The Advance of Adverts on eBay

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One thing that I’ve noticed on eBay since I have been paying much closer attention to it in the last week or so, is the dramatic increase of adverts on the site. Gone are discreet adverts here and there. I’m seeing large chunks of the homepage above the fold given over to adverts for the likes of the National Lottery and Sky. Across the site there are more, more prominent third-party adverts. The quality of adverts too, seems to have diminished: gaudy naff looking ads for gambling sites seem to be acceptable nowadays (although some would say that there’s nothing new there).

I’ve also been inundated with reports and screengrabs of text link ads at the start of search. Text links at the bottom of search results or for searches with null results are bad enough, but at the top? Adverts can be the first thing a searching buyer sees. No matter how you slice it, it’s a kick in the teeth for all the eBay customers who have paid for listings and listing enhancements.

eBay claim that these adverts aren’t shown universally. In fact, they should apparently only be visible to people who aren’t signed in, who haven’t been on the site for a while or who don’t have a cookie for buying or selling (but I’m not  sure that’s the case because so many active sellers are reporting seeing these ads, ones who haven’t cleared their caches, are active sellers and are signed in).

Even if it’s working as eBay intends this is the scenario: a new or dormant eBay user (or one who has just cleared cookies for whatever reason) ventures back to the site, does a search and gets ‘sponsored links’ rather than well displayed, relevant listings that might reactivate and win back a buyer for eBay and eBay’s sellers.

The advance of adverts raises three questions for me:

Doesn’t it all look desperate?
Ads can be a very attractive source of revenue. That’s why they’re there: to make eBay money. And with the advance of adverts, we can only assume that eBay wants to make more money from ads. Are things so bleak for eBay that padding out the balance sheet with ad revenue is the only hope?

Isn’t it a distraction?
eBay’s core business is still about people buying and selling stuff. These ads take traffic from eBay and ads in search results are particularly egregious. I for one have been distracted by these ads and made a purchase elsewhere. How much leakage is tolerable?

Where does it stop?
Ads at the start of search are intended to be shown quite sparingly now. But what if they were universal? What if rather than 2 text ads, 5 were shown pushing inventory below the fold? eBay UK has not been open regarding its plans and where they will stop. Could we see text links on item pages?

33 Responses

  1. The ads on Ebay are completely ridiculous and show how much disdain Ebay has for its users. So much Google-envy.

  2. Is anyone actually surprised eBay are doing this? The arrogance with which they treat their users is well documented.

    Greed and desperation.

  3. ebays a business ,it needs to make money where it can, how it can,
    its one and only responsibility is to make a profit,
    I dont think ebay owes us anything ,if it works for us we use them,
    if it does not work, we dont use them ,

  4. eBay’s end game is to turn eBay into a shopping portal, basically they want Joe Public to go to eBay to find products that are advertised on the net, yesterdays message was pretty clear cut, they don’t want small sellers.

    Small sellers will still exist and eBay will happily still take your money but you are now at the bottom of the pile.

    As for those increasingly annoying bloody adverts, I reached out for help on Twitter yesterday and thanks to @biddy I now have AdBlock Plus installed not a sponsored link or a flashing advert for weight watchers in sight now, I might even start shopping on eBay again, whether I can bloody find the thing I want is another story…..

  5. Northumbrian,

    You are totally correct.

    The question is is eBay making short term games at the cost of long term damage.

    I actually think their is a place for advertising on eBay. But smart advertising.

    Say for example a new James Bond is coming out. Have all the searches for James Bond memorabilia linked with a page take over branding thing for the new JB movie, and a tie in to several auctions for premier tickets plus a charity auction for a cinema for you and your friends. (or some such).

    End result, eBay increases revenue and JB sellers increase sales.

    However just blanket advertising, both banner and text based I think, is as Dan says, a failure to address the ability issues in the core platform.

    And if the core platform doesn’t grow, it will be unattractive to advertisers. The more successful advertising is, the less people who will use eBay, which will result in ultimately a slow death.

    I think advertising shows a lack of innovative thinking. Advertising is easy. It’s not the hard yards. And eBay needs to be doing the hard yards.

  6. eBay has also launched its adcommerce programme now, so that we sellers can pay to advertise our listings – on top of the listing fees and FV fees that we already pay.

    Erm, thanks eBay, but no thanks.

  7. ➡ Could this be why all the links on ‘my ebay’ move every few months. You have to look at all the page to find anything therefore noting the ads. Same as supermarkets when they move the sugar and bread to different locations you are forced to see other offers on the aisle ends.

  8. 7 – sponsored links for porn sites

    I recently received a seller violation strike for listing a raunchy dvd only to find that there are numerous links to Hard Core porn sites from adverts directly below dvds of a erotic nature. Double standards or what.

