eBay SEO and Page Titles; it’s Complicated @tamebay

As it has only been one months since I left eBay for Geeknet, i’m still keeping track of the news on eBay through my social media, RSS reader and stock alerts. Today, two news items drew my attention. First of all the news eBay has hired a new president for Marketplaces, Devin Wenig, who will have big shoes to fill as he is following up Lorrie Norrington. Second, my eye fell on this article on TameBay: 80 Character titles now live on eBay.

eBay SEO & Item Titles

The title and the item description on eBay are written by the seller of the item, which makes eBay one of the largest User Generated Content (UGC) Sites in the world. It would be a huge task to optimize the page titles for all items live on the site, which is why these are being handled by a template editor, in which the template is the item title.I know my buddy Hugo Guzman would not approve would advice against optimizing page titles like this, but at a scale of 100 million items live on the site, it's just too much to optimize the titles separately. (read here Hugo's great post: Newsflash the mainstream still doesn't understand SEO).

The change eBay has rolled out to the Item Title field for sellers, going from 55 characters to 80 characters, might have a large impact on the SEO and Social Sharing for eBay. Let me explain:

SERP Snippets

Most SEO's can explain to you why Page Titles are important. These are not only important because these sit in the head section of the page, which can help to get the page a topical focus by optimizing the page title for your main keyword. The page titles are also used as the link in the SERP snippets, which allows any site owner to take control of how you communicate with your potential customer in the search engines.

However, the SERP snippet is only displaying a maximum number of characters in the link. This maximum is between 65-70, depending on the word around the 65e character. You can see in the image below here what happens when you go over the maximum number or have a long word around the 65e characters.

eBay SnippetThe former maximum number of characters actually were perfect from an SEO perspective. The 55 characters forced the seller to write short, to the point titles, and allowed the template to include the brand at the end of the title. Template:

[Item Title] | eBay

This way, a search snippet would still showcase the brand in the link:

eBay snippet

We will see how sellers are going to use the extra 15 characters in the item titles. My recommendation to all the sellers would be:

  • Keep the title short and to the point, so it fits in the SERP snippet
  • Where you put the most important keyword, usually the product name and brand, at the beginning of your item title

Social Media Sharing

eBay has Social media sharing buttons implemented on the item pages. This makes it really easy to share any item through eMail, Facebook or Twitter. However the number of Characters for Twitter are obviously limited to just 140! With 80 characters already in the title, and a short url spanning 25 characters (including the space) there is hardly any room for anybody to retweet the message without changing it.

 eBay tweet

Especially with targeted campaigns at subject matter experts, you would like to add your own message to the tweet, where the title of the item should speak for itself. For example, when I tweeted about a Canon 5200mm F14 DSLR Lens to Darren Rowse from Digital Photography School, I made sure I had enough space for him to easily retweet the message. (Below slide is taken out of my SEO for Bloggers presentation I did on EVO)

Short titles and Viral spreading through social media

Short titles and Viral spreading through social media

As you can see, I got a number of retweets because Darren spread the message through his DPS Twitter account. This can be powerful stuff to get more site traffic from Social, and get more links to your site just by getting the content in front of more people.

I believe I only got so many people to retweet this message because a) the message was targeted b) it was super easy to share and retweet


Although the expansion of the number of characters in item title on eBay seems like a great service to sellers, I can imagine some sellers will be confused or annoyed their titles are not being used by the search engines or the people on Twitter as they had crafted the title. So far, I doubt it that many sellers already have updated their listing templates or current live listings, so it will be hard to get evidence of a better or worse result on these items.

We will see, only the future knows and time will tell...

What I had encouraged to build, was a meta tag CMS for the sellers in the SYI (Sell Your Item) flow, similar to what Joost de Valk has built for his SEO for WordPress plugin. In this solution, the page title and meta description would need to be managed separately from the item title or item description, with a default fall back solution.Something like this:

Meta tag CMS

This way, the seller can take fully advantage over how the item will be marketed to their customers in search, while the actual item title can be longer and take up more space with the extra added characters.

Always ask yourself: What would Hugo Guzman do...?


  1. Hugo says:

    Thanks for the mention (and citation) Dennis! To be fair, I’m actually totally ok with this technique in this particular context because it’s the best (e.g. most scalable and ROI-centric) option available.

    P.S. Grabbed a bite to eat at Sushi Samba on the beach with my wife the other day. Reminded me of good times downing mojitos and caipirinha’s. When are coming back down this way?

  2. Dennis says:

    I knew you would, as you are a practical and smart SEO!
    I just wanted to mention your post in this angle as I agreed with it so much..!!

    Would love to come over to Miami, and down some Caipirinha’s with you soon…



  3. Sal Duran says:

    I don’t think that eBay has a ‘finding’ problem. The problem eBay has is more fundamental to its core and instigated by its own policies. I described in more detail what I believe is the real problem in blog (http://www.salgorithms.com/blog/?p=59).

    Saturating the search engines with eBay pages doesn’t change the fundamental problem of customer satisfaction. You may be able to increase the volume of clicks to the site, but, at the same time, the number of clicks (or page views) per closing transactions keeps on going up. In other words, the additional clicks or page views have no impact to the transaction.

    I have a better idea for eBay sellers on what to do with the extra 25 characters: add to your listing title “-Satisfaction Guaranteed!” and follow through.

  4. […] just published a long blog post on the changes eBay made to the item titles and the impact it can have on the SEO footprint of the item pages. Personally I would have rolled out an advanced page title optimizer, which would […]