Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed May 9 2012 10:23:42

Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

By: Ina Steiner

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eBay sellers have talked for years about rolling blackouts, "tap-on-tap-off" visibility, "rolling-region" visibility and other strange phenomenon that they say lead to odd sales patterns (see this AuctionBytes blog post from 4 years ago).

Last week, Anne Warrington of Wigs US sent us a graph showing traffic to her eBay store for the past 180 days that shows one of those odd traffic patterns.


 
Anne said Wigs US is one of the largest U.S.-based wig sellers on eBay, and the company also sells on Amazon and on its own website. She said this traffic pattern only occurs on eBay, and not on any of the other channels on which it sells.

Over the past 18 months, she has spoken to customer service reps who agreed the traffic pattern was very strange. But, she said, "Apparently every single person we spoke with over this time period has failed to properly register this issue so according to the latest CSR Matt in Technical Issues - the issue has never been raised higher up." And two days after speaking to Matt, she's heard nothing further from him.

"We aren't surprised, but starting to feel despondent... there's definitely an issue, acknowledged by everyone at eBay who sees this graph... but NO ONE seems to be able to get anyone to actually DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT."

She sent an email to eBay Vice President of Experience, Search, and Platforms Hugh Williams, but has not heard back from him either. In her letter to Williams, she explained that about every 2 months, traffic for Wigs US falls off a cliff. "Wigs are not seasonal in this way, so this is not because our customers are not looking for wigs. In fact, just before this graph takes up in October, our traffic hit ZERO on October 24th. October 24th should be our busiest day of the year. Wigs are huge sellers for Halloween and October 24th is one week before Halloween."

She also said that despite being one of the largest U.S.-based wigs sellers on eBay and being a Top Rated Seller, "if you type in wigs - you have to go 7 pages deep to find our first listing. We have nearly 1200 listings regularly."

If you have an eBay Store subscription, take a look at your analytics and see if you show any strange traffic patterns - send screenshots to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

Update 5/9/12: Anne received the following email from Matt yesterday:

I apologize that it has taken me so long to respond. The correspondence between me and the developers as taken longer than expected and is still ongoing. The general consensus has been that this is a common trend during evaluations on most accounts. While visitors have decreased impressions have not. They also pointed out that there has been no change in items sold in the months where the visitor count is low and months where the visitor count is high. I was only able to get trends for the last 2 years but the year to year sales trends were consistent with the above information.

I understand that this is not a good resolution and that is why the correspondence is still ongoing. Many of the specifics regarding how our algorithms work are not disclosed as a way to prevent manipulation. Because of this getting clear information regarding why items may be dropping or rising in the search rankings is not always possible. I am currently awaiting another response and will follow up as soon as more information is available.
Thanks,
eBay

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Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

This user has validated their user name. by: Spartacus

Wed May 9 17:28:12 2012

As several people mentioned, this simply can not be a naturally occurring pattern, nor is it induced by weather, holidays, sporting events, etc.

You don't need  a masters degree in mathematics or a career in statistical analysis (both of which I've done) to see this pattern is algorithmic.

In response to the statement another poster made... ''One might think eBay would make it more difficult to get this analytic''

Do you really think eBay cares?

Like Ming said, we're all just ''noise'' to eBay. They have our money and they wield it against us with lobbyists and lawyers. No politician would dare touch any ''hot topic'' concerning eBay or Paypal for fear of reprisal. The FTC won't touch it because they are as corrupt as eBay.

eBay thrives by fleecing the ignorant masses and sadly, they have become and American institution.

The only real solution is to walk away from eBay and spread word of mouth to any and everybody willing to listen...

...or do what I do and use eBay for leads and send repeat customers to your own website.

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

by: ebayjim This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 9 18:32:07 2012

I've been convinced for over a year that eBay manipulates our gross sales, not just traffic. I assume too many sellers, not enough buyers, & the desire to placate the diamond sellers are the cause.

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

by: gutspiller This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 9 19:23:14 2012

Just as if I read my own story.

