For eBay sellers, having your listing appear number one in search results is crucial. Buyers tend to click on and buy from the listings which appear first.
I’ve written in the past about eBay SEO and shared best practices to appear higher in search results, but I didn’t dive into the nuts and bolts of Cassini – eBay search engine.
Similar to Google’s search algorithm, eBay’s search algorithm is kept as a secret to avoid manipulation of the algorithm, in this post I will explain everything we know about the algorithm, how it works and what you should do in order to rank #1.
But how are search results sorted and filtered on eBay ?
The simple answer is Cassini, eBay’s internal search engine.
Understanding how Cassini works and ranks results is key to increasing sales on eBay.
When a potential buyer searches for a product on eBay for example men’s shoes, Cassini tracks which items were:
- Clicked on
- Bid on
When you are selling a product, say watches for example. Cassini gathers info on your:
- Return policy
- Response time
- Product info
- Item descriptions
- Click through and sell through rates
- Seller ratings and feedback
- Shipping policies and delivery times
All of this info and more (only the people who programmed Cassini know the exact criteria) is aggregated and each listing is given a score based on how well they performed on the pre defined criteria and then ranked and displayed in eBay search results accordingly – this in a nutshell is how the algorithm works.
Applying SEO to the eBay search engine
SEO or search engine optimization is a technique typically used to drive relevant traffic to websites through search engines, say Google for example. On eBay, one can also use SEO to drive traffic to his or her listings. But how ?
The criteria which is most important when it comes to Cassini :
#1: Product title
The key here is writing titles which are relevant to the product you are selling that provide an accurate description. Remember that titles are written for people not search engines (we previously wrote about great research conducted on 1 million eBay titles)!
Here is an example of a good title: Men’s Nike Running shoes
Here is an example of a bad title: Mint condition Nike shoes
The better your product title, the greater the chance a potential customer will click on your listing and buy it. When this happens repeatedly your conversion rate goes up and eBay ranks you higher in search results as a reward.
Define conversion rate: The number of sales divided by the number of visitors to your listing. Say 10 people out of 100 visitors buy your product, 10 divided by 100 is 10% and that is your conversion rate.
#2: Item Specifications
The item specifics that you enter when listing a product very quickly translate into filters shoppers use when searching for items. If you ignore them, your listing will be eliminated from search results when people use the filter feature.
This is what filters look like for shoppers:
When you create a listing as a seller – this is what the item specifics section will look like:
This is actually a really simple concept but despite this many sellers have a hard time with this. eBay has invested a lot of time and money researching which categories and subcategories to provide and how to use these tags to best match ‘correct buyers’ with ‘correct sellers’. The key is to not overload on irrelevant categories. If you are selling an old Chinese statue for example, stick to the ‘Antiques’ category and choose ‘Asian Antiques’ as your sub category. You don’t need to choose additional categories such as ‘Art ‘and ‘collectibles’ or subcategories such as ‘decorative arts’. Keep it simple and precise.
In this image I highlighted three key areas: the buyer’s search words, the filter subcategories and the search results. Notice that the antique Chinese statue appears second as it is properly categorized:
Note the ‘Catalog’ function:
Oftentimes eBay already has the item we are selling in their catalog and all you need to do is enter the UPC or EAN and eBay will autofill in the rest of the information like so:
#5: Item description
Writing a well worded, well formatted, on point item description is very important and will help you :
- Appear higher in search results when you use relevant keywords in your description
- Increase your conversion rate – meaning more browsers will become customers when you provide useful information for shoppers
- Keep shoppers on your page longer which also translates into higher placement in search results
For more information I encourage you to read our case study of an eBay template description that generates $34,000 every day.
#6: Customer Feedback
The eBay search engine ranks listings based on positive and negative feedback. Every eBay seller strives for as much positive feedback as possible but know that this not only affects your seller status and sales directly but also indirectly (where your listings are place in search results). There are many things you can do to improve your eBay seller feedback such as:
- Accurately describe your item in terms of condition, quality and brand
- Communicate with customers quickly and efficiently
- Dispatch your products in the time frame you committed yourself to (same day delivery for example)
- Accurately list postage and packaging charges and if possible offer free shipping or use eBay’s delivery services and automatically get a high rating in this category
#7: Free shipping
Now I know I just mentioned this in terms of customer feedback but this happens to be a really good thing to offer customers and that is why I wanted to stress this. When you offer free shipping Cassini actually rates you higher since this is something that customers want. Most sellers just add the cost of shipping to the price of the product and this is actually preferable than charging for shipping directly as ‘free shipping’ is psychological not monetary.
