Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sat Sept 21 2019 17:06:47

eBay Admits New Promoted Listing Policy Can Hamper Visibility

By: Ina Steiner

Sponsored Link

eBay was forced to admit that a new policy that went into effect this month can result in listings getting zero visibility in search results, though it disputed the scale of the impact.

The issue arose when an online-selling guru named Don, aka The Auction Professor, posted a YouTube video with a blunt message for eBay sellers: "If you do Promoted Listings, I would honestly recommend ending them all right now." 

He said some ad blockers used by shoppers to block ads across the Internet were blocking eBay Promoted Listing ads, and because eBay now only shows a listing once - either the Promoted Listing or the organic listing - those buyers using ad blockers might never see a seller's listing. 

eBay announced the new policy on September 4th calling it "Removal of duplicated promoted and non-promoted listings in search" and explaining, "If you are using Promoted Listings, only one of your listings, either promoted or non-promoted will appear in a given set of search results, giving buyers a cleaner, more relevant search experience." eBay did not give sellers advance warning, and the policy is troublesome in and of itself.

But as the Auction Professor pointed out, if an ad blocker blocks a seller's Promoted Listing in a particular search, that listing would never be seen by the shopper in that search result. 

The video went viral - numerous readers sent us the link, and The Auction Professor later shared that it was the victim of a "massive hate filled comment attack" after another YouTube channel posted what he said was a "a BS video about me."


However, the head of eBay Seller Experience left a comment on the video confirming the Auction Professor's claim that if a Promoted Listing was blocked by an ad blocker, the listing would have zero visibility in search (or rather, not disputing the fact). Harry Temkin's wrote the following in his comment on the Auction Professor's video:

"I am the Head of Seller Experience for eBay, and I appreciate your video and everyone's comments.  I would like to provide some feedback - Ad blockers generally are intended to block intrusive ads (like pop-ups) that disrupt the user experience. We have designed our Promoted Listings ads to align natively with our site experience, and most ad blockers do not block that sort of non-intrusive content. However, there are a host of ad blockers on the market, and each maintains its own user settings and policies distinguishing between intrusive ads and acceptable native content. Currently, our data suggests that promoted listings are being blocked for less than 2% of traffic. Like other marketplaces and social networks, we are constantly evaluating our user experience and our advertising programs, including the impact of ad blocker software on the content we make available."

While it may be concerning to sellers that some ad blockers block Promoted Listings, the real problem is the new eBay policy. After all, if you do a Google search for "eBay green hats," you'll see an ad for an eBay listing selling a green hat, followed by organic results for green hats on eBay. If Google decided that "either promoted or non-promoted will appear in a given set of search results, giving buyers a cleaner, more relevant search experience," it seems assured eBay would object.

Here's a link to information about the new eBay policy that it sprung on sellers this month. The fact that eBay has been reaching out to numerous selling gurus on YouTube to try and clarify the issue indicates it may be feeling the effect of sellers cancelling their Promoted Listing ads. eBay is counting on advertising for revenue growth - and it seems sellers have gotten their attention.

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Readers Comments

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This user has validated their user name. by: NoMoreEbay

Sun Sep 22 16:22:31 2019

If ebay is only showing one listing, isn't a promoted listing now just a 'listing' that is getting blocked. Why on earth would sellers continue to promote listings?

Relative to this topic. I would like to see ebay stop jerking around with every single aspect of the buying experience including the search engine and simply show all listings based on the search words. Buyer's can then filter down with the many options that are already available.

But there's no extra money in that. No money grabs to be had. Just an honest search result. ebay wants no part of anything they can't monetize no matter how much damage it does to the platform and it's customers.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 22 22:26:38 2019

This whole thing is SO screwed up.

I think we all know the truth - eBay had NO IDEA things like this were happening, because they never tested/just dont care.

eBay is about ADVERTISING not selling - idiots like Brian (he calls himself BRAIN Burke) has no clue how ad blockers work.

eBay is "so worried" about buyer experience(s) that they listing page itself is a total mess.

If that Brain guy is head of "seller experience" then hes doing just a slightly better job with it then a dead racoon (road kill), since most sellers hate everything he does (what little there is).

The days of selling broken laser pointers is long over - eBay should just call itself Advertisingbay and not even bother.

