In this article, we discuss the definition of eBay SEO, what has made SEO on eBay increasingly essential, how it helps to improve product listing visibility and search rankings, and how it combats the chronic issue of listing displacement.

 

Contrary to popular belief, the most effective and cost-efficient method for marketing on eBay is SEO.

Unlike sponsored ads, which stop working the moment sellers stop paying for them, search engine optimization pays for itself quickly and continues to work well after the campaign has finished.

But in spite of all the articles and videos claiming to provide tips and tricks on the subject, the professional seller community continues to languish over the basic question:  “What exactly is eBay SEO?”

 

The definition of eBay SEO

eBay SEO is the methodical practice of increasing targeted organic traffic to eBay product listings, as well as actively preventing their disappearance from eBay search results.

eBay SEO is the methodical practice of increasing targeted organic traffic to eBay product listings, as well as actively preventing their disappearance from eBay search results.

The process of search engine optimization can be applied to any eBay listing (and to a lesser degree, any eBay store as a whole).  Its potency is limited by factors such as product supply and demand, the seller’s eBay policy and best practice compliance, and how well sellers’ listings are differentiated from their competitors.

It is noteworthy, however, that fully optimized eBay listings consistently perform — even in moderate product markets.

SEO is a reliable, statistically provable technique that makes demonstrable differences in product listing search placement.

And it is by far the best strategy for long-term success on eBay.

 

What has made SEO on eBay so necessary?

In spite of improvements made to Cassini (eBay’s current search engine), our data shows that even the most established sellers often still have difficulty getting their listings to surface consistently for relevant searches.

As the community has sought out solutions to this quandary, reasons given have included eBay’s abundance of counterfeit and China-based goods, a marked increase in the number of arbitrage “dropshippers,” an ever-growing influx of products that simply do not sell, and even a host of conspiracies that do nothing more than to serve as a distraction.

In contrast, the real reason for poor listing visibility on eBay lies in a phenomenon called “listing displacement” — a natural function of marketplace search that causes listings to disappear from eBay search results.

The real reason for poor listing visibility on eBay lies in a phenomenon called “listing displacement” — a natural function of marketplace search that causes listings to disappear from eBay search results.

Since as early as Fall 2019, eBay has been working to improve the buyer search experience by implementing a patented technique that proactively reduces seller listing visibility in specific circumstances.

eBay Search Index Trimming
Screenshot of the results of listing displacement on an eBay search page

In the above example, the only listings for a Chicago White Sox hat that buyers can see are those categorized as sports memorabilia.

All of the other active eBay listings containing the phrase, “chicago white sox hat” — including over 1,000 categorized as hats — are completely invisible.

This practice is intentional.

And to some, it may sound counterintuitive.

But in fact, similar processes are used across the majority of online marketplaces — enabling an ecommerce search engine to show only what its artificial intelligence deems to be relevant.

The unintended consequence of this methodology, however, is that an eBay listing that is otherwise “optimized” can still be largely invisible to search.

It also doesn’t help that eBay’s own history with SEO is problematic (greatly reducing current inbound traffic from Google) and that the majority of eBay “gurus” consistently promote gimmicks and hacks in lieu of proven SEO techniques (resulting in a seller community inundated by myths and other misinformation).

Enter the power of legitimate, measurement-driven search engine optimization — the ultimate weapon in the war for visibility in any online selling environment.

 

How does SEO increase listing visibility on eBay?

Instead of working against the platform and its limitations, SEO takes advantage of eBay’s strengths by making the most of its present technology and structure — and by adapting to its continual changes.

Although it is true that search on eBay is in a regular state of flux (particularly in the way the site collects and organizes its data), opportunities for ranking improvements are real.

Increases in listing search positioning are made possible by the strikingly stable nature of eBay’s default algorithm, Best Match, and the company’s recent endeavors to improve it.

Accordingly, our practice of optimizing the online presence of our eBay clients has proven that properly-applied SEO consistently increases year-over-year product listing visibility.

The process follows the trajectory of two strategic marketing methodologies, developed specifically for the eBay marketplace.

 

Structured data compliance

Very few members of the eBay community continue to use the phrase, “structured data.”

But in spite of the term’s negative connotation with the failed product side of the initiative by the same name, the relationship of structured data to SEO as a whole — and to seller success on eBay — is as critical today as it has ever been.

eBay Structured Data Browse Node
Screenshot of eBay browse node for Superman action figures

Structured data necessitates a form of technical SEO specific to eBay that involves conformity to the following:

  • eBay’s “back-end category” designation (as opposed to what eBay refers to as its “best fit” category),
  • The resultant product detail fields known as item specifics (sometimes called, “listing aspects”),
  • And the data foundation of eBay’s “browse nodes” (used to improve its sitewide Google SEO).

This process is widely misunderstood by sellers, and its improper implementation increases listing displacement.

As a result, it routinely has a devastating impact on eBay search visibility.

 

On-page keyword optimization

Keyword optimization is a bedrock SEO principle that has been in place since the beginning of the search industry.

Its present relevance as a primary ranking factor to traditional SEO is not always agreed upon, but the role it plays on eBay is undisputed.

In contrast to what some self-described “experts” have said, the proper usage of keywords on eBay does not target the item description.

Although there are seven specific listing description requirements sellers must follow to prevent both conversion and search ranking loss, eBay keyword optimization is primarily concerned with the listing title.

This will come as a surprise to many educated eBay sellers.

It turns out the long-standing belief — that eBay looks mainly to the title for a listing’s keywords — is actually true.

Unlike what sellers are often told (even sometimes by eBay), however, keyword optimization does not concern itself with the terms used in listings that sell well.

It focuses, instead, entirely on the keywords searched by actual buyers.

Combined with eBay’s closed set of competitor data and its unique framework for structuring that information, the opportunities for improved rankings consistently outpace those in traditional search environments.

As a result, SEO has become one of the most powerful tools available for increasing eBay search impressions, product page views, and overall sales.

 

What is NOT eBay SEO?

We would be remiss in a discussion of the subject if we did not also mention what masquerades as eBay SEO.

Search engine optimization on eBay is NOT the following:

  • A Promoted Listings campaign.
  • The daily tweaking of product prices.
  • A dependence on top search rankings.
  • Titles focused solely on being descriptive.
  • Optimizing for one or two-word phrases.
  • Larger, square photos in search results.
  • A strategy focused on increasing watchers.
  • Inbound linking from outside of eBay.
  • Manually ending listings and relisting them.
  • Taking keywords from listings that rank well.
  • Creating duplicate listings to increase visibility.
  • A simple matter of following eBay best practices.
  • Hiring a freelancer with access to Terapeak.
  • Primarily concerned with competitor listings.
  • Regular updates so listings won’t go “stale.”
  • Asking yourself what buyers might search.
  • A mixture of auctions and fixed price listings.
  • Using a false sense of inventory scarcity.
  • A technique involving the “sell similar” feature.
  • Inserting heading elements into item descriptions.
  • Saving images with keywords in the name.
  • Adding alternative text to description images.
  • Using 200 words in your item description.
  • Including a viewport meta tag.
  • A keyword-rich store name or categories.
  • Related in any way to RSS feeds.

This is just a sample of the pure mythology that surrounds the practice of eBay SEO.  As is the case with all search engine optimization, on or off eBay, the practice has always been about testing.

Any technique, regardless of its incessant repetition, is only as good as it stands up to proven, statistical measurement.