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Paid eBay Promoted Listings now occupy top 5 positions in search

By Chris Dawson November 11, 2019 - 10:00 am

In the last eBay Seller Release, they announced two major changes to how paid eBay Promoted Listings work and it’s now become clear that the changes are designed to increase the exposure of promoted listings and that by definition means the exposure of organic listings is reduced. We are seeing in many categories that eBay Promoted listings now dominate the top of search results.

With eBay in Q3 2019 selling approximately a billion dollars less than the same period in 2018, sales are contracting so the only way eBay have been able to increase their profits is to take a bigger cut from every remaining sale. Paid eBay Promoted listings are a way to do this so the greater exposure they have the more fees eBay gathers.

  1. Your listings will no longer be duplicated as a promoted and organic listing in search. Previously, a promoted listing would appear in the same set of search results as the same organic version of the listing but eBay are now removing duplicate promoted and organic (non-promoted) listings in search results so that only one listing will show or be displayed.
  2. In a change to how promoted and organic listings are displayed in search results, a mixture of organic and promoted listings are now eligible to appear in the top search rankings

The net result of these two changes in many categories appears to be that the top five listings are all eBay Promoted Listings. Whereas previous positions 1, 4 and 5 were reserved for eBay Promoted Listings it’s now tougher to get to the top of Best Match if you’re not paying additional Promoted Listing fees. The reality is that unless you cave in and start paying to play, it’s likely that your organic listing will never appear higher than the 6th position in Best Match.

What eBay said about the paid eBay Promoted Listings changes

Later this year, we’ll be removing duplicate promoted and organic (non-promoted) listings in search results so that only one listing will show or be displayed.”

In our ongoing effort to optimise visibility of Promote your listings placements, we’re shifting to dynamic ranking at the top of buyers’ search results. Later this year, a mixture of organic and promoted listings will be eligible to appear in the top search rankings.”
– eBay

Quite how this impacts your selling strategy will depend in part which categories you sell in and what your best performing keyword searches are. If you’re in a category and buyers looking for your items use relatively obscure keywords then you’re likely to have less comptition in search and paying to play will be less important. Equally, in a few categories it appears that hardly any sellers pay to play and so search results are mainly organic.

The net result is that in popular categories you’ll find that the top of search results is now dominated by sellers willing to pay to play and if you’re not also bidding for exposure with paid eBay Promoted Listings then you’ll be dumped down to no higher than sixth place in eBay search results.

  • SAM
    1 month ago

    Pay to play is the sole focus of eBay as I have said many times these are basically stealth fees.
    Things like Service and speed of delivery are way down the pecking order. We were 24 hour Post and TRS great metrics for years and were always in best match. Stealth Fees has seen us pushed down the rankings so much these days it makes eBay pretty pointless (margins simply do not exist in our sector, 1% at most), so end result as been fakes from China, fraudsters re-wrapping pre-owned up and selling as new ( no costs for the scam artists) pushing everything to the top of the search with stealth fees as they can afford to. It is back to Flea Bay.
    People will also only look maybe at the top listings and see eBay is so overpriced for genuine goods they will shop elsewhere.
    It is a pity and a very short term strategy for a marketplace already standing still and being not being able to evolve and complete, and it is costing traffic.
    We have had to walk away from eBay/Amazon and work with some of the mirkal sites where at least there is some-sort of level playing field, and they actually keep the fraudsters and scammers out.
    Do you know what take the money you can save from eBay and invest it in your own brand awareness and marketing you can get traffic if you do it right. Social is where it is going to be anyway.

  • 4 weeks ago

    Sponsored listings might net ebay lucrative fees, but I think it’s a contributing factor in the decline of sales on the site, and even ebay must realise that is a bad thing.

    There is seemingly no quality control over who can sponsor their listings. Simply by paying the most, poor quality sellers / products can go straight to the top. I wonder what will happen when ebayers buy from someone with 96% feedback? Will it be a good experience for them, or the beginning of them starting to dislike the site and looking elsewhere in future?

    Another thing I’ve noticed is the rise of duplicate listings and I think this ties in to sponsored listings. Some sellers will be doing sponsored and if they’re getting good results, duplicate to increase this. Other sellers won’t be doing sponsored, but use the logic that if they can get the same item listed many times, it will make up getting pushed down the table.

    It’s always gone on to an extent, but it’s so rampant now, that these unchecked duplications are very noticeable to buyers and gives them a poor experience of ebay, as they end up looking at the same things over and over again. It seems like there is a lot of choice, but then they realise there isn’t, get fed up and go shop elsewhere…

    Even the image in this article is an example of duplication. Repeating the search and looking at those listings shows that of the top 5 sponsored results, it’s the same guy with 2 limited companies and 2 ebay accounts that has 4 of the 5 top placings. The same things are sold on both accounts, just done slightly differently to avoid ebay AI.

