eBay SEO and Good ‘Til Cancelled (GTC)

To Manually End or Automatically Relist, That is the Question

eBay
Free image, courtesy of Needpix

In this post dedicated to the Good ‘Til Cancelled (GTC) listing duration, I reveal how, as an essential component of eBay SEO methodology, it creates a static URL for and safeguards the performance metrics of eBay product listings.

 

I remember when my wife and I first started selling on eBay in 2009, four full years before I began offering freelance eBay SEO services.

We knew very little about running our own business 10 years ago, let alone the many facets of being a successful reseller.

So we made a lot of mistakes.

And they were usually around the fear of losing money, control, or both.

For instance, we didn’t offer free shipping on our products for at least the first year.  We had determined it wasn’t possible to do so without giving up profits.

Like many sellers, we also often waited to list products on eBay until the “free listing days.”  We were convinced eBay’s insertion fees, charged once our storefront subscription’s listing limit had been reached, were generally prohibitive to making money.

And for the same reason, we didn’t invest in our own shipping boxes.  Instead, for a short time we actually wrapped Priority Mail boxes in brown paper (one of the dumber ideas I came up with)!

When I look back, I can recall a whole host of poor decisions we made as sellers.

But as bad as some of those early failures were, none of them harmed our sales more than refusing to utilize Good ‘Til Cancelled.

 

What is Good ‘Til Cancelled?

As detailed in our recent post devoted to the 2019 Spring Seller Update, Good ‘Til Cancelled (GTC) is eBay’s only duration for all fixed price, or “Buy It Now,” product listings.

Previous listing duration options — such as three, seven, and 30 days — are no longer available.

It is now policy that eBay will automatically relist all fixed price listings, reinserting them into eBay’s index on a monthly basis until each listing runs out of inventory or is manually ended by the seller.

In response to the official mandate, some sellers have taken to the internet to express their opinions about GTC.

And if you pay too much attention to what’s being said, it will drive you batty.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting the disdain some sellers have for GTC in order to properly understand the policy’s true value.

 

Objections to GTC

I have consulted a number of sellers who don’t like Good ‘Til Cancelled.

Besides the usual hackneyed accusations of greediness and general untrustworthiness on the part of eBay, objections to GTC tend to revolve around one of the two following things:

  • A fear of paying insertion fees for listings they don’t want to renew, or
  • A misunderstanding of the role played by the listing limits of eBay store subscriptions.

Let’s discuss both of these in detail.

 

A fear of extra insertion fees

Smaller sellers who object to Good ‘Til Cancelled tend to use the ending of each listing as a means for inventory control.

Literally, these sellers are reviewing whether they want to continue to sell an item (or perhaps bring it down in price) only when its insertion period is over.  It’s as if there is no other way to manage their eBay inventory without allowing their listings to end.

This objection is just plain silly.  For small sellers especially, conducting a listing review independent of their listings’ end date is a simple matter.

Just pick a date, any consistent date each month, and do it.

Yes, a handful of listings sellers choose to end will have recently relisted.  And yes, that will mean a small number of insertion fees, relative to a seller’s total number of listings, will be charged that otherwise would not have been.

These fees fall under the category of the “cost of doing business,” and should simply be accepted and moved past.

But this is hard for some sellers to do, especially for those accustomed to pinching pennies.

For sellers who fall into this first trap, the obsession over insertion fees sometimes spills over into another practice that is equally damaging.

 

A misunderstanding of listing limits

As sellers expand their inventory, a segment of them resort to rotating their listings, by ending some and relisting others, in order to stay under eBay’s stated free listing limits.

Sellers who implement this methodology misunderstand the purpose of these free listings altogether.

Free insertions on eBay are intended only as an added benefit for sellers who maintain an eBay store subscription, not as a barrier to success when they run out.

Successful sellers generally work some percentage of eBay’s insertion fee into their margin calculation, and then couple it with targeted increases in their store subscription level to minimize the fee’s impact.