Beginning 2010 I took the plunge and I became a fulltime Ebayseller. From the beginning I've had 1 main competitor. Everything went well until Octobre 2010 when literally from one day to another I could no longer compete no matter what I did. At at point I thought I would have to close down my shop. My competitor would sell 10 copies of a certain item and I not a single one even if I would price it cheaper.

With Christmas/New Year everything went back +- normal. Normally I feel the influence of Christmas/New year until the end of Frebruary. Last year half February my sales crashed. Not only with me, but with Ebay in general. Mainly due to the extremely hot weather. When I looked at the finished items the only color I saw was red. My competitor however was selling as never before. I know there was 1 Sunday it was 30°. Nothing sold that day. Except with my competitor who was selling as if it was Christmas. There was only 1 seller where this was going on.

Even stranger. It was normal he sold more. He always used smaller margins and sold cheaper. 2010-2011 was the time I found a way to source my stock cheaper. For the first time I started matching his prices or would even sell cheaper + I extended my range of items. My competitor was doing just the same. While his business peeked, my business and others had very though times. Beginning June 2011 I was so frustrated about it, that I contacted Ebay. I told them the same story and asked if they could look at my account to see if something was wrong.

It ended up that they called me, what I found very suspicious. They assured me they had taken a look at my account and that there was nothing wrong so they could do nothing. Nothing wrong??? My *ss.

Just a few days later my number of page views started peeking. 1 week after the call all my problems of the last few months just vanished. Sales came rolling in. Suddenly it was as if my competitor no longer existed. The page views and sales continued rising till the end of august, where in August I sold a whole bunch more than I normally do with Christmas.

Just take a look at this

Page views May 2011:
http://s1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/gamewalhalla/?action
=view¤t=PageviewsMay2011.jpg
Here
you can see that my page views are lower than normal

Page views June 2011:
http://s1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/gamewalhalla/?action
=view¤t=PageviewsJune2011.jpg
I
contacted Ebay the very beginning of June. Here you see that on the 5th of June there's suddenly a huge rise in page views without a reason

Pageviews July 2011:
http://s1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/gamewalhalla/?action
=view¤t=PageviewsJuly2011.jpg
And
the page views keep rising

Page views August 2011:
http://s1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/gamewalhalla/?action
=view¤t=PageviewsAugust2011.jpg
And
rise even more to climax in August.

And then from one day to another the fun was over...

Page views Septembre 2011:
http://s1176.photobucket.com/albums/x334/gamewalhalla/?action
=view¤t=PageviewsSept2011.jpg

From
one day to another my page views crash. Furthermore how big is the chance to receive exactly the same number of page views than the year before?????

That my sales and page views crashed in September didn't surprise me. Sales in general were a catastrophe. Everywhere you would read Ebay related posts like ''where have the buyers gone?'', ''I can no longer sell'',...

A bit the same situation as months before. Except with my competitor who saw a huge rise in the number of sales.

What I know is:
In October from 1 day to another I can no longer compete. After I make a complaint about it with Ebay in June 2011, after a few days the problem is fixed. Then in September from one day to another everything just starts all over again.

Beginning September my competitor was suddenly back making superb sales. On the Ebaysite I sell he's in fact one of the biggest sellers. Just as everybody he always sells a lot with Christmas/New Year. But this year was exceptional. There were days where my competitor would make 50% of all BIN sales. How can one seller make 50% of all BIN sales unless Ebay has something to do with it?????

For me this is more than proof enough that Ebay is messing around promoting one seller as crazy on the back of other sellers. And as a seller I can do nothing about it. I can't compete with my rival although it should not be a problem. We offer the same range of items at the same prices. I know my items are prices correctly since my competitor sells bunches of them.

I know Ebay is messing me up big times. This has cost me thousand of €'s in profit. Some time ago I launched my own website. Sales are increasing by the day. The day my website generates enough profit I'll drop Ebay like a brick. They don't deserve anything better!!!!

