This month we've been reporting on the emails eBay has been sending to sellers warning them to remove contact information and links from their listings. There's a lot of confusion and concern, and sellers have until mid-October to bring their listings into compliance.
We turned to a third-party developer who was helpful when sellers were similarly concerned about eBay's ban on Active Content earlier this year
The developer behind Shipscript, who prefers to be called Ship, is not an eBay employee and has been creating eBay tools for the past 15 years. You can visit Shipscriptâ€™s eBay Tools section
of the ISDNtek.com website to learn more.
Ship said there were a few reasons for the confusion - one is that eBay's warning letters said the seller's listings contained contact information - "Of course, my listings don't contain contact info, so they must mean something else, and we determined they mean offsite links."
"To add to the confusion, eBay's Seller Hub tool may provide guidance that differs from their Description Checker." Ship provided an example of that scenario along with some advice on how to deal with it:
As an example: The guidance in Seller Hub has identified 4 of my listings with "Contact info" of type "Link". I opened one of those listings with eBay's Description Checker and there are three tabs: Mobile Friendly, Active Content, and Non-Compliant Links.
The "non-compliant link" tool is looking for target="_blank" and will fix that issue. But that is not the only issue with the link in my listing.
The link is also non-compliant because it points to my website, but the Description Checker does not report that. So when I let the Description Checker fix the target in my link, the Seller Hub is still reporting a "Contact info" problem of type "Link" because my off-site link is still there. And that has sellers perplexed.
I think the best solution for perplexed sellers is to open the listing within my Sandbox tool and let that tool tell them what is wrong. The "Markup" tab on that tool will highlight and color-code the exact phrase within the HTML that requires attention.
The tool will not locate real contact info because it assumes the seller knows whether or not they put their own phone number or email address in the listing.
But that's not the end of the saga, according to Ship, who says it's amazing what gets into listings that sellers don't realize, and points to third-party providers as one of the biggest source of external links that sellers will have to remove.
"In many cases, the links are within widgets that the providers plan to update, so some sellers can relax if their providers are updating for them."
However, many sellers stop using third-party services but continue to use "sell similar" to relist, meaning the code can live on in their listings. Ship even pointed to old PayPal logos as causing problems! Ship advises sellers to get rid of the entire block of PayPal code if they had added it before the split from eBay.
And then there are what Ship calls, "the bizarre issues." Believe it or not, browsers and Microsoft apps such as Word can interpret 10-digit part numbers as a phone number.
"MS Office tools are so full of setup codes that look like Active Content and Contact info that I usually advise those sellers to write their text in Notepad or Wordpad and then use eBay's editor to style the text, making it ten times cleaner and eBay-compliant as well," Ship said.
"Because these advanced editing tools can make other types of clickable links, we are now warning sellers with clever browsers to pay attention to what they type and stay alert to their tools playing tricks on them. I think we all have experience with typing something where a blue underline automatically appears."
Then there are the listings where it appears there are no fixes - in those cases, Ship recommends sellers contact eBay Customer Support to report the issue. "The support team should be able to see what triggered the alert and notify the team in charge of the filters, although many sellers are reporting back that they have been told to move part numbers out of their titles. I think those sellers may have misunderstood, or CS may not have been clear, as I don't think sellers need to change their titles."
Ship recommended sellers post problems related to the contact info/links issues on eBay's Active Content Forum
if they need help getting pointed in the right direction.
It is also worth noting some advice that eBay's "Griff" offered sellers this week: he advised those with questions about links in their listings go to "Revise Item" and scroll down and click on HTML view and look through it for code that might have been added by third-party services.
We'd add that it would be prudent to back up listings before doing any tweaking.