Do you have to use eBay's catalog pages or white backgrounds to get your listings on Google Shopping?
The eBay for Business Podcast tackled the topic of Google Shopping best practices this week - here are some excerpts from what Brian and Griff had to say!
eBay Catalog Pages
Griff: First let me point out that if your listings follow the eBay best practices for search optimization, they are almost always guaranteed to show up in Google Shopping.
Brian: And it's probably why we have them, the search optimization listings written that way. But they are our best practices and they can be found in our wait for it help pages....But that's for best match. Are the same practices for best match also the best practices for Google Shopping?
Griff: Well coincidentally they are, but there are important details we have to point out. So let's start off with a few examples I combed from my research. Now my first example here is a listing, and I'm gonna keep it anonymous because I don't want to call out any seller, but it's for a fragrance...called Drakkar Noir.
I searched for a bunch of them and I found one listing and then I went and searched for it on Google Shopping. And this listing for Drakkar Noir did not appear in Google Shopping. And at first I couldn't figure out why because when I looked at it, it had all the right items specifics, there were no title issues. In fact, the title says Drakkar Noir by Guy Laroche, 3.4 ounce spray for men new in box...
...I noticed after I had looked at this deeper, looked at all the examples that were showing up on Google Shopping of eBay listings and they did have one thing in common in this search for Drakkar Noir. You know what it was? I'll tell you. They all used the eBay product catalog entry for Drakkar Noir.
Brian: Yeah. Okay. And so this one did not, they listed it on their own.
Griff: Without using the product catalog. And I use this example because of this, because this is such a standardized product. It's been in production for 40 years. It's still in production today. It has its own catalog page on eBay.
Brian: And I bet when we push it over we're pushing over the catalog page.
Griff: Right. And if so, if you're not listing with the catalog, it seems to get blocked. And I went and checked a few other listings for this that weren't using the product catalog. They also weren't showing up on Google Shopping.
Brian: Interesting. That's a really good point. So our conclusion, if your product has an entry in the eBay product catalog, use it.
Google Shopping listings being blocked for not using eBay catalog pages is sure to be a surprise to many sellers and may even put some sellers in a tough spot.
Those page are a legacy holdover from ex-CEO Devin Wenig's failed plans to create a unified structured data and catalog experience for the platform. The eBay catalog is notorious for having bad/incorrect data - it's a problem that has been going on for years, which is why many sellers prefer to opt out.
Just a few example:
Last year book sellers were impacted by a technical error that showed incorrect catalog data on listing pages.
Other media sellers find eBay frequently attaches incorrect data when, for example, multiple variations or pressings of a vinyl record share the same UPC code.
Being forced to choose between having the eBay catalog attach incorrect data to your listings and being blocked from Google Shopping is a terrible position for sellers to be in.
Text Overlay & Watermarks
Griff: ..our next example is one that highlights the text overlay issue that you kind of pointed at eBay. While not actively blocking listings that have images with text overlays definitely does not recommend it as a best match search optimization. And in fact, I can remember it, I'm sure you can. A few years ago we actually made it a prohibited practice but we didn't enforce it.
Brian: No. In fact, eBay may suppress a listing with text overlay in Best Match Today.
Griff: Some sellers have told me that they've discovered that's the case. And the conventional wisdom is that Google Shopping will also block listings with text overlays. But the research I did last week shows something else. I found a listing for an iPhone case...it's a nice photo but over the photo itself, right in the middle on a diagonal it says iPhone 14 and a text overlay and it's not very nice. It's actually got a drop shadow as well.
...And even more confusing cuz my first assumption was it's that text overlay. When I searched for similar listings on Google Shopping, I found many that did have text overlays and were in which were allowed. So for example, I got one here and it shows an iPhone case and up in the left hand corner it says metal frame with MagSafe. Why does this one show up? And yet this other example doesn't?
... So what I did is I dug a little deeper and I discovered that it isn't the text overlay that will result in a block in Google Shopping. It's where that text overlay actually appears in the image.