Based on the lunacy with sponsored listings and the upcoming pay per click garbage - regular listings will NEVER get seen!

Pay per click has damaged the industry in the past and eBay thinks its Google.

Thank god I have a 9-5 job and no longer rely on eBay. If I sell something, then wonderful, if not then not.

eBay wont fix it - it gets them money with out having to show a listing - PURE profit!

Sad that eBay has come to this.

(Hard to believe that all the Youtube eBay genius's still think these ideas are a good thing - with people like Roots even taking calls from eBay and not telling them to stop all the garbage. Theres no way he paying Promoted ad prices for his Goodwill stuff !)

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by: mjr55 This user has validated their user name.

Sun Sep 22 23:40:14 2019

@unsuckebay

Agreed, they absolutely should display organic search results at all times. However, we know that ship sailed long ago. Plus, Amazon does this same thing....their search is even worse than Ebay's when it comes to this.

Again, I never had an issue with promoted listings showing up in search results.....even twice on on the same page, even if those two times are right next to each other.

Again, lots of you complained about this for some stupid reason.....and then Ebay has done something about it, and you don't like it. That is my issue....the fact that you guys know when you complain about something, you know if Ebay actually does something to fix it....98% of the time it makes the whole situation worse than if they had just left it alone.

You guys had to cry about having to see a PL and the normal listing on the same page of results....so now Ebay said "we will fix that" by basically making sure the PL is the ONLY one that shows (meaning you WILL pay that PL fee now).

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by: comments This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 00:01:39 2019

The best solution was always to show no more then one result per page rather then one per search result, but this was a change does in typical ebay fashion where a green light was given before anyone actually stopped to think of the consequences. A promoted listing on page 1 and an organic listing on page 2 is enough to prevent buyer confusion.  

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by: Jeff12671 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 00:56:56 2019

This whole promoted listing thing which the online marketplaces have come up with as a new revenue stream is really canabalistic and self-defeating for the sellers in my opinion. From our experience, I tried promoted listings rather extensively last year in hopes of building sales and built some algorithms to compute optimal ad rates per listing and at one point I was running a good part of last year at about a 10% average rate across all of our listings which I had determined was optimal in terms of net profitability. You can imagine how that affected the monthly Ebay bill. The Ebay supplied metrics looked great, running at 10% really generated a lot of impressions, clicks & sales according to their metrics. Then a few months ago here on Ecommerce Bytes I saw a brief mention in some comment from a user that they only ran promoted listings at 1% because the rate seemed to make no difference in their sales. That intrigued me so I tried dropping my rates from  about the 10% average level to a flat 1% across all of our 2500+ listings and lo and behold the Ebay metrics showed no perceptible change whatsoever in impressions, clicks and sales. I'm glad I did it and found out the ad rates really don't seem to make any material differnece but I was also kind of mad, I felt I had wasted a lot of money over the course of the previous year needlessly giving it to Ebay for advertising that would have provided the same results for a small fraction of what I had been paying. Tonite, after reading this story and comments I'm just going to drop the promoted listings all together. It would be hard to test but I really wonder if they make any meaningful difference on sales at all. You have to keep in mind that any Ebay sale that supposedly is the result of a promoted ad might have occured anyway without the ad in which case your just throwing money down the drain. The counter-argument of course is that well your better off with them than without them. I think it really depends on the type of listings your running. If your listings are selling items that fairly hard to find or unique people will find you anyway with or without the ad and most of our listings fall into that kind of category. Also, this new policy of now not running the organic listings when a promoted one is served I would have think is going to cause issues with any type of indexing search engines (i.e., Google). We have good listings with good prices and we have a good reputation and I don't think we really need these ads after all, people will find our listings assuming they are being served. The whole idea behind promoted listings is kind of flawed anyway, if it created a bigger revenue pie for sellers that would be one thing, but I kind of really doubt it does. Instead, the pie stays the same size and the only thing different is that sellers are voluntarily lining up to give Ebay a bigger slice of pie but the pie is no bigger. Anyway, that's my 2 cents. I think we're done now all together with the Ebay promoted listings for now unless I can be persuaded otherwise. Also, I hope everyone enjoyed my pie analogy. If I wasn't on this low carb diet I'm on presently I think I would seek some out.

