A look at Cassini 6+ months down the line

By Chris Dawson September 10, 2014 - 6:57 am

Tamebay reader David wrote to us saying “I have been searching for some forum threads or articles on Cassini now that it has been live on eBay UK for a little while and people have been able to properly experience its effects (if any). However I have really struggled to find anything new“.

As David pointed out, search is obviously a major part to selling on eBay and so imagines the topic would be of interest to a lot of people. There’s a lot of confusion about Cassini so here’s what we definitely know:

What we know about Cassini

eBay’s last search servers were called Voyager

eBay’s new search servers are called Cassini

eBay’s search is constantly evolving

eBay have, we believe, fully deployed the new Cassini hardware

There’s a lot of talk about how Cassini may work and how it can index descriptions as well as titles. However what effectively appears to have happened is that eBay’s search algorithms from the Voyager servers have been replicated on the Cassini servers. It’s almost certainly not exactly the same, as many months have passed – eBay are likely to have tweaked search and the Best Match algorithm in the mean time.

The myth that Cassini will be a “New” search algorithm deployed overnight

Whilst eBay may, can, do and will continue to evolve search a lot of people assumed that when the Cassini hardware was bought online that search would change massively. That’s not the case and it continues to evolve slowly, hence the reason David is struggling to find a massive “Cassini” shift in how search works. People aren’t seeing a massive difference because there was no seismic change and neither is there likely to be in the future.

Search updates

eBay constantly tweaks their search algorithm and also runs tests from time to time with different random groups of buyers or sellers. They do this so that they can measure the impact of changes and learn what works and what doesn’t. It’s very unlikely (in my opinion) that eBay will ever make an overnight massive change in how search works without announcing it well in advance.

The reason for this is that eBay would need sellers to change their behaviour for new search criteria to work (e.g. when they introduced Item Specifics – search couldn’t use Item Specifics until sellers filled them out when listing).

Best Practices

Your best course of action is to follow established best practices such as great images, Item Specifics, correct categories, multi-variation listings etc. If your listings look great and buyers like them they’ll vote as measured by your sales. With so many sales being touched by mobile (we estimate 50%), that means you want to check how your listings display on mobile devices as well as on desktops.

Finally as a disclaimer we at Tamebay don’t know how eBay’s search works any more than you do. We do know eBay’s recommended best practices. We see successful listings and see not so successful listings. We can infer from this what’s important in search and know that the biggest influence on search exposure remains that the more people buy from your listing the more popular eBay will judge it to be and the higher it’ll appear in search, hence getting higher search placement resulting in more views and even more sales in the future.

  • Steve
    3 years ago

    Just like Google, no one will ever know how it really works.

    But I think its reasonable to assume that the actual differences between Voyager (the old eBay search engine) and Cassini are likely to be quite minimal because after all eBay don’t want to implement anything that drives down sales, so with that in mind I would guess that the main difference will be to casual sellers that give poor listing titles and minimal descriptions or product details. Professional sellers understand the importance of a good tile, photos, item specs, and a description that provides much information.

    Incredibly some sellers fail to even put up a photo (I recently won an auction with no photo, 5 words in the title (model name was mis-spelt), and only eleven words in the description (yes, I counted) and needless to say it didn’t get much attention. Then despite my requesting photos and asking a couple of questions, the seller gave a minimal reply and still didn’t twig a photo or better description would matter (you can’t help some people) so I ended up winning something worth about £650 for £103!! And then, when it arrived, it was in all the original packaging and was in mint condition. Total bargain.

    Happy days!

  • Martin
    3 years ago

    My experience is that if anything Cassani is worse than Voyager. I can show case after case where eBay’s so called “Best Match” produces a result that makes no sense to anyone. It damages sales prospects. This doesn’t just affect me. I can scan a search result and easily find other sellers(competitors) who are suffering in the same way.

    Most of my listings are apparently perfect according to eBay’s requirements. I am TRS, offer Premium Service , have 100% feedback, 1 day despatch, free post option, guaranteed next day option etc etc. However, my items are regularly shown on Best Match lower than the same product from sellers who are offering a much higher price, not TRS, do not offer Premium Service, have worse performance and description, and are even in a different country so offer far slower delivery than me.

    So what is the point of Cassani or Best Match? In fact the Best Match criteria do not offer customers what they would commonly understand as “Best Match” – that is the best option for them. The customer really doesn’t give a damn about number of impressions etc an item has received. This is in any case a self fulfilling prophecy, because everyone knows the top item in a search result will receive the most hits etc, so it simply reinforces what may not be the best option for the customer. The customers are only interested in the best deal for themselves, and Cassani and Best Match does not provide this.

  • Mark.T
    3 years ago

    My biggest lament about changes to eBay search is the loss of the wild card option using an asterisk, such as using ‘print*’ to find…


    Almost all of the search queries I had crafted over years were affected. We were assured that the new algorithm was smart enough to make the wild card redundant… they are wrong.


    • 3 years ago

      This was my biggest gripe. Loss of wildcards was huge but people seem to have coped with it. But Cassini also has a nasty feature where they will drop features of search during times of high load. So far the only thing I’ve found dropped is TRS search. So during peak period if you try to search only TRS sellers you’ll get an error telling you it isn’t supported at the moment.