Brian: Okay. That is really interesting. So that's new to me. So where in the image does Google Shopping allow a text overlay?
Griff: If the text overlay is not superimposed on the actual product of the image, it seems Google Shopping's algorithm lets it through through the gate. The listing that was blocked has that text overlay watermark directly superimposed on the image of the case. The one that was not blocked had the overlay text position in the upper left-hand corner of the image and it wasn't covering any part of the image of the case itself.
Brian: So then for text overlays, our conclusion might be, although text overlays are not a recommended eBay best practice and their use can actually result in a listing suppression in best match text overlays do not result in a block from Google Shopping if the overlay is not super imposed on the product image.
Interesting how sellers were originally sold the ban on all watermarks on eBay as it being a violation of Google policies/something that would get items blocked from Google Shopping- and that eBay continues to recommend not using any watermarks at all, even though Googles policies on the practice are clearly nuanced.
Could it be that eBay just doesn't want anything identifying a particular seller on the picture so they can allow other sellers to use it as a stock photo from the eBay catalog? 🤨
Images With White Background
Griff: Now our next best practice, it's about something that I think is probably the most popular and controversial topic when it comes to what gets put on Google Shopping. And that's the whole concept of backgrounds, specifically white backgrounds.
Brian: The conventional wisdom has been that Google shopping will block listing with photos that do not have a white background. Is this still not the case?
Griff: I don't know if it was always the case, but I can tell you right now, it definitely isn't the case today. If you do a quick search on Google Shopping for any product, you will find a whole range of images with different backgrounds including black, white, colored, and in some cases even busy...
...We still, and in fact Google also recommends your images best served on white, but for whatever reason, and I think they used to be more strict about this, they don't block them now.
Brian: Yeah. So our conclusion then is really best practice is white backgrounds are still preferred on eBay. A white background is not a requirement for inclusion in Google Shopping.
While I generally agree that best practice for many items is to use a white background, it's good to hear that it is no longer an issue that may block your listings from Google - especially since the background removal function in the eBay Unified Listing experience still leaves a lot to be desired.
All Caps & Special Characters
Griff: Okay. Although not prohibited or blocked on eBay, it's considered not a best practice to use all caps for a title. And talking about conventional wisdom, that CW has stated in the past that using all caps can result in a Google Shopping blocking that listing and appears that this no longer is the case with Google Shopping.
While all caps in a title may have been blocked back then, what appears to happen now, and this is pretty interesting, is if you have a listing on eBay with all caps and there's nothing else that's gonna get it blocked on Google Shopping, Google Shopping will allow it. But it changes the title from all caps to lowercase with initial caps. I found several examples of this for eBay listings with all cap titles....They show up in Google shopping but with their titles transformed into texts with initial caps, not all caps.
Griff: He read ahead and he saw exactly what I'm gonna say. I use the most common, historically the most common one for this example, everyone knows it. It's L@@k!, L, at sign, at sign, K, exclamation point. My least favorite thing to see in a title. It'll actually turn me off to looking at that item cuz I'm a contrary and I hate being told to do anything including look. Now I found several examples. It wasn't hard of listings on eBay that still use this word in their title. And I made sure that the listings were following all the other best practices. And guess what? None of them, let me be clear, a hundred percent of them are blocked from Google Shopping.
It's interesting that Google automatically corrects all caps - since eBay considers all caps to be a not buyer friendly practice, I wonder if they may consider doing something similar in the future.
And I definitely agree, don't ever use L@@K! in an eBay listing or anywhere else on the web for that matter. 🤣
Over all, this was one of the most interesting and informative eBay for Business podcast episodes in a while.
The timing of topics on the podcast is usually not entirely random. I wonder if all the talk about Google Shopping is preparing for an official launch of eBay Offsite Ads beta Cost Per Click program "coming soon"? 🤨
What do you think of Brian and Griff's eBay Google Shopping best practices? Let me know in the comments below!