Recent eBay search (algorithm) changes - answers to your questions
On October 2, 2012, in a blog post titled: "eBay makes two Q4 search changes causign sellers to scratch their heads", we shared two changes that eBay emailed sellers about:
- eBay is ending the New Product Based Experience
- They are also changing the behavior of duplicate auction listings
In that post, we had a bunch of unanswered questions that we were fielding.
Since that blog post we have continued to receive reports of sellers confused about the changes and also seeing decreases in sales due to the changes. When we've helped these sellers dig into what is going on, invariably it is due to one of these changes, with auction duplicates having the largest impact to those sellers unaware of the change.
eBay's Vice President of Merchant Development, Michael Jones, was kind enough to spend some time with us going through our questions that we had about the changes from that post and provide clarity on eBay's thinking. If you have further questions, feel free to post in comments and we'll do our best to answer or pass them on to eBay.
Note: These probably won't make much sense for you unless you read the October 2 post first, which is strongly recommended.
Question: I didn't think the duplicate listing policy applied to auctions, so what was the behavior before Oct 4th?
Answer: We have discouraged the use of duplicate auctions as far back as March 2011. We focused on a select group of sellers that were listing so many duplicate auctions that they were cluttering search results and hurting the buyer experience. We then formally added duplicate auctions to the Duplicate listing policy in the Spring 2012 Spring Seller Update.
Question: I thought auctions were my only way to buy my way into search results and around Best Match?
Answer: Listing duplicate auctions to buy search results harms the buyer experience and lowers sales. Sellers with deep inventory should list multi-quantity fixed price listings and follow Best Match guidelines to maximize their sales. (http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/searchstanding.html)
However, there are situations (fairly uncommon) where duplicate auctions are fine to list:
- Liquidation inventory that does not have a set price (e.g. refurbished laptops) that a seller lists with a low start price and no reserve
- Items in very high demand that will get many competing bids and will maximize price realization.
Question: Won't this be weird for buyers? I find one item and bid and then suddenly another one is there.
Answer: Buyers buy less when duplicate listings clutter search results. It’s possible a buyer could see a duplicate listing after they bid on an auction and wonder where it came from, but more importantly we want to make sure we expose our diverse inventory to help buyers make purchasing decisions.
Question: How am I going to know if my auction listing was never seen and I am owed a refund - isn't eBay incented to maybe show it one time to keep the fees? Will there be some new dashboard/data that tells me how long my auction items were shown so I can make smart decisions?
Answer: In the selling section of My eBay, sellers can find a list of the duplicate auctions that aren’t visible on the site. Sellers can visit the Listing Activity section and clicking on the ‘Duplicate listings not visible to buyers’ link. Once a duplicate auction is shown it is never removed - the key is that we will only show a duplicate auction once the listing on the site gets a bid or ends.
Question: My item has 2 hours to get a bid. When are those two hours - end, beginning, random? Doesn't that seem a bit unfair. I am paying for a 7 day auction (on average) which is 7 * 24 = 168hrs and it's only showing up for 2. That's 1.2% of the time I effectively paid a listing fee for.
Answer: A duplicate auction is only shown if there are a minimum of 2 hours remaining before it ends. Any duplicate listing with less than 2 hours left will not be shown and the seller will be refunded for insertion fees and any feature fees.
Our research has shown that sellers with attractive inventory in duplicate auctions (e.g. refurbished iPods starting at $1 NR) tend to get bids very quickly, so their listings would be unlikely to receive limited exposure. Duplicate auctions that don't get many bids tend to get bids in the final 2 hours. This 2 hour value is something eBay will monitor and optimize over time, though we have no plans to ever make it shorter than 2 hours.
Sellers that are concerned about getting less than the full exposure for their auctions should not list duplicate auctions that end at the same time or end close to one another. E.g. if a seller wants to ensure they always get 24 hours of exposure for their duplicate auctions, they should list them so they always end 24 hours apart.
Question: Is eBay essentially putting another nail in the auction listing coffin?
Answer: On the contrary, Auctions continue to be an important part of the eBay marketplace and we want to ensure their relevance in search results by removing the duplicative listings that make it harder for buyers to find what they want. Our research has shown that when we remove the clutter of too many listings from the same seller offering identical items, it improves buyers’ ability to see a wider breadth inventory, resulting in higher sales.
Scot Wingo wrote this blog post, CEO of ChannelAdvisor. I am long Amazon and Google. eBay is a minority investor in ChannelAdvisor.