How to game the Best Match search algorithm

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Best Match has hardly began its roll out in the UK, but in the US where it’s already live things are getting interesting. The big question is can it be gamed, and the answer is a resounding “Yes”.

The back story is that Raghav Gupta, an eBay developer, published a tool called BayEstimate. This was an incredibly useful tool which would assign a relevancy score to each word in your listing title. This enabled you to omit less relevant words and add in suggested highly relevant keywords. When first released it used data that was about a year old but was then enabled to use live data, as recent as March 2008, from the eBay site.

Sellers began to experiment and found that including a single keyword multiple times could push your listing to the top of Best Match results. eBay Strategies carries an interview with the seller credited with discovering and exploiting the way to hack Best Match.

eBay reacted by requesting that the Research Labs take down the BayEstimate tool which they have done, but this is no surprise. Back on 25th March during a PeSA educational conference call on Best Match Jeff King, who leads the finding team at eBay, was somewhat surprised the tool was available and warned eBay might disable it.

No doubt eBay will now build into Best Match a way of lowering the relevance of repeated keywords, so what can sellers do for the future? The advice, to be honest, is much the same as it’s always been although more important as listings under Best Match sort will never have the advantage of rising to the top as they would under sort by Ending Soonest. Reading eBay’s patent application for Best Match reveals the following tips to maximise exposure for your listings:

  1.  Make sure your titles are filled with relevant keywords and use all the available characters.
  2.  If Item Specifics are available for your item use them. Best Match should take these into account even if they’re not in your item title
  3.  Use eBay Pulse to establish the most searched for words in the category you’re listing in
  4.  If you have an eBay shop use Traffic Reports (Finding Methods > Search keywords) to establish the most searched for terms for your own eBay shop. These are especially powerful as it reveals the search engine used, whether this be eBay or an external site such as Google).
  5.  Include pictures in all listings, and use the Gallery listing upgrade
  6.  Keep your postage at (or below) average for the category you’re listing in
  7.  Finally do a search for your product using Best Match, look at the titles that are at the top and check if they have keywords that your title is missing. Learn from the listings that are already highly ranked.

There are other contributing factors to Best Match such as feedback DSRs, the length of time left to run on the listing, geographic proximity to the buyer, the number of bids already made (consider auctions with 99p no reserve where appropriate) and whether the listing has Buy It Now available.

The final factor taken into account on Best Match is of course feedback, including DSRs, Negative and Neutrals, and any Item Not Received Disputes registered against your account.

Sellers of long tail products will have an advantage simply because there is less competition when a buyer searches eBay. If you’re selling common products you have to compete with multiple sellers but selling rare items may result in your listing being the only one, or one of very few matching a buyers search terms. Even for common products it’s often possible to list them using less common keywords, I recommend duplicate listings, one with a standard title and multiple duplicates (possibly even low cost SIF listings) with much more specific keywords in the titles.

It’s been proven that it is possible to game (hack?) the Best Match algorithm and eBay will doubtless do everything in their power to prevent this. However the simplest way to ensure your listings are highly ranked may be to follow the guidelines above making your listings highly relevant to buyers.

Have you got any more tips on how to rank highly under Best Match? If so let us know in comments below.

7 Responses

  1. too right I think too much
    I think DSRS
    I think Feedback
    I think best match
    I think item specifics
    I think postage cost

    and I think of Pain and suffering

  2. I think you are very thoughtful and caring for the troubles of the world…

    I just think of sales and profits… that is enough isn’t it!

  3. I wish ebay just thought of sales and profits
    rather than keeping every pillock that can write code in employment

  4. Hey North did no one ever tell you that eBay is one of the biggest technology companies in the world? Most of their time is taken up pushing the boundaries to run the biggest mirrored databases and possibly the most complex website ever. And of course it’s all done in real time or us users would be complaining like mad when they were offline for major updates.

    I don’t know any other website in the world that has been up (almost) continuously for over a decade while processing transactions at the same time as upgrades. It’s an amazing achievement.

    And they do all that just so that we can worry about sales and profits ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Quote: “And they do all that just so that we can worry about sales and profits”

    That may be the intention, but they tend to undermine productivity by making us constantly have to adjust to changes to the site, design, rules and policy. Some change will always be necessary, but too much is distracting and reduces productivity.

    Constant change, promises that coming changes will be bolder and more often, and threats that we will increase costs and fees at any time instead of annually, do not allow businesses to make an effective business plan and just get on with the job of dealing (and paying their fees).

    Unfortunately the raft of changes that are directly affecting my small business right now *DO* make me “worry about sales and profits”, but not in the way you meant…..

    Kind Regards, Kevin

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