2021 Spring Seller Update: Its Impact on eBay SEO

eBay Can't Stop Talking About It, And Neither Can We

2021 Spring Seller Update

Once again, we get together to discuss the latest eBay seller update and how it influences SEO.


Before I dig into today’s topic, I want to take a moment to thank each of you for following our blog.

List Rank Sell as a business has changed and grown at a rapid pace over the last 12 months, and your continued interest in new content from us is humbling.  None of your regular visits to our website go unnoticed.

I give you my word, the best eBay SEO material is yet to come.  And we are chomping at the bit to bring it to you.

Now, on to eBay’s 2021 Spring Seller Update.


eBay says SEO is a thing!

As we discussed in detail after the update of Fall 2020, eBay has continued over the last couple of years to focus its attention on both of the following:

  • Improving its labyrinthine taxonomy, and
  • Facilitating the ongoing sitewide changes to listing aspects.

The rationale behind this mammoth effort is simple.

eBay’s category structure and the resultant item specifics — the main components of the site’s internal structured data framework — are at the heart of sellers’ listing visibility in search.

So it is no surprise that the Listing & Promoting section of the latest update rips open with multiple references to SEO.

For instance, as eBay acknowledges that the improvements to product categories have been initiated “to create more intuitive buying, selling, and search experiences,” the company also specifically confirms that the moves “enhance search engine optimization, and make it easier for domestic and international buyers to find your items.”

eBay goes on to say that, “Complete and accurate item specifics (both required and recommended) are essential to improving your listings’ rankings in search results on eBay and external search engines.”

(That final point about “external search engines” is more true than you may realize, as a listing’s current reach in Google’s organic results is largely dependent on its ability to appear in one of eBay’s browse nodes — which are driven almost entirely by category and item specifics data.)

But that’s not where eBay’s recent references to SEO end.

I became especially excited when, just last week, the tech team at eBay released an important article — one that took a pretty solid shot at defining the concept of search engine optimization on eBay and laid out its reliance on item specifics:

“Creating an excellent listing is only half the equation for a successful sale — sellers must also surface their items to their most interested buyersImportant item specifics are the ones that buyers use more often in their searches and filtering…If we encouraged sellers to include this information in their listings, their items would have a higher chance of showing in the search results — significantly improving listing visibility and the overall conversion rate.”

I think this illustrates fairly well that, whether people know it or not, eBay is talking about SEO.  A lot.

And it’s time for sellers to get on board.


Item specifics deadlines — not our focus

There has been a lot of attention paid to the required item specifics deadlines since eBay began rolling them out in 2019.

In fact, it seems like just about everyone in the community is talking about these official dates.

And there’s a reason for that.

You absolutely must provide eBay with complete data for all required item specifics fields — in particular if you want to improve your search visibility.

I was quoted last week in an article announcing the upcoming due date by MerchantSpring, a company that offers one of the top eBay SEO tools available.

Like eBay itself, the tool utilizes eBay’s “Required” and “Required Soon” item specifics as optimization guideposts.

Seller tools like MerchantSpring’s should focus on these fields, as required item specifics represent some of the most heavily searched filters according to eBay’s buyer demand data.

The problem is, some sellers believe the deadlines eBay has released represent a genuine cutoff point — as though listings will simply end if sellers do not quickly comply with the updates.

There are actually only four circumstances in which your listings will not relist (or list in the first place) should you fail to add identified “Required” and “Required Soon” item specifics by the due dates:

  1.  You create a listing from scratch.
  2.  You manually relist a listing.
  3.  You revise a listing.
  4.  A listing runs out of inventory and you are using the “Out of stock” feature.

Of the above scenarios, #4 is the most serious.  This is especially the case for sellers with large numbers of listings that routinely sell out of their entire supply.

But to be clear, it has always been the case that new listings must be accompanied by required item specifics (#1), manually ending and relisting should never be done in the first place (#2), and sellers are already accustomed to making required updates to item specifics when revising listings (#3).

