2023 Fall Seller Update – Its Impact on eBay SEO

Not All eBay Ad Platforms Are Created Equal

2023 eBay Fall Seller Update

Here it is again — the next in our series of SEO reviews of the most recent eBay Seller Update.


The 2023 Fall Seller Update is upon us, and it’s time to talk on-site marketing and SEO.

Remember that we always recommend you read the update for yourself before accepting anyone’s opinion about it — including mine.

Once you have done so, join me as we begin by discussing several aspects of the update’s “Listing & promoting” section.


Promoted Listings dynamic bidding is a bad idea

eBay has released a number of new features specific to its pay-per-click advertising model, Promoted Listings Advanced.

The update announced the “dynamic bidding” option as an upcoming development, but as of this writing the feature is live.

This new dynamic form of PPC bidding on eBay is described as one that “automatically optimizes your bids, creating a more efficient way of helping you stay competitive” (italics added for emphasis).

The term, “optimize,” has become a catchall for everything positive in marketing these days, so sellers may assume that they need to utilize dynamic bidding in order for their Advanced ads to be “optimized”.

The truth is, this new option is merely a time-saving feature and may not optimize your eBay PPC ads at all.

In fact, the only thing dynamic bidding does for Promoted Listings Advanced is to update all of a campaign’s keywords to eBay’s suggested bid on a daily basis.

eBay Promoted Listings Advanced Dynamic Bidding
Screenshot of Promoted Listings Advanced dynamic bidding guidelines

As we have done with Google SEO, it is helpful to compare eBay’s pay-per-click ad platform to Google’s.

Google Ads has a similar feature called Smart Bidding, but the biggest difference is that Google allows advertisers to select from one of six distinct automated bid strategies.

In stark contrast, eBay sellers have no strategy options other then to simply let eBay set every bid to the suggested.

We have multiple clients with successful pay-per-click campaigns on eBay, and we won’t be using dynamic bidding for any of them.

The reason is simple:  Effective PPC marketing on any platform requires regular testing, methodical attention, and — most importantly — human intuition.

Not a blind reliance on an algorithm.

Just this afternoon, I updated six Promoted Listings Advanced campaigns for a client.  Yes, I followed a handful of core eBay pay-per-click guidelines that we’ve established along the way.

But in order to truly optimize an eBay PPC campaign according to its past performance, the client’s expectations, and the products’ margins, we always manage these campaigns by hand.

Sellers who choose to simply rely on accepting eBay’s recommendations for their bid amounts do not understand how PPC marketing works in the first place — let alone how it is run successfully.

Sellers who choose to simply rely on accepting eBay’s recommendations for their bid amounts do not understand how PPC marketing works in the first place — let alone how it is run successfully.

As digital marketing hurtles towards all things “done for you,” the majority of eBay businesses will take the easy way out and end up doing away with the human element all together.

And they’ll inevitably fail.


eBay PPC smart targeting is even worse

Significantly more detrimental than automatic bid updates without strategy options is eBay’s promise to “unlock priority access to placements” in exchange for allowing eBay to manage a seller’s entire PPC campaign.

eBay Promoted Listings Advanced Smart Targeting
Screenshot of Promoted Listings Advanced smart targeting guidelines

The closest thing Google offers to this feature is the ability to partner with a Google Ads expert who works directly for Google.

Many PPC practitioners are wary of allowing Google to do this due to the obvious conflict of interest — in spite of the fact that the service targets new users and doesn’t extend throughout the length of the advertising campaign.

Again in contrast, eBay’s smart targeting feature “take[s] care of bidding and targeting for you” and ensures sellers will literally do nothing except decide on a timeframe, their listing(s), their daily budget, and a maximum cost per click.

(The “max CPC” is the highest bid amount a seller is willing to pay for each ad click.  It does not set the individual bid amount for any one keyword phrase.)

Not only is eBay suggesting they do everything from keyword selection to bid determination, they intend to do so for as long as the eBay PPC campaign remains active.

This is probably the worst idea the good folks at eBay Ads have come up with to date.

eBay’s advertising arm is recognized industry wide, and we have noted publicly the unusual transparency of the tech side of eBay.

But this feature is just awful.

Given eBay’s exceptionally poor keyword recommendations specific to PPC ads, eBay has not demonstrated even the basic competence necessary to go about selecting the phrases themselves.

Given eBay’s exceptionally poor keyword recommendations specific to PPC ads, eBay has not demonstrated even the basic competence necessary to go about selecting the phrases themselves.

And the fact that eBay makes a vague promise of exclusive search visibility — available only to those who participate in the smart targeting program — should make sellers all the more dubious.


No, AI doesn’t write better than you do

Although many so-called “experts” believe otherwise, item descriptions are not important to eBay SEO.

Besides not being searchable by default on eBay, “View Item” page description content is embedded in an inline frame and is frequently attributed to structured data browse nodes in Google’s organic search results instead of to the listing pages themselves.

Nevertheless, eBay item descriptions do matter to conversion optimization.

Sellers can now choose to let artificial intelligence write “attention-grabbing item description[s] at the touch of a button.”

Beginning in July of this year, eBay began referring to its innovations in the area of AI as “magical”.

