Best Match: what's in, what's out

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Earlier this week, eBay answered some members’ questions about Best Match and related search issues. There isn’t much we don’t already know, but it’s nice to have it all in one place (even if the eBay rep. turned up half an hour late for a one hour discussion).

For BINs, Best Match is now the default search sorting. Auctions will continue to be sorted by ending soonest by default, with sellers with a DSR of 4.3 or lower “disadvantaged” in search. eBay are coy about exactly what criteria are taken into account with BM and what importance is given to each. The exact algorithm will vary according to category: for one example, many collectables categories are concerned with one-offs, so popularity (i.e. number of items already sold) is not going to be a meaningful criterion. BM criteria are also likely to be fine-tuned over time, so don’t assume that what works for you this week will necessarily work next week.

However, we do know that at the moment, popularity is more important than price, because “a higher-priced popular item will rank better than a lower-priced unpopular one”. Additionally “importance will be placed on good DSRs, recent sales (in categories where multi quantity listing is prevalent), good value and relevant item titles.” As eBay have said that “total cost” is not a factor in BM, it’s not quite clear what “good value” might mean: item price, or distance from category average price, are two possibilities that spring to mind, but these are just my guesses. The matching of keywords between search query and item title is taken into account with Best Match, so well-written titles remain as crucial as ever.

Sellers who list single items can relist a sold listing within seven days in order to benefit from the recent sales rating and so improve their BM ranking. They will need to actually “relist” the same listing to achieve this; “sell similar” will reset their recent sales rating.

We also have a list of what BM does not take into account:

  • seller status (private or business)
  • seller’s total sold items
  • postage costs being specified
  • returns policy being specified
  • feedback percentage
  • item specifics
  • total cost
  • item description

However, both item specifics and item description are important in ensuring your item is actually picked up by search in the first place, so don’t skimp on either.

eBay UK will not be hiding duplicated items from the same seller, a process known as “deduping” on Now that popularity boosts search ranking, eBay believe that there will be fewer duplicated single item listings, and more multiple items listed together; deduping is therefore unnecessary.

My concern in all this, as ever, is what it’s doing to the buyers. Consider this explanation of how auction and BIN results will finally be sorted together:

Auction and BIN items will be sorted according to two different sets of criteria (time ending soonest and DSR scores for auction, and a mix of trust, value and popularity for BIN). Once the items for each format are sorted, the two separate lists are blended together based on buyer behaviour and can vary for category and query.

Buyers have spent the last decade and more learning to buy at the last minute on eBay: it’s such ingrained behaviour that they do it on BINs even though it makes no sense. And now, at the busiest, spendiest time of the year, we’re asking them to abandon those habits and deal with a new sort order that frankly looks just random. eBay talk a lot about the buyer experience, but when they pile these changes onto them, one after another, tweaking site functionality on a weekly basis, I wonder if they’re thinking of them at all.

28 Responses

  1. I wonder if will be having the tabbed search like .com?

    I imagine the best match search will be “fine tuning” itself dynamically all the time.

  2. I really, really, really want this new regime to work. Not just for the millions (?) of sellers but for ebay themselves. Peak spending time is coming up fast and Amazon were a pretty fine opponent last year. Add to that the current spending crisis and ebay “bargains” could be the ideal solution for many pressie hunters this year.
    What will become of ebay if this doesn’t work?

  3. Nice and very helpful piece – thanks Sue.

    As a seller – I feel like everyone else I’m sure … “stop moving my goalposts without enough information and notice”

    But as a buyer I truly despair … I have spent more money off-ebay this month than on – the new search drives me so crazy if I need something in a hurry and am logged into one my accounts that simply won’t let me opt out of the new search I simply can’t be bothered and I hit google. Even as an experienced buyer I don’t have the time or the patience to deal with the new search ‘experience’ and when I want to buy plastic mailers I don’t want to look at children’s toys or whatever other crazy offerings they have for me that day

    Which bring me back to the wonderful phrase you used …. “eBay talk a lot about the buyer experience” I wouldn’t be so unhappy as a seller if I was happier as a buyer – because if someone with my experience of ebay can’t find:
    1. What I want
    2. That I know IS listed and
    3. In the right lsiting format without jumping through hoops and finding mysterious option buttons hide somewhere way down in the margin.
    I have no clue how my buyers will find anything I sell.

    Do ebay ever consider that … I wonder I really do?

  4. The whole search ‘experience’ on ebay is broken.

    Search on any term where there is just one page to show all results and hit refresh a few times with the results ordered by best match – the results keep changing!

    How is that helpful for a buyer?

  5. Sue, I just spoke to Ebay Powerseller support and read them the line in this post that says, ‘Sellers who list single items can relist a sold listing within seven days in order to benefit from the recent sales rating and so improve their BM ranking.’

    They said it is absolute rubbish, they checked it internally and said again that it was not the case. I said I would post this as a comment here and they said ok…

    I have a lot of 90 day shop listings that are now running to the end of their listing period and I want to retain a ‘recent sales rating’ for the items when I relist them – so this question is crucial to me.. Any info you get would be greatly appreciated. Regards Robin

  6. Thanks for your comment, Robin.

    The final post on the above-mentioned thread has this to say:

    If you list an item with a quantity of 1 and sell it, you can then relist more of the same item within 7 days and you’ll keep the recent sales rating (and improved placement in Best Match) from having sold it before. But do you need to use the Relist button for this to work or does it also work if you use the Sell Similar option?

