Posts categorized “Best Match”.

The eBay Sales Slump and Google

Last week I wrote about eBay’s potential response to Google’s changes to feed policy which will go into effect December 1st 2009.

It is difficult to gauge how much of the current search dysfunction and drop in sales is caused by eBay as opposed to impending actions by Google. I am inclined to discount Google’s contribution at the moment for the following reasons.

In August I wrote “Historically traffic has taken months to recover from Best Match changes.” Barely three weeks after roll out of the Top Rated Seller project and simultaneous debut of Best Match II I believe we are seeing the initial results of the churn (def.#7). It is too early for the Google changes to be directly affecting eBay traffic.

Best Match II

eBay is flying by the seat of their pants on the Best Match algorithm, their mathematical genius and owner of the patent, Raghav Gupta (I am not being snarky, he is a genius) quit. It is very probable that continued tinkering with the selection process at the behest of eBay executive directives is having unintended consequences. Think GIGO.

Affiliate Program

eBay affiliate driven traffic is decreasing as affiliates are undergoing their own churn. Just as with sellers, who are being forced to evaluate the profitability and viability of continuing to do business on eBay, affiliates have seen massive “take it or leave it” changes to the payment schedule and structure. Changes which have lowered income for many affiliates, while purportedly increasing efficiency and value for eBay, have encouraged them to move on. Same song, different verse.

I am not in any way qualified to analyze anything about affiliate business but it stands to reason that less affiliate driven traffic will result in less sales for vendors of product which appeals to affiliate marketers.

Google Feeds

eBay is still uploading feeds.

A quick look at the format of the feeds will show that eBay’s goal with Google feeds is to bring traffic to eBay, any traffic. Not to bring a qualified and motivated buyer to the specific product they are seeking but to get them on the site and into the eBay finding experience.

It would not surprise me to learn that to some extent the pending changes to Google Shopping are driven by searchers dissatisfaction at being funneled to eBay regardless of what they are looking for.

Remember those ridiculous advertisements saying “Find ______ (insert word of choice) on eBay”? eBay’s feeds are a variation on that theme using organic search rather than pay per click advertising.

Advertising, Discounts and Coupons

eBay has chosen to embrace coupons instead of paid advertising for the last few years. Coupons work to a certain extent but in the eBay bucks format they are unlikely to bring any meaningful new user traffic to the venue for a variety of reasons. For the existing casual or occasional eBay user:

  • Low priced items only gain the buyer a cent or two per purchase
  • search is so difficult that the size of discount offered is no incentive to bother
  • the program is complicated, and
  • eBay bucks expire before any meaningful benefit can be gained by the occasional buyer.

Even buyers who are internet savvy had problems getting their money from the Microsoft cash back program last year, the promotion was so complex that (in my view) it generated negative attitude and distrust, which is lingering.


I think that the drop in sales is a direct result of the notorious eBay tendency to see the results they want to see in the data. If you believe that the majority of eBay sales come from on site traffic why would you have any incentive to improve outside traffic to items listed on the site? It is a self perpetuating problem.

eBay sellers I respect tell me that only a small percentage of their sales come from off eBay sources. This makes sense if the site is not promoting traffic inflow but relying on the user base and their own deeply flawed and manipulated search. I also think the sales slump is not site wide.

What do you think?

A blog post at Series Books for Girls talks about the recent drop in sell-through rates for eBay booksellers in her niche. Meanwhile I am off to buy myself a bird watcher on eBay, just kidding.

Y’all come back!

Full disclosure: I am an ex-eBay seller currently selling on my own website and

Total Disruption for Christmas

There is supreme irony in both the timing and the nature of the changes to Google’s product search submission procedure and how it will impact some eBay sellers in the 4th quarter, irony which will not be appreciated by current eBay sellers.

Read here for The Whine Seller’s take on the eBay announcement.

The changes to Google’s feed policy together with eBay’s Top Seller Program, introduction of Best March II and general ineptitude when implementing change will bring total disruption to sellers of unique, vintage and collectible items in the high selling season. Is it the creative disruption so beloved of the Dear Leader or simply more destructive disruption? Time will tell, but remember, it is your business and you need to analyze what this change means to your bottom line, profit or loss.

Some real info on what this change means for sellers? It is the ultimate Amazonization and not necessarily a bad thing except for sellers who are dealing with eBay and the new eBay customer mindset.

For those who list auctions there is no change, other than that imposed by Best Match II which at this point in time (it will change) seems to default almost entirely to ending soonest. You are contending with eBay’s finding process, not Google which has not crawled auctions in some years.

