Is eBay Item Specifics abuse the new Keyword Spamming?

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A reader got in touch with an interesting example this week. It regarded eBay’s search, item titles and Item Specifics.

eBay Search FeatHaving undertaken a number a number of searches in the Music Memorabilia category he noticed that a stack of items were appearing in search results that didn’t have the keywords he was searching for in their item titles. In this case, items searched for using “Led Zeppelin” were appearing in search results when the words “Led Zeppelin” weren’t in the title and moreover the items were not relevant to the search term.

A closer look at the items in question revealed that Led Zeppelin was indeed included in the listings as an Item Specific. Have a search around and you’ll doubtless find a few similar examples (I have).

This is interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it shows how important those Item Specifics are for helping eBay search catalogue and present results to eBay buyers. In this instance the Item Specific actually seems to have greater weighting than the Item Title in ordering the results. (We knew that Item specifics were important…)

And moreover, these irrelevant listings were above other items that did indeed have the Led Zeppelin keywords in the item title. Obviously, Best Match was also taking into account the seller’s other attributes.

As for the motives in including irrelevant Item Specifics, I’m not sure. I suspect, rather than this being a malicious attempt to skew Best Match, that it may be a template issue where some Item Specifics have been included from generic listings by accident. Seller error seems likely.

And I can’t see how it’s going to offer the seller much of a commercial edge. But it is, perhaps, another small nugget of insight into how eBay’s Best Match system operates.

Have you seen anything similar?

6 Responses

  1. I’ve been banging on about this for years. I’ve given zillions (exaggeration) of examples via the forums and via emails with senior search people at eBay.

    My main example is on something like the Fifa series of football games. If you search for say ‘Fifa 2004’ which was actually released in 2003, and the seller has put 2003 in the year of release in item specifics, it will show Fifa 2003 in the results.

    It’s certainly not new and while I got ‘Ben’ from the search team to agree it was an issue, nothing was ever done about it.

    I do believe that in lots of cases item specifics are given more precedence than actual keywords when searching.

  2. I find it definitely helps to have relevant keywords in Item Specifics but it’s not a good idea to put in irrelevant keywords as buyers will quickly bounce off the listing if it’s not what they want, thus affecting the impressions rate.
    Possibly not a priority for eBay as it won’t help sellers to game the system in this way.
    I don’t find that Item Specifics takes precedence over title keywords, but it will contribute to a listings higher standing in search results so if their feedback, sell through rate, price etc is competitive then that’s why they are higher.

  3. *Runs off to Add hundreds of additional Keywords to every listing via Item specifics * …

    Can someone provide some example links please? I want some inspiration!

  4. I find that there is a limit to the amount of characters you can put in a item specific. For example, in a multi listing where there are over 10 colours, it does not display the full list in the Main Colour item specific..

    Does anyone know the maximum character count for a item specific?

  5. I think ebay search is broken again this week, or has been reset. the search results are not what they’re supposed to be.

    keyword spamming is not productive (when search works properly) and neither is incorrect item specifics.

    for example, if you buy the CD that says Led Zeppelin in the specifics, then its not Led Zeppelin, you are entitled to a refund and paid-for return.
    Since many sellers would rather just refund than pay for postage on a CD return, basically these item specifics abusers are advertising free CD’s.

    if you do want Led Zeppelin, and click on these kind of listing, then dont buy, you lower the sales-per-click, and reduce the visibility more each time this happens.

    if you’re selling fake perfume, then keyword spamming may be of net benefit, but for this example, i think someones just being stupid. go grab a few free CD’s and then see how quickly that item specific gets removed.

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