How eBay are hiding fixed price items in search

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I’ve been trying to figure out why my sales have dropped since eBay introduced catalogued listings to the tech categories and it’s all about visibility.

I had thought one of the major problems might be how highly catalogue product cards were ranked in search results. I was concerned that my listings were being demoted in search results. I might have been wrong on both these counts as it appears that buyers simply might not be able to find my listings no matter how hard they try.

16 search matches but only 1 displayed to buyers

Today I did a search for a “17” monitor”. I clicked to view just items from “Desktop PCs & Monitors” and then scrolled down to select the exact category “Monitors”. I then selected the brand I was interested in – IBM – from the sidebar product finder.

eBay happily tells me that there are 16 matching listings to my search (that’s good, 3 of them are mine!), but eBay only display a single listing! (You can click the screenshot to see the full page image)

Why is this? Why do eBay have 16 listings but are only showing one to buyers? Why are eBay not displaying my listings and the other 15 listings available to buy?

There’s a simple answer, eBay search is broken. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason the Item Specifics selected aren’t returning the products requested in search results.

To demonstrate that this is a problem with eBay Best Match I did one last thing. I changed the sort order from Best match to Time Ending Soonest and magically the missing listings appear. How many buyers will do this though and instead simply think eBay doesn’t have the inventory they want to buy?

The image to the right shows two screen shots side by side for the same search term, on the left is the search under Best Match and the only difference to the right hand side is that the sort order has been changed to Time Ending Soonest.

I returned to Best Match and the search which should show my monitors but doesn’t and tested one last thing. I added the word “IBM” to make the search string “17” Monitor IBM” and that miraculously helps Best Match find the monitors I’m selling, along with those from the other sellers. I shouldn’t have to do this though – I’ve already selected “IBM” from the Item Specifics.

There are some further complications in that eBay separate “IBM” and “Lenovo” as two different Item Specifics, (essentially the same brand with a name change). However that’s not the root cause of the problem as I’ve used both options on different listings.

The problem is that on the initial search eBay say that there are 16 matching items in search results but only choose to show me one. Buyers aren’t as persistent as me, they’ll get fed up and go away to buy somewhere else.

16/11/11 Updated to add: eBay appear to have fixed this glitch.

22 Responses

  1. I’d have to agree with the ‘search is broken’ diagnosis, at least where it comes to catalogue items.

    Recently I wanted to buy a Playstation 2, the top search result for ‘PS2 slim’ was an Xbox, and there were hardly any results that matched what I wanted under ‘Best Match’. I changed it to time ending soonest and found a lot more results.

    In my experience anything to do with the catalogue is a complete disaster, with eBay’s line of defense seemingly ‘nobody else has a perfect catalogue’.

  2. What eBay will say is, thank you contacting us. We have had no other reports of this issue, but we will pass this onto our tech team who will investigate and will get back to you shortly. Then you’ll hear nothing more about it. Welcome to eBay.

    Chris I apologise for all the comments about auction issues I posted in your previous thread on a similar subject. At the time I thought the two might be connected, but since then it’s become apparent they are two separate issues. Without doubt though, Best Match and visibility is causing some sellers a lot of problems.

    Good luck.

  3. There is a huge issue with item specifics that have been highlighted in numerous board posts. You suddenly can’t use custom (other) and predefined specifics on a single listing in some (lots) categories. The API also isn’t accepting any predefined item specifics for multi-variation listings and if you specify any custom specifics they aren’t indexed for search. I guess the above are all linked. Typical eBay. And at the busiest time of year. 🙁

  4. Just performed the search and was able to replicate the issue once I drilled down all the way. I thought it was funny that the one listing shown was from someone called the247enigma.

    To get around the issue for now I think you simply type your aspects (IBM, etc) as keywords it will display the expected results. I got all of the missing listings to show by simply using ’17” monitor ibm’ as the search and removing IBM from the drilldown. Obviously you can’t expect buyers to figure that one out but at least it isn’t completely broken.

  5. This search issue is also a problem with Auction and Buy It Now items as well. Not just catalog listings. I have seen it numerous times and wondered what the crap was going on????

  6. I am just shocked.

    eBay search is broken, has been for a long time.

    When you can find more eBay listings on Google than on the site, well that’s a clue innit? Only problem, quite often Google finds better deals elsewhere than on eBay, then your buyer doesn’t have to deal with eBay at all.

    Too bad.

  7. I work for a large garage chain and am responsible for sourcing certain difficult to obtain products used by the garages. For the last few weeks eBays search has been useless just giving results that are mainly not relevant.

    We now all use Google to search and normally find what we want on eBay first thing. And sometimes elsewhere at a cheaper price.

    Not sure whats going on, but being buyer on eBays not that great an experience now.

  8. At the end of the day the question ebay should be asking itself is “Where does our(that is ebay and Paypal-after all they are all part of the same empire) income come from?”

    The answer is very simple. It comes from Buyers and Sellers successfully using ebay to sell and buy what they want(Listing fees provide some income but the big money comes from the percentages of each successful sale). If the Buyers cannot find what they want because ebay is playing Ducks and Drakes with the sellers listings and eventually go elsewhere it reduces ebays potential income. The more who go elsewhere the more it reduces ebays income and the longer it goes on and the more it drives sellers and buyers away the more long term damage it does to ebays long term financial health.

    If it is an ebay policy(and it certainly seems to be to play Ducks and Drakes with listings) then may I call for the senior executives within ebay to have a long hard look at the policy. I suspect that they will soon find that they agree with us(all those posting on Tamebay) that it is a totally potty policy. Hopefully they will then give the order for the policy to be changed to a much more sensible one.

    After all I amd all the Sellers want to Sell. We need Buyers and for the Buyers to be able to find from our Sales Items what they want. ebay makes money from our successful sales. For the most part Paypal makes its money from the financial part of the transaction. If ebay policy is stopping or severely reducing this then its in nobodies interest(certainly not in ebays interest). So please change the policy as a matter of urgency.

  9. I would agree with gwahmerchant that it is now easier to find something on ebay through google than to use ebay’s own search.

    The next step in the ebay policy of making the site look tidier by offering a selected sample in the ebay search result will be to cut off all ties with google forcing buyers to use ebay search.

    Bottom line is ebay do not want the site cluttered with products that do not sell. And if that means loosing sellers whose products and listings don’t result in a sale then its no great loss to ebay and a BIG gain for those sellers whose products do sell!

  10. Further thoughts are ebay have moved on from being a predominantly auction driven site to one that is now BIN driven.

    As this is the case ebay have to accept that BIN’s can sit around for several months until the right buyer or buyers come along.

    Search manipulation in whatever form does not help match the seller to the right buyer.

    So BIN’s that may previously have resulted in a sale after 1-2 months are now sitting around for longer.

    So in a way ebay have created a CATCH 22 situation with their search.

    They have created an environment where products do not sell and sit around unsold. And at the same time they have created an environment in which the site looks less cluttered.

    Now I am not entirely sure what game ebay are playing here?

  11. Search is broken and it has been for a while.
    I listed an item the other day and I always check to see it comes up in searches.

    My item wasn’t coming up at all even if I typed the exact item title!

    Then I relised it WAS coming up BUT in section at the bottom of the page “Items from international sellers”.

    I checked this on different browres and the results were different. IE9 made my listing jump from regular search results to International Search results.

  12. I paid for the featured first listing £44.95, 50% of the time not to have my listing on the 1st page, sold less than normal and Ebay said it was do to other seller having cheaper !!!! i thought featured first would appear front page at least 95% of the 7 days.

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