Insights into eBay’s new Cassini search engine

By Jane Bell September 19, 2013 - 7:21 am

jane bellJane is an eBay Specialist Consultant 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.

  • northumbrian
    8 years ago

    so the reality of cassini is that its no different to anything ebay ,

    sellers put in the hard work and effort and ebay do the rest lol

  • CJ
    8 years ago

    This article needs some serious proof reading.

    • David T
      8 years ago

      Here, hear!!

  • Alex
    8 years ago

    (for instance keyword spamming, duplicate listing or putting prices up to try to keep a good search ranking)

    ‘Putting prices up’?

    Please can you explain how putting prices up keeps a good search ranking?

    • 8 years ago

      My take on that would be when you are out of stock on an item that ranks highly in Best Match, you inflate the price to one nobody would pay until new stock is in, as apposed to ending it.

    • Alex
      8 years ago


  • 8 years ago

    How about impressions v conversions? Rumour has it accounting for 10-15% of your Cassini points.

    This does mean your description (pretty or not pretty) will have some effect?

    What you put here is still part of the conversion process.

    • DBL
      8 years ago

      Recent Sales over Impressions ratio is extremely important I would say way more than 10-15%, but a shop template won’t help if you are not found until page 5.

      The increase in visibility from Cassini (among other things) will be for the keywords in a well built listing not the html.

      If you have a great listing and it’s found, a template will give that professional look and will help to make a sale. To get that sale it has to be found in search and then have a good enough picture to get the click through into the listing in the first place.

      So although shop pretty, a term frequently used by Sue Bailey who also designed eBay stores and not meant to be detrimental and I hope it was not taken this way, is part of the whole process of the sale but for Cassini search, it is not.

  • northumbrian
    8 years ago

    “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”

    So effectively casseni is a censor, not a search engine

    • DBL
      8 years ago

      Think you’re right there 🙂

  • Jason
    8 years ago

    Seems a bit silly that sellers have to kind of guess how the search engine works and it does seem to over complicate things?

    • Stuart
      8 years ago

      I don’t agree with how we have all these hoops all the time on ebay, however with your suggestion that we have to guess it’s just the same as ranking on google, there is no short cut to doing this, you have to guess on that too.

      These large marketplaces such as Amazon and Ebay have to introduce some sort of search model to stop people from taking advantage of keyword spamming, just like google.

      It is so frustrating when you type in a search anywhere on the internet and you don’t see what you want.

  • Mike
    8 years ago

    Yet another uninformed article by Tamebay which gives the impression this site is sponsored by eBay with never a critical review to be seen. Your post gives NO information, e.g. you “SUSPECT” the main part has been done already? Why? Like eBay CS you do not know? Cannot say? Haven’t been informed? In that case do not post placating articles when you do not know anything about the changes.
    Perhaps the author should review some of the long running eBay community discussion board posts from the USA by sellers affected by Cassini and from the UK by the partial implementation.
    Honestly this post is word for word the same motherly advice given out by eBay’s CS, follow the good listing guidelines and don’t panic. Pathetic Tamebay, support your readers and start questioning these changes if you are truly independent!

  • John
    8 years ago

    Interested to know if anyone has a number for the per-centage of buyers that use Best Match?

    My quick poll of family, friends and relatives gave a 100% result of:
    Price including post and packing, followed by checking feedback, and physical location of the seller/goods.
    Although the physical location is often decided by the P&P charge – except for some overseas countries which were considered ‘risky’ to buy from.

    Guess that not clarifying the search requirements for Cassini prevents manipulation, but also covers the search having a very complex decision making process and no one (including ebay) being able to predict what the result of it’s efforts will be.

    That conlusion reached based on the previous version producing erroneous results, despite ebay having many years to tune it properly. How hard can it be to match iPod…with iPod, and to exclude the word car unless the word ‘car’ is included in the search term?

  • 8 years ago

    Anybody tried offering “Next Day / Courier Service” in their listing. I believe this will place you in top of best match search results. Just try and see..

  • Robert Mansell
    8 years ago

    Why do they have to change the system from the time ending in the first place. Sales used to be fine untill they messed with it, now it’s a lottery.

    One week – Sales Good
    Next week – Sales Bad
    Following Week – Sales Good


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