The Complete Guide to Cassini – The eBay Search Engine

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As an eBay seller, getting your listings to the top in search results (on eBay) is one of the major differences between success and failure – between making money or not.
So, who or “what” decides which listings to show first when a buyer searches for a Gucci purse, red widget, Ford truck, etc?

The great and powerful Cassini – The eBay search engine
Whether you’re a beginning, intermediate, or more advanced eBay seller, understanding how this search engine works and what Cassini wants from you is crucial to your long-term success.
This detailed tutorial covers a lot of ground and is, well, really long. However, it’s written specifically for those serious about increasing their profits on eBay.
OK, ready to make more money on eBay?
Let’s jump right in, shall we?!

What is Cassini, The eBay Search Engine

Cassini is eBay’s internal search engine.
A search engine is a web-based tool that enables users to locate the information, products, and services they are looking for or shopping for.
Cassini was rolled out in 2013.

The information in this tutorial is based on the knowledge I have of it today.
my knowledge since all search engines change over time; I’ll keep this article updated as new standards and functionalities are instituted.
Just like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and hundreds of other search engines, Cassini has been programmed to gather zillions of pieces of data regarding human search, engagement, and purchasing behavior.
Meaning when a person visits eBay and searches for “red widgets,” the eBay search engine tracks such behavior as (to name only a few):

  • What listings do they click on
  • What listings did they bid on
  • What listings do they watch
  • What items do they purchase
  • How long they spent viewing a product or item
  • What images they enlarged

When someone is selling “red widgets” on eBay, the search engine tracks things such as (to name only a few):

  • What is your return policy
  • What is your response time to customer questions
  • Do you have all the product info filled in
  • Do you have quality pictures of your products
  • What is your feedback quality score
  • What are your shipping policies, prices, and delivery times
  • Do you have valuable and accurate product descriptions
  • What prices are you asking for products
  • At what price point are you starting bidding
  • What are your click-through and sell-through ratios
  • What percentage of your products are “Buy it Now” instead of auctions

Yes, Big Brother is watching you. 😉
Based on the data gathered, Cassini is programmed assign scores to each listing based on how well (or not) a listing meets the assigned criteria.

This is called an algorithm.
Cassini then returns the results (products and eBay stores) it thinks are most valuable or relevant to the site visitor.

The first thing that’s most important for you to know is that nobody except the programmers who create Cassini’s algorithm know exactly how it works.
So, if nobody knows how Cassini “really” works, how does an eBay seller get the best from this search engine?

Well, this strategy/technique is called SEO – Search Engine Optimization.
“SEO” or “search engine optimization” is the art and science of maximizing the number of qualified visitors to a particular website (or your eBay listings or eBay store).

I have a whole treasure chest of eBay SEO tutorials but for now let’s stay focused on Cassini.
Once you understand what Cassini wants from you and why, you’ll better understand the techniques and principles of eBay SEO.

How the Cassini Search Engine Works

In the video below, you’ll find an incredibly comprehensive explanation of how the eBay search engine Cassini determines what products, items, and stores to show shoppers who are searching for goods.
It’s from PeSA Internet Conference (Australia), and though it was filmed in 2013 the principals are still relevant today.

Cassini “scores” your listing based on 4 key metrics:

  1. Item Title
  2. Item Specifics
  3. Category
  4. Catalogs

While only “4” key metrics or “scoring elements” seems an easy nut to crack, within each of those metrics is a whole subset of “best practices”.

To be successful, you’ll need to understand and implement these best practices in order for eBay to consider your listings relevant and valuable to its shoppers.
I recommend watching the video above several times. Stop the video along the way and take notes.
Additionally, take the time to jot down ideas on incorporating its lessons into your own eBay store and listings.

If you begin sprucing up your listings, you should see increased customer engagement based on higher search engine rankings. This, of course, generally equates to more sales!

What Cassini Wants From You

Let’s be super clear from the get-go.
Some years ago, all search engines began to focus hard on providing better results and experiences for its “surfers” and shoppers.
And with good reason.
The hallmark of a “good” business is one who considers their customers needs first and, then, does their best to provide solutions.
eBay calls this “Customer-Centered Commerce”. They strive to put the customer at the center of all their decisions.
Your goal as an eBay seller should be no different; the Cassini search engine helps you achieve that goal.

I’ve read other Cassini tutorials, and they state that Cassini is all about the buyer, not the seller.