    I don’t expect ebay to drop sponsored listings, but if they don’t sharpen it up by setting a minimum account standard and also enforce their duplicate listings policy, sales will continue to decline.

  • 4 weeks ago

    At some point they will switch over to paying even if you don’t sell.

    That will cut the link between sellers making money and Ebay making money.

    The massive hike in anchor shop fees has taken Ebay part way there already.

    Ebay will still rake it in even if sales fall and the site declines.

    Gets the Ebay execs off the hook with falling sales volumes and leaves sellers in the brown stuff if they only sell on Ebay.

    • 4 weeks ago

      The redeeming quality of sponsored listings on ebay is that it’s only pay if you sell. If they changed to pay per click, that would be the point where many sellers would drop them like a hot potato. Declining sales and declining revenue from sponsored listings wouldn’t go down too well.

  • 4 weeks ago

    @Gav.

    Do a search for christmas shirts. There must be 20 chinese selling same item all with feedback below 96 percent.
    How many Buyers have a bad experience and dont return back to Ebay becuase of bad experience with chinese sellers

    • 4 weeks ago

      I’ve no doubt. The location abusers take a bad problem and make it worse, enabled by ebay.

      Open a new account. Sponsor it. Get the sales in. And if feedback comments (liar, liar, ships from China) gets so bad they decide to abandon the account, just start up with a fresh one. And repeat.

  • james
    4 weeks ago

    I thought they might have been making some of these tweaks to bypass the ad-blocker problem. apparently not. it’s still a case of pay for your listings to be hidden completely from anyone using a decent ad-blocker, now that they don’t duplicate the sponsored listings.
    and they’re only reinforcing the need for an ad-blocker. as a buyer do i want my first five search results to be for a presumably inferior item/service marked up in price to cover the sponsored selling fees? no thanks, ad-blocker for me please!

  • Nick
    4 weeks ago

    As a buyer, I find “sponsored” listings annoying, particularly when using a smartphone, and view them in the same way as those promoted ads at the top of any Google search page, ie something to be avoided. But as a seller, I do use promoted listings strategically, exploiting what some people might describe as loopholes in the system, so that I benefit from better visibility at the most minimal cost possible. (The key is to always drop to 1%, rather than ending any higher rated promotion promotion, and to always do this shortly before reducing an item price to normal levels, rather than the other way around, to ensure the percentage charged is limited to 1%, rather than any higher amount previously set)..

    It’s easy, for example, to set a 50% promotion percentage, and and then raise the fixed price by 65% to cover the ridiculous promotion fee in the unlikely event that an item sells at this higher price. In fact there’s nothing to stop listings mentioning a forthcoming lower price, and the date this price will take effect, for instance; or indeed just using a listing as a glorified advert for other, more sensibly priced, items in their shop.

    Since sellers are obviously free to raise a fixed price to any level they choose, to cover a large promotion percentage rate, then it’s perfectly possible to get a huge amount of promotion for virtually no cost; and if eBay remove the ability to edit the promotion rate then it would be equally easy to just relist periodically.

    But whatever the future holds, with regards to promoted listings, I suspect that eBay will ultimately conclude that the more ubiquitously items are promoted, the less visible organic listings will be, and the poorer the overall buyer experience will become.

  • Dav
    4 weeks ago

    What this means is this: Any seller that’s sponsoring/promoting will no longer have organic listings. They will be hidden. It’s just another scheme by eBay to get more money for themselves while their GMV continues to decline. Everything about eBay and everything they do is to squeeze more money out of everything possible only for their profit at the expense of sellers. In other words, it’s yet another hidden fee increase. Another thing, sponsoring/promoting is NOT proven to result in any increase in sales. Adding to that, eBay’s “trending rates” are a total and complete scam. It’s all set up for eBay to take all the profit from any sales and leave you with nothing. eBay is only one thing these days: SCAM.

    • Stephen Wright
      4 weeks ago

      I’ve just checked with some of my listings that are sponsored, using as few relative keywords as possible to give the system as much chance as possible to throw a random fit.

      The non-sponsored is the preference at the moment from my tests. However my listings are quite well optimised and well-populated (blowing my own trumpet here…) – so there may be a cut-off point where the non-sponsored listing is too low in best match and the sponsered listing would take over.

      So for now eBay is not wiping out organic listings in favour of sponsored.

  • Jonah
    4 weeks ago

    I am the seller of a unique item on eBay- they ask me to promote the item with a near 7% trending rate. But how can it be trending because I am the only person with the item and it’s not sponsored yet?

    • 4 weeks ago

      It’ll be based on similar items using keywords, the category it is listed in and other factors.

  • 4 weeks ago

    in the context of eBay’s financials and under pressure from Elliott this is entirely predictable – moving to a pure “pay for play” model, much like Alibaba in China.

