Saturday, September 1, 2012

Bonanza and Google's Product Search

Google is transitioning its product search to where it will feature only paid items.  All items for which the seller or marketplace has not paid for inclusion will be removed from the product search results in October.  For sellers who rely on the product search for sales, Google's move is devastating.

Bonanza is in the process of implementing a new feature which will allow sellers to pay higher fees to Bonanza in order to have their items display in the product search.  For the announcement, read the Bonanza blog.  Bonanza also has a page with a detailed FAQ.

In summary, sellers will be offered several plans by Bonanza.  If sellers wish for their items to be included in the new "pay only" Google product search, then they can agree to higher Bonanza fees which will be used to pay for the inclusion in product search.

Sellers also have the option to pay Bonanza a higher fee in order to have the ability to export their items to eBay.  While this move seems counterproductive upon casual inspection, the idea is actually quite ingenious.  Bonanza will be acting in the role of a listing service, like Vendio and Auctiva, when it exports the items to eBay.  Since Bonanza will be a listing service, then like Vendio and Auctiva, a message will be displayed at the bottom of each listing stating that the listed was created by Bonanza.com.

The downside to the eBay export is that the items will be exported as fixed-price items.  This means that each fixed-price item will incur a $0.50 listing fee on eBay.

What does all of this mean?

First and foremost, all Bonanza sellers will be kicked out of Google's product search.  This is due to Google's changing the product search to a "pay only" model.  Bonanza has come up with a plan to allow us to help pay for inclusion in the product search, but only on a volunteer basis.  If we don't want to pay, then our items will not be included.  If we don't want to pay to export our items to eBay, we don't have to export our items to eBay.  Nobody is being forced to do anything, and Bonanza will continue just as it has.  These are new, optional features. 

How does this impact those of us who sell books? 

I do not believe very many book buyers use Google's product search to find books.  In fact, a very important marketplace known as the Advanced Book Exchange does not have its books listed in product search. 

I have a subscriber account on Bonanza, and one of the features of my account shows my sales sources.  I average around 30 sales per month.  During many months, I have no sales attributed to product search.  Some months, I may have one.  This means that not even one out of every 30 of my transactions is attributed to Google's product search.

The actual amount of traffic that I receive from product search is unknown.  Unfortunately, I cannot easily separate Google's organic and product search traffic in Google Analytics.  Supposedly, this can be done with a filter, but I have not yet figured out how to apply the filter.  Since I get very few sales from product search, I have to assume that I get very little traffic from product search.

Since I believe that I get little traffic from product search, I do not plan to raise my Bonanza fees in order to be included in product search.  If I find that in a few months that my traffic and sales have dropped, I may have to reconsider.  From the data that I currently have available, I expect that my removal from product search will have a negligible effect on my traffic and sales.

I like the idea of exporting a few items to eBay in order to have a link to Bonanza appear at the bottom of each listing, even though it would raise my Bonanza fees.  The problem is that Bonanza will only be exporting the listings as fixed-price, so each listing will cost $0.50 on eBay.

I left eBay in early 2009 due to a low sell-through rate and the horribly high listing fees that I had to pay on those items that did not sell.  I now only list on eBay with the 50 free auction listings that are offered each month.  I do not have an eBay store, which would make fixed-price listings less expensive, and I have no intention of opening an eBay store.  For those reasons, I will most likely not want to export items to eBay.

I could possibly see doing it if I were to pick an item that would garner a large amount of attention on eBay.  If I were to have an item that I knew would get many views, then having to pay the listing fee on eBay could be worth it in order to have Bonanza mentioned in the listing.  For clarification, the link would be to Bonanza.com and not to a seller's booth.  It would be a means to raise awareness about Bonanza.

I could write more about this topic, but I am still absorbing some of the information.  Any other thoughts I have will be included in the comments section of this post.

12 comments:

Paula said...

Thank you for your post Jennifer! I am anxious to see what other Bonanza vintage book sellers think of this. What are you all doing?

I've read all of the information provided by Bonanza on this topic, including the detailed FAQ's, and all of the comments. I applaud Bonanza for their efforts to get us out there, advertising and obtaining name recognition. However, my enthusiasm is dampened for several reasons:

1. As Jennifer mentioned, I'm not sure how effective Google Product Search has been in driving sales to our vintage book products, so it is highly questionable whether this will help and be worth the extra cost. However, I am going to give it a try! Since many products will be dropped from GPS because the sellers are unwilling to pay, perhaps there is an opportunity here to grab some attention in the void. I'm opting for the 9% fee for Google Products only (not ebay). I will also opt for Bing when it is available. I will let you all know how it goes.