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by: Paul W This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 02:08:41 2019

So if I pay extra to sell an item it gets shown once.  If I don't pay extra it still gets shown once.
Seems the extra payment is about as effective as throwing one's money into a wishing well.

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by: marty This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 04:45:23 2019

to Bill:
I am using FF and Adblock Plus and I do see promoted listings. Even a few of my own when I search. Looking at my promoted listings chart, I don't see any difference between a number of clicks before sept 4 and after sept 4.

I used to use 2x the promotion rate (20%) and gradually I was reducing it in March to 5%, April 4%, May 3%, June 2% and July 1%   I used to sell 24% of items via promoted sale and as I was reducing the promotion % my sell thru rate went to current 27%.

I do sell unique items so my experience may not be universal.  I used to experiment with turning the promotion on/off (even before the said video, which I heard of  now for the first time) and I got obviously fewer sales as my sell thru promotion rate has been consistent 24-27%.

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by: lancecorp This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 05:41:35 2019

I'm wondering how long your sponsored listings are actually visible as there are only so many on a page and with so many promoting these days - they would have to be rotated. When your sponsored listing isn't showing - is your organic listing back in que? Also from what I've been told - just because you sponsor a listing doesn't mean that it is seen in Ebay search - it may very well be displayed on a FB page or in someone else's listing as related sponsored items. Do these ever appear in regular search or are they relegated to only be seen if a buyer clicks on that other seller's listing? There are a lot of questions yet to be answered.

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by: hawk This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 07:16:37 2019

it would be so nice just to get some fresh air , with just a tiny bit of honesty from these corp slugs.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: epuise

Mon Sep 23 08:38:37 2019

Seller on eBay since 1998 - there are only TWO types of Sellers -selling- and paying their bills (exclude anyone giving away 99 cents auctions w/ one bid who lose money)... The only two types making a living are: 1) Sellers with hundreds-thousands of followers = makes an Auction = 2 or more bidders - and 2) Sellers with multi-quantity in-demand listings... stuff people buy, use, & buy again... You CANNOT build followers on eBay any more as a 'general merch' Seller... e.g. - vintage/antique 'stuff'... I gave stuff away for 3 years... I gained ONE follower & am now at '36'... Many may have left or died... Who knows... Congrats to you lucky ones... Or those in the 'rare niche' market who got big money to buy the stuff the top 20% can still afford... The rest of us are starving... Not that anyone cares... Our wretched bodies, as the 'president' says... are destroying the beautiful Real Estate the wealthy pay good money for.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 10:00:28 2019

The entire sponsored listing thing is a scam.

Theres no definitions for anything.

If you "pay up to The Norseman" to (maybe) be seen theres only 5 spots on the page for those listings :

How often are you seen?

In which listings are you seen

In which categories are you seen (is a sweater in "sweaters" outerwear or winter garments or in all of them?)

Is this visibility (or lack thereof) based on how much you spent or is any amount "a boost"?

Is there a message that says "you only paid up %1, seller XYZ spent %5 and WILL be seen - please send more money to be seen"?

Theres a 1000 more questions that need answering - where is Brain Burke and the crack 15,000 eBay employees ?????????

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by: Mamak This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 10:39:16 2019

there's only 5 spots on the page for those listings

I beg to differ with this statement as the day the videos on the topic came out I tallied the promoted vs organic listings in a group of items I sell   and I had  11, 9 and 9 promoted listings showing on 3 pages of 200 items per page.  So what the person from ebay stated may not be accurate at only 5 per page.  It might be 5 on top of the page and other sponsored items below.  The mix was approximately a 50/50 split of organic vs promoted listings showing on each page.  Then I reduced my % from above trending to 1% and the promoted listings stopped showing as sponsored but still remained showing the same amount of listings on each page.   Then last night I removed promotions on the entire group and checked this morning and the unpromoted listings all are still in the same placement.  Perhaps this will change as the 30 days expire on the items  items that were clicked.  Will be watching this.  As of now my items which are eligible for sending best offers at about 20 when normal was at 40-60 when I promoted.  

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 11:28:34 2019

"there's only 5 spots on the page for those listings"

Please correct me if Im wrong ...

