eBay Opens Up About New Best Match

Webinar suggests how users can improve their listings' visibility.

by Auctiva.com staff writer
- Nov 05, 2009

If you're still adjusting to eBay's SR 2 changes, you're not alone. Sellers have had just over a month with the new policies, but many are still fuzzy on aspects of the recent changes. In particular, some sellers report modifications to Best Match have led to a significant drop in sales.

Recognizing users' frustrations, eBay provided some insight into the new Best Match algorithm to help sellers boost their ranking in search results. In a recent webinar, company officials outlined the key factors that affect visibility on eBay.

"We know that search is essential to profitability and success for our sellers," notes Todd Lutwak, senior director of Seller Development. "We wanted to share some of our early findings for the new Best Match algorithm and let you know what these are, so you can be successful and have the best holiday season you can."

Keywords that are too general could lower an item's listing performance score—and lower its standing in search results, too

Performance scores debut

A major difference sellers will notice is the introduction of performance scores for Fixed-Priced listings. These scores are based on the number of recent sales in relation to the number of impressions, or click throughs, a listing receives. Higher performance scores mean higher visibility in Best Match because these listings should be more relevant. They've attracted buyers with the right keywords, buyers have clicked on the listing and found it was indeed what they wanted, and they've made the purchase.

Auction-style listings don't have to worry about this, and they will continue to get a boost in results when they're about to close.

But sellers need to focus on the efficiency of their keywords, Lutwak adds.

When Lutwak talks about "efficient" keywords, he's referring to relevant and focused keywords. Since Best Match attempts to return the most relevant search results to buyers, keywords that are too general could now lower an item's listing performance score—and lower its standing in search results, too. Remember, these change were meant to improve the buying experience.

That means that if a seller is offering a T-shirt that features an Apple Notebook and that seller uses the word "laptop" as a keyword, the keyword may get him a lot of impressions, but few sales. This would lower the listing's performance score and its standing in search results.

"We used to tell sellers go ahead, use general words, use all the characters in your titles," he says. "Now [we] really want them to use words that are efficient and use the best words to fill those characters. Now you are penalized if you use general words."

Make sure you know the criteria for becoming a Top-rated seller, since they get a boost in search results

Listing dos

The title of your eBay listing is more important than ever, Lutwak notes. Best Match will still focus on titles, but these titles must have relevant keywords such as brand names. Just don't go overboard. Remember, relevance is the name of the game.

Also be sure to compare your prices to your competitors. Shoppers want lower prices. As a result, Best Match will favor lower-priced items. The same goes for free or low-cost shipping.

Feedback and customer service will also prove important.

So make sure you know the criteria for becoming a Top-rated seller, since they get a boost in search results. Remember, being a Top-rated seller is not the same as being a PowerSeller—and PowerSellers no longer get an automatic boost in search results. You can find these criteria in your Seller Dashboard, or click here to read more about it. But while Top-rated sellers will get a boost in Best Match rankings, it does not guarantee them page one, Lutwak reminds sellers.

Even when top sellers use listing enhancements like Featured First to get better placement, they need to "manage" their listings. "When you use Featured First you are getting more impressions, but if you did not use and select [the right] keywords, it's possible that your items show up lower," he adds.

Making the grade

So how do you know if you're using the right keywords? You can do a few things, Lutwak says. For instance, you can look at your competitors' listings and see what keywords are working for them, then apply those to your listings.

Best Match uses a combination of criteria, and there is no one item alone that will promote top search standings

You can also use eBay's new Search Visibility tool. This feature was released in conjunction with the changes to Best Match, and sellers can find the tool in their My eBay page or their Seller Dashboard. This tool is available to all sellers who have at least 10 DSRs over the last year. eBay notes that this tool will help sellers answer important questions such as:

  • Why is my listing not on page one?
  • What attributes help/hurt my listing's rank?
  • How is my listing performing?
  • What can I do to improve my search ranking?
  • Which of my listings are having a problem with Best Match?
  • Where are my listings appearing in search results?

"I think this is an excellent, excellent tool," Lutwak says.

But once you get these questions answered, he continues, put your listings to the test—and test them by doing several searches.

"A lot of people think, 'OK, I'm on page two.' It depends on what the buyer puts in, so it's important that you put in different queries," he explains. "If you put in 'AAA batteries,' instead of 'AAA rechargeable batteries,' it will yield significantly different results."

You should also test your listings in different formats. Try them in both Fixed-Priced and auctions to see which format better suits your listings. And if you're a Top-rated seller, try using Featured First in some listings and not in others.

While the changes to eBay's algorithm may seem difficult to adjust to, trial and error might prove the best option, Lutwak notes.

"Best Match uses a combination of criteria, and there is no one item alone that will promote top search standings."

To learn more about the new Best Match algorithm, click here.

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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