    We are just publishing an update as the only firm with a Sell rating on the stock… correctly so. Since PYPL split, EBAY stock +35% vs NASDAQ +83% and AMZN +330%. And thats with $16bn of buybacks, cash that could have been spent on making a more stable platform.

  • Mark
    4 weeks ago

    Typical pay to sell in our shop window with your store fees.
    Oh and then if you actually want us to open the curtains you must pay us some more.

  • Toby
    4 weeks ago

    Most of the sponsored listings i see are either dodgy sellers with low feedback or items where the price has been ramped up to not only cover the feee but make more.
    It has gotten to the point where i have been forced to use them and ramp up the price to cover my extra costs. Thus we have a two way ebay… the non sponsored cheap chinese tat at rock bottom prices or the pot luck of sponsored over priced decent stuff or over priced chinese tat. What a choice to be offering…
    oh and im still fed up of seeing the chinese sellers claiming to be in the uk stating 3 day delivery… but obviously with 5 day dispatch times! Thankfully most use the ‘Hot’ or ‘UK’ in the title!

  • 4 weeks ago

    I sell mainly in mobile phones accessories category, and trending promotion fees reach 40% now. Three weeks ago I reduced my promotion fees to 3% flat and my sales completely plummeted. After 10 years on eBay, I cannot compete in this market anymore. I usually had about 100 transactions per day throughout the year, and in November till Christmas, it would increase to 200-300. This year I barely scrape 20-30 sales per day. It’s pretty much game over for me as I see it. Year on year, my profit margins and sales go down.

  • As all platforms become crowded and market share is squeezed then the only way to get to the top is going to be 1. the cheapest on a high demand/converting item or 2. pay the most for advertising.

    In our main category (kitchen and cookware) we saw a huge increase in sellers from outside the UK claiming the top almost 50% of search via sponsored listings. One seller was even dropshipping our item from Amazon! This draw our attention to it as we saw our own “exclusive” item being sold by someone else above us on the ebay search! However, I am aware that ebay are clamping down on these dropshippers/arbitrage sellers now.

    As more brands target facebook and pinterest ads then the same thing will happen – cost for exposure = increase. It does seem like those with the deepest pockets have an advantage.

    I agree with what has been said above re: what about good old fashioned metrics i.e. despatch time, customer service, item as described etc!!

    We have split our items into different product groups and are testing sponsored listings for select items to see if it makes a difference. One issue we have come across so far is how to see number of impressions/item views before and after the listing was sponsored??

  • 4 weeks ago

    Recall Harry Temkin’s assertion that “[eBay’s] data suggests that promoted listings are being blocked for less than 2% of traffic” right before Wenig was thrown out?

    Our belief is the 2% figure was likely a literal value of *all* eBay traffic – not blocked search results, arguably the most critical area (as confirmed by eBay’s decision to plaster it with ads).

    Much more helpful would be for Temkin to disclose the blocked search result promoted listings (which based on these changes would seem to be quite high).

    💡 Fun project idea for someone – test the top few ad-blockers by browser (with default settings) to determine which successfully block eBay’s promoted listings.

    PS: Mobile currently showing similar results except with 4 promoted listings up top – on one device requiring 3 ‘sweeps’ to finally get to non-promoted listings in search (naturally this is going to vary by person and device).

    • Dav
      4 weeks ago

      @unsuckEBAY Isn’t there real data that at least 40% of actual internet users have some sort of ad blocker? I would guess that figure is low. People don’t want ads and other types of garbage because it’s a nuisance. So for all those that are promoting, many buyers aren’t gonna see your listing at all. Let that sink in. The data that Temkin and eBay spin about this is a joke. They’re constantly spinning out fake information about everything. Yeah maybe 2% of overall traffic, but that’s not the data that’s relevant. It’s the 40%+ of USERS that’s relevant here.

    • 4 weeks ago

      Dave, the figures we found on adblocker penetration (via Statista and eMarketer) are coming in at just over 25% and stabilizing (with some geo variance). If anyone has dramatically different data please share the source.

      It’s worth noting that with eBay boasting 63% platform GMV involving a mobile touchpoint, promoted listings are not easily avoided using the eBay Android or iOS apps (where they’re now arguably much more invasive).

      Agree on the ‘eBay spin’; it’s often important to dissect their words and phrases very carefully, as they’re often meant to assuage with figures meant to reassure, but that can be very misleading (like we strongly believe this Temkin 2% sound-bite is).

  • Mac
    4 weeks ago

    Paid ads account for about 40 to 45% of our sales. The ads cost us of course, reducing profit from those items.
    Still who will turn down hundreds of pounds extra sales a week? Our sales are up, our profits are up, the business is growing.
    And to be honest some of the harder to sell stuff goes quickly with ads.

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