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

by: flyingdutchman This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 9 19:46:28 2012

Ebay turns sellers' visibility on/off in order to give every seller 'some sales'.  Otherwise if you were a seller of a certain category and had the lowest prices all the time no other seller could compete with you and would thus give up trying to list/sell/use Ebay citing it as a failure.
Daily caps, daily views, 24 hour totals, 7 day, 120 totals, as well as allowed items to be sold in a 24 hour period have all been cited as unannounced limits on sellers.  
As a seller since 1997 on Ebay, I can attest that we experience success limits on Ebay that we never had experienced prior to stores in core and best match meanwhile our other sales avenues remain strong, growing and at record levels while our Ebay sales continue to decline.

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Wed May 9 23:21:16 2012

Ebafia does indeed manipulate gross daily, weekly, and monthly dollar sales volume and number of items sold through their algorithms.

This is why many sellers monthly sales volume remains the same regardless of how many items they have listed.

The ONLY way around this is to open one or more additional stores and then grin and bear the growing pains and the obnoxious buyers who prey on low feedback sellers and hope you can navigate through ebafia's alligators.

If -- and this is a big if -- a seller can manage and afford multiple stores, then it's the only I can figure out of evading the limits that ebafia ILLEGALLY places on seller accounts in order to channel business to favored sellers.

Ebafia is rotten to its putrid core, and the sociopathic piranhas and parasites who work there are nothing less than corporate criminals richly deserving of high level criminal prosecution.

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

by: slowsalesebay2012 This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 10 00:01:41 2012

since last year we had to endure 1-2 days without sales, and then when it sells, it will be that burst within that few hours. I think many sellers got this right?  until this year since mid april 2012, sales finally come to a halt. No sales for 5-6 days and then nothing...my views in ebay dropped by half...very drastic..how is it possible? If ebay is doing something sneaky behind for the past few months, may I kindly request for a refund of fees? this is fraud if they are manipulating views !!

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

by: innerpuppie This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 10 01:27:09 2012

For the past 24 hours I have not been able to get into Omniture to see what's taking place with my store. This is what I see when I click on the link in my store: http://pages.ebay.com/storefronts/traffic-reports-unavailable.html


Could
it be that eBay is blocking sellers from verifying what they already know - views and sales have tanked. I haven't had feedback in over seven days from any of my customers. The only sales I have had are from my own state, nothing else at all. They have a huge server issue or they are manipulating sales or they are having rolling blackouts or their programmers have a traffic wreck on their hands. I can handle just about anything but I absolutely hate being left in the dark and I hate being scammed. Right now I feel as though I am being scammed and ripped off and lied to by eBay.  Do they honestly think that we are dim-witted?  

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 10 06:34:57 2012

I am thinking about summarizing the various terms of our listings over which eBay has unilaterally taken control, mapping the effect on my sales, and framing a question to the California Attorney General as to whether eBay's oppressive requirements and standards now create an unlawful interference with contracts--or a restraint on interstate trade/commerce. After all, we have always been warned that every agreement to purchase is a binding contract.  

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

by: rooftop This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 10 09:09:14 2012

I have been a retailer for over 40 years and a I have an extremely good knowledge of the law of averages and I usually know when something is being manipulate by outside forces , I do find that something is very wrong with the sales patterns on eBay .
What I have noticed is that if I make a refund to a buyer through Paypal because the book was lost in the post , the sales usually go down about 90% or if a buyer emails me to say that the book has not arrived or the item is not as described because on rare occasions , the wrong title was sent or they got the right title but misread the listings , the sales also go down .
I have also noticed that I have to keep listing new titles because only a certain percentage of the stock that is listed is sold even though the stock is highly saleable and extra well priced .
I may be totally wrong but to me it seems the computer pre-calculates what your turnover should be for the month and it is a kind of rationing system so everyone gets a return depending on their ratings and stock levels .
Also what I have noticed is that because I have over 40 years bookselling experience , I am extremely careful in what I list and I will only list books that are in demand and very saleable yet I have noticed that other sellers without any bookselling experience who list books that are almost unsalable ends up at the end of the month with about the same sales as mine because their listing numbers are about the same as mine .
As a seller , I want my stock to sell through a natural process and I don't want stock sold through a manipulation process because I am only wasting my time and money listing items that wont sell .

