The secrets of Cassini revealed: How you can beat eBay’s algorithm!

The secrets of Cassini revealed: How you can beat eBay’s algorithm!

By at - 16 Minutes

When Cassini-Huygens, widely known as Cassini, first set off to explore Saturn and its intriguing rings on October 15th, 1997, NASA and ESA (The European Space Agency), had no clue that years later they would serve as the inspiration for eBay’s Cassini search algorithm. It is even less likely that Giovanni Cassini, the original Italian astronomer who discovered the Cassini Division (of Saturn’s rings) back in 1675, thought he would serve as the inspiration for a human-controlled mission to space, let alone an intricate eCommerce search algorithm.  

But guess what?

That is exactly what happened, and now, much like the mysteries of Saturn, eBay’s Cassini is a conundrum to most eBay sellers. 

But fear not, and let your search stop here: You have come to the right place if your ultimate goal is understanding the inner workings of Cassini and how to get the elusive algorithm to work in your favor!   

How does eBay’s Cassini algorithm work?

Much like Amazon’s A9 algorithm, the inner workings of eBay’s Cassi is a well-guarded corporate secret, kept under lock and key in eBay’s headquarters in San Jose, California. But, based on observation, sellers’ experiences and educated hypotheses, I am here to bring you that much closer to cracking the code.  

So, how does Cassini work and rank items on its search results pages?

First of all, Cassini starts by tracking consumer activity. This means that every time a purchase-based query is typed into eBay, Cassini is there to track:

  • Which item had the highest CTR or click-through rate.
  • Which products were viewed the highest amount of times.
  • Which listings had the highest conversion rates.
  • How consumer-friendly your return policies are.
  • How quickly you respond to customer queries. 
  • How accurate the product information you provide is.
  • How well-written your item descriptions are. 
  • How buyers have rated you and what kind of buyer feedback you received.
  • How you have defined your shipping times and how efficient your delivery times are. 

eBay, much like Amazon, and really any eCommerce marketplace, has algorithms which operate on metrics similar to what I listed above.

Why? 

The reason is simple: Marketplaces want shoppers to have the best experience possible. When you make money on a sale, eBay makes money on fees. It follows that eBay wants to promote repeat customers by promoting those sellers who provide the best possible retail experience. So, Cassini is actually a very ‘fair’, free-market-oriented algorithm. The best rise to the top while the rest sink below the first page of results. 

How to optimize listings to rise to the top of eBay’s Cassini search results 

Now that you understand the most basic underpinnings of what metrics drive Cassini, let me provide you with some solid best practices which will help your listings come out on top of eBay’s search result pages: 

Cassini Best Practice # 1: Creating a Good Listing Title  

Creating the perfect listing title for eBay is no easy feat. Product titles are the gateway to your listing both from an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) standpoint as well as from a consumer standpoint. You first and foremostly want to create titles for people and only then start thinking about search engines. The best practices as far as eBay titles go are as follows:

  1. Use anywhere between 12 -16 relevant keywords in your title
  2. Use 4-7 item specifics in your title, though 7 is the optimal number. 
  3. Try to make use of all 80 characters eBay allows you to use. 
  4. Do away with all acronyms currently in your eBay listing titles (such as NWT – New With Tags). 
  5. Delete the word ‘new’ from all your titles.  
  6. Subtitles cost money but Cassini happens to favor listings with subtitles (a) because they are more user-friendly, and b) eBay makes more money off of these listings – yup, it’s all about the money). 
  7. Get rid of unnecessary adjectives like ‘cute’ and ‘gorgeous’ which describe an item in a subjective manner.  
  8. Always spell-check your titles, as misspelling will not only cause Cassini to penalize you but buyer trust will plummet as well. 
  9. Make sure you are capitalizing the first letter of each word in your title. 

Here is a good title example (in some categories, like vinyl, it is acceptable to use the word ‘new’):

This title is simple, to the point, uses a subtitle and proper capitalization, and has just enough information to garner interest but not too much to repel buyers. 

