How eBay are blacklisting good seller’s auctions

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been hearing complaints from more and more sellers that their auctions are being buried at the bottom of eBay search results. There seems to be no good reason for this – these sellers are not below standards, in fact many of them are Top Rated Sellers.

There’s a long thread on the eBay Business Seller Board and there are many more discussions about the matter. A TameBay reader even pointed out that when they searched for my own auction listings on eBay they too were dumped at the bottom of search results.

TameBay reader Robin has been doing some investigation and tested where his auctions appear in search and used two different eBay accounts to do some a-b testing. He’s captured his findings in video which makes for interesting watching and if you currently sell on eBay you need to be aware of this information.

eBay auctions (even in Best Match) are supposed to be sorted by Time Ending Soonest, the only sellers listings dumped to the bottom of search results should be those who are below standard. Why are good sellers listings being demoted? There’s been much discussion of this and some sellers have had answers from eBay support suggesting that their listings are being demoted due to their sell through rates. If you don’t have a high proportion of auctions closing with multiple bids there’s a pretty good chance that your auctions will be hidden from potential buyers regardless of your seller standards.

If your auctions are being demoted in search by eBay it’s not just your slow selling items that will be demoted though, it’s every eBay auction that you have running on the site.

The best advice we can currently offer if your listings are being lowered in search results is to cancel all of your auctions. Relist your products on fixed price listings and trust to eBay Best Match to enable buyers to find them. Start relisting auctions at low prices to encourage multiple bidders – eBay like auctions with lots of bidding activity. Try to avoid listing auctions which will end without sales – we know that this has been a valid selling strategy in the past but it will no longer ensure visibility but is now likely to lead to your auctions being blacklisted and demoted to the bottom of search results.

41 Responses

  1. “Try to avoid listing auctions which will end without sales – we know that this has been a valid selling strategy in the past”

    looks as ebay may have rumbled it!
    were one of those strange beasts that actually list an auction that is an auction , that is for for sale to the highest bidder regardless!

    we always thought a good selling strategy was to list something that would sell at a profit,

  2. That is very interesting and i would love ebay to comment on it apart from the usual its a glitch.

  3. Is this not similar to the penalty eBay apply when you have listed a number of auction-style listings and not maintained a 30% sell-through rate?

    I know for duplicate listings eBay will remove them and we have the duplicate auction-style tool to check our sell-through rate, but perhaps listing multiple auction-style listings which don’t get a good click-through or sell-through rate are “demoted” in some way (like the Google -90 penalty) and then your account as a whole is tarnished.

    eBay state in their communication that when sell-through rate is less than 30% it could lead to “selling restrictions”. Perhaps this is one of those restrictions?

    In Robin’s case it would be good to go back and look at the volume of non-duplicate listings and their impressions, clicks and sales and see if anything changed in the last month (or the period he experienced the demotion).

    Not justifying eBay as it’s incredibly frustrating and I agree why demote the whole account?

    I guess the only action right now for affected sellers is to try eBay’s similar advice for duplicate listings;

    “Removing listings that aren’t selling will make it easier for buyers to find and buy what they’re looking for and helps save you time and money spent on listings that aren’t generating sales. If you’re unsure an item will sell, first create a single listing to gauge demand. Then create duplicate auction-style listings only if the first one generates a bid. Stick to best practices for your auction-style listings to attract buyers-use a low start price and avoid using a reserve price. You can also check completed listings to see if similar items get bids.”

  4. I have been running my own tests over the last 7 days, it’s all to do with which category you choose, if you can change the category in the demoted auction to the same category that the other sellers auctions who have auctions at the top your auction will leap right up. EBay chooses which category they like and promote them, really does my head in.

  5. Interesting piece of analysis.

    I particularly liked the test with the water-lillies picture, although I notice that the lower ranked listing has the dashes in the title. It would be a better test if the listing on the junk account was 100% identical to the TRS account.

    If the suggestion is that auctions should all be run at 99p, then that simply will lead to disappointed sellers. Despite the large number of buyers, many sub-marketplaces are insufficiently liquid for perfect market conditions to exist. We experiment with this a lot for our sellers in order to get them higher prices.

