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Revised 3rd Edition

Best Match Made Simple

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Third Edition, Š 2009 by Douglas Feiring. You have permission to email this, print this and pass it along for free to anyone you like, as long as you make no changes or edits to its contents or digital format. You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work. You must attribute the work to the author (but not in any way that suggests that the author endorses you or your use of the work). This is version 3.0 of the book. As the Best Match algorithm changes and new insights are uncovered, the book will be updated periodically. For the most current version, for a free download visit: www.auctioninsights.info/bestmatchbook

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Forward Over my many years of observing eBay, from the perspective of an online merchant, I’ve seen many changes, but none have been so “game changing” as eBay’s “Best Match.” During the first quarter of 2008 eBay made “Best Match” the default sort for the eBay platform and things have not been the same since. Whatever your feelings about this change, one thing is certain; eBay has committed to it, so eBay sellers have two choices “adapt and learn how to optimize for 'Best Match' or move your product off the platform.” There is a third choice, which is to bury your head in the sand and continue to do things the way you’ve always done. The end result of that choice will be no sales and lots of fees to eBay, so in essence you will be no longer selling on eBay because you will be out of business. So what is an eBay seller, who chooses the first option (Optimize for Best Match) to do? The whole idea of Best Match can be quite confusing and there are few resources available to help you understand what it means to your business. Doug Feiring of AuctionInsights.com realized there was problem and came up with a solution – “Best Match Made Simple.” Doug has done a fantastic job of explaining how Best Match works in plain English, but he’s also gone one-step further and provided eBay sellers with a resource that will help you optimize your listings for “Best Match.” Best Match Made Simple will be a valuable addition to your eBay library. Learn to use “Best Match,” don’t let it use you. Randy Smythe http://www.myblogutopia.com/

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Steal These Ideas! I invite you to spread the word about Best Match Made Simple: 1. Send this file to a friend. 2. Send them a link to: www.AuctionInsights.info/bestmatchbook 3. Print out as many copies as you would like.

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Table of Contents Forward......................................................................................................................................................3 Introduction: Best Match – Adapt or Perish..............................................................................................9 Who Moved My Cheese?......................................................................................................................9 About this Book...................................................................................................................................10 Chapter 1. If You Don't Have Time to Read this Book............................................................................11 Here's the Bottom Line Up Front........................................................................................................11 Listing Format ....................................................................................................................................12 Time Remaining.............................................................................................................................12 Auction Style..................................................................................................................................12 Fixed Price......................................................................................................................................13 Demand Data & Relevancy ................................................................................................................14 Keywords........................................................................................................................................14 Relevancy.......................................................................................................................................14 Desirability ....................................................................................................................................14 Product Information............................................................................................................................15 Shipping and Handling...................................................................................................................15 Item Specifics.................................................................................................................................15 Trust Factors........................................................................................................................................16 Seller Performance..........................................................................................................................16 Conclusion...........................................................................................................................................17 Product + Traffic + Conversions = Profit............................................................................................18 Chapter 2. Introducing Best Match and Best Match Optimization..........................................................21 How Things Used To Work.................................................................................................................21 Best Match’s Impact on Sellers...........................................................................................................22 Why Is This Important?.......................................................................................................................24 Best Match Is About Business.............................................................................................................24 Same Name - Different “Best Match”.................................................................................................25 Introducing Best Match Optimization.................................................................................................25 Score The Most Points ........................................................................................................................25 Best Match and You.............................................................................................................................26 A Word About Product Sourcing.........................................................................................................27 Chapter 3. Listing Type: Auction or Fixed Price...................................................................................29 Auction Style Listings.........................................................................................................................29 Fixed Price Listings.............................................................................................................................30 Multi-Quantity Listing Overview........................................................................................................31 Improve Your Listing Performance Score and Improve Your Ranking..............................................31 Categories In Which Listing Performance Scores Do Not Apply..................................................32 Calculating the Listing Performance Score – An Example............................................................33

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Listing Performance Score: What Have Done For Me Lately?......................................................34 Listing Performance Scores Carry-Over When You Re-list................................................................34 Tips to Improve Your Listing Performance Score...............................................................................35 Decrease Impressions.....................................................................................................................36 Increase Sales While Keeping Impressions Low............................................................................36 Increase Recent Sales.....................................................................................................................37 Featured First..................................................................................................................................37 Best Offer........................................................................................................................................38 Auction or Fixed Price: Selecting a Format.......................................................................................39 Conclusion...........................................................................................................................................40 Product Sourcing Part II......................................................................................................................41 Chapter 4. Trust Factors...........................................................................................................................43 Seller Performance..............................................................................................................................43 Feedback.........................................................................................................................................43 Detailed Seller Ratings...................................................................................................................44 Improving Your DSR's........................................................................................................................46 Buyer Satisfaction Rating...............................................................................................................48 The Seller Dashboard.....................................................................................................................48 The Top-Rated Seller Program............................................................................................................49 Conclusion...........................................................................................................................................50 Active Traffic Generation Techniques ................................................................................................51 Chapter 5. Product Information..............................................................................................................53 List in the Correct Category................................................................................................................53 Price.....................................................................................................................................................53 Include Item Specifics.........................................................................................................................54 Geographic Distance...........................................................................................................................55 Shipping Prices & Methods.................................................................................................................56 Conclusion...........................................................................................................................................58 Active Traffic Generation Techniques Part II......................................................................................60 Chapter 6. Demand Data and Relevancy................................................................................................61 Desirability..........................................................................................................................................61 Include Best Match Keywords............................................................................................................62 Identify the Valuable Keywords..........................................................................................................63 Analyze Your Niche............................................................................................................................65 Conduct Your Analysis........................................................................................................................65 Test Your Auction Title........................................................................................................................66 Make the Most of Your Listing Title:..................................................................................................66 Never Use Negative Keywords...........................................................................................................67 If You Don't Own Your Traffic, Who Owns Your Business?..............................................................68 Chapter 7. Optimize Your Keywords with the BayEstimator..................................................................71 How the BayEstimator Works.............................................................................................................71

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Conclusion...........................................................................................................................................76 A Word About Conversions.................................................................................................................77 Chapter 8. Best Match Manipulation.......................................................................................................79 Misleading Keywords..........................................................................................................................79 Keyword Repetition............................................................................................................................79 A Dynamic Algorithm.........................................................................................................................80 Making eBay Work for You.................................................................................................................82 It's time to take back your business and dreams!............................................................................83 The bottom line? ............................................................................................................................86 Appendix A: Decoding the Best Match Patent Application....................................................................87 Factors Described in Patent Influencing Best Match..........................................................................87 Listing Titles........................................................................................................................................88 Determining Relevancy Score.............................................................................................................89 Good Keywords Get Rewarded...........................................................................................................89 Less Desirable Keywords Get Penalized.............................................................................................90 Keyword Relevance Scores are Determined Over Time by User Actions..........................................90 Calculating an Auction Listing’s Relevance Value.............................................................................91 Hypothetical Examples........................................................................................................................91 Determining Desirability.....................................................................................................................92 Supply and Demand............................................................................................................................92 How Supply is Calculated...................................................................................................................93 How Demand is Calculated.................................................................................................................93 Calculating Desirability.......................................................................................................................94 Putting it All Together.........................................................................................................................94 Additional Factors Affecting Best Match Search Result Ranking......................................................94 Optimizing Your Auction Listings for eBay’s Best Match..................................................................95 Other Factors You Might Influence.....................................................................................................96 The Last Word.....................................................................................................................................96 Appendix B: The Best Match Patent Application...................................................................................97

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Steal These Ideas! I invite you to spread the word about Best Match Made Simple: 1. Send this file to a friend. 2. Send them a link to: www.AuctionInsights.info/bestmatchbook 3. Print out as many copies as you would like.

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Introduction: Best Match – Adapt or Perish Who Moved My Cheese? If you’ve read Dr Spencer Johnson’s book, Who Moved My Cheese, you are familiar with the concept “adapt or perish.” The analogy, by the author of The One Minute Manager, tells the story of mice in a maze. At the beginning of the tale, all of the mice knew their way through the maze to the cheese and life was great. However, at some point, the cheese is moved to a different part of the maze. Some mice keep returning to the old cheese location and loudly lament their poor fortune. Other mice go looking for more cheese. The mice who insist on doing what worked in the past eventually perish - all the time complaining, “Who moved my cheese!?” The mice who set out to find a new source of cheese experience a number of wrong turns and set-backs as they stumble through the maze until they eventually find success. The moral of this story is: Change happens and eBay moved the cheese when they implemented the Best Match search algorithm. Like the mice in the book, eBay sellers must change and adapt if they want to keep ahead of the pack. According to Dr. Johnson, “If you do not change, you can become extinct. Get out of your comfort zone and adapt to change sooner. Take control, rather than let things happen to you.” This book is intended to help you, the eBay seller, take control and ensure that eBay works for you, vice you working for eBay.

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About this Book The third edition of this book represents my effort to consolidate all of the credible information regarding Best Match in one spot. I tracked down the patent application for the search algorithm, combed the internet for interviews in which eBay executives and developers mentioned specific functionality of Best Match, read blog and message forum posts detailing other sellers' observations of Best Match, and conducted my own analysis based on personal experiments with the search results. Why did I do these things? Because I saw Best Match as an opportunity. I figured that while most sellers were oblivious to the significance of the pending changes, and while many of the rest were busy complaining on the eBay forums, the effort I invested trying to figure out how Best Match worked could provide my listings an advantage. Many members of the eBay community have asked why I would take the significant time and effort required to produce an eBook with such valuable information and just give it away. In fact, as I've worked on this project, I've often asked myself the same question. Simply put, my goals with Best Match Made Simple are to establish my credibility in the industry, to encourage you the reader to visit AuctionInsights, and to gain the experience of writing, publishing and promoting an information product for future, paid projects. So, here it is. I invite you to share this free eBook with other eBay sellers who might benefit from knowing how Best Match works, and how they can use that knowledge to improve their sales on eBay. To Your Continued Success, Doug Feiring http://www.AuctionInsights.info

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Chapter 1. If You Don't Have Time to Read this Book... Here's the Bottom Line Up Front Recently eBay changed the default way in which search results are presented to visitors and potential bidders. Instead of sorting them by time, with auctions that are ending soonest listed at the top of the search results, they are now sorted by an algorithm called Best Match that considers a number of factors including: ✔

Listing Type – Fixed-price or auction style listings change the dynamic depending on the listing’s category.

Trust Factors – Including Feedback scores, Detailed Seller Ratings and other metrics.

Product Information – Including listing attributes, shipping methods and charges, category, and other information.

Demand Data & Relevancy – This factor involves what buyers are doing on the auction site relative to the products you have listed for sale. Includes title keywords.

Understanding Best Match is important because your eBay listings can be rewarded or punished in the search result listings based on the factors listed above. If your listings are punished, you may never find your way to the first page of the eBay search results. This is a precarious fate for an eBay seller, because that means bidders aren't seeing your listings. And if they aren't seeing them, they're not bidding on them and you're not making the sales. Conversely, if your listings are rewarded because you have mastered these factors, they may linger at the top of the search results for much longer than they would have under the old

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default search algorithm and sort method. Improve any of the following factors and your rankings in eBay's search results should improve as well.

