eBay Hack and Google downgrade – what’s eBay’s recovery plan?

It’s not a question of whether these past few weeks have been bad for eBay. We know that for sure. It’s doubtless the worst fortnight eBay has seen since the mega-outages of the late 1990s when eBay would be down for many hours on end.

The hack was bad enough but I’m rather more worried about the Google downgrade in search. Each are bad in themselves: together they’re very serious.

If not addressed powerfully and quickly we could see a significant drop in buyer confidence and seller profitability. And that’s a detrimental downward spiral if allowed to persist.

So if there is no question that these two things are bad, we must ask exactly how bad. How badly has eBay marketplace trade been affected by them these past few weeks? There’s no way of judging that meaningfully right now. The quarterly results for April to the end of June will be more helpful there and we won’t see those until some time in July.

But as a bel-weather our Tamebay mailbag is quite telling in that we’ve had some very worried emails from sellers saying their sales are very poor. That isn’t a surprise.

The most urgent question, though, is what eBay is actually doing about this double whammy. And as far as we can see: not much. And that only makes me more worried.

My fear is that the mandarins at eBay, who might only judge success on the stock price, whatever criteria their bonus is calculated upon and general satisfied internal back slapping, might consider the job done and the crisis over.

But this thing ain’t over. I’d suggest, to quote the immortal wisdom of the Carpenters, that we’ve only just begun.


The Google downgrade is apparently the result of some SEO (search engine optimisation) practices that Google don’t like. There is some evidence that eBay has begun to address those and that’s the right approach. White hat only please eBay for now on.

The eBay hack is the more difficult problem to solve because it’s vital to say to millions of buyers “we’re open, we’re safe, we’re a great place to buy” in the light of some very negative press coverage and likely some difficult experiences in actually changing passwords. (I wonder how many millions haven’t even logged into do that or given up? It’s a petrifying thought.)

Clearly some sort of massive promo campaign is in order. And coupons seems like the obvious choice, using Paypal to deliver them. It’s vital to reactivate all those buyers who might be feeling a bit wary of eBay right now and get them buying happily again. Yup, it’ll take some wedge. But you can’t expect to get through the floods without it costing you something.

So, whatever eBay has in mind, we look forward to them announcing a big campaign with “buyer confidence” at its core over the next few days and weeks because it’s the least they owe to sellers. And the sooner, the better.

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Had eBay not peed off so many sellers, and indeed be in process of implementing a seller release likely to pee off even more, it could have looked to sellers to help them out. However the de-personalisation of the seller/buyer interface, along with reduced sales has led to more and more (sellers) turning their attentions elsewhere. I retain my status as a trusted seller but with eBay more and more claiming that the buyers are 'theirs' thay have more or less shut the door on retaining the personal aspects of the marketplace. The lack of apparent eBay action is the rabbit / headlight effect. I too wait with interest for the next moves. And surely all this uncertainty will put the PayPal spin-off back on the Agenda?

JD • 2nd June 2014 •

Totally agree with JD. This past couple of weeks my eBay sales are down by about 85%, and this is over an end of month/pay day. Not normal. The Google downgrade issue is HUGE!! The password issue makes it even worse. Previously, and consistently over the past few years, if a few certain searches were made I had 6 to 9 of the results on the first page, now nothing. Google has basically dumped eBay and I don't know why but I expect there is much more to this. Maybe this is the point that eBay recognise that the drive for profit at all costs may not be the best approach. Maybe Google will recognise that whatever issue they have with eBay is damaging many people and reinstate eBay search results. The fact is both operate essentially as monopoly's, neither is transparent, and at the end of the day this is basically a couple of beast’s that we the users have all contributed to and created. Frankly I doubt either particularly care.

Alex • 3rd June 2014 •

Today there is a box flashing at me about the 20 Free Listings per months that Private Sellers enjoy. It also is flashing about You Would be surprised how much you can make....but surely to make anything you need to be able to sell what you have listed...and that requires Buyers....Anybody seen one lately???