Here  is a bad example of a title:

This one is awful because all the letters are capitalized. Please never do this! It looks super spammy, plus the information in the title is too basic. 

Above, I provided a link to my in-depth post ‘How To Create the Perfect eBay Title in 9 Easy Steps’, but here it is one more time. I am not trying to harass you into reading my other post, but if you want to get an in-depth explanation of these 9 points and are really serious about higher eBay rankings, this is a must-read!

Cassini Best Practice # 2: Create Original Listing Descriptions

As with any search engine, such as Google, original content always performs best. Avoid copying and pasting a manufacturer’s item description or copying it from a similar listing. Not only will you be penalized in search results, but more often than not copied and pasted text has unwanted embedded HTML code which can harm your listing, as Cassini cannot ‘crawl’ and index your listings properly.

Pro tip: Copy and paste the text into notepad or Microsoft Word and then back into your listing. In terms of writing, if you don’t have the time or patience, either get a cheap writer off of Fiverr to do it or copy and paste descriptions from a few sources and change the wording a bit. 

Here is a good example of a good eBay listing description:

What is great about this description is that it is informative, yet not in a boring way. There is a narrative here: They talk about the golden era and the ‘50s era and really know how to catch a music afficiando’s sentiments. I am also sure that whoever listed this invested the time and energy into writing this description out and did not copy and paste it from anywhere. 

Here is an example of a terrible eBay description:

First of all, this guy helps us revisit the importance of being in control of your caps lock. But beyond that, there is no connection between the sentences, no flow, no narrative, and plenty of writing errors. In any case, you guys get the point: Please don’t let your listing descriptions look like this! Neither Cassini nor buyers will take well to it. 

Cassini Best Practice # 3: Use Top Notch Images With Alt-text 

Not only do shoppers expect to see images which will blow them away but so does Cassini, which ranks images in terms of:

  • The pixel density of your images.
  • The amount of images you provide in a listing (the more the better). 
  • Alt text – when you upload an image, you can assign it alt text either manually or using HTML code. 

Alt-text is essentially the written description which Cassini uses to index and rank the photos in your listing. Here is an example of what alt-text for a vintage champagne ice bucket being sold on eBay looks like:Image credit: PowerSellingMom 

In terms of image aesthetic. I would say this is a pretty good listing image:

What’s great about this listing image is the white background, crisp photography, the angle of the guitar as well as the fact that they decided to use a ‘medium-shot’, which is somewhere between a close-up and a long-shot. 

Here is a really bad example of a listing image:

The background, the angle, positioning, and the lighting just do not work in favor of this listing. 

Cassini Best Practice # 4: Properly Categorize Listings

Sellers have a tendency to add their item into multiple categories and subcategories. This is actually a really common mistake. Sellers want to get as much ‘search exposure’ as possible, but that is not how it works. The more precise you are, the easier it is for Cassini to identify what you are selling and to match your item with the proper shoppers.

In this example, it would be a Cassini best practice to choose DJ Equipment as your category and DJ Amplifiers as your subcategory. Keep it simple, and you are good to go!  

Cassini Best Practice # 5: Ensuring You Fill in Product Specifications 

Item specifics are super important, as many shoppers use ‘advanced search’ to filter for product features or attributes they find important in a future purchase of theirs. Cassini respects buyer filtration, and as such, if you do not fill out item specs, your listing will not show up for those search queries. Here is an example of some search filters for camera drones, which in this case includes:

  • Brand
  • Camera features
  • Connectivity 
  • Type

Cassini Best Practice # 6: Maintain and Improve Your Seller Feedback

Ratings and seller feedback is one of the most important aspects of generating present and future business. eCommerce and social media are crossing blurring lines, so much so that a new term has been coined called ‘social commerce’. More concretely, buyer feedback and ratings give sellers social proof that their products are valuable and that they are trustworthy as merchants. eBay’s Cassini knows this and takes positive and negative feedback as a key indicator of where your product should appear in the search results. Again, consumer satisfaction is front and center stage here. 

So, what can you do to keep your ratings and reviews in the green? 

