Why ignoring the eBay picture policy could hurt your search engine visibility

The eBay Picture Policy has been largely ingnored by sellers for many years. eBay haven’t helped by chopping and changing their rules, for instance first announcing in 2017 that they would ban Watermarks and then back tracking but keeping the rule in place as ‘best practice’.

Sellers have in the main totally ignored the eBay picture policy rules and still today many image carry borders, flags, text, logos and other extraneous information an decorations. eBay don’t even go so far as to monitor the listings they heavily promote across the site such as Sponsored Listings and Daily Deals. These promoted listings carry images which routinely and flagrantly breach eBay’s picture standards.

eBay sellers are caught in a Catch 22 situation. They know that image decorations work and increase the likelihood of a buyer clicking on their listing – that is after all why sellers started adding decorations to their listings. Those who try to comply invariably end up wishing they hadn’t as they sell their competitors ignore the rules and know that eBay take zero notice and never enforce the policy.

There is however a more compelling reason why sellers may wish to comply with the eBay Picture Policy and it has nothing to do with eBay’s action or lack of action in enforcing the policy. There’s a more powerful force than eBay and that’s Google and other search engines. Pictured above is a screen shot of an eBay search page and the corresponding search performed on Google (in this case for a mundane ‘hammer’).

In the eBay search results it can be seen that many listings carry decorations and logos but Google refuses to display images that aren’t the simple product on a plain background. It’s worth noting that Google, even on image search, often display Google Shopping results at the top of search.

Sellers may wish to ignore the eBay Picture Policy and add decorations to their eBay images to attract more buyers. If that is you then you should, at least for your own website, maintain a corresponding set of images without watermarks and decorations if you wish to win visibility on search engines.

eBay Picture Policy

For the sake of clarity, the following practices are in theory banned under eBay’s current Picture Policy.

  • Including pictures that don’t accurately represent the item for sale.
  • Using placeholder images to convey messages, such as no image available or out of stock, or other marketing messages
  • Including stock photos for used, damaged or defective items
  • Adding borders to your photos
  • Using a picture that is less than 500 pixels on the longest side
  • Adding additional text, artwork or marketing to pictures
  • Including watermarks
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The many sellers who deal in original images, art, photographs, postcards etc all need protecting from the theft of their images. Ebay could disable the right click on their listings but choose not to. This leaves images unprotected from simply copying and pasting. Why pay for an image when you could pinch it for nothing? Rob Hatrell was bombarded with requests to review the ban on watermarking and they eventually saw sense. These areas are one of the few left where Ebay has a clear run, without competition from Amazon, so they would be ill advised to jeoparise them.

Andy R • 29th January 2019 •

As for disabling the right click to stop people copying an image..it's pointless. Snipping tool allows you to grab any image you like...

Mr Ayd • 30th January 2019 •

Frustrating, back in 2017 I was ADVISED by ebay to put watermarks in our pictures. It took months of work to remove them again.

alan paterson • 29th January 2019 •

eBay have a lot of troublesome policies so why only highlight their pictures one !! They don’t allow knives but do allow letter openers which are identical to stiletto blades !! They also allow axes !! So I guess people are only attacked with knives and not axes. The swastika image is banned despite is being some thousands of years old Hindu peace symbol that was borrowed by the nazis !! So there are a lot of things ebay does that doesn’t make sense, let’s endeavour to highlight them all and not just one or two.

Mark • 29th January 2019 •

I fully agree eBay seems to have one rule for one seller and a nuther rule for some one else. I tried to sell a antique silver pocket knife on eBay . only to have it removed by eBay stating it breaches policy I looked and found other listings selling antique knife / stanly knife / and other bladed items . I contacted eBay and reported this yet these item can still be found for sale on eBay Even after reporting them multiple times.

Dave • 29th January 2019 •

I thought eBay's stance on watermarks was that they were advised against but not banned? Regarding Google Images. If I was to search for an image of a hammer I would Google Image it. If I wanted to buy a hammer, I would search for a hammer on eBay or Google (not Images) (very occasionally Images but I have tried this and it has never proved satisfactory). I know there is an overlap but I don't necessarily think that because a picture doesn't look like a Google Image (i.e. a children's illustrated dictionary) picture of a hammer that an eBay listing will be unattractive to buyers or sell less. It's a different thing, a different section in the library but with some cross-reference?

Elizabeth • 30th January 2019 •

I have spotted a large number of listings on Ebay (and Amazon) where the sellers have used my photos. I take a long time getting my photos right and it makes me really angry to see products listed (by Chinese sellers selling at much cheaper prices (also using a UK address & Amazon FBA) and using my images to do so. I don't watermark, but now I feel I really should do. I have complained many times to Ebay - as I know have some of my competitors whose photos are also 'stolen', but nothing changes. Ebay needs to sort this out - if we can't watermark, at least act on our complaints on copyright.

Debbie • 30th January 2019 •

In the dark depths of my memory, I seem to recall eBay forcing sellers to give up their rights to their photos. I assumed, at the time, it was so eBay could start selling in competition to their members, while using the poached photos but, on reflection, I would imagine it was in preparation for their new catalogue system. It is probably in their small print somewhere - hence their refusal to take down stolen photos?

BFT • 30th January 2019 •

I've had mine lifted by the Chinese, which is why I'm not in etsy, as the thieving scumbags, said it was their photos and when I tried to say they were mine took in 2013, I was told by their law department I was a liar and threw me off. Noticed mine on aliexpress as well, told them to take it down or else. Other sellers have watermarks, I think I've just the one left.

Gillian Frosdick • 31st January 2019 •