2. Although I would welcome an interface that sends some of my bonanza items to ebay, they must qualify for the free listings or it will be cost prohibitive. I don't trust ebay. We have seen many examples of where they bury items in the best match searches. The whole appeal to me of Bonanza is that I don't pay any fees until I sell something. The way Bonanza is sending items to ebay now (30 day fixed-price listing), most sellers will be charged 50 cents per listing, whether the item sells or not. I think Bonanza has not been clear on this point - bill harding himself didn't seem to understand - and some Bonanza sellers who opt to advertise there may be in for a shock when they see their bill, with or without sales. I've written a few posts on the Bonanza Blog regarding this and will copy them here as separate comments and would appreciate replies as to what others think. I was trying to raise some warning flags, but perhaps I am not understanding things or being too critical? Bonanza is basically ignoring my comments on the blog.

Anyway, I won't be sending my items to ebay through Bonanza if I have to pay ebay listing fees. I will see how this other advertising option goes.

Paula said...

Posted on Bonanza Blog re: Bonanza now featuring...sales!

nolamom says:
09/01/12 at 17:33:30

Are you aware that the bonanza.com link that ebay is including in the bonanza listings is not a link to home page but is instead a link to http://www.bonanza.com/sell_products_online. Clicking on the link does not “take” the buyer to the bonanza website at all, but instead opens up a partial, scrollable window in the item page itself which most prominently says "List faster, sell better, On the marketplace 7,000 sellers rated “Most Usable” in 2012".

If by any chance I would click on this link as buyer, as a BUYER, this blurb does not interest me at all and I ignore it. If the link would go to the seller’s Bonanza booth, this would be most helpful, but my understanding was that the link would at least go to the Bonanza home page. It is doing neither, to ebay’s advantage of course.

bonanzamark says in response:
09/01/12 at 22:03:14

We have to make sure to keep within eBay’s listing policies

Paula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paula said...

Posted on Bonanza Blog re: Bonanza now featuring...sales!

nolamom says:
09/01/12 at 17:59:34

First of all I want to say: I applaud Bonanza for these advertising efforts – keep at it! I think you are being a bit bamboozled by ebay at the moment but I hope you can get it straightened out so that it is a fair deal.

I would LOVE to send some items to ebay from Bonanza but I won’t as long as the listing is NOT FREE. Right now, a 30 day fixed-price listing will cost the seller at least 50 cents per item listed, *whether it sells or not*, and whether it is listed directly into ebay or via Bonanza. I don’t think all the BOnanza sellers realize this! The 50 free listings that have been mentioned are ONLY for AUCTION style listings, NOT fixed-price. I think ebay will not do anything that will help Bonanza. (See my previous post.) They are only out to get listing fees from Bonanza sellers. Their search can bury all Bonanza items at the bottom (if they already have similar listings from their own sellers) and they can still collect 50 cent per item from every Bonanza seller for every item sent to them! If the item is unique – still cool for ebay: they get the 50 cent listing fee plus the 13% (or more) on the item price AND the shipping cost. Plus they get more money indirectly via the required Paypal transaction. What is Bonanza getting?

(no response from Bonanza)

Paula said...

Posted on Bonanza Blog re: Bonanza now featuring...sales!

nolamom says:
09/01/12 at 23:13:54

bharding said “I believe most eBay sellers get a quota of 50 free items per month w/ no listing fees.” Not true. Items fed to ebay as fixed price listings will cause the seller to incur an ebay listing fee of 50 cents per listing, whether the item sells or not. (There are additional fees, of course, if the item sells.) The free listings must be set up as auctions in order to avoid the fee, and Bonanza is not offering this option at this time. I really would hate to see the filling of ebay coffers with money from unsuspecting Bonanza sellers. Unfortunately, bharding’s statement is misleading – please correct such statements on this thread and elsewhere, so as not to cause confusion about what will happen to sellers who opt to send their items to ebay. I think Bonanza needs to be more clear on this ebay cost that will be incurred whether the item sells or not, or you will have many disgruntled sellers.

(No response from Bonanza)

Jennifer said...

Very often when Bonanza creates new features, they tweak them in the following days and weeks. I am hoping that they will add the ability for the items to export as eBay auctions. Somewhere in the blog comments Mark responded to someone mentioning the need for them to export as auctions. He said that he would pass the idea on to the programming team, or something like that.

I am very shortly going to write up my August sales for this blog and will mention something with regard to the product search situation.

