eBay Hack and Google downgrade – what’s eBay’s recovery plan?

It’s not a question of whether these past few weeks have been bad for eBay. We know that for sure. It’s doubtless the worst fortnight eBay has seen since the mega-outages of the late 1990s when eBay would be down for many hours on end.

The hack was bad enough but I’m rather more worried about the Google downgrade in search. Each are bad in themselves: together they’re very serious.

If not addressed powerfully and quickly we could see a significant drop in buyer confidence and seller profitability. And that’s a detrimental downward spiral if allowed to persist.

So if there is no question that these two things are bad, we must ask exactly how bad. How badly has eBay marketplace trade been affected by them these past few weeks? There’s no way of judging that meaningfully right now. The quarterly results for April to the end of June will be more helpful there and we won’t see those until some time in July.

But as a bel-weather our Tamebay mailbag is quite telling in that we’ve had some very worried emails from sellers saying their sales are very poor. That isn’t a surprise.

The most urgent question, though, is what eBay is actually doing about this double whammy. And as far as we can see: not much. And that only makes me more worried.

My fear is that the mandarins at eBay, who might only judge success on the stock price, whatever criteria their bonus is calculated upon and general satisfied internal back slapping, might consider the job done and the crisis over.

But this thing ain’t over. I’d suggest, to quote the immortal wisdom of the Carpenters, that we’ve only just begun.

The Google downgrade is apparently the result of some SEO (search engine optimisation) practices that Google don’t like. There is some evidence that eBay has begun to address those and that’s the right approach. White hat only please eBay for now on.

The eBay hack is the more difficult problem to solve because it’s vital to say to millions of buyers “we’re open, we’re safe, we’re a great place to buy” in the light of some very negative press coverage and likely some difficult experiences in actually changing passwords. (I wonder how many millions haven’t even logged into do that or given up? It’s a petrifying thought.)

Clearly some sort of massive promo campaign is in order. And coupons seems like the obvious choice, using Paypal to deliver them. It’s vital to reactivate all those buyers who might be feeling a bit wary of eBay right now and get them buying happily again. Yup, it’ll take some wedge. But you can’t expect to get through the floods without it costing you something.

So, whatever eBay has in mind, we look forward to them announcing a big campaign with “buyer confidence” at its core over the next few days and weeks because it’s the least they owe to sellers. And the sooner, the better.