Do You Trust eBay's Promoted Listing Ad Attribution?

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


As eBay's ad revenue take rate continues to increase and more ad products are introduced to the platform, some sellers question whether they can trust eBay's ad attribution model.


I have repeat customers who come back to my store to buy the same item and I am now seeing "sold via promoted listings". When they purchased it 3 weeks ago, it did not have the ad fee standard on the sale.

The item was promoted on the same campaign. The buyer went into her purchase history and bought the item again and now I get "sold via promoted listings". I am 110% certain this was an organic sale. eBay credits me and tells me they will look for errors.

If I don't promote-no sales. If I do promote- eBay makes every sale a promoted sale. So it now costs 25% in fees.

eBay Promoted Listings Standard has a 30 day ad attribution window - that means if a buyer clicks on the Promoted version of a listing even once and then purchases that item within 30 days of that click, it will be counted as a Promoted sale and the seller will be charged the applicable ad fee.

What this seller is saying is there was no ad fee on the initial sale, which means the buyer did not click a Promoted ad for that listing before the purchase. Then, 3 weeks later, the buyer decided to buy again by clicking through directly to the listing from their purchase history (not searching on eBay) and that sale did incur a Promoted Listings ad fee.

I think we can all agree that should not happen.

Other community members in that thread pointed out it's impossible to know with 100% certainty that the buyer never clicked on the Promoted version of the listing at any point in that 3 week time frame, and unfortunately, they're right.

The seller really only has the buyer's word that they never clicked on an ad and also really only has eBay's word that the sale did come from a Promoted Listing ad click and should be charged the ad fee.

So which word are we to believe?

Many sellers say corporate mismanagement and lack of transparency has caused their trust in the platform to sink to an all time low. And it doesn't help when we catch things like this:

Look up any of the items in your inventory by eBay ID right now. Every single search is coming up Promoted every single time.

Sure enough, if you do a search for a specific eBay ID item number, and the seller happens to be using Promoted Listings for that item, you're likely to be served up the Promoted version of the listing (it didn't occur every time for me, but I saw about an 80% occurrence in my limited testing so it's definitely a valid concern).

eBay item numbers are a unique numerical string that is tied specifically to a single listing. If you search by an item number you can literally only ever get 1 result and it will be the exact listing tied to that unique number.

That type of search is the ultimate in specific user intent, it shows that the buyer knows not just what product in general they are looking for, but also the exact seller and listing ID number they want to purchase from.

Obviously that means there's no need for eBay's "help" in surfacing the listing via paid promotion. The fact that eBay is serving up the promoted version of the listing as the only option in these types of searches is absolutely wrong in my opinion.

Sellers are (begrudgingly) opting into Promoted Listings to try to increase visibility and stand out among millions of listings in general search - not to pay eBay extra for clicks they would have received any way due to specific user intent with a unique eBay ID search or repeat purchase from a direct click through the buyer's purchase history.

If this is how CEO Jamie Iannone plans to fulfill the promise he made to Wall Street yesterday to get ad revenue growth back into double digits, I'd highly recommend he should review his notes from that internal memo on corporate ethics that was passed around back in August 2020 where he said - "openness, honesty, respect and doing business with integrity drives our success..."

eBay Internal Memo on Ethics - Conversation with Rob Chesnut August 24th
eBay CEO Jamie Iannone sent employees a message about ethics this week in light of recent events. He told them that if they see something, they should say something. He also invited a former colleague, Rob Chesnut, to speak to the company about ethics. Chesnut, who ran eBay’s Trust & Safety divis…

Maybe it's time for Rob Chesnut to come give some "additional coaching" to the eBay executive leadership team based on his book Intentional Integrity: How Smart Companies Can Lead an Ethical Revolution.

Do you trust eBay's Promoted Listing ad attribution? Let us know in the comments below!


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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!

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