  • Jon
    3 years ago

    Cassini has less intelligence than Voyager. Try searching SUNDAY TIMES Magazine 9/6/1991 & it finds (0) results. Now look at this item number 151122596524. Hey presto it appears? So as long as the potential customer knows the eBay item number I have a chance of selling it. I am TRS 100% pos feedback etc etc. This is a prime example of a BROKEN search engine.

    This also confused eBay so much that they have yet to come up with a reason.

    I asked eBay what date (see below) is best to use as they all produce different results.

    Voyager used to search item specifics so you could find a mag by searching 30/10/76 because voyager knew that 10 meant october in the item specifics. Cassini does not.

    30 october 1976
    30 october 76
    30 oct 1976
    30 oct 76
    october 30 1976
    october 30 76
    oct 30 1976
    oct 30 76
    30th october 1976
    30th october 76
    30th oct 1976
    30th oct 76
    october 30th 1976
    october 30th 76
    oct 30th 1976
    oct 30th 76

    • Jon
      3 years ago

      SUNDAY TIMES Magazine 9 June 1991
      SUNDAY TIMES Magazine 9 Jun 1991
      SUNDAY TIMES Magazine 9th Jun 91
      SUNDAY TIMES Magazine 9th June 91

      All these searches return (0) results

  • David
    3 years ago

    Cheers for the article guys. I didn’t realise I would get a mention. I just hope this new fame doesn’t go to my head!
    What you state is the impression I have had from the start which is ‘if sellers continue to offer a professional level of service (as ebay sees it) then Cassini should have little impact on sales’.
    The main driving factor has been, and will remain, sales on any particular listing. I am sure ebay will make little tweaks to adjust for cases resolved by ebay and suchlike but these will have a minor impact.

  • Steve
    3 years ago

    The single most important influence on cassini is sales – sell one, and you will get boosted, regardless of the rest of the criteria. You can use this intelligently – if you have 3 items at £10.00, then price them at £9, £10, £11. – assuming the £ is best value in search. Try it.

    • Martin
      3 years ago

      I’ve tried it recently and it doesn’t work. I agree a sale makes a huge difference, but the big issue for me is why Search produces such counter-intuitive results that are not even close to the Best Match for a customers requirements.

      I just love searching Amazon. Very simple.
      Just click on the offers for an item and it is listed in total cost order and you can clearly see supplier performance. Then make your own judgement. So much easier than eBay’s behemoth

    • Ian A
      3 years ago

      Products used to sell randomly with Voyager, then Cassini comes in and I started selling products in 2s, if the item sold it would sell again within 48 hours, I had one or two products that sold a lot and would sell a lot. Then they became the only products that did sell. Now I’m lucky if I sell anything at all as I’ve been away for a month so have zero momentum. I’m minded to quit completely as I dont want managed returns, click and collect and resent losing TRS. My physical sales have really picked up recently but I need ebay to move stock even if its not profitable but most my items have only 1watcher, the visibility seems to have completely tanked. Even on a ROLEX watch. I used to have at least 25 watchers on anything rolex.

  • katmeow1
    3 years ago

    Cassini is the worst. search engine. ever.

    As a seller, I’ve noticed brand new private sellers with 0 feedback and misspelled descriptions quite often trump my well established ‘premium’ TRS listings in the search. Also, loads of utterly unrelated items tend to creep in. And without the ‘UK only’ filter, everything comes from China or America.

    I’ve also more or less given up BUYING anything on Ebay.

    It’s incredibly difficult to find what you are looking for. For example, I recently needed a new windows 7 laptop. I could not, for the life of me, find more than 2 brand new windows 7 laptops in the UK on ebay. There were hundreds of thousands of ‘UK only’ filtered search results though.

    They showed loads of: ‘for spare or repair’ job lots, used laptops, windows 8 laptops, tablets, and refurbished laptops. Oh and parts and accessories. Lots and lots of parts and accessories.

    Selecting the ‘New’ filter did nothing more then pop up a range of ‘seller refurbished’ and ‘like new, only used twice!’ options. And even more parts and accessories. Many of the actual win 7 laptop listings were from dodgy sellers with copy/paste spec descriptions (with upgrades that didn’t actually apply to the one on sale) and horrifying feedback. On a £700.00 product? Umm, I don’t think that’s the best match for me.

    I quite often see questionable sellers or completely unrelated items at the very top of best match. The established, strong feedback businesses are buried underneath your average idiot’s listing; poorly described and posted with their iphone.

    I’ve switched entirely to buying on Amazon. It’s just too time consuming to wade through the mess trying to dig out my actual keywords, from reputable sellers, with proper descriptions.

  • Al
    3 years ago

    At least when Best match was released, eBay did a great job of communicating what would be required by sellers in order to support it.

    With Cassini there has been no supporting documentation that I am aware of and eBay staff don’t seem to know either.

  • Liam
    3 years ago

    One major flaw with this method of search, where an item that sells will be pushed up the search results – what if there is only one?? I sell collectable and antique items – of which there is only one. Therefore I have no hope of my items ever reaching that criteria where volume of sales of an item places it at the top of the search. Cassini is just not fit for purpose.

  • Rich
    3 years ago

    Good article. I am probably not nearly savvy enough about search. Although I do all the basics right like title, item specifics, and category,
    I just assumed that if a buyer wants a “multi colour toe rag” then that is what they will type in the search box and not much need for much else in the title.

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