Wildcard Frequently Asked Questions


What is going to change?

eBay will no longer be supporting wildcard (*) searches. This functionality allowed users to include an asterisk with their keyword search: the asterisk would match all words starting with the letters in the wildcarded word. For example, a keyword search of dress* would include listings with dress, dresses, dresser, dressers, dressing, dressel, etc. in their title in the search results. Wildcard searches are no longer supported because recent changes to how search works already take into account many variations of a query and because this change enables us to deliver search results faster.

Queries with asterisk will be processed as if the asterisk * character was not present.

What is it going to impact?

Any feature that uses the Finding services will be affected whenever a query with an asterisk is issued. That includes (but is not limited to): web search, mobile search, saved searches, saved search email alerts, saved search mobile notifications, and ePN (eBay Partner Networks).

When will the change go into effect?

The first phase – scheduled for the 5th of November 2012 – will impact wildcard queries in US, UK, AU (Australia), IT (Italy), CA (Canada), CA-FR (French Canada).  Remaining sites will be impacted soon thereafter.

Searches with the Completed Listings filter on eBay.com already ignores wildcards.

What should I do from now on?

There are two ways to rewrite queries which used to contain wildcards.

  1. Simplify your query: eBay is continually improving query processing to make it simple for users to find what they want. One of these processes is what we call “query expansion”. For example, if you’re looking for a scarf, and you want to find all listings with singular and plural forms of “scarf”, instead of looking for scar*, you can type scarf and the search engine will look for all variants: scarf, scarfs, or scarves.  The simplified query in this example will also look in the scarves category, and also have the benefit of not returning listings for scarlet. In the same way, when you write Gucci Purse as a query, we expand the possibilities to many listings with same results: Brand=Gucci in the item specific, and with either purse, purses, handbag or handbags, or in one of the relevant categories such as girls’ handbags, women’s handbags or vintage handbags.
  2. Modify your query with different search operators: Using different “search operators,” such as comma, parentheses, and the minus symbol, you can specify exactly what you want. A comma-separated list in parentheses indicates a OR – alternatives – between all options. So (X,Y,Z) indicates that any listing with X, Y or Z. For example, if the query was:
    lego minifig* -lot*
    it can be rewritten as:
    lego (minifigure, minifigures) -(lot, lots)
    or as:
    lego (minifigure, minifigures) -lot -lots
    You may want to visit the help center for more information on search operators: http://pages.ebay.com/help/search/advanced-search.html#using

If you use search operators such as ( ) and -, eBay uses only the exact words in your query and will not expand it as described in the first option.  Our recommendation is to first try simple keyword queries, combined with category and other constraints such as price as desired, and only if that is not fine-grained enough, move to advanced operator queries.

I’m using wildcard to get a range of years or model numbers?


  • 195* for getting listings of items from the years 1950 to 1959.
  • 15* for getting listings of items from the 16th century

Such wildcard queries can return many non-relevant items, like those with model number starting with a number that resemble as year (e.g. 19* may mean the 20th century, but the first item returning is a 19″ inch tube). We wish to give the best experience to our customers, and returning an irrelevant result set compiled of listings with numbers in the title is not what we strive for.  For this particular use case of number ranges, we are actively exploring potential solutions.

What will happen to my query on the search results page (i.e. eBay web interface)?

If a query on the the Search Results Page includes a wildcard, we will ignore the asterisk character and a message is shown:

What will happen to my query on mobile devices?

If a query on the Mobile Search Results Page includes a wildcard, the asterisk character will be dropped and the query will be run as if the asterisk was not there.

What will happen to my email alerts coming from Saved Search if they contain a wildcard?

If you saved a query that contains a wildcard, we will ignore the asterisk character when it is run for your email alert. The results returned from such queries are likely to change.   As such, we recommend rewriting your query as either a simple keyword query or as an advanced query without a wildcard.

How can I modify my saved searches?

Saved Search: go to your myeBay (My eBay –> Saved Searches) and modify your search keywords using the suggestions in the section on wildcard alternatives.

