18 tips on cracking eBay’s Algorithm & the Cassini Search Engine

eBay Cassini Search Engine

Are you having trouble with eBay’s Cassini Search Engine?

Are you one of those eBay sellers who use to sell a ton on eBay and when they released the Cassini search engine your sales dropped out of nowhere?! Well you aren’t the only one! In this post I’ll be giving you 18 tips to help YOU dominate your competition and eBay’s search engine so you can get your sales back on track!

What exactly is Cassini?

Cassini is eBay’s new search engine that was rolled out in 2013. If you have been an old school eBay seller and your sales have never been the same since then, you probably have not changed your listing style to accommodate the needs of Cassini.

Remember the days when you could flood eBay’s search with multiple listings with different keywords in the title? Or how sellers would make 10 different listings of the same product with different titles and you would dominate the search results? Well with Cassini and eBay’s duplicate listing policies, those days are long gone and I’m sure you’ve noticed that already. I mention this, because I have regular chats with old school eBay sellers about the old tactics that people use to do, but no longer work due to Cassini and eBay’s new listing policies.

I won’t go in-depth into Cassini, because you can find more info about it here direct from the source written by Hugh Williams who was VP of Search at eBay.

How the Cassini Search Engine works

Before I give you any tips you need to know how Cassini operates. I’ll be sharing a video that will help you understand how the Cassini search engine works. Please watch this video by Todd Alexander before reading my tips, as the video will help you understand my tips better so you can execute your new listing strategy! Please don’t forget to write your own notes down. I’m a big believer of the best way of learning is doing, so there’s a reason I didn’t summarize the video in writing for you.

This video was recorded from the PeSA Internet conference in Australia, May 2013. The event is hosted by Phil Leahy and held once a year in May at the Gold Coast in Australia. The event consists of 3 days of workshops and seminars from some of the top people in the eCommerce industry. It’s definitely a conference you do not want to miss out on. I attended last year and I highly recommend you do as well. If you’re not able to make it out to Australia, they have one every year in August at Las Vegas Nevada. The US event is called Think Global Retail for more information go to thinkglobalretail.com

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eBay's search algorithm has come along way in the past few years. Not long ago it was much easier for eBay sellers to 'game' the system as the eBay search wasn't all that intelligent.

PeSA has plenty of discussions with eBay about search and it's impact on sellers, and we are pleased to hear that there is ongoing activity to refine, fix and improve results for buyers.

From a personal perspective we have begun to see the benefits of having good stock levels at a good price and offering. It now seems to take some time to establish good best match in competitive categories, but also seems to give enough visibility to newer and/or smaller sellers to get a foot in the door and move some product too. But conversely it seems to work well for larger sellers who can build a more solid base of ongoing sales if they manage their accounts well.

Only 3 or 4 years ago it was all too easy for a new inexperienced seller to come in a dominate rankings and sales just by leveraging price a little bit. Many more factors come into play these days and I believe the marriage between seller performance and best match results is getting closer which is a great thing to see.

My top tips would be:
- Work hard on using your listing titles effectively
- Price competitively, but allow your self room to make margin (if you can't sell and make a net profit, you need to re-assess)

- Customer Service
- Customer Service
- Customer Service!

Nathan Huppatz, Co-Founder Costumes.com.au, PeSa Board MemberWebsite
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eBay's search algorithm has come along way in the past few years. Not long ago it was much easier for eBay sellers to 'game' the system as the eBay search wasn't all that intelligent.

PeSA has plenty of discussions with eBay about search and it's impact on sellers, and we are pleased to hear that there is ongoing activity to refine, fix and improve results for buyers.

From a personal perspective we have begun to see the benefits of having good stock levels at a good price and offering. It now seems to take some time to establish good best match in competitive categories, but also seems to give enough visibility to newer and/or smaller sellers to get a foot in the door and move some product too. But conversely it seems to work well for larger sellers who can build a more solid base of ongoing sales if they manage their accounts well.

Only 3 or 4 years ago it was all too easy for a new inexperienced seller to come in a dominate rankings and sales just by leveraging price a little bit. Many more factors come into play these days and I believe the marriage between seller performance and best match results is getting closer which is a great thing to see.

