Around this time last year, eBay was going through a somewhat eventful time. First of all they suffered a cyberattack and confirmed that a database was hacked comprising of over 125 million usernames and passwords. The site pleaded with its users to change their passwords after this hit as they believed the hackers were trying to obtain personal information.
Shortly after that debacle, eBay were “attacked” by Google! Many users started to realise that eBay slipped down the Google rankings rather significantly and questioned why this happened. It turned out that eBay were using “black-hat” SEO techniques to try and improve their rankings, which Google does not like. It focuses purely on search engines and does not help engage the human audience. Google sees black-hat SEO as unethical and punishes sites that use them. Sometimes a site can even be banned altogether from a search engine as a result of this behaviour.
It seems that eBay were found to be guilty of this unethical conduct and were given the penalty of worsened Google rankings. This proved more of a detrimental effect on sellers than the hacking itself!
However, a year has gone by now and so surely eBay should be over this? It seems not; it looks like the effect of this Google “downgrade” is still causing problems for sellers one year on. This appears to be what is behind the push for the launch of eBay’s new Product Identifiers.
The president of eBay, Dennis Wenig, was asked to comment during the latest Earnings Call when eBay were asked to report their earnings from the first quarter. Wenig still blames Google for their problems. However, he believes that this year has shown more positivity than usual. When an analyst asked him his thoughts on the matter, this is how he replied:
“We grew up as a marketplace and eBay looks at the world historically through listings rather than products. Listings gave eBay a tremendous selection advantage. It’s why we have the most things for sale of any marketplace in the world. But listings are also transient. They come and go. They don’t have link equity and they’re hard to attach content to. So if you go back over eBay’s history, there’s been a pattern of SEO disruptions across various search engines.
We now believe that the state of our business and our technology is that we can maintain the advantage given to us by a marketplace business model but include a structured data catalog, which gives us persistence and link equity and makes our sellers’ inventory more discoverable, both on and off eBay . The way we’re approaching that is, it is a deep transformation. It’s a multiyear process. We’re approaching it by category but horizontally but also focusing on the vertical areas where we believe we can have the most impact early on.
I’d say we’re off to a good start, but it’s an early start. And it will take — it is a multiyear transformation. But we do know that where we structured and cataloged our inventory, those items are more discoverable on eBay, and they’re more persistent and generate more traffic through search engines and other digital channels. So we feel good about the approach but it is not a short-term fix.”
It’s looking a little more positive than this time last year, but a whole year has gone by, and clearly there are still problems. Who knows what long-term effect this could have on eBay?