eBay are addressing the issue of low performing products who stick in a high eBay Promoted Listings bid to dominate the top of search to the detriment of better performing products.
eBay introduced Promoted Listings in beta version in the US in 2014. It was hailed as an innovation, but the reality is that this was eBay’s third attempt at promoted search having had a keyword program which launched on eBay.com in the summer of 2003 and retired in September 2006 due to low adoption rates. Then in 2008 came eBay AdCommerce which shut down in 2010 in the US and in January 2011 for all eBay EU country sites. In both the previous two programs eBay sellers could bid on selected keywords and those that bid the highest may have an advert displayed at the bottom of search results.
eBay Promoted Listings however hit the spot and over the past couple of years has been growing at rates of 100%. When launched there were specific slots which Promoted Listings appeared in and whilst the number and position of slots were tweaked, inevitably poor quality Promoted Listings were showing irrelevant or low-quality results in those fixed slots.
Then eBay changed to a unified set of search results with a blend of organic and promoted listings in the mix. It ranks promoted items by looking at several factors, including but not limited to, relevancy to the search term, item’s (and seller’s) past performance and the eBay Promoted Listings bid that the seller has set for the item. The change also meant that the same listing wouldn’t show up twice in search results meaning an end to having the listing displayed as a promoted listing and as an organic search result.
Now, for some queries promoted listings will be at the top of search. This usually happens when the competition is high (meaning a large number of items which are relevant to the query are participating in promoted listings, and the eBay Promoted Listings bid rates are high). For other queries it’s possible that there are no promoted listings at the top of search. This usually happens when there are not enough relevant items to the query, and participation in Promoted Listings or the ad rates are not high.
eBay say that these changes have increased the relevancy of promoted listings leading to increased sales for sellers who participate. Incidentally it’s also made eBay Promoted Listings an amazingly profitable venture for eBay.
There is on doubt that participating in eBay Promoted Listings makes a massive difference to sales, although with stagnation in growth of the marketplace, particularly in the US, it is fair to question whether they increase overall sales on eBay or if they just move sales from sellers who refuse to pay to play to those who do splurge the cash on Promoted Listings… and in fact this is the challenge eBay want to solve – how to dump promoted listings where the offer is unattractive to buyers but the seller simply throws a ton of money at the program with a high eBay Promoted Listings bid to buy their way to the top.
“As a next step, we are also working to understand the impact on the buyer from Promoted Listings at the top and will optimize the top of search experience based on buyer feedback. On the seller side, while a majority of the sellers have said that Promoted Listings is a great tool to increase visibility and gain traction in the market, we do recognize that some sellers can take advantage of this program by bidding high and dominating the top of search. We will continue to invest in algorithmic improvements that improve the quality and relevance of promoted and non-Promoted Listings at top of Search.”