Listing Format Various categories and sub-categories place different weights on the two listing formats under the Best Match algorithm. For example, auction-type listings in the Antiques category get a favorable boost in the search results compared to fixed-priced listings posted in the same category. Conversely, listings with the fixed-price format get increased exposure in the Camera category compared to auction-style listings. This dynamic varies by sub-category, sometimes substantially.

Time Remaining Although time remaining used to be the only factor that influenced the default eBay search results, it still carries substantial weight for auction style listings in the Best Match algorithm. Due to the influence of the other factors in the algorithm described in this book, having the listing that is ending the soonest no longer guarantees you the top spot in the search results. It won't even assure of being listed on page one! Time remaining carries the opposite effect for fixed priced listings under the Best Match algorithm – newly listed items receive an initial boost that diminishes over time.

Auction Style Time remaining until the auction ends is a significant factor in the Best Match algorithm for listings with the traditional auction style format. Listings ending sooner get a boost in the search rankings over those that close more distant in the future. Additionally, Best Match

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provides auction style listings increased visibility in certain categories, specifically those in which “multi-quantity listings are not possible [or] not rational.”1 Auction style listings have experienced a renaissance on eBay recently. The Best Match algorithm now provides increased exposure for the format. On average, 60-70% of the listings on the first page of the search results are allocated to auction style listings that are closing soon. That's a significant improvement over the first year of the Best Match. Therefore, one of the simplest ways of optimizing for visibility under Best Match is by simply employing the “old school” auction style listing format and biding your time until the listing is about to close.

Fixed Price With the exception of the collectibles categories, eBay calculates something called a “listing performance score” for fixed-priced (Stores Inventory, Buy It Now or BIN) listings. The listing performance score is a ratio determined by the number of sales generated (for multiple quantity listings) divided by the number of times the listing has appeared in eBay's search results. Scoring well for this particular metric positively influences that listings ranking in the search results under Best Match. The listing performance score does not apply to items listed in the collectibles categories (see page 32 for a complete category list). In these categories, newly listed fixed-price listings receive a boost in the search results over similar items that have been listed longer.

1 eBay Developer Blog, “Developer Impact: Recent Sales and Best Match,” http://ebaydeveloper.typepad.com/dev/2008/09/developer-impac.html (September 2008).

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Demand Data & Relevancy Keywords Keywords are the words that the eBay seller includes in the precious 55 characters of the listing title. These words are used to determine the relevancy and desirability scores of the auction listing. Selecting the right keywords represent the most efficient way to influence your search result ranking in Best Match. Visit the “BayEstimator” on the eBay Labs website to test how your keywords score for a particular search query. Click ► http://labs.ebay.com/raghavgupta/demoto/to

Relevancy The relevancy score is determined by historical buyer behavior for a particular search query. For listing titles that are similar to yours, eBay determines how many times in the past those auctions were clicked on, added to watch lists, bid upon, and ultimately resulted in a sale. The more often these bidder activities occurred, the higher the relevancy score for the keywords in a particular auction title.

Desirability Another factor influencing eBay's Best Match search results is something termed “desirability.” This is a relatively basic function of supply and demand. If most searchers on eBay using the query “iPod nano” are actually looking for the MP3 player vice iPod accessories (such as chargers or cases), then the demand for listings of Apple MP3 players is high. If most of the listings with the keywords “iPod nano” in the title are actually selling accessories, then the supply of iPod nano MP3 players is low.

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Auctions where supply is low and demand is high will score well for desirability.

Product Information Shipping and Handling Quoted in the New York Times Technology Blog, John Donohoe, the CEO of eBay, made it clear that shipping and handing fees and shipping methods influence a listing's rankings in the Best Match search results. He said, “Sellers that provide reasonable and fast shipping, even free shipping will rise to the top.”2 With the October 2009 changes to Best Match, eBay clarified that fixed-price listings offering free shipping receive a boost in the search results while both auction style and fixed-priced listings that charge what eBay defines as unreasonable shipping and handling charges will receive reduced visibility.

Item Specifics Item Specifics are another product information factor influencing Best Match. These are the details sellers have the opportunity to provide when they list their product for sale on eBay. For example, a listing in the Book category might provide the seller the ability to enter details such as hard cover or paperback; new or used; fiction or non-fiction; year published; etc. The Item Specifics function varies by category and may duplicate information the seller has included in the listing's description. Taking the time to submit this data allows eBay's software to know specific information about the item in a format the site can use to help potential bidders find your listing.

2 Saul Hansell, John Donahoe’s Plan to Save eBay: Better Search, http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/24/johndonahoes-plan-to-save-ebay-better-search/?ref=technology (January 2008).

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Trust Factors Seller Performance A significant factor influencing your rankings in Best Match is your performance as a seller quantified and evaluated by the feedback and Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR's) left by eBay users who have made purchases from you in the past. DSR's are evaluated over a 12-month period unless the seller has had 400 more transactions over the most recent 3 calender months. In which case, the most recent 3 complete calender months comprise the DSR evaluation period. The quality standards become more strict in April 2010. Until then, the following criteria are used to evaluate seller performance. Failing to meet any of these metrics will result in lowered visibility in the Best Match search results: â—?

No greater than 3% of transactions rated as 1's or 2's for the metric Item As Described.

â—?

No greater than 4% of transactions rated as 1's or 2's for Communication, Shipping Time, or Shipping and Handling Charges.

eBay has established a minimum number of instances for these penalties to take effect. That means if you are a low volume seller, it will take a minimum of three transactions rated as 1's or 2's in Item As Described and four instances in the other categories before a you start seeing your listings fall in the search result. As of April 2010, the following are the minimum quality standards sellers must meet in order to not be disadvantaged in eBay's search results: â—?

No greater than 1% of transactions rated as 1's or 2's for the metric Item As Described.

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No greater than 2% of transactions rated as 1's or 2's for Communication, Shipping Time, or Shipping and Handling Charges.

Again, the three instance (of 1's or 2's) threshold applies to low-volume sellers for the Item As Described DSR and four instances for the other DSR metrics. To view your Detailed Seller Ratings, login to eBay and visit: ► http://cgi6.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?SellerDashboard Note: As of Sept 2009, eBay requires sellers to have at least 10 DSR's over the previous 12months in order to access the seller dashboard. Also, according to eBay, “sellers with excessive claims, [and] negative or neutral feedback ... may receive lowered search standing.”3 “Top-Rated Sellers” who meet volume and quality thresholds will receive increased exposure in eBay's search results for fixed-price listings.

Conclusion Best Match represents a fundamental shift in the eBay marketplace. Understanding Best Match is important because your eBay listings can be rewarded or punished in the search result listings based on the factors listed above. Sellers who adapt to these changes can see marked improvements in their online sales.

3 eBay Seller Update: July 2009, http://pages.ebay.com/sell/July2009Update/faq/index.html (Oct 2009).

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Product + Traffic + Conversions = Profit The title of this sidebar outlines the simple formula to online success. You've taken the time to download and read this eBook because you want to increase traffic (visitors) to your auction listings by mastering every aspect of the eBay Best Match algorithm you can control. Product + Traffic + Conversions = Profit While the formula is simple in concept, it's sometimes difficult to execute. It's easy to get overly focused on one variable of the formula such as driving traffic to your listings, while neglecting the other aspects that significantly influence online profits. While this book's focus is on increasing traffic through Best Match optimization, I'll be sprinkling insights and recommended resources I use for improving each factor affecting the profit equation. Product – Successful internet sellers make money their money when they buy – not when they sell. Profitable product sourcing involves researching and discovering niches in which there is sufficient demand to support your entry into a market that is also under-served by professional sellers who can market their products well. It also involves finding credible and reliable sources for these products at wholesale prices – not a simple task for the uninitiated. Traffic – Best Match Optimization only one way to increase traffic to your auctions. Independent sellers don't depend on eBay to drive

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customers to their listings. They take matters in their own hands. Conversions – What happens when the potential buyers arrive at your auctions. Do they bid, or hit the back button? The appearance of your listings is often all the potential bidder has to judge your credibility as a seller. By presenting a professional image in your auctions, you can significantly increase your sales.

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Steal These Ideas! I invite you to spread the word about Best Match Made Simple: 1. Send this file to a friend. 2. Send them a link to: www.AuctionInsights.info/bestmatchbook 3. Print out as many copies as you would like.

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Chapter 2. Introducing Best Match and Best Match Optimization Best Match is eBay's new default search and sort algorithm. It is fundamentally different than the way search results were presented to potential bidders browsing the auction site during eBay's first decade of existence. Unfortunately, for many sellers accustomed to success under the old search method, Best Match has had significant negative impact on their sales. For those sellers nimble enough to adjust and adapt to the new paradigm, Best Match actually results in increased sales. These are the sellers that have learned to optimize their eBay listings for maximum exposure under the Best Match algorithm.

How Things Used To Work Until recently, eBay served up search results in a very straight forward manner. It would: 1. Look at the keywords entered by the buyer 2. Look at the keywords of every listing on the site 3. Return only the listings that had 100% of the keywords entered by the buyer 4. Sort the listings by “time remaining”4 Previously, by default, results were sorted by listing end times, with the auctions that were ending the soonest appearing at the top of the search results. This method provided parity for all listings, as all of them eventually worked their way to the top spot of eBay’s search results. All an auction seller needed to do to appear at the top of the search results was: (1) anticipate what search terms potential bidders might enter in the eBay search box, (2) include those keywords in their auction title, and (3) wait until their listing's end time approached. 4 Adam Nash, eBay Rolls Out Best Match, http://blog.adamnash.com/2008/01/21/ebay-rolls-out-best-match-in-earnest/ (January 2008).

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The good news was that everybody got their turn on the first page of the search results as the time remaining in their listing ticked towards closing time. The bad news was that the seller could not count on the user to employ a search query that included the same exact keywords that they had put in their listing's title. eBay’s Best Match search results are supposed to serve up results that are relevant to the buyer according to historical buyer behavior – regardless of what search query the bidder used. Best Match is also designed to encourage selling practices eBay feels improve the buying experience – such as offering low shipping and handling fees and excellent customer service. According to a post announcing the feature: “Using this sort won’t change which listings are returned, it only changes the order in which listings are presented. No listings will be added or removed when [sorted] by Best Match.“ Additionally, “[Best Match] actually learns and never stops learning. … [It] learns from aggregated buyers’ activity over time and accordingly adjusts product rankings. … Product rankings are dependent on what buyers are looking for and clicking on.”5

Best Match’s Impact on Sellers Unfortunately for many sellers, their listings aren’t ever making it to the first page of the search results under eBay’s Best Match algorithm. Look at the two screen shots below. They both show the search results obtained when the bidder searches eBay using the phrase “Guitar Hero III Controller.” The first screen shot is sorted by time, with ending soonest at the top of the search results.

5 Esteban Kozak, Introducing Best Match: A new sort option based on relevance, http://forums.ebay.com/db1/thread.jspa? threadID=2000241408&tstart=0&mod=12102327081479 (October 2006).