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 10 10:21:00 2012

Throughout my 10 year on-line selling career at Amazon, Ebay, Half etc. there has been talk about rolling blackouts especially on Amazon and ebay. This is the first time someone has supplied visual proof. I am sure that ebay is manipulating views once someone gets to ebay in search of a widget, but I think it goes even deeper than that. I love selling on ecrater, but have also noticed over the last 2 years that sales tend to come in groups. For example I had 6 sales yesterday while on the 7th and 8th only one sale a piece and so far none yet today. The change became very noticeable whenever Google itself made huge public changes to their search as well. It was like falling off a cliff. I have been making my listings even more search friendly and yet monthly sales over the past 2 years are slowing decreasing to almost half of what they were 2 years ago. Without fees, ecrater has no incentive for manipulating searches and views. It is Google in the background rewarding sellers in some way on their own. You combine Google's changes (that pretty much everyone reported LOWER sales afterwards) and the way ebay is scamming its sellers and sure everyone is going to fall off the cliff at points.

Why these companies make these changes and fool around with people and their businesses is beyond me and how to actually fight it is difficult to figure out. I don't think that you can blame it ALL on ebay, but also blame Google. For those that are good at understanding tracking and stats, note if you can how your traffic is coming to your ebay site via google analytics or other similar sites. Is google part of the problem or is it my imagination as well?

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

by: Brainiac jones This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 10 10:34:38 2012

We don't sell things that the 'communist Chinese' sell, so we aren't in competition with them at all whch explains why we are still somewhat ok with our business model of selling comicbooks.

I can hardly doubt the assertion that eBay manipulates search through server blackouts and general software manipulation.

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

by: ebayjim This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 10 10:35:52 2012

@Moonwishes
I'm curious if you (or other sellers here) have seen similar things at Amazon. The verdict is out on Amazon as far as I am concerned, but it's real at eBay IMHO.

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

This user has validated their user name. by: thehosst

Thu May 10 10:56:22 2012

Hello Ina, we have reported this many times, we are 100% sure that eBay redirects traffic to someone, perhaps the top sellers, analyzing the traffic, clicks, visits or views ( however ebay wants to call it ) is not as bad as seeing the same pattern on orders/sales. This started to happen last year, we have many sites and marketplaces and we have been comparing the traffic and orders and this only happens on eBay, however, the number of feedbacks can show that big sellers have the same number of  consistent feedbacks, for small sellers, feedback numbers also change every 2 days, this is a 2 day pattern and is not a tech issue or to split traffic evenly among sellers, it is to give traffic to eBay top sellers. Google is now in the middle of a lawsuit because of traffic redirection and eBay should also be in one because in no part of the agreement says that we have to pay consistently but get a inconsistent sales ( well 2 days and 2 days ). eBay is really making every single mistake and ugly threat to small sellers, no big seller gets rolling reserve, threatening emails or 2 days of and on traffic, is not a good practice and we think that sellers united need to make sure that eBay stops this new nasty trick, our fees dollars are always 100% and not 80 cents value for 2 days and 100% for  2 days. Order numbers and feedback numbers is what will show you how this 2 day ( of any other pattern ) eBay is applying to your account. I really wish we can see a big seller account order numbers per day so you can see that they don't get this bad trick like the rest of us, the one who actually make marketplaces happen.  

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 10 11:27:06 2012

Heres the answer:

"Getting in on the ground floor of the initiative will help give PRO's "bricks-and-clicks" dealers higher priority on product searches, while helping eBay develop the CE category and change its image as strictly an auction site,"

eBay chooses who sees what, when. The lies that that Matt guy spouted are just that - lies.

http://www.twice.com/article/478777-PRO_Group_Partners_Wi
th_eBay.php

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 10 11:28:14 2012

Does eBay do this for YOU?

