How eBay is hiding your auctions from buyers

I’ve been trying to figure out what’s happening to Fixed Price and Auction style listings in the electronic categories where Catalogue is now mandatory. It’s not looking like good news for many sellers, especially those who rely on their auctions getting to the top of search results as they’re about to end.

The most striking feature of catalogued items is that auctions are not being sorted by “Time Ending Soonest”, even if that’s what you’d normally expect. In many categories such as Televisions, or Computer Monitors half of the first page of search results are Catalogued listings. I’ve just been re-checking live listings and currently I’ve found a catalogued auction with just 24 minutes left to run on page 7 of search results. In the past all auctions about to end would have risen to the top of page 1 of search results!

Click to see more search results

If you look at this image you’ll see that auctions are not being sorted at all, but are dependant on where the catalogue entry is being placed in search results. I’ve not been able to figure out how catalogue entries are being sorted, but the evidence is there with an auction ending in 21 hours time placed below an auction with 3 days and 21 hours remaining (click the image to see more example results).

So what appears to be happening here is that your fixed price listings are no longer sorted by Best Match and your auctions are no longer sorted by Time Ending Soonest. Your listings are sorted according to the eBay catalogue entry sort order.

Previously if you had a fixed price listing attracting a large number of sales then in eBay’s eyes it would have a high “popularity” sales score and would appear at the top of Best Match search results. Now it appears that your high performing listing may be being dragged down in search results by other sellers under performing listings. It’s the order that the catalogue products are presented, not how well your individual listing sells that counts. Worse still your auctions about to end are also being dragged down in search results and may never even reach page 1.

In some Tech and Electronics categories this might not matter – for instance if you’re searching for a White, 64GB, Wifi and 3G iPad 2, then (apart from eBay insisting on showing you Black ones) there are only a couple of options to choose from (SIM free, Vodafone etc). This means your listing will be found by interested buyers.

In other Tech and Electronics categories it’s much more disturbing for sellers. A buyer looking for a new LED TV or a Flat Screen Computer Monitor is probably not being as specific as in the case of an iPad. They may not mind which brand or model TV they purchase, but be more interested in particular features. In this case catalogue’d listings which hide bargains about to end on the 7th page of search results aren’t a great solution. Not displaying the most popular listings at the top of search results but instead amalgamating popular listings with overpriced under performing listings into a single catalogue entry dumped way down in search results isn’t a great buying and selling experience.

Currently there is no information apart from empirical data as to how search is sorted. If you can figure out what the sort criteria is for Catalogue Listings we’d love to hear from you. If you can’t figure out how they’re being ordered just bear in mind that the auctions you’re paying for may never make the first page of search results so you’re not likely to get great sale prices.

The one thing we can tell you that eBay haven’t, is that your auctions in catalogue categories are not being sorted by Time Ending Soonest regardless of what you thought your insertion fees were paying for.