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This was the default search and sort method until recently and displays listings as you would normally expect. The top listing closes in 9 minutes. The next listing closes in 15 minutes, followed by one that ends in 16 minutes, etc. Every listing gets their turn on the first page, and every listing eventually gets their turn at the top of that page. Now look at the same search results sorted under the Best Match method:

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Under Best Match, the auctions closing in under 19 minutes are nowhere to be found. In fact the listing that occupies the number 3 position closes in 2 hours and 33 minutes! The listing in the number 7 position doesn't close even for almost another 9 hours! What's the difference between the auctions that occupy positions in the top ten of the search results for an 8 hours period and the auctions that will never make it to page one? The answer to that question is the purpose of this book.

Why Is This Important? If a seller’s auctions aren’t making it to the first page of the search results: ●

Buyers aren’t clicking through to their listings;

So, the listings aren't receiving bids; and

The items aren’t selling, or are selling for less than they normally would.

One seller reported on the eBay message board that over the first weekend of Best Match as the default search and sort method on eBay, page views for their auction listings were down over 60% based on statistics collected from their hit counters.

Best Match Is About Business eBay is quick to claim that Best Match is about improving the buyer experience. Sellers are quick to claim that Best Match is about crushing the “little guy.” The truth of the matter is unsurprising. Raghav Gupta, the developer who created eBay’s Best Match algorithm wrote on his eBay Labs web page, “when used appropriately, this capability [eBay’s Best Match] will open doors to significant revenue opportunities, not just for eBay, but also for the vast network of affiliate developers.”6 6 Raghav Gupta, Relevance Sort, http://labs.ebay.com/raghavgupta/ (Accessed January 2008).

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Same Name - Different “Best Match” The auction site employed a search algorithm called Best Match on eBay eXpress a while back that was, by many accounts, a miserable failure. Sellers frustrated with the current situation are quick to question why eBay would employ Best Match on the main site when it was such a disaster before. But as Raghav Gupta points out, this Best Match is a completely different system. He said: “It’s disappointing that the name 'Best Match' was ultimately chosen for describing the sort by relevance functionality on the main site, in particular because it has nothing to do with the 'Best Matches' mechanism used in eBay eXpress. The two do not share the same algorithm, the same code, or the same implementation…except the name.” 7

Introducing Best Match Optimization The Best Match algorithm considers many things when calculating the sort order in the search results pages. Some things are beyond the seller’s control. Other factors, the seller can influence - and exert significant influence at that. These include their reputation as a seller, the listing format, shipping prices & methods, and the keywords included in the listing’s title. This book will help you identify those factors and use them to increase your eBay profits.

Score The Most Points Think of your listing as a competitor in a sporting league. The team with the most points rises to the top of the league standings. Similarly, in Best Match, the listings with the most points rise to the top of the search results for a particular query.

Your objective is to score the most points without cheating. 7 Ibid.

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Points are awarded or deducted for various aspects of the listing, including: ✔

Your auction-style listing accrues points automatically as it gets closer to the time the auction ends.

Your multiple quantity fixed price listing scores points for sales relative to the number of times it has been exposed to eBay visitors in the search results..

Your listing loses points if you have accumulated several 1s or 2s in the Detailed Seller Ratings – especially for the “Item as Described” category.

Your fixed-price listing gains points of you meet the sales volume and seller quality thresholds to qualify as a “Top Rated Seller.”

Your listing gains or loses points depending on your shipping and handing fees.

Your listing gains points if you can identify and include certain keywords in your title.

Your listing gains points if demand is high for what you are selling compared to the number of listings for that particular item.

Best Match and You The competitive eBay seller views Best Match as an opportunity. This change is new to everyone and impacts everyone equally. The good news is that you can use this to your advantage if you are willing to take the effort. There are no hacks or schemes in this book. If you want to optimize your listings to make the most of Best Match, it involves a four-letter word: W – O – R – K. Therein lies your competitive advantage. If you are willing to do some work and learn the system, you will have a significant leg up on the 98 percent of other eBay sellers who won't.

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A Word About Product Sourcing After you've cleaned out the closets, the attic and the garage and sold it all on eBay, it's probably time for you to research sources of wholesale products and goods. If that's the case, AuctionInsights offers a FREE, searchable database of wholesalers and drop shippers that you might find helpful. Click â–ş http://auctioninsights.info/wholesale

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Steal These Ideas! I invite you to spread the word about Best Match Made Simple: 4. Send this file to a friend. 5. Send them a link to: www.AuctionInsights.info/bestmatchbook 6. Print out as many copies as you would like.

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Chapter 3. Listing Type: Auction or Fixed Price The listing format you choose, traditional auction or fixed price (Stores Inventory, “Buy it Now” or BIN), has an impact on the listing's position in the Best Match search results sort order. Some factors, such as time remaining until auction close, influence auction style listings but don't impact fixed price listings. Conversely, some Best Match factors influence BIN listings, such as recent sales, that don't affect auction listings. Additionally, some categories actually favor fixed price listings over the auction style and vice-versa. This chapter will identify these different variables and explain how the seller can use them to their advantage to rank highly in the Best Match search results.

Auction Style Listings The auction style listing is the classic bidder-controlled pricing format which eBay started with back in the early days of the internet. Along with trust factors (chapter 4), relevancy (chapter 6), and item information (chapter 5), time ending soonest is a significant factor in determining ranking the the Best Match algorithm for auctions. This means that listings closing in the near future are ranked higher than auction style listings for similar items closing later in time (assuming the other factors such as product information and trust factors are equal). Because sales activity provides no advantage to this particular format, auction style listings are best when you have limited inventory of a particular item for sale. Additionally, Best Match provides auction style listings an advantage in certain categories, specifically those in which “multi-quantity listings are not possible and not rational.”8 Collectibles and antiques are clearly examples categories that fit this description.

8 eBay Developer Blog, “Developer Impact: Recent Sales and Best Match”

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On average, auction style listings comprise 70% of the listings on the first page of the Best Match search results. This is a significant figure indicating that the auction format is the simplest way to gain visibility under Best Match – if you don't mind waiting until the listing is about to close before you earn that exposure. Including a Buy It Now price on your auction can you help you take advantage of the exposure that comes naturally with the auction listing format while attracting customers who were in the market to buy your product yet not interested in the bidding and waiting associated with auctions.

Fixed Price Listings The fixed price format includes those listings such as “Buy it Now” and Stores inventory where the final selling price of an item is determined by the seller (as opposed to auctions where the bidder activity determines the final sale price). The factors used to determine the ranking (sort order) of a fixed price listing “include (but [are] not limited to) relevance of the title and category, total price (price plus shipping), the listing's recent sales and seller DSRs.”9 Contrasted with the auction style format, fixed price listings are influenced by the item's price and sales history. Contrary to auctions, where listings that are about to end receive a benefit under the Best Match algorithm, fixed-priced listings receive a boost when they are newly listed. This advantage diminishes as the listing gets older. Quantity (listing a single item or multiple items) is irrelevant to receive this initial boost in exposure. Top-rated sellers enjoy increased visibility in the Best Match search results for their fixed-price listings. This advantage does not apply to Top-rated sellers' auction style listings.

9 Ibid.

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Multi-Quantity Listing Overview When a seller has a stockpile of inventory of a specific product for sale, it's often advantageous to list in the multi-quantity, fixed price format. This format allows the items to be listed for up to 30 days at a time for the same low insertion fee of 35 cents (lower in some categories). Sales accumulated by that listing relative to the number of times it has appeared in the search results (a metric called the listing performance score – explained below) can provide an advantage in the Best Match search result rankings. Here's an example of a multiple quantity listing. I recently found some salad plates my wife needed to complete her collection of Christmas china. The seller had more than ten available for sale at a fixed price. After I bought the four pieces my wife needed, the listing remained active because the seller still had inventory remaining.

Improve Your Listing Performance Score and Improve Your Ranking With the exception of the collectibles categories, eBay calculates something called a “listing performance score” for fixed-priced listings. The listing performance score is a ratio

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determined by the number of recent sales generated (for multiple quantity listings) divided by the number of times the listing has appeared in eBay's search results. Scoring well for this particular metric positively influences that listings ranking in the search results under Best Match. The listing performance score does not apply to items listed in the collectibles categories (see below for a complete category list). In these categories, newly listed fixed-price listings receive a boost in the search results over similar items that have been listed longer. Categories In Which Listing Performance Scores Do Not Apply ●

Art

Antiques

Coins & Paper Money

Collectibles

Dolls & Bears

Pottery & Glass

Toys & Hobbies

Stamps

Sports Memorabilia

Cards & Fan Shop

Entertainment Memorabilia

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For listings in these collectible categories, “fixed-price listings will not be sorted by listing performance score but by recency of listing to keep the freshest inventory at the top of the search results.”10 Calculating the Listing Performance Score – An Example The formula for calculating a Listing Performance Score is as follows: number of sales ÷ number of impressions An “impression” occurs any time a buyer (or the seller) sees a search results page that includes the listing. If the listing in the image below is presented to 100 different visitors using eBay's search during the course of a day, then that particular listing accumulates 100 impressions. (Duplicate searches by the same user do not count as multiple impressions.)

Therefore if the Guitar Hero listing above garners 5 sales for every 100 impressions, it's listing performance score is 5%. That's a higher score than a similar listing that earns 5 sales for every 1,000 impressions – a listing performance score of 0.5%. All other Best Match factors being equal, the fixed-price listing with the higher listing performance score will rank higher in the search results. Therefore, improving your listing performance score should be part of your strategy for Best Match optimization. 10 eBay.com, “Seller update: September 2009,” http://pages.ebay.com/sell/July2009Update/Details/, July 2009.

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Listing Performance Score: What Have Done For Me Lately? In addition to the above factors influencing your Listing Performance Score, this metric is a weighted and moving average. According to eBay, “the more recent your sales and impressions are, the more they will count towards your score. So today's listing performance counts more than yesterday's, and yesterday's more than the day before.”11

Listing Performance Scores Carry-Over When You Re-list If you've still got inventory available at the end of the listing period for a multi-quantity listing, you can re-list and maintain any listing performance score advantage you may have earned. To qualify, you must not: ●

Change the category

Change the condition from specified to unspecified

Change the item description

You can make the following changes to a listing without penalty: ●

Change the item's price

Add to the item's description (leaving the original description intact)

Change the duration

Change the title

Add, delete, or change any listing enhancements

Convert listing format from auction style to fixed price

11 Ibid.

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Chis Dawson reported on the TameBay blog that had a multi-quantity, fixed price listing that had earned its way to the first page of the search results by the time it closed through recent sales. “[He] re-listed the item with one edit, changing from a 10 day to a 30 day listing, and within a minute, the new listing was back in the same position (currently eighth from the top of the page out of 892 listings).”12 Conversely, a poor listing performance score carries over when you re-list. If you determine your title or price is impacting your sales, it's best to create a new listing completely than to make changes and re-list your existing listing. (Click “Sell Similar” vice “Re-list”.) If you want the exposure benefits of a new fixed-price listing, it needs to be a new listing. Simply clicking the re-list button won't earn you the initial boost in exposure that the Best Match algorithm affords new fixed priced listings. You'll have to click the “Sell Similar” button and start fresh.

Tips to Improve Your Listing Performance Score Recall the formula for the listing performance score: sales divided by impressions. To increase this score, a seller needs only to: ●

Decrease the number of impressions while holding sales constant;

Increase the number of sales while holding impressions constant;

Or a combination of the above.

