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More details on the Google downgrade of eBay in search results

By Dan Wilson May 30, 2014 - 10:10 pm

In all the hoo-ha of the eBay hack, it seems to me that the small matter (ahem) of Google’s downgrade of eBay in search results got a little lost.

We wrote about it on the same day as the hack was revealed here and at that time the details were scant.

In the week or so that has elapsed, we have some more details. But as ever with these things information is hazy and, as with everything related to Google and its search algorithm, subject to speculation. So if you do have any specific intelligence, please do let us know.

Last week it was noted that eBay had slipped down in prominence on Google lists according to various observers. It was thought this was a result the latest update to Panda (codename for the current Google system). But it now appears, that a so-called manual downgrade was the culprit.

That means (as I understand it) that some of eBay’s SEO (search engine optimisation) efforts have been spotted by a Google human (rather than the automated spider bots) who found them a bit dodgy and deserving of a penalty.

As a result, the manual downgrade was applied. This means eBay isn’t going to be bobbing up as prominently on Google for a bit. Indeed, who knows how long. And that’s bad news.

It’s also particularly bad news when combined with the eBay hack and the subsequent bad publicity. So if you’ve had a slow 10 – 14 days on eBay as a seller, it’s likely a combination of both these things that’s to blame.

To be honest, in the long run, the Google downgrade may well prove to be more damaging to the eBay marketplace than the cyberattack. But only time will tell.

Now, perhaps unsurprisingly, eBay have kept their lips tightly sealed on this one. I’ve asked for comment twice (once last week and once this week) but I have been declined (again, perhaps unsurprisingly).

eBay would appear to be amending its bad behaviour on SEO that so offended Google but it’s impossible to know when that might come good.

We’ll keep you posted. And if you have any insights on this, please do share them. We’d love to know more and talk about it with greater authority.

  • 3 years ago

    I might have an explanation for Germany: since 2 weeks I see them using an ebay.com HTML page header most of the time (canonical referring from ebay.de to ebay.com).

    What a huge SEO fail which is very likely to have a huge impact on SEO traffic. And just unprofessional. What a shame…

  • Mark
    3 years ago

    I do think there are some tough times ahead for ebay.

    (1) The hack
    (2) The Google downgrade
    (3) The Chinese giant Alibaba’s new subsidiary 11Main.com
    (4) Sellers increasingly using multiple selling streams (and having the software to do this)
    (5) A potential paypal breakaway

    How will ebay respond to these challenges, I wonder? Ebay to be bought up sometime in 2014?

    • Carol
      3 years ago

      11Main.com is only for US sellers – shame…

  • Alex
    3 years ago

    Yet again some over-paid, under-worked, and probably bored “Geek” screws up something that worked fine and didn’t need “fixing”.

    Here’s a hypothetical and irrelevant conversation between a Website Development Department Team Leader and John, his Tech Guy.

    Time: Friday at 4pm:

    Team Leader: Hey John, have you heard the latest? Management say the site is working brilliantly and is now making even more money than ever before but they need to find more ways to increase profits, so Management are now looking at our Website Development Department and wondering why we employ so many people.

    Tech Guy: God, this is really bad news! Our Department employs 200 people and we could actually do the same job with just 10. Because there is so little to do we play Tetris all day just so we can appear busy whenever anyone looks! This is terrible news. If Management find out they will probably fire most of us. What are we going to do?

    Team Leader: That’s not a problem, I have a simple solution that always works – we screw up the site at about 5.15pm on Friday just before we all go home for the weekend and then by the time we come in on Monday CS will have had loads of angry members calling in to complain so getting us to fix the site will be a priority. If we then tell everyone it’s a very serious and hard to fix problem and also describe it in a really complicated and technical ‘gobbledy-goop’ way Management won’t have a clue what we’re on about, and then after we have dragged “the fix” out for a few days Management will be delighted that THEY had so many people working on it and were able to fix it. This will make Management look good and also justify the existence of our oversized, overpaid, and underworked department. It’s a Win-Win and who knows, we might even get a new coffee machine!

    And hey, don’t worry, it will actually only take a few minutes to fix so you’ll still have plenty of time to play Tetris!

    Tech Guy: WOW! You mean we break something that actually works really well and then we pretend to take ages fixing it just so we can keep our jobs, AND we still get to play Tetris? And in addition we might even get a new coffee machine? That’s just brilliant and I wish I’d thought of it! You’re a fantastic Team Leader and I think you deserve a massive pay rise!

    Ohhh, I just thought of something, what happens if Management find out?

    Team Leader (laughing): Don’t worry! We’ve done this many times before and it always works, Management haven’t got a clue!!!

    Seem familiar?

    • boardsurfer
      3 years ago

      Actually thats just ridiculous..no one plays Tetris anymore.

    • Alex
      3 years ago

      Ooops, my bad!! I forgot to mention MAME (Multi Arcade Machine Emulator)!!

  • Anonymous
    3 years ago

    I don’t know for certain, but the healthy sceptic in me keeps poking me and mentioning Google’s new “certified shops”. Could those stores signed up to this project find themselves higher up in the pecking order?

  • Tony C
    3 years ago

    Hee hee, I like it – eBay misbehaving on SEO. (If we did that on their site, we’d get banned for keyword spamming or something) – what did they do to misbehave, then? Pray tell!

  • DBL
    3 years ago

    Google downgrades eBay in search.

    eBay share price plummets.

    Google buy eBay.

    ]:-)

    • davelovesebay
      3 years ago

      Makes business sense actually.

      But lets be honest, how many people use google to search for an item on ebay or buy from a google link to ebay

      I bet its not many !

