Changes Make Some Listings 'Invisible'

eBay's new 'Finding' technology limits visibility in search results.

by staff writer
- Aug 07, 2008

Some eBay sellers will have to adjust their listing practices or risk wasting money on listing fees for items that don't show up in search results. The giant online auction venue has rolled out site changes that limit the number of items per seller that are displayed when buyers use search.

On July 31, eBay officially removed limits on the number of identical listings a seller can have at any given time. But at the same time, it introduced a new "Finding" mechanism that removes duplicates from search results.

Now, if a seller lists multiple identical items, only one will be displayed in search results—unless the items have current bids or different prices. Moreover, even unique listings from the same seller are being limited to 10 per search page.

As a result, search pages may display less than half of all items matching the search criteria in a given category. For example, a recent search for flash memory drives returned 6,761 results, but only 3,400 listings were shown—or about 50 percent. Similarly, eBay contained some 1,090 listings for Wayfarer sunglasses, but just 450 of these displayed in search results. That represents roughly 41 percent of the total.

Buyers can elect to display all of the listings by clicking a link to "view all identical listings" at the bottom of the search results page.

Marketing approach foiled

eBay's new Finding technology is a clear attempt to prevent a handful of sellers from dominating its pages.

Indeed, flooding eBay searches with listings had become a key marketing strategy for sellers struggling for prominence within eBay's cavernous e-commerce site, which is host to some 6.9 million new listings every day.

"In the past, sellers scheduled a bunch of identical items for auction at intervals so they'd always appear on the first page of search results sorted by auction end time," recalls Jeff Schlict, Auctiva's CEO and a longtime eBay seller. "This change by eBay means that strategy is no longer as cost-effective. Sellers need to consider the visibility of their items in terms of their exposure in search and adjust their strategy accordingly. Otherwise they could be throwing money away."

The Multiple Listings and Finding changes went hand-in-hand with elimination of the Choice policy, which cleared the way for sellers to offer multiple identical items of different sizes, colors or configurations within the same listing.

"This improvement showcases the breadth of attractive inventory from a variety of sellers, making it easy for buyers to find what they are looking for—which in turn benefits sellers with more sales," said Jeff King, eBay's senior director of Finding, in a posted statement.

While King said eBay's intent is to create a more level playing field and give smaller merchants a fair shot of competing against Internet behemoths like Buy, some sellers argue it's an unfair move to collect fees for advertising services that, in effect, aren't being delivered.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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