The NUMEROUS Youtube eBay "experts" (the ones who arent millionaires but for a fee will gladly tell YOU how to be one) swear that its only 5 spaces.

If its more then its more, if its less then its less .....

I dont do sponsored listings, I refuse to buy anything from anyone who does (if you support the Norseman - who's sole goal in life to is screw my fellow sellers and myself) then I cant support you, so I have no idea.

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This user has validated their user name. by: unsuckEBAY
Web Site

Mon Sep 23 11:35:10 2019

Re: ''5 promoted per page''

We can't say this was rigorously tested, but the half-dozen or so times we checked in the past year or so prior to this change, promoted listings ('sponsored') pattern for default search results (again, all default settings in the little gear cog) displayed as:

OLD
Promoted Listing search result pattern:
1,[4,5], [15,16],[24,25],[39,40],[60,61]
(total of 61 results on 50 page display)

The new display pattern appears to consistently tuck a promoted listing in both 1st and 2nd slot in search results:

NEW (current?)
Promoted Listing search result pattern:
[1,2],[15,16],[24,25],[39,40],[59,60]
(total of 60 results on 50 page display)

Would be curious if anyone observes a different pattern?

Did we mention this was with ALL DEFAULT SEARCH SETTINGS (and of course on a fresh ''private browsing'' window).

~~~~~~~~~~~

@mjr55 said, ''Again, I never had an issue with promoted listings showing up in search results.....even twice on on the same page, even if those two times are right next to each other''

That's a valid opinion plenty of other sellers shared. But more importantly buyers were vocal about the issue.

''That is my issue....the fact that you guys know when you complain about something...''

One of the only things eBay reacts to is customer revolt (and bad publicity), but you're welcome to keep biting the pillow when Wenig comes knocking.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

@Mamak, thanks for your replies re: Promoted Listings & Best Offers. If you are inclined we'd love to connect with you in order to bounce a couple things off you (and to include anyone else interested) you can connect on Twitter at the link above or email unsuckebay@protonmail.com.

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by: Mamak This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 13:34:03 2019

So I try to come up with ways to measure success and failures in making business decisions and did some number crunching today on impressions shown in the Performance area of the hub.  First I looked at the percentage of clicks received per impression on a monthly basis.  I found it ranged between 12% -15% plus one month was 18%.  That info didn't help tell my story of decreased impressions that have been happening this year even though I keep the same amount of items and until this last weekend all were promoted.  What I found was the following
Average impressions per day
Jan  24576
Feb 25087
March 25986
April 21961 - Mid month we were forced on GTC listings
May  18606
June 19758
July 17221
August 16840
Sep 14202  average per day from 1st to 19th

I look forward to seeing the statistics on the next few days exposure once the dates that I made some adjustments to my promotions are released.  I am currently not promoting anything as of last night.  No sales today so far.  

Does anyone know the exact date the change to promotions was made on ebay?  

I do understand why people call eBay a sinking ship after going through this exercise but I do not have the right merchandise that can be sold on Amazon.  I hate Poshmark, Mercari was slow for me so maybe I need to find a job after being self employed since 1989 and selling online since 1997.  Would still like to figure out a map for success.  

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by: I Must be Crazy This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 15:15:00 2019

Seems they have really stepped in it this time. I can now see why my sales numbers have gone so erratic, and down, this month. Just after eBay announced they would exclude the duplicate appearance of listings in search, I noticed my sales dropped of organic listings. Promoted listings have kept my sales even with last year. I expected an increase over last year. But lately things have turned and I watched the video in the article. Watched a couple of others. Seems eBay is hiding many of the organic listings in favor of promoted listings. That's not a surprise. The problem, is the ad blockers are blocking the promoted listings. So if the organic listing has been excluded, to show the promoted listing, BOTH could be eliminated if the buyer has an ad blocker turned on.

I cancelled all of my Promoted Listings today. I expect my sales numbers will get back to ''normal''. (Reminds me of the failed Guaranteed Delivery program, where my listings didn't appear if any of the filters were applied. Once I opted out, sales went back to normal.)

What is it going to take for eBay to realize that they need to just get out of the way. The solution is very simple: STOP trying to manipulate search results. Organize a true, organic platform that delivers the results buyers are looking for. Stop with the various limits, levers and throttles that are in place which have done nothing but stifle sellers and eBay's sales results. If it means dusting off and updating Voyager, then do it. Throw Cassini in the trash.

