Thursday, January 21, 2010

Relevancy Search and Random Questions

A discussion was opened for comments regarding the relevancy search.  I would like to point out a few of the comments made really illustrate just how seller-centric people are refuse to see the benefits to a potential buyer.

"But if there are 1866 amethyst rings and I am searching for an "amethyst ring", how is ring number 1866 ever going to get to the top? If my ring was number 1866, I would cry not being able to renew to get to the top. I don't like the relevancy search idea. When I renew and I am seen, I get sales. Otherwise I'm stuck in the middle of the 1866 amethyst rings. It's not all about the buyers. Without sellers, you can't have buyers."

First of all, while someone may be looking for an amethyst ring, I'm fairly sure there are other qualifiers they have in mind which will alter the results and potentially give anyone the chance of being in the top of that search.  Do they want gold? silver? faceted or cabochon stone?  Do they want a single stone ring or multi stone ring? these are things that will narrow down their search results, and based on what criteria they use will determine who appears at the top of that search.  Using broad search terms is a act of frustration because logically, broad search terms will give broad results and is meant to so the buyer can narrow down what they are looking for.  I don't understand why people don't understand this.  Not everyone can be on the first page of a general search, it's impossible, but the more relevant your items are to what a buyer is searching for, the more likely you are to appear in the first pages of that search.

"Didn't we just go through this last year? It didn't work then, and it looks like it isn't going to work now."

The difference, as I understand it, is that back then, they didn't really follow through and tweak it or change it based on user feedback or data.  People complained and they finally took it down.  I honestly think if they are interested in making it work, they need to put it out there and make it work.

"I think a Random search would be so much easier to put together and fairer as well."

Not quite sure what you mean by random.  It seems to me right now any search term you type in will give you random results, results pulled from every category with those words used in the item in some way.  That's pretty random to me.  Theoretically, relevancy is the fairest search both for the customer and the seller, provided the buyer is looking for what the seller is selling.  Now, so far, I have to agree that we're not quite all on the same page as far as efficiency is concerned, there are a lot of factors such as mistagging, miscategorizing and lack of suitable categories for all items, BUT, the potential is there to make this work.  It's just going to take a lot of time and patience and rather than trying to fight Etsy every step of the way, to try and work with them and help them.  It ultimately helps you.

"it really stinks that people have spent so much time researching the best time, day of the week, types of items, etc. to renew. People have built a marketing and business strategy around this and now it means nothing."

What is really kind of 'sad' is that this was ever promoted by anyone in the first place.  I remember the day it was announced by a seller that they used this tactic and found it successful in generating more sales.  It took awhile, but eventually Etsy itself jumped on the bandwagon and suggested it as well, made reference to it in their FAQs and blog articles  and then subsequently, when everyone started doing it and the site grew larger and larger it became impossible for certain site features to continue to support it.  Eventually Etsy had to retract their support of this as a way of getting seen, but the damage had already been done.

This is also why I fear Etsy giving out too much information on how to become 'relevant'.  If they give too many precise details, people will jump to conform and then 'everyone' will fight and claw to become tops in the search and find ways to circumvent the system to get on top.  General guidelines and some parameters to force people to comply (such as limited characters in titles) might be useful, but then, I imagine there will be an outcry that this is too restrictive.  Rock and a hard place, if you ask me.

"If I search for "caramels" I get an entire first page that includes art, clothing, jewelry, housewares, handbags, quilts -- all in caramel colors -- but not a single edible. Yet the odds are that a buyer searching for "caramels" is looking for the candy, not the color."

Again, expecting specific results out of a general search query is asking it to read your mind.  I did this exact search, and yes, the very first results are everything and anything 'caramel'.  But if you are wanting something edible, you look to the left and there is the category called 'plants and edibles' and if you click on that, the results show yummy and delicious looking confections that will get your salivary glands  pumping.  If you go to Amazon and put books in the search box, will you get books relating to astronomy in the top results?  Probably not.  You have to be more specific either in your intial request or drill down using categories.  It's not rocket science!

"Really, I'm just pretty flabbergasted that you guys think it's a good idea to "experiment" with the entire site like this."

While I understand this comment, I have to wonder how it would have played out had Etsy beta tested it privately and then released it as a done deal and we had to accept it 'as is'?  People complain all the time that they don't get a say in new features and that Etsy should have asked the general populace what they thought and that they should get more input from users.  We're actually getting what has been asked for.  How are you going to have any affect once it's beta tested and then rolled out?  Sure, some changes might come after that, but not nearly as many as might take place now with them testing it out for everyone to give their opinions and suggestions.  Etsy is giving users what they've asked for and even that doesn't make them happy.  I guess it's a 'no win' situation, but at least this time they erred on the side of giving too much than not enough.

