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How To Create a Perfect eBay Search String

Assume that you are a baseball fan and you want to search for a St Louis Cardinals baseball cap. Your first try at a search string might be:

    st louis cardinals baseball cap

This instructs eBay to return all items with all 5 of the keywords st, louis, cardinals, baseball and cap in the title. This returned 231 results.

Notice that because we have st louis cardinals in the search string, we will only receive results that have both st louis and cardinals in the title, but not just st louis or just cardinals. In other words we would not receive any results for titles like cardinals baseball cap or st louis baseball cap. To correct this problem, we can tell eBay to find items with either or both st louis or cardinals in the title. Our new search string will be:

    ("st louis",cardinals) baseball cap

By putting st louis and cardinals inside parenthesis and separated by a comma, we are telling eBay to look for titles that contain either or both keywords. Because st and louis are contained within quotes it is treated as a single keyword instead of as two separate keywords. This search returned 276 results, 45 more than the first search string returned.

In order to fashion an ideal search string, it is important to consider whether there are any common synonymns (words with identical or similar meanings) for each keyword in the search string. In our search string, ball is commonly used in place of baseball and hat is commonly used in place of cap. So we should modify our search string to be:

    ("st louis",cardinals) (baseball,ball) (cap,hat)

This new search string returns 460 results, which is much better than the previous search string!

Finally, examine the actual search results returned by eBay. Quickly browsing through the 460 items, we find that there are caps from a Cardinals team in Arizona that we are not interested in. There are also some winter beanies that we do not want. In order to eliminate these results, we can use a minus sign:

    ("st louis",cardinals) (baseball,ball) (cap,hat) -arizona -beanie
      or
    ("st louis",cardinals) (baseball,ball) (cap,hat) -(arizona,beanie)

The minus sign tells eBay that what follows (either a single word or a parenthetical group of words) is to be excluded from the results if it appears in the title. The new search string returned 32 fewer results than our previous search because all the Arizona Cardinals caps and all the winter beanies were excluded.

The number of results returned for each search are only examples. You will most likely get a different number of results if you run the same searches.

Other Basic Search Rules:

DO Use categories to limit your search to specific types of items. This will often make your search string simpler.

DON'T Use non-descriptive words like "A" "The" "And" "Where" "With" "For" and so on. If these words do not appear in the title of an item, the item may not be returned in your search results.

DO Try out several different strings for each search and look at the actual results that eBay returns. When using Odd.com, click on the     icon to test a search string. Use the eBay results to help you to fine-tune your search string.



Left-Handed Smoke Shifter Operator wearing Cardinals Cap circa 1908

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Keyword Hints
A comma between keywords in parentheses matches either word.
Example: (baseball,card)
Matches: Items with either the word "baseball" or the word "card" in the title.
Quoted keywords match an exact sequence.
Example: "baseball card"
Matches: Items with the exact phrase "baseball card" in the title.
A minus sign before a keyword prevents it from matching.
Example: -cap ball
Matches: Items that have the word "ball" but not the word "cap" in the title.
Combinations of the above rules.
Example: -(cap,bat) ball
Matches: Items that have the word "ball" but not the words "cap" or "bat" in the title.

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