eBay Active Content Removal: Get Your Listings Up to Speed

Ed Prior

Do your eBay listings rely on active content? If so, or if you’re not sure, it’s time to sit up and pay attention: big changes are coming which could completely transform the appearance and functionality of your eBay pages.

Active Content Warning eBay - ListSmart

From June 2017, eBay will limit the use of active content on all listings across all types of devices. This policy will also be applied to eBay store pages later in the year. In practice this means elements of listings and store pages which rely on active content will no longer appear for users, removing the functions they provide and leaving pages potentially looking messy and unprofessional.

It's absolutely critical to be up to speed with active content

To minimise disruption to your eBay presence and make sure you still provide a quality user experience to your buyers, it is absolutely critical to be up to speed with what active content is, the changes eBay is making and what you can do to get your listings ready for the big changeover.

What is eBay active content?

Flash And JavaScript Removal - ListSmart

Active content is a name for various third-party tools which eBay sellers can use on their listings and store pages to add functionality. These tools use JavaScript, Flash and plug-ins and power features such as scrolling galleries of the seller’s other listings, live chat widgets, search functions and more.

“even if you haven’t personally added active content to your listings and store pages, you may still have it on your pages”

Many custom listing templates and other third-party listings services make use of active content. This means even if you haven’t personally added active content to your listings and store pages, you may still have it on your pages.

Not sure if you are using active content? eBay have pointed users towards this eBay listings mobile-friendliness test which lets you easily see if your listings are using active content.

Why is eBay getting rid of active content?

58% of eBay sales involving at least one visit from a mobile device - ListSmart

According to eBay:
“The use of active content in listings, including JavaScript, Flash, plug-ins and form actions, can negatively impact the user experience by inhibiting mobile purchasing, increasing page load times, and increasing security vulnerabilities.”

“40% of people will abandon a web page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load”

Improving customers’ mobile experience is perhaps the biggest motivator here, with 58% of eBay sales involving at least one visit from a mobile device at some point during the customer journey. Many active content elements (in particular those using Flash) fail to load correctly, or at all, on mobile devices, providing an inferior and potentially frustrating user experience which can cost sales.

Removing active content can speed up page load times - ListSmart

The impact of speed should also not be overlooked, with research showing that 40% of people will abandon a web page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Removing active content can speed up page load times and therefore is likely to lead to people staying on listings longer, increasing their chances of making a purchase.

There is also a concern that active content can lead to security issues, such as introducing malware to pages which can then infect the devices of eBay users. It is not clear how serious a problem this has been to date, but with increasing concerns about online security threats, it is unsurprising that eBay is keen to reduce the possibility for any such issues on their platform.

One other thing that is interesting to note is that eBay also says sellers who remove active content can enjoy:

“Improved exposure for external search engines, such as Google”

eBay haven’t explained exactly why removing active content will improve exposure for search engines, but it is likely to be related to the fact that Google has been using mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor since at least April 2015. By removing active content, you are making your listings more mobile-friendly and therefore increasing your chances of ranking well on Google.

How to comply with eBay’s new guidelines for active content

eBay have released specific guidance on what you need to do to prepare for the active content phase out. In brief, they recommend that sellers remove all active content from their listings and use alternatives where necessary. If you use templates or widgets from third-parties, you should speak to them as soon as possible to see what they are doing to update their products to remove active content.

eBay also suggest using their new item description preview tool to see how your listings will look once active content is no longer rendered. You can try this by looking at your listings while signed into your account and clicking the Preview option at the top of the item description tab.

While you are reviewing your eBay selling space, it is also a good idea to check out eBay’s best practices for creating mobile-friendly listings. This can help to ensure you are providing the best possible user experience to all potential customers.

Will custom shop templates still work without active content?

One of the biggest worries for many eBay sellers is likely to be what affect all of this will have on their customer shop templates. Many sellers user custom templates for branding as much as for adding extra functionality and it’s understandable to have concerns that this will be taken away.

The good news is, for the moment, the changes eBay is making do not necessarily mean you will have to give up your custom shop template. It does mean, however, that if your template makes use of active content it will have to be updated to remove those elements and replace them with non-active content alternatives where possible.

It’s worth noting though that eBay have stated:

"If you are a new Store subscriber, we highly recommend that you do not invest in any custom html stores experience, as this will not be supported long term.”

They instead suggest that anyone starting a new Store “use the native eBay Stores experience”.

This does seem to imply that in the long term eBay are planning to get rid of custom templates, so if updating yours to remove active content is going to be costly and time consuming, it may be worth thinking about abandoning your template altogether.

How to customise your eBay store without active content

Scrolling Glleries and Feedback Tools - ListSmart

Many popular third-party features, such as scrolling galleries and feedback tools, can be created without active content by using CSS and HTML instead of Flash, JavaScript etc. This approach helps to avoid the issues eBay is concerned about with active content while still enabling additional functionality. eBay have even produced their own guide to replacing active content in eBay listings using HTML and CSS.

This guide includes alternative solutions for many elements sellers like to include in their listings, such as cross promotion of their other items for sale, search boxes so users can search the seller’s Store and image galleries.

eBay are also promising to work on introducing new functionality to their listings themselves, such as a widget for displaying relevant items from the same seller and providing compatibility with popular video hosting sites.

Looking for ways to make your listings sell more?

Ultimately there is one simple reason for wanting to improve your eBay listings with additional features: the desire to attract more visitors and sell more of your products. While adding custom templates and extra functionality can help do this, it is not necessarily the most effective way to do so.

ListSmart uses cutting-edge machine learning technology to analyse your listings and compare them to those of top sellers in your category. It then shows you exactly how to change your listings to make them more like those of the top sellers, allowing you to match and even overtake the competition.

To see just how much of a difference ListSmart can make to your eBay listings, sign up now and try it for free.

In the meantime, you can sign up to our newsletter to stay up-to-date with the latest news from ListSmart.

Updated: 26th January 2017

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