I completely disagree.
This new eBay search engine is designed to reward sellers who strive to answer the needs of their customers and do so with integrity and an earnest desire to engage in transactions that are good for all parties involved.
Whereas before, it was easy to “game” search engines (eBay’s included) by “stuffing” keywords all over the place, now search engines are uber smart, and it’s incredibly difficult to fool them.
All that said, Cassini exists to help make sure that the “right” buyers and sellers connect. If a buyer is looking for antique teapots, there’s no reason to show them spark plugs.

This is a waste of both the buyer and seller’s time.
In this Cassini wants to give a boost to eBay sellers who:

  • Shoppers can trust
  • Provide value
  • Have relevant listings
  • Offer convenience and ease of the shopping experience

The Cassini 18 Best Practices Check List

Below is a list of Cassini “best practices”.
While one can never be sure where their items will show up in the eBay search engine listings, the following should help increase the quality of your listings. The natural by-product of this should be increased traffic and conversions (aka more buyers and more sales).

1. eBay SEO & Listing Titles

As mentioned earlier, SEO (search engine optimization) is the art and science of driving higher volumes of targeted traffic to your website, eBay store, and product/item listings.
One of the most critical components of eBay SEO is the use of keywords. “Key” words are those words that shoppers use when searching for products.

One of the best ways to find those specific keywords and keyword phrases is using the eBay keyword research tool – Terapeak.

You can also research SEO keywords using the eBay search field. Based on the keywords or phrases you type in the field, eBay will suggest more words culled from actual searches. This is not as thorough a method as using Terapeak but it does help.

There are several other tools I use as well – Google Keyword Planner and when performing keyword research for larger sellers I use a few paid SEO tools.
Be sure to write your titles for buyers.

Just shoving a whole bunch of keywords into a listing title in the hopes of showing up higher in the eBay search engine can result in a lower click-through rate.

Buyers need to see a flow of words that make sense to them – very much like a complete sentence.
When humans see a bunch of disjointed words, our brains literally stop. Then it has to start again to recognize the next word. Then stop, then start, again and again.
They are less likely to click on your title if the title immediately above or below has a “smooth” set of easily understood words.

That said, it’s helpful if you become proficient at finding SEO keywords and using them effectively in your titles.

Be sure to use qualifiers.
Let’s say you’re selling a purse. Who is the designer? What material is it made of? What color is it? Is it a clutch or bag? Is it vintage or NWT (New With Tags). These “qualifiers” need to be in your listing title.

Finally, stop using special characters in your titles. Example: L@@K!!!

That is so 1980, and it makes you look less than professional. Further, Cassini sees it as a poor practice and will lower your rankings. Worse, it may confuse the poor dear and then ignore your listing entirely.

One more thing…
You’ll want to use those well-researched keywords and phrases in your item descriptions as well as utilize them in the H-Tags (found in the HTML editor).

2. eBay Categories

I make a really big deal out of categories when I teach. Why? Because eBay has graciously done a great deal of SEO work for us all!
When we choose categories and sub-categories for our listings, the names of the categories are very well researched and uber targeted keyword phrases!
Be sure to use all relevant categories for your listings. Do not “category stuff.”

Meaning, don’t put your items in categories where it doesn’t make sense for them to be.
This lowers customer engagement, click-through, sell-through, and quality listing scores.
Bottom line? You disappear from the search results.

3. Catalog & Listing Specifics

Once again, eBay has made our job as an eBay seller much more accessible.
When you list a product, often times eBay already has item specifics listed in its “catalog” and can auto-fill in tons of information for you!

Just put in the UPC or EAN; the info appears like magic!
Take advantage of this function! Cassini and eBay shoppers alike will thank you for it!

4. Item Descriptions

When I perform an eBay Store Audit, this is almost always one of the biggest areas the merchant is deficient in.
Please, please, please fill in your item descriptions!
You don’t have to write the great American novel, but by having a well-thought-out description, you achieve the following:

  • Higher SEO scores – use keywords in the description and HTags
  • Increased sell-through score by providing complete and valuable info for buyers
  • Customer loyalty and trust – buyers know a seller who gives good info is one who has their best interest at heart
  • Cassini comes to know that your customers stay on your listings longer because there is relevant information. This means future listings “could” be given priority. But, it definitely means that your listings might get a bump in rankings because Cassini measures scores throughout the day.

5. Feedback & Seller Trust

I like to call this the “grin and bear it.”
Everywhere on the Internet, good feedback and reviews are priceless. Not only does Cassini reward sellers with stellar feedback, but customers do, too.
Poor feedback results in lowered search engine placement. Now, as well all know, the customer is not always right. And, yet, in this day and age the customer must always be right so you can keep your feedback scores high.