My top tips would be:
- Work hard on using your listing titles effectively
- Price competitively, but allow your self room to make margin (if you can't sell and make a net profit, you need to re-assess)

- Customer Service
- Customer Service
- Customer Service!

Nathan Huppatz, Co-Founder Costumes.com.au, PeSa Board MemberWebsite

 To Summarize

Cassini is all about the buyer and how much value you can offer the buyer as a seller. Previously, it was very easy to manipulate eBay’s search engine by flooding listings, but this is no longer the case. You need to give the buyer what Cassini thinks they want. If you want to know more, watch the video above and write your own notes down. This will give you a better understanding of the search engine so it sticks to that entrepreneurial brain of yours ;)

Okay, so have you watched the video and taken your own notes down? I trust you have, so now for the…*Drum roll please*

Drum Roll

Cassini Search Engine TIPS!

Okay, so now that you have a background on Cassini lets get on with the tips!

1. Optimize your titles with “relevant” keywords –  The maximum character count for eBay titles is 80 characters, be sure to pack the title with relevant keywords for your listing and to maximize the character count. By relevant, I mean use specific keywords and not broad keywords. To make it easy, I will use the same example that was used in the video above (fast fwd to 11:42 in video)

If you’re listing a packet of seeds for sale on eBay, you wouldn’t want to use broad keywords like “Garden, planting, outdoor”. This may get you more views, but it will hurt your buyer engagement because people are looking for seeds not “garden, planting or outdoor”. Lower buyer engagement means your eBay listing will get pushed down the search results. Targeted keywords = higher buyer engagement which will result in higher rankings in search

A software I can highly recommend for building eBay titles is Terapeak. Not only does it build titles, but it also helps you find who the top sellers are in your category, a sellers sell through rate, and you can even find out your competitions top selling products! Stop selling blind on eBay, do yourself a favor and try Terapeak out today for free!

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Before Cassini, sellers built listing titles that matched as many searches as possible. After Cassini, this is a bad idea. Cassini uses sales performance, not just keywords, to decide which listings to show—so having very visible listings can quickly hurt you if you don't turn these impressions into sales. Now it's much more critical that you're seen by shoppers who will buy what you're selling.

Aron Hsiao, Marketing Communications Manager, TerapeakWebsite
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Before Cassini, sellers built listing titles that matched as many searches as possible. After Cassini, this is a bad idea. Cassini uses sales performance, not just keywords, to decide which listings to show—so having very visible listings can quickly hurt you if you don't turn these impressions into sales. Now it's much more critical that you're seen by shoppers who will buy what you're selling.

Aron Hsiao, Marketing Communications Manager, TerapeakWebsite

2. List using GTC (Guaranteed till canceled) with a twist - You should list using GTC to retain sales history. The more sales and watchers a listing has, the higher it will go up in search. This means that your listing has good buyer engagement. The twist is, what about listings with no sales after 30 days? You need to END these listings and re-list them! Why? Because it will re-index the listing and wipe the previous history of bad buyer engagement. Once re-listed, your listing will show up as a “new listing” and be on top of search. If the listing gets good buyer engagement, it will stay up at the top. If it gets bad buyer engagement, it will be pushed down in search. So make it a habit to always end and re-list items with no sales after 30 days.

NOTE: When re-listing, make sure you use the “sell similar item” function. This way, you’ll get a new eBay item # with fresh stats.

3. OUT OF STOCK Inventory Control and Scarcity - eBay has a featured called “Out of Stock Inventory Control”. Basically, this feature enables your listing from ending even though there’s no stock available. So if you have a sales history for example of 100 items sold and you run out of stock, previously your listing will just end automatically and you will lose all of your sales history. Now, with out of stock inventory control the listing will say “out of stock” instead of automatically ending thus retaining your sales history. This feature is available in most 3rd party listing software. You can find more information about the feature here and eBay’s official announcement here.

Scarcity Tip – Scarcity gets customers to buy your product. A good strategy that can be combined with out of stock inventory control is what I like to call the “Scarcity trick” Basically, you will use your 3rd party listing software or an app like “Quantity manager”to control the stock that’s shown on eBay. We can use this app to make your listings always display “1″ and make customers think you only have 1 in stock left, but in reality you could have hundreds.