This takes a bit of doing to properly implement, but sellers practiced in keeping a close eye on their margins won’t find it a complicated process.

When sellers adopt misguided techniques to “assist” them, they have no idea how badly these practices actually hurt them.

By the end of this post, I will have demonstrated that the eBay SEO methodology of utilizing the benefits of Good ‘Til Cancelled (GTC), even if it means spending some extra insertion fees, far outweighs the treacherous alternative.

 

Confusion over GTC

But before I get to the explanation of the benefits of Good ‘Til Cancelled, it’s important I briefly address some of the misinformation you have likely heard about it.

For example, in contrast with what many at eBay have reiterated, Shefali Singla, eBay Senior Product Marketing Manager, recently stated that organic rankings on eBay become “not relevant” over time and get pushed down in the eBay SERPs.

We often hear that active listings on eBay eventually get “stale” and need to be “refreshed” from time to time, often accomplished by sellers manually ending their listings and then relisting them.

This is a myth.  In reality, an eBay listing’s longevity is critical to functional SEO and must be protected at all costs.

We often hear that active listings on eBay eventually get “stale” and need to be “refreshed” from time to time, often accomplished by sellers manually ending their listings and then relisting them.  This is a myth.  In reality, an eBay listing’s longevity is critical to functional SEO and must be protected at all costs.

The only items that get stale over time are those with little or no demand on the eBay marketplace.  Products with less demand should have their prices brought down over time, and those with none shouldn’t be listed in the first place.

Another example is when Chris Labatt-Simon of SureDone recently suggested sellers should utilize GTC for SEO purposes, but balance it by keeping inventory levels unnaturally low for the purpose of “conveying urgency for a sale.”

Using a false sense of inventory scarcity is another myth and is harmful to both SEO and repeat customer metrics.

When sellers indicate they are consistently running low on inventory, this actually lowers eBay’s Best Match quality score and completely overrides any minor ranking signal sent by there being “only one left.”

Besides hurting search rankings, this practice is also an insult to the intelligence of potential buyers and a strong deterrent to return customers due to the lack of trust it invites.

(Look for future discussions about both of these myths under “eBay SEO Myths”).

Now, with the gimmicks and hacks aside, let’s get to the good stuff.

 

Importance of GTC

Shortly after he was hired by eBay, Harry Temkin, Vice President of Seller Experience, was quoted as saying the following:

“We’re making this change because we have seen that GTC listings offer more sales opportunities than any other fixed price duration.  Over time, GTC listings keep and grow watchers, sales history, and SEO authority, as they maintain the same item ID and URL for the life of the listing.”

I was immediately impressed by this response from Temkin.  It remains, to date, one of the few times the real advantages of Good ‘Til Cancelled have been described by eBay in a complete and comprehensive manner.

One of my biggest frustrations as an eBay SEO practitioner is how often the real meaning of something gets lost in the continual repetition of incomplete answers, half-truths, and misconceptions.

For instance, I’ve heard it said that GTC is important simply because the listing is up longer.

While this is a factual statement, as an answer to why GTC is beneficial, it is weak at best.

At worst, it communicates there actually isn’t a good reason for eBay to insist on automatically relisting all fixed price listings.

And I assure you, there is.

 

The Static URL

One of the most foundational elements to search engine optimization is a web address that doesn’t change, or one that is “static.”

Although eBay listings currently do not have a great deal of SEO authority due to the 2014 Google manual action penalty, their visibility in search engines other than (eBay’s own) Cassini is dependent on a static URL.

The most basic core URL for a product listing on eBay looks like the following:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/113446074176

The bolded section of the above address (added for emphasis) is the listing’s item number.

As long as this listing is not ended, the item number, and consequently the URL, will not change.

However, were this listing to be ended and relisted, it would receive a new item number.  And as a result, a new URL.

For sellers, this means that buyers from outside of eBay who follow a link to the original listing will see a message that reads, “This listing was ended by the seller,” instead of the listing itself — resulting in a loss of those potential sales.

