. Fantastic blog!

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