How to do this? 

Step 1: Setup your 3rd party listing software or application to always display “1″ in stock and turn on “out of stock inventory control” Please note that this method will vary depending on your listing software. You can also turn on out of stock inventory control directly in eBay if you aren’t using a 3rd party listing software. See this article for reference.

 eBay Out of Stock Inventory Control Settings

After you have all your settings in place your listings should look similar to image below. It might look different depending on which eBay country site you’re listing on. This example is from eBay.com.au

eBay listing Scarcity

4. Offer the most value for your listing to stay competitive 

  • Free Shipping - Offer free shipping on all your domestic listings, eBay will give you a boost in search
  • Offer additional shipping methods - like express, local pickup and international shipping. Use global shipping if applicable to your category
  • 30 Day return policy – Offer a 30 day return policy to earn your buyers trust and to help increase conversions
  • Best Price - Buyers are always looking for the best price, if you have the highest price and you have other competitors with similar seller ratings and polices, the most likely you will lose the sale. You need to stay competitive by offering the same or better pricing.

Pro tip: You can use a software called Price Spectre to auto re-price your products to help you beat your competition. This is very useful if you have hundreds of products. It also enables you to re-price against Amazon products.

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Don't try to cheat the system! The goal of Cassini is to give high rankings to the best listings for buyers, and eBay judges that from the sales history. Listings that don't convert will not climb the rankings. So create your listings for buyers first, not the search engine, and stay clear of manipulative "black hat" tactics like adding keywords for unrelated products.

Andy Geldman, Founder, Web RetailerWebsite
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Don't try to cheat the system! The goal of Cassini is to give high rankings to the best listings for buyers, and eBay judges that from the sales history. Listings that don't convert will not climb the rankings. So create your listings for buyers first, not the search engine, and stay clear of manipulative "black hat" tactics like adding keywords for unrelated products.

Andy Geldman, Founder, Web RetailerWebsite

5. Create a sale – using Markdown Manager you can create sales on a store category or per product level. Buyers love sales and will entice them to buy something if they see its on sale. This will also help increase buyer engagement.

NOTE: Sellers who have been approved in the strike through program will have the option to use “strike through pricing”. I suggest you use strike through all the time if you’re able. Strike through pricing is only available to larger sellers and you must seek approval for it.

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eBay detects when you relist an item at a discounted price from the previous listing when you're not using GTC (Good 'till Cancelled) listings. I've noticed that when a customer drops the price by at least 7% from the previous listed price, it increases visibility by 25%.

Brett Rush, Project Manager, SureDoneWebsite
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eBay detects when you relist an item at a discounted price from the previous listing when you're not using GTC (Good 'till Cancelled) listings. I've noticed that when a customer drops the price by at least 7% from the previous listed price, it increases visibility by 25%.

Brett Rush, Project Manager, SureDoneWebsite

6. Maintain YOUR DSR’S and Feedback - Cassini rewards sellers with great DSR’s and Feedback. You need to maintain great Detailed Seller Ratings to be on top of search (Top rated Seller status preferred). You also need to respond to open cases in the resolution center asap and you must close all of them to maintain your rankings in search. Cassini will penalize you if you have a bad seller reputation and that includes having too many open cases.

7. Auctions - If you have some popular items and you’re able to confidently auction them off without losing money, you should create auctions to help increase the traffic to your eBay store. In the auction listing you can cross promote your other items for sale. Auctions tend to show up on top of search if it gets good buyer engagement.

8. Drive Outside Traffic to your eBay listings - To help increase buyer engagement on your listings, a great strategy is to use social media platforms, your email list and PPC so you can drive targeted traffic to your new listings. This will give the listings more views and hopefully purchases which will help push your listing up in search. You will want to do this on newly listed items only. If you have items with no sales, end those items, re-list and then drive traffic to them.

9. Refresh RSS Feeds - Pick any day of the week and go into your marketing tools under manage my store settings and turn off your RSS feeds. Wait 10 hours or so and turn it back on. This process will re-index your first 100 listings and give it a temporary boost in search. If you have more than 100 listings, you can use an app called bayfeeds to process all of them.

