The Mystery of the "eBay Shops Directory"

In October 2005, many UK eBay Shops reported a large reduction in visitors. This coincided with changes to Google, which apparently removed millions of eBay items from its' index. At almost the same time, an "eBay Shops Directory" suddenly appeared on the first page of Yahoo searches (out of 120 million results). But here's the mystery - there doesn't seem to be any way for eBay shop owners to join this directory. What's going on - are eBay and Yahoo working together or are they enemies?

Monday, November 28, 2005

eBay Shops and Yahoo Mystery - Facts 2

There seem to be some very strange things going on with eBay and Yahoo in the UK. Following is a list factors contributing to the concerns (or maybe optimism?!) of a lot of eBay UK sellers.

Many eBay UK shop (store) owners are complaining their traffic is massively down in the last 6-8 weeks since Google’s Jagger 1/2/3 update apparently removed millions of eBay items from the SERPS. Please see eBay UK community board thread – “Shop visitors have dropped to zero - any idea what's happened?!”
http://forums.ebay.co.uk/thread.jspa?threadID=200267939&tstart=0&mod=1132264252654

There are other threads on eBay UK discussion boards with speculation that Google will leverage it’s GoogleBase and Froogle channels to the detriment of eBay – these included a cross reference to the Auctionbytes item - Google's Froogle Drops eBay for a Day , with a suggestion (in the thread, not the Auctionbytes article) that this may have been Google “testing its powers” in controlling the natural search traffic referred to eBay. But these threads now seem to have been “pulled” by eBay.

A related theme concerns eBay’s apparently growing reputation (according to some Powersellers and shop owners) as a “cheap and nasty” marketplace that facilitates the sale of counterfeit and inferior-quality items. Post #16 in the “Business very slow just now, or is it just me?” thread nicely sums up the views of eBay UK shops that are trying to operate at the “quality” level. http://forums.ebay.co.uk/thread.jspa?threadID=200273289&tstart=1&mod=1132836505846

There also seem to be opinions that eBay intends to set up a “premium shop” sector in which only validated shops would be allowed to participate. In principle, that seems like a sensible route for eBay to take – no need to abandon the low-end auctions from garage and attic clearance sellers and low cost far-east sources, but also put a “high quality/premium service” channel in place – maybe eBay’s “IT” campaign in the US is an early indication of strategic change in this area? Further information is available at http://forums.ebay.co.uk/thread.jspa?threadID=400104056&tstart=40&mod=1133786739296

Google vs eBAY or Google vs YahooBAY?” on http://sramanamitra.com/blog/158 states - “I said once before, that Yahoo should acquire eBay. eBay’s market cap is $52 Billion, whereas Yahoo’s is $50 Billion. It would roughly be a merger of equals, but I believe Yahoo’s future is far more promising than eBay’s. Hence, judging by futures, Yahoo ought to acquire eBay.” But would Yahoo really want to become an “equal” by merging with eBay – unlikely, we think, because Yahoo is more focused on Shopping than Auctions and there is more money to be made at the higher end of the B2C “food chain”.

Do a search for ebay on Yahoo’s Kelkoo and it yields around 60,000 items from eBay shops – then use the compare prices function and you’ll see that many, if not most of the eBay shop prices for identical items are half the price of those from the big name online stores. What does this mean? Well if Yahoo was to “acquire” just the shops element from eBay, they could offer eBay sellers a much better chance to make higher selling prices when they are competing directly with the major retail chains rather than against the “cut throat” pricing of “low-end” eBay sellers.

The “Yahoo versus eBay” thread on http://www.powersellersunite.com/about2638.html asks why Yahoo is showing a high ratio of eBay adverts on it’s email and search pages and one astute respondent suggests that it’s maybe a bit like the Kung Fu philosophy - "the best way to defeat an opponent... is to quietly take what he values" i.e. by being “top in the foodchain” when it comes to first point of contact with potential buyers. It could be very easy for Yahoo to suddenly switch off the eBay adverts and replace them with a Yahoo equivalent that (combined with the drop in Google traffic) causes visitors to eBay through natural search to reduce to almost zero overnight.