We’ve all had that customer who wanted something for nothing or the one who loves drama and tries to create it at every opportunity.
Unfortunately, I advise taking a page out of the Publix Supermarkets Customer Service Handbook – give them what they want, whatever they want.
Hence, the “grin and bear it.”

6. Free Shipping

Free shipping is hassle-free shipping for the buyer.
eBay loves this.
Cassini loves this.
Buyers love this.
I’ve never understood why shoppers perceive “free shipping” as a “deal.”
It just makes no sense.
Indeed, they must know that shipping costs have been blended into the item’s price.

And yet, they flock to “free shipping deals”.
So, do it.
Adjust your prices and offer the dreaded “free shipping”.

7. eBay Photos

Since the sell-through rate is part of the algorithm that determines where your listings show up in the eBay search engine rankings and photos are a BIG part of making a sale – it’s time to get good at eBay photography.

Large, crisp, well-lit images instill buyer confidence and increase the odds of making a sale. High-resolution is the name of the game!

And eBay gives sellers the opportunity to put in 12 images – for FREE! Take advantage of that gift!
Cassini knows the quality of your images based on pixels, compression, etc.

And, since Google has gotten creepy good at “reading” images, I presume eBay has similar abilities.
Adding multiple, good-quality photos to your listings shows good faith. It shows customers and Cassini alike that you are invested in ensuring all details are disclosed.
Plus, you’ll have far fewer returns, which helps keep your seller trust score high!

8. Stale Listings

Society, (hence, the Internet) is all about “what have you done for me lately”.
So, there is a case to be made for making the decision not to use “GTC (Good ‘Til Canceled)” or “Relist.” Doing so can stale listings and could lower your sell-through rate.

If you decide to concentrate on keeping your listings as fresh as possible, one way to achieve this is to use the “Sell Similar” function when your listings end. This creates a shiny new listing and search engines love “fresh and new”!

Also, take the opportunity to improve the listing.
Go over this Cassini checklist again and see if you can increase the value of your listing by adding more information or doing a better job at your SEO.

***Special Note***
This is a case where you have to use your wisdom. It may make good sense for you to use “GTC (Good ‘Til Canceled)” as well as “Relist”.

Remember, Cassini rewards listings with the most buyer engagement and watched items are part of that.
You may not want to create a whole new listing if your item has watchers. It may be better for you to lower the price and Relist the item since eBay notifies watchers when the price is lowered.
However, those watchers will likely be lost sales opportunities because eBay does not notify watchers of a product when it has been “Relisted”.

9. Auctions

Cassini loves auctions. Even with the “gotta’ have it right now!” world we live in, Cassini loves auctions.
Auctions promote activity. Buyers check in to see how many people are watching, bidding, etc. When they return often, there’s the chance they will click on an ad or buy another item.

So, be sure at least 5-10% of your listings are auctions.

10. RSS Feeds

And speaking of Cassini loving fresh activity…
One night before bed, turn off all your RSS feeds. When you wake up (at least 6 hours later) turn them back on.
This forces Cassini to re-index your first 100 listings and can give you a good boost – temporarily.
***Special Note***
Using the Vacation Settings can accomplish something similar.

11. HTML Code Can Cause Drama

People love to copy/paste the info and plop it in the item description editor box.
If you should happen to enter some wonky code, Cassini will move you right to the bottom of search as it won’t be able to understand what’s “in there”.

Sometimes it’s OK to copy/paste if the info that you are gathering is “common” – sizes, colors, etc.
If you do that, put the content/HTML into Notepad first. This strips out any unseen or unwanted code. After doing this, you should be able to put the content into the HTML editor on eBay safely.
But if you are copying item descriptions from someone else, then you are likely infringing on copyright-protected material.

Additionally, you’re creating duplicate content, and search engines can’t stand it when 500 listings all have the same description.

Even with all the other quality scores, it can be tough for a search engine to figure out which listings deserve to be 1st.
If you pull bits and pieces from a number of different listings and then change them up to be your own, this is called “curating”.
It’s perfectly legal and gives the search engines fresh, original copy and they will reward this in spades!

12. Always Be Engaged

The eBay search engine loves “shop keepers” who always do something to improve their store or listing.
To achieve this, drip out your listings. Don’t list 25 items in one day and nothing for a week or month.

Do not “set it and forget it.”
No listing is perfect. Do a little something every day. Add some keywords, expand the description of your listing, add new images, etc.
Show Cassini that you are “tending your garden.”

13. Hassle-free Returns

This is kind of like the “grin and bear it” idea from the Feedback & Seller Trust section.
Nobody likes to accept returns, but, in all fairness to buyers, not all sellers are honest.
My theory has always been that if you are an eBay seller who knows what they are doing and if you are thorough and honest in your listings, then your return rate will be almost zero.
If this sounds like you, I highly suggest taking returns and offering to take returns on a “no questions asked” basis.

