Monday, January 21, 2008

eBay Sellers Already Gaming Best Match

In the competitive world of online selling, sellers are constantly looking for a way to get an advantage. On eBay, this is called "gaming the system". I'm sure you've all heard stories of 1 penny BIN (Buy it Now) with 19.99 S&H, keyword spamming etc. Well, it didn't take long for sellers to find a way to "game" eBay's new "Best Match"

Click on the image for a better view or click on this link for the actual search.







The search terms that delivered these results were "kaline autograph". You will notice that the listing I have highlighted in yellow has 1 day and 10 hours left before it closes and with Best Match it has been moved up ahead of items that are closing within the next 8 - 10 hours. The words "Kaline" and "Autograph" do not show up in the title but when you click on the listing you can see that they are in the copy of the ad. The seller does use the + sign in the title and include popular athlete's names.

This listing appears to be moving up the list because of the number of pageviews (31) relative to the other listings in the search. In fact this listing is ahead of actual items with "Kaline Autograph" in the title.

I'm not sure exactly what elements of the listing helped it move up the sort list, but it appears FB (feedback) and DSR's are not yet part of best match as this seller has below avg. results in those areas.

The listing is for a "lot" of 1,000 sports cards and is not likely to get many bids because it is a confusing and poorly designed ad, but the seller was able to "game" the Best Match sort and show up much higher in search than other sellers who paid the same fee. In fact this listing was less expensive because it didn't even include a gallery photo.

Sellers will need to be prepared as their competitors become experts at BMO (Best Match Optimization). Your listing fees may not buy you as much exposure as you had hoped.

Thanks to etown99 from the eBay Stores board for finding this listing.

Update: Okay, I have to admit a mistake. The listing above is not an example of purposefully gaming the system, because the listing was created on the 15th, prior to Best Match being rolled out on the 16th. So unless the seller has ESP, he/she just normally lists items this way. Of course now they are glad they did.

The point of the post is still valid that sellers will try and find a way to game Best Match. Thanks to Itspostingtime on the eBay stores board for pointing out my error. I actually do appreciate that.

Just my 5 cents!

6 comments:

Event Horizon 1984 said...

You did not make a mistake. Historically eBay rolls out changes first, and announces much later.

Also Best Match was officially introduced on 9 October 2006.

http://forums.ebay.com/db1/thread.jspa?threadID=2000241408
***Introducing Best Match: A new sort option based on relevance***
estebankozak@ebay.com

And the Best Match algorithm was implemented on eBay Express, almost two years ago.

Sellers have had ample time to see how Best Match works, and determine how to "game the system."

tekgems said...

Hi, can you explain how the seller "gamed" the Best Match search? You did notice that you checked on the Title + Description check box. My guess is that while the result will appear, the value point system for each keyword in the title is still in effect. I seriously doubt the seller engaged in a specific tactic to gain rankings.

FYI, eBay Express Best Match search engine and Best Match on Core are two completely different beasts. Other than the name "Best Match", the search ranking algorithms are different.

Randy Smythe said...

TekGems - As I said in my Update, I'm not sure this seller specifically tried to game the system but sellers will certainly try to do that with Best match. Anything to get an advantage.

I do agree with you that the Express Best Metch is much different then the Best Match in core.

Event Horizon 1984 said...

It's a popular eBay PR spin and semantics urban myth that eBay Express Best Match is not the same as eBay.com Best Match.

"eBay Express uses and emphasizes a different set of factors to determine relevance. In addition, it utilizes buyer data from eBay Express buying activity, which will differ from eBay.com." Esteban Kozak

Notice the difference emphasized relates to data collected, not algorithm

The basic algorithm or "invention" is the same. It's the implementation and database that's different.

Both are based on the Reputation based search patent #20060161524.

http://www.freshpatents.com/Esteban-Kozak-SanFrancisco-invdirk.php
http://www.freshpatents.com/Reputation-based-search-dt20060720ptan20060161524.php?type=description

"The invention can be implemented in numerous ways"
"In this specification, these implementations, or any other form that the invention may take, may be referred to as techniques."

"Various matching algorithms are used in different embodiments."

And while Esteban Kozak has been quoted as saying:

"The invention described" "is unrelated to eBay's "Best Match"."

That is a complete contradiction of other things he's said.

Patent #20060161524
"A method of providing relevant search information"

""Best Match" lets you sort the listings you see based on a concept called relevance." Esteban Kozak

ion usb turntable said...

The 9 page patent you are referring to is here:
http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20060161524.pdf

You may be right - Unfortunately, that patent lacks detail on how an algorithm would specifically go about ranking.

My comment about eBay.com Best Match not being the same as eBay Express Best Match comes from the Inventory of eBay.com's Best Match, Raghav Gupta:

http://labs.ebay.com/raghavgupta/
It's disappointing that the name "Best Match" was ultimately chosen for describing the sort by relevance functionality on the main site, in particular because it has nothing to do with the "Best Matches" mechanism used in eBay eXpress. The two do not share the same algorithm, the same code, or the same implementation...except the name.

The patent paper for Raghav Gupta is here:
http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20070288433.pdf

Event Horizon 1984 said...

Ultimately eBay sellers and buyers will find out what implementation of Best Match has been installed on eBay.com. Although it is fun to delve into the details.

In the meantime here's a short timeline in regards to the "Best Match" invention. Feel free to conjecture.

(1?)
http://labs.ebay.com/raghavgupta/#relevance

Invented and built eBay's Relevance Search algorithm (sadly named "Best Match")

Relevance Sort (aka Best Match)
"In 2005 I came up with an approach and built a prototype, and it worked remarkably well. After months of evangelizing to business, I led the project's production implementation." Rajhav Gupta

(or 1?)
http://www.patentdebate.com/PATAPP/20060161524

Patent 20060161524 - Reputation based search
Filed Date: 14-January-2005
Publication Date: 20-July-2006
Patent Inventors: H. Scott Roy, Timothy M. Nufire, Esteban Kozak

(2)
14-October-2005
At the time, Esteban Kozak was employed at SearchFox.

(3)
http://www.freshpatents.com/Determining-relevancy-and-desirability-of-terms-dt20071213ptan20070288433.php?type=description
"This is a non-provisional patent application claiming priority under 35 USC .sctn.119(e) to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/804,426 entitled "RELEVANCE SEARCH" that was filed on Jun. 9, 2006, and U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/804,506 filed on Jun. 12, 2006 entitled "TEXT SUMMARIZATION BASED ON THE CONTEXTUAL RELEVANCE OF TERMS" both of which are incorporated by reference in their entirety."

(4)
Date unconfirmed.
Esteban Kozak hired by eBay. eBay gains rights to Mr. Kozak's uncontested patent.

(5)
09-October-2006
eBay employee Esteban Kozak introduces Best Match.
***Introducing Best Match: A new sort option based on relevance***