Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Is eBay Hiding Your Listings!

Chris, over at, had a great post showing that eBay is hiding listings in some searches, and in the two cases he identifies, he found that up to 25% of paid listings are not showing up in search. Of course, this is nothing new; eBay has been hiding Store listings for years and recently began disadvantaging some CORE listings with Best Match.

Sellers, of course, are a little upset about this. They pay an insertion fee to be included in search and if their listings are hidden, they are getting no/reduced benefit for their fees. True, the items will not be hidden completely, but it may not be for the length of time they thought they paid for.

eBay's new multiple-listings rules went into effect last week:

"Starting this week, the display of multiple identical items from the same seller will be limited to one in Search results. An item is considered identical if it has the same title and the same listing format, and the listing chosen for display will be determined by the sort option that the buyer chooses. We will be rolling this out to all sort options by next week. When multiple auction-style listings with the same title have a different number of bids and different prices, these are no long considered identical and will all be displayed.

Also, the number of unique listings (listings for different items) per seller will be up to ten per page. In a case where a seller has a number of items—for instance 20—that could potentially show up in the same search results, 10 will be shown on the first page, and the other 10 will be on the second page. (These improvements go hand in hand with the removal of the Multiple Listings Limit policy.)"
(bold is mine.)

This really isn't a concern for Fixed Price listings because a single Fixed Price listing can have multiple quantities available, so there is no need for multiple listings and Fixed Price items don't get the same impact from ending soonest, but for auctions this can be a real pain for sellers. Many sellers have multiple quantities of a given item and want them each closing on a different day.

Here is how I see the rule affecting sellers who have multiple quantities and use the auction format:

A seller has 7 identical items and lists them at auction, so that each one is closing a day apart for a 7 day period. With the old display rules, that seller knew they were going to get identical exposure for each listing, but under the new rules it is a crap shoot.

Now only one of those 7 listings will show up in search until it either gets a bid or doesn't sell. If it doesn't sell than the listing scheduled to close the following day will have one day to find a bidder. This throws too much uncertainty into the process for sellers to deal with.

For many large sellers this throws the famous eBay sales velocity out the window -- it is already affecting several sellers that I've spoken with. If you didn't convert 100% of your listings before this change you are in danger of seeing a large drop in conversion. This really doesn't affect eBay's conversion because every sale made, no matter which sellers sells it, is an eBay sale -- the buyer is still going to find an item to buy.

The real issue here is; should sellers get 7-days of exposure because that is what they paid for? I understand eBay's desire to clean up the clutter, but when sellers are paying for exposure and eBay doesn't give them the full "customary" value for their payment, this causes all kinds of problems.

I understand eBay management's desire to improve the buyer experience, but as long as they charge a listing fee, this approach is just plain wrong. Stop charging listing fees and you can control the marketplace as much as you want.

Just my 12%


ms.pat said...

Will somebody kindly explain to me the reasoning behind hiding duplicate listings? I know that if I want a particular item and several are listed I will watch to see which one is ready to end with a starting bid or none at all and I grab it. I know some folks say its annoying but I feel it has a purpose just as I described. I also know you can show all the listings but Ebay has effectively hidden that and few normal buyers will find it!

Also they are taking money even for the hidden listings. How can this be anything else but internet fraud?

Anonymous said...

Ebay vs Ewert class action suit wound its way thru the California courts for just this reason. That failed.

Rather than promoting auction excitement, fun, and the thrill of landing an unusual item ebay is just promoting discouragement, in effect a big flashing "LEAVE" sign.
We are getting the message, loud and clear.

Sad that they escaped the dotcom bubble to form their own bold new ground, only to end up like this.

David said...

Randy I disagree with you when you say that this doesn't hurt fixed price listings.

I would always have 2 or 3 auctions of the same product at a time up and that was because it would allow me to be in the top of searches when people clicked "Time Ending Soonest" as well as "Newly Listed"

The other benefit is something I learned long ago in an advertising class about how somebody has to see your commercial 8 or 9 times to buy your product.

I feel kind of the same way about eBay. Somebody might not notice your listing the first time they see it in the search results but after they see it a few times they get tempted to click

permacrisis said...

"This really doesn't affect eBay's conversion because every sale made, no matter which sellers sells it, is an eBay sale -- the buyer is still going to find an item to buy."

This has been the whole problem right along. NOTHING done to sellers affects ebay's conversion... at least not from one week to the next.

But the net effect-The overall trend of treating sellers as disposable will be(and already is) destroying the variety on the site.

