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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Readers Comments

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

by: 10 year seller This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 9 11:10:32 2012

I think they do this intentionally  because they have too many sellers and not enough buyers.

They want to limit the confusion over too many choices.
They should have divided the site between new items verses used vintage and collectibles.

Ebay Express would have been a good idea if they had done it in an organized logical manner.

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 11:12:23 2012

I've been having the same issues and numerous calls to eBay customer service have not changed a thing.

I find it strange that I'll have several days of normal traffic, 6-10 sales, then the next two or three days my traffic and sales are non-existent.

This does not happen anywhere else I sell. On Amazon, my lowest days are about 5 sales, highest 10-15 but it's always consistent. With eBay, forget about it. Sales usually seem to throttle around the time fees are due but the rest of the month is pathetic.

Another thing about eBay is that the # of views they show you in your ''Active Listings'' does not match the Omniture stats by a longshot. I host my images on my own server, so I can also run stats there, which match the Omiture stats, not eBay's.

You'd think eBay could get something as simple as a hit counter (a fifth grader could code) correct. I hear a lot of eBay numbles on the discussion boards sayng the stats are a known glitch but when we're paying for traffic, glitches that report inaccurate figures are simply not acceptable and allowing this deceit to go on for years is borderline criminal.

eBay needs to be fully investigated by the FTC for deceptive business practices.

There's no doubt they're manipulating traffic and sales in a manner that is unethical and probably grounds for class action.  

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

by: 10 year seller This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 9 11:27:46 2012

I remember when they allowed  regular sellers to buy a certain gallery featured option. They said they wouldn't guarantee that your item would show in search. They were selling a spot as if it were the lottery.
Wasn't that search manipulation? Or was it an inability to control search?

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: Anonymous Annie

Wed May 9 11:41:39 2012

If the graph was for SALES figures, then it could easily be attributed to something as simple as people getting paid on the 1st or the 15th of the month.

But seeing that it's merely traffic... then it's certainly a curious phenomenon that the pattern would be so regular.

With regard to MY sales, the only anomaly that I spot is that I'll sometimes get a noticeable ''spike'' in sales from a particular state (or a particular region of the country).

I guess I haven't paid close enough attention to notice a regular pattern, however.

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

by: Scotty This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 9 11:43:10 2012

I have written extensively about this as well over the past couple years.  My guess is it is server capacity as well as tiered preferential servers (i.e. those who are on a server with the pipeline open all the time and the rest of us in line with varying patterns of visibility).  There is no doubt in my mind this is what they are doing....  My pattern (and I have been charting them for 2 years....are similar to the OP's....and that is statistically impossible for it to be a coincidence....as the only way it would match is it it is a systematic process they have instituted).  And to make matters worse, I have benchmarked/highlighted spots wherein it appeared to become even worse....and it turned out to be verified.  I have had ZERO store sales in 6 days now as of today...this has never happened before....so my guess is they cranked it up yet another notch last week sometime (at least for me).  If they cannot get you with the TSR/DSR junk....they will try to strangle you financially via this visibility madness.  Anyone who works in IT in this area (and reviews random users visibility patterns as per the OP's, will tell you this is not normal....the technical term is called ''throttling''.  I truly hate ebay.

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: TrentDep

Wed May 9 12:31:47 2012

The only surprising thing about this is that the info is so readily available... One might think eBay would make it more difficult to get this analytic...

I might also question why this company even maintains a store on eBay - 1200 listings and you are 7 pages deep?...  I think I'd be looking for a refund and closing up...

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

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 9 14:05:52 2012

"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."

Huh?????

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

by: EssexEstateServices This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 9 14:06:24 2012

We only run auctions but sometimes see very strange patterns. For example, 2 weeks ago we saw hardly and hits on our view counters, no pre-close bidding and a very low percentage of auctions ending with bids (like 15%).  Last week we ran the same auctions, had lots of viewing traffic, plenty of early bids and over a 50% close rate with active competitive bidding. No bad weather, no holidays, no blockbuster TV or sports programming.

