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eBay’s Best Match: How does it work?

By Dan Wilson September 7, 2015 - 7:48 am

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
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.

  • james
    2 years ago

    this will be answered definitively, shortly after
    “what do women want”
    “what do you get the man who has everything”
    and
    “are we alone in the universe”?

  • Inspector Gadget
    2 years ago

    I’d imagine that the best match algorithm and therefore weightings vary per category too.

    If I was eBay then I’d give used Blu-Rays and DVDs a lower ranking as there is a higher chance of defects and disappointed customers. Used clothing would be given a boost as its a USP for eBay.

    A good question to ask is “if you were eBay, what factors would you give a higher weighting for Best Match”?

  • whosace
    2 years ago

    Best match…. More like No Match or Best of Luck!

    Search continues to be very broken………….

  • no idea
    2 years ago

    Remember the 2500 layoffs a few months ago? I think some of those people knew what they were doing and maybe should have been kept on.

  • Northernsaul
    2 years ago

    Selling on eBay used to be like driving a modern train. You kept your foot on the dead mans brake and obeyed the signals. Sales would come.

    Since Cassini selling on eBay feels as though it has become more like being the man who loads coal into the steam engine boiler. If you stop for a day the engine (your business) grinds to a halt. Then you have to drop the fire out and start again. It is constant activity. The coal is new listings, adjusting existing listings and social media activity. I have found that all of these things help sales. And if I stop loading coal all sales stop VERY quickly.

  • John S
    2 years ago

    I have this link saved in my Entertainment folder for some unknown reason:
    PHP UK Conference 2012 – Keynote: Challenges at scale…at eBay, by Hugh Williams
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06-__gzz8tg
    Bit techy but does give an insight into some of the thinking.

  • Ian A
    2 years ago

    Best match, maybe it works for something like electronics but you can’t apply this to all categories. It buries interesting items because they haven’t shifted enough units, promoting the fastest cheapest most popular items, so inevitably it looks like aliexpress with some private auctions mixed in.

    Dangerous game telling buyers what they’re looking for rather than letting them search for it themselves in a more organic way

  • Ian A
    2 years ago

    Interesting point that it’s meant to boost position of sellers offering free postage and premium service etc as a lot of sellers have said this isn’t the case and they appear below worse sellers. Not convinced best match even works as its specified to. Look at results, i find myself thinking why’s that up there?!

  • john
    2 years ago

    Seller throttling
    inventory manipulation
    demotion of ITEMS with bad feedback
    Promotion of items with feedback

    Best match is a manipulation tool for eBay’s own gain

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