The truth is, if you have multi-quantity listings that are not in imminent danger of running out of inventory, your listings will automatically update indefinitely — without the newly required item specifics described in the deadlines.

The truth is, if you have multi-quantity listings that are not in imminent danger of running out of inventory, your listings will automatically update indefinitely — without the newly required item specifics described in the deadlines.

Now don’t get me wrong.

We are massive believers in the power of item specifics.  As I say all the time, listing aspects are absolutely essential to listing visibility on eBay.

Our recent success, in which we achieved a year-over-year increase of 442% in net sales for one of our hands-on eBay SEO clients was due, in large part, to our strategic use of item specifics.

The difference between List Rank Sell and the typical eBay tool customer, however, is that our process optimizes all of a listing’s item specifics — not just the high-level ones.

It is rare that we would approach a client listing solely from its most important SEO features and opt not to fully optimize it.  It would have to be a special case, requested specifically by the client.

For this reason, unlike our colleagues, we do not focus on eBay’s “Required” and “Required Soon” deadlines.


Multi-variations = item specifics

One of the interesting call-outs in the most recent update was eBay’s direct linkage of item specifics to the details provided in a listing’s multi-variation fields.

eBay describes, “As part of our item specifics updates, we periodically revise the available variation details for listings with multiple variations.”

Many sellers do not know that the options provided by eBay, specific to multi-variation listings, function generally the same as the dropdown menus and checkbox options found within item specifics.

This is the reason why an item specifics field will disappear when the identical field is created as a multi-variation.  The two are redundant, serving the same purpose.

As an example, if I were to list a men’s dress shirt on eBay, I could opt to use either of the following:

  • The “Collar Style” field in item specifics, or
  • The same field as a multiple variation selection.

Both directly serve the “Collar Style” filter in Cassini’s left-hand navigation.

eBay Faceted Navigation
Screenshot of “Collar Style” left-hand navigation filter in eBay search

What’s interesting to note is that the text of the update further states, in addition to improving search results, the changes to eBay’s multi-variation details “clarify what variations work best as a single listing and what items are more likely to get noticed as separate listings.”

Try as I might, I don’t see the connection.

We determine whether a product should be listed as a single or multiple variation listing based on a thorough testing of eBay’s current search results for that product type, not by analyzing changes made to the data found in the variation fields themselves.

Regardless, it is critical for sellers to understand that keeping up with eBay’s changes to multi-variation field details is just as important as keeping up with the updates made to item specifics.


The new unified listing tool

In December 2020, Harry Temkin, eBay Vice President of Seller Experience, announced a revision of eBay’s “Create your listing” page called “Helix.”

The purpose of this new unified listing tool is to combine all legacy and new listing pages for both desktop and mobile platforms into one, seamless form.

We’ve spent some time testing the new tool.  At first glance, it’s nice and clean with a simplified layout.

eBay New Unified Listing Tool
Screenshot of eBay’s new listing tool known as “Helix”

From an SEO point of view, there aren’t any noticeable differences between the new page and the old one.

Selecting a category is fairly simple, although we have yet to test the new tool’s accuracy in recommending eBay’s “back-end” category.

The item specifics and multi-variation fields look identical to those found in the old tool.

But our main complaint about the new unified tool is its editing process.

In the old tool, most fields are immediately available for updating — such as the title or item specifics — without the need for opening and closing the field.

In direct contrast, the new tool adds two extra clicks to start an edit of any aspect of the listing, and then another two clicks to complete the same edit.

That’s literally four additional steps for every single step of the listing flow.

Additionally, we found that we were unable to enter HTML into the tool that included a centered div element.

Based on our usage of the new tool, Helix is clearly still in its testing stage.  We are hopeful that continued improvements to it will result in a better review next time.


Improvements to Promoted Listings

Admittedly, I was a Promoted Listings skeptic when eBay first rolled them out in 2015.

Four years later, I was still publicly complaining about the indiscriminate insertion of sponsored ads (including for low quality listings) in eBay’s top search results.