#8: High quality photographs
High quality, crisp photographs are the name of the game. These images attract buyer but even more so, eBay’s search engine looks for images with a large number of pixels in order to determine that they are high quality, the algorithm also prefers showing listings with a higher quantity of photos and also takes your alt text into consideration.
Define Alt text: a word or phrase that can be inserted as an attribute in an image to tell viewers the nature or contents of an image.
You should always have alt text, if not then you lose a priceless opportunity for eBay’s search engine to ‘find’ your listing.
An alt text can be added to an image via the html code.
Here’s a structure of an image inside the html code:
“<img src=””crazylister/lenovo-laptop-thinkpad.jpg”” width=””300″” height=””250″” alt=””brand” new=”” lenovo=”” laptop=”” thinkpad=”” model=”” with=”” 13=”” inch=”” screen=”” and=”” 16ram=”” memory”=””>”
The alt text is the content written inside the ALT brackets (“brand new lenovo laptop thinkpad model with 13 inch screen and 16RAM memory”).
#9: Renewing old listings
Many times Cassini ‘prefers’ new listings. Some time ago we wrote about the benefits of ‘good til canceled’ and I still believe it’s a better practice but you should test some of your best performing listings with both ‘good til canceled’ and ‘sell similar’ relist methods to find whether one works better than the other for you.
Here’s the argument for ‘sell similar’: It is better to not use the ‘good till cancelled’ or ‘relist’ functions here, rather use the ‘sell similar’ option when a listing ends which creates a brand new listing. It makes quite a bit of sense since people are always interested in what is new – the newest fashions, the newest cell phones and yes the newest listings.
On the same note, auctions (although they are used less and less and comprise less than 20% of all new listings) are also preferable since they create buzz, activity and hence traffic and that is exactly what eBay is interested in
#10: RSS Feeds
As I just mentioned Cassini loves fresh activity so if you turn your RSS feed off before you go to bed or use the vacation settings and then turn it back on in the morning this will give you a temporary boost in your search result rankings.
#11: Copying content
Don’t directly copy and paste content or item descriptions into your listings. If you do copy content first put it into ‘notepad’ which usually gets rid of any unwanted HTML code. This is important since often this embedded code will prevent Cassini from properly reading your text and end up sending your listing to the bottom of the list.
Pro tip: If you are short on time and are not good with words consider copying and pasting text from 3 different locations and then edit that text, run it through ‘notepad’ and only then insert it into your listing. This will do wonders for your listing as search engines like Cassidi need, feed off of and reward ‘fresh blood’.
#12: Stay engaged
eBay’s search engine hates dormant listings. It rewards sellers who are constantly engaged and ‘tending to their crops’. For small sellers: Avoid listing a batch of items, rather list one item per day. Also, try and make small changes to your listings on a regular basis (this is one of the practices we used to grow sales, as I mention often your listing process is an ongoing optimization effort, not a one time creation). When a seller is engaged this shows Cassini that you care about the quality of your listing and the algorithm determines that customer satisfaction will be higher from your products as you are more invested in your listing, product and ultimately your customer.
#13: Third party traffic
eBay like every business wants to get more traffic and more customers. eBay’s search engine will actually reward sellers or store owners who drive traffic to their listings vis-a-vis social media or any other third party. The logic is you are promoting your own product but at the same time you are promoting eBay and this is free, easy, user driven advertising. What more could eBay ask for ?
Evolve with Cassini – the sooner the better
Cassini is designed to give a platform to sellers who are trying to provide the best products with excellent customer service. It used to be easy to pack listings with all kinds of key words and hope to make it to the top of the list but those days are over! These days eBay’s search engine rewards those sellers who:
- Are trustworthy
- Offer value for money
- Provide relevant listings
- Create a convenient and pleasant shopping experience
I recommend you start by implementing one step at a time, slowly improving your search result standing, showing Cassini that your listings are the ones that should be put in front of customers instead of other non optimized listings.
Please comment below and tell me about your experiences with SEO on eBay were and what did and did not work for you in terms of improving your ranking in search results.