    Search shouldn’t be designed to help or to punish certain sellers. It should help buyers find what they are looking for. The criteria should be transparent, so that sellers can game search only by offering what buyers really want.

  6. 99p and free shipping… Put those together and you are potentially in for a world of hurt.

    How wide is the window on that STR? I had a fairly poor showing on one batch of listings and if that becomes the whole window I could run afoul of it right for Christmas.

  7. There are a couple of thoughts, The first and most obvious is that if ebay is playing ducks and drakes with listings in this way perhaps its time to look again at such as ebid.

    Secondly I sell Books. Buyers seem to look either for the exact Book title or perhaps for the subject matter. The trouble is that as “Search” is such total rubbish its hard if not impossible to ascertain if listings are being demoted or not.

    I find that a Book is listed by title. Then I put in a “search” to look at my own title and obviously any other of the same book listed same title(with some titles there could be more than one book with the same title) I get a whole lot of rubbish much of which has little or nothing to do with the title I “Searched”.

    Obviously if there are say 5 listings for that exact there should be just 5 on the “search” but because the system does not highlight the exact title “searched” there could be 50 or 100 thrown up. The 5 will be scattered through the results. Is this because ebay’s manipulation or is it a fair representation of where they actually are in the system? Obviously the times remaining does give some indication but it is time consuming to have to go through numerous garbage when you are looking for a particular title.

    Obviously I am only really interested in Books but the way the “search” system works at present is total garbage.

  8. I have to thank you for this post. I’ve just checked my main account and all my auctions have been demoted. Every last one.

    I spent £1000 a month on auctions on this account so reading this has potentially saved me thousands of pounds over the next year or more.

    I very rarely moan about eBay’s changes and policies, but not telling me that they have been doing this to my listings is shocking. God knows how much I had wasted on auction insertion fees. If they had told me I would have stopped them right away.


  9. Ian, you are correct that the wrong category will also push you to the bottom, but this is different. Your whole account gets effected with any auction you list being demoted. Nothing seems to effect it.

    Ive made several changes to several items, and checked the position of over hundred items, it appears to be across the board for me.

  10. Ian, I have tested like you and I guess the category may affect listing order in some instances but it makes no difference to my listings.

    Dave – You have had the same realisation I have had – huge amounts of wasted cash because eBay never explained what they were doing.

    I don’t expect eBay to explain the exact ‘weightings’ of each factor that affect position with Best Match but if they don’t even explain what the factors are then how are we supposed to know except if eventually someone works it out.

    In the meantime eBay have made vast amounts of money for listings that are buried.

    I gather there is one guy who has been virtually put out of business.

    Thanks must go to him and others who worked out what was going on and then took the time and trouble to let me know.

    Dillon – You might be right. I had heard about this 30% sell thro but thought it was for duplicate auctions – I don’t do them so thought it was irrelevant.

    As one seller said (on another thread) there must be many sellers who have putting the decline in their sales down to the ‘recession’ and so have soldiered on without doing the ‘needle in a haystack’ analysis needed to narrow down the problem.

  11. Thanks Robin for pushing this matter and getting the article placed on eBay. I’ve now been more than 6 weeks trying to get an answer from eBay, and the thread in the business forum has been running for a month and a day, and still without any PINK interjection.

    Due to some correspondence I received from some senior eBay staff from different parts of the globe, I had been told auction demotion was in relation to sell-through rate on duplicate styled auctions. Since Robin and another TRS have started noticing the same problems with their account, and do not list any duplicate auctions, then we’ve been able to rule this out as a possible explanation.

    Titles certainly do not explain the problem, nor does category changes. Impressions have also been ruled out, as brand new auctions can be listed on an affected account, and they will still appear far down out of sight.

    As I was writing my reply, I just checked something on the eBay website, and have just this very moment discovered something very SLY and SNEAKY eBay have done.

