25% of listings hidden on eBay.com

No primary category set

I’ve been looking at how listings are presented in the new search results on eBay.com to check how they’ll affect sellers. Up to 25% of listings in some categories are hidden which leaves some current listing strategies no longer cost effective.

I searched for a “Laser Printer” with the brand “HP” in the “Computers & Networking > Printers” category and was presented with 813 printers to choose from, except I wasn’t shown 813 printers.

Closer examination shows that with the default 50 results per page and 12 pages there are a maximum of 600 items returned in the search – less than 75% of the available items. The remaining 25% plus items are hidden from view and can only be seen by clicking the “To view all identical listings” link.

Other searches produce similar results – searching for media such as writable “dvd disks” displays 923 items with less than 600 viewable.

Many large sellers have in the past relied on prominence in listing results to achieve sales. They’ve scheduled listings to ensure that they will always have items ending soonest, and the largest sellers literally have items ending every hour of the day in the categories they trade in, especially in consumable and commodity products.

Under Best Match, the default search on eBay.com sellers will no longer be able to rely purely on swamping their categories with listings. Buyers simply won’t see them, it’s time to use new tactics to ensure your items are presented to buyers.

One of the most important factors in Best Match will be listings with sales/bids. Multiple item listings with the most sales or auctions with the most bids will be considered better matched than those with few or none, so longer listing durations Shop/Store Inventory Format (SIF) could become more important and it’s not unthinkable that SIF in core will re-appear on eBay in the near future.

One thing is certain, flooding eBay with listings will no longer be a guarantee of success. New listing strategies will emerge but sellers need to be wary they don’t fall foul of the Search & Browse Manipulation policy. Listing items across multiple User IDs in order to gain more then 10 items per page of search results is likely to be considered manipulation.

Currently there is no indication that the choice and multiple item policies will be implemented in the UK. It’s been stated that eBay UK “don’t have the product solutions implemented in the UK” (PS log in required), to enable the policy changes to take place.

If anything these changes should benefit the smaller seller, as the dominance of larger sellers will be restrained compared to the past. How larger sellers adapt to maintain their market share is yet to be seen, but from now on it’s a whole new ball game on eBay.com

42 Responses

  1. This is going to be interesting.

    It does at first glance look good for the little guy, bad for the big guy.

    Being a little guy it still doesn’t settle quite well with me.

    Does it destroy the free market for large sellers or does it democratize the platform for smaller sellers? Or both?

    I know many are saying it’s outright fraud, I wonder if anyone pursues that. Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t feel quite right. Though if it were I’d expect eBay to make another change to justify it (subscription fee rather than listing fee?).

    Does this drive larger sellers off the site or do they adjust?

  2. This will have a major impact on Auctions but fixed price listings don’t work that way. A 7 day listing could have 30 items in the listing that are available for 7 days. There is no need for multiple listings of the same item.

    I think tis may be a sign of SIF coming back into CORE. Who wants to pay for listings that only show up when eBay wants them to.

    Good job on catching this Chris.

  3. I still don’t get the reason why Ebay would want to hide even ONE listing. Yes, I’m one of those that thinks this is outright fraud. Sellers are paying and not getting anything in return…what could be more blatant? The business model should be simple…you pay for space for 7 days and you show up in search – anything else is manipulation and fraud!!! Between this and hiding some sellers as a “punishment” because some buyer gave the a negative are nothing but excuses. Bottom line, Ebay wants to manipulate buyers into see only what they WANT them to see! I believe its time some government office in authority took a long close look at this company – its long overdue. How many people do they have to “cheat” out of fees before it gets noticed?


  4. #3 Amazon have always been focused on 1) The buyer, 2) 3rd party sellers, 3) Investors (In fact investors saw no return for years 😉 ). No reason that eBay shouldn’t be run along a similar vein.

  5. #4 eBay want to offer buyers a wide range of products from a variety of sellers. Displaying duplicate identical listings from the same seller isn’t great and many a time I’ve seen search results with ten identical products from a single seller at the top of a search.

    eBay are doing two things:

    1) Hiding identical listings from a single seller unless they’re materially different (different price or number of bids). Lets face it as a seller if a buyer doesn’t bid on the first widget presented at £10 with £2 postage they’re unlikely to bid on the next nine widgets you have listed at £10 with £2 postage either (Unless they want multiples which is another story….)

