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Wed Nov 4 2009 21:32:53

Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

By: Ina Steiner

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AuctionBytes is running a 3-part interview feature with SEO guru Tom Critchlow of Distilled this week (link). I reached out to Tom because I'm hearing a lot of confusion from online sellers about sending feeds to Google Base (now called Google Merchant Center), and specific questions about eBay listings exposure in Google search. Since Tom helps many clients with SEO (search engine optimization), he sees firsthand what works and doesn't work.

After reading today's installment, eBay seller Gary Overton posted about it on his Top Rated Seller Tips blog, specifically about Google's editorial guidelines, which was discussed in my interview with Tom - on Google's Editorial Guide page, it warns merchants (among other things):

Standard Spelling and Grammar. Avoid any repeated and unnecessary use of punctuation, capitalization or symbols. Don't use exclamation points in your item titles. The use of symbols, numbers, and letters should adhere to the true meaning of the symbol.

Avoid gimmicky repetition. You may not post excessive, repetitive, or irrelevant keywords.

Gary noted that when he went in search of this information himself, he discovered a page where Google states that one of the common reasons for items to be disapproved is "You've included promotional text (e.g., free shipping!) in your items' titles or descriptions."

Many marketplace sellers use All Caps and exclamation points in their listing titles to make their listings stand out in search results. Tom says that yes, these things can get you in trouble on Google (see the last Q&A on this page). Gary writes in his post, "So, on one hand eBay urges us to use free shipping. On the other hand if we do and tell anyone our items will not likely show on Google."

These issues apply to online sellers no matter where they are selling. So if you hope to get good exposure for your product listings, read Google's editorial guidelines - and keep reading Tom's advice in our 3-part series - there's more good stuff on the way.

Comments (13) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?   Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

by: fruity

Wed Nov 4 23:59:54 2009

I think what really did it in was not this recent change but that change about almost a year ago. When ebay made that design change and then they patched something up and stopped delivering our descriptions to Google base (remember when ebay changed and you would just see repeated throughout the generic category descriptions ebay had?)

I think in alot of ways, ebay has no intention of getting us optimized in Google base. I mean really, ebay already is working on that pay per sale thingy on prostores. they've been moving around showing us all types of google adwords like stats. I think there's nothing in ebays history where they wouldnt try to charge you for air, so why would they allow this in the first place?

Those are just my thoughts. I think in alot of ways, we've grown up with bad practices and that was fine with ebay because they knew we'd blacklist our sites quickly if we brought the ebay way of doing things on to the web.

I'm also elsewhere and one thing I do is, I dont use the same titles or descriptions. And I place really high

Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?   Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

by: Tom

Thu Nov 5 04:38:57 2009

Hi Ina,

Thanks for giving me the chance to help out - it's always nice to share knowledge! My apologies that I couldn't answer all your questions but I'm glad that people are finding it useful.



Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?   Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

by: Multichannel eBay Powerseller

Thu Nov 5 06:09:42 2009

I've noticed that over the past year, eBay's ranking in search results has fallen dramatically. Used to be that if I searched for a product on Google, eBay would not only appear on the first page consistently, but usually in the first 3 or 4 results. Now, they're buried on back pages.

eBay has, until recently, always had ''unstructured data'' which means that users created their listings without Item Specifics or certain condition fields. The more eBay attempts to structure their data - or make it more consistent - the worse their standing in Google natural search becomes. Is there something that they're doing wrong?  My own ecommerce site comes up higher than eBay when I do a search for products that I sell.

Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?   Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

by: Pat

Thu Nov 5 07:49:45 2009

I think accepting Google Checkout gets you higher in Google Shopping results, and of course, eBay does not allow Google Checkout on their site.

Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?   Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

by: frustrated again

Thu Nov 5 10:29:15 2009

Hi - have jumped through all the hoops on Bonanzle to get my listings there to show up in Google search. It takes a great deal of tweaking because the guidelines can be confusing.  At least there, the text box for description is plain and simple, pictures are free and entered outside of the description box as are terms and conditions.

The problems I think I have with listings on ebay are the same as thousands of other sellers. Many of us imbed our pics in the description. This will stop the item being picked up by Google. No html allowed. You also can't talk about shipping policies, use '' for inches and all sorts of other no no's.

I was told by a friend in the search optimization field that  the ebay listings that basically use just item specifics, are for new goods that can be described as new in box etc will likely be picked up.

Those of us who sell antiques, collectables and unusual stuff will always be at a disadvantage because oddly the more information you try to give, the greater the chance something in the text will prevent the item from being indexed.

I will not give up putting my pics in my listing and pay ebay for extra pics. If I need to have 5 or 6 pics, that is a huge fee increase.

I know a lot of sellers will disagree with me, but ebay should never have allowed 3rd party listing services, self-created templates and such. These mess up Google search pick up and in my opinion make looking at listings more difficult for buyers. It is a pita to have to hunt all over for info about an item tucked in somewhere in 5 paragraphs about seller's terms. We need to supply that info but since every person's listings are different it is sometimes hard to sort through.

For me, a perfect format would be the same ebay supplied listing page that everyone would use. One fixed box for item description ONLY, up to 10 free pics on the side, fixed box for shipping details, one for return policy.

This info would all show on the item page -wouldn't have to click here and there to find info, and then the info in the description box would be segregated from other stuff that can stop Google from picking up the item.

Imagine how wonderful to be able to click on any item on the site and see the pertinent details, always in the same place!

Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?   Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

by: kiki

Thu Nov 5 12:51:41 2009

Why are you just using Google to search for products? I use Bing and it has no stupid restriction and all items that are on eBay come up. I always have problems finding great items using Google, since I went to Bing all items come up from all auction sites and all websites. Quick and easy. I find what I want quickly. I sell on eBay too. So I wanted to see where I stand on Bing on my item. I entered a designer, coat, and name of my coat. I was on the first page with many other eBay sellers. I guess Bing has no issues with eBay sellers or how they list their items. Use Google for maps and Bing for things you want to find and buy.

Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?   Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

by: buck efay

Thu Nov 5 13:14:08 2009

Because Google is the big dog in search. I only recently heard of Bing, and only because my ISP set it as their default search. I'm not trying to buy using google, but I want the largest number of eyeballs to see my items, and google is the place to be right now.

Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?   Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

by: Anne

Fri Nov 6 00:49:55 2009

I sell on Tias, GoAntiques, Bonanzle, Ecrater and have just started selling on Etsy.  I am getting sales from every site that I sell on, over the last month have tried ebay once again.  One week I have lots of sales then next almost nothing.

I know that on one of the sites Google changed their requirements, they do not accept paypal as a payment method.  This site did add Google checkout, I have also added a merchant account to two sites.  Since adding a merchant account almost all of my customers have opted to use that method.  Google is the next payment choice and only maybe four or five have chosen Paypal.

This is most certainly about increasing Google Checkout on sites that don't have it.  Ebay has aligned itself with Bing and Ebay has banned Google checkout.  Google's requirements also vary from site to site, think has to do with the amount of advertising dollars spent.

My stats show a consistent 80% of my traffic comes from Google, Bing is always at the bottom with about 4 or 5%.  

Personally I don't like Bing because it seems to favor returns to same sites and of course Ebay is always at the top.  

As mentioned above, Google is top dog when it comes to search numbers. Regardless of personal likes or dislikes I am in business to make money and if you don't rank on Google your bottom line will show it!  

Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?   Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

by: Mike

Fri Nov 6 02:45:42 2009

My initial response to this multiple part Q&A is that why did the expert so often not know the answers, especially when related to selling on eBay. It was supposed to be about the Google Base/Merchant Center and I did not find that there was very much helpful here for the eBay seller.

eBay and Google are like oil and water. As soon as eBay started to institute major changes, Google base balked and nothing got ranked. eBay fixed it for a couple of months and now it is broken again.

Go back 12-24 months and remember how you would search for one of your items on Google and look for the page listing?

Even if you were disappointed in your location, you saw tons of eBay links to similar/same products. Now, you are lucky to see eBay on page 1.

And finally, Best Match is flawed. I can have products that have multiple quantities available and will see a few sales on them in a couple of days and then -- nothing for weeks.

I did a search on eBay for a brand name product that I sell. I only searched for the brand name. When I got the results, the second item in the Best Match search was for an old, used product under that brand name.

Somebody tell me that this can fixed!

Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?   Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

by: Loops

Sat Nov 7 12:25:32 2009

Google and Ebay are at war with each other. There is a consolidation happening on the internet with sellers trying to make a home in a marketplace which is essentially a product search engine. This directly chips into Google's bread and butter of search and expensive CLICK campaigns.

Google is having a hard time answering back. Google dabbles with too many innovations. They go after Microsoft's Office products, they are trying to build an operating system and they seem distracted.

Google needs to open up a it's own marketplace, because the choices out their are gettting slim.

Add higher postal costs, higher fees, more internet regulations and you can see how the internet will be for just the elite, like in corporate america.

Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?   Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

by: anonymouse

Mon Nov 9 22:28:31 2009

I've been ripped off by mis-stated "item condition" so often on eBay I just plain don't shop there anymore.  Too many sellers use eBay to get rid of from slightly damaged to downright not-working items that even with a money-back *less shipping/handling and insurance* it's a losing proposition to buy there.  Sorry eBay (and you who still sell there) There is just no way to separate the baby from the bath-water anymore, so I threw it all out (rather than throwing out my good money on false promises)

Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?   Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

by: The one who knows

Thu Nov 12 21:25:29 2009

Here's a little truth about ebay and how ebay makes it's money:

Most of ebay's profits come from counterfeit and stolen merchandise, fake antiques, fake collectibles, counterfeit money (both US and foreign), money launderers, pornography and many, many more grey market items and activity.

Paypal AKA PiratePay is an ebay company that handles payments for this operation.

This illegal activity is well known and approved of at the highest levels of ebay, from the current and past CEO's (Starting with Meg Whitman) all the way down.

In fact, the current CEO of ebay and Paypal go to great measures to cover up this with investors.

Their interviews are always with "pro-ebay" media outlets and the questions asked are
pre-screened. Long term counterfeiters with 10,000+ feedback ratings are just the norm on ebay.

Ebay, the world's largest online cesspool won't be around for long in it's current state.

Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?   Optimizing eBay Listings May Hurt You on Google?

by: A-

Tue Dec 1 08:01:06 2009

One problem with Google is that they have not really put their feet on the ground with anything they have started. Hence you may be chasing rainbows till the kids at Google get serious. Sure they have some nice thoughts out there Google Wave etc. but how many really matter in the end? Ebay and Google have no real friendship that will last long. And, I really don't thing Google needs to do all of this without making money on it along the way. So why bother. If sellers won't use their Merchant Program then Google better start thinking about making it a selling place aka Amazon or Ebay. Otherwise, I wouldn't spend too much time chasing rainbows on Googles program.

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