You might have to smile through gritted teeth now and again, but those transactions should be few and far between.

14. Run Sales

Face it. We all love a good sale!
Seeing all those prices slashed gets our hearts racing, and the buying spree begins!
Increase buyer engagement by running sales. And, if you can get approved for “strike-through pricing”, so much the better.

The subconscious effect seeing “slashed prices” has on buyers is well documented so do it if you can!

***Special Note***
I do not recommend putting your entire inventory on sale and keeping it that way for long periods. In doing so, you run the risk of your eBay store appearing to be a discount store or outlet.
My solution is to choose a few items or a whole category and run monthly or weekly sales. Flash sales work well, also.
You can increase email subscribers by using sales in this manner. They’ll sign up in anticipation of the sale alerts.

15. Drive Traffic From Social Media

OK, I just have to get this off my chest because it makes me crazy when I read/hear folks complain about how “unfair” search engines are.

When we (me included) set up our business on eBay, we were sharecropping. We are planting and harvesting our “crops” on land owned by someone else.
eBay is our landlord, and we rent space there. That’s it. eBay is not responsible for our success; we are.

In fact, I feel very blessed that eBay exists because it provides a low cost eCommerce solution that comes with all kinds of bells and whistles to help me be more successful.
And where I’m going with all that is this – eBay is not responsible for getting Internet traffic to your store and listings – you are.

With all the free social media resources out there, you should be utilizing them. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are the same as free money – awesome!
Now, I do not have this confirmed, but I would wager a pretty penny that Cassini is programmed to give a bump in rankings to stores that are driving off-site traffic to eBay/their store.
To automate your social media efforts, I recommend using Hootsuite.

16. Inventory Pricing

One of the reasons Home Depot and Lowe’s have been so successful is their pricing theory – “Stack ’em high and watch ’em fly”.
Meaning – they buy a ton of inventory so they get rock bottom, wholesale pricing. At those crazy competitive prices, inventory “flies” off the shelves.

Few of us have a business model like this, but we can learn a great deal from it. Make sure to do your research.
Use Terapeak to run a competitive analysis and start your pricing as low as you can so as to keep that competitive edge.

17. Customer Inquiry Response Time – Same Business Day

Besides “same business day” responses to customer questions being great for increasing sales, I believe response time is part of the Cassini algorithm.
My opinion is that the search engine see’s it as part of customer engagement so do your best to respond on the same business day.
If you simply can’t respond on the same day, make sure your turn around time for answers in definitely within 24 hours.

18. Responsive & Mobile eBay Templates

Responsive eBay templates size up and down according to the size of the browser and are, by default, mobile themes.

Since over 50% of Internet shoppers use their phones to browse and buy, a well-crafted mobile/responsive template can help build your brand, increase customer engagement, and give you a higher conversion rate.

Cassini & eBay Consultations

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No matter the size of your eBay store or business, I can help you get the most out of eBay!
With over 17 years of eBay selling, coaching, and consulting experience, I can help you expand your brand’s awareness and increase sales conversion rates. Call me today, and let’s get started, or sign up for an eBay Store Analysis, and I will get started to evaluate your current listings. NOTE: A Store is not required for this service. I love a good challenge and enjoy spending quality time reviewing sellers’ listings and stores! I’ll do my best to help you succeed on eBay!


22 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Cassini – The eBay Search Engine

  1. Danna Crawford December 15, 2018 at 8:45 am

    Thanks for sharing. Yes it can be challenging sometimes but by adding those important “keywords” to your titles and listings as well as including as many items specifics as much as possible, WILL increase your odds for more sales. You can also review some of my listing tips from one of my current eBay workshops at: Hang in there and HAPPY EBAY SELLING! Danna

  2. K. Lyle Artman December 12, 2018 at 11:01 am

    I liked your article very much. I have sold on Ebay since early 2000 and I have done well for a small time seller. However, the last year or so it has been bad and a waste of my time. I sell very few to no items at all now. With that said I will try some of your suggestions and see what happens. Some of the things I was already doing, but I changed a couple things. So time will tell.
    Thanks for your help,

  3. Danna Crawford September 19, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    This is where ITEM SPECIFICS come into play. Especially your type of items. Be sure to spend quality time using as many item specifics that you can AND create your own in addition to the suggested.