12 Chis Dawson, TameBay Blog, “Recent Sales and Auction/BIN Mix,” http://www.tamebay.com/2008/09/recent-sales-andauctionbin-mix.html, September 2008.

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Decrease Impressions Specific and relevant titles are more important than ever. If your title is too broad, it will show up (initially at least) in a lot of search results for a variety of queries. Many of those potential bidders might not be looking for what you are selling – generating numerous impressions without many corresponding sales. For example, while the title below may show up frequently in the results for “new iPod Nano” searches, it probably won’t be generating many sales — at least not for those buyers who actually wanted a new iPod Nano. Like NEW MP3 PLAYER better than IPOD NANO However, if the listing title were more accurate and included something like “Used 2GB Sansa Clip MP3 Player,” it might generate fewer impressions (due to a lower number of searches for that specific item), but it would probably have an excellent ratio of sales per impression and a higher listing performance score. While casting a wide net used to be a good strategy to garner bids, sellers who want to perform well in the listing performance score now need to be more focused.

Increase Sales While Keeping Impressions Low As explained above, the listing performance score is a ratio calculated by your sales divided by impressions. There are two ways of increasing this ratio: ●

Increase the numerator (sales)

Decrease the denominator (impressions)

But how do you garner sales without increasing impressions? - By bypassing the eBay search results completely!

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Send potential bidders straight to your auction listings. How? Link straight to your listings on your web site, Facebook page, blog, emails, Twitter account, and/or business card. AuctionInsights offers a free tool to accomplish this task called AuctionLink (http://www.auctionlink.to). It’s a short web address that links to a page of your current eBay listings – without creating impressions that count against your listing performance score.

Increase Recent Sales In order to get the boost in Best Match for listing performance score you obviously need to have made some sales recently. While I don't normally recommend spending the money to purchase listing upgrades, in this scenario it can be a good, short term investment designed to help you get to the first page of the eBay search results. Once a listing has earned its way to the first page organically, sellers often find that they can cut back on, or drop the listing upgrades all together and still maintain their listing performance score by virtue of their first page exposure.

Featured First Featured First is a paid listing enhancement available only to Top-rated sellers that will allow your listing the opportunity to be displayed at the top of the first page of the search results, regardless of the listing's merits under the Best Match algorithm. There are a limited number positions available for Featured First listings in the “featured area” at the top of the results page. The number of positions vary by category – between two and five. If there are more listings that have the Featured First option for a particular search query than there are slots available, only that number are randomly chosen for display – so there is no guarantee that a particular listing will be shown.

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Featured First is an expensive listing enhancement - $24.95 for up to 10 days and $74.95 for up to 30 days. eBay limits this feature to Top-rated sellers (see Chapter 4). However, this tactic could backfire if the listing is generating a significant number of impressions under the upgrade without recording an adequate number of corresponding sales. These impressions are included in the listing performance score and could negatively impact the listing's visibility when the product is not displayed in the featured area (due to multiple listings in the rotation) or after the period of the listing enhancement expires.

Best Offer Best Offer is a great way to kick start your way to an improved listing performance score. By including the Best Offer enhancement, sellers are permitting potential buyers to email them with offers for their product that are below the asking price in the listing. Sellers then have the option to accept or decline the offer. Accepting a few Best Offers for a slight loss is an excellent strategy to build up a sales advantage and can be cheaper than purchasing Featured First. Including the Best Offer enhancement is free. Some sellers employ Best Offer to great success in conjunction with email marketing lists they maintain with former and potential customers. First, they list a product for sale with the Best Offer option. They then notify their subscribers of the listing – providing a link directly to the listing in order to keep impressions low – informing them that they will accept offers of a specified amount for a week or some other limited period. Any corresponding sales provide an immediate boost to the listing's rankings in the Best Match search results due to high sales relative to low impressions in the search results. Chris Dawson from TameBay suggests the following additional tactics when using Best Offer:13 13 Dawson, TameBay Blog, “Make an offer and get it for less on eBay,” http://www.tamebay.com/2008/12/make-an-offerand-get-it-for-less-on-ebay.html, December 10, 2008.

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1. Make sure you have auto-accept/decline on all listings that have Best Offer on. The auto-accept should be set at the level that you’d be willing to accept for a single item. The auto-decline should be set at the lowest level you’d accept for a multiple item purchase. From then on you’ll only have to manually accept or decline offers that fall between the two levels. 2. Once you have an item showing well in Best Match [due to listing performance score] either remove Best Offer (or remove it when you re-list), or adjust the levels for auto-accept/decline.

Auction or Fixed Price: Selecting a Format According to eBay:14 Use the Auction-style format when: ●

You're unsure of the value of your item and want to sell right away, allowing the eBay Marketplace to determine its value.

You have unique and hard-to-find items that could attract demand and spur a bidding war, maximizing profits from your listing.

You are currently using Auction-style format listings, and you have a high sell-through rate (your items typically sell the first time you list them).

Choose Fixed Price when: ●

You have multiple items that you can place into one listing.

You know the value of your item or know the exact price you need to get for it.

You have a lot of inventory and want to minimize your upfront Insertion Fees.

You want your items to be available to buyers for more than 7 days.

14 eBay.com, “Seller update: September 2009.”

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Conclusion Whether you knew it or not, the type of listing format you choose has an effect on your ranking in the Best Match algorithm. Auctions are good when you have a limited inventory or are listing in categories with a number of unique items for sale. Fixed price listings are beneficial when the seller has multiple items for sale and in categories which boast numerous listings of identical products. The listing performance score is a Best Match variable that influences a multiple quantity fixed-price listings' ranking in the search results. The savvy seller can influence the listing performance score by increasing sales while keeping impressions low. AuctionLink (http://www.auctionlink.to), a free tool from AuctionInsights, can be beneficial in this regard.

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Product Sourcing Part II What is Product Sourcing? Product Sourcing simply means “Finding products to sell through your business.” This, of course, refers to buying products at a real wholesale price, and selling them online for a profit. Product Sourcing is something that truly successful internet sellers take seriously; it's a cornerstone of their success. What does proper Product Sourcing do for my online business? Among other things, eBay is a wonderful eCommerce marketplace. It's a tremendous business opportunity for very little cost. Many sellers start small on eBay, then go on to earn truly impressive fulltime incomes. However, many people starting out run into issues they don't understand and then give up because they don't have the information they need to manage an eBay business competitively. If you dream of owning a successful online business, you CAN do it. There are a few things you really need to understand, though, and Product Sourcing is one of them. Doing your Product Sourcing properly does several things for you and your eBay business: ● ●

Allows you to earn the highest possible profit margins Allows you to be flexible in the products you offer to your potential

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customers Allows you to effectively compete with other Seller's prices

Remember that eBay is a very price-driven market – especially since Best Match was placed into production. If you're not doing your Product Sourcing properly, you'll find that there are many other online sellers who offer the same products you do, but at lower prices. You won't be able to compete with them. Those sellers who offer lower prices ARE making a profit. The difference is that they are probably paying less for the products they sell because they understand how to Source Products the right way. There's a great little eBook written by the product sourcing editor for eBay radio that breaks down all the all the levels of product sourcing and how different methods impact your online business. Did I mention it's FREE? Free Download: Click ► http://auctioninsights.info/ProductSourcing (Don't worry, it's not a sales pitch – just 36 pages of great information!)

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Chapter 4. Trust Factors eBay places a premium on maintaining and improving the positive buying experience. Their continued existence depends on reducing the amount of fraud that is associated with the site. One method to achieve this end is found in the Best Match algorithm. eBay has developed and instituted metrics such as Feedback scores, Detailed Seller Ratings, and Buyer Satisfaction Ratings to identify sellers who are doing well and those that aren't providing the kind of buying experience they desire to foster. Accordingly, Best Match rewards reputable sellers – specifically “Top-rated Sellers” – with increased visibility in the search results and provides incentives for poor sellers to improve.

Seller Performance According to eBay, “Sellers with excessive claims, negative or neutral feedback, or transactions with low DSRs below the new minimum standard for all sellers may receive lowered search standing, possible limits to further selling, loss of PowerSeller and Top-rated seller status and discounts, and in some cases account suspension.”15

Feedback Your feedback score is a factor influencing your rankings in the Best Match search results. Resolve issues before they result in negative feedback. Frequent and clear communication is often the key to preventing the misunderstandings that often result in negative or neutral feedback.

15 eBay.com, “eBay SellerUpdate: July 2009 – Frequently Asked Questions,” http://pages.ebay.com/sell/July2009Update/faq/index.html#1-5, July 2009.

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Detailed Seller Ratings Like feedback scores, Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR's) are a medium through which buyers can evaluate sellers. Unlike feedback, DSR's are anonymous and rate specific aspects of the transaction. Detailed Seller Ratings are graded on a scale of one to five stars with five being the highest score. The specific criteria of the Detailed Seller Ratings are as follows: ●

Item as Described - How accurate was the item description? ○

1 Star = Very inaccurate

2 Stars = Inaccurate

3 Stars = Neither accurate nor inaccurate

4 Stars = Accurate

5 Stars = Very accurate

Communication – How satisfied was the buyer with the seller's communication? ○

1 Star = Very unsatisfied

2 Stars = Unsatisfied

3 Stars = Neither satisfied nor unsatisfied

4 Stars = Satisfied

5 Stars = Very satisfied

Shipping Time – How quickly did the seller ship the item? ○

1 Star = Very slowly

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2 Stars = Slowly

3 Stars = Neither slowly nor quickly

4 Stars = Quickly

5 Stars = Very quickly

Shipping and Handling Charges – How reasonable were the shipping and handling charges? ○

1 Star = Very unreasonable

2 Stars = Unreasonable

3 Stars = Neither unreasonable nor reasonable

4 Stars = Reasonable

5 Stars = Very reasonable

DSR's are evaluated over a 12-month period unless the seller has had 400 more transactions over the most recent 3 calender months. In which case, the most recent 3 complete calender months comprise the DSR evaluation period. The quality standards become more strict in April 2010. Until then, the following criteria are used to evaluate seller performance. Failing to meet any of these metrics will result in lowered visibility in the Best Match search results: ●

No greater than 3% of transactions rated as 1's or 2's for the metric Item As Described.

No greater than 4% of transactions rated as 1's or 2's for Communication, Shipping Time, or Shipping and Handling Charges.

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eBay has established a minimum number of instances for these penalties to take effect. That means if you are a low volume seller, it will take a minimum of three transactions rated as 1's or 2's in Item As Described and four instances in the other categories before a you start seeing your listings fall in the search result. As of April 2010, the following are the minimum quality standards sellers must meet in order to not be disadvantaged in eBay's search results: ●

No greater than 1% of transactions rated as 1's or 2's for the metric Item As Described.

No greater than 2% of transactions rated as 1's or 2's for Communication, Shipping Time, or Shipping and Handling Charges.