Then there is the mystery of the “eBay Shops Directory” (also referenced in http://www.powersellersunite.com/about2638.html ) which suddenly appeared on the first page of Yahoo results (out of 120 million) for the phrase - ebay shops – about 3 weeks ago (coinciding with the disappearance of many eBay shops/items from the google SERPS).

Searching Yahoo UK for – best ebay shops – shows this same directory at #1 with a collection of eBay sites and stores following (16 million results).
http://uk.search.yahoo.com/search?p=best+ebay+shops&prssweb=Search&ei=UTF-8&fr=fp-tab-web-t-1&fl=0&vc=&x=wrt&meta=vc%3D

There are only about 150 eBay shops listed in this directory and there doesn’t seem to be any way of getting your own shop included in this directory – the only contact point is a (coincidence?) Yahoo.co.uk email address which gives an apparently automated response saying “….please be patient, we are not currently accepting further entries in the Directory. We will be in touch when the directory becomes open to additional membership.”

Perhaps even more curious is that if you search Yahoo UK for the single word – ebay - the same directory appears in position 137 (out of 424 million results) – far enough down the SERPS to remain “hidden”, but close enough to the top to suddenly appear on the first page if a few search algorithm settings were changed by Yahoo? http://uk.search.yahoo.com/search?p=ebay&prssweb=Search&ei=UTF-8&fl=0&meta=vc%3D&pstart=1&fr=fp-tab-web-t-1&b=135

So what’s the conclusion that some UK eBay sellers have come to? Well, number 1 is that we’re extremely confused and number 2 is that we think Yahoo is positioning itself to either partner with a new eBay “Best Shops” division; or is planning to cut the natural search referrals and eBay’s PPC adverts. eBay shop owners would then be “encouraged” to register with this mysterious directory (probably for lots of £££) if they wanted to gain quality traffic which included buyers who were willing to pay reasonable prices for their goods.

Anybody got any thoughts on all this?

The eBay Shops Directory Mystery

Last month, many eBay shops in the UK began to report a worrying drop in visitors and started to ask searching questions on the eBay community discussion forums as well as requesting information directly from eBay.

This drop in traffic (and hence, buyers) seems, at least in part, to have been caused by a major change to the Google search engine – the so called Jagger 1/2/3 update. Google is said to produce over 50% of the natural search traffic for eBay sellers, so when millions of eBay items were removed from Google’s index, visitor numbers were bound to drop dramatically.

But at around the same time, searches for eBay Shops on Yahoo suddenly started to reveal an “eBay Shops Directory” on the first page of results, with around 120 million other eBay related pages beneath it in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).

This eBay Shops Directory had never been noticed in Yahoo searches before October and the timing seems more than co-incidental. But here’s the very strange thing – if you want to get your eBay shop listed in the directory, there’s no way to do it!

An extract from the directory says….”Many big-name retailers now have shops on eBay and you will be able to find them easily. So this directory has been set up especially to help you locate the medium size and smaller eBay shops, many of which offer specialist products and high quality services which cannot be found elsewhere.”

But the only contact point in the entire website is on the home page – a Yahoo.co.uk email address. If you email a request for information, all you get is an apparently automated response saying,”……patience, as the directory is not accepting additional registrations at the moment….”

So what’s going on? Well that’s what a lot of eBay UK Shops and PowerSellers would like to know and that’s why we’ve started this blog in the hope that someone out there will give us a clue.

If eBay and Yahoo are working together, that’s great – but please don’t charge us a fortune to get listed in the directory. If eBay and Yahoo are enemies – then will Yahoo please open the directory quickly so we can save our businesses which are suffering right now from lost traffic.

Our next post will contain much more detail about this “mystery” along with links to discussion forums that are about the same subject. All contributions, thoughts and advice are gratefully received.