    2) Moving any listings more then 10 to the next page of search results doesn’t hide listings – it merely spreads them out so that on each page a buyer is presented with items from a variety of sellers. Arguably if a buyer likes one item they’ll click to view the sellers other items, although equally it might be one of the items removed to the next page of search results that would have caught their eye. This in my opinion is actually more contentious, but under Best Match (if it’s all it’s cracked up to be) the most relevant item from the seller will be presented to them first. For collectibles and art this is potentially a serious issue for sellers.

  6. There is no other word for it than, FRAUD!

    How can they charge your fee, which is the same, (and in the case buy.com you’re paying far more) yet they give your item less exposure. This should be taken to court. We are all getting ripped off on the final sale price. I know my own item’s title and I still can’t find it half the time. How is this not criminal. Where else, but ebay, could you take someone’s money and not give them the service they paid for. Obviously, nobody is agreeing to pay for less exposure for their items. Less exposure, less sales, less final price. The entire selling process relies on the item being seen, that’s only common sense. Taking your fees then hiding your item is not in any fair business practice that I know of. There is only one factualy way to describe this activity…it is fraud and theft all neatly packaged by spindoctors. liars and thieves!

  7. When we list our items we are essentially paying for that last few minutes of exposure (as that is when 95% of the action/bidding takes place)…and when your item doesn’t make it to the top of the page…it definitely suffers. There is no doubt about that…that point is not arguable. I pay to have the same service as the next guy when I list an item…no more, no less. This policy could not, and would not stand up in an honest court of law.

  8. Chris (and Sue), thanks for your well thought out posts on all things eBay. You are often first, and always eminently readable – breaking down the drama and fluff to the core components and the effect on the marketplace.

    Well done – Tamebay is a must-read for any serious seller.

  9. #7 I wouldn’t call it fraud, as it’s set out up front what the display policy is so sellers are (should be) aware prior to listing the rules that will govern how and when on the site their items will appear.

    However there is a black art involved and at the moment it’s very much a suck it and see approach which doesn’t feel right. Ending soonest was always so simple – you knew that 1, 3, 5, 7 or 10 days later your listing would be at the top of the search and category results. That’s no longer the case.

    Fraud? Probably not. Complicated, dependent on buyers search keywords and a host of other factors yes.

    It’s not the knowledge my items may be hidden in some circumstances that perturbs me. It’s the not knowing precisely when and where they *will* appear that makes listing decisions an uncertain quagmire.

  10. First one needs to define ‘consumer’. In eBay’s case there is a duality in the definition, the primary consumer is the seller who presumably has the same end goals as eBay, sales and satisfied customers.

    The solution would appear to be simple. Do not list duplicate items on eBay.

    If you have new items in multiple quantity, list duplicates on other sites. What have you got to loose? If your items are not visible to buyers you are not going to get sales, why pay for invisibility.

  11. it’s fraud! I am stunned anyone would think otherwise

    “#3 Amazon have always been focused on 1) The buyer, 2) 3rd party sellers, 3) Investors (In fact investors saw no return for years 😉 ). No reason that eBay shouldn’t be run along a similar vein.”

    Amazon looks out for the buyers first because they are actually Amazon’s buyers- Amazon sell merchandise. 3rd party’s – again Amazon’s customers, but not as much of a priority as buyers #1 because Amazon can conduct business without third party sellers, but they can’t without the the the general traffic buyers. Last Investors- well simply put that is because they are intelligent enough to understand that to let the buyer down lets down the investor- they are smart enough to know the loss of third party merchants is a loss to investors. So in order to protect investors they take care of their job- which again is to sell their merchandise and their services to third party merchants.

    I just don’t get what cannot be understood about the absurdity of eBay’s actions- first they are attempting to merchandise me- yes you and every other seller has suddenly become eBay’s products- they are going to be the most competitive once the holiday’s begin- they are – well not until they realize they are competing with other selling avenues for my business will they be able to even consider their product (their service and space that they are now selling without delivery) as even being part of the equation.

    They are going to be the most competitive- with the best shipping value, and the lowest prices on the internet. hmmm So who will be offering the lowest prices? of course their products product will be selling for the lowest price and shipping freaking free.