  9. All the new ads on EBAY make me think of YAHOO – if you go on YAHOO it’s like a midway – lots of garish, in your face distractions. Not helpful if you’re actually trying to get something done. Compare this to Google, low key, professional, just there to help – not shout at you that you should buy this – or this! Guess which company is thriving, which is going down?

    Ironic how EBAY seems to have developed a negative branding – folks now, far from being loyal, want ebay to fail – takes real genius to create that.

  10. 11
    Selling on ebay is a major part of my business, but quite honestly I am feed up with constant changes and a lack of support. Advertisements are one more straw. Like many business sellers I pay several thousand pounds every year to ebay in different fees. I know there is a credit crunch, but sales are down from last year. Are buyers getting feed up with ebay as well? I regularly buy items on ebay, but lately I’m finding it increasingly hard to find what I’m looking for. Best match is a joke and whilst scanning for the item I would like to buy I’m pestered by advertisements for things I don’t want because the best match didn’t actually find what I was looking for.

  11. eBay should take a leaf out of Googles’ book. Google, the biggest provider of online advertising in the world, yet not a single advert on their home page…

  12. Google are respected for the cleaness of their site….they have kept to their core values. Ebay should remind themselves of their core values and keep adverts to a minimum. These ads are annoying….and take up page loading time – i dont bother staying on the home page for long now 🙁

    In a positive light, i love the new look and feel of the ebay site – a good job there.

  13. eBay’s core business is still about people buying and selling stuff. These ads take traffic from eBay

    The typical spin … “That’s exactly what eBay is about and the ads accomplish exactly that by connecting buyers to sellers.”

    The problem I have with this explanation is that eBay is sending buyers out to anyone who pays them $0.05 (or whatever their typical PPC rate is) and the buyer doesn’t necessarily have “buyer protection” as eBay or PayPal would define it.

    To give an example. I used to use Yahoo advertising for one of my sites. I purchased the keywords “leave feedback”. I eventually had to drop Yahoo because I constantly got horrible traffic coming from eBay using up my entire advertising budget. Noobs on eBay would search “leave feedback”, see an ad for my site, try to log into my site 3 – 4 times (even though it looks absolutely nothing like eBay), and then contact me complaining how hard eBay is to use. I could have easily captured thousands of passwords if I was like that. I have the same problem with Google Adwords and Amazon but it is a very small problem.

  14. @ 17

    Yeah but it was very relevant to my website. I didn’t want hoards of eBay buyers trying to leave feedback on the eBay site clicking on my links from within eBay though. Outside of eBay the traffic converts ok.

    Still it is a very dangerous position for eBay to put their buyers in. You could easily get passwords at $0.20 a piece without sending a single spam.

  15. cant see how adverts conflict with ebays core value,
    ebays core value is buying and selling

  16. never mind ebay ,an effin big banner ad, for homestead websites,
    struck right across the text
    in the middle of tamebays home page does not impress

  17. Norf:

    Obviously if the display of banners is interfering with your use of Tamebay because of an error, then we need to fix that. And will fix that. But we will need to know and see exactly what you’re seeing (send me a screengrab) and also give us some details of browser and operating system so we can attempt to replicate it?

    Or are you just having a whinge because you don’t like adverts? Anywhere.

    It’s free to have a whinge (and you don’t hold back on here, I notice) but there are costs involved with running a site like Tamebay (in terms of technology and hosting, time and the occasional legal fee, doubtless) it seems like discreet, relevant and targetted adverts are the way to cover those costs. Unless you were proposing a monthly subscription Norf?

    When of course, Tamebay has an annual turnover in millions earned from transactional fees from our marketplace like eBay does, we will of course remove all third-party advertising.


  18. you are making assuptions
    I have nothing against adverts
    I mean what I said. when I click on tamebay the banner link that should show on the bottom shows right across the text
    a code error that seems now to have corrected itself

  19. I think the issue Norf is referring to is an issue I’ve seen myself on the my Diamond Haus “observations” page. I never figured out what causes it but it is some issue the Google Adsense and some flash banners. They sometimes appear out of place and usually towards the top of the page. I haven’t seen the issue in nearly two months, however. Interestingly I’ve never had the issue on my other sites or on any other pages.

  20. I’m with Gill @6

    I am not big enough to warrant paying extra advertising fees for the ad campaign, I pay listing fees, a shop fee and FVF’s but this will obviously now not be enough to actually get my items seen as it seems I am supposed to pay even more to ensure that… I can’t afford to so won’t, will just have to put my effort and money even more into my own site that’s all.



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