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

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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.

29 Responses

  1. 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?

  2. 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).

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. .
    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….

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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’.

  10. 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

  11. 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 ….

  12. 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.



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