    So lets look at eBay compared to Amazon –
    Amazon priority > its customer (buyer) > its third party merchants (also customers but not as important as their main revenue source) . investors- but really the investors are the priority and that is precisely why Amazon takes care of its revenue source.

    eBay priorities> buyers – (don’t understand the connection outside of safety for eBay members as a whole in which case they should actively rid the market of abusers and we all know they don’t)- Investors- (though they really are not getting the job done) then us their customers- their revenue source- they are nothing without their customers just the same as I am not, but they just don’t get it- or they

    Point- eBay does not sell merchandise they sell a service to 1 sector of the market and they are doing everything they possibly can to kick their customers as often and hard enough to get them to leave.

    Just so it isn’t used as justification – Amazon doesn’t charge per listing so they are not required to provide equal exposure- eBay does and is

    Store inventory in the general auction is not good for stores – it will drive the prices of your products down severely – right now you can throw a few low dollar auctions out and draw traffic to your store where you can actually make a profit – not hope for rapid high volume sells that barely pay the cost of the product. Of course eBay did say they would have to lowest prices by the holiday’s. I do not want my store inventory in the core marketplace it will not only cause a loss in sell potential the cost of the listing will increase. I believe the survey I took a few months ago – was in core- 30 day for 35 cents- yeah I would prefer my more than 900 items to stay in my store where I can sell them 25% higher.

    But we all view the world differently

  12. #5 Well you have far more confidence than me Chris.

    You would have thought after a bundle of controversial changes to fees, seller performance, search, and Trust & Safety policies launched this year already to name but a few, they may be wise to slow down on the corporal punishment for a few months and let the dust settle, but no, as soon as one week ends another starts with hints of more grief and hassle on the horizon.

  13. Chris, in theory what your saying sounds logical but in advertising here is something important

    The first time people look at any given ad, they don’t even see it.
    The second time, they don’t notice it.
    The third time, they are aware that it is there.
    The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it somewhere before.
    The fifth time, they actually read the ad.

    I don’t have a problem with limiting the amount of listings that show up on a page.

    I just wish there was a way that they could be spread out because I think it is valuable to have an item on several pages of a search, because maybe the first time they don’t see it, the second time they see it but they don’t notice is, the third time they are aware, and by the fifth time they click on it.

  14. Wouldn’t it be possible for eBay to block listings from being listed that are duplicates and that won’t show in the search (moral solution)?

    Comparisons between Amazon and eBay are pointless in my opinion. They are just so different. Look at the history + the consumer perception +.management style & direction.

  15. #15 I imagine they could Jimbo, however the likely hood is a large majority of sellers won’t understand this policy and will carry on as normal resulting in more revenue for ebay.

  16. #15 There are plenty of reasons why sellers *would* still want duplicate listings e.g. for buyers that manually change to “ending soonest” or “newly listed” sort options

  17. It still seems a little immoral to me.

    If a seller is paying for 10 listings at $2.00 an item every week, and only having one seen, they are being overcharged by $8.00.

    How many people are aware of this, this is the first time I have even heard of this and I am sure I am on the pulse (following this site).

    If there were no listing fees, your argument would be solid Chris.

    But when Ebay is charging for visibility and then not supplying it, you have a massive breach of seller trust.

    I would like to make the point again, the biggest problem for sellers at the moment is “visibility”.

    If Ebay keep hiding everyones listings, why should people list with them?

    Hidden in the Shop.
    Hidden behind Best Match.
    Hidden underneath off site links.

    Maybe it is time to scrap listing fees, as they are not delivering what they promise at lease 30% of the time (with Best Match anyway)…

    That is a MASSIVE destroyer of trust.


  18. #17 So how about a nice warning along the lines of “Your item may not show on eBays default seach, which is used by 99% of users”.

    eBays useability as a seller is on the way down, in my opinion.

  19. #18 Mark et al…. think about it for a moment, many of the commenters on this thread so far are (with due respect and myself included) small sellers. Look to the other end of the spectrum at the big sellers (Buy.com anyone?).

    One day your category was flooded with 100s of 1000s of listings, now you’ve got a shot at visibility as that big competitor is limited to 10 per page and no duplicates.

