eBay coming clean about third-party ads?

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eBay have finally made a statement about the proliferation of off-site ads currently appearing on eBay UK. It was posted on the UK Powerseller Board last night, and is as follows:

What is happening with sponsored links on eBay.co.uk?
Since the beginning of 2007 eBay has started introducing “sponsored links” – links to third party websites that offer goods and services relevant to the search and browse activities performed by buyers.
Presence of these links has allowed eBay to expand the breadth of product and service offerings for buyers. It also gives buyers greater price transparency, and with that, confidence that the best deals on the web can be found on eBay – proving to buyers that eBay is always the best starting point for shopping online.

What about impact of sponsored links on eBay sellers’ businesses?
We monitor impact of sponsored links on the volume of trade conducted on eBay very closely. In fact ever since sponsored links were introduced we have maintained a “control group” of users that have never seen sponsored links. We closely monitor any differences in behaviour between users who see sponsored links and those who don’t. And the answer is that the behaviour of the two groups is virtually identical and remains so over time. So with a high degree of confidence we can say that sponsored links are not harming our sellers’ business as a whole. In other words though buyers do click to off-eBay sites through sponsored links (with a new browser window opening for each sponsored link) they come back and perform just as much activity on eBay as they would have done had sponsored links not been there.

What about placement of sponsored links above Shops listings?
As of the beginning of November we started testing placement of sponsored links further up results page, incl. above Shop listings. This is a test in which we are exploring ways to more fully realise the advertising opportunity while closely monitoring the impact on user experience and eBay sellers’ businesses. Again, this is a test and no decision has been made whether this configuration should stay or be reversed. We are measuring the impact very closely and will react quickly should we detect negative trends.

Can I advertise my eBay Shop or my off-eBay website in sponsored links?
We’re working on giving sellers such functionality and will be asking for input on this soon.

In the meantime you can try one of the following:

To feature eBay listings: promote listings with Listing Upgrades (https://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/sell/promoting_ov.html). Note that Gallery Featured for example gets your listing included in Featured items which appear on top of regular search results

To feature eBay Shop: upgrade your Shop to Featured or Anchor level (https://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/specialtysites/store-subscription-levels.html)

To promote off-eBay website: become a Shopping.com merchant. Shopping.com is an online shopping comparison company and its merchants’ listings are often shown in search results on eBay.co.uk (under “sponsored links”) as well as on other sites (https://ukmerchant.shopping.com/enroll/app?service=page/PartnerWelcome)

What if a sponsored link is promoting items not allowed for sale on eBay, counterfeit items or VeRO infringing items?
As a general rule content on third party sites is the responsibility of site owners and not of eBay and is impossible for eBay to monitor or change. However, if you feel that a particular sponsored link is breaking any of the eBay rules please refer it to Customer Support.

When third-party ads began on eBay, they were about improving the buyer experience: if the buyer’s desired item wasn’t on eBay anywhere (including Shops), they could be sent somewhere else. There is undoubtedly logic in this procedure, and one has to assume that there was also some money in it, because the accountants who are now running eBay’s marketing and site design have decided to roll it out site-wide.

So let’s take a look at this statement: are eBay finally coming clean with sellers about what they’re up to? Not a bit of it. Firstly, “greater price transparency” is definitely not advantaging eBay sellers: off-site ads are showing items which are cheaper than any to be found on eBay.

Even more bizarre is the statement that, measuring eBayers who see ads against those who don’t, “the behaviour of the two groups is virtually identical and remains so over time”. If I were buying ads from eBay, I’d be very worried by this. If people don’t click the ads and then buy stuff, what’s the point of the ads? Why are these advertisers paying eBay for clicks that don’t translate into actual business? Either eBay sellers or eBay’s advertisers are being mightily ripped off here: and I have a sneaking suspicion it might just be both groups.

Sellers are not likely to be pacified by eBay’s suggestions on how to cope with eBay’s actions: i.e. eBay have promoted third parties above the listings you’re paying eBay for, so pay eBay more money to list on Shopping.com or upgrade your eBay shop. On the contrary, don’t upgrade your eBay shop because of this change: it will not buy you any favours whatsoever in search results, and one has to ask really if this suggestion is deliberately misleading, or if the advertising team just don’t know how Shops work.

eBay take great pains to emphasise that this is an experiment. I think we can expect that the experiment will be judged a success: eBay will have more money than they started with, the accountants will be happy, and I see no evidence that, these days, anyone else’s opinion matters. So what can sellers really do to counter the damage eBay have just dealt their businesses?

Protest There’s always a chance they might listen. Kick up on the community boards, talk to your Account Manager if you have one, talk to any other contact you have at eBay, mail Support… make your voice heard. You’ve got nothing to lose but your business.

Promote your own Shop eBay won’t do it for you, but if a Shop is still a viable tool for you, make sure you promote it yourself. Use the listing frame to promote your Shop and its categories on all your listings; use cross-promotions within your Shop; make sure your Shop feed is going to Google Base.

Use eBay as a customer acquisition tool It’s been said often enough, but every week it gets more true: trading solely on eBay is no longer a viable proposition for most merchants. Give your repeat customers every incentive to come back to you, but back to your website rather than your eBay shop. There’s no nicer feeling than looking at a website order, and working out the FVFs you didn’t just pay for it. 🙂

5 Responses

  1. I nearly fell off of my chair reading the “upgrade to an anchor shop”

    They must really think that ebay sellers have IDIOT tattooed on their foreheads.

    Was nice to see an ebay referral to my website today though 😀

  2. ebay Account Managers know nowt, and can do even less,
    I have never came across such a misplaced title, Telephone pests is a better way to describe them

  3. They can pass on messages, North. In my experience, AMs are basically sales people, and if they get the message that they’re not going to be able to up people’s listing fee spend because that spend is being spent elsewhere, I harbour a secret hope that that might get through.

    That said, I daren’t even respond to my AM’s email at the moment. She’s so sweet, I don’t want to tell her how pissed off I am 🙁

  4. to be honest I cant fault ebay they continue to exceed my expectations
    well into my tenth year and still as good as ever,
    cant remember the last time I emailed them about anything

    though I know its probably just the categories I sell in


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