In the unlikely event your item does appear, there's a 50/50 chance someone will steal it and not pay.Word is getting out that ebay is broken, that you can get free stuff on ebay with the click of a neg. Again just as with search, ebay still collects their fee, for it is 'ebay first last and always'.

Well they will not get MY stuff, I'd sooner flea it. I left.

I took a tremendous amount of variety with me. I'm the guy checking in the attics, under the seats of old junk cars, and in the back storage rooms of belly-up corporations. If it's going to be found, a person like me is going to be the one who finds it.

In JD's protected little Blackberry world, antiques come from fine, prissy ladies wearing horn-rim glasses and sitting in antique shops.

The truth is, those fine ladies get their items from me. They know enough to establish a relationship with the unwashed 'Permacrises' of the world, and to know which side their bread is buttered on-- and who's really out there digging this stuff up.

JD and his bellcurve henchmen have a looong way to go before all the brains in the boardroom add up to the smarts contained in one lady, running one antique shop.

Cliff said...

It could be possible that this:

"Now only one of those 7 listings will show up in search until it either gets a bid or doesn't sell. If it doesn't sell than the listing scheduled to close the following day will have one day to find a bidder."

Leads to items that actually have demand finding multiple bidders.

You can still do a Dutch Auction, right?

So the multiple listings are likely for items that buyers only want one of, right?

So if a seller has a hot deal and he lists 7 of these widgets at auction, wouldn't all of the interested parties cluster around the single listing eBay is showing? And wouldn't the fact that there are fewer of this item showing potentially drive up demand creating, perhaps, and old-fashioned bidder frenzy?

Once the first item is auctioned off, it'd be nice to see the X number of watchers diverted to the next listing that appears (any clarification if in fact this will occur? I do think it's important that it does).

Aren't you looking for them to revive auctions? There's no sure-fire way to do it, this holds a possibility though.

In your scenario, conversions drop, in mine ASP rises. I'm open to seeing what happens.

But I do wholeheartedly agree that morally, legally, whatever, they should go to the subscription model, or at the very least put up a big warning for sellers letting them know what's going to happen (of course, that's not going to help you if you're using a bulk lister, is it?).

bizbabe said...

This is great for smaller sellers. Finally, we get a real chance at exposure, without being hidden by all the piles of same-o listings from bigger sellers. Of course, this won't have so much effect on people who sell unique items, most of whom are smaller players, but more on those who sell the same old stuff as a few thousand other sellers and the big guys like

I can see where some see the unfairness, but I'm not going to complain about something good happening for the little guys, who have been getting very little from eBay these days.

ms.pat said...

Whether its good for one and bad for another is not the issue. The issue is that Ebay is again taking advantage of sellers by taking their money and hiding their wares. This doesn't affect me either. I list predominantly in the arts categories....but I still say this is outright internet fraud! It seems Donahoe and his pack stay up nights thinking of new ways to torture sellers....they don't deserve ANY sellers!

Anonymous said...

all I have to say is: fn ebay.

Randy Smythe said...

Cliff, I believe you are thinking along with management. I'm pretty sure that is there intention. I just don't think it will work.

If they can make auctions and Fixed price live together in harmony and have both grow, I will eat my words.


BisBabe, this should help remove the clutter for sure. Hopefully it is beneficial for small sellers.


David, you are correct if others used your listing strategy then this new rule would affect them.

sales said...

Hi Randy,

I think the following is incorrect:

"Now only one of those 7 listings will show up in search until it either gets a bid or doesn't sell. If it doesn't sell than the listing scheduled to close the following day will have one day to find a bidder."

As I understand it, at any given at least 10 identical auctions will show in search.

Here is how I see it (also posted in the PESA forums):

Lets say you have 15 identical auctions. 12 of them have bids and 3 do not. With this update 13 of your auctions would show in search, the 12 with bids and one with 0 bids. As soon as the 13th auction receives a bid or ends the 14th auction begins to show. This prevents clutter and encourages higher bidding for current items. For the bidder it creates a sense of urgency as supply seems to be limited when it really is not. As soon an auction ends, the next auction in line begins to show.

I think the confusion will be on what qualifies as a unique listing. Is a listing for the same item with a slightly different title considered unique or different? What about a listing that has free S&H and one that has $2.95 S&H? Do companies with multiple ids face this restriction per id or combined?


Randy Smythe said...


There are two separate rules. The one you mentioned in in the second paragraph of the announcement above.

"Also, the number of unique listings (listings for different items) per seller will be up to ten per page."