  1. Provide excellent customer service by answering all queries in a quick, polite manner. 
  2. Provide free and quick shipping. Consider upgrading repeat shoppers to overnight shipping. Keep it a surprise and wait for rave reviews to roll in when they wake up to find their order on their doorstep the next morning. 
  3. Enclose a thank you note in the package as well as free samples or a discount coupon on their next purchase. Alternatively, consider including a low-cost gift which is related to their purchase. The power of free know no bounds!
  4. Always keep shoppers in the loop from packaging to shipping. And, of course, do not forget to follow up afterwards with a post-purchase note asking for feedback and ensuring they are satisfied with their purchase. Here are 6 free customer support templates you can start using today!  
  5. Use an automated feedback reminder tool like Subivi’s CRM, which will ensure you never miss a beat. 

Cassini Best Practice # 7: Offer Magnanimous Shipping Terms 

Cassini happens to favor sellers who offer generous shipping terms. Consider offering free shipping even if you include the cost of shipping in the item’s cost. Psychologically, people are more inclined to buy from a merchant offering to send off their items for free. Cassini knows this and ranks sellers who offer free shipping higher. Additionally, offer international shipping, as this will help increase your pool of consumers and help you rank higher abroad. 

If you are seriously considering expanding your eCommerce business overseas, then check out this post, which will arm you with 6 must-know eCommerce customer support hacks when expanding overseas

Cassini Best Practice # 8: Ensure Your Listings are Recent  

Newer is always better, right? Whether or not you agree, that is how Cassini operates and what consumer behavior proves. People always want:

  • The newest car
  • The newest gadget 
  • The most updated software 

And yes, the newest listings on the market. Think about real estate for a second. When a property is on the market for more than 30 days, potential buyers start thinking that since the listing is ‘old’, then there must be something wrong with the property. Oftentimes this leads to a need for a price reduction or the inability to make a sale. Consider updating or reposting your listings on eBay every 2-3 weeks, and you will be ranked higher in results and gain a leg up on ‘older’ listings. 

Cassini Best Practice # 9: Keep Yourself and Your Listings Active 

Search engines love activity. When a blogger is active, for example, then Google ranks you higher in results. That is why I make minor updates to my blog posts on a weekly basis. Consistent activity is also important, which is why I publish a weekly blog and post regularly on my Facebook accounts. The same is true on eBay: Cassini ‘respects’ sellers who are constantly active, rewarding them with higher rankings. 

Pro tip: Post one or two items each day instead of all of them on a single day. Also, constantly ‘tweak’ and update already existing listings 

Cassini Best Practice # 10: Drive Outside Traffic to Your Listings  

The larger they are, the more greedy they get. Agree or disagree, eBay is a corporate behemoth which is never satiated. eBay is always hungry for more traffic, more shoppers and more sales. That is why sellers who dabble in even the most minor of paid or organic listing/store marketing campaigns will be richly rewarded by Cassini. 

Pro tip: Consider posting your listings on social media or driving traffic to eBay from your website, which would be an ‘organic’ campaign. If you are flush enough, then consider paid campaigns using Google Ads, Facebook Ads, or on-site eBay marketing campaigns. (This will also gain you Cassini brownie points. What can I say, eBay loves sellers who pay for their extra services.) 

Over to you 

Cassini is a very interesting animal. It was designed with the free-market model in mind. It is aimed at creating a meritocracy in the eCommerce realm. Simply put, sellers who invest in their listings, items and customers will come out on top, and those who don’t, won’t. Yes, this is an oversimplification of both life and markets, yet it is accurate and an easy-to-digest takeaway. 

I gave you 10 concrete ways to dominate eBay’s Cassini-dominated search results. I want you to implement just one of them, please comment below with the results! 

As always, 

Thanks for reading 😉 

 

 

Nadav Roiter

Nadav Roiter is a published writer and a Jerusalem Post freelance journalist. Formerly part of the CrazyLister content team, he is now the Marketing Manager for Subivi eCommerce CRM which has developed a customer support tool uniquely built to help eCommerce sellers offer stellar customer support while simultaneously maximizing profits.

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