10. Use the eBay catalog - When you’re able, use the eBay catalog. If your item is a well known brand, most likely it already exists in eBay’s catalog. All you have to do is enter the UPC or EAN of the product and the listing will automatically populate all of the product data.

11. List in the correct category - List in the right category, if you list in the wrong category your listing will be brought down in search. Choose the category based on product and buyer behavior. See 14:43 in video above for reference.

12. Fill in all of your item specifics - Filling in all of your item specifics will help increase your visibility. Make sure all of your item specifics are filled in and they are relevant to your product. Also add in your own custom item specifics to help educate your buyer even more about your product.

For example, you are selling white wine and you do not have the color white in the title. You list in the white wine category and white wine in the item specific field, your item will still show up in search. 

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Cassini has totally changed the rules for eBay sellers. Back when eBay used their 'Voyager' engine it was all about the eBay title. It was easy for some sellers to appear high up the eBay search with poor listings.

Now Cassini takes into account your description as well as item specifics and much more. The importance of good quality listings for eBay sellers has never been bigger.

Dave Furness, Director, Understandinge.comWebsite
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Cassini has totally changed the rules for eBay sellers. Back when eBay used their 'Voyager' engine it was all about the eBay title. It was easy for some sellers to appear high up the eBay search with poor listings.

Now Cassini takes into account your description as well as item specifics and much more. The importance of good quality listings for eBay sellers has never been bigger.

Dave Furness, Director, Understandinge.comWebsite

13. Answer your eBay messages within 24 hours or less - From experience, the faster you respond to a customer on eBay the more likely they will buy from you. This will help increase your buyer engagement on the listing once they buy the product. This will result in a sale and will give you a boost in search.

14. Price your item to be the lowest for every new listing – Pricing your item low in the beginning will get you more sales since you’re the cheapest on eBay. Once you build up your sales history, you can increase your price as long as it’s within the market rate for your category.

15. Mobile Responsive and Branded eBay listing Template -  Hire a professional to design you a mobile responsive eBay template to help build your brand. A good eBay template will help increase conversion rates and increase your brand awareness online.

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Cassini is nothing like eBay’s old search engine. That only had a handful of options to return results to buyers with, whereas Cassini can do anything that eBay wants it to do.

The good news for you is that it’s not going to be just one thing that impacts your eBay success, it’s a combination of lots of little things combined together which will give you results.

Its this combination of lots of things together, such as a great listing title, combined with excellent images, item specifics, pricing, shipping options, your description, previous sales history & account performance history that impacts where your listing appears in eBay’s Best Match.

And each of these are all attainable by you right now. Tweak a title, add an extra image, add extra item specifics, go the extra mile to keep your DSR’s high. You can do all of these everyday and while it might not feel like you’re making a massive change each day, the reality is you’re walking towards a better business with each tiny step.

Matt Ogborne, Founder, Widget ChimpWebsite
Author Picture

Cassini is nothing like eBay’s old search engine. That only had a handful of options to return results to buyers with, whereas Cassini can do anything that eBay wants it to do.

The good news for you is that it’s not going to be just one thing that impacts your eBay success, it’s a combination of lots of little things combined together which will give you results.

Its this combination of lots of things together, such as a great listing title, combined with excellent images, item specifics, pricing, shipping options, your description, previous sales history & account performance history that impacts where your listing appears in eBay’s Best Match.

And each of these are all attainable by you right now. Tweak a title, add an extra image, add extra item specifics, go the extra mile to keep your DSR’s high. You can do all of these everyday and while it might not feel like you’re making a massive change each day, the reality is you’re walking towards a better business with each tiny step.

Matt Ogborne, Founder, Widget ChimpWebsite

16. List using the variations – If available in your category, list the product using variations. Variations will combine the number of views, watchers, clicks and sales into one listing which Cassini loves.

17. Create combo items for maximum search exposure - this strategy creates more listings for your store without violating duplicate listing policies. Creating combo items gives you more visibility in search with different types of products as you can put multiple keywords within the title. For example, if you’re selling jeans and shirts, you can create a package deal for the t-shirt and jeans. So instead of having 1 listing for a t-shirt , 1 x listing for jeans, you’ll have a total of 3 listings. I would combo every item that makes sense and a buyer would purchase. You can even further discount to the buyer your cost savings on shipping for combining items into one box. If you’re able to communicate this to your buyer effectively, your conversion rate for combo items should go up. I mean, who doesn’t like saving money?! 