Again, the three instance (of 1's or 2's) threshold applies to low-volume sellers for the Item As Described DSR and four instances for the other DSR metrics. Also, according to eBay, “sellers with excessive claims, [and] negative or neutral feedback ... may receive lowered search standing.”16

Improving Your DSR's The guidelines eBay provides to buyers regarding DSR's is somewhat misleading. According to the criteria above, a grade of 4 stars refers to a transaction that met expectations. By definition, it means: the item description was accurate, the buyer was satisfied with the communication, and the buyer felt the item was shipped quickly at a reasonable cost. According to eBay, a 4.0 average DSR places the user in the bottom 10% of all sellers. So you want to avoid scores that fall within that range whenever possible.

16 Ibid.

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Accordingly, many sellers include a quote similar to the one below in all of their listing descriptions, email correspondence, and as an insert with their shipment. Your input as a buyer is very important to us! If you feel that our seller performance is less than a 5-star rating for shipping cost, shipping time, item description, or communication, please contact us first, before leaving feedback. We want to improve our service to you and future customers. Additionally, sending an email similar to the following after receiving confirmation of delivery has been effective in resolving issues early and improving the communication scores. Dear ________, I notice that you recently received the ____________ you purchased from me through eBay. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you again for your purchase and follow up with a question. Did the ___________ meet your expectations? If not, please let me know at your earliest convenience by responding to this email. If you were satisfied with the transaction, I hope you will take a moment to leave feedback for me on eBay. It will help other potential customers evaluate my trustworthiness as a seller. Thanks again, ____________

Buyer Satisfaction Rating The Buyer Satisfaction Rating is a calculation eBay uses to evaluate you as a seller. This rating summarizes your feedback score, your DSR's, and whatever buyer protection claims may exist on your account (such as complaints from buyers). According to eBay, “Your Buyer

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Satisfaction Rating measures your level of customer service. This summary helps you [and eBay] keep track of how well you are providing members with positive buying experiences.”17

The Seller Dashboard Interested in knowing how eBay rates you as a seller? Want to evaluate your DSR's against the average of all the sellers on eBay? The Seller Dashboard is your resource for these functions and more. Seller Dashboard ► http://cgi6.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?SellerDashboard Note: As of Sept 2009, eBay requires sellers to have at least 10 DSR's over the previous 12-months in order to access the seller dashboard. I find two features of the Seller Dashboard to be extremely useful. The first is the Dashboard Summary which tells me at a glance if my DSR's and Buyer Satisfaction Rating qualify me for elevated visibility in Best Match. The other chart is a useful comparison of my Detailed Seller Ratings against the site average:

17 “About Your Seller Dashboard,” http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/seller-dashboard.html accessed 10 December 2008.

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The Top-Rated Seller Program In September 2009, eBay.com rolled out their Top-rated seller program. “Top-Rated Sellers” who meet volume and quality thresholds will receive increased exposure in eBay's search results for fixed-price listings, the ability to promote their listings with the Featured First option, a fancy badge distinguishing their listings, as well as discounted fees. To qualify for the Top-rated seller program, you must meet the following criteria:18 ●

PowerSellers of all levels, from Bronze to Titanium, can qualify as eBay Top-rated sellers if they have at least 100 transactions and $3,000 sales in the past year, and low DSRs (1s and 2s) on no more than 0.50% of all transactions with U.S. buyers on each of their 4 DSRs. To ensure that lower-volume sellers (fewer than 400 annual

18 eBay.com, “July 2009 Seller Update,” http://pages.ebay.com/sell/July2009Update/Details/#1-2, July 2009.

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transactions) can be included as Top-rated sellers, two instances of 1s or 2s on each of the four DSRs will be allowed before the 0.50% requirement is applied. â—?

The time period over which a seller's low DSRs are evaluated will depend on sales volume: For sellers with 400 or more transactions over the past 3 months, it's 3 calendar months. For all other sellers, it's 12 calendar months.

Conclusion Check your seller dashboard frequently to maintain a continuous pulse on how you are performing in the trust factors aspect of Best Match. While there are no quick fixes for trust factors such as feedback, DSR's and the Buyer Satisfaction Rating, taking the time and energy to improve them are well worth the effort. Improving the buying experience is so important to eBay's business model, you can expect that eBay will continue to place additional emphasis on this aspect of the Best Match algorithm.

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Active Traffic Generation Techniques Create your own web site to attract customers and drive them to your auctions. This can establish your credibility as an expert in your niche as well as generate free search engine traffic from Google and other sources. If you should decide to change venues for selling, you already own your traffic, so shifting to a platform other than eBay is as simple as changing the links on your site. An excellent example of this technique is provided by AuctionBytes‘ Ina Steiner in the book, Blogging Heroes: One eBay seller I know writes a blog devoted to mugs, and he includes pictures, descriptions, and advice on interesting mugs he finds. This is a great way to serve his customers by providing content that’s of interest to them. In addition, he builds up a following of people who are more likely to buy from him in the future, and shoppers doing searches for those types of products will find his blog — and his listings.19

As this example demonstrates, this is an extremely effective way for sellers of collectibles to remain relevant under eBay’s Best Match. Click the link below to read an excellent case study of a couple who created a website that not only drove visitors to their auction listings, but also created additional income sources through the eBay affiliate program and Google ads. Click ► http://case-studies.sitesell.com/insights2.html#AUCTIONS 19 Michael A. Banks, Blogging Heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World's Top Bloggers, (Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2008), p 41.

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Steal These Ideas! I invite you to spread the word about Best Match Made Simple: 1. Send this file to a friend. 2. Send them a link to: www.AuctionInsights.info/bestmatchbook 3. Print out as many copies as you would like.

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Chapter 5. Product Information One of the four main factors that influence a listing’s placement in the Best Match search results is the information included within the listing itself. Specifically the product information the Best Match algorithm considers include total price (fixed-price listings only), category, shipping cost and methods, item specifics, and the geographic distance from buyer to seller.

List in the Correct Category Items listed in categories that eBay deems inappropriate will be disadvantaged in the Best Match Search results. For example, a book on coin collecting is more appropriately listed in the Non-Fiction Books category than in the Coins and Paper Money category. Having trouble selecting the appropriate category? The BayEstimator (Chapter 7) provides suggested categories for particular keywords in the title and likely employs the same algorithm that Best Match would use to determine the appropriate category for your listing.

Price For fixed-price listings, the Best Match algorithm considers the item's total price (cost plus shipping and handling) when determining the search results. Among similar items, the listings with the lowest total price will be ranked higher assuming all the other factors are identical. Accordingly, it's important to maintain situational awareness in your marketplace and adjust your price as appropriate when the competition undercuts your listings. (Ever wonder how your competitors can out-price you and still make a profit? See “Product Sourcing Part II� on page 41 of this book.)

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Include Item Specifics According to a post in the eBay corporate blog, where applicable, the Best Match algorithm considers Item Specifics as one of the factors when scoring a listing for ranking in the search results pages.20 The Item Specifics feature is relatively new. According to eBay:21 ●

Item Specifics are determined by the category in which you sell your item. For example, the Item Specifics available in an apparel category would be related to size and style, while Item Specifics in a CD music category could refer to genre and condition. Item Specifics are also determined by additional characteristics that buyers would use to find an item in that category and related categories (for example, Antique Rugs or Rugs in Home & Garden).

Item Specifics you provide you provide are displayed at the top of your item description and are used by buyers to search for items.

In most categories supporting Item Specifics, this information is optional. However, [since the Best Match algorithm considers this factor when determining search result rankings] it is definitely to your benefit to complete as many of the details as are appropriate.

20 Ninad, Best Match Demystified, http://ebaychatter.com/the_chatter/2008/06/best-match-demy.html (Accessed June 2008). 21 Selecting Item Specifics, http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/item_specifics.html (Accessed December 2008)

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Here's more incentive to include Item Specifics. According to TameBay, “Item Specifics are used to determine which products are returned in search results. If you're selling a shirt and you specify 'Denim' as the fabric but don't have it in the item title, it will be included in searches for 'Denim Shirt.'”22

Geographic Distance According the the eBay chatter blog post quoted above, the geographical distance between the buyer and the seller can influence the sort order in the Best Match search results. Although the 22 Dawson, TameBay Blog, “Search fundamentals and Best match,” http://www.tamebay.com/2008/12/searchfundamentals-and-best-match.html, December 10, 2008.

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post doesn't provide specifics, one can reasonably assume that the closer the buyer and the seller are to each other, the better the Best Match advantage for that particular listing.

Shipping Prices & Methods Quoted in the New York Time Technology Blog, eBay's CEO, John Donahoe, made it clear that shipping and handling fees and shipping methods influence a listing’s ranking in the Best Match search results. He said: “Sellers that provide reasonable and fast shipping, even free shipping, will rise to the top.”23 Therefore, in order to score all of your points for shipping and handling, you should accomplish the following: Identify a shipping cost in the shipping details section of your listing when posting your item (vice simply choosing “See item description”). Also include the shipping and handling terms in your item description in order to minimize the chance that the buyer might miss it (and mark you down in the DSR's later).

Charge reasonable shipping and handling fees. I cannot identify how eBay defines a “reasonable” shipping fee, however I would suggest that you use the average charge for that product's sub-category as your guide. This suggestion is based on the pop up message that sometimes appears to sellers during the listing process: 23 Hansell.

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In fact, eBay posted the following tidbit about that particular message in their message forums: If your item has expensive shipping compared to other items in your category, and you are seeing the red warning message about your shipping cost as you list your item, your item is likely getting bumped down in Best Match based on your shipping cost [emphasis added]. (Note: it will still show up, just lower.)24 Be wary of listing your auction in the wrong category, especially if what you are selling is heavier and more expensive to ship than the other items in that sub-category. For example, a coffee table book depicting antique postcards listed in the Postcard sub-category of eBay might have made excellent business sense before Best Match became the default search and sort method. However, a large book costs considerably more to ship than a few postcards. Consequently that listing will be flagged by the Best Match algorithm as having above-average shipping costs for the category (unless you offer free shipping). Investigate your shipping options. The Postal Service might not be the most inexpensive shipping method. If UPS or another shipping service will facilitate your ability to charge lower for shipping and handling, take that route. Selecting a shipper should be more important to you than it was in the days before Best Match. Itemize the details of your shipping costs and include it on a slip of paper with the bidder's order. This will help them understand that while the actual postage may have only cost you $3.25, you charged a $4.75 shipping and handling fee because you were obligated to buy bubble wrap for 75¢ and a post pack for 75¢ to ensure that their item was delivered in one 24 http://workshops.ebay.com/thread.jspa?threadID=130000702, accessed 10 December 2008.

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piece. This helps the buyer understand that you are being reasonable with your shipping and handling charges and evaluate you appropriately in the Detailed Seller Ratings. Offer expedited shipping methods such as Priority Mail or overnight methods (again - see the quote above). Ensure these methods are identified in the shipping details section of the auction listing form (so that the Best Match algorithm knows you’re doing it and gives you credit for it). Consider offering free shipping. eBay has explicitly communicated that listings in fixedprice format that offer free shipping will receive an advantage in the Best Match algorithm. Listings in the auction format receive no such benefit – so don't waste your time or money offering free shipping for auctions. Communicate with your buyer regarding the shipment. When the item has been shipped, let them know - immediately. This way they know that you did your part to ensure prompt delivery and the rest is up to the postal system – and beyond your control. Provide them with the anticipated delivery date based on the postal service's estimated arrival time (add a day or two to your estimate just to be safe).