My current plan is to allow my items to be removed from product search and then to see what happens. Part of me wonders if I am being foolhardy. What I plan to mention in my August sales post is to explain how I could be wrong about the amount of traffic I get through product search. If I am wrong, then my sales and traffic will fail. I think it is worth the risk for me to let my items be removed since it will give me a clear indication of how important product search is.

I agree with you that the removal of many items from product search may give those who still appear a distinct advantage. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.

A reader of this blog contacted me privately and brought up a good point. He said that Stephanie Tilenius may have been responsible for bringing a greediness to Google. Tilenius worked for eBay, and we know how eBay is with respect to fees. Tilenius went to work for Google, and now this has happened. He might be right.

Paula said...

Yes, I understand your advertising plan and why you are doing it. I will let you know what happens with my opting in for Google Product Search at 9%. This will be a good experiment that everyone can learn from I think. So far I am not showing any "ad views". Also, I note that my items were showing up in Product Search previously, so I would expect them to continue to make the cut from a Google standpoint, if the "bid" is sufficient.

I too hope Bonanza will provide an auction feed so we can take advantage of the free listings, but who knows - if Bonanza does that, ebay may again change the rules, so that the listings aren't free anymore. This is a win/win for ebay as they will get a lot of listing fees for items that don't sell and they will collect their inflated fees on items that do. It really irks me that they charge the fee on shipping as well. They are gambling that the small Bonanza link at the bottom of the item description will not lure their buyers. To be honest, I have to agree. As a long-time buyer on ebay, I have never clicked on an Auctiva or Inkfrog link when I am viewing an item, unless I am forced to, to see the pictures. Even then, I just go back to the ebay item when I'm done looking at the pictures. I have always thought Auctiva and Inkfrog were picture hosting sites, and did not look further than that. However, I hope I am proved wrong. It certainly will help with name recognition which we need desperately, so that is what we are getting out of this I think. And if all Bonanza sellers who get a sale on ebay, send information about Bonanza in their packages, the word may get around to come to Bonanza directly.

Paula said...

What does everyone think about Bonanza's decision to make the Bonanza link (in the ebay item descriptions) display the "sell_products_online" page? I take it from Mark's reply to my question about that - "We have to make sure to keep within eBay’s listing policies" - that they can't display the bonanza home page. (2 click rule) By selecting to display the page they did, it seems to me that they are trying to lure more **sellers** to Bonanza, rather than **buyers**. Perhaps their plan is "get the sellers, and the buyers will come"??? Buyers will see that and will continue to shop on ebay only, figuring all items from Bonanza are fed to ebay anyway. The page they are displaying is not enticing to buyers at all!

Jennifer said...

It took forever, but I finally found eBay's guidelines page for links to third-party listing services.

Acknowledging third-party providers policy

The page linked to cannot advertise anything other than the services provided to the seller, so I don't think Bonanza had any choice. It is not ideal to link to the page that they did, but it is better than nothing.

I agree that most buyers will not click the link or follow it. As it is, I have links on my About Me page to my blog and website, and very few people ever click those links.

I have read in one of the message threads that the listings exported to eBay are currently ranking abnormally high in best match. That's like an awesome present for people who have exported, but can it last? I bet it won't.

The export is mainly going to benefit those who have an eBay store, since the fixed-price listing fee is only $0.05 per item. For the rest of us, it is $0.50. I am not going to open an eBay store.

I hope that I can eventually export as auctions, since that would make it much easier for me to meet my 100 sales minimum to maintain top-rated seller. I will lose the top-rated seller status that I just earned in June if I don't get at least 30 items sold by November 20, and then I'm going to have to keep on it in the following months. I am having to create new listings on eBay to get stuff listing there, and that takes so much longer.

eBay has been floating surveys about making all listings free with no limits, except that the final value fees would go even higher. I expect that they will do it within one year.

Paula said...

Reading your link about ebay's third party policy, I see what you mean. Makes sense.

When you go to the the "advertise items" menu item (under Sell on Bonanza), at hte bottom it shows a list of my items with "total" views and "ad" views. My ad views are all zero at this point. What time period do you think the total views is for? It's much higher than the counts on our item views page. Someone asked this question on the Bonanza blog, but the answer from Mark couldn't have been correct.

Jennifer said...

I see what you mean about some of them being very high. My impression is that the views listed is total views for all time, since the items of mine with the highest views have been listed for a very long time.

I checked one book's views under the advertise page and compared it to the item stats page. The views did not match up at all. The advertise page had 5 views while the item stats page had 17 views. Perhaps the advertise page is measuring visits from Google only but doing it for all time.

I should also mention that the book I checked was just listed this week, so it has very few views.

Paula said...

I started getting a few "ad views" today on a handful of items. Must be coming from Google Product Search. That's good!