    I’d like to understand how the dynamics will work for large sellers but I don’t think smaller sellers have as much to worry about as they may think.

  20. #20 Interesting you mention Buy.com, they seem to have there own rules, are you suggesting that this will effect them? I don’t believe it will, would love to be proved wrong.

  21. Even with ending soonest sellers do not get the same visibility for all items. I have had items only reach the first page in the last few seconds, because there has been a solid block of around 60 listings from one seller just ahead. They were not identical items. The last time it was a full range of plastic construction kits (which did not include the one I was selling). If we still had ending soonest the 10 items, per seller, per page would have given a better spread of visibility. Throw Best Match in the mix and it’s anybody’s guess. I wonder if Trading Standards could force eBay to publish fully how Best Match works, then at least sellers would be able to judge whether to spend money on listing.

  22. I truly do not understand ebay anymore.
    How can they charge a fee and not deliver?
    Why are these changes not incorporated into the user agreement and make you agree or disagree?
    Not just place little notes all over the SYI Form when you list.
    It is wrong.
    Again, you pay for what you pay for and they do not deliver.
    Why is it that I as a seller am punished if a buyer pays for Airmail no tracking and it takes longer than expected and I am in the wrong according to ebay…?
    I post the charge and type for shipping, customer agrees and then complains after the sale?
    Should I not be able to day that ‘ this is what you agreed to ‘ and have ebay remove the poor feedback?
    Double standards are all over ebay as a company.
    I have contacted ABC NEWS in the USA about investigating what ebay is doing to everyday good people.
    eBay is in Violation of The Sherman Act as well as fraud.
    Over on http://www.auctionbytes.com an angry seller wrote to ebay stating:

    We are paying you for a service to list the items for sale but yet you are now “hiding” the listings that you have been paid for.

    Pulling this up under _https://www.usdoj.gov this is considered Internet fraud. I quote from the information page about internet fraud below

    (What is Internet Fraud)

    “These schemes induce their victims to send money for the promised items,
    but then deliver nothing or only an item far less valuable than what was

    I am disgusted with ebay again and again.
    Something has to be done.

  23. We are paying you for a service to list the items for sale but yet you are now “hiding” the listings that you have been paid for.

    Pulling this up under _https://www.usdoj.gov this is considered Internet fraud. I quote from the information page about internet fraud below

    (What is Internet Fraud)

    “These schemes induce their victims to send money for the promised items,
    but then deliver nothing or only an item far less valuable than what was

  24. #20

    I know what you are saying Chris, but if sellers do not know this, then Ebay are overcharging them.

    Ebay should contact all sellers and explain this via email in my opinion.

    It would be good courtesy 🙂


  25. I agree with, Jimbo. I would like to see ebay put this disclaimer in large print on the seller’s page as they are listing and choosing the type of promotion they want for their listing.

    It should go something like: Though you have paid full listing price we will promote other auctions by larger sellers (including buy.com…who pays less than you) but will receive greater exposure. Should you agree with this policy please put a checkmark in the box to proceed. Otherwise you will not be able to list as we have not given full disclosure to you or the buyer.

    Then this should also be put at the top of ebay’s main search page for buyers.

    Buyers, please note if you wish to see the items which are ending soonest you must change the search function to include those items. Because we feel we know what your really want, we have put this list of items in front of your for your buying pleasure.

    Then you would have fair disclosure and I wouldn’t call it fraud. As it is now, it is clearly fraud. If you want to give people less of a service you should provide them with the smaller price…not the people you promote more receive a discounted price. In essence, you are subsidizing the guy they are promoting above you. How much more biased could that be?

    It is not only fraud to the seller it is also fraud to the buyer. First the seller doesn’t get the price he/she could get for the item had it been given it’s proper, and paid for exposure. Second, the buyer doesn’t get to see all the items which are available for purchase. I’m sure a buyer would like to make the decision for themselves as to whether the item they are looking for is a “best match” for them.

    The system is simply put in as a “you rub my back and I’ll rub yours system. It is the F word FRAUD, FRAUD, FRAUD!

    Taking maximum dollars from a seller and giving them minimal return in price and exposure is not how ebay portrays themselves. Maybe it’s time they told the truth for once. Full disclosure and then we have no arguement. Many people are unaware of these features and ebay counts on that.