Conclusion Product information such as category, total price, Item Specifics, geographic distance from buyer to seller, and shipping and handling information are all factors that influence the Best Match algorithm. While there isn't much a seller can do to influence the geographic distance factor, it's important to not overlook the other aspects of this chapter. Including Item Specifics might not seem worth the time and effort, especially if the seller has included the information in the listing's narrative description, but it makes a difference under Best Match. Shipping and handling fees and methods are the most significant factor described in this chapter. Remember

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to keep them reasonable relative to the average charges in that particular category and to identify them in the Sell Your Item form when listing your auction.

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Active Traffic Generation Techniques Part II In the age of Best Match, you must accept and take an active role in leading bidders to your auction listings. You can no longer passively assume that eBay is going to send traffic to your auctions. Sellers should be looking for ways to attract and send visitors directory to their listings. There are several tools and techniques available to increase traffic to your listings. Probably the easiest to implement is creating an email signature that sends click-throughs to your current listings. AuctionLink is our free service that creates a short, easy to remember web address that forwards potential bidders to your auctions. Here’s an example: http://AuctionLink.to/saddleonline.

If you want your own AuctionLink address, visit www.AuctionLink.to today or simply replace “saddleonline” with your own eBay.com user ID. AuctionLink can actually help your ranking in Best Match. Since eBay implemented the Listing Performance Score (see Chapter 3), sellers have found AuctionLink an effective tool to help increase sales while keeping impressions low.

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Chapter 6. Demand Data and Relevancy This particular aspect of Best Match is among the easiest to influence by including the appropriate keywords in the listing's title. Unfortunately, this aspect of the Best Match algorithm does not carry the same weight that it once did. The relevancy score is determined by historical buyer behavior for a particular search query. For listing titles that are similar to yours, eBay determines how many times in the past those auction titles were clicked on, added to watch lists, bid upon, and ultimately resulted in a sale. The more often these bidder activities occurred, the higher the relevancy score for the keywords in a particular title. The “key” to success here is to determine what the appropriate keywords are and include them in your listing's title.

Desirability Another factor influencing eBay's Best Match search results is something termed “desirability.” This is a relatively basic function of supply and demand. If most searchers on eBay using the query “iPod nano” are actually looking for the MP3 player vice iPod accessories (such as chargers or cases) then the demand for listings of Apple MP3 players is high. If most of the listings with the keywords “iPod nano” in the title are actually selling accessories, then the supply of iPod nano MP3 players is low. Auctions where supply is low and demand is high will score well for desirability. The desirability function is described in detail on pages 92-93.

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Include Best Match Keywords One of the main ways you can score Best Match points for your listing is to identify and include keywords in your auction title. For any particular search query, there are keywords that are worth more than others. A search query is simply the text that a visitor to eBay types into the search box. In the example below, the search query is “Star Wars comic.”

Often, the keywords that are worth points to your listing’s Best Match score are pretty easy to identify. For the query “Star Wars comic,” I’ve pegged the following words and phrases and being worth extra Best Match points: ✔

Marvel (identifies the publisher of the original Star Wars comic series)

Dark Horse (identifies the publisher of the most recent Star Wars comic series)

Lot (signifies more than one comic for sale)

nm (near mint condition)

1 (often identifies the first issue in the series)

Jedi (identifies a popular mini-series)

1977 (identifies the year the original series was first published)

etc…

eBay tracks the words in the particular titles of auctions that: (1) get clicked, (2) get added to watch lists, (3) get bids, and (4) ultimately get sold. For the search query “Star Wars comic,”

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eBay has determined that these particular words appear more often in the titles of listings that get that desired bidder activity (click, watch, bid, buy) than those that don’t.

Identify the Valuable Keywords Of course eBay has their algorithm and databases to track those keywords. But how is a user to identify them? One way is to use your powers of observation and little bit of judgment. In the examples on the next page, I show a screen shot from the first page of the Best Match search results for the query “Star Wars comic” and the third page of those same search results. All of these listings close at approximately the same time (within about 12 hours), so I have controlled for the time factor (thus, all of these auctions should have earned approximately the same amount of points for being close to end of their listing period). So, the next step is to look for what’s different about them. What words are prevalent among the listing titles that made it to page one, that aren’t so prevalent in the in titles stuck back on page three? That’s how I identified the keywords that I listed above. You can see the important keywords circled in the screen shots on the following page. The difference in the number of words circled is between the two pages is quite stunning. In fact, you’ll notice that the listings on page three that do happen to have the high-point value keywords are actually auctions that close much later in time than the majority of the listings on that page. These are the highscoring auctions that close later and have moved sufficiently ahead in the ranking algorithm (Best Match score) as to appear amongst the listings that close much sooner.

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eBay Best Match Search Results Page 1

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These screen shots provide a very graphic depiction of the value of identifying and using the keywords that give you additional Best Match points.

Analyze Your Niche I’ve used Star Wars Comics because it’s a niche with which I’m familiar. I’d have a harder time identifying the important keywords in your niche, because I’m less familiar with the adjectives that make items in that niche significant to potential buyers. But, most of the things I identified above are adjectives, so that’s a clue to start your analysis for your niche.

Conduct Your Analysis Use a search query that you think your bidders would use. If the search results return more than a couple thousand of auction listings, narrow the search query some (example: “New York postcards” vice just “postcards”). Too many listings will make your analysis overwhelming. Look at the first page, then click back a few pages to see the auctions that close at approximately the same time as those on the first page. Look at the adjectives in titles of the first page of the search results. Compare those to auctions that close at about the same time but appear further back in the search results. The adjectives (or other keywords) that are more prevalent in the first page of the search results are the ones that are worth more points. If they apply to your listing, include them in your auction title.

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Test Your Auction Title One of the best things about eBay is the ability to test your marketing efforts with little financial risk. You can easily test the effectiveness of your title using this handy tip from the Internet Marketing Tips Blog: “Post your item, then make a note of where it ranks. Go in and change your heading… eBay will rank it again within just 5 minutes. Check to see if this improved your listing or not, and revise your heading again if you need to. “You can do this as many times as you like up until the last 12 hours of the auction.”25

Make the Most of Your Listing Title: Maximize the value of every character eBay permits in the listing title without being dishonest or misleading. You have 55 characters to use in the listing title. Each word you include can potentially score points towards your Best Match ranking. Don’t waste precious space in your listing title and don’t short yourself by not using the titles to their fullest. Go back and review the screen shots of the Star Wars comics search results. Notice how much shorter many of the titles of the auctions languishing on the third page are compared to those on the first.

25 Chris Audet, Best Match: Don't Get Left Out, http://blog.marketingtips.com/ebay-best-match/selling-on-ebay (April 2008).

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Never Use Negative Keywords Right now on eBay there are 4,707 auctions with the term “never used” in their listing title. There are 1,603 listings with the term “never opened.” There are 2,276 auctions with “never worn” in the title. This is bad news for the seller who wants to rank high in the Best Match search results for items that are new. Why? The keywords you include in the listing title can have a positive or negative impact on your auction’s rankings in the search results. This determination is based on bidders’ past history for listings with those words for a particular search query. If listings with words in the title like mint or New in Box (NIB) tend to get clicked on, added to watch lists, bid upon, or purchased for a particular search query, they will help auctions that include those words rank higher in the Best Match search results. Conversely, if keywords like used, opened or worn tend to be avoided by bidders who are searching for new items, these words will have a negative impact on auction listings that include them - regardless if they are preceded by the word never. Here’s an extreme example. Use the BayEstimator (see chapter 7) to analyze the effects of the listing title underwear never worn against the search query underwear. Now use it with the title new underwear. That’s a 20% increase in the listing title’s Best Match relevance score. I also have 7 more characters in the title when I use the word new vice never used which affords me more room to include other valuable keywords such as mens, sexy, briefs, or boxer.

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If You Don't Own Your Traffic, Who Owns Your Business? The AuctionBytes Blog recently ran a story that highlights the fact that unless you own your own traffic, and can direct buyers to whatever venue you choose to sell your products, you don't own your business – eBay does. High volume eBay seller, Bargainland, recently left eBay due to the cumulative effects of eBay’s policy changes over the years. Paul St. James amassed over a million positive feedback points (and a fair amount of detractors) selling as-is products from returns, damaged shipments and other product liquidation markets. He cites changes in feedback policy and new restrictions limiting his ability to list more than five trademarked designer items per month as key factors constraining his business on eBay. He claims that his competitors would buy their inventory from him at auction, leave a negative feedback in order to tarnish his eBay reputation and buy from him again later. His resulting ratio of positive to overall feedback rating fell below eBay’s threshold of 98% positive which resulted in volume restrictions. Bargainland needed another venue to sell his inventory and he needed one quickly. He took a two-fold approach to his dilemma, integrate his inventory and sales into Overstock.com and develop his own auction site. He had 24 days to get his inventory moved off of eBay and moving

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through another venue. He thought Overstock would be his ultimate solution, but after two-days of launching his own site, the off-theshelf auction software crashed due to the volume of traffic and corresponding sales. He abandoned Overstock.com and set about developing http://www.bargainland.net into a robust, viable marketplace for his own inventory. St. James said that by the second month, Bargainland.net had achieved the same average selling prices as on eBay. “We were dumbfounded by the results.”26 Now ask yourself, who owns your auction business? You or eBay? If you left eBay today, what would happen to your income? Most of us aren’t in a position to start our own auction site and be as successful as Bargainland. But there are a myriad of eBay sellers who have been able to build thriving web businesses that provide a diversified stream of income while promoting our auctions – on whatever auction venue we choose to list them.

I am one of those sellers. This is where I started: ► http://auctions.sitesell.com/insights2.html

26 Ina Steiner, Top Seller Bargainland Leaves eBay to Launch a New Auction Site, http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abu/y207/m12/abu0204/s03 (December 2007).

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Steal These Ideas! I invite you to spread the word about Best Match Made Simple: 1. Send this file to a friend. 2. Send them a link to: www.AuctionInsights.info/bestmatchbook 3. Print out as many copies as you would like.

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Chapter 7. Optimize Your Keywords with the BayEstimator Not many sellers are aware that eBay Research Labs has a public and free web page where you can optimize the keywords in your eBay listing title for the Best Match search algorithm. This tool was developed by Raghav Gupta, the creator of the Best Match algorithm. Although eBay stopped updating the data used by the BayEstimator several months ago, the tool is still effective for most applications. The address is: ► http://labs.ebay.com/raghavgupta/demoto/to

How the BayEstimator Works

After the page loads, you will be presented with a form in which you can enter the your proposed auction listing title. In the screen shot above, I’ve entered “Box of Star Wars Comics.”

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Once you click “Submit,” you are presented with a slightly more complicated screen. The utility presents a number of common search terms that bidders have used on eBay to find auctions related to your proposed listing title.

Within the table labeled “Buyer Search Queries Matching Your Item” on the lower left hand side of the screen, the BayEstimator suggests several other queries that might be appropriate to evaluate your auction title against.

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I will click “star wars comic” because it’s the closest to the query I would use if I were searching for comic books about Star Wars. The dots give me an indication of the impact of my title on the Best Match results. The small gray dot next to my chosen search query tells me that my proposed auction listing title has No or Negligible Impact on my auction's ranking in the search results. What I'm trying for is a big green circle.