This Listing Was Ended by the Seller
Screenshot of eBay listing ended page

In contrast, when sellers maintain the URL for the life of their listings, buyers from Google, social media, blogs, and other websites will always be sent directly to the listing.

But that is only the beginning of the benefits of Good ‘Til Cancelled.

 

Sales history

The same elements of GTC that enable a listing’s static URL, also promote on-site SEO within the eBay marketplace itself.

And they do so by preserving performance metrics.

One of the most crucial metrics on eBay related to listing performance, and which directly impacts ranking within Best Match, is listing sales history.

eBay Listing Sales History
Screenshot of an eBay listing’s sales history

Combined with an eBay product listing’s sales conversion rate, the sheer number of sales generated by a listing has a lot to do with its ability to rank.

Sales history is so critical to search ranking on eBay, in fact, that there is simply no way to sell products in new condition at any volume without it.

Sellers who end their listings for any reason (even a good one), lose the entire sales history of those listings.

Now a listing with 106 recorded sales, like the one above, suddenly has none.  Zero.

And its ranking will absolutely plummet.

This is because ending a listing doesn’t just remove a listing’s sales history.

It gets rid of everything.

 

Buyer engagement

Besides its history of recorded sales, engagement with buyers is also important to a listing’s search ranking.

Buyer engagement metrics on eBay include impressions, views, and watchers.

The most visible of these is the number of buyers who are “watching” an eBay listing.

Although it is a myth that increasing a listing’s watchers (whether by artificial or natural means) will increase that listing’s search ranking, the recorded number of potential buyers who have added an eBay listing to their “Watch List” remains a component of Best Match.

eBay Watch List Button
Screenshot of eBay’s listing Watch List button

And the moment a listing is ended, the number of watchers is returned to zero — along with every other engagement metric informing eBay of the listing’s significance to buyers.

(Note:  Seller Hub will sometimes continue to show the number of watchers for a newly ended and relisted item, but our testing confirms that the watchers have, indeed, been removed from these listings.)

On the other hand, a maintained group of watchers interested in a product, among other things, allows these buyers to be notified by eBay of a drop in price — often resulting in a sale.

We have observed this process to work for both multi-quantity and single-quantity listings on eBay.

But even without this added sales benefit, the mere fact that a listing’s watchers, as well as other buyer engagement metrics, are preserved by Good ‘Til Cancelled results in positive ranking signals sent to eBay’s algorithm that cannot be ignored.

 

“Out of stock” option

An additional tip I must also include in this treatise is the “Out of stock” option within My eBay.

One of the very first items we check for all hands-on eBay SEO clients is whether or not they are using this feature.

This essential component of any serious eBay seller’s SEO strategy allows a listing to maintain all of its performance metrics, including sales history and watchers, after running out of inventory.

“Out of stock” gives sellers three full months to obtain additional inventory for any listing that has run down to a quantity of zero.  And once sellers return inventory to each listing, it will begin to sell again at its previous level.

Without this option selected, the effect on a listing that has run out of inventory is the same as if it had been ended.

The feature can be found at My eBay > Account > Site Preferences > Selling Preferences.

 

Conclusion

I really want to drive home to you that Good ‘Til Cancelled is critical to eBay SEO, and consequently, successful selling.

I’m not one of those sellers who runs headlong into every change eBay rolls out with open arms.  For instance, I’m not a fan of the recent update that shows only the “best” shipping options.

But automatic GTC is one of eBay’s good changes.

In contrast to what we once believed as sellers, we have maintained complete control over, and made more money from our eBay listings using Good ‘Til Cancelled than we would have otherwise.

And if you have chosen to do the same, believe it or not, you are actually one of the privileged majority.

The fact is, in spite of all the crazed internet hype, over 80% of all fixed price listings were already set to GTC prior to the 2019 Spring Seller Update.

So, as eBay continues to roll out GTC as the sole listing duration to additional platforms, the remaining sellers who have not yet fully adopted it must make a choice:

To move ahead with this important change — or simply get left behind.

Keep your chin up.

About Dave Snyder 9 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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