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Understanding eBay Best Match

This article was updated on November 9th 2009 to include the new eBay Best Match 2 search.

As of the end of April 2009, the old eBay search is no more. Best Match is here to stay, and whether you like it or not, if you want to sell successfully you need to understand eBay's Best Match search.

Let's take a look at how Best Match works, how you can get the most out of it and increase your chances of visibility by getting your items on the first page of search.

Overview

Best Match is based on a number of key factors, keyword relevance, recent sales, postage price, DSR ratings, item specifics, duration, value and search impressions. Each factor can add or subtract points to the item's ranking in search, so you need to be careful as you could actually hinder the search results.

Let's look in more detail at each factor to see if you can get your items to the top of the page. It's worth noting that at least for now, Best Match is for fixed price items only, not auction listings, which are still sorted by 'time ending soonest'.

Keyword Relevance

Best Match awards points to relevant keywords, based on how many people click on an item from the search page, add it to their watch list, or buy it. Each time someone clicks a listing based on the keyword(s) they were searching for, that keyword is awarded a point. The same happens when they watch the item or buy it. Best Match decides that that keyword is relevant to what that person was searching for because they took action on it, so that keyword is then classed as popular.

Conversely, if you have keywords that are not relevant, then points can be taken away and that keyword can actually demote your search standing. For example if you have keywords in your title that are really nothing to do with the item, people won't click the listing, so these keywords will have points taken away and become less popular. If you don't have keywords in the title that should be there, then people won't click and the listing will quickly fall down the search rankings.

As an example let's use the search term 'digital camera'. A quick look will see some sellers are listing using just the name of the camera - EG 'Samsung D75, good condition'. No mention of the two most relevant keywords, digital and camera, surely a must if you're selling a digital camera? Another listing just says in the title '12mp digital camera', no mention of a brand name or model number, another way to ensure the item doesn't get seen by someone searching for a particular brand and model.




So how you do tell which keywords are relevant? Try searching for an item similar to yours and see which items are on the first page. Now look at which items are on page 3 or lower and see if you can spot any keywords that show up a lot in the top searches that aren't there in the lower searches.

Also look for any 'negative' keywords, keywords that come up a lot in the lower ranked searches that aren't there in the popular items. This involves a little research but it soon becomes fairly easy to spot popular Best Match keywords. See also our article on Effective Listing Titles

Recent Sales History

Each time an item sells, it's awarded points for promotion in Best Match. For example if you have a listing for an item that you have a good quantity of, every one that sells will give that item a boost in the search. So for items that you have a lot of, or can get more of, it's good to use 30 day Buy It Now listings or Good Till Cancelled (GTC) format listings.

If you're running low and can order more stock before it sells out, you can revise the quantity available to 'top up' the listing. You can revise most things in the listing without it affecting recent sales history, but if you change the item condition (IE New or Used) then that item's sales history will be reset to zero.

If an item sells out and you relist it within 7 days (without changes as mentioned above) then the sales history will be kept. This does not work with 'Sell Similar', only with 'Relist'.

Postage Price

Another factor in Best Match search is the postage you charge. eBay state that items with 'reasonable' postage charges will feature higher in searches. By reasonable, they mean in line with other sellers and not items with a very low price and an inflated P&P charge. Items with 'free' P&P also get better results in search.

Of course there's no such thing as free P&P in the real world, but if you can factor it into your overall price then offering free P&P can help you get better search placement in Best Match. If you choose not to show P&P by only having it in the listing, or forcing buyers to contact you, you risk lowering the search standing for that item.

Detailed Seller Ratings

Detailed seller ratings, or DSRs, can also affect your standing in search. If any of your 30 day DSRs fall below 4.4, then your search standing will be lowered. At the moment on eBay UK there are only two search standings, standard and lowered. So if you let your standards drop below that benchmark, then your items will come up lower in searches.

eBay have also recently introduced more minimum standards, measuring your 'low' DSRs. Every time a buyer rates you either a 1 or a 2 on a DSR, it adds to your low DSR performance rating. If you pick up too many low ratings you will be demoted in searches, and eventually face restrictions or suspension. The minimum standards are no more than 3% low ratings on 'Item as Described' and no more than 4% low ratings on the other three DSRs.