In the past, eBay provided the actual numeric score (in a percentage value) of your listing title and each keyword. Now BayEstimator only shows colored circles that give you a relative value of your Best Match score. According to a statement that was briefly posted on the site, “The current dot-based scheme gives you 20 levels of resolution between -100% and 100%.” Accordingly, if you still desire to know the score associated with each colored circle, Windows

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users can right click on the disk images, select properties, and compare the image size to the chart I've created below. My task now is to improve that score in order to improve my Best Match rankings in the search results. Fortunately, the BayEstimator provides a table of keywords that rank well for the Best Match algorithm. They appear once I've selected and clicked on one of the suggested search queries.

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In fact, this screen presents three new tables: ●

A breakdown of my title's keywords and the value of each keyword relative to the search query:

A table that suggests keywords that might help improve the value of my listing's title in the Best Match search algorithm:

And a listing category suggestion table which isn't terribly useful for optimizing your keywords, but might help you with your Shipping and Handling Fee Best Match factor (see pages 56-58).

I can see that including the words “lot,” “Marvel,” and “books” should have an immediate and positive impact on my Best Match score. I change my proposed auction title to “Lot of Marvel Star Wars Comic Books,” click submit and note that my Best Match score has increased from zero to 60%! (Denoted by the 14 x 14 pixel green disk.) The BayEstimator tells me that I still have 20 characters left, so I go back to the Keyword Suggestion Table and look for more words that will be appropriate for my title and increase my score.

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Changing my title one more time to “Lot of 15 Marvel Star Wars Comic Books Original Edition” uses up all of my available title characters and increases my score to 70%. (Denoted by the 16 x 16 pixel green circle.) I could play around with this some more, in order to increase my score further - but I think you’ve got the idea. The tool also gives you an idea of the item’s popularity and its availability which factor into the score. Remember that in Best Match, if something is in demand, yet scarce, the Best Match score goes up significantly. The data that feeds this tool is not live. It's several months old, so the actual results on the auction site may vary. Unless the item you are listing is very trendy and only recently popular, this shouldn't affect you.

Conclusion Keywords are the words that the eBay seller includes in the precious 55 characters of the listing title. These words are used to determine the relevancy and desirability scores of the auction listing. Visit the “BayEstimator” on the eBay Labs website to test how your keywords score for a particular search query.

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A Word About Conversions This book focuses on increasing traffic to your listings, but you should not ignore the value of increasing your conversions. Specifically, what the visitor does after they have found your listing. Do they buy? Or do they click the back button, never to return to your auction again? One thing you can do to increase your conversion rate is to present a professional looking eBay listing. To do so, many eBay sellers use auction templates. Looking for professional eBay templates to help convert visitors to your listings to buyers? I highly recommend Listing Factory 2008. You can choose from the dozens of included pre-designed templates, or create your own template to use over and over again. Listing Factory 2008 even includes a FREE 100mb image hosting account. It's the system that I use to quickly and easily create and post my auctions. What used to take me 30-40 minutes, I now accomplish in about five! I recommend you download your free 30-day trial of Listing Factory 2008 today. Click â–ş http://www.auctioninsights.info/ListingFactory2008

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Steal These Ideas! I invite you to spread the word about Best Match Made Simple: 1. Send this file to a friend. 2. Send them a link to: www.AuctionInsights.info/bestmatchbook 3. Print out as many copies as you would like.

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Chapter 8. Best Match Manipulation There’s a difference between optimization and manipulation. You optimize when you find and use the keywords that apply to your eBay listing. You manipulate when you use keywords in your title that don’t pertain to the auction you are listing.

Misleading Keywords Including keywords that are irrelevant or misleading just because they improve your Best Match relevance score is considered keyword SPAM. As the Best Match algorithm matures, listings with titles such as the example below are apt to be canceled or penalized in some manner as to make them irrelevant: Like NEW MP3 PLAYER better than IPOD NANO

Keyword Repetition In the Spring of 2008, some sellers discovered that repeating high-scoring keywords in their listing titles multiplied the effects of those keywords and rocketed their auctions to the top of the Best Match search result pages. Auctions with titles such as “NEW NEW NEW Wii 2 2 2” were very profitable for a few short weeks. Ultimately, eBay caught on to the fact that this very basic form of keyword SPAM was occurring and modified the Best Match algorithm in relatively short order in order to make this form of manipulation ineffective.

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A Dynamic Algorithm eBay will continue to aggressively monitor and modify Best Match in order to minimize the effects of manipulation attempts. According to a blog post by Adam Nash, a former eBay Finding Team employee, “Best Match is designed to be opaque. As a result, eBay will make no guarantees about how it functions, and they will actively change it over time to improve it and to prevent abuse.�27 eBay has already taken action to mitigate attempts to manipulate the Best Match search results. Accordingly, you can expect that they are actively working on developing and perfecting automated methods to identify manipulation and quell it when they find it. You can also anticipate that other sellers will be quick to turn in competitors that are blatantly attempting to manipulate the Best Match search results. I would expect the Terms of Service to eventually be modified to include disincentives and penalties for this kind of activity. My guess is that these would include canceled listings, reduced exposure, and termination of the offender's account. In fact, as I'm writing this chapter, eBay announced a new Browse Manipulation Policy: Starting in early June a new Search & Browse Manipulation Policy will take the place of the Keyword Spamming, Misleading Title, Miscategorization, and Brand Name Misuse policies. The new Search Manipulation Policy simplifies the guidelines for sellers, prohibiting any unfair methods of diverting members to their listings. This includes any addition to a listing not related to the item being sold or other activity that harms the shopping experience by making it difficult for buyers to find the items they're looking for.28 27 Nash. 28 John McDonald Sr, eBay General Announcements Board, http://www2.ebay.com/aw/core/200805191328272.html (May 2008).

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The bottom line here is you could expend significant time and energy attempting to gain an advantage by manipulating the Best Match search results. As some sellers have already learned, this advantage is short-lived and they must now start over in their attempts to make Best Match work for them. In contrast, you could invest that same time and energy learning how to optimize your listings for Best Match and enjoy sustained success in the new selling environment. I don't know about you, when I chose to invest something I value – whether it be my time, energy, or money – I've always got an eye on the long term returns. My money is on optimization.

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Making eBay Work for You Think about the reasons why you were attracted to selling on eBay in the first place... ● ● ● ● ● ●

Easy to do No financial risk No technical skills required Lots of targeted traffic actively searching for your type of product or service Fun and excitement Etc., etc.,

These positive attributes paint a rosy picture of e-commerce, and for the most part, this "picture" is valid. That's why entrepreneurs (like you) continue to join and stay with eBay. The payback potential is high and there is a strong sense of community among auction sellers. On a daily basis, you get to meet and/or do business with people who share similar interests to yours.

However, it's only after you have been in the auction business for awhile that the blush begins to fade a bit. eBay requires real work just like any other real business. And therein lies the rub... all your hard work to succeed is not building a business of your own with true value (i.e., one that can be sold). It's really building eBay's equity. And we all know that eBay is presently worth billions of dollars... and growing.

Here's why eBay has the upper hand at this point (later on, you will see how to "turn the tables" on eBay) ...

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1. eBay gets you, and millions of others, to do the tough, physical part (sourcing, packaging, shipping, payment collection, etc.) for them, from home, as free labor. So they don't ever need to own, warehouse, or ship a single product. eBay collects fees for each transaction – which now adds up to billions of dollars per year. 2. eBay owns all the traffic -- their automated software runs the network of buyers and sellers. This is not good news for you because if you don't own your traffic, you can't own your business. So, realistically, you are working for eBay. You are depending on eBay for what is basically an hourly wage, while your "business" fails to build its own equity.

Meanwhile, eBay is constantly changing the rules in the middle of the game. Consider the (significant) policy changes implemented just in the five months prior to the first publishing of this book: ● ● ● ● ● ●

Best Match Feedback changes Fee changes Ban on the sale of digital downloads Mandatory acceptance of PayPal in some markets Mandating maximum allowable shipping charge in some markets

All those hours of scrounging for boxes, packing sold items securely, trips to the post office, e-mail correspondence, payment collection... and it's eBay who is profiting! Arggh! It's time to turn the tables!...

It's time to take back your business and dreams! But wait! There is no cause for panic... you don't need to stop your

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online auction business (it's making you money) or start over (continue to build upon what you have now). You just need a web presence, an understanding of the difference between having a website and an internet business, and the motivation to develop and follow a business plan that provides financial independence. Take control of your business and its future. Here's how... STEP #1) Own your targeted traffic – This is essential. As was mentioned earlier, if you don't own your traffic, you don't own your business. So how do you eliminate your dependency on eBay for traffic? Simple... build a keyword-focused, content-rich and search engine-optimized web site related to your theme. As you steadily add web pages, more and more interested, targeted traffic will come directly to your site through search engines rather than via eBay. Building web pages with high search engine rankings is the most effective way to solidify your own traffic foundation. And that foundation is an essential prerequisite for the next step...

STEP #2) Diversify – Use eBay selling as only one part your monetization plan. Once you see your traffic gaining momentum, introduce two or three additional income streams that fit with your theme. One of them will, of course, be your already established eBay business. By opening up other options, eBay no longer has the same grip over your business as the sole money-making source. This independence allows you to use eBay, rather than the reverse – eBay

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using you.

Diversification helps you make every visitor count. For illustration purposes, let's say that you specialize in US commemorative coins. Your monetization plan might look like this... list a few coins at eBay on a regular basis, sell coins from your site, promote your locally-based coin appraisal service and/or recommend a couple of quality coin-collection books at Amazon. Chances are your site's high-value content will PREsell your visitors to follow through and generate income from at least one of those streams. (And speaking of informative content, remember to check out Google's AdSense program as another revenue-producing option for your site.) Diversification will definitely improve your bottom line -- which leads nicely into the third and final step...

STEP #3) Build equity – The way to do this may surprise you... publish a quality, information-packed email newsletter. If you do that, you will easily build a large subscribers' address list. This list is more than just a list of names and e-mail addresses. It is your lifeblood. It will help you generate recurring sales (or commissions or leads, etc.). This is THE essential ingredient for sustaining your business longterm. Sure, you'll get some sign-ups to your newsletter from your eBay traffic – especially, your buying eBay customers. But now you can really grow your own list and build a credible satisfying relationship with present and potential customers.

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So why are these three steps so critical?...

If eBay tripled their fees tomorrow, or did something else that would have a detrimental effect on your auction business, you would still have all your traffic generated by your site, your newsletter subscribers' list, and your customers. And you could react assertively and immediately to eBay's actions by either... ●

Moving your visitors to other auction sites in a flash or by switching some of your auction business to a category-specific auction option.

● ●

Shifting greater emphasis to other monetization models. Modifying your newsletter content appropriately, so that recurring business generates other types of revenues (for example, direct sales instead of auctions).

