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

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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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by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 21:42:37 2019

If it's not % 'paid' determining promotion placement, then what determines PL sort & display order?

If 'everybody' promotes, then what will determine sort & display order?

If eBay has a UA that gives them tacit agreement to withold display of listings, what guarantees this won't happen to the N+1th listing paid for 'promotion', where N is the max they can reasonably display and still (practically) show the organics. What IS the value of N anyway?

Even money, not even eBay knows the answers to these questions. And if they do (read conjecture), double down that it won't 'mechanically' run clean.

And even if one slips past that gauntlett, there's a logic barrier insurmountable.

Promoted listings use unearned seller funds to simply form-factor what they have been doing ever since their first attemps to wrest control of seller's business - manipulate listings.

Thus, with no assurances of specific visibility (much less 'improvements' thereto), and no published benchmarks (much less measurable elements) by which to judge relative merit per option, there is no way to even define suitable ROI aspects for PL. Because that's already true for organics.

Anecdotally, perhaps some can be convinced of return, or at least define a (tolerable or not) profit cut achieved - after the fact. But those results will be different for all, and differ with each sample, because there can be no continuity without answers to the questions above, and to other's already asked.

Set aside any of that which you may dismiss as 'disgruntlement' on the face. Ignore if you can the predictably unforseen 'hampering' consequences be they caused by incompetence or apathy.

There is simply no fiscally sound business sense to employ PL. Then again, eBay operates on the premise their sellers don't have any to begin with.

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by: Smallseller This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 23 22:50:46 2019

I don't think the uproar over promoted listings is going to go away. It is all over the Ebay for Business Facebook page. The more it spreads over social media, the more people will end their promoted listings. I do not think that in this case you can say that negative publicity is better than no publicity. People are starting to speak with their wallets. And to feel like you are being threatened that if you do not use promoted listings, then your listings will not be seen is no way to do business. After all, if I do not make a sale, ebay does not get a final value fee. At some point, Ebay will have to start listening to its sellers, who are also its CUSTOMERS...

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

Mon Sep 23 23:31:18 2019

There are some updates posted on YouTube by the same guy featured in Ina's article and a couple of others. Brian Burke and other executives at eBay reached out to those guys to answer questions about this issue. I thought the followups were good. However, the powers at eBay must be very concerned if they spent their weekend reaching out to "the noise".

I guess we aren't noise anymore. Devin's Promoted Listings program might well fall apart before his very eyes.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Bill

Tue Sep 24 00:48:49 2019

Marty:

You have to click on the ABP symbol at the top to activate the blocking of the listings. I have done that on any adds and any promoted listings and now none show up.
You have to know how to use the APP to eliminate adds. In the old days it use to be pop-ups now with the CSS+ or what ever else they are using it is put on the actual page. You click on the ABP button and a drop box comes down you then click on the tab to block and then click on what you want blocked. It then asks if you want this block and you click yes and viola it disappears and you never see it again. When for something all I see are 2 lines in the flow and that it it.

It is not very hard and a lot of people do it with success so now your promoted listings will not be seen by a number of people who are real buyers.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 24 18:54:42 2019

eBay must be in DEEP doo doo if they have to reach out to the "genius's" on Youtube (You TOO can be an eBay MILLIONAIRE!) (Just watch us grab stuff at Goodwill for a buck and sell it on eBay for $35 (and hope you dont get a return!))

Lordy lord - its desperate times.

Maybe Burke should order rounds for everyone in San Jose and then take suggestions on how to fix the issue, or maybe just throw a dart at the wall and hope it lands on 2 or 3 words that you can lawyercate into eBays TOS to stop the hemorrhaging.

Burke claims he "Responsible for driving growth, improving the customer experience" Oh really?

He also claims "During the three years, team managed and grew 100+ eBay sellers who sold across all major categories and who accounted for over $500 million in annual eBay sales" ...... And every one else? Were they Chinese or Big Brands?

He got his Masters for the TV University Univ or Phoenix .... geez no wonder hes a failure.

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by: HadEnough This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 25 19:07:31 2019

Here I am thinking I might be selling without the promoted listing or maybe with it. Well somehow I missed the part explaining the situation or I would have removed all of my promoted listings. I have now removed promoted listings. I don't want to have to pay a fee to list the item then a selling fee of 9.9% plus the fee for promotion if it sells. Because its no longer 9.9 percent its going to be that plus because my organic listing has been removed. No that's not how it works in the real world. You have an item to sell you pay for advertising and if that ad produces the sale then you pay for the ad.Instead you just signed up for a new fee schedule. And one in which their are limited spots that have to be rotated meaning limited visibility and depending on time of day that can be a problem. The whole this is a mess and stinks like skunk. And the 2 percent for ad blocking. really? How did they come up with that data? LOL..Of course its 2% why would it be anything else otherwise that would compromise what they are trying to do. Reality is the ad block is way beyond 2% people are sick of ads at any level. People use other sites now to navigate ebays listings because its so messed up. I do because I know they are not showing me everything or what I really want. I use another site that can reveal what ebay has hidden and you really can find what you want by doing that. The first time I noticed this was a friend of mine had a Coleman Lantern up for auction and for the life of me I could not search and find it. I had to go to his account to actually find it. this is when I started looking for a different way to search ebay. They have fouled up their own search process. Insane. I think what ebay did was out of line for sure I have removed promoted listings and I had noticed when listing new things it honed right in on those things especially the high dollar ones. My energy level for Ebay is dropping I have started to put some focus on other reselling venues. My trust in Ebay is at the ground floor. I feel betrayed and I feel they are out for money and will tell me axactly what I want to hear which is the furthest from the actual truth. They can't even get seller metrics to work correctly. they cannot figure out how to deal with those who need to use drop off points for FedEx or for customers who are away and want you to hold the item and ship at a certain date. They have not even got that straight yet and here they are messing around with this. I am tired, I am aggravated and this has become more work than ever having to call them all of the time, having my seller metrics trashed for crap that isn't even true. I have Had Enough!

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by: Popcorn1871 This user has validated their user name.

Sat Sep 28 09:50:03 2019

eBay in my opinion have really outdone themselves this time with promoted listings.
They have simply shown how little they care about not only the seller but the buyers also.
We have sold on eBay for years and despite numerous ventures up the corporate greed ladder, eBay have never really reached the top until now. Why do I consider it to be now, because the seller is being overcharged at the same point the buyer is probably overpaying. A total disregard for everyone involved in their marketplace apart from eBay themselves.

For example if I have a non sponsored listing deep down at position 267 within my search category, I can double the price of this item, add 40% sponsorship on and climb a miraculous 266 places to the number one spot! Who wins from this scenario, not me as my profits are the same, certainly not the customer as they have paid double the price of what the item was if they had purchased it 5 minutes earlier and they have the cheek to relay this to the customer as a ‘best match’.
Yep it certainly is a best match for someone and we all know who that is!!!!

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