No matter how bizarre it sounds to my ears, the term, “magic,” can often be found associated with artificial intelligence.  Just Google “magic AI”.

Regardless of whether artifical intelligence will ever pull a rabbit out of a hat, I don’t think it’ll ever write intuitively or produce anything that’s not simply a mishmash of what already exists somewhere on the internet.

The fact remains, the eBay item descriptions that directly contribute to an increase in sales conversions are those that are clearly written by a human.

Whether it’s (a) the automotive seller who’s gone out of his way to write unique content explaining the use of his performance parts or (b) the reseller whose quirky and personal descriptions of her one-of-a-kind collectibles catch the attention of would-be buyers, we remain firmly convinced that humans are better copywriters than computers.

But in case you’re insistent on giving it a try, note that AI-generated descriptions are available in most product categories and to all U.S.-based sellers — who themselves retain all responsibility for the content produced by the technology.


Promoted Listings Standard forecast feature

We talked in my last blog post about what was then the upcoming forecast feature for eBay’s pay-per-sale ad model.  The functionality is now live.

Promoted Listings Standard Forecast Feature
Screenshot of Promoted Listings Standard forecast feature

This performance metric predicts the likelihood that a buyer will see the seller’s Promoted Listings Standard ads, based on a comparison of the seller’s stated ad rate and the maximum number of impressions the ad may likely generate.

As the estimated impression share above increases, the overall ad rate will also increase.

eBay makes clear that this metric is directional in nature, which means that it is based on only two variables.

As a result, the percentage derived does not take into consideration any other factors, is therefore easily manipulated, and is by no means guaranteed.

Regardless of its limitations, we’ve found this feature to be useful when creating new pay-per-sale ad campaigns and deciding on an ad rate.

The only method up until now has been to either use eBay’s suggested ad rate or guess at a lower one, and then test for a lengthy period of time before making any changes.

With this helpful feature, sellers can make a more educated initial assessment of what their overall Standard ad rate should be from the start of the campaign.


Promoted Display ads are still in beta

One of our PPC clients wanted to get out in front of the pack when it came to eBay’s new Promoted Display ads.

As a result, we have been testing the platform for the last several months.  And it is going miserably.

A higher up at eBay Ads confirmed with me that Promoted Display is still in beta, insisting “the faucet is only turned on 50%.”

Although eBay hasn’t stated this publicly, I can confirm that this ad format simply isn’t working yet — in spite of having a large number of extremely targeted keywords, a client who is a top seller, and a strong product market on eBay.

My current impression of Promoted Display ads is that they are currently very good at generating ad fees and not much more.

My current impression of Promoted Display ads is that they are currently very good at generating ad fees and not much more.

Additionally, the interface for setting up a Promoted Display campaign is confusing at best.

Sellers have the option of either bidding on selected keywords, directly on product subcategories, or both.

The keywords available are preselected by eBay and can only be deselected by sellers in an extremely time-consuming process.  It is currently not possible to enter your own phrases, making the process burdensome.

Finally, Display campaigns that only target keywords — regardless of how many terms were selected — don’t even manage to generate ad costs, let alone sales.

On the other hand, product subcategories clearly do generate search visibility (as well as ad costs).

However, they are so broad that very little of the traffic being generated by subcategories is converting.

We have heard that Promoted Display ads may be out of beta by next spring.

If they haven’t been significantly improved by then, we will not be adopting them on any level.


Category changes mean item specifics updates

As usual, the most recent seller update has brought changes to eBay’s taxonomy.

This time, the revisions mostly impact categories specific to eBay Motors listings.

Beginning on October 24, eBay will make major updates to the structures of the Performance Parts and Automotive Tools & Supplies categories.

Past category updates have not negatively impacted our client listings that were affected by the updates themselves.

Bear in mind, however, that although eBay says sellers do not need to do anything in response to these changes, any item specifics fields that do not correlate to the new product category will now be blank and will need to be updated by the seller.


New “Sale” storefront tab

I haven’t said much of anything about running sales or extending offers to buyers in the past, as our focus is on eBay search and paid marketing.

Most sellers are familiar with the “Shop”, “About”, and “Feedback” tabs at the top of their eBay storefront homepage.

eBay will be releasing a “Sale” tab in the near future, which “will feature all your coupon sales in one place, and make it easier for buyers to find your sale items.”

Additionally, seller-initiated offers can now be sent in bulk via eBay’s mobile app (previously only available on desktop).


eBay Open Studio

In wrapup, I’d like to talk about the recent eBay Open Studio event in Chicago.

2023 eBay Open Studio in Chicago
At eBay Open Studio in Chicago

This was the first ecommerce event that Heather and I attended together, and we were glad to be there.

There were three additional Studio events held simultaneously with the one in Chicago, and as a group they kicked off the virtual eBay Open event.

We met several new people, including Trish Glenn of The Seller Community Podcast, multiple eBay employees, and a handful of sellers.

I encourage you to attend the next event, if you are able to do so.

It isn’t easy, running an ecommerce business.  Events like these place sellers and service providers in one place and remind us that we are, in fact, a community.

Personally, I have also found it helpful to be reminded that I’m not writing into a vacuum.

And that some of you actually pay attention.

Keep your chin up.

About Dave Snyder 25 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.