    • 3 years ago

      I bet many many millions of pounds worth of eBay sales come from Google. Whether organic or paid for, people get to ebay (even if they already shop there) via google in hordes via Google. Of course they do.

      To think they don’t is bonkers!

    • 3 years ago

      Might I give an actual example. I had a fantastic(for me it was fantastic) March and April. It was down to my sales of one Book Title. usually I sell a modest number of this Book(its a dated edition with a New Edition each year) but so far in 2014 have sold probably 3 x my usual annual sales.

      Why? Well when the 2014 edition was published I had my order in early and I received my stock and had them on sale. Amazon was for several weeks showing it out of stock as was several other retailers who usually sell far more than I do.

      Because I had it and was selling it and I was the only seller on ebay who had it I was right at the top of the list on Google. I was over-joyed.

      Then my sales hit a brick wall. Virtually nothing. On reading the above posting I checked on Google. I am no longer on top in fact I am well down the listings. Yet I still have it in stock and on sale. Some of those above me on Google are showing it being out of stock or possible delays to delivery. I post it out on receipt of order. I can only think that I am well down the list because of the above and this has hit my sales hard.

      But don’t get me wrong I am very pleased that I have sold as many as I have. I just wish that Google had not dropped ebay listed items down the rankings because I might still be selling this particular Book in the numbers I was previously. So I think my experience proves that Google does drive sales because I would certainly testify that a good proportion of my sales were driven by Google.

  • tinker
    3 years ago

    surely ebays cassini search was their answer to reliance on google,
    shows the ineffectiveness of ebay and their search when a downgrade by a competitor has such a potential effect on business

  • james
    3 years ago

    have to say… i seen this coming.

    too often when you do a google search eBay returns results in the top ten, even though eBay DONT have the item you’re looking for.

    they employ the same tactics as spam sites, which google users do not want to be visiting (returning an empty search result when you click on a link in google for example).

    Google has made the right call here, eBay shouldnt have been employing these blatant spam tactics in the first place. for a company that spends so much time educating us about keyword spamming etc etc. its no wonder they’ve declined to comment.

    not the first example of eBay completely failing to meet their own standards.

    • 3 years ago

      I am with you on this, James.
      When I do a “Google Shopping” search, and click on the eBay result, only the first one or first two are relevant, if I’m lucky. The rest take me to a generic eBay search that often does not even include ALL of my “Google Shopping” search terms. This is such a waste of time as a buyer, I am not surprised at all that Google have downgraded eBay.
      Furthermore, when doing a search as a buyer on eBay UK recently, I seem to notice that the top results are more and more often from eBay.com and sometimes Australia. In most cases, as a buyer this is also frustrating and a waste of time for me, as I do not want to wait for over a week to receive my shopping -not to speak the impact of this on us as UK-based seller.

  • Gary
    3 years ago

    Then you have those websites that make money out of ebay click throughs which google picked up. You think you have found a new outlet only to discover that all the products shown are actually ebay items. Hopefully google has downgraded all these sites too.

    It is frustrating to discover that when you click through a google search link to a product that ebay claims is for sale you are either driven to an item that is up for auction and not actually for immediate sale, or to an item that has already been sold, or to another item completely. If ebay sellers were to adopt such spam tactics to manipulate ebay search they would be banned.

    Is it no wonder google have “banned” ebay!!!

  • Tony
    3 years ago

    The images I have made of some of my products rank in 1st place on google for the relevant keyword searches. But when you come to click on them ebay have them redirected to a landing page on their site in Ireland with 2500 results.

    Up until 18 months ago somewhere in the region of 60% of my traffic came from google, now its less than 2%.

    According to Alexa the site in Ireland has seen massive gains in the last few months in search traffic, regularly 20% increases month on month while search traffic on the UK site has been declining.

  • Tony
    3 years ago

    This gets better. I checked another of my images on google that was ranking on the first page above the fold. To see where it went this time. It went to another landing page which stated my item was not available on ebay anymore, it definitely is available as Ive been paying listing fees to keep it maintained for months.
    There were 50 alternatives ebay showed me, none of them mine. These included a selection of patches and badges with various profanitys on them, nothing in common with my product whatsoever. The messages on the products ebay returned included “Go F*** Yourself”” “See you later alligator” and “Kindly go screw yourself”.
    I asked on Lithium was this synchronicity; coincidence or conspiracy. It certainly felt like one of them. Either a cosmic joke or a hackers joke, it couldnt be natural.
    What did Lithium do? They banned me from posting for 15 hours.

    • 3 years ago

      Tony is right – and this mock interface was deliberate. I am quite surprised that the Tamebay folks don’t really know the story. IN simple terms – when someone clicks on your organic ebay link on google ( that is your ebay listing indexed to google ) then that should take them to your listing.

      Ebay got sick of paying for adwords – so started doing 2 things. I think it probably started on dead organic links – like aucitons that had finished – but they started doing it on live ones too.

      Yes – exactly like an overlay by a scammer – ebay started putting an interface bettween your link and your listing – to lead people to a generic search page on ebay – not directly to the item they thought they clicked on. I have seen it on my items too – top of organic search – and thought it was a glitch at the time.

      It wasn’t – and the annoyed back button hitter will then demote me on google too.
      It is explained in a webinar called Search Cassini, Seo and the impossible dream – which is on youtube. If you pull forward to around 12 minutes in – they explain it in full.

      Ebay are still doing this – they agreed with google that the content was too “thin” and have improved it – but – they are still hijacking links that look like they are yours.

      Which means that omniture wasn’t broken – when it said nothing was coming in from search engines it was right – we just didn’t believe it. That is around 70% of my business – totally trashed.

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