The State of eBay SEO in 2023 (and a Winter Seller Update)

There Are Genuine Reasons to Be Optimistic about eBay

2023 The State of eBay SEO

In today’s post, we’ll be covering the state of eBay SEO in 2023 and providing a quick review of the Winter Seller Update.

 

With the recent release of the latest eBay seller update, we would typically be discussing it and its impact on SEO.

For the first time since we reported on our earliest update in 2019, however, there’s literally nothing for us to talk about from a search point of view.

And if you are a friend of this blog, you know that that’s saying something.

It should be obvious that SEO on eBay is by no means limited to the content of the official updates.

So there should still be a lot to go over, right?

Yes.

In fact, there’s often more to say than I am usually able to get around to.

So let’s dive together into some of the most important current trends at eBay.

 

2023 Winter Seller Update

Although there’s nothing SEO-related in the recent update, here are the following main points:

That’s really it.

It’s certainly the most meager update we’ve reviewed.

Now onto the reason you’re here.

 

eBay GMV is down — time to optimize!

As most eBay business owners know by now, gross merchandise volume — which measures the total of what actually sells and not things like ad revenue — has been down across the platform for some time.

eBay Gross Merchandise Volume
Image courtesy of Marketplace Pulse

In the context of this trend, businesses on eBay currently participating in an SEO campaign who previously experienced year-over-year increases may find their most recent quarterly sales to have plateaued or decreased.

As ecommerce sellers tend to concentrate their attention on the aspects of their businesses that are making them the most money in the moment, it is not uncommon for them to deemphasize or even abandon marketing efforts when things take a downturn.

Unlike what most marketers insist upon, it is generally not a wise decision to focus solely on the facets of your business that are “working.”

In fact, one of the main ways eBay sellers lose profit is to put their money into SEO once they’ve already begun to see an increase in their sales — missing out on the returns available only at its very onset.

Unlike what most marketers insist upon, it is generally not a wise decision to focus solely on the facets of your business that are “working.”  In fact, one of the main ways eBay sellers lose profit is to put their money into SEO once they’ve already begun to see an increase in their sales — missing out on the returns available only at its very onset.

As much as we enjoy seeing the immediate gains when we start the optimization process during a sales upturn, the sole way to avoid being taken advantage of by an upcoming improvement in sales is to maintain a marketing discipline while they are down.

As Alex Macura recently said in Search Engine Journal,

“Marketplace SEO…is focused work, it is deliberate, and it is not a once-off exercise.  However, it is likely your competitors are not putting in the work, so the dividends are tremendous if you do.”

We view the current GMV trend much the same way as an investor would a market correction.

Our process:

  • Avoids watching client sales over short periods, sticking to 90-day measurements.
  • Waits out periods of volatility.
  • Looks only to long-term data for making projections.

After an application of these steps, our expectation is that eBay’s GMV downward trend will correct itself.

The next eBay earnings call, scheduled for this month, will enlighten us as to whether this will be sooner or later.

 

Major developments in eBay search

A lot of the recent press would suggest that the only things happening on eBay are sales of Tom Brady’s retirement sand, a mixup involving Mr. Blobby, and a rapper’s failed attempt to sell her used underwear.

But the truth is, eBay continues to evolve for the better in the areas of search and sitewide SEO.

 

Cleanup of listing category breadcrumbs

In May 2022, we reported on Twitter and LinkedIn that eBay had begun to stuff repeated keywords into some of its visible taxonomy breadcrumbs.

 

Keyword Stuffing in eBay Category Breadcrumbs
Screenshot of “Metalworking” stuffed into eBay listing’s category breadcrumbs

 

In the example, eBay had stuffed the word, “Metalworking,” into literally every subcategory visible in the listing breadcrumbs.

Recently, however, eBay made a correction to this critical SEO error.

 

Keyword Stuffing Removed from eBay Category Breadcrumbs
Screenshot of above listing, now with cleaned up breadcrumbs

 

As of January 2023, eBay has removed the keyword stuffing entirely.

Additionally, the breadcrumbs now feature a retraction of their full length using a horizontal three-dot menu.

These are noteworthy improvements over the prior monstrous layout — both from an SEO and visual perspective.

Keyword stuffing — whether in ecommerce or elsewhere on the web — is a negative search ranking factor and should be avoided at all costs.

These are noteworthy improvements over the prior monstrous layout — both from an SEO and visual perspective.  Keyword stuffing — whether in ecommerce or elsewhere on the web — is a negative search ranking factor and should be avoided at all costs.

Thankfully, eBay eventually got the memo and made the change.

 

eBay’s new featured content

One of my earliest posts was an open letter to then CEO Devin Wenig to take down eBay’s “SEO pages.”

After six full years of negative impact to its external search rankings, eBay finally did so.

Since that time, the company has sought to create content on its structured data browse nodes — improved versions of the original SEO pages that appear to be acceptable to Google — to attract inbound search traffic.