    In the above example, you need to use the relist button in order to retain your recent sales score. the Sell Similar will reset your score.

    The first paragraph is a question from earlier in the thread, which Mark D had initially said that he did not have the answer to, but would check with colleagues. So with all due respect, “absolute rubbish” is a bit strong. Shame, I thought we had a definite answer to that one, but it appears not.

  7. Well that just proves it, Tamebay is better informed than Custard Support ๐Ÿ™‚

    Just checked some of my 90 day shop listings in both the new and old search, bearing in mind with CDs I only tend to list one not multiples, they are showing up very nicely either way complete with gallery photo that I didn’t pay for ๐Ÿ™‚

    So hopefully I’ll carry on selling well, it really all depends if the new fee increases outweight the profit I’m making. I’ll just have to be a lot more careful about what I list and really only list the stuff that is likely to sell rather than everything and hope. So I will definitely be decreasing the number of listings as I can no longer afford to list stuff on the offchance that it might sell.

  8. Hmm it’s a strange one. It would seem logical to retain the buying activity when an item is re-listed…

    On a more positive note I know eBay have tested results of the new Best Match cos I was one of those people who mysteriously started getting search results looking like they do today back in August and early September – so I guess Ebay did a sampling and looked at buying behaviour to see what the results were and will have tweaked Best Match accordingly.

    I think people who use Ebay for the auction element of Ebay will find Best Match a bit confusing until they work out that they have to view search results by ending time or just click down on the left to select only auction items..

    Those who just want to Buy Now – will find it ok.

    And the casual firsttimer will find it shows them items they are most likely to buy…

    So I reckon it should work out…

    I am more concerned about the total Ebay traffic – in my category it has dropped hugely over the last couple of years.

    BTW Sue – it was good to meet you at the Channel Advisor thang in August – did send you an email after but no response?

  9. effin bleeding ridiculous
    ebay support linking to tame bay as a means of informing users
    its ebay support who should be informing tamebay not the other way round
    Oy Sue & Chris
    invoice the buggers for services rendered

  10. Off topic a bit – but do Chris and Sue sit by each other during the day or are they working remotely?

  11. this best match thing is doing my head in
    we have 2 wedding rings listed on another id
    yet only one shows, when you reduce the list down to used on best match
    though its top of the pile mind you, and is making fortunes

    anyone who can come up with the right item specfics permutation and listing strategy
    has ebay to theirself ๐Ÿ˜€

  12. @ # 14, # 15

    I think what you’ve failed to realize is that if eBay uses your site to know their own policies, then you are actually the policy makers. Please use these powers for good.

  13. #20 What she (custard) was trying to get across was that once Tamebay are aware of new changes etc generally they will blog it before eBay announce it, I dont think she was suggesting that Tamebay knew what eBay are going to do before eBay knew,, although….

  14. “Auctions will continue to be sorted by ending soonest by default”

    This is a lie.

    It is a lie because it is not true.

    That is, it is non-factual statements. That is, it is a lie.

    The use of “continue” implies that they are currently being sorted by “ending soonest”. They are not.

    Best Match is the DEFAULT for EVERYTHING currently. Period.

  15. #25 I think it means that within the default “best match” search the auction listings that appear will be sorted by ending soonest. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Jimbo, you’re correct: effectively, “best match” for auctions IS ending first. It will still say best match at the top, but that is the sorting.

    *has never been called a liar in her own comments quite that many times before* ๐Ÿ˜€

  17. Hi there ive been on this site a handful of times but this is my first question & i hope someone can give me a correct answer.

    We have sold on ebay for a year now, and in the last 4 months we were bennefiting from listing multiple single item listings, targeting the ending times by using Listing Schedule. However since BM came into force ‘properly’ on the 25th september we have noticed a 65% decrease in sales.

    What should be a busy time of year for us is now becoming quite a financially straining time.

    So my question:

    Powerseller Support have confirmed that because we used ‘list according to my schedule’ and did not change this when the changes came in, we havent built up a sales history. We are now half way through changing our listings so that we list (5 x 3 day listings of every product we sell), spaced out throughout the day with a quantity of 15 available on each listing & USE THE RELIST WHETHER IT SELLS OR DOESNT.


    1. Are we doing the right thing now.? As eBay have confirmed we WILL build a sales history as the item now RELISTS instead of just being replaced by a new scheduled listing. (The reason for 5 multiple item listings is to get the sales from the old skool ebayers who search by ending soonest…if they still exist).

    2. Furthermore, and my more pressing question: HOW IS SALES HISTORY AFFECTING BEST MATCH? is it the TOTAL number of sales from the listing and by this i mean is it like a tally that grows and grows so long as you relist within the 7 day window, OR is it a tally that lasts as long as the listing duration.

    Because if its just a tally that lasts for the listing duration then surely using the 3 day listing is now the WORST thing to do as everyone else is building up a tally during the month using a 30 day listing except me.





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