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eBay Delays Make-or-Break Move toward Catalog

eBay’s response to its Google SEO problem that began last year is to begin using structured catalog data – a make-or-break move, one eBay manager called it. However, eBay has run into a road bump in implementing the strategy. Phase one of eBay’s catalog approach was implemented in June, but phase two – which was scheduled for September 1st – has been postponed until next year.

The initial SEO problem began last year when eBay’s exposure in Google search results tanked – it was reportedly a manual action against eBay, which continues to struggle to regain lost ground.

In April, eBay’s Devin Wenig told analysts he intended to make eBay the world’s first online global marketplace to use structured catalog data at scale for all listings as a way to overcome the SEO problem. (Sellers commenting on the EcommerceBytes Blog said eCrater has been requiring UPCs, ISBNs, and other identifiers for years so that listings by their sellers would show up in Google searches.)

Specifically, eBay is requiring sellers to add Product Identifiers to their listings, announcing that as of June 29th, sellers who listed branded items in new or manufacturer refurbished condition in certain categories were required to include the item’s brand, manufacturer part number (MPN), and global trade item number (GTIN – such as UPCs and ISBNs) in order to complete new listings and manual relists.

eBay planned to require sellers to include Product Identifiers for items with variations as of September 1st. But on Friday, eBay announced that sellers had run into some technical issues when trying to comply with the requirement to add identifiers to multi-variation listings. The announcement was made on the eBay UK board.

“We’re looking into the issues and apologise to those affected for any inconvenience caused,” the company wrote. “We’ll be in touch later this year with more information about when you’ll need to start adding product identifiers to your multi-variation listings.”

EcommerceBytes requested confirmation that eBay was delaying the requirement to include Product Identifiers on multi-variation listings across all international sites, as no announcement appeared on the eBay.com board. eBay has not responded.

In July, eBay Seller Advocate Jim “Griff” Griffith called the move to require sellers to add Product Identifiers “the single most important project eBay has embarked upon in the past 10 years.” And on Monday, Citi Group analyst Mark May noted eBay was looking to hire an engineer for its SEO team in part to bring external traffic to eBay.

May wrote, “Given the transient nature of eBay’s product listings, the company has long battled substandard rankings for its products on Google and other search engines. Management has highlighted its intention to implement a structured data catalog focused on establishing link equity for products. If the SEO team is successful in improving product ranks on search engines, we would expect this to have a positive impact on user metrics.”

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.