For the first time since these revamped pages went live, we discovered eBay content from one of them that has been featured by Google.

Google Featured Snippet for eBay Browse Node
Screenshot of a featured snippet in Google search results for eBay content

A “featured snippet” is content that is essentially scraped from a webpage and then provided by Google as an answer to a user’s search query.

These bits of text appear above Google’s regular search results, typically at the very top of the page.

The content in this specific snippet comes from near the bottom of a browse node dedicated to VW Beetle grilles.

The types of questions answered by the page include the following:

  • What styles of Volkswagen Beetle grilles are there?
  • What is a 304 stainless steel VW Beetle grille?
  • Can you just snap one of these Volkswagen grilles on?
  • What are the common colors and finishes?

The responses are better than I would have expected, and they actually answer the questions posed.

Featured snippets on Google tend to send a decent amount of search traffic to their sources, and our testing suggests that they also turn into top organic search results when the snippet is no longer visible.

This particular snippet is honestly an exciting find.

It represents the first viable, usable content from eBay for both buyers and search since the eBay Guides were deprecated in 2018.

 

Hey BERT…meet eBERT!

This one’s for the SEOs in the house.

In 2021, I first read about an eBay version of a Google algorithm that really piqued my interest.

The search community has been talking about BERT — a search algorithm developed by Google that is trained to “understand” the natural use of language — for a long time.

The model is fed human-generated text, analyzes the relationships between the words using semantic vectors, and attempts to discern the intended meaning behind them.

In eBay’s most recent Machine Learning Challenge, one of the solutions to the question of extracting structured data from unstructured product listings involved “one of the largest and latest state-of-the-art BERT models, called Deberta V3, from Microsoft.”

(I managed to connect with one of the competition’s two winners, and I am looking forward to what might develop from the relationship when he joins eBay as an intern this summer.)

And now, the BERT algorithm has a cousin from eBay — named, of course, eBERT.

And now, the BERT algorithm has a cousin from eBay — named, of course, eBERT.

One use of eBay’s variant of Google’s BERT is to compare the content of existing titles and look for “important descriptors” that are inserted by sellers, with the purpose of increasing the natural language-based relevance of eBay’s recommended item modules featured on listing pages.

Another eBERT application is the automated recognition of duplicate listings, a policy violation on eBay and negative ranking factor specific to the platform.

I have been watching the development of eBay’s version of BERT with great interest.

As an eBay SEO practitioner, I am encouraged by these search-related advancements and view it as further indication that eBay will pull out of its present position.

 

Google Shopping optimization tips

Finally, I have to take a moment to recognize Jim “Griff” Griffith’s ongoing contributions to the eBay selling community.

In a recent episode of the eBay for Business podcast, co-host Griff confirmed the importance of seller (and by connection, marketer) testing by conducting his own tests using Google Shopping over a prolonged period of time.

Griff’s top recommendations for appearing in Google Shopping are the following:

  • Use the eBay catalog whenever an entry is available.
  • Remove product image overlays that cover the item itself.
  • Avoid extraneous characters in the listing title.
  • Follow eBay’s stated best practice specific to Best Match.

Nothing above contradicts anything we understand to be important for Google Shopping SEO.  The emphasis on the eBay catalog was a little surprising, although it shouldn’t have been.

His additional testing brought out several additional findings that were also of interest:

  • White image backgrounds are not required to appear in Google Shopping.
  • All capitals in the title do not result in the listing being blocked, but they are often changed to lower case by Google.
  • Phrases like “free shipping” and “made in USA” do not automatically result in the listing being blocked from Google Shopping, but they are still not recommended by eBay.
  • Listings with the item condition in the title are usually blocked, but not always.

We recommend to all clients that they avoid these final four situations, regardless of their impact on Google Shopping.

With only 10% of eBay’s total traffic coming from external organic search results, it is imperative that sellers do what they can to improve their presence on Google — which comes almost entirely from Google Shopping.

Thanks again to Griff for his great work and consistent emphasis on testing.

 

So, the state of eBay SEO is…

…solid.

eBay is still the best marketplace for online retailers with multi-quantity listings, a niche product line, and a recognized brand to dominate search and consistently improve upon overall sales.

eBay is still the best marketplace for online retailers with multi-quantity listings, a niche product line, and a recognized brand to dominate search and consistently improve upon overall sales.

And so my current stance relative to eBay is one of confidence.

In spite of its present status as a proving ground.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a sitewide downturn in sales.  And it won’t be the last.

When things get less comfortable, it can be easy to turn away and just focus on something else.

But the success of eBay SEO over the long run requires that you stick to it.

Besides what we know about search optimization in general, our past experience also bears this out.

It’s not inconceivable that eBay will one day face a challenge from which it cannot rebound.

That day may even come sooner than I think.

But this isn’t that time.

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.