How to Do an Advanced eBay Search
How to Use the eBay Advanced Search Box
How to Search for eBay Members

Shortcuts for a Quick eBay Search

After you become familiar with each of eBay's search options, you need a crash course in what words to type into those nice little boxes. Too little information and you may not find your item. Too much and you're overwhelmed with information.

If you're really into bean-bag toys, for example, you may be looking for Ty's Tabasco the Bull. But if you just search for Tabasco, you'll get swamped with results ranging from hot sauce to advertisements.

Some simple tricks can help narrow your eBay search results when you're searching from pages other than the main Search page (where you don't find all the searching bells and whistles).

Symbols and Keywords for Conducting Searches with the eBay Search Engine
Symbol Effect on Search Example
No symbol, multiple words Returns auctions with all included words in the title. reagan letter might return an auction for a mailed message from the former U.S. president, or it might return an auction for a mailed message from Boris Yeltsin to Ronald Reagan.
Quotes "" Limits the search to items with the exact phrase inside the quotes. "Wonder Woman" returns items about the comic book/TV heroine. Quotes don't make the search term case-sensitive. Using either uppercase or lowercase in any eBay search gets you the same results.
Separating comma without spaces (a,b) Finds items related to either the item before or after the comma. (gi joe,g.i. joe) returns all G.I. Joe items, no matter which way the seller listed them.
Minus sign – Excludes results with the word after the –. Type box –lunch, and you'd better not be hungry because you may find the box, but lunch won't be included.
Minus symbol and parentheses Searches for auctions with words before the parentheses but excludes words inside the parentheses. midge –(skipper,barbie) means that auctions with the Midge doll won't have to compete for Ken's attention.
Parentheses Searches for both versions of the word in parentheses. political (pin,pins) searches for political pin and political pins.

Here are additional tips to help you narrow any eBay search:

  • Don't worry about capitalization: You can capitalize proper names or leave them lowercase; the search engine doesn't care.

  • Don't use and, a, an, or, or the: Called noise words in search lingo, these words are interpreted as part of your search. So if you want to find something from The Sound of Music and you type the sound of music, you may not get any results.

    Most sellers drop noise words from the beginning of an item title when they list it, just as libraries drop noise words when they alphabetize books. So make your search for sound music. An even more precise search would be "sound of music" (in quotes).

  • Search within specific categories: This type of search narrows your results because you search only one niche of eBay — just the specific area you want. For example, if you want to find Tabasco the Bull, start at the home page and, under the Categories heading, click Toys and Bean Bag.

    The only problem with searching in a specific category is that sometimes an item can be in more than one place. For example, if you're searching for a Mickey Mouse infant snuggly in the Disney category, you may miss it because the item might be listed in infant wear.

    It's best not to limit yourself to a category because some of the best deals are miscategorized by sellers. What makes them such a good deal is that not everyone can find them. But you know better.

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