In fact, a long-term client recently reminded me that I was still not very positive about Promoted Listings as late as early 2020.

Interestingly enough, it was in January 2020 that Jordan Sweetnam, eBay Vice President and General Manager of Americas Market, highlighted the quality of top-ranked sponsored listings and confirmed the issue would be addressed some time during the year.

eBay kept its word and produced a bunch of improvements to Promoted Listings throughout 2020, including the following:

  • Filtering of search for reasonable shipping fees.
  • Removal of ads from “fixed slots” in top search results and a move towards “floating slots.”
  • Implementation of a “unified ranker” that utilizes an algorithm similar to Best Match.
  • Elimination of Below Standard sellers from the program.
  • A revamped trending rate known as the “suggested ad rate.”
  • The ability to set ad rates in bulk.
  • Release of the exact formula for computing the optimal ad rate.

All of these updates resulted in an 86% increase in the usage of Promoted Listings by the end of last year.

I said in my review of the last update that I would provide my thoughts on the suggested ad rate after we had had some time to test it.  Truthfully, our experience since last fall has been nothing but positive.

It is now not uncommon to see a year-over-year increase in impressions of more than 300% in the first 90 days of an eBay SEO campaign, due to a combination of our initial listing optimization and the immediate visibility provided by Promoted Listings’ new suggested ad rate.

It is now not uncommon to see a year-over-year increase in impressions of more than 300% in the first 90 days of an eBay SEO campaign, due to a combination of our initial listing optimization and the immediate visibility provided by Promoted Listings’ new suggested ad rate.

A recent client realized a YOY increase in gross sales of 104.5% — also in just 90 days.

These kinds of nearly instantaneous results on eBay were unheard of just a year ago.  Now, they’re a reality.

Our methodology is simple:  Set an ad cap based on our client’s specified margins, use the ad rate exactly as shown by eBay, and make monthly (or sometimes weekly) updates via CSV file.

Besides recently releasing a detailed breakdown of seller analytics by paid and organic traffic, eBay, according to the latest update, plans to bring Promoted Listings automation to the platform by April 2021.

I look forward next time to bringing you my review of this latest update to one of the best things that’s happened to eBay search visibility in the last several years.


Terapeak’s item specifics filter

At the most recent eBay UpFront Chicago event, Harry Temkin revealed a new feature of Terapeak that is pretty cool — the ability to filter by item specifics instead of just keywords and categories.

I have found this functionality particularly useful when researching a product market on eBay, especially when I want to drill down to a very specific product.

Want to know the average price of Captain America Funko POP! figures that have sold (or are currently for sale) on eBay and were available exclusively at the Emerald City Comic Con?  Now you can.

Terapeak Item Specific Filters
Screenshot of Terapeak’s new item specifics filters

Additional data available includes sold price range, average shipping cost, percent of listings using free shipping, total items sold, sell-through rate, total accounts selling the item, and gross sales.

This type of search was difficult to conduct with Terapeak previously.  But now it’s a simple matter of selecting the basic keywords, a full category tree, and whichever item specifics field you’re interested in.


A report and a retort

One final subject I’m looking forward to writing about is eBay’s Listing Quality Report (formerly, “Listing Improvement Report”), which was formally announced in November 2020.

Since that time, it has been made clear that the report is essentially in beta.  Our recent testing definitely confirms this.

So you’ll have to wait until next time before I can give you an accurate assessment of the tool’s impact on SEO.

Well, all in all, this was another significant eBay Seller Update.

SEO continues to be on the forefront of eBay’s mind, regardless of whether it will ever truly be for sellers.

As far as the rest of the update is concerned, don’t forget to check out the eBay for Business podcast that covers it as a whole.  It’s always helpful to get your information from the source.

Whatever you do, avoid the forums and social media chatrooms.   They’ll just waste your precious time.

I have read online from some sellers and gurus that there “wasn’t much to see” in this last update.  I don’t agree.

But then, I’m an SEO.

And they’re not.

Keep your chin up.

About Dave Snyder 26 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.