18. Use plenty of high-resolution photos – Create high-resolution photos that are a minimum of 1600 pixels on the longest side. This will give you the zoom effect that you see on some eBay listings. Great photo’s are known to increase conversion rates. You also want to add as many pictures as possible, the maximum amount of photos allowed per listing are 12 photos. Use all of them!

Conclusion

In conclusion. Cassini is all about the value you can offer to your buyers. Know your buyers, maintain your DSR’s and create listings that convert. Be the top seller in your category for that product and you will be laughing your way home to the winners circle. I hope this article will help you increase your sales on eBay.
If you found this article helpful please help spread the word by hitting that share button!
Do you have any other suggestions to beat Cassini? Please comment below. 

30 comments… add one

  • Information about the topic. Very good contents to read. Thanks for share and keep it up.

    Reply
    • Thanks Christi!

      Reply
    • From a buyer standpoint, Cassini stinks. When I do a search on EBay, I end up with a lot of garbage results that aren’t even related to what I am searching for. AN example: the other day, I did a search for “HF amplifier kit”, under “Consumer Electronics”. I ended up with a lot of results that were not what I was looking for, not even close, many were not even amplifiers, or kits! A search for “HF antenna” under the old search engine, used to turn up primarily amateur radio antennas (which is what I was looking for). Again, the search turns up a lot of unrelated items. I have to manually tell the search engine to reject the junk searches, and since I don’t know ahead of time what will pop up, it is a long and tedious process. The old search engine wasn’t perfect, but (again from a buyer’s standpoint) it was better than Cassini!

      Reply
      • Hi Rich, yeah you are on point. eBay needs to do a better job of organizing their catalog, which they are already working on but it will take sometime. Thanks for stopping by!

        Reply
  • What about the html code of the templates. A lot of sellers saying that it is not good for cassini to have a heavy html code ( such a professional listing template) and their items are going higher without any code. Finally what’s the true?

    Reply
    • Hi Nikos, as long as the template is mobile responsive you shouldn’t have any template issues. Its when the template isn’t mobile responsive that it could affect conversion rates. In terms of it showing up first instead of it not having any html code in the template, eBay’s search engine is very sophisticated and having html code in the template shouldn’t matter regardless of the html or not. Many sellers have mobile responsive template designs and are top rated. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  • WoW! A must read for any serious Ebay seller that want to improve sales. And i just stumbled across this site because I was about to throw the towel in on my shop, not any more. Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Allen, I hope your shop is now doing well!

      Reply
  • This was great! Thanks for the info!

    Reply
  • Title building is the most difficult task in eBay selling. Most of the competitive keywords are already used by the top top sellers. We can only see from Terapeak how success of these top top sellers. Even we use the same keywords, it really doesn’t mean we can steal the traffic from these top top sellers.

    Reply
    • Hi Kelvin, I agree it is one of the most difficult tasks and yes you are right, even if you use the same keywords it doesn’t mean you’ll get more sales. But, what you can do is have better pictures, better descriptions, and better pricing and by doing this you increase your chances of selling more.

      Reply
  • Thank you very much ! It’s really help us to increase the sale !
    must read for any serious eBay seller that want to improve sales !
    Subrata

    Reply
    • You’re welcome Subrata! I’m glad you’ve been able to take the tips and improve your eBay business! Cheers!

      Reply
  • Thanks to write all this. Hope this will work. As you wrote no more open cases, then eBay will count only those cases which buyer opened against seller or they will count those cases also which cases seller opened againes buyer like unpaid item cases?

    Reply
    • They will count any cases that are not resolved.

      Reply
  • Great article!
    I think us Ebay sellers need any edge we can get these days in order to improve visibility as Cassini was/is a complete game changer – just wish Ebay would give us more info on best practices and also educate buyers much more, in how to best use the search engine, also how to avoid giving sellers Defects which we do know, lowers sellers visibility.

