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eBay Adopting Syndicated Google Paid Search Ads, Dropping Yahoo

In a move that has largely flown under the radar, eBay appears near completion of a switch from Yahoo to Google as the provider of its syndicated paid search ads.  This would certainly be a blow to Yahoo and it is all the more intriguing given the sometimes contentious relationship between eBay and Google in recent years.

Over the past several months, our logs show that eBay had been testing Google ads for about 1% of its search ads, while the rest were being served by Yahoo.  Around 8/26, eBay flipped the switch and we began seeing the bulk of its clicks coming from Google ads.  Early this week we were still seeing eBay serve Yahoo paid search ads, but Google’s ads were providing roughly 90% of eBay’s search ad clicks.

While this move will likely benefit Google and eBay in the short-term, it is not necessarily a welcome change for advertisers.  We’ve noted before that syndication partners often have significantly lower conversion rates than the main engine providing their ads.  For many of our clients, eBay is no exception and we have often chosen to block our Yahoo ads from showing on eBay entirely.  Unfortunately, despite years of advertiser requests, Google does not provide the ability to block individual search partners in this manner.

Certain retailers are going to be hurt by this move more than others.  If your product offerings and keyword selection are particularly “eBay friendly” and you were previously blocking these ads on Yahoo, you could see a significant jump in costs without an equally significant increase in sales.  eBay has a ton of traffic and some retailers could easily see 5-10% of their paid clicks coming from the auction site.  We have been told that search network traffic is discounted based on quality, but that knowledge is not particularly helpful without more detail or the ability to make targeted search network exclusions.

As we’ve argued before, it is ultimately in the engines’ best interests to provide greater control and transparency to advertisers.  While RKG has tactics in place to handle the distinctions between Google and its search network, a perfect solution will not exist until greater control is available.  How many advertisers will decide not to bother with the search network at all if eBay starts eating up a big chunk of costs without delivering the sales?

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  • Mark Ballard
    Mark Ballard is Director of Research at RKG.
  • Comments
    20 Responses to “eBay Adopting Syndicated Google Paid Search Ads, Dropping Yahoo”
    1. Interesting, Mark, all the moreso since eBay’s in beta with their own internally-built paid search network – AdCommerce – which eBay has been telling the market they are moving to:

      http://bit.ly/v9Mjx

      Are you saying that AdCommerce inventory has been moved from Yahoo to Google, or that search inventory outside the scope of AdCommerce has been moved from Yahoo to Google?

    2. Mark Ballard Mark Ballard says:

      Chris, this is search inventory that is separate from the AdCommerce links. Depending on the query you will see either the AdCommerce links, Google links or both.

    3. james says:

      Mark – Google allows you to add negative ‘sites’ to search based campaigns. While I haven’t done any testing regarding search partners, do you have data that says adding ‘ebay.com’ as a negative website to a search based campaign does not stop ads from showing up on ebay? or any other Google search partner sites for that matter? I’ll start a test now – but would love to know if you have existing data on it. Thanks!

    4. David says:

      James, I’d love to get those results. As far as I know it is simply not possible to exclude sites from the search network.

      By the way – over here in Germany, Ebay and Google have been partners for quite a while, and I can tell you a LOT of (relatively low quality) traffic is coming from ebay, which more than once made me disable the search network altogether.

      In my opinion, it would be fair if

      a) ebay were deemed a “content network” site or

      b) Google allowed you to placce separate bids for Google search and the search network.

    5. Luc says:

      @James: I thought “add negative sites” on Google was available only for content traffic, not search?

      I would love to know how you exclude sites on search traffic if you know how to do it!

      Thanks!

    6. Mark Ballard Mark Ballard says:

      James, you’re right that you can add negative sites to Google search campaigns, but they will only apply to any content ads within those campaigns (if you find otherwise, let us know!). We do recommend taking advantage of this feature for content and we would love to see it apply to search as well.

    7. Mark Ballard Mark Ballard says:

      David, thanks for insights. I agree that ultimately advertisers should be able to block any site like a content network site or be able to adjust bids based on observed conversion data for the search network or, even better, individual search network sites (current workarounds can be unwieldy, imprecise and time consuming). In the short-term this would end up hurting Google’s bottom line, but if advertisers get fed up with the search network entirely, it may force their hand.

    8. Tad Miller says:

      The timing of this happening combined with Yahoo reducing payouts to syndicated search partners based on traffic quality, seem suspicious.

      My guess is that e-bay saw the writing on the wall with reduced revenues on Yahoo and came crawling back to Google AdSense because the payouts are better.

      This post explains what the Yahoo Search Partners are thinking about the change http://www.dmueller.com/2009/09/12/domain-names-domains/changes-ahead-for-yahoo-domain-parking-partners/

    9. Andrew says:

      From August to September, I’ve seen a big spike in my Google search network impressions. This addition of eBay to the search partners could definitely be responsible for the increase. Is anyone else seeing a similar increase from Google’s search network?

    10. Tom says:

      The ebay ads have produced quite a bit of sales on my website. I get the ebay customers without the high fees and all the other things I don’t like about selling on ebay. This seems to work especially well on foreign ebay sites using foreign words where often times I am the only link on the bottom.

    11. Really interesting, Tom.

      Some of our clients have marginal success on eBay, but for most it’s poor converting traffic. It could be a function of your business. From a quick scan of your site, it seems like you sell hard-to-find, authentic armor, swords, etc…the kind of things people might look for on eBay and have a hard time finding elsewhere. Most of our clients are traditional retailers who find the “bargain hunters” on eBay a tougher sell.

      It just goes to show the importance of studying your own data and recognize that what works for some won’t work for others.

      Have a great holiday season!

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