Chris T • 7th June 2014 •

its also surprising how much tax and vat privates sellers owe HRMC

northumbrian • 7th June 2014 •

I agree, they are forcing legitimate businesses big time. Being able to charge stupid prices without the need to pay TAX. I hate them.

Seller007 • 13th June 2014 •

Thre downgrade in natural search is likely due to the upgrade of Google Shopping in blended search and from what *i* see, in that area, there is excellent visibilit for eBay. As a side note, it could be argued that the biggest threat to eBay is Google Shopping and PLAs and the rise of trusted feedback sites (eg Ekomj).

Mark B • 2nd June 2014 •

As eBay rely on sellers to create their own content, including meta keywords for shops and shop categories, I wonder how much of the SEO issues might have come from 3rd parties. They state, "Please note that eBay may use only some of your custom keywords to generate your page Title and Meta Tags for search engine optimisation" It could mean even stricter rules coming from eBay regarding creating shops and listings, which could annoy even more sellers.

James • 3rd June 2014 •

As I said on a related thread on Tamebay and I will repeat to anyone who wants to listen, I think this has nothing to do with the seller content and everything to do with eBay's spamming of Google results. When I do a “Google Shopping” search, and click on the eBay results, only the first one or first two are relevant, if I’m lucky. The rest take me to a generic eBay search (that often does not even include ALL of my “Google Shopping” search terms!) This is such a waste of time as a buyer, I am not surprised at all that Google have downgraded eBay. Furthermore, when doing a search as a buyer on eBay UK recently, I seem to notice that the top results are more and more often from eBay.com and sometimes Australia. In most cases, as a buyer this is also frustrating and a waste of time for me, as I do not want to wait for over a week to receive my shopping -not to speak the impact of this on UK-based sellers.

Naeia • 12th June 2014 •

I think it's a triple whammy - the feedback system can no longer be trusted. Trust & Safety told me a neg I gave was removed because eBay must protect itself from legal action by big sellers. If the feedback system is being gamed what is the site?

Nick • 3rd June 2014 •

I've also seem big name sellers protected from neg feedback. Look at these Microsoft Net Safe Team feedbacks from 14+ years ago. It was even going on then.... https://feedback.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewFeedback2&userid=msnetsafeteam&ftab=AllFeedback

Tony C • 5th June 2014 •

I wouldn't trust any feedback that predates 2001. eBay didn't have anything even remotely approaching a real feedback system back then. You could simply rate anyone for anything without a transaction actually existing. If you read those comments most of them are upset about the auction being cancelled. The fact they are all neutrals is suspicious but I swear I faintly remember that eBay converted negatives into neutrals for everybody under some specific circumstance long ago. I might be thinking of one of the early iterations of the UPI policy though.

ebuyerfb • 6th June 2014 •

Interesting, and points taken. Yes, I noticed that about the cancelled listings, and perhaps that's why as you say.

Tony C • 7th June 2014 •

. Not sure if it's only me, but I've been hearing a lot more ebay ADVERTISEMENTS ON THE RADIO lately, suggesting the listeners become an ebay sellers. Bet they are regretting the mass cull on late....

Gerry007 • 3rd June 2014 •

All over the media but nothing compared to being nicknamed feebay and evilbay, - even before the seller suspensions. An incredible case of greed and stupidity. They were/are IT but weren't satisfied and I think it's possible they could be just another auction site in 10 years time.

GJN • 4th June 2014 •

I find it alarming that ebay seems so dependant on google search - does this mean that such significant numbers of potential buyers fail to come to ebay as the first port of call when considering a purchase? apparently so then. If that in not an indicator of ebay failing to appeal to buyers then I would like to have the figures comparing ebay and amazons reliance on google. Basically ebay need a management overhaul.

Steve • 5th June 2014 •

I agree with most of what Alex says, except that 'we' have created the eBay monster. Personally, I feel that they have unilaterally created themselves as a monster; how can we have had any influence on creating their current position when they never listen to us?

Tony C • 5th June 2014 •

. It is because over the last few years they have bought in change after change after change without any consultation with their fee paying sellers & we as those sellers have just had to bow down and accept their (many clearly unrealistic) new rules and restrictions Now they can get away with anything including 'murdering' businesses at a whim. Their sheer arrogance in the password fiasco shows they put themselves to far up their own ladder, leaving their bread & butter sellers standing at the bottom.... Ebay has become a very uneven playing field......