Forget about Promoted LIstings. It is another eBay failure that is going to yield little to nothing in the end. JUST LIKE every other scheme and program that eBay has introduced. Seemed like a good idea, poorly executed. AGAIN.

My sales are flat year to year. I can select almost any period of months, compare to the same period one and two years earlier, and my sales totals are less than a 1% variance up or down. It is statistically impossible to be a random occurrence. I know I have figured out some methodology because I can predict most every days' sales, barring technical glitches (which are almost every 2 or 3 days anymore). In the last 2 years I have added 30 day returns, free returns, and now promoted listings. Not to mention have doubled the number of items listed for sale. All for a less than 1 percent increase in sales.

Nothing eBay can say will convince me they haven't jacked up their system to keep most sellers' listings suppressed most of the time. It is not a conspiracy theory; it is a fact.

Ebay's own results support it. Negative GMV growth in an ecommerce market that grows by double digits.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 15:28:31 2019

"why people call eBay a sinking ship"

Because the company was "built" on the premise that you have control over what eBay has said MANY MANY times "is YOUR business" - but it seems that the exact opposite is true.

As well, the more eBay says, the less they actually tell you.

I dont begrudge eBay wanting to make money - but it has to come before breaking the company, before theft from sellers etc and not AFTER.

On todays eBay - how can anyone - sponsored or not - know what and when their listing is showing? Why is it a guessing game? Why does eBay lie cheat and steal and yet never get called on it.

If you pay for a service, BY LAW (aka "black letter law") you should be able to get answers as to when the item you paid for - or service - will be delivered ... except on eBay (cause you agree to being ripped off in the TOS).

Please lets not say that the idiot Burke didnt know that this was going to explode in his lap - its that he doesnt care. "eh by our calculations its only %2 who are effected so its a nothing burger".

An idiot with that large of a salary doesnt know about Adblockers? What rock is he living under?

As for the double listings - yes IM ONE OF THE GUYS that complained that getting 2 listings one on top of the other is ripping off the system and sellers like myself. You pay to promote your listing not get a second one.

Duplicate listings are just that .... duplicate

Someone here posted "well what do you want eBay to do"... Ok heres an answer. Lay off the scotch at Walkers, stop putting profits and sloppy programming in front of sellers and get some of the useless 15k+ employees do SOMETHING and fix the listing page AND search.

Its not not much to ask is it?

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by: lancecorp This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 17:09:21 2019

Ebay said that there were to be between 1-5 sponsored listings at the top of the page - which usually there are. I just did a search now - 1 st page - 1 promoted listing - there were 7 more mixed throughout the 50 items presented on the page. Page 2 - again 50 items - 5 promoted listings at the top with 8 more mixed throughout the other listings.

When clicking on a non sponsored listing - there are 12 sponsored listings shown below the actual non sponsored item. So if I happen to be sponsored - am I seen in regular search mixed in somewhere with all the other listings or am I only seen if someone clicks into a listing and then sees the sponsored listings below?

If indeed Ebay has been following this to make the correct announcement of it only affecting 2% of buyers - than they knew there was a problem all along and have done nothing to fix it. And they didn't say they were going to fix it. MP is their first priority and why the other technical teams are all skeleton crews.

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by: Mamak This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 17:15:28 2019

AVERAGE IMPRESSIONS PER DAY
               2019     2018
January 24576     24741
February 25087     26896
March 25986     26667
April        21961     21651
May      18606     17781
GTC implemented              Took Away Markdowns
June 19758    18017
July        17221    16758
August 16840     22765 Gave Back Markdowns
Sept        14202     22145
Limited Promoted listing 1st to 19th this year average - will update at month end
Same amount of listings as last year.  Every time they mess with something this happens.  This looks like it is sinking - if you saw the correlating sales created by fewer impressions and higher costs to sell on eBay.  

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by: Mark4 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 18:18:16 2019

Promoted Listing are a waste of time, most buyers have learned by now to install a simple AD Blocker. We use google chrome, when ebay started manipulating search results when one searches for lowest price, ebay tries to trick buyers by placing highest cost "sponsored listings" first. Ad blocker removes these.

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