How To Avoid Losing Out in eBay’s Category Shake-Up

Jez Browning / Emma Totman

eBay has updated its policies regarding item categorisation to clamp down on seller miscategorisation and misrepresentation of items.

In this article, we give you the low-down on: why eBay is updating its policies, how the updates may affect your business as a seller, how you can avoid being caught-out, and how this change can be your key to more profit and exposure.

What does eBay mean by Miscategorisation?

You're in your local store, and ask the owner for a packet of Salt & Vinegar crisps. They pull out a box labelled ‘Crisps’ and tip the contents onto the counter.

There are piles of chocolate bars, shoelaces, toothpaste, light-bulbs, cat food - basically everything they sell.

Would you have the patience to look through all of that to find your beloved Salt & Vinegar crisps?

Miscategorisation is just that: Sellers putting their items where they don't belong, and making it harder for customers to find what they're looking for.

A box marked 'Crisps' that contains everything bar the kitchen-sink

Why eBay is updating its miscategorisation policies

eBay has had a problem with miscategorisation since day one. This can happen through human error or misunderstanding. In other cases, less reputable sellers miscategorise their products deliberately to get them seen in more popular categories.

These previous policies have often led to a poor, cluttered buyer experience that put many potential buyers off purchasing, or even jump ship to a different site.

Miscategorisation also results in an uneven playing field for sellers: If someone selling smart-watches or ear-buds pops up in a category related to smartphones, it makes it much harder for buyers to find what they want, and all sellers suffer.

What eBay’s updated policies mean for you, the seller

With its new policies, eBay hopes that every seller on eBay will list in the right place. Being in the right place means having the right audience for your products, allowing buyers to find the items they want more efficiently. More buyers making purchases means more profit for you.

Correctly categorised listings help boost your own product visibility and trustworthiness, helping you to appear as a more genuine seller and enabling you to stand-out in the marketplace.

How eBay is enforcing its new policy:

  1. Flagging fellow sellers’ items
    eBay now allows you to flag up problems with other sellers items if you think they are in the wrong place.

    If you believe there is an item that is miscategorised and does not belong in the category it is listed, you can simply click on the flag beside that product listing and press ‘submit’. This will then be reviewed by the eBay team and, if necessary, removed.

    You can help clear out the rubbish from your categories and ensure that only the relevant listings remain.

  2. Re-writing seller’s listings
    If a seller’s listing is miscategorised or misrepresented, there are cases when eBay will rectify the listing themselves and re-list it in the appropriate place with the appropriate words. However, this only happens in specific situations – often with large sellers or with simple, obvious mistakes.

    Don't leave your listing in the lap of the eBay gods - ensure your listings are correctly categorised in the first place.

  3. Deleting and Cancelling listings
    Most likely eBay will simply delete the offending listing from the page. The seller is usually informed with the hope that they will re-list the item with corrections made.

  4. Account Suspension and forfeit fees
    If the seller has already had a warning about their listings, or their listing problem is severe, eBay make take more serious measures.

    These include: a forfeit of eBay fees - even if the relevant listings have been cancelled, limits on account privileges, and, in the worst case scenario, account suspension.

Miscategorisation in Ovens - ListSmart

How to avoid being caught out by eBay’s policy updates

  1. Use the eBay Catalogue
    eBay has made categorisation and listing a far easier process for sellers with its eBay Catalogue.

    Select a product that is an exact match to the one you are selling and eBay will automatically categorise and add relevant item specifics to the item for you.

    However, you should only select suggestions that are exact matches to the item that you are selling. A model from a different year or a book from a different publisher, for example, could lead to a misrepresentation of the item.

    If you can’t find a product already listed, you can carefully categorise your own item, although some categories must be found using the catalogue:

    • Computers, Tablets & Networking
    • Sound & Vision
    • Mobile Phones & Communication
    • Photography
    • Video Games
    • Vehicle Parts & Accessories

  2. Specify, Specify, Specify
    If you cannot use the eBay catalogue to find the specifications and categorisation of your item, then make sure you include all of the item specifics that you can. Also, ensure that the descriptions you give your items are as specific as possible.

  3. Don’t misuse brand names
    eBay’s policies on the use of brand names in either listing titles or categorisation has become much stricter under its new policy.

    You cannot list an item under a brand name if it was not manufactured by that brand.

    For instance “Topshop Leather jacket like All Saints, Acne” would be prohibited as “Acne” and “All Saints” are not brands associated with the item being sold. This is keyword spam, often used by sellers to grow the exposure of their product, but it is not tolerated by eBay’s categorisation policy and leads to buyer confusion and mistrust.

  4. If you really need to, list in two categories
    You can reach more buyers and generate more interest in your item by listing in two categories, but only if it legitimately makes sense to do so.

    For example, you could list a vintage table from Japan in both the Asian/Oriental Antiques category and the Antique Furniture category.

Listing in two categories can generate more interest and sales, however it also incurs extra sellers fees. Many sellers find that listing items in two categories doesn’t change the value of their product much.

Placing it in the most prolific category and having a good listing title enables buyers to find the item through a search query, which is what really makes a difference.


eBay are cracking down on miscategorisation of listings on their platform:

We've shown you how to categorise your own eBay listings in a way that will boost your sales and reputation as a seller:

The ListSmart app, can make these kind of issues a thing of the past by offering an easy way to optimise your listings for the very best performance. Keep an eye on our website so you can be one of the first to take advantage of this revolutionary new approach to selling on eBay.

For more ideas on perfecting your listings, please check out our previous blog on 5 eBay Title Fails and sign up to our newsletter to stay up-to-date with the latest news from ListSmart.

Updated: 18th November 2016

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