Understanding eBay’s Category Hierarchy - dummies

By Marsha Collier

Understanding eBay’s categories was a lot easier when there were just a few. Now that the total number of categories is around 20,000 — including child (or sub-) categories — the time has come to either abandon all hope of understanding them or to take things in hand and appreciate the elegance and organization of a system that’s just beyond the realm of comprehension. You may never totally understand the category structure, but that’s okay — what’s important is knowing which categories the sellers use most frequently.

eBay is constantly revisiting the way people search for items on the site. Understanding the tips below will give you a distinct advantage when you’re shopping.

How the structure works

What are you interested in? Do you like art, golf, photography, fashion? That seems like a fairly benign list, doesn’t it?

Well, not quite. Say you like golf. You might just click Sporting Goods then find Golf and click.

Surprise! The Sporting Goods category is made up of hundreds of child categories of everything from golf balls to Pittsburgh Penguins jerseys. eBay’s Golf landing page goes a long way to help you find what you’re looking for.

This hasn’t been done to confuse you, but as of this moment, there are 1,532,446 active listings in Golf. eBay’s refinements allow you to visit areas where your sports interest might take you. To accommodate the countless items for sale that sports aficionados, collectors, and participants list, eBay had to create a lot of small areas.

Drilling down to your item

Depending on what you’re looking for, things can get downright confusing. For example, suppose you want to find items relating to your dog, a somewhat obscure breed called Schipperke. You might think you have it made. How could a category for such an esoteric breed of dog be anything but very simple? A search for Schipperke will net you over 8,000 listings!

Schipperkes have their own category in the main category of Collectibles→ Animals →  Dogs →  Schipperke on eBay (not real dogs, just the collectible type). eBay has categories in Collectibles for almost every breed of dogs. Know anybody who collects dog-related items? Currently, 309 Schipperke items are listed in the category.

Even though you might choose an arcane item, searching only through the specific category designated for it would have affected your search significantly. You would have missed some of the more interesting items.