Insights into eBay’s new Cassini search engine

jane bellJane is an eBay expert who blogs as the eBayAnorak as well as being an eBay Education Specialist and all round eBay guru.

After many hours trawling the Internet and watching videos, today she shares what she’s discovered about eBay’s new search engine which is codenamed Cassini:

eBay Cassini, is it really that scary? My take …

Cassini hmI seem to be reading more and more panic and scaremongering articles about eBay’s new search engine Cassini. This has already been rolled out in the US and is planned to be rolled out here in the UK in December. eBay’s goal is to roll Cassini out without anyone noticing, so there won’t be any ‘flicking of the switch’ in December but rather a gradual and more unnoticeable process. I suspect the main part will have been done already and the gradual switching on of various parts of the ‘new’ search will occur over the coming weeks rather than a ‘big switch on’ with ‘terrible consequences’.

Some say it will revolutionise search to the effect that business will suffer for x or y, I say keep calm and follow Best Match principles. This is nothing new – The trust, value, relevance and convenience of Best Match optimisation of your eBay business and listings will not change this is still the most important thing to remember.

Quality relevant listings

Listings are built not written, those making short cuts or trying to boost or keep items in search artificially (for instance keyword spamming, duplicate listing or putting prices up to try to keep a good search ranking) will lose out, as they do now to some extent, through the spring cleaner that is the recent sales over impressions ratio.

I read somewhere that when Hugh Williams took on the job of sorting out search for eBay he made a search for the keyword ‘iPod’ and a car appeared in the top search spot so things had to change. Search needed to be relevant to the query, so when I search for an iPod I’m directed to an iPod rather than a car with an iPod in it or an MP3 player.

Cassini to replace Voyager

eBay have been working on Cassini for the past three years, it is a rebuild of the current Voyager search engine which has been used since 2002 and improved on over the years. Cassini will incorporate data around you and your ebay operation much more than Voyager currently does, it’s data crawl at it’s best. Voyager is not as effective for today’s buyers and sellers as 10 years ago. If you compare it with using any software that is 10 years old, it will work but not as well as a modern version built for current demands.

Cassini is built on the same principles of voyager search from a sellers point of view the term ‘Best Match on steroids’ is true with the added term used by eBay is for buyers to buy ‘What they want, when they want and how they want it.’ Search is serving the buyer and this has not changed just made better. Cassini will look at far more data than just titles but descriptions and everything about your shop (more on this in later articles).

So what do I have to do then?

eBay have access to an obscene amount of data, they know exactly what a typical buyer wants, how they want it and when they want it through this statistical data. If you are a good seller you will reap the rewards and Cassini will hopefully make that easier for genuine good sellers and not for bad sellers or those trying to cheat the system.

Trust – Your feedback, your reputation on your sleeve;
Value – Decided by the buyer and not necessarily the cheapest but the best value in the eye of the buyer;
Relevance – No keyword spamming and wrong categories;
Convenience – Opt into eBay returns process and managed returns, free P&P and an express option, make it easier for the buyer to return an item

Great title, item specifics and description, build your listing based on keywords. A html description or shop template makes no difference to conversions for Cassini, it’s just shop pretty, Cassini is only interested in the content and the keywords to describe the item not the pretty. However the shop pretty does make it look better and give the impression of being more professional business than the standard eBay shop but if you don’t get found in search it doesn’t matter how much you’ve spent on the pretty you won’t sell. There is more to come in the future from eBay on this point I’m sure but as far as Cassini is concerned no difference in search ranking for shop pretty.

Use your eBay Analytics tool to see what’s going on, contrary to what some will say a click through without a sale is better than an appearance in search without a click through. It’s not as good as a sale, but it’s better than no click through at all.