In the Fixed Price marketplace

A very large number of listings will be rejected by Google.

Commodity sellers listing multiple quantity fixed price items will have less problems than the already beleaguered collectibles seller because the commodity buyer needs less in the way of description, he already knows what he is buying. Expectations are set and with minimal care will be met.

Antique and vintage collectibles sellers are now really between a rock, Google, and a hard place, eBay.

eBay may believe “the vast majority of traffic to eBay listings comes from searches on eBay” but one can’t help wondering how much of that traffic is bewildered buyers wandering around trying to find IT.

Sellers should be seriously concerned by that thought because in Best March II item ranking is influenced by ‘relevance’ which includes ‘impressions’. You do not want lots of impressions which do not result in sales, this will drop your item in search because in eBay’s mind there was something unsatisfactory about the listing (or it would have sold). Bolding is mine.

“Relevance helps determine your listing’s position in Best Match. Your fixed price listings will appear in search results based on the listing’s recent sales in relation to the number of impressions it received. An impression is any time a buyer sees a search results page that includes your listing.

The browser or potential buyer who selects 200 items to view at a time can do serious damage to your impression ratio. Whether they see your listing at the bottom of the page or not makes no difference to eBay. The goal would appear to be to have the buyer type in search words and arrive directly at the item they buy each time, if that doesn’t happen, penalize the sellers who did not make the sale.

Here are some options and caveats :

1. Become Google compliant

Edit listings and titles to remove any reference to shipping, your Terms of Service, everything which does not directly describe your item from the item description area. Use normal capitalization and punctuation, do not use all caps. No exclamation points, wiggles, asterisks in the title, think Amazon.

Red flag is a warning On eBay we put our Terms of Service in the listing for a reason, so that we can point and say “It is all right there!” when things go pear shaped. The big question is, does it help? Does eBay listen? That is something only you can answer.

For what it is worth you might put your TOS on your About Me page and include a link, or use a link to an off eBay page, just make sure you have nothing (no links) that could possibly be construed as an offer to sell off eBay by eBay. It is a risk because most CSRs don’t understand the rules they are enforcing.

2. Do your item traits

Item traits are now more important than keywords for Google, (although both are important) the condition trait is required. Yes, any idiot knows Vintage means used but do it anyway.

  • Use keywords in title,
  • use different keywords in description, do not ’stuff’, keywords must be relevant.
  • Pay attention to the content of the first 155 characters and spaces, this is all the hook you will get apart from your picture. Don’t waste it.
  • Use Google traits.
  • Try to match the eBay category to the Google taxonomy where possible.

3. Take a long hard look at your business model.

  • Is your eBay store still working for you?
  • What are your monthly expenses and income?
  • Is the return on investment for your fixed overhead worth the amount of sales and the sheer stress of remaining on the venue?

The days of stashing your stagnant stock cheaply on eBay are long gone. As of this month a return to Auction listings only, perhaps with BIN (do the math) for unique, vintage, collectibles and antiques may be best practice.

An alternate fixed price venue may be the best display shelf for stock that has not sold after a couple of auction cycles; especially if you have paid attention to the SEO tips above.

Is John Donahoe miffed?

This is the ultimate creative disruption and it did not originate from his cubicle.

Y’all come back!

Full disclosure: I am an ex-eBay seller currently selling on my own website and

eBay Dropping Like a Rock

Once again eBay stock is dropping like a rock down a well, but nobody in San Jose is listening for the splash.

From September 22nd through October 2nd 2009, the share price has dropped from $24.45 to $23.24 at close of trading. Can it be that the squirrels are not buying John Donahoe’s nuts any more? Have the analysts finally realized JD is full of nuts, or something? Are all the Barclays analysts full of nuts?

To me the more interesting question is precisely what happened between March 9th when $10.27 was the closing price and the September 22nd peak YTD to justify that 238% increase? Was it all smoke and spin?

Second quarter results, despite all the BaySpeak, were not good. The last five consecutive  quarterly reports disappointed both Wall Street and investors. eBay showed 29% decline in profits comparing Q2-08 to Q2-09.

The third quarter of 2009 is done and it is time for eBay CEO John Donahoe to hit the road again with his dog and pony show. Can the Disruptive Piper charm all the Wall Street squirrels once again with his merry song? Results will be announced October 21st 2009

What will the figures show happened in the eBay Marketplace? Expect hear more about the difficult macro-economic conditions and plenty of ‘incent our sellers’.