Go figure ......  

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.

Wed May 9 14:18:56 2012

Today I made note that all of my packages went to the East Coast. Late last week they went to the Southwest. About a week earlier all packages were addressed to the Pacific Northwest. Add to that the fact that some days the only sales I have are to my home state and you begin to think that something 'smells' at eBay. Rolling blackouts, to me, are a fact - not something that is a figment of the sellers' imagination. Sadly, the fact that eBay finds it acceptable to lie to the very folks who are 'supporting' it - the sellers - is pathetic. I can't help but think/imagine the volume of sales I would have (year round) if my listings had continuous exposure to all 50 states.

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

by: Another Coin This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 9 14:29:13 2012

Recently when revising a listing there was absolutely NOTHING in the description box and when clicking to preview. I mean NO description and NO photos, NOTHING! My views and watches for my listings were either low or with most at ZERO. I called CS and of course they could see my listings in My eBay. Now it gets alarming - the CS when doing a search with the exact titles could not see some of my listings. By the way this was both in auctions and in fixed. When doing the search the CS got a yellow alert flag and the message ''some of your search results may not be found''. She said there was a link or box stating ''show more results''. I am not sure of the exact wording since I could not see what she was seeing.

Another strange find in auctions is on the rare occasion I have a lot of watchers on one listing and no bidding on the last day. Seems unlikely on a hot, valuable item not one bid all day long and nothing last minute. Several different bidders all week and the item selling far lower than expected.

When, IF, items do sell I have also found buyers from the same locations with the majority from CA.  

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.

Wed May 9 14:40:27 2012

I just caught up here--I only hope eBay doesn't now (1) prohibit sellers from using their own servers (that would be me, too); and (2) once they know their analysis tools are exposing them, eBay will start selling the tools for a very high fee. Scott makes good sense to me. :)

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

by: Another Coin This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 9 14:56:49 2012

Also, several listings recently when I was searching would show only the gallery photo and when scrolling down no descriptions or additional photos. Makes me think this is geared to mobile users and they are only seeing the photo. Not good especially with eBays perpetually changing return policy.

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: Ed Gadfly

Wed May 9 15:33:38 2012

(Sung to the tune of Maria, from West Side Story)

Cassini...
Life ruled by a search called Cassini.
My stuff you can not view.
It happens too, to you.
Hide me...
Cassini.

Sales ruled by a bot called Cassini.
This really is not fair.
No one in charge will care.
Screw me...
Cassini.

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: Rexford

Wed May 9 15:36:16 2012

I keep praying for the day that a whistleblower at eBay will sing like a bird.  There is no doubt in my mind that this is going on.

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 15:41:24 2012

My intention is not be mean here, but honestly, anyone who thinks these traffic and sales patterns are "glitches" and that ebafia isn't fully aware of them is naive.

Ebay's algorithmic search system deliberately creates these abnormal patterns, and that's EXACTLY how ebafia wants it. This search system -- with a "new and improved" version (Cassini) waiting in the wings -- is doing exactly what ebafia wants it to do.

Its primary purpose is to give the Diamonds and the Communist Chinese 100% exposure 24/7/365. If you happen to sell in a category without Diamonds and the Communist Chinese, the search and tiered server system as Scotty has been pointing out for some time will still make you disappear at certain times and allow limited, geographically centered visibility at other times.

Through their manipulated search, ebafia is making sure that YOU and your "noise" won't be to successfully compete against these Diamonds and Communists thus making them more profitable and more likely to continue selling on ebafia. Ebafia doesn't care whether YOU sell there or not.

Sellers are wasting their time complaining to ebafia. For Pete's sake, ebafia created this system and they're going to do absolutely nothing but give us "noise" the runaround and anything but the truth.

