2020 Fall Seller Update: Its Impact on eBay SEO

Your Presence Is *Required* To Fill in These Darn Aspects

2020 Fall Seller Update

Yet another post in our continued overview of eBay’s regular seller update events and their impact on SEO.

 

Greetings, friends of eBay SEO!

In spite of the unprecedented times in which we all live, List Rank Sell continues to see improvements in overall metrics and sales for the sellers we serve.

I hope that, in addition to seeing success in your eBay businesses, you are staying healthy and vigilant over yourselves, your families, and your friends as we wait out this ongoing global pandemic together.

With that said, let’s dive into what eBay’s most recent seller update has in store for us from an SEO perspective.

 

More category updates

Most sellers remember the days of eBay’s constant references to structured data.

Because of the connotation the term has at eBay to the failed initiative known as the Product-Based Shopping Experience, we rarely hear about it these days.

But the unique data framework that enables search visibility across the eBay platform is just as important and relevant as it ever was.

The unique data framework that enables search visibility across the eBay platform known as structured data is just as important and relevant as it ever was.

As sellers we are incessantly reminded of the importance of item specifics, now sometimes referred to as “listing aspects.”

Whatever you call them, they are not the most critical ingredient to eBay’s structured data sauce.

Categories are.

And like with many previous seller updates, there are a number of category changes included in the most recent one.

I mentioned previously that eBay’s taxonomy — i.e., category structure — is a real mess.

As a result, regular and ongoing updates to eBay’s categories are necessary if the company ever hopes to get a true digital sense of what they sell.

In addition to their importance to structured data, however, categories are also critical because they’re being used to directly impact search visibility.

 

Search index trimming

If you have any interest in eBay SEO at all, you must pay attention to this one.

Since last fall, we have been tracking a search methodology at eBay that “reduces” the size of its product index for the majority of buyer queries.  I wrote about it first in my analysis of eBay’s last seller update under, “A listing may not appear.”

On March 31, 2020, eBay was actually awarded a patent on the unique process we discovered and refers to it as “search index trimming.”

The patent describes the technique as “index trimming to improve search,” which works by “returning a small number of the most important search results.”

To many sellers, this probably sounds like yet another conspiracy and one that deserves a litany of unhinged disdain.

But the fact is, most marketplaces employ a similar technology when attempting to make the number of search results manageable for their buyers.  If you’d like a brief, but detailed summary of how it works, I suggest you check out my recent LinkedIn post.

Search index trimming plays both a vital role in present-day listing visibility on eBay, and it comprises an essential component of eBay’s plans for the future success of its sellers.

Yes, I know this sounds like I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid.

I assure you, I have not.

As with all technologies, there are also problems with this one.  And it sometimes impacts the search visibility of specific sellers on a grand scale.

But on the whole I do like this new direction, and I will have a lot more to say about it in the coming months.

 

Item specifics (AKA, aspects)

The majority of the important eBay SEO changes this time around are related to item specifics (aspects).

Aspects are a key player in significantly decreasing listing displacement on eBay, and so they are as critical as eBay says they are.

As the most recent seller update relies heavily on eBay’s official page describing item specifics, I highly recommend you read it in addition to the update itself before continuing.

There are three major developments in this area that I want to ensure you understand.

 

What’s with all these “Required” fields?

As most sellers are aware by now, eBay has been increasing the number of aspects it requires sellers complete when creating, relisting, and revising their product listings.

They might be a pain to fill out, but their impact on search visibility — due to their relationship to eBay’s category structure and faceted (left-hand) navigation — cannot be underestimated.

To aid sellers in meeting these new mandates, eBay has released Quick Filter Search buttons under Active listings in Seller Hub that allow sellers to sort for all listings that currently need “Required,” “Required Soon,” and “Recommended” item specifics.

Quick Filter Search Buttons
Screenshot of Quick Filter Search buttons found under Active listings

Additionally, this same information is provided within the “Create your listing” page itself.

Required Soon Notification
Screenshot of “Required Soon” notification

This is where sellers are used to looking for this information.  However, now when a field is going to be required in the near future by eBay, sellers will actually see, “Required soon,” instead of the usual 30-day buyer demand data.

Notifications of required item specifics can also be found in the Seller Hub Tasks module, thanks to the update.

 

Impact on “Out of stock”

One of the biggest questions our clients had when eBay started rolling out these regular updates to required item specifics was whether listings would be allowed to automatically relist under Good ‘Til Cancelled (GTC) that had not yet had their relevant fields completed.

Although I’ve more than once specifically criticized Chris Dawson’s eBay SEO advice, his item specifics mandate reporting has been very detailed.

In a March 2020 Tamebay article, Dawson stated that listings using GTC will, indeed, relist automatically without their required item specifics.

We have tested this with a handful of eBay SEO clients and have confirmed it to be the case.

The important thing to remember, as Dawson attests, is that listings that (1) run out of inventory and (2) are using the “Out of stock” feature will not be able to upload new inventory until the required item specifics are provided.

