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In Search of eBay

At the seminars here this year, eBay sellers are showing an amazing boost in familiarity with technology compared with similar sessions I attended last year and the year before.

The exhibit floor at eBay Live. (Leslie Walker-The Washington Post)

Yesterday I sat through a jam-packed session on "search engine optimization." It was about how sellers can tweak their pages on eBay and on their own Web sites to get better play in search results when people are looking for related stuff at Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN.

EBay sellers asked surprisingly technical questions, even those struggling to understand the lingo. "What do you mean by natural results?" one dealer asked. "I don't know what "natural" means."

eBay's search geeks patiently explained the difference between paid search results, which are basically ads; and the "natural" or unpaid results that appear at all the major search engines. They also explained how eBay has a big staff working full time just to optimize the hundreds of millions of pages on eBay's site, so they will appear higher in the results at Google, Yahoo and MSN.

"What's a robots.text file and do I need one?" asked another man.

EBAy's geeks explained it was a small text file some Web sites use to politely tell search engines where not to send their indexing robots on their sites. And no, most eBay dealers don't need one, they said.

Bill Cobb, president of eBay North America, told me that eBay has large teams working on every angle of search optimization, both for buying keyword ads on search engines and improving eBay's position in their natural results. In addition to optimizing eBay for "natural" display in the search engines, the company buys ads that appear when people search on certain phrases. EBAy has built a search dictionary of 15 million words and is constantly buying ads for those words.

"We have 80 to 100 people working on this," Cobb said.

By Leslie Walker  |  June 15, 2006; 12:19 PM ET  | Category:  EBay Live , Leslie Walker
Previous: How Many Shoes Are in This Man's Closet? | Next: eBay, live and in Person

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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Not only are eBay's users tapping into technology more these days, eBay has done a great job of encouraging third-party developers like those at and to develop free applications which make searching and buying on eBay much easier. Now eBay-ers can map the nearest matches to their search criteria and even receive a call on their cell phones when the auction is about to end!

Posted by: Don | June 15, 2006 2:37 PM

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