Instead, expend your energy calling/snail writing the FTC and your state's attorney general's consumer protection division.

ALWAYS remember that when it comes to ebafia:

Ming's ebay Law #1:

EBAY LIES. ALWAYS HAS, ALWAYS WILL.

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

by: Scotty This user has validated their user name.

Wed May 9 16:01:18 2012

@Rexford....my thoughts exactly as I have wondered the same thing for quite some time.  I cannot believe there is not a disgruntled someone in IT or elsewhere that can blow the lid off of this travesty.  Personally, I would pay a handsome sum to that person for info that could prove our suspicions.  Here's irony for you.....we should set up a ''donation'' account (in Paypal no less...) to accrue a nice sum or ''reward'' for anyone that comes forward with demonstrable proof with regards to the visibility manipulation and then make that info public.  As Ming has pointed out many times....the only thing ebay is fearful of is ''bad press''....and that would definitely fit the bill.  Seriously though, of all the topics discussed on this blog over the years, to me, this is by far the most important malfeasance instituted by ebay as it is a ''silent killer'' of sellers and needs to be seriously addressed.  

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: Ric

Wed May 9 16:27:22 2012

IMO, the elimination of Best Match would solve all the issues.

No more algorithms, no more elevations or demotions, no more eBay favoritism, fewer glitches and unexplainable anomalies.  The best part??? Elimination of Best Match would save eBay millions of dollars which are currently expended to develop, maintain, tweak, revise, jigger, finagle and otherwise manipulate search results.

In fact, there should be no default search method. The system should permit buyers to set the search method they prefer when they enter their search term. Contrary to what eBay may believe, buyers would not find the added step inconvenient or confusing, they would consider it enhanced personalization.

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.

Wed May 9 16:53:57 2012

As with everything else eBay, its all smoke and mirrors. If you believe ONE word that Matt guy told you - then you are dumber then a box of rocks.

eBay is a multicountry, multimillion dollar corporation. EVERYTHING they do is on purpose and is calculated.

I experience it too - sometimes my sales are great - sometimes its as if Ive fallen off the face of the earth - and I generally carry the same things over and over. In actuality the number of listings I have has grown so MATT is full of it.

Its manipulation plain and simple. eBay has said over and over and over and over (and I repeat it here over and over) that they ONLY care about the large Platinums, the manufactorers, and the Chinese Megasellers.

JD said it at CES, Noah said it in Twice Magazine. Its ''straight from the horses mouths'' so theres no longer any argument about it. If you dont get sales, its because you arent being listed/shown in the right place. I have items that Im cheapest on, Im a gold seller, trs, and a powerseller - and my items are on the bottom of a page, listed after people who arent any of those, whose prices are higher and with worse return policies.

It happens all the time - but Im used to it. I dont expect anymore that eBay is honest, platform neutral or that they even give a crap about me as a seller.

I dont know how Cassini works, I just know its skewed.

At least on Amazon, everyone knows the deal. FBA goes first, then the lowest price - by %2 and you get the box (if Amazon isnt in the SKU).

With eBay its smoke and mirrors ... and of course LIES.

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: basset

Wed May 9 16:58:25 2012

Since way back when I first visited this site & y'all were talking about rolling blackouts, I started to pay attention & I believe it happens. Also, I have noticed the issues "another coin" mentioned. IMO, it has something to do with eBay being slow at times. For example, I have relisted an item & later found out it did not "pull" the content or some of the photos from the ended listing. It has only happened a few times, but I find I have to spot check active listings a bit more - to find out you paid for a "blank" listing creates a bit of paranoia. The issue with the pictures comes & goes. It was doing what "coin" describes for a couple days, then went back to normal for me.
  Sadly, I just pass it off as another 'normal' occurance at eBayland. Its like living with a dysfunctional person.  

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: basset

Wed May 9 17:00:20 2012

Oh, Ed, Now I'll never get that song out of my head tonight!

Good lyrics!

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