See our article on Improving Your DSRs

Item Specifics

Item specifics are not a direct factor in Best Match, as the results are sorted after the search is carried out. If you fill in the item specifics as accurately as possible, you increase your chances of the item showing up in the search. The same can be said for listing in the correct category and having an accurate description of the item. If you can, always fill in the item specifics as completely and accurately as you can.

Duration

For items you have a lot of the longer the listing runs the better it should perform, providing you have some sales from it. As items sell the sales history will increase the item's rank in Best Match, so the longer the item runs, the more chance you have of building up a decent sales history.

Value

Value is difficult to define. From eBay's point of view a good value item is one with a price around the average that other similar items sell for, with a low or zero postage price. For example an item that is priced at £7.99 with £1.00 P&P is classed as better value than an item that is priced at 99p with £7 P&P. Of course, as eBay don't take a percentage of the postage charged, then they are more likely to promote items that make them more money.

If you're a lot more expensive than other sellers on the same or similar items, eBay may decide that your item isn't good value. eBay's definition of a good deal is one that converts well compared to similar items. According to one eBay staff member, when it comes to deciding what is good value and which is the best deal - 'the only opinion that matters is the buyers' - which is something worth considering.

Search Impressions

Search impressions are one of the new inclusions that eBay have introduced to Best Match 2. So what is a search impression exactly? A search impression is when an item shows up in the search results page. For example if you search for 'blue trainers' every listing that shows up on your search results page will gain a search impression. It's not a page view, you don't have to click on the item for it to gain an impression.

Impressions are now measured against sales to give a performance score. In other words, every time your item shows up in a search and isn't bought, its Sales/Impression score goes down. Of course the opposite is also true, if your item shows up in search and somebody buys it, the Sales/Impression score goes up.

What this means is that it is more important than ever to have only relevant key words in your listing title. As an example if you list an item with a specific brand name but the item isn't actually made by that company, then it will show up when people are searching for that brand name. They will see your item in the search, discard it as not what they want, and the Sales/Impression score will drop.

Keyword spamming will now have an adverse effect on your items in search. You need to carefully look at your listing titles and strip out any words that are not completely relevant to the item. The key is to write very specific listing titles that only show up when a potential buyer is looking for that specific item. The less times the item shows up in a generic search, the better. You need to design your listing title so that it is more likely to result in a sale, not just show up in searches.

eBay have now launched the free Listing Analytics Tool, which allows you to see how your fixed price listings are performing in Best Match. It's still somewhat buggy, but it can help to understand more about impressions and search views.

Become a Top Rated Seller

eBay have also recently introduced Top Rated Sellers. To be a Top Rated Seller, you have to avoid being given low (1 or 2) ratings on all four DSRs. Pick up too many (more than 2 or .5% per DSR, depending on your sales volume) and you won't be classed as a Top Rated Seller. Top Rated Sellers will gain a small boost in Best Match search.

Best Match Tips and Tricks

There are some things you can do to optimise your listings and get a good search standing in Best Match. If you have a good quantity of the same item listed, consider accepting Best Offers at a low price for the first two or three sales to gain a quick sales history. You could also relist an item that sold an auction, as long as you don't change the item condition then the sales history will also be carried over if you relist it within 7 days. This does not work with 'Sell Similar'.

You can also run items on auction (alongside your fixed price items) as these are still sorted by 'Time Ending Soonest' to bring potential buyers to your other listings. eBay also offer paid upgrades to give you a boost in Best Match, but that's a decision you'll have to make on your own. Many of these upgrades have recently been removed, or restricted to Top Rated Sellers only.

Summary

In summary, how to get the most out of Best Match on eBay UK -

  • Use only relevant keywords in your listing titles
  • Keep a good sales history
  • Never 'Sell Similar', use 'Relist' unless you're changing something
  • Offer lower than average or free postage
  • Offer good service so that your buyers rate you highly
  • Try to attain Top Rated Seller status
  • Fill in item specifics accurately
  • List in the correct category
  • Write accurate, detailed descriptions
  • Use 30 day or GTC listings
  • Offer a good balance between item price and postage price
  • Look at other items that sell well and use (but don't copy) ideas
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