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eBay Wildcard Search article from eBay

This is an article from eBay about the wildcard depreciation.

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 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  scarf scarves, 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 ( 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.

To update your searches, go to:
If you have any questions, please comment below.
Thank You,
Dave Moniz


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