Are other search operators affected?

No other search operators are affected.

Why is eBay no longer supporting wildcard searches?

Our research has shown that this type of search can sometimes include unexpected variations that clutter search results and the use of specific terms to expand one’s search is a much more effective method. That may be why only a very small percentage of very sophisticated shoppers on eBay used this functionality. We have also recently implemented enhancements to search on eBay that enables us to take into account many variations in naming and spelling in search results. By removing the wildcard (*) advanced search functionality, we are now able to more efficiently deliver search results faster to users.

18 questions from ePN Publisher Input:

Q: Will the use of commas inside parentheses still be available in the Finding API to apply OR logic to search for “this” or “that”? E.g., (this,that)

A: Yes, it will still be available.

Q: Will the use of quotation marks still be available in the Finding API to search for an exact phrase? E.g., “this or that”

A: Yes, it will still be available.

Q: Will the use of minus sign to indicate negative keywords still be available in the Finding API to find listings that do NOT contain a specific word? E.g., this –that

A: Yes, it will still be available.

Q: Will the use of at (@) sign still be available in the Finding API to define the number of words in a list? E.G., “@1 baseball autograph card”

A: Yes, it will still be available.

Q: Will the use of a combination of parentheses, quotation marks, commas and negative keywords still be available in the Finding API to optimally fine-tune our searches? E.g., (“this and that”, something) -(somethingelse)

A: Yes, it will still be available.

Q: Will the use of any advanced search operators (negative, parens, quotation marks) still trigger the deactivation of “Automatic Keyword Expansion”?

A: Yes, automatic keyword expansions will still be deactivated by these.

Q: Will the use of Item Filters, Aspect Filters and Domain Filters still be available in the Finding API? Are any existing ItemFilters, AspectFilters or DomainFilters being removed?

A: All filters are staying as they are. No item/aspect/domain filters are being removed.

Q: Will the Finding API still have sortOrder as a parameter to permit sorting search results by EndingSoonest, PricePlusShipping, and the various other sorting options other than BestMatch?

A: Yes, they will still be available.

Q: Will the FindingAPI still allow us to retrieve up to 100 pages at 100 items per page?

A: Yes. We’re not changing the 10,000 item deep limit.

Q: Will BuyerPostalCode still be available as a search filter in the Finding API?

A: Yes. It will.

Q: Will geotargeting still be available in the Finding API?

A: Yes, it will.

Q: Will the Finding API still offer the ability to combine keyword search and categories, so that we can search by keywords within a category?

A: Yes, it will

Q: Will the Finding API still permit searching within up to 3 categories at a time?

A: Yes, no change is planned here.

Q: Will the Finding API still include condition, county, listingType, buyItNowAvailable, buyItNowPrice, endTime, location, shipping info, and various other item data as part of the response?

Yes, it will.

Q: Will the Finding API still have the outputSelector parameter to allow us to additionally retrieve SellerInfo, GalleryInfo, CategoryHistogram and various other data as part of the response?

A: Yes, staying exactly the same as it is today.

Q: Will the Finding API still allow us to exclude listings from specific sellers or from specific countries?

A: Yes, it will.

Q: Will the Finding API still allow us to retrieve all active listings for a given seller?

A: Yes, within the same 10,000 items deep as we have today.

Q: Will the Finding API still exist?

A: Yes, it will still exist

What is “query expansion/rewriting”?

Every query simple keyword (non-advanced) query is processed to bridge the gap between the intent of the user to the phrasing used by the sellers on items. We rewrite the keywords of the query  to find more items that may not matching the exact phrasing the user wrote in his query. If the query has the word purse, we would like to return items that have handbag in their title.  Such rewrites can include singular and plural forms of the words, acronyms, and common spelling mistakes, aspect matching (Gucci will return items with Brand=Gucci), category matching (purse will look for listing in Category=Handbags) and much more.

The reason we are not doing so for advanced queries is to allow users to explicitly construct their keywords for specialized intents.