  26. 😳

    eBay should get their facts right. If you have a whole load of identical items get rolled up until 1 gets a bid?

    I don’t wanna get done for shill so could somebody pop a bid on please?

  27. I tried this and could view all results, none were hidden at all. Also tried it on a range of keywords with the same results.

  28. Even if your items don’t show in search they will still show in ‘sellers other items’, ‘browse category’, and are listed on ebay if you’re exporting to google or similar.

    I’m sure theres nothing in the ebay T&C’s that says your item will show up in their global search.

    Don’t get me wrong, I agree ebay are riping people off and should be clearer, I just don’t think legally theres a case.

  29. You have to look on .com not .co.uk.

    Goto the main .com site and type in “used google adwords voucher” and you will see the rolled up results.

    I think eBay should have a credit system based on if the item is EVER shown in core. If it is never shown , then you should get a relist credit.


    he death penalty has been reinstated…it’s now called corporate punishment:

    The following list includes the “new” penalties.

    1. Death by electrocution…has now been replaced with death by the shock…shock of the incredibly silly policies that can be passed by seemingly educated people. The victim of this type of punishment is usually found at a keyboard in a frozen, almost zombie like, state — muttering from underneath a pile of unsold ebay rubble…truly a shocking site to behold.

    2. Death by lethal injection…has now been replaced by death by lethal injection of new fees, which render one poor and incapable of a decent life. The victim of this type of injection can be seen standing in food-bank line-ups and usually succumbs to hypothermia in their repossessed home.

    3. Death by hanging…has now been replaced by death by hanging around a site that doesn’t want you or respect you. It is a slow and painful death that is brough on by shattered optomism and crushed dreams.

    4. Death by firing squad…has now been replaced by; Death by a squad that should have been fired. This is one of the worst ways to go…knowing,that due to the incompetence of others, your life was snatched from you by the very people you once trusted.

    Happebays are here again!

  31. Smoke, mirrors and supposition aside….the sad fact is that hundreds, if not thousands of small sellers just like me have quit listing on Ebay altogether. Profit has gone down to almost nothing and yet now Ebay forces free shipping too. When you’ve had your limit of hoops to jump thru then you MUST sit back and think if it is all worthwhile. For many of us it is no longer worthwhile so we list on free sites – get that occasion sell and be happy with it. It really amounts to just about the same profit as selling on ebay what with the crazy search that seems to hide small sellers and all the threats to one’s reputation until you feel you have to walk on water. Lots of us are finding out that selling elsewhere and getting fewer sales – yet with more of it belonging to us – is more worthwhile then selling on Ebay. What really bothers me is that ebay fills the void of lost small sellers with listings like buy.com – giving the site a phony air of success.

    As to mulitple listings…I know of several artists who list their paintings with the exact same title – different painting, same title. I have never done this but they claim its an easy way for their customers to find them (I guess in that crazy, wacky search). Also, if I’m buying something and there are several listings all the same I tend to like that better. I’ll wait as they begin to roll off and jump on the one with no bids or the smallest bid…nothing wrong with that…lots of buyers do it! Just some examples of both sides of the coin. As for multiple listings – DON”T HIDE a listing and CHARGE full price for it – that is fraud and I bet some lawsuit is going to let the courts decide it.

  32. Bottom line: If ebay is going to hide mulitple listings…then ebay needs a way to DECLINE a multiple listing…not accept it and HIDE it. To do so is blatantly fraud – sell a service for a fee and not performing that service! I think we all know that Ebay will collect a fortune before EVERY seller knows this new wacky policy of hiding listings. Yet another great example of why sellers no longer trust Ebay. They may be riding along the fine edge of the law…but once they lose seller trust they also lose business.

  33. When is the court case? Each person who has sold on ebay since this policy change should be entitled to their entire listing fee back…that is the minimum this lawsuit should require.

    They admit in the above link that they hide auctions. Anyone who was defending ebay must read this. They haven’t a leg to stand on…we need legal action now!

  34. I dont defend ebay though anything that harms ebay is not in my interest,

    we dont need legal action, we need buyers,
    the only people that profit from legal action are lawyers



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