Why eBay Failed Miserably with Google Adwords

genesis_after_post_title Hook

While going through the Harvard Business Review blog last week, I came across an interesting question “Did eBay Just Prove that Paid Search Ads Don’t Work?” It turns out that eBay switched off their AdWords ads in over a third of their markets and didn’t notice any significant decline in sales.

So clearly Google AdWords is a waste of money and time, right?

No! In fact, eBay is a classic example of how not to run your Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign. I can’t recall how many times I’ve seen Search Engine Marketers try to use ludicrous ads which suggest you can purchase babies, endless motion machines or even loneliness for cheap on eBay.

Instead of telling you how to save your AdWords campaign, I’ll show you four ways you too can be like eBay and run your Adwords campaign to the ground while making a mockery of your brand.

1.     Try and Bid on over a million keywords

I’m a big fan of expanding your keyword selection over time, but I think when you target over 170 million keywords (as suggested in their study), you’re probably not using the right strategy.

Isn’t the whole purpose of doing keyword research to determine a limited set of terms you should target which are:

  • Relevant to your market and
  • Display some level of purpose

The success of your PPC campaign will be based on the use of relevant targeted keywords and I feel eBay’s approach of going after every keyword you can imagine is a recipe for failure.

ebay ppc failed

The end result will see you with lower click through rates, low AdWords Quality Scores, increased cost per click rates and poor conversion rates.

2.     Rinse and Repeat

To exacerbate the matter, eBay has been guilty of using the same text content for every ad with the slightest of variations on “Buy It Cheap On eBay,” “Shop on eBay and Save,” etc. This practice is frowned upon by Google. In order to gain maximum clicks and conversions, the focus should be on:

  • Splitting keywords into granular ad groups
  • Generating specific, targeted ads for each ad group

If you keep your ads generic, you’ll get ordinary results – Trust me! If you want to lose a few quick dollars, why not test this theory yourself.

 3.     Using Dynamic Keyword Insertion

This is an old ad strategy that, when used properly, can boost your ad CTR by dynamically inserting he searcher’s exact query into your advertisement. If this isn’t done correctly, it could end in disaster with the results not making any sense (as seen below)

ebay ppc failure

4.     Avoid Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are Google’s way of directing you to remove traffic which would be of no use to your business.  When you establish a negative keyword, Google knows not to show your ad for the stipulated search terms. For example, if you sell Strawberries, you don’t end up getting clicks from a large female demographic searching for Strawberrynet cosmetics.

When I observed some of the terms which eBay was displaying ads for, it was evident that they didn’t have a grasp of the concept of negative keywords.  Various research has shown that advertisers can lose up to a third of their AdWords budget by not setting negative keywords to avoid worthless clicks.

Its no wonder eBay are crying foul that AdWords doesn’t work! Clearly the issue is not with AdWords but the method in which they have used this platform.

What is your experience with AdWords? Do you feel that money can be better spent elsewhere or has eBay simply used the wrong tactics? I’d love to hear from you.


  1. Simply loved this art

  2. Simply loved this article. I have never used ppc campaigns but if ever I need to, I will surely keep the above points in mind.
    Thanks for sharing these tips with us.
    Ajay recently posted…Top 10 Accessories for Galaxy S4My Profile

  3. buy love for cheap on ebay. No wonder they failed miserably
    george recently posted…Win Five premium theme junkie themesMy Profile

  4. ebay have succeeded in Adwords by targeting the keywords but missed the target by crossing the wrong one’s
    King recently posted…HostGator ReviewMy Profile

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge