Update 11/5/12: Wildcards in eBay Search

As we’ve previously announced, eBay is deprecating wildcard queries from search, including web and mobile search, saved searches, and API calls to search. We’ve been working with our Product Team to create documentation around best practices and how you can best move your business forward. Wildcard queries include an asterisk (*)  with their keyword search: The asterisk is intended to match all words starting with the letters in the wildcarded word. For example, the keyword search  dress*  would include in the search results listings with any of the following in their titles:  dress, dresses, dresser, dressers, dressing, dressel,  dressage, dressup,  etc. in their title in the search results.

Only ~0.35% of eBay queries contain wildcards, but they take  a disproportionally high amount of capacity to support.   The impact of wildcard queries can have a significant impact on the responsiveness of the site to all user searches, especially at peak times.  This impact is why the industry practice, in both web and commerce search industries, is not to support wildcards of this type.  Instead, they follow the same approach as eBay in providing automatic query rewriting, which captures the intent of the user query and matches it to items.  In addition, advanced search operators such as exclusion and phrasing are provided for users who want finer-grained control over their queries.

Writing effective search queries without wildcards

There are two approaches to searching without wildcards.

The first is to search using a simple keyword search query.  eBay is continually improving query processing (http://hughewilliams.com/2012/03/19/query-rewriting-in-search-engines/) to make it simpler for users to find what they want.  After being processed, a query can include many variants of the original words as well as being expanded through categories or other item-related data.  For example, if the user typed  gucci handbags  as the query, processing could alter that query to search for  (gucci or Brand:Gucci) and (handbag or handbags or purse or purses or Category:Handbags).   In many cases, searches that used wildcards a year ago can now be run more effectively as keyword queries.

Consider the query  anne klein scar*.  The intent of this query was to retrieve Anne Klein scarves regardless of whether the seller used  scarfscarves, or  scarfs  in the item title.  However, the simple keyword query  anne klein scarf  retrieves all of these items plus items listed in the scarf categories, which may not have the word  scarf  or  scarves  in the title.  Plus it has the advantage of not including items with  Anne Klein  and  scarlet  in the title (e.g., scarlet handbags and jackets): these items would have been returned by the wildcard query.   As another example, the query  ruffl* curtain*  can be replaced by the simple keyword query  ruffled curtains  and will return all items with  ruffle,  ruffled, or  ruffles  in the title that also have the word  curtain  or  curtains  in the title or that are in the curtains category.

The second approach to searching without wildcards applies to complex advanced queries. In these cases, the most straightforward way to replace a wildcard is by listing the words separated by commas and enclosed in parentheses.  For example, if your query was  lego minifig* -lot*  you can rewrite it as  lego (minifigure, minifigures) -(lot, lots)  or as  lego (minifigure, minifigures) -lot -lots.  This query will match items with the words  lego  and either  minifigure  or  minifigures  but without  lot  or  lots.  The parentheses () list alternatives.   The minus sign – excludes words.

In general, the advanced search operators (http://pages.ebay.com/help/search/advanced-search.html#using) such as exclusion, option lists, and phrasing can all be used to fine-tune queries.  For example, to further constrain the results, a query can contain double quotes ” ” to force the words in the quotes to appear next to each other and in that order.  If the user is looking for a filter for a coffee maker, using the phrased query  “coffee maker filter”  will return only items with those three words in that order in the title; this query will exclude items that are coffee makers with filters.

Note that advanced queries do not undergo any of the automatic expansions that simple keyword queries do.  So, the query for coffee maker filters would need to be written as  (“coffee maker filter”, “coffee maker filters”)  in order to get the rewrite from  filter  to  filters— which would have been included automatically for a simple query. Likewise, the previous advanced search example requires both minifigure and minifigures, as well as -lot and -lots.

Our recommendation to our users is this: First try simple keyword queries, easily combined with category and other constraints such as price.  Only if that is not fine-grained enough, move to advanced operator queries.

We understand you may have additional questions. We’ve made a set of FAQs available that will hopefully answer many of them. If your question is not addressed in the FAQs, please leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to get you an answer.

‘Tis the Season to be Promoting Holidays

Believe it or not, we are quickly approaching the holiday season. Santa Claus is just making final edits to his naughty and nice lists, and soon online and offline channels will be bustling with generous gift-givers.

For many publishers, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. We have traditionally seen sales spike on Black Friday (Nov. 23) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 26), with sustained interest through the holidays. You can increase your chances of sleigh riding this trend by promoting some of the most popular items of the season.

Toys for Nice Girls and Boys

Traditional toys like action figures and Barbie dolls remain popular list toppers. Anything related to Disney princesses is magical, from dolls to her very own dream castle. For kids who are more electronically inclined, video game consoles and games are always a winning choice. A kids’ tablet is another fun and educational idea for the young tech-forward set.

Gadgets Galore 

For the older technology aficionados, eBay is a one-stop online shop for the latest gadgets and gear. Those who have been extremely good all year might find an HDTV under the tree, or maybe an iPad, mobile phone or a teched-out watch. Don’t forget the digital camera to capture all the gleeful expressions and family memories.

Outside the Gift Box

Beyond the holiday standards, eBay is also a great place to score one-of-a-kind and hard-to-find gifts. What are your readers most interested in this holiday season? Perhaps vintage jewelry, a designer pair of heels or a unique art print? Or what about something even wackier like an alarm clock on wheels or a Pi-shaped pizza pie cutter? Whatever your visitors are into this holiday season, they are sure to find something to meet their needs on eBay.

You can direct your readers to our holiday landing page at http://www.ebay.com/holiday. How are you planning to ramp up your holiday promotions? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Happy Holidays from the ePN team!

Brian Marcus to Speak at ad:tech New York

Update 11/6/12: Due to the impending nor'easter that is forecast for New York on Wednesday, Brian has decided to cancel his trip to ad:tech. He apologizes for any inconvenience this causes organizers or attendees, but believes that under the current circumstances and conditions in New York, it's the best course of action.

* * * * *

With the aftermath of Sandy still being assessed, it seems like an odd time to mention a marketing event happening in New York. But, we’re going to be optimistic and hope that the city can repair enough of its infrastructure to successfully host ad:tech next week.

Assuming all goes as planned, Brian Marcus, Director of the Global eBay Partner Network, will be on a panel called “Affiliate Marketing Revisited: How Top Brands are Rethinking and Refocusing Affiliate Programs.”

The panel will take place on Thursday, November 8th from 1:30 – 2:30 PM at the Javits Center. The full panel includes:

  • Samantha Howe, Senior Strategic Partnerships Manager, Blurb
  • Brian Marcus, Global Director, eBay Partner Network
  • Brian Littleton, President/CEO (ShareASale) and President-Elect (PMA)
  • Geno Prussakov, CEO & Founder, AM Navigator
  • Moderator: Bob Glazer, Founder & Managing Director, Acceleration Partners

You can read about the panel on ad:tech’s website.

If you’re in New York and will be attending ad:tech, we hope you’ll check out Brian’s panel. Afterwards, please stop him to say hello! He’d love to chat with any existing or potential partners!

ePN TV: Introducing Peter Bexelius

This week on ePN TV we have a somewhat unusual segment for you. Not because the content or the guest is particularly unusual, but more so because we’re introducing someone that’s been part of our team for more than two and a half years. Peter Bexelius has been working with some of our top publishers as an Account Manager for a while now. Recently we realized that, even though many of you know Peter, we’d never actually had him introduced properly on ePN TV. So, we’d like you all to meet Peter!

Whether or not you’ve worked with Peter in the past, we hope you’ll take a moment to say hello in the comments below.

Don’t forget, the ePN Blog can now be delivered right to your inbox. Simply enter your email address in the right-hand sidebar in the section titled “Subscribe by email” and follow the instructions.

Wildcard Searches No Longer Supported (Updated)

UPDATE 10/26/12: We have heard your concerns on this issue and have been working across various teams to find some measure of relief for those affected by the deprecation of wildcard searches. That said, we have been able to push back the deprecation date of wildcard searches until November 5th. We hope that this will give affected publishers more time to update their queries and minimize any negative business impact. Additionally, we are working with our product teams on a comprehensive set of FAQs that we hope to have available early next week.

* * * * *

We’ve been receiving inquiries from some of you about the ability to use wildcard searches going forward in tools like the Finding API or in RSS Feeds. That functionality will no longer be supported after October 29, 2012. This functionality allowed users to include an asterisk with their keyword search that would include all spelling variations for an item. For example, a keyword search of “ip*” might include listings with “ipod, ipods, ipad, ipads, ipadd,” etc. in title in search results. eBay is no longer supporting wildcard searches because recent changes to how search works already takes into account many spelling variations, and it enables us to more efficiently deliver search results faster.

We acknowledge that this will cause significant inconvenience for some of you.

While we can’t change the deprecation of wildcard searches or the timetable that has been established by eBay Inc., we do apologize for our lack of proper communication regarding this change. We are looking into how this happened and are committed to improving how we communicate with our partners.

We thank you for your partnership and apologize for this inconvenience and the lack of notice.

Big Bonuses During Our U.S. Holiday Promotion!

This fall we’ve rolled out several successful promotions that have helped our publishers earn additional revenue simply by doing what they do best. Today, that continues with the announcement of our U.S. Holiday promotion!

How does the promotion work?

If you increase your QCP earnings by at least 20% (compared to your earnings in June 2012) during November and December, you’ll be eligible for a bonus on your total QCP earnings for that month.

These bonuses will be tiered as follows:

Bonus earned based on QCP earnings increase QCP earnings increase in November – December 2012 (compared to June 2012)
10% bonus 20% – 34.99% Earnings increase
15% bonus 35% – 49.99% Earnings increase
30% bonus Greater than 50% Earnings increase

 

How will bonuses be calculated?

Bonuses will be calculated from the U.S program separately for both November and December before being paid together with the rest of your earnings for that month.

See an example of this calculation below:

Program

 

June Earnings

November Earnings

Percentage Increase

Bonus Percentage

November Payment

U.S.