The bottom line? YOU own your business (and not eBay). You depend only on yourself. And your equity is yours. A WIN situation for you! eBay will come to love it because you will be sending them more traffic than they send you. You will be reversing their leakage problem (i.e., once someone buys from a seller, many simply "buys direct" the next time.) A WIN situation for eBay! Here's the system I used to gain my financial independence from eBay and develop a business that truly belonged to me: CLICK ► http://www.sitesell.com/insights2.html

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Appendix A: Decoding the Best Match Patent Application In Appendix B, I've included the patent application that eBay filed for the Best Match search algorithm. As you might expect, it's a document filled with legalese and geek-speak. But if you want true insights into what's behind Best Match, you should go to the source itself. The patent application provides those insights. This chapter attempts to cut through most of the legalese and geek-speak and highlight the important parts of the patent application. There's a significant amount of factors and circumstances discussed in the patent application that don't appear to apply to the way Best Match is currently implemented. These are included to provide eBay flexibility for future directions of the search and sorting algorithm and provide us some interesting insights into the way this system could possibly evolve over time. However, it's important to not get caught up on factors that do not yet influence the search rankings. Most of this book identifies the factors that we know to be relevant now and discusses tactics to score favorably for them. Keeps those factors in mind as you read through this chapter and the patent application and try not to get distracted by factors listed that don't appear to be relevant at this time.

Factors Described in Patent Influencing Best Match The bulk of the patent application describes the relationship between search terms, the text in the auction title and how relevance and desirability are determined. The Best Match patent does describe other factors that might influence search result rankings including (but not limited to): â—?

pictures available

â—?

seller ratings

â—?

price range

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geographic proximity of searcher to seller

shipping prices

time left in an auction

number of bids

listing format

The Best Match patent application describes how these factors can be included and weighted in the basic algorithm to influence the search results. Indeed, eBay has already announced that sellers with low Detailed Seller Ratings for shipping and handling would no longer rank highly in their search results — so we know this a factor that influences the algorithm. But the base algorithm significantly involves auction titles and this is what we need to have a fundamental grasp of as we decode the eBay Best Match search algorithm.

Listing Titles The patent application describes the eBay Best Match algorithm as “a system and method to sort search results based upon [a relevance score and] a desirability value.” It goes on to say… This desirability value may be based upon the difference between a demand value and a supply value. Demand may be based upon user activity such as clickthrough, purchases, price, or location. Supply may be based upon a supply of keywords that may be the number of times a word is used in search or item title. The system and method may include receiving a search query, associating a first numerical value with a keyword that is a part of the search query, tracking user activity associated with the keyword, associating a second numerical value with the keyword based upon the user activity, finding a difference value between the first and second numerical values, associating this difference value with the keyword, sorting keywords based upon the difference values, and returning the search results of the sorting. Huh?

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Please allow me to attempt an explanation…

Determining Relevancy Score When a visitor to eBay inputs one or more keywords into the search box, the search algorithm returns the auction listings with keywords in the title that match those included in the user’s query. The eBay Best Match algorithm now assigns a point value to each and every word in the title text string displayed to the user. Initially this point value is zero, but this will change based on the actions of the searcher.

Good Keywords Get Rewarded If the user clicks on an auction title in order to view a particular listing, each of the words in that auction title are awarded a point. These points are used to evaluate the relevance of auctions in future searches. If the user takes further actions such as adding to watch lists, placing a bid, or actually purchasing the item up for sale, those words are awarded additional relevance points. For example, if a visitor to eBay.com searched for “iPod nano,” the default search results would return all auctions with the words “iPod nano” in the listing title. If the user then clicked on an auction with the title “Brand New iPod nano 4 GB Black MP3 Player Sealed,” each of the words in the title would be awarded a relevancy point. These points would accumulate over time and keywords that accrue more points would be considered more relevant in future eBay Best Match searches for the query “iPod nano” and help determine the sort order when the results are presented on the results page.

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Less Desirable Keywords Get Penalized The converse is also true. The eBay Best Match algorithm identifies unique key words in auction titles that don’t get clicked and consequently assigns a negative point value to those words. It will only assign a penalty to those words that don’t match keywords in the auctions that do get clicked. For example, if when our eBay user searched for “iPod nano” and clicks as described above, but does not click on the auctions entitled “New iPod nano leather case” or “Used iPod nano USB charger,” the words “leather,” “case,” “used,” “USB” and “charger” would receive negative points towards their relevancy score because the searcher did not click, add to watch list, bid or make a purchase auctions with those words in their listing title.

Keyword Relevance Scores are Determined Over Time by User Actions Over time, keywords develop a relevance value by accumulating positive and negative points. The more visitors to eBay that click on auction titles, place bids, add to watch lists, and ultimately buy, the more positive points are awarded to keywords in those auction titles and these words are considered more relevant to future searchers. When eBay searchers fail to click auction listings with certain keywords in their titles, those keywords are considered less relevant and points are deducted from their relevancy score. Keywords can have a negative score. If, over time, users who search for the “iPod nano” are just not interested in auction titles with the word “used” them (and thus hardly ever click on titles with that keyword), “used” will accumulate a significant negative relevancy score for that search query.

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Calculating an Auction Listing’s Relevance Value Although this is a simplification of the eBay Best Match algorithm, part of an auction listing’s relevance value is the sum its title’s keywords scores for that particular search query. Let’s say for the search query “iPod nano,” the keywords below have accumulated the following relevance scores: ●

iPod (1.39429)

nano (1.10132)

MP3 (1.11403)

New (1.08399)

Sealed (0.553271)

Case (-0.107664)

Used (-0.117723)

Charger (-0.173231)

4GB (0.530753)

Player (0.86456)

USB (0.00000)

Note: These are hypothetical scores

Hypothetical Examples Therefore, the Best Match relevance value for an auction with the title, “New iPod nano MP3 player ~ sealed” would be 5.010141 (1.08399 [new] + 1.39429 [iPod] + 1.11403 [MP3] + 0.86456 [player] + 0.553271 [sealed] = 5.010141).

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A relevance value for an auction with the title “Used iPod nano USB charger” would be 2.204656 (-0.117723 [used] + 1.39429 [iPod] + 1.10132 [nano] + 0 [USB] - 0.173231 [charger] = 2.204656). Interestingly, the relevance value for an auction with the title “4GB iPod nano with charger and case” would only be 1.351178 (0.530753 [4GB] + 1.39429 [iPod] + 1.10132 [nano] 0.173231 [charger] - 0.107664 [case] = 1.351178). Even though this is probably a better value than the first example (because it includes some accessories), this auction has a lower relevance score because it includes the words “charger” and “case” in the listing title. In our hypothetical example, these words have a negative relevance score for the search query “iPod nano,” because bidders who use this term have been historically more interested in the actual MP3 players than auctions for just accessories.

Determining Desirability Another factor influencing eBay’s Best Match search results is something termed “desirability.” This is a relatively basic function of supply and demand. If most searchers using the query “iPod nano” are actually looking for the MP3 player vice accessories then demand for auctions selling MP3 players is high. If most of the listings with the keywords “iPod nano” in the title are actually auctions for accessories, then the supply of iPod nano MP3 player auctions is low.

Supply and Demand Thus, auctions for items in which demand is high and supply is low are considered “desirable” and score highly for desirability. Auction listings with a high relevance score and a high

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desirability score are going to rank higher in the Best Match search results than auctions with a lower combined score. Auction where supply is high and demand is low are going to score poorly for desirability.

How Supply is Calculated According to eBay’s Best Match patent application, “the total occurrence of every unique keyword in all the titles is first determined. Then the percentage occurrence of each keyword in the result set [(the auction titles)] is determined. For example, if there were 1000 items in the results [for the search query ‘iPod nano’], and the word ‘charger’ occurs in 900 items, then the supply percent of charger is 90%. If the keyword ‘player’ occurs in 50 items, then its supply percentage is 5%.”

How Demand is Calculated “The percentage that each keyword is used in an activity data set, [‘demand’], is calculated in the following manner. Activity data is collected on a daily basis, data that include activities such as clicked, bid, bought, or added to watch list… are associated with keywords used in item titles. For example, if for the query ‘iPod nano’ 1000 click-throughs are collected and we know the item title of each one, then the occurrence of every unique keyword in this set of titles is calculated. The percentage occurrence of every keyword in the same set is calculated. Thus, if the keyword ‘charger’ occurred in 100 of these 1000 titles, the percentage of charger in the ‘demand’ is 10%. Similarly, if ‘player’ occurs in 950 titles, its demand percentage is 95%.”

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Calculating Desirability The formula provided in the Best Match patent application for calculating “desirability” is as follows: Desirability = log2(1.0+(dw*d))-log2(1.0+(sw*s)) Where: ●

d = demand

dw = demand weight

s = supply

sw = supply weight

The patent application notes that demand weight “is set to 3 by default,” while supply weight “is set to 1.” This means that demand is three times as important than supply when calculating desirability in the eBay Best Match algorithm.

Putting it All Together The patent application is particularly vague in how the Relevance Score and Desirability Score are combined to produce a value that is used to determine the ranking in the Best Match search results. Obviously, a higher combined relevance and desirability score will rank higher in the search results than lower scores, but we don't know if one score is weighted more than the other.

Additional Factors Affecting Best Match Search Result Ranking Recall that the patent also mentions other factors that can influence the final Best Match search results placement. The factors specifically mentioned include:

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Price range

Geographic proximity of seller to searcher (as determined by the seller’s address on record and the IP address of the searcher’s computer)

Time until auction close

Number of bids

Seller feedback

Pictures

Buy it Now

Current price compared to average sale price (is it a bargain?)

The patent specifically mentions that these factors could be weighted differently or not at all depending on corporate decisions and that additional factors could be included. We already know that sellers with low scores in their Detailed Seller Ratings for “Shipping and Handling Charges” are receiving, according to eBay, “considerably reduced visibility.” This means that their auctions are buried in the search results. Therefore at least one aspect of the Detailed Seller Ratings is a factor (with substantial weight) in the eBay Best Match search algorithm.

Optimizing Your Auction Listings for eBay’s Best Match Just as webmasters optimize their web pages for Google, eBay sellers can optimize their auction listings for Best Match search results. Your objective here is to be at the top of the first page of the search results. The area in which the seller can exert the most influence on their Best Match ranking is the title. The title has always been important, but now it’s even more critical. You’ll need to do a little investigating to determine what words to include in your title, and just as importantly – what words to exclude.

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Other Factors You Might Influence As you explore sample auctions that rank well or poorly in eBay’s Best Match sort results, take note of other things that might be influencing the results of the algorithm. ●

Are there pictures? How many? Are they hosted by eBay’s picture services or some external host?

Is there a Gallery image? Any other features?

How long until the auction ends?

What are the shipping costs?

Etc.

You might just notice patterns that will tip you off to some of the different factors that are currently influencing the Best Match search algorithm. Some of them you may be able to influence and some of them you might not. Concentrate on affecting the things that you can change. Experiment. Build on your successes and learn from your mistakes.

The Last Word Just remember, the Best Match search algorithm is about making eBay money. There's nothing inherently evil about that – they're in business just like you. Like eBay, you should be using Best Match to make money. They want to feature the auctions that are most likely to result in a click, in a bid, and ultimately a purchase. Your objective now is to make sure that eBay puts your auctions at the top of their Best Match search results – so, along with eBay, you get the click, the bid, and the sale.

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Appendix B

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EBAY Best Match eBook v3