Only one identical listing will be shown but you can get around that with multiple ids:

Brilliant this is a new way for eBay to increase the number of active user IDS and seller registrations.

Ali said...

Randy, I stand corrected. There are two very different rules as you stated.

Here are a few additional questions that come to mind:

1.What qualifies as a unique listing (does one different keyword in the title no longer make it unique)?

2. Are items with the international site visibility add-on exempt listings from being hidden (if this is the case this feature has much more value now)?

3. Does the 1 unique listing limit also apply to search results with limited results?

4. Here is a hypothetical...If a listing is launched on a Monday with a 3 day duration with an end time of 6:30 P.M PST Thursday, and a similar listing with the same title is launched on Wednesday with a 1 day duration with an end time of 6:00 P.M. PST Thursday which listing would show considering there is no bidding activity until close to the auction end time? One would think the item listed Monday is already showingin search. Would the new listing which is ending sooner supersede the 3 day listing?


Randy Smythe said...

Ali, my guess is that sellers will find a way to game the system intitially and eventually eBay will close some of the loopholes.

In my view this should seriously cut down on listings because there is too much incertainty for sellers but who knows.

Anonymous said...

I talked to my TSAM today about this exact question:

1.What qualifies as a unique listing (does one different keyword in the title no longer make it unique)?

...According to him, a big, fat NO. Titles would have to be "significantly different," otherwise it could be considered gaming the system under the new S&B (search & browse) manipulation policy.

David said...

I think this is also going to help out people that were disadvantaged in best match are now going to get more exposure.

The problem that I have though is really the "1 item per seller" rule.

Why 1? I've seen situations where one seller has almost the entire page to themselves. But why can't somebody have 2 or 3?

There's a reason why people list the same item more than once though. It's because a lot of times people when they are sorting a bunch of different items they don't notice the item the first time they read. It takes them a few times to read it before they decide to click

Anonymous said...

The eBay "Department of Nothing To Do" is at it again.

Anonymous said...

There are only so many buyers on ebay for homemade art cards and quilts from an endless amount of sellers, no matter what ebay does or doesn't do.

Accept this and move forward. Be it 1998 or 2008, it is just the way it is. It is not a business comparable to say, a person who sells cars, land, or homes on ebay. Or sells 2000 commodity widgets per day....

A small niche is just meant meant to be that way, that is why these kinds of things are regarded as precious in the world.

Randy Smythe said...


Niche categories shouldn't have this problem anyway. This change will mainly affect the crowded categories.

Clearing out the clutter is a good idea, charging a listing fee for little exposure is bad.

Sellers should modify their listing strategies, so as not to pay for something that won't show for the full listing period.

ms.pat said...

We just informed a very successful artist and powerseller that he has to change his titles - right now he has about 10 paintings listing - all with the exact same title and each one with bunches of bids on them. Not everyone keeps up with Ebay news the way we do and I'm sure he is unaware of what is happening. When he goes to list more with that same title...they'll be hidden. So, its rampant everywhere. Many sellers get used to using just the one title depending on the gallery pic to get the buyer's attention. I'm sure this artist is regularly searched by that particular title!

Cliff said...

It'd be nice if a different gallery pic, or different text inside the listing triggered it as unique.

I mean really, the items they want to hide are the true multiples, the items that the seller is just hitting relist on. If something is different inside the body of the listing it should register as a unique listing.

That said, what happens if I listed say all my Life Magazines with simply "Life Magazine" as the title--Would a search for "World War II" bring up all Life Magazines that include World War II inside the description, or just the single item that shows in search?

I don't list that way, but I often do search for items including text from within the description, so I am curious as to how they'll register.

Love Gone Sour, Suspicion, and Bad Debt said...

I dont see anything wrong with what they are doing actually. If you have 30 of an item why do you have to have all 30 up at the same time? Why pay eBay fees when you sell thru rate is less than 50%? When will sellers wake up to this. If you have 30, only list one at a time then have it set up to automatically relist once that one sells. Give the buyer a sense of urgency that they need to buy that one as its all you have left. WHY PAY EBAY FEES TO JUST CROWD THE SEARCH UP?
Go search for Wii Mario Kart on eBay then go to Amazon and you will see what they are trying to accomplish.
And I agree with you that they need to separate auctions and fixed price listings somehow going forward.
Just my 11.9%

Randy Smythe said...

Ron, the problem is in the listing fees. Stop charging listing fees and control the process as much as you see fit.

They may actually be coming around to this understanding, BTW.

I'm hearing some interesting stuff.

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