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eBay Makes Big Promises to Small Sellers as SEO Penalty Still Stings

Google penalized eBay for its SEO practices a year ago, and it’s still having a negative impact on eBay growth, according to eBay Marketplaces President Devin Wenig.

During eBay’s post-earnings conference call on Wednesday, Wenig explained his plan in response to the problem: “We’ll move toward becoming the world’s first online global marketplace to use structured catalog data at scale for all listings.”

Sellers will recognize this as eBay is forcing them to add Product Identifiers to their listings, such as UPC and ISBN codes.

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eBay looks at the world historically through listings rather than products. That gives eBay a tremendous selection advantage, but listings are also transient, Wenig said. They come and go. They don’t have link equity, and they’re hard to attach content to. eBay has seen a pattern of SEO disruption across search engines as a result.

“We can maintain the advantage given to us by a marketplace business model, but include a structured data catalog, which gives us persistence and link equity,” he said. “It makes sellers’ inventory more discoverable, both on and off eBay.”

However, Wenig called it a multi-year approach. “We feel good about it, but it’s not a short term fix,” he said.

After the challenges faced in 2014, and following two sequential quarters of declining growth, eBay’s first quarter results are encouraging, he said. “We are certainly not ready to declare victory over last year’s SEO and password-reset challenges, but we are making progress.”

In what might come as a surprise to EcommerceBytes readers, Wenig said eBay’s sweet spot was small- and medium-sized merchants and brands. They represent 70% of the global retail market, offering the diverse inventory and value eBay shoppers are looking for.

He promised them improved seller tools, “unmatched access to more data, and more balanced predictable policies and standards.”

Consumer selling is another key eBay strength, and he intends to revitalize that segment of the market. There is $100 billion of value is trapped in people’s closets and garages – “and that’s just in the U.S.”

It is interesting to note, in fact, the Wall Street Journal called into question eBay CEO John Donahoe’s approach to marketplaces.

Mr. Wenig said eBay would focus some of its growth efforts on drawing more small and medium businesses to the site. Under CEO John Donahoe, eBay had attempted to become another sales channel for larger merchants, to mixed results.

And during the conference call, eBay CFO Bob Swan said management continued to explore strategic alternatives to eBay Enterprise, which is an ecommerce platform for large enterprise retailers and brands. That could include a full or partial sale or IPO, Swan said.

Wenig outlined a “three-pillar strategy” going forward. First would be to make eBay a more robust platform. Second would be to engage the core Buyer and Seller segment. And third would be to create exceptional product and brand experiences. (More on the three pillars in this post.)

In referencing brand experiences, Wenig referred to eBay’s revamped iPad app and the introduction of Live auctions last year. “This is a great example of what we can do,” he said and “there’s much more to come this year.”

See related story in today’s Newsflash.

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Ina Steiner

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. Send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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