"The new pact is part of a larger initiative by eBay Electronics to build relationships with independent dealers and their vendors. Herschman said his company can help support the independent channel by sharing its 11 million CE enthusiast shoppers and providing e-tail services including store design, payment options, MAP tools, authorized dealer badges, and inventory management "

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 10 12:39:49 2012

>>@Moonwishes
I'm curious if you (or other sellers here) have seen similar things at Amazon. The verdict is out on Amazon as far as I am concerned, but it's real at eBay IMHO. <<

When I sold heavily on Amazon several years ago (I'm just sticking my toes back in the river so to speak now) my biggest sale day was Tuesdays. No explanation for it. I could go several days with no sales and then on Tuesdays I would be busy and then it slowly over time became Wednesday was my better day. I had no 'official' proof of this, but I know many sellers complained of rolling blackouts with Amazon and I thought some of them were just blowing smoke and of course they couldn't show statistically the proof. But my biggest proof of how ebay can manipulate sales was the 6 weeks that stores were in search. That period of time remains my best 6 weeks for sales ever and to have it chopped off because 'buyers didn't like it' is nonsense. Of course they liked it, otherwise why so many sales for so many of us. Buyers finally found us! Now I feel the same problem comes from google which used to bring in most of my sales and that is tumbling to the point that bing brings in 20% of my traffic and then other sources like my direct links. The traffic percentage changed the same time that google did the caffeine thing I think it was called.

Hard to know how to fight against search algorithms that we have no control over. I know ebay is a very sick venue and that is why I left it, but I think it is still possible to sell on Amazon and ecrater, but have to figure out how to fight the search engine monsters and those selling on ebay are fighting two different monsters.

Perminate Link for Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay   Seller Shows Strange Traffic Pattern on eBay

This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Thu May 10 12:48:47 2012

I may be misunderstanding how they're using the term, but you cannot have no change in impressions with a change in visitors unless they count visiting a store main page to be a visit and all the item pages to be an impression by that unique visitor. Even then, I'd find it hard to believe that impressions don't go down as visitors decrease. That would mean that when the number of unique visitors goes down, the ones that do come are doing more than the "normal" amount of browsing (impressions) to make up the difference. Utter nonsense.

I don't have a store, but in my auctions, I see this sort of thing all the time. Some weeks I'll have lots of hits and active bidding, other weeks, nothing. I'll have groups of sales to the same area - Australia sales, in particular, always seem to happen in clumps. It's weird.  I think I'll start tracking my image hits, since I also self-host my pictures.  

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by: BookBrowzers This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 10 13:09:46 2012

Yep - my eBay store is in a blackout right now.  It's pretty obvious; sales going like blockbusters, then nothing for a day or two...a complete & total tank. We'll be back to blockbusters shortly.  It's SO frustrating!!

For the person that said this doesn't happen anywhere else, it does happen on Amazon also. This is a forum thread started in 2002:  http://www.amazonsellercommunity.com/forums/thread.jspa?threadID
=77748&start=0&tstart=0
 Sellers have been talking about it for years.  The same pattern has happened to us many times (we've been selling there since 2001).

The other crazy thing is that once in awhile, all the orders that come in are located in one region...all of a sudden we're big on the east coast or the midwest with few other orders coming from anywhere else.  It's not always like that, but we've believed for a long time that Amazon will only show our listings to only one area for awhile...to limit site traffic, maybe...?

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by: AC_in_Mich This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 10 14:10:34 2012

What would be great would be if Ina got a group of people together from throughout the country and/or world who would be willing to search for, let's say, ten items a day using the same search terms and compare results.  I'd be willing!

AC

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by: mindelec This user has validated their user name.

Thu May 10 14:43:47 2012

i strongly suspect that ebay is constantly tinkering.  up until middle of april my sales were strong, better than last year, then suddenly several days without a sale and now a slow crawl back up.  whenever this happens i always feel that they have changed something or included me in some sort of "test" that i am on the losing end of.

after reading the report from the user above about calling and then seeing an uptick in sales, i'm tempted to do just that and see if there is any effect.

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