"im not liking this change, because it seems no one will know how to get relevant, then someone who is relevant, they will try to copy those who are relevant and everyone will have the same thing... then who is relevant? I know im not too relevant and I have things set up correctly.

 This post made me giggle.  I can just see the crossed arms and pouty lip.  I wonder how anyone knows whether or not they are relevant.  What are you comparing yourself to?  Ok, kidding aside, what I'm getting from this based on the category this seller is in, is that for high volume sellers who dominate the category at any given time by relisting sold items, that they will no longer dominate in a relevancy based search.  I get that.  It's got to be tough when it's something you've gotten used to and come to depend on, just like those at the opposite end of the spectrum have gotten used to low views and sales because they don't have the volume to relist or the funds to continually renew.  The difference is, the change finally levels the playing field for all sellers.  And in reality, it's only the search that is being affected, because if you go to the category you are still going to see the most recently listed items, so you haven't completely lost your 'edge'.

"If etsy wants to switch to a default relevancy search, fine. But give us some warning and guidance about how we should be listing to be relevant. And don't allow abuse of titles.

What I have a problem with right now, that I don't like being part of an experiment for 3 days out of the next 3 weeks. We all try hard to run our shops well and to change the rules on us as an experiment doesn't seem right to me.{If etsy wants to switch to a default relevancy search, fine. But give us some warning and guidance about how we should be listing to be relevant. And don't allow abuse of titles."

This kind of goes with the comment earlier, but  my thought is that not giving us guidelines ahead of time is part of the tweaking process.  To find out what is currently working and what is not.  I'm of the feeling that everyone running around changing tags and titles in an effort to be seen as relevant is probably doing more damage than good to the data results.  Everyone should have been tagging for relevancy in the first place, I mean, if you're selling red widgets, wouldn't you tag, title and describe those red widgets so people could find them?  In my estimation, any buyer confusion is most likely a result of sellers changing things around trying to guess what the winning combination will be rather than a relevant search.

"From the FP--> (ignoring the annoying drop down suggestions,) type in Clutch in the handmade search.

THE FIRST ITEM THAT COMES UP IS A BALL! The last item on the first page is a pair of EARRINGS!

Seriously, are you kidding me?"

Again, we have a perfect example of how people just do not understand the mechanics of a search tool.  A general search for anything is going to give you general results of anything containing that word.  What have you given the search tool to understand that you are looking for a purse and not a pair of earrings with a clutch back?   The search tool cannot read your mind, you have to help it along, so to help you help the search, along the left side of that page result are some categories for you to narrow your search.  And   I just did that very search ) ) and found satisfactory results, the first page, with the exception of a pair of earrings actually did show all clutches of the purse variety.  But to eliminate any other items other than purses, you can choose from the following categories:
All Items
Once you select your category, you can further refine you search using any other qualifiers that relate to what you are looking for.
"My confusion is this... when I search for 'finger puppet' I am on the third page, fine. Most of the items on the first two pages DO NOT HAVE FINGER PUPPET or PUPPET as a tag. The term is mentioned once in the title, once in the description. The item isn't really even a finger puppet. So I'm confused. Will any of my items ever be in the first few pages of a search? Or am I lost near the middle forever?"
Ok, I did this search,  and got 1197 items on that list.  The first page was dominated by a seller selling ipod covers that doubled as a finger puppet.  While I understand your frustration with not being more relevant than that seller, if I were looking for a finger puppet for a child I would probably scan that first page or two and then look at the categories listed on the left and select the toy category.  In which case, one of your items appears on the first page.  Once again, I will reiterate, a general search term will yield general results.  You must be more specific both in listing items and searching items to find what you are looking for.
"A lot of stores are paying alot of money in relisting and renewing items to find were are now at the back of the listings and old listings (2-3 mos old) are at the front, we will loose alot of customers to this system and Etsy will loose alot of revenue why should we pay to renew or relist if were not getting any exposure."
This is getting redundant.  There is no evidence that Etsy will lose any revenue, as a matter of fact, their revenue could remain the same or increase if buyers are able to find and purchase what they are looking for.   And I have to ask, if your customers are complaining to you that they can't find you, then how are you receiving these complaints?  lol.    The fact that older listings are appearing in the search is actually proof that the search is working.  That is what it is supposed to do, return results that are relevancy based rather than listing (or renewing or relisting) date.  Once again, sellers who are successful under the current system are going to resist any changes that might impact that.  I understand that.  But with the number of sellers and items listed and that continue to be listed there has to be a better, more equitable system to find whatever it is that someone can be searching for. Ok, that's enough for now.  this is getting too long and I'm getting increasingly irritated with people who do not know how to tag for relevance to their own items.  If you are listing a dog bracelet, then for goodness' sake, tag it dog bracelet and look up the breeds of the dogs for the correct spelling.  It's Lhasa apso not asa apso.  Cripes.


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