This week, eBay rolled out its 2019 Spring Seller Update.
As most sellers are aware, eBay has maintained over the last several years a regular schedule of announced changes to its policies and procedures, known as “seller updates,” that affect both sellers and buyers on the platform.
Not to be confused with February’s “Early Seller Update,” the most recent one looks to be the second in a series of three, or perhaps even four, such updates for the 2019 year.
Although there is some overlap between both of this year’s releases, there are some specific items of note in the latest one.
If you are interested in a good general overview of the most recent Spring Seller Update, I recommend heading over to eSellerCafe.
But as is always the case, our emphasis at List Rank Sell is on SEO at eBay. For that reason, I will only be analyzing the aspects of eBay’s 2019 Spring Seller Update that affect search.
Good ‘Til Cancelled
The “Good ‘Til Cancelled” (GTC) listing duration allows eBay to automatically insert a seller’s fixed price listing into the eBay index every 30 days (now every month).
Since my wife and I began selling on eBay in 2009 (and to my knowledge, since the inception of eBay’s fixed price or “Buy It Now” listing format), sellers have had a wide selection of insertion durations — including three, seven, and 30 days, as well as the GTC option.
This all ended in February’s update. Starting mid-March, all fixed price listings now only utilize Good ‘Til Cancelled.
The more recent update made a tweak to the GTC policy, correcting a rare but possible billing conflict, by changing the duration from 30 days to monthly. The change was confirmed by an announced update to eBay’s seller agreement.
In spite of eBay’s regular mixups in the area of SEO, eBay is right to enforce GTC across the board.
To begin with, Good ‘Til Cancelled is the only method eBay sellers can use to create static URLs for their products.
Without a web address for each listing that doesn’t change, sellers are continually showing potential buyers that come from outside of eBay a page that reads, “This listing has ended” — instead of the actual listing itself.
Additionally, one of the most significant ranking factors on eBay is a listing’s sales history. There is literally no way to obtain steady organic search rankings in a competitive market without it.
And the only way to maintain the continuity of this, and other essential metrics, is to never end the listing.
One of the most significant ranking factors on eBay is a listing’s sales history. There is literally no way to obtain steady organic search rankings in a competitive market without it. And the only way to maintain the continuity of this essential metric is to never end the listing.
Sellers on eBay who have a disdain for Good ‘Til Cancelled and rely on gimmicks like manually ending and relisting their product listings to increase sales are exchanging long-term success for an extremely minor and short-term eBay ranking signal.
Such practices only waste sellers’ time, give them false hopes, and have nothing whatsoever to do with the long-view practice that is SEO.
Legitimate dropshipping has been around since before the invention of the internet. The practice requires an exchange of tax IDs between a reseller and a wholesaler and enables the reseller to avoid the hassle of acquiring, housing, handling, and shipping inventory.
Arbitrage, on the other hand, often passes these days for actual dropshipping — but it merely masquerades as the real thing.
In an online arbitrage scenario, a reseller will use specialized software to list products in large quantities on eBay (or another site) that are actually being sold by another retailer (such as Amazon, Home Depot, or Walmart) and not a wholesaler.
When someone makes a purchase from an arbitrage seller, a simultaneous transaction is placed by the software on the retail site. The retailer never knows that their item was sold to a third party.
There are many problems inherent with this methodology, not the least of which is the chronic oversupplying of marketplaces like eBay with product that simply doesn’t sell. (I have yet to consult an arbitrage seller who knows what his products actually sell for on eBay — or even if they sell at all.)
Online arbitrage is not a legitimate business practice. And because of this, eBay banned it.
What is of particular interest to search is the following quote from the update:
“Sellers who use retailers or marketplaces to ship directly to buyers are in violation of our drop shipping policy and will be lowered in search results.”
Intended for arbitrage sellers, this statement clearly links a violation of one of eBay’s seller policies to reduced search visibility on the platform.
The announcement technically contradicts an earlier remark made by host, Jim “Griff” Griffith, on the official eBay podcast when he said they “don’t push items down” in search results at eBay.
To be fair, Griff is often the target of seller-driven conspiracy theories, some of which claim for various reasons that eBay indiscriminately lowers or even blocks listings in eBay search. My belief is that his comment was intended to be understood in that context.
But any way you look at it, eBay has now finally confirmed what I have been telling sellers for years — that policy compliance is critical to the maintaining of organic search rankings on eBay.
The Spring Seller Update makes some changes to eBay’s structured data footprint.
Specifically, the update rolls out category simplification and new recommended item specifics fields across multiple verticals, including the Home & Garden category.
Structured data is governed on the seller side largely by eBay category selection and the resultant item specifics fields.
In a response provided in the FAQ section, the question, “What if I don’t use the new and recommended item specifics in my listings?,” receives the following response:
“If you don’t use recommended item specifics in your new listings, your item won’t surface when buyers use the left-hand navigation refinements.”
In other words, listings that aren’t optimized for structured data on eBay will actually disappear from search altogether when a buyer refines his/her search.
We call this “listing displacement” at List Rank Sell. It’s my own term for the chronic phenomenon on eBay that unnaturally suppresses listing impressions and is the direct result of a lack of proper search engine optimization.
The form of SEO required to optimize for structured data involves the search engine results page (SERP) feature known as “faceted navigation.”
The use of faceted navigation, such as is commonly seen on ecommerce sites like eBay, allows buyers to refine their search without altering their search query.
eBay is focusing on the Home & Garden vertical because it says buyers are increasingly using faceted navigation in this category.
For this reason, sellers are encouraged to “include key item specifics” when they create new listings.
The truth is, optimization for faceted navigation isn’t just necessary for new listings, and it doesn’t just apply to what eBay refers to as its “recommended” item specifics.
It applies to all listings, all categories, and every single item specifics field.
The changes made in the most recent 2019 Spring Seller Update are some of the strongest eBay SEO improvements seen in the last 10 years.
The major developments — the adoption of Good ‘Til Cancelled as the standard listing duration, the resolve to do away with online arbitrage sellers by acknowledging eBay’s role in dealing directly with policy violators through affected search results, and eBay’s more clearly-stated relationship between optimization and listing displacement — are all positive.
Now if we could just get a conversation started about those “SEO pages…”
Keep your chin up.