More discussion of query rewriting is available at http://hughewilliams.com/2012/03/19/query-rewriting-in-search-engines/


  • Rapidrobert

    Can a wildcard be used in the negative/exclusion keywords field?

  • Richard Tower

    I search for collectibles (maps, timetables, brochures etc.) by date using wildcards such as (194*, 195*, 196*) for 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. All my searches are worthless now and there’s no practical solution. In the FAQ you acknowledge this and say you are “exploring potential solutions”. Hope you get this fixed soon! How about allowing a date range in the advanced search, i.e. 1940-1969?

  • joe blogs

    done: (1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969)

  • This is exactly the same issue I have.

  • This has to be the worst and most regressive change I’ve seen since I joined Ebay, and it’s stirred a hornets nest of protest in the discussion boards, because the main use of wildcards is to cover the sort of scenario where the sequence post wildcard is very varied, such as happens with things like laptops, which can have 5610, and up to 50 or 60 variants of the last 2 digits, with then things like WMLI, or other 4 letter sequences or combinations behind that. Many of the parts on this family are common, so a search for Acer 56* finds ALL of the relevant parts, and to generate a replacement search of this nature will be almost impossible, because the range of models and variants is not released.

    Is it really so hard to have a qualified wildcard, so 56* is too wide a selection to be valid, but Acer 56* is a valid search, simply because that’s the search that’s needed, and it’s not possible at this stage to generate it in another manner.

    I could also live with not being able to use wildcards above a certain subset level, so maybe only being able to use them at Computers level, or similar, but they are a fundamental part of the buying cycle for specialised items needed to repair computers, among many other similar items, and their loss is a disaster.

    I can only assume that this decision was made by bean counters that know the price of everything and the value of nothing, and that don’t use the Ebay system in one of the few areas that set it apart from “ordinary” web shopping.

    Make no mistake about it, the removal of wildcards is a significant deal breaker for many repeat buyers and power sellers, and their departure will be hastened by this move, as they will be forced to use alternative methods to find the items they need, and if I have to start using other places to find the item in the first place, I am very likely to then go ahead and also order there, as my time is valuable.

    The other thing that would help considerably (and totally hack off the same beancounters ) would be to prevent sellers with low turnover from listing massive numbers of effectively duplicate listings, where the only difference is the description, in order to have a unique part number match, which would be much better implemented in a separate file that could be searched.

    One seller I have seen has nearly half a million items on line, which is in reality less than 100 items, and they’ve sold less than 150 in 6 years. That’s what screws the search engine, I got close on 1000 items from the one seller recently, out of 1400 parts, which wastes my time, my bandwidth and download allowance, as well as Ebay disc space, computer resources and bandwidth. There’s plenty more like that who need to be cut down to size, computer LCD’s are another example, and there are plenty more.

    Please, stuff the beancounters back down their hole before they destroy the system that works, and works well for the people that know how to use it.

    If cassini won’t work with wildcards, then fix it, and if that means making us use qualified wildcards, such as the examples above, so be it, but remove them at your peril.

  • Hi All,

    Thank you for sharing your feedback and opinions about this change. I wanted to take a moment and let you know that we’re doing a soft-close on comments for this post. That means that if you have a genuine question about this change, feel free to post it and we’ll approve it to go live-to-site. However, we will no longer post comments that do not drive this conversation forward in a solutions-based manner. We’re not trying to take away anyone’s voice, but instead, keep this thread valuable for those that are looking for helpful information.

    Thank you for your cooperation.

  • alexanderdino

    Hi Scott,
    I recently spoke to ebay about this matter and there is still no solution. What are you doing to rectify this situation?

  • I’m not sure who you spoke to at eBay or in what capacity so it’s impossible for me to comment on that. I can say that everything stated in the FAQs above is still true. Nothing has changed in regards to Wildcard Searches.

  • I exclude many words and dates to narrow down my searches. Since the number of items in a search query is limited, I can’t jus list all the dates I don’t want. Wildcards took 2000 item searches down to 200. Now, I just can’t do them anymore.