Listings using Good ‘Til Cancelled will, indeed, relist automatically without required item specifics.  However, listings that run out of inventory and are using the “Out of stock” feature will not be able to upload new inventory until the required item specifics are provided.

I’ve written about the critical nature of “Out of stock” as a means for maintaining a static URL on eBay.

In order to make this SEO-related feature work for them, sellers will have to ensure their required item specifics are fully up to date.

 

More bulk revision options

Coinciding with the new item specifics requirements, eBay has provided sellers with multiple options for updating them in bulk.

In addition to its main bulk editing tool, eBay has released a similar functionality directly within Active listings.

There is also a CSV upload and download feature within the same interface (although our recent test of its usability resulted in an Excel spreadsheet containing fields and columns that did not align).

We favor the main bulk editor, ourselves, when providing hands-on optimization services — unless our client’s content management system (CMS) dictates updates not be made within eBay.

Either way, we prefer to make only high level updates within a bulk editing format.  We find that more granular changes to item specifics require a direct connection to the listing and its details that bulk editors simply cannot provide.

 

Terapeak now featuring item specifics

Over the past couple of years, I have written multiple times about the issues sellers face when using Terapeak.

However, the product research utility from Terapeak built into Seller Hub continues to impress me as a genuine market research tool.

The most recent seller update reveals a number of improvements to the tool, and sellers should be aware of all of them.

But, as always, it’s the one that impacts eBay SEO that has me pretty excited.

This past July, Nicole Inouye, eBay Director of Product Management, presented a dynamic eBay Connect session intended primarily for the eBay developer community.

Among the many important topics she touched upon, Inouye explained how eBay is increasing what is called, “relevant recall.”

The technology uses machine learning to match the contents of item specifics fields to search queries.

The same process that Inouye described is now being used to improve the results of Terapeak’s product research tool.

For instance, a search for “wood chess set” in Terapeak brings up listings that do not contain the term, “wood,” in their titles.

Terapeak Relevant Recall
Screenshot of Terapeak product research tool

Instead, the term is being found in the listing’s item specifics.

This is a massive improvement, one that, as it continues to be rolled out across the platform, will make Cassini less dependent on exact match keywords — an inherent weakness currently present in eBay search that makes it less effective and easier to manipulate.

 

Lousy sellers kicked out of Promoted Listings

I admit it.

I was almost giddy when I read in the most recent update that Below Standard level sellers were being removed from Promoted Listings.

Promoted Listings, eBay’s only search engine marketing (SEM) product, is an important component of an overall eBay SEO campaign.  Particularly in the early stages.

But one of the program’s issues has been the sometimes low quality of the listings it selects to promote.

The purpose of removing sellers that do not qualify for Above Standard or Top Rated status is to correct that very problem.

In case you happen to be one of the sellers impacted by this change, rest assured that ads are automatically unpaused by eBay as soon as sellers are no longer Below Standard.

Supplemental to the quality control improvement to Promoted Listings, eBay also rolled out a new “suggested ad rate” that replaces the former trending rate.

According to the update,

“The suggested ad rate…is a personalized recommendation based on historical and predictive data.  While the trending rate was designed to give you a sense of how other sellers were setting their ad rates for similar items, the suggested ad rate can help you find your optimal ad rate for each item and achieve a balance between performance and cost.”

I’ll have more to say about this new rate once we’ve had a chance to test it.

Another time-saving enhancement eBay revealed is that, unlike the trending rate, the suggested ad rate can be easily updated in bulk.

 

Minor update to MUAA

If you’ve read my last few seller update posts, you know what I currently think of eBay’s new multi-user account access (MUAA).

It hasn’t changed.

In addition to the ability to create and edit listing drafts, publish and revise listings, and view the Orders page in Seller Hub, outside user accounts can now also access Terapeak.

As much as this is helpful to basic service providers, professional SEOs, at the very least, require access to things like seller dashboard data and analytics to conduct proper client reviews and ongoing performance tracking.

We can only hope that some day eBay will provide limited account access to service providers that is less, well, limited.

 

In review

As has been the case since I began dissecting eBay’s seller updates in early 2019, the most recent one has impacted SEO in many ways.

We encourage sellers to review the entire 2020 Fall Seller Update.  A helpful aid in doing so, as always, is the eBay for Business podcast episode dedicated to the update.

These new changes are here to stay for at least the next six months or so, so sellers’ only option for success is to embrace them.

Don’t be one of those who doesn’t know what’s going on around him / her.

Unlike as it relates to the virus that plagues us all, ignorance of eBay’s seller updates can only hurt you.

Keep your chin up.

About Dave Snyder 15 Articles
Dave is Founder & Chief Analyst at List Rank Sell. He began his intensive testing and study of eBay SEO in 2010, which eventually grew into a full-service agency dedicated to the practice. Dave has developed a methodology that embraces traditional search as well as technical SEO specific to eBay. Previously, he led a successful career as a tax analyst representing Cook County property owners.

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