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 is searching 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 who are 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/shopping for.
Cassini was rolled out in 2013.
The information in this tutorial is based on the knowledge I have of it today.
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 they click on
- What listings they bid on
- What listings they watch
- What items 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.
eBay’s Todd Alexander has an Australian accent so not only is this video jam packed with information, it’s so much fun to watch!
(Tutorial continues below video)
If you watched the video, you know that Cassini “scores” your listing based on 4 key metrics:
- Item Title
- Item Specifics
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 how to incorporate 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 and 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 important components of eBay SEO is the use of keywords. “Key” words are those words that shoppers use when searching for products.
One of the very best ways to find those specific keywords and keyword phrases is by 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 words that is easily understood.
That said, it’s helpful if you get proficient at finding the 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 it will 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 don’t make sense for them to be.
This lowers your 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 easier.
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 and, like magic, the info appears!
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 that loves drama and tries to create it at every opportunity.
Unfortunately, my advice is to take 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.
Surely they must know shipping costs have been blended into the price of the item.
And yet, they flock to “free shipping deals”.
So, just do it.
Adjust your prices as you can 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!
Believe me, 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 is a show of good faith. It shows customers and Cassini alike that you are invested in making sure all details are disclosed.
Plus, you’ll have far less returns and this 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.
This is a case where you have to use your own 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.
If your item has watchers, you may not want to create a whole new listing. It may be better for you to lower the price a bit 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”.
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 you go to 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.
Using the Vacation Settings can accomplish something similar.
11. HTML Code Can Cause Drama
People love to copy/paste 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’re going to 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 safely put the content into the HTML editor on eBay.
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 are always doing something to improve their eBay store or listing.
To achieve this, drip out your listings. Don’t list 25 items in one day and then 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, then I highly suggest taking returns and offering to take returns on a “no questions asked” basis.
You might have to smile through gritted teeth every 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!
I do not recommend putting your entire inventory on sale and keeping it that way for long periods of time. 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 absolutely crazy when I read/hear folks complain about “unfair” search engines are.
When we (me included) set up our business on eBay we are 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 who 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 lesson 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
No matter the size 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 awareness of your brand 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. Click to learn more. I love a good challenge and I enjoy spending quality time reviewing sellers listings and stores! I’ll do my best to help you succeed on eBay!