  4. Gloria September 17, 2018 at 12:48 am

    This was a very enlightening article, however, I’m not a store! I just periodically have something and/or my wreaths if I have any available. But I’ve noticed in searching for an item there’s no place it is in one place. A different set of phrasing will give a different number of that item available and/or sold. And when speaking of what gets shown in a search, here’s a frustrating example: No matter the key phrases used to search for say Estee Lauder Knowing Perfume the result will be 30 or more of that item, same picture, different prices, different sellers; but this dominates the whole search and doesn’t include any other size or style to speak of. Then I’ve noticed after careful research and item sold and there was only 1 of it; I list mine based on that and within days there’s a flood of that item and I can’t even find mine in any combination of phrasing!!

  5. Catherine June 28, 2018 at 10:33 am

    HELP SEO eBay just learning need help

  6. Danna Crawford April 14, 2018 at 6:30 am

    Sorry I don’t have a step-by-step but I will work on that. Thanks for stopping by. Danna

  7. Ariana April 13, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Hello Danna,
    Do you have an article on how to add the HTags to your description?

  8. Danna Crawford April 13, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. jerry April 13, 2018 at 5:10 am

    DSM is not a very efficient tool as its price tracker dosn’t work properly and there are a lot of glitches. If you want a better one (less bells and whisltes but very reliable, supports many sources and has great tech support0 Try Hustlegotreal – you can try it for free on 30 items (no time limit) – I use it for ds and I recommend it highly – (my affiliate link).

  10. Danna Crawford March 7, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    I would keep it going.

  11. Kris March 6, 2018 at 7:52 am

    I am wondering if I have a Good til canceled item that hasn’t sold in 30 days but has had sales in the past do I end it and create a new listing or keep it going?

  12. Danna Crawford November 7, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    Hello, thank you for your kind words and for stopping by my site.
    As far as using listing tools, I’ve never used them. I always keep my listings clean “old school” sell your item form and YES you can add the h1 tags behind the scenes
    when you adjust the HTML settings and insert the tags. Very easy!
    YES, crop your photos first!
    Use social media for both. Switch it up!
    Make sure your store is updated to the current format.
    Best of luck,

  13. Emrah Yalpur November 7, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    Hi Danna,
    Nice article.. may I ask you a few questions please.
    1. If I’m using a listing tool like crazy lister (just moved from Auctiva) can I insert my own H1 tags in html description view in eBay when revising the listing? My theme doesn’t use any H1 tags after inspecting it.
    2. I make all my gallery photos 1600px X 1600px in photoshop and then compress again in 3rd party tool to keep the images below 150kb in size… should I crop my images smaller so I don’t have to compress them as much?
    3. I’m using social media to drive traffic to my shopify store. Should I be driving to eBay instead?
    For my niche I had most of my listings on the first page and since this month my rankings have dropped and sales and my feedback, customer service response is all second to none and also I have zero defects hence I came here to figure out why. Only thing i can think of is i haven’t updated my listings or store in a while.
    I would really appreciate your input.
    Thank you so much.

  14. AndroXL Muscle Boost Review October 29, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    Whoah this blog is excellent i really like
    reading your articles. Keep up the good work!
    You recognize, many persons are looking around for this information, you can help them

  15. Danna Crawford July 17, 2017 at 10:43 am

    Thanks very much for stopping by. I also have a guide about using Terapeak you may find useful : Thanks again. **cheers** Danna

  16. eBay Search July 17, 2017 at 5:24 am

    Hi Danna, I’m a new eBay seller from Spain. I sell Music memorabilia and is hard to find which products sell more. I’m trying to redirect some buyers from Facebook ads and I think that it works. I recently discover Wuanto, Watchcount and Terapeak eBay tools. Thanks a lot for this guide! Pablo.

  17. Danna Crawford July 7, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks Marty, I monitor my listings via my eBay dashboard. No need to spend more on addition items. Or did you mean something else? Let me know. Thanks again for stopping by. Danna 🙂

  18. marty July 2, 2017 at 6:52 am

    Thanks for the great content. I am just getting started and am doing retail drop shipping. I need to start a store and begin listing. Is DSM tools a good way to list and monitor your listings? Thanks

  19. Danna Crawford May 4, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    Thanks I will take a look.

  20. Ren ren aycocho April 14, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    Hi danna?I so love your tips in this article!I’ve worked with the eBay US and UK platforms and all that you’ve mentioned here have been helping numerous eBay customers as we have been assisting them with the same concepts that you’ve mentioned. Thank you so much for this.
    I do hope that you can also feature product research tools that are free aside from terapeak as my new job requires a product research tool. I dont have a credit card and terapeak’s free trial requires me to have one?
    Excellent job danna!

  21. Danna Crawford April 3, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Thanks, Yes I appreciate the visit as well.

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