eBay users say ads are clogging search results, making it frustrating when they're trying to find relevant listings after having sorted the results. There's no way of knowing what percentage of shoppers are aggravated by seeing sponsored ads at the top of their sorted search results or how many might be changing their behavior as a result. But what is clear is how passionately some eBay customers feel about the issue.
While users are accustomed to having eBay manipulate results through the Best Match default sort order using an algorithm that takes many factors into account, they expect clean results when they sort those results, which include the following options:
Time: ending soonest
Time: newly listed
Price + Shipping: lowest first
Price + Shipping: highest first
Distance: nearest first
A seller told us that this month, sponsored listings began appearing in search results when sorted by price (lowest) but are never actually the lowest cost items - "usually the direct opposite," he said. In addition, eBay displays the following message: "We removed some search results to show you the most relevant listings."
"My buyers are now finding it impossible to shop for the least expensive item with all these "sponsored listings" ruining the search. If my buyers or myself choose the "price+shipping: lowest" criteria as my preferred viewing preference of the listings, I expect to see just that. Instead eBay is removing listings from my search results and placing higher priced items first."
The reader pointed us to several threads on the eBay boards where buyers and sellers were discussing the issue. One buyer compared sponsored listings to robocalls or other intrusive advertising.
In a thread
with the title, "Despise beyond words "sponsored" listings in search results," a user wrote, "Is it too much to comprehend that when I do a search for NEWLY LISTED items instead of BEST MATCH I only want to see NEWLY LISTED items come up??"
In another thread
titled, "How do I hide Sponsored Listings," a buyer said sponsored listings were ruining their eBay experience and vowed never to purchase a sponsored item.
"I want a way to turn them OFF. I do not want to see the same overpriced item at the top, middle, and bottom of every page of results, especially when I have specific sort criteria. What is the point of "newly listed" or "price low to high" if the first results are the Sponsored Listing? I guarantee you that seeing these same listings over and over is not going to weaken my resolve and make me want to purchase these random items. Au contraire, mon frère. Any seller that makes frequent use of Sponsored Listings is going to go on my blacklist. You people are the worst."
eBay CEO Devin Wenig recognized the potential for ads to result in a negative experience on buyers. In November
, he described his vision of having an algorithm decide where to place Promoted Listing ads on its site to help eBay monetize pixels on every screen. But he said eBay was going to be very careful about the impact of Promoted Listing ads on the buyer experience.
"We don't think a good buyer experience is to have every pixel on every page promoted," he said. "We've done a lot of good work simplifying and clarifying relevance and personalization. We don't want Promoted Listings to undermine it, but we don't think that it will."
Should eBay reevaluate the decision to add Promoted Listing ads to the top of sorted search results? And for sellers who advertise through eBay Promoted Listings, would you like the ability to have greater control your ads' placement?