Gerry007 • 5th June 2014 •

That's what I meant; we have had no input, consultation, influence or anything. We've just had to, as you say, bow down and accept it all. That's why I don't accept that eBay is 'our' monster that we have created; they've done it all unilaterally.

Tony C • 7th June 2014 •

the £ is in paypal - not retail - the latter just gets more complex and costly how long before the businesses are split up? its just evolution - but it occurs rapidly these days - perhaps while we are hoping for en improved ebay in truth the original idea is well past maturity - we too must (please excuse the cliche) move on to other things

ed martin • 7th June 2014 •

I am interested by your idea of moving on to other things. Have you any thoughts as to where? In my case I am 63 years old so I am hoping that you are thinking about the long term rather than the short term. But I would be interested in your ideas.

Chris T • 8th June 2014 •

Could it also be that eBay are relying on poor public memory; after a while this will all blow over, ebay will be back to 'normal' and they won't have had to spend (or lose) any money in putting things right. Business as usual, then - except for all the poor businesses that will have gone under in the time before the public 'forget'.

Tony C • 7th June 2014 •

i'm now finding it impossible to update product data i get a 'technical problems' mesage and then am referred to an 0800 support number - which today has a 30min est response time having been reallowed access once (three days ago) the problem immediately recurred tech support reported 'suspicious activity' on my account as the original cause of 'denial of access' are ebay's problems wider than so far they have admitted? sales are seriously down - yet my prices are competitive

ed martin • 7th June 2014 •

Jeez that's bad; maybe there's more going on under the surface than we realise?

Tony C • 7th June 2014 •

I asked ebay last week why the "free listing weekends" had stopped (last one at the start of May). Thy said they would restart once they had sorted out their (presumably password and google) problems. The cynic would say they have cut the number of free monthly listings from 100 to 20 and now are limiting the free listing weekends to try and boost listing income ....... by trying to get sellers to pay for listings. 35p a listing however is very expensive on an item that may sell for 99p so they will probably now see a drop in the number of items listed ..... which won't help the buyers return ....

Pete Smith • 8th June 2014 •

Whatever the reason at the end of the day ebay and the sellers(both Trade and Private) make money if there are substantial numbers of buyers. Unfortunately all of the problem both those like the hacking and google and all the ebay created problems have tended to drive Buyers away. What we are all desperate for is ebay to do something that will attract back onto the site as active buyers all those(well OK excluding the clowns) that have been driven away.

Chris T • 9th June 2014 •

On ebay sales have been dropping over the last year, recently there has been a much more pronounced drop. Several days without a sale are now occurring, this has not happened since I started selling there 12 years ago. I have moved some stock elsewhere just in time. Sales on the other venues are at normal levels for this time of year, considering the extra problems created by a certain football event, weather, etc. The site is broken, many things do not work and its getting worse. I would like to see them make bug fixing a priority. Most of the items I have listed cannot be seen, because of bugs/errors in the search. They have made such a mess that I am now considering closing my ebay store. There are now days with zero page views on my ebay store/listings. If I have to drive traffic to my listings to get a sale, I would rather do it on my own site. Where ebay cannot interfere.

MT • 12th June 2014 •

hi, sorry if i am being thick but how do you find what your page views on my ebay store/listings are? cheers

chrissieboy • 12th June 2014 •

Pages views etc can be found in Traffic Reports... Go to Seller Manage Shop, the scroll down to traffic reports on the left hand side. It will direct you to Omniture and you can get various reports from there. Jackie

Jackie • 15th June 2014 •

I agree. Managed returns is also another thing I fear, too many constant changes and the hassle of learning new procedures for too little net profit. My ebay sales have gradually flatlined. 48 hours without a sale now. I'm going to update my web site and start an adwords and social media campaign and spruce up my physical display cabinets. ebay is no longer worth the time and effort even if it does (or did) help to move stock..

Ian A • 19th June 2014 •