    I deliberately saved a copy of the Best Match FAQ in case they tampered with it. On the 20th October it read:

    Auction style listings are sorted based on Seller Standards and “Time: ending soonest”.

    At some point since the 21st October and today they have changed this to read:

    “Auction-style listings are mainly sorted based on seller performance standards and ‘Time: ending soonest’.”

    Unbelievable. Despite weeks of trying to communicate with eBay they make subtle changes to their wording, knowing there is more going on behind their scenes here, yet refuse to communicate with customers affected.

    I’ve had enough with eBay. I’m making preparations to leave them some time early next year.

  12. If your not TRS, and your listings are not getting traffic. The only way to drive traffic is through auctions. If your auctions are then demoted and no ones seeing them. There is therefore not point in listing them.

    my 2 cents.

  13. How about some i spent, 20K in ebay fees, and all i didnt get was this mug, T Shirts to help with the seller motivation factor ?

    Or another free listing weekend for private sellers.

    Boy ebay looks after us.

  14. Can I suggest that eBay sellers who feel they have lost out as a result of this start to calculate their losses and collate supporting evidence.

    Early estimates indicate that there is potentially scope for a multi-party action against eBay for losses.

  15. Lawyer – problem is, there is no definitive way to calculate revenue loss. If a potential customer switches to ‘time ending soonest’ instead of using the default ‘best match’, they will see auctions normally. I’m guessing a majority of buyers will use Best Match though, and the auctions do appear, but very far down the list. This has had a big impact on sales, but it’s impossible to put a precise figure on it.

    I think the fact they’ve changed the wording about how auctions work within Best Match within the past couple of weeks, gives grounds for any potential legal challenge. I have the proof they changed the wording recently, and as a consequence some of us have not been given the service described by eBay, for which we have paid good money for.

  16. eBay would seem to have taken a unilateral decision to ‘demote’ all auctions from certain sellers.

    The fact that eBay chooses not to notify these sellers when further auctions are then submitted for listing is disengenous (at best!).

    If eBay are taking a normal listing fee then the very least that they should be doing is advising the seller.

    Anyone from eBay to comment?

  17. No surprises there. The writing was on the wall. I’m glad I’ve moved on. The advantages of selling on eBay are fast evaporating for small sellers.

  18. So much for the utopian level playing field, but it happens with with every innovation. You’ve just got to move to the next revolution, which I think I’ve done,fingers crossed.

  19. I too have been suffering from exactly this problem. I have been advised by ebay customer support that my account is in good order with no restrictions but my auction listings are all relegated to after the 10 days auctions regardless of how long they have to run. CS said try different titles – still bottom. Then try lower prices – still bottom. I even searched for an exact title and still bottom. My account has been targeted by ebay without them telling me and they have taken thousands of pounds off me while not providing the service they said they would.
    Surely they should at least refund a percentage of their illegal gains.

  20. There is a good I’m guessing 70% chance I will be closing my store the first of the year and end any selling there…..It’s become too troublesome… Restrictions on listing etc……Pity they are taking the company down just like Kmart did

  21. Just a possibility…

    (Disclaimer: I don’t use auctions so I may be a little out of date on this ha ha)

    I remember a while back on the PS forum one of the pinks mentioned about sellers using auctions for visibility (as their BIN’s weren’t good enough to win using BM) instead of as a true auction. He quite openly said that auctions starting at a price not much different to the usual BIN price, were effectively BINs and should be possiblly dealt with in the same manner.

    Using Robin’s example of ‘Monet Canvas’ you can come up with this:

    which shows that the auction isn’t really a true auction, as its priced just below the BIN price. eBay could even be checking sellers items for BINs and auctions of the same things and checking the price difference?

    The video is kind of inconclusive if the 2nd selling ID has no recent history of selling, or comparable BIN products for that same auction item. Could that be worth trying?

  22. All that ebay cares about is their profits, plain and simple. If your item does not sell they do not make money. If to sell an item I have to list it at .99 cents, if there are only 1 or two bidders after ebay fees I end up loosing money. But does ebay care NO!! And why I do not sell ebay. Many years ago it was a fun and profitable way to sell but after it became a corporate conglomerate it got totally ruined.
    So we need to move away from ebay and go to ebid or ecrate or etsy.

