eBay’s Best Match: How does it work?

Someone emailled us last week with a question: “What factors does eBay take into account for Best Match?”

Best Match is the system that determines how items are displayed in eBay’s search results to buyers. And we get variations on that question on a quite regular basis. And the enquiry caused me to reflect that we really know very little with any degree of total certainty and you’ve got to be wary of anyone who claims to know exactly how it works.

So I thought it would be useful to catalogue the factors that we know we some conviction are influential to Best Match. And whilst these things do matter, it’s impossible to quantify how they are weighted by the secret and often changing algorithm.

eBay says this: “A listing’s position in Best Match is determined by numerous factors such as:
– seller track record or risk profile on eBay
– competitive pricing, including postage & packaging (P&P) costs
– relevance of the listing to the buyer’s search”

To expand on that a little:

Successful sales on multi-item listings
If an item has sold before and customers have been happy, there’s no doubt that eBay likes a listing like that. It shows a satisfaction from buyers and is a good predictor for successful future sales.

A seller’s defect rate
Obviously you want your Top Rated Seller (TRS) rank and to be Above Average too is best. But it seems likely eBay appreciates more than that from Defects. So it’s the key reason to monitor and improve defects where you can. We wonder whether retail sellers get a bit of a boost too on the merits of the deals they have done with eBay as more favoured customers.

Item Specifics
Helping eBay catalogue an item using the Item Specifics fields is definitely a key factor for Best Match and one which many sellers neglect. The system can be cumbersome and an irritation when it is incomplete or changes but it’s one of those things many sellers can do to find a competitive edge.

Other aspects of an eBay listing
Obviously the keywords in an item title are vital but what of other aspects? Here’s where we get into the realm of speculation. Does inclusion of keywords in the item description count? Perhaps even repeating them in an SEO style makes a difference? Maybe. But we couldn’t say for sure but some sellers swear by it.

Free P&P and offering a Premium Service
eBay have said in the past that offering both a Free shipping option and a fast paid for option is something buyers like and they upweight these things in Best Match.

Auctions are treated differently by Best Match and bob up the rankings as they near their end times, it seems. It’s one of the reasons why even BIN business can find an upside from including some auctions as part of a successful mix.

Mobile search
It does seem that Best Match is different on mobile devices and one influence there could be photos. Buying on mobile is a very much more visual experience where images really count. It could be that on mobile, items with multiple images, complying with the eBay picture standards, perform better. It seems plausible but we couldn’t say for sure.

What else?
You doubtless have insight here. What else do you think might be important to bay’s Best Match? Evidence backing up ideas is always welcome in this speculative subject.