$2,000

$2,500

25%

10%

$2,750

For example, if your November 2012 earnings are 25% higher than your June earnings, you’ll earn a 10% bonus on your November earnings. If your December earnings are then less than 20% higher than your June earnings, you won’t receive a bonus for December 2012.

Which regions will be eligible for the promotion?

The promotion is available to all publishers participating in the U.S. Program. That means that you can drive traffic from around the world, as long as you’re part of the U.S. Program.

We hope that this promotion jump-starts your holiday season and motivates you to put a little extra muscle behind your ePN efforts. If you have questions about this promotion, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Reflecting on Another Successful A4U Expo

As you may have seen, we were in London at the A4U Expo last week. There were lots of interesting issues being discussed and some fascinating knowledge being shared. Sessions ranged from tips on how to use social media to maximise your traffic, to the legalities of running a website. There was even insight into how weather affects sales - providing something for everyone.

One strong theme from this year’s conference was the role of technology and its influence in digital marketing - especially where affiliates are concerned. There was debate as to whether or not the market is flooded with too much technology, and to what extent data capture/manipulation generates better user experiences to drive traffic.

Members of the European Team gather at the A4U Expo

It was really helpful to meet with publishers to get their take on performance marketing and hear their experiences working with eBay Partner Network. It was great to hear how eBay’s breadth of inventory helps publishers monetise their sites - even to the smallest or most niche vertical sites. We also met with some publishers who manage discount and offers sites whose communities are very engaged online. There’s lots of interesting activity going on in this space and it’s definitely something we’re paying attention to at eBay.

We’d like to extend a big thank you to Affiliates4u for putting on such a good show and we look forward to another exciting event next year.

Exciting Changes at the New eBay!

Over the last few weeks, you may have heard some buzz about the changes happening at eBay. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out a more contemporary look and feel for the site, a more convenient way to browse and buy, and a more personal way for eBay users to curate their shopping experience. If you’d like to take a deeper dive into the new features and enhancements, you can read the full overview over at eBay.com/new.

Many of you have already been asking us how the new logo and branding will rollout into ePN and how you can update your websites. While we’re pleased to see your enthusiasm and excitement about implementing the new look, we’d like to request that you refrain from making any updates to reflect the new look at this time. Work is being done at HQ to make the transition happen in a seamless, efficient way for our publishers, and we’ll be providing instructions about the rollout in the coming weeks here and via email.

This is an exciting time to be part of ePN and we’re thrilled that our partners are along for the ride. We also understand that you may have questions about the process, so feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to get you an answer.

Rev Your Engines for the eBay Motors Drop, Drop & Shop New Car Sale

For those of you who remember the New Car Revolution Devolution promotion eBay Motors held in June, we have another unique opportunity for you to share with your visitors. eBay Motors will be hosting the Drop, Drop & Shop New Car Sale. Every day, four to six brand new cars including Dodge Chargers, Chevrolet Camaros and Jeep Wranglers will be available with prices dropping by $500 every hour until the car is sold. Shoppers can choose to buy at the current price or see if they can hold out and snag it at a lower price before someone else steals the deal. Visitors can start browsing for their dream car today, and can shop October 18th through October 21st. There’s no limit to how low the prices can go!

This adrenaline-pumping price-dropping format may help you generate interest from visitors who are looking to buy a new auto during this unique short-term promotional period. Let us know if you have any feedback or questions!

Scare Up eBay Sales This Halloween

Treating yourself to increased earnings around Halloween doesn’t require tricks, just a focus on some of the hottest items of the spooktacular season. We began noticing an increase in Halloween-related searches on eBay mid-September, and expect sales to peak just before the holiday hits on October 31st.

So what can you do to ensure your visitors are howling with delight? We’ve conjured up some of the most spellbinding finds of Halloween 2012 to provide you with a little inspiration.

Classic Costumes

All the mummies, zombies, witches, vampires and ghosts come out to play on October 31st, when these common creatures swarm every school, party and front porch in the neighborhood.

Parents can find everything an aspiring superhero or princess needs to make a dramatic entrance on this holiday, or even garb suited for a mini Yoda or an Angry Bird.

Old habits die hard, and so the superhero and princess costumes just get bigger as time goes on, remaining a popular choice throughout adulthood. Pirates arrghh also a top choice, as are the body conscious morph suits of all shades.

In The Details 

Accessories can make a costume, adding a bit of pizzazz to an otherwise common costume. eBay has the heads and faces of trick-or-treaters covered with masks, makeup, wigs and hats for every sorcerer, cowboy and clown.

To get into the holiday spirit, don’t forget about décor fit for haunting a house. Skeletons, tombstones and other haunts can go from appropriately creepy when surrounded by fog machines to ready to boogie when lit by a festive disco ball or surrounded by edible monsters.

For those looking to be the life of the undead party, eBay is the go-to source for new and pre-owned costumes and props this Halloween. By getting into the spooky spirit through this seasonal event, you can help your visitors while generating some additional treats from ePN. Happy Halloween and happy promoting!