My own figures, off eBay, selling from my website and my booth on are surprisingly good for the year to date. My product line is not what anyone would call essential, it is pure feminine frivolity, and such foolishness tends to be the first thing dropped in a financial pinch. Yet my gross sales are higher than 2008 when I boycotted and then left eBay and, higher than 2007, my last full year on eBay. My net figures for this year are awesome compared to 2007.

Crystal Ball Department

The Crystal Ball Department contains no verifiable facts. Opinion, educated guesses, and gut feelings work here.

  • 4th quarter 2009 is going to be bloody for eBay sellers
  • Historically traffic has taken months to recover from Best Match changes.
  • Peak season is the WORST time to be implementing massive change, sellers don’t like it, buyers will not like it either. Hello Amazon!
  • For BUYERS relevancy does not mean giving them what they are looking for; it means showing what eBay has available from today’s favored sellers. Time will tell what buyers think about this.
  • Site is slow to load, very very slow, each page, slow.
  • Going into the 4th Quarter, high season, sellers are faced with a whole new New Best Match in which visibility is no longer tied to recent sales volume;  impressions and number of low DSRs over the last three months for sellers with more than 400 transactions, (12 months for all other sellers) will be the controlling factor
  • Many of the optimizers for Best Match 1 are detrimental in Best Match 2
  • eBay’s search is so dysfunctional that many buyers have begun using Google but eBay is just starting to comply with Google’s June required changes to attributes; which will adversely affect eBay fixed price listings on Google (auctions are not shown in Google results)
  • Google’s new policy now prevents Marketplace sellers from loading their own feeds - eBay sellers are now totally reliant on eBay’s feeds

The Intangibles(def. #3)

A quote from a comment on Auctionbytes:

“Virtually every “improvement” eBay has implemented since 2003 has cost me traffic, sales and increased fees. Sorry I’m not holding my breath to see how this one works out.”

I have never, ever seen such language and bitterness as I am seeing today about eBay from sellers, from those who chose to tough it out since the boycott and have (so far) survived, and those who did not survive, and have lost their business, in some cases their homes and their health. Even at the height of the boycott there was more outrage than rage.

Emotion is an essential component to word of mouth, it can drive your business or kill it. The old marketing adage that a satisfied customer may tell three people but an unhappy one will tell ten is amplified a thousandfold on the internet. Word of mouth on the world wide web is a forever thing.  eBay not only fails to recognize who their customer is, they appear to be oblivious to any need to even provide minimal service to their customers beyond lip service which has zero credibility. As Auntie May says “Mud sticks!”

What do you think?

Y’all come back!


Goodbye Richard Ambrose

Goodbye Richard Ambrose, Director of Trust and Safety for eBay UK, leaving eBay after six years “for new challenges”. To read the write-up at Tamebay you would think he had died and gone to heaven. It is a eulogy.

Almost a year ago in an open letter to Lorrie Norrington I said

A large part of the blame can be directly attributed to your PR department who are arrogant, rude and dismissive. The ‘noise’ and ‘routed off the site’ comments will still be resonating long after Mr Lieberman has moved on.

In Australia it would be safe to say Simon Smith is despised, moving him would solve a lot of problems in that country. Your T&S chief in the UK, Richard Ambrose has earned the reputation (in less than a year) of being a vindictive and arrogant micromanaging cruiser of the discussion boards who is openly contemptuous of sellers. This attitude is increasingly prevalent among your employees towards your customers and it is not helping.”

See Dick go, or where is Dick?

Recently eBay UK decided to allow the pre-sale of event tickets, this was predictably followed by allegations of large scale fraud. Amounts close to $1M were mentioned on BBC radio last month.  With the cancellation of the Michael Jackson concerts in London, this policy is likely to prove expensive, and damaging to the public perception of trust and safety when purchasing on eBay.

Strangely, there is no mention of Dickie’s departure on the eBay UK Announcement Board. This leads to speculation that his departure was not entirely voluntary. Chris Dawson has repeatedly stated this speculation is unfounded.

Richard was well known for issuing lifetime posting bans on the Discussion Boards and was a master of the disparaging comment, for example:

  • “It does not matter how many sellers leave, for every one that leaves three more take their place”
  • “I think we will see some sellers leaving the site because of this change - mostly dodgy ones.”
  • “Sellers are not not paying for visibility”
  • Regarding Best Match: “At the moment the ‘formula’ is super-simple.”

Hear Dick speak

One, two, three (four, five?)

Simon Smith was the first to go, then Jose Mallabo erstwhile Director of Corporate Communications disappeared, now Richard Ambrose. Only one man (other than Mr Disruptive Innovation) has done more damage to eBay and I doubt we would get that lucky, but there is always hope.

Y’all come back!