    Reply
    • Hi Lynda, I know also wish eBay does a better job of educating their sellers, like having a launch or training program. Unfortunately, they are giving more priority to larger sellers these days and I hope they find their way back to how they use to be, the smaller sellers help build the eBay marketplace in the first place.

      Reply
  • Great info, thanks for sharing! can you please explain, regarding this title ’2. List using GTC (Guaranteed till canceled) with a twist’, is it enough to just re -list ended listing, or is it better to make new listing from that template using ‘sell similar item’? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Hi Andreja, it’s better to make a new item by using “sell similar item”

      Reply
  • He Carlos, I recently fell behind below standard due to too many unsolved resolutions. This has been hurting my visibility badly. I have to wait until next evaluation to go back to above standard. One question, to help my business to get back in shape should I end my listings that have not sold in past 30 days even though it has carried selling history? Also should I reduce my price or do on sale to help my business to grow back? Thank you in advance.

    Reply
    • Hi Sophie,

      Sorry to hear that you have fallen below standard, but don’t worry! I am sure if you work hard you can get out of it. I would first try doing a sale on your items before ending listings with sales history. There are a number of factors regarding this, one of them is if you are in a competitive niche, usually I would keep your listings up if you have a lot of sales history and a lot of competitors, you can also try auction listings if you are trying to increase your sales volume instead of ending the listing with sales history that have not sold in the last 30 days. I am not sure what your business model is, but usually when you are below standard I would just keep your sales volume at an amount you can handle so you can focus on filling orders on time and responding to all those messages, this way you can easily get back to above standard. However, if you are okay and have the capacity to sell more and keep up with good dsr’s, then I’m all for you trying to increase your sales. Hope this helps and good luck!

      Reply
  • It’s 5 AM here and no coffee in ne yet :D. To make sure I understand, correctly, is it OK to use the automatic re-list feature after 30 days? Or does the item need a completely different listing ID number to start fresh?

    Reply
    • Hello Jess! It should be a completely different listing ID if you want to start fresh.

      Reply
  • Hello Carlo,

    It’s very great article and thank you for your sharing.
    I would like to know if the word such as “gift”, “decoration” added up to the title of my items (Car model) or word “School” “Boy” “Girl” beside my Bags Title.
    Ebay will down the visibility compared with other competitor ?

    Thank you in advance.
    Best regards,
    Thammarat

    Reply
    • Hello Thammarat, thank you! I wouldn’t put generic words like that in the title, be product specific and do not use broad words.

      Reply
  • I appreciate what you’re saying and will take a lot of it with me.

    But since when does ” value you can offer to your buyers” mean the cheapest price? I mean hasn’t anyone figured out that this race to the bottom that eBay and Amazon and others are engaged in a losing battle for everyone? Shouldn’t reputation mean more than a cheap price? We see it all the time where sellers who have lousy feedback, lie to their customers about condition, get sales when we don’t.

    We sell typically rare books and whenever we check the Best Match of our items they never show up on the top half of the first page. We’re lucky if they’re on the 2nd page.

    100% feedback, 2500 items, happy buyers, free shipping, top rated seller… blah, blah, blah. Doesn’t seem to count for much.

    Reply
  • this is all bullshit. if you’re intelligent and experienced enough, you will understand eBay is purposely fucking the small, independent sellers in favor of the big corporate sellers. it’s pretty obvious, but many will not get it. it’s really sad as eBay was once pretty revolutionary. now it’s shit.

    Reply
  • Carlo,

    Nice article . . . I have a comment about using variations.

    I spent two long days trying to get variations to work. I drop ship products, therefore, I can run out of stock for a variation before I sell one. If you set a quantity to zero without having sold one, the entire listing crashes. I created a massive listing with nine colors and seven sizes. I changed the quantity of one color to zero and all 70 images disappeared. Then I created a much simpler one with four sizes. I changed the quantity of one size to zero and three of the four sizes disappeared. This is Sept. 2016 and the variations still do not work. I spent approximately 36 hours just trying to get one listing to work before I gave up. I called eBay and they refused to address the issue.

    Reply
    • Hi Ernie, how are you using eBay’s on web listing tool, selling manager pro, or a 3rd party software? I know this comment was back in Sept, were you able to figure out the variation issue? I hope so!

      Reply

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