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Fine-Tuning Your Search

Whether you use the home-page search box, the dedicated Search page, or the search function on the eBay Toolbar, a successful search involves more than just entering a keyword or two. To make sure you find exactly what you’re looking for—no more, no less—you need to fine-tune your query, using a variety of available tools.

Trick #51: Conduct a More Specific Search



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Many users, when searching for an item, enter a single search word—and then are buried under an overwhelming number of matching results. That’s because some of the most popular categories on eBay list thousands of items on any given day.

The first step to fine-tuning your results is to use more than one keyword to describe what you’re looking for—that is, to conduct a more specific search. For example, if you do a search on nba, you’ll be overwhelmed by the results. Narrow your search to a more specific product category (to nba jerseys or nba tickets), and you’ll better describe the specific item you’re looking for and get more targeted results.

Be cautious, however, of making your query too precise. You need to pick a series of keywords that are specific but not overly restrictive. Get too specific in your query, and you’ll end up excluding some auctions you might be interested in.

For example, it’s easy enough to see that simply entering the word model is too general a query; you’ll get thousands of results, most of which you won’t care about. A more precise query would describe the type of model you’re interested in, such as star wars death star model. Good so far, but if your search gets even more precise—searching for an old star wars death star model partially assembled without instructions not painted, to make a case—you probably won’t return any matching results. The query is simply too specific; nothing fits all the parameters. So if your search generates few if any results, take some of the parameters out of your query to broaden your search.

Trick #52: Narrow Your Search Results



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There’s another way to narrow your search results—and it just so happens to be the method that eBay is officially pushing. eBay recommends you perform a general search, and then use the options along the left side of the page to narrow the results list.

If you enter a really broad search parameter—books, for example—the search results page displays a list of matching categories, in addition to a list of matching auctions, as shown in Figure 3.5. Your next step is to click the category in which you’re interested.

Depending on the size of the category you select, you may next see another list of subcategories, or you may be taken directly to search results within a category or subcategory. However you get there, you’ll eventually land on a page that includes a list of Matching Categories and Search Options in the left column. As you can see in Figure 3.6, the Matching Categories are just that, subcategories related to your main search. The Search Options, shown in Figure 3.7, let you fine-tune the results by listing only those items that you can buy with PayPal, that have a Buy It Now option, that are gift items, that are completed auctions, that are priced within a specified range, that are listed as multiple-item lots, that start or end today (or within the next five hours), or that offer fast shipping. Select the options that matter to you, then click the Search button again. This will generate a new, shorter, more targeted list of matching auctions.

Figure 3.3

Figure 3.5 Some general searches require you to pick a more specific category.

Figure 3.6

Figure 3.6 Use Matching Categories to narrow your search results to a specific product category.

Figure 3.7

Figure 3.7 Fine-tune your search results with eBay’s Search Options.

Trick #53: Search for an Exact Phrase




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When you enter two or more keywords in your query, eBay automatically assumes that you want to search for items that match all the words—but in no particular order. (This is the equivalent of putting the Boolean AND between the words.) So if you enter abraham lincoln, eBay will search for items that include both the words "abraham" and "lincoln"—which might include guys named Abraham who drive a Lincoln. That is, the two words don’t have to be right next to each other, and they don’t have to be in that order.

If you want to search for an exact phrase, put quotation marks around the words in your query. So in our example, to search for items about the former president, you’d enter "abraham lincoln". You won’t get any results about cars!

Trick #54: Don’t Use AND, OR, or NOT


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Some experienced searchers like to use Boolean operators in their queries; this is a connecting word (AND, OR, NOT, and so on) that some search engines let you use to construct complex queries. Well, forget your ANDs and NOTs; eBay doesn’t permit the use of Boolean operators in its search function. In fact, if you enter Boolean operators in your query, eBay will treat them as keywords—and search for them!

So you should only search for the words "and," "or," and "not" if they’re actually part of an exact title that you’re looking for. In other words, it’s okay to search for batman and robin if you’re looking for DVDs of the movie Batman and Robin. If you’re looking for other items that include both Batman and Robin, drop the "and" from the search and enter this query instead: batman robin.

Trick #55: Search for One Word or Another Word



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If eBay won’t let you use Boolean operators, then how do you create a complex search query? Fortunately, eBay has some alternate operators you can use to duplicate some Boolean functions.

First up is an operator that performs the OR function—that is, lets you search for auctions that include one word or another, as opposed to including both the words. To perform an OR search on eBay, enclose both the words within parentheses, separated by a comma, with no space after the comma. So to search for items that are either red or green (but not necessary both), enter the query (red,green). (Again, note that there’s no space after the comma.)

Oh, and don’t assume you can only use this trick with two keywords. You can link as many keywords as you want in this fashion, just keep adding commas and keywords, like this: (red,green,blue,purple,yellow).

Trick #56: Exclude a Word from Your Search Results



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What if you want to search for all items within a particular category except those that match a particular parameter? In this instance, you want to use eBay’s operator that excludes words from the search results—that is, lists all auctions except those that include a specific word. This operator is the simple minus sign (–), which you put in front of any word you want excluded from your results.

For example, if you want to search for all Scooby Doo-related items except Pez dispensers, put a minus sign in front of the word "pez," like this: scooby -pez.

Trick #57: Use Wildcards



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Like many other search engines, eBay lets you use the wildcard character (*) to indicate one or more unknown letters at the end of a search keyword. Wildcards are great for when you’re not sure of a word’s spelling; the wildcard character replaces the letters in question in your query. For example, if you’re not sure whether it’s Barbie or Barby, enter barb* and your results will include both spellings.

Wildcards are also good for finding all variations on a keyword; just truncate the main word and add the wildcard character. For example, if you want Superman, Supergirl, and Superdog, enter super* to find all "super" words.

This is also a good way to search for items produced in a given decade. Many sellers put the date of manufacture or release in the title, as in 1966 Aurora Model Kit. If you want to search for all kits manufactured in the 1960s, just drop the last digit of the date and insert the wildcard character instead, like this: 196*. This will return all items listed from 1960 to 1969.

Trick #58: Use the Singular, Not the Plural



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eBay actually does a little bit of wildcard searching on its own. In particular, it automatically searches for the plural form of any word you enter—assuming you enter the singular, of course. So to search for both singular and multiple items, truncate the main word to the singular form. For example, if you search for bears, your results won’t include any auctions for a single bear. Instead, search for bear, and you’ll get both singles and multiples in your results.

Trick #59: Spell Out the Numbers





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When dealing with a number in an auction title, some sellers enter the numeral, others spell out the number. So you might find a particular DVD listed as either 12 Angry Men or Twelve Angry Men. That’s why, when you’re searching, it pays to search for both the numeral and the word—just in case.

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