Scott goes into great detail on how this gaming is being accomplished in his post and I would suggest you read it. I'm just going to discuss the concept of "gaming" in this post.
First off, it was clear from the beginning, that sellers would try to find a way to take advantage of eBay's Best Match. We call this "gaming" which is a nicer term than calling it "cheating". Sellers have been doing it forever.
- Lowest price is the sort order with SIF listings so sellers go for 1 cent BIN with $25 S&H
- Determining when you want to end a listing, in order to give your item the best opportunity for a sale is "gaming" the system.
- When ending soonest was the sort order, sellers use the "extender" program (since banned) to keep their items on the front page.
- Multiple IDs and multiple stores are a form of "gaming".
- Now with Best Match, sellers add multiple keywords to their titles to get advantage in search. Now the following listing title: New, New, New, New, New, Wii, 5, 5, 5, 5 New New, carries more weight than New Nintendo Wii with 5 Game Bundle. Just try this search on eBay and you will see what I mean.
In a competitive environment, gaming the system is what every sellers does. Every seller is trying to find a way to get in the "buy box" and stay there, until they get a sale. Most "gaming" strategies aren't as blatant as the one Scot discusses though. Why are some called cheating and others accepted? Its all perception.
If you time your listings so they will end when the most buyers are on the site that is just called being smart, but if you add 5 "New's" to your title that is called cheating.
eBay isn't a Utopian society where everybody does the right thing. When it comes to making money, sellers will do what it takes.
It amazes me, that with all of the brainpower behind "Best Match" they couldn't think this particular problem through before they launched.
If eBay corrects the Best Match Algorithm to fix this particular problem, sellers will come up with a new way to "game" the system -- it is what they do and it becomes almost a sport for them. When there is so much competition for the same items you have to find a way to have your item stand out.
Update: It appears that Best Match is in the shop for repairs. After the problem with repeated keywords was identified they apparently have shutdown Best Match until that problem is fixed. The default sort still says Best Match but every search I've done sorts items by ending soonest. I'll post any additional info that I hear.
This will not be the last time we hear about "gaming" eBay search results, unless you can find a way to remove the human desire to "win".
Buyers "game" the system just as much as sellers do. Hell, it isn't much different than sniping an auction.
So how do we fix this?
- Use the Google model. Free, organic listings and have sellers pay for position.
- Go back to "Ending Soonest" and just sort items by Best Match within that same 30 minute window.
- Understand that sellers will "game" the system and just wait until eBay closes the loophole. That is pretty much what we have today.
What do you think? I'd love to hear your opinions. I like option #2.
That's just my 12%