A new way to keyword spam on eBay

By Chris Dawson February 11, 2015 - 8:56 am

eBay SearchThere’s a new way that some unscrupulous sellers have found to game eBay’s Best Match search. It involves using keyword spamming recognised brand names so that listings are returned in search results.

Many years ago eBay banned using Brand Names in Item Titles, you are not allowed to use brand names in titles, other than the specific brand name used by the company that manufactured or produced the item you’re listing. However sellers have discovered that they can add brand names to variation fields and this has the same effect.

eBay use variation data to return relevant search results, you don’t need to include information such as size, colour, brand or other relevant keywords in your titles if you’ve used them as a variation. Having the keywords as a variation is just as good as having them in your title.

eBay MultiVariation Keyword SpammingSellers appear to have figured out that using a long variation string means that only the first 30 characters are displayed. Any other characters are hidden from view, but crucially they’re still used in eBay search. By hiding brand Names in the hidden portion of variation titles these sellers are getting unwarranted views and doubtless believe they’re attracting more sales.

By only using one variation option for keyword spamming, there are no variations for the buyers to select from – The only possible reason for having the variation is for keyword spamming.

Keyword Spam eBay Report an ItemSadly reporting the item to eBay is unlikely to gain a response. The only options on eBay’s reporting flow is “Search and browse manipulation – Keyword spamming”. The trouble is any customer support rep will scan the listing and fail to see the spam keywords as they’re cleverly hidden from view and there is no free text ability on the reporting tool to explain where the keyword spamming is occurring.

We wouldn’t recommend trying this method of keyword spamming – We would hope that when caught eBay will sanction the sellers and cancel all their offending listings losing their Best Match history and recent sales data. However we would be interested if you’ve seen listings using this keyword spamming method (please don’t name sellers in public). We’d like to know if it’s a wide spread issue or just a handful of isolated incidents.

  • 3 years ago

    But if I want to buy a brand then this would not be the brand I’m searching for and therefore would gather impressions without as many sales as the real brand would gather. This would lower it down in search. If I want Timberland I don’t want ‘Timberland style’

    eg if I want to buy an ipod and someone uses the above method to game search with a non branded item of similar appearance when the search presents this item (an impression) I’m less likely to buy it resulting in impressions without sales, therefore worsening the ratio and lowering the search rank.

    If you get my drift 🙂

    • 3 years ago

      That’s the idea and one would hope that their best match ranking would be harmed…. but is that’s what happens or do they garner enough sales from their subterfuge to make it work?

    • DBL
      3 years ago

      Yes, by the looks of it they do in this case. While the eBay reporting system is in the last century and while they don’t act on their own rules this will happen. 🙁

      But still goes if I want Timberland I won’t buy these OR worse I’ll go off to Amazon and search there instead.

    • Mark_H
      3 years ago

      Amazon is worse than ebay for this. If you search for a brand name it will suggest similar items from other manufacturers.

  • PBC
    3 years ago

    It’s similar to how people would use brand names to sell replica goods. It’s about finding that branded style but at a cheaper price (without the branding).

    As an example see

    At the time of checking the listing has 1780 sales, searching for Topshop brings it up quite high. Which would suggest they are benefiting from this.

  • Stuart
    3 years ago

    I think the issue can be if you can’t see this properly you end up buying something you didn’t think you were buying.
    I searched on my mobile for a brand of wellingtons and found a listing that was a good price and had my size and colour. Little did I know it was a mixed listing of brands under one listing and when they arrived they were not the brand I wanted. I checked back on the listing and all the brand name variations were out of stock but the cheaper alternatives were in stock…oddly enough.
    It’s harder to see on mobile and if I can make the mistake, in theory I should know what I am doing, then customers can too.
    I also think search is screwed up, I searched for ‘Garden Gnomes’ on the site yesterday and over half the first page were not gnomes and instead filled with crap from China.

  • David Brackin
    3 years ago

    Don’t forget that multi-variate listings are also a great way to price-spam your way to the top of best-match! Ensure one of your variations is a “test sample” of the product you are selling for 99p — and hey presto – to the top of search you go.

    Of course it’s incredibly hard to shoe-horn new products such as multi-variation into the existing platform — (cf business policies, managed returns, click n collect). There are bound to be errors so the product management response needs to be not so much planning better but planning to fix later two or three times before winding down the dev resource.

  • Mark
    3 years ago

    However, a perfectly good way of getting additional relevant keywords in there 😉

    • 3 years ago

      I was thinking the exact same thing Mark! Great way to stretch that 80 character limit! … Anyone know the limit of a design field?

  • 3 years ago

    This is very widespread in the vehicle parts category but done slightly differently. Anything entered in the “Reference / OEM Number” item specific is used for the Ebay search so some sellers just fill this with spam. I’ve reported it a few times but nothing is ever done.
    As an example, Ebay item number 321492063753…
    Apparently the OEM Number for this car window repair part is:
    “cable, cables, clip, clips, cog, electric, kit, lifter, mechanism, metal, motor, panel, plastic, pulley, regulator, repair, roller, set, slider, winder, window, wire, wires”
    Unusual part number!

  • Rich
    3 years ago

    Is it an offence? You can compare aspects of your item to a brand name product in the description I think. Not the title, no. Just being a bit artful.

  • derek duval
    3 years ago

    Been doing it last 5 years, Made lots of extra sales….Jiggery pokery is the name of the game 🙂

  • Matthew Coyne
    3 years ago

    There is a flaw in this…

    It doesn’t work on the ebay app, if you go on a listing with variations on the ebay app then it shows all the characters, if you throw brand names in then there is the potential to mislead a buyer and ultimately end up with a defect.

  • Chris
    3 years ago

    The full 80 character variation is viewable on a mobile device for the listings as well as the ebay app. As more people are buying on mobile it will become a bigger problem for sellers that spam the variations.

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