  23. I’m afraid I can disprove that one Mark, as a TRS who came across this issue 6 weeks ago, and has been arguing with eBay ever since.
    I have auctions to provide visibility to my shop items (as eBay staff had told me to do) which may be marked by a difference in size. The shop prices are more than doubled. My shop items also have a variation in title and category and a small variation in description (to mark the differences to that of the smaller auctions).

    Whilst ALL my auctions were certainly demoted via any keyword search I cared to try, various levels of visibility have been happening recently.
    About a week ago, my items would not appear correctly in time order. If I ran a keyword search for something fairly specific and BM determined my category was the top one, I would still be buried. If I clicked manually on the category on the top left panel that BM had defaulted to, my items suddenly appeared correctly, which was more than a little odd. I tried the same test with Robin’s and another TRS account in the same position, but this didn’t work with their items.

    In the past few days, my auctions have gained visibility again under certain keyword searches within my catgeory (and sometimes when BM chooses entirely different categories), but not all searches. I can search for ‘xxxx’ and have 500 or a 1000 results, and my auctions will now appear correctly. I could search for ‘yyyy’ again in my category and be completely buried.

    I think eBay have been continually changing their algorithms, and Best Match is now processing auctions much more like Fixed Price items, and that perhaps titles and sell-through rates have a much bigger role. It would seem eBay are trying to discourage, possibly even phase out auctions, and become some strange Amazon hybrid.

    The fact that I saved the Best Match FAQ and caught them red-handed, inserting new words into their description of how auctions display, shows they must have been tampering recently, and were keen to try and cover their tracks.

  24. Hi, all, I’m a US eBay seller and 2 days ago I went on Google looking for info on other good auctions to sell on as I too just began to really have problems with eBay. Tonight I just check my running auctions and I see that eBay has buried my auctions like they have some one above talked about…so it’s happening in the US too.Can any one suggest which auction sites other than eBay have a good amount of traffic? thanks Janzy

  25. Sorry for the 2nd post, but I forgot to add, actually my sales dropped down since spring of 2010 and as of 2 months ago my sales really drooped. After reading all the comments above, I now realize what was/is going on. I’m just a small time seller, running aprox 20-30 auctions and 80 or store items. All this is just crazy. This summer, after selling on eBay for 11 years (every day), I finally made power seller and top seller…well that only lasted a month and then eBay started coming down on me. I called them several times to try to work things did no good all. No point in my going into details….they are the 500 pound gorilla in the room.So I see now it’s time for me to move on. I sell a lot of used SAS shoes & some women’s dressy clothing and many kinds of other things…guess you could say I’m sort of a cross between garage sale & thrift store & a bargain store.(my target audience, for the main part is women, mostly older women). Can anyone suggest a few web site auctions that would be good for the type of things I carry

  26. I have been selling on Ebay for ten years now. For the first time, in October, I lost my TRS/PS status and somehow, I have now become a ‘below standard’ seller. It’s interesting, since my DSR scores have NEVER dropped below 4.9 and my feedback is 100%. I AM a good seller. Now my Paypal funds are put on HOLD by Ebay- My search visibility has been lowered and I lost my 20% FVF discount. My auction style listings are getting no action at all. I’ve had one sale in the past three days. I just do not understand this.

  27. Evening All

    eBay can, will and do, what ever the heck they like and have been doing so for the eleven years that I have been selling on here. The goal posts aren’t being constantly moved, there are no goal posts. What was true today, will almost certainly not be true tomorrow.

    Learn from the free advice being posted on here and take heed!

    Or pay me £250 and I’ll tell you how to stay one step ahead of the game 🙂

  28. Hi,

    Just checked some of your listings on my search and they all came in the top ten of the search listings and most at number two, I cannot see any problem with them. please email me if you would like me to run some checks for you I will send you some screen shots if you can tell me how to do it.



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