Coming soon: more third party ads

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Several months back eBay announced that adverts for third parties would appear on eBay search pages when there were no other results. They were very keen to emphasise this when there are no other results – but I know I wasn’t the only seller who cynically thought it was the thin end of the wedge.

This week,’s Announcements Board talked again about on-site adverts for third parties. It’s the waffliest post I’ve seen on the AB for a very long time, but the bottom line appears to be we’re going to put adverts where we like, when we like. This will “improve the buyer experience”.

Let me say it now: I’m absolutely in favour of improving the buyer experience, but this phrase is starting to be eBay shorthand for “it’s our site and we’ll do what we like”. And of course, it *is* their site and they *can* do what they like, but dressing up revenue enhancements as benefits to their users presumes a level of naivity that is close to insulting.

I’ve spent a long time looking this week, and as far as I can see, there are third-party ads at the bottom of every single search results page on, .fr and .com. (At least, they are there on every one of the hundreds of pages that I have looked at across dozens of categories.) eBay can state all they like that the ads are not intended to compete with sellers’ listings, but the fact is that buyers get to the bottom of a search page and they have to do *something*. Either they can click the “next” link to look at more eBay results, or they can click the ads. It doesn’t take much analysis to see that this is going to divert some traffic from eBay.

We can take it for granted that sellers won’t like this. eBay can make statements that advertising has “no significant impact to our core transaction business”, but no seller is going to believe it. If it’s true, I challenge them to publish the results of the usability studies. Myself, I’d agree with Skip McGrath’s comments: these ads are just distracting buyers from doing what I want them to do: buy on eBay.

One glimmer of hope might be that the default ads at the bottom of search results’ pages – presumably when no one has directly bought the advertising – seem to be to show results from, so now might be the time to consider advertising with them. Of course, this would be more money for eBay – and throwing extra cash at advertising isn’t a solution that’s available to everyone.

So how about the buyer experience? Is that improved? I don’t think so. If I’m searching on eBay, it’s because I want to buy from eBay. I don’t think of eBay as some kind of search engine for shopping: if I want random websites selling whatever, I’ll use Google to find them, and if I want results from, I’ll go there. eBay are in serious danger of undermining their own brand here, which is sad, because sometimes, they get it. Removing home page featured listings cost them ad revenue, but they had a better, more streamlined site because of it. Why undermine that with slapping external ads on every bit of spare space? It smacks of desperation.

5 Responses

  1. I often click on external web links when I am searching,
    so ebays deluding theirself, or deluding us, when they say it does not divert traffic from ebay

  2. “waffliest” great word Sue. 🙂

    What are they dreaming up next, is even this the thin end of an even bigger wedge, what next you ask yourself. Third party ads on individual listings maybe, competitors listings shown along side your listings. Think it wont happen, the later is already here on some completed listings.

    I’m really begining to despair at the hair-brained schemes eBay are coming up with. It’s getting harder each week to sell things on eBay. It seems at every turn ebay are determind to shoot themselves in the foot again.

    Well if eBay think it’s OK to syphon off customers two can play at that game. 🙂

  3. This is not going to be popular with Ebays customers.

    We know Ebay serves itself and not the customer, but the question is, where is this completely self centred ideology coming from?

    Is it the very top, is this self centredness that will eventually completely ruin the experience coming from the top itself?

    You have to question the focus and greed of such a decision at the sacrifice of the customers basic needs.

    What a wonderful business model ruined by self serving and what can only be construed as short term greed.

    The long term viability of the site rests on its ability to serve the customer.

    The evidence of that can be seen on the UK site.

    The “shine” has gone from the site for the sellers it would seem.

    A sadness really, when it is such a wonderful concept.

    I love Ebay as a vehicle for my business, but I have to really really question the focus of the “person” in charge, who at the end of the day has to take responsibility for this diluting of a wonderful brand.

    But hey, as long as the share holders are happy, who needs to worry about the customers?


  4. Third party ads on individual listings maybe, competitors listings shown along side your listings.
    Richard, the former is here too: they have/had ads for Experian on hit counters on .com.

  5. The sponsored ads are making eBay money so they will remain. Savvy Sellers will just sign-up for a Google Adwords account (Internationally) or Yahoo account (in the US) and start driving eBay customers to their own websites.

    eBay managers have chosen their path so now sellers need to choose theirs. Waiting for eBay to come to its senses may put your business in jeopardy.


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