eBay’s current search engine Cassini was launched in 2013 with the purpose of connecting buyers to listings they are most likely to purchase from faster and easier than before. As with all search engines, Cassini works on a secret algorithm, which means it scores and orders listings according to its own criteria. This algorithm is unique, specifically designed for eBay’s irregular marketplace where approximately 20 percent of the inventory (around 80 million listings) is removed and replaced every day.
Although no-one really knows the exact details of the algorithm (and it changes several times a year), the general criteria Cassini uses to order listings has been explained. The following four factors are integral to how Cassini scores listings, as described by eBay’s Todd Alexander at the Retail Global conference in 2013.
Relevance: Buyers will see the items they are looking for and won’t have to search through listings that are not relevant to them.
Value: Listings in the search results provide good overall value for the buyer in terms of price, shipping options and returns.
Trust: Buyers see items being sold by sellers with a positive selling history.
Convenience: The purchase is easy and straightforward for the buyer.
The importance of buyer engagement
In order to be able to rate listings based on these factors, Cassini gathers data on searching, purchasing and engagement behaviour on eBay. The behaviour it is looking for includes (but is not limited to) which listings buyers click on, how long they look at a listing, which photos they enlarge and which item they watch/buy and whether the transaction was straightforward.
Put simply, Cassini uses the popularity of listings to connect buyers with items they will have a positive experience purchasing. For this reason, the more engagements a seller can encourage on their listings, the higher their ranking will be. Sellers who understand how to do this and what else Cassini is looking for are rewarded with their listings appearing higher in searches.
Top Tips for Sellers
As explained in length in Todd Alexander’s tutorial, titles with targeted keywords are a vital part to improving search ranking. In the earlier days of eBay, filling the title with as many keywords (related or not) was the easiest way to raise a listing’s ranking. Cassini’s emphasis on buyer engagement means that this technique no longer works to a seller’s advantage as the more people who do not click on the listing, the more it harms the ranking.
Put the most important information first, using popular keyword combinations. One simple way to find which are popular is to begin typing in keywords to eBay’s search and common suggestions will start to appear.
Listing an item in the relevant category (or categories, if appropriate) is also very important. For one thing, there are rules about listing in the the wrong category.
In a similar fashion to spamming titles with irrelevant keywords, using multiple categories was also standard practice on eBay in years gone by. Cassini scores higher for accuracy than vague and ambiguous placing, so choose wisely based on competition and buyer behaviour.
- Item Specifics and Catalog
Todd Alexander describes item specifics as being ‘critical’ as Cassini does not only look at the title and category to decide whether the item is relevant to the buyer is not. Make sure all item specifics are completed and add custom specifics if needed.
Where possible, use the eBay catalog. By entering the UPC or EAN of the product, the listing will automatically be filled with the product data.
- Provide Good Value
Considering offering the following services to offer better value for money for buyers.
- Competitive pricing – Regularly check what the competition is charging and stay as close as possible.
- Free shipping – Common on other online retail websites, free shipping is attractive to buyers and recommended by eBay.
- Returns – Offering a generous return policy is appealing for both buyers and Cassini’s criteria.
Not only good to help increase search ranking, the above services may help to increase sales in general.
Sellers who maintain great Feedback and Detailed Seller Ratings are rewarded by Cassini. Poor Feedback returns a lower ranking on searches. Sellers should respond to Resolution Center cases quickly and to the buyer’s satisfaction. Review buyer issues on a case-by-case basis and recognise that the customer may not be right, but finding a solution to please them may be better to maintain positive Feedback.
- Recent sales
Recent sales history, especially within the last month, is a factor in ranking. Using Good Till Cancelled (GTC) listings retain sales history and can provide good buyer engagement, both of which Cassini takes note of. However, if there are no sales after 30 days, a good idea would be to end the listing and re-list. This restarts the history and re-indexes the listing, better for the ranking overall if there were no previous sales.
- Photographs and descriptions
eBay offers 12 free photos for every listing – use these and use them wisely. High quality photos can increase buyer engagement and the potential for sales. A variety of photos with damage highlighted can help to instill buyer confidence. Likewise, a full item description helps with accurate and valuable information show a higher level of professionalism and trustworthiness.
Ever changing standards
These are only a few ways to improve the ranking of item listings in eBay’s Cassini search. With the algorithm and criteria changing from year to year, new methods to rise through the search results will continue to appear and be used by sellers. The bottom line however, is to maintain the basics of great eBay selling – accurate and informative listings alongside good customer service.