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Duplicate Listings = Reduced Search Rankings!

September 14, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 66 Comments
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Last week eBay announced the latest Seller Update which I’ll cover in a separate post on Wednesday. But earlier this year, eBay made an announcement about duplicate listings that many people seem to have missed. And this is some SUPER IMPORTANT stuff any seller should be aware of!

What are duplicate listings?

Put simply, listings are considered duplicate if they are for items that have no significant difference between them.

For example, let’s say I have a bulk lot of identical micro USB chargers that I want to sell. These chargers are generic and will work on any phone or tablet that uses micro USB.

I want to sell them quickly so create 10 different buy it now listings, with these titles:

  • Micro USB Charger for Samsung Galaxy Phones
  • Micro USB Charger for Google Nexus Phones
  • Micro USB Charger for Samsung Galaxy Tablets
  • Etc. etc.!

This is not allowed and they would be considered duplicate listings because they are the same, generic product – there is nothing about the charger in listing no. 1 that makes it different from the product in listing no.3 or that means it will only work on Samsung Galaxy phones.

I would instead have to list them all together in one multi-quantity fixed price listing.

With AUCTION style listings (with NO BIN option), the rules are different – you can create un-limited number of auction-style listings, however only one auction with no bids will be shown at any one time. That means that if I list say 10 in one go, only the first one will show. Then once that receives a bid, a second listing will also show, etc.

Just so that it’s 100% clear, here is what you are allowed to list at the same time:

  • Un-limited number of auction-style listings (with NO BIN option) AND
  • 1 fixed price listing OR
  • 1 fixed price multi-quantity listing OR
  • 1 fixed price listing with variations OR
  • 1 auction-style listing with Buy it now

And here is what you are NOT allowed to do:

  • Use separate fixed price listings to sell generic or universal items (such as AA batteries, generic lens caps, generic cases, and cables) and list them as being specifically compatible with certain products when they are generic.
  • Use separate fixed price listings to sell items compatible with several products or models where the same compatible models are displayed in all listings, but perhaps presented in a different order.
  • Create more than one fixed price listing for items that aren’t significantly different.
  • Add an additional item of insignificant value to the listing of identical items in order to create a listing that appears different.
  • List more than one identical fixed priced item separately from the same seller, including listing the items:

>>> Under another eBay user ID
>>> In different categories

  • Create a fixed price listing and an auction-style listing with the Buy it now option for identical items.
  • Create multiple auction-style listings for identical items with any of the following:

>>> Buy it now option
>>> Different start prices
>>> Different reserve prices
>>> Different titles or descriptions

This is all very simple and really you can work out what a duplicate listing is just by using your common sense.

Please don’t try to be “smart” here and outwit eBay! You’d be surprised about how many emails I get asking if using a different postage method, or different packaging, or wording the title differently, or including a different free gift will mean you can use multiple listings for the same product.

The answer is no! eBay will know and your listings (and possibly account) will suffer as a result.

And that’s actually what today’s post is all about. Let’s go back to that July announcement that I mentioned at the beginning:

In that announcement eBay stated that they “will reduce listing visibility in Best Match for the small number of sellers who violate our duplicate listings policy”.

No big deal though, right? After all, eBay have always punished duplicate listings by reducing their search ranking…

Well it is a big deal, as they go on to say that:

“If a seller violates our duplicate listings policy, then all the listings from that seller – including those created using any of the seller’s linked accounts – will have reduced visibility”.

This means that not only will the offending listings get reduced search rankings, as was the case before, ALL of the listings on your account will be affected. Even more, all accounts that are linked to you, so if you have multiple accounts on eBay for different businesses/niches – they are all in trouble!

I think it really goes without saying that the best option here is to not try anything risky.

Just stick with the proven formula of having one main fixed price listing (preferable a GTC listing) and then you can run additional auctions to get some extra traffic and sales in.

But remember, you still have to follow the rules outlined above – which means no BIN option for these auctions, they have to have the same starting price, and the same title and description.

If possible, list all different options for your product as variations within the one main listing. I’m talking about things like:

  • Different colours
  • Different sizing
  • Different quantities (even though eBay do state you can have more than one listing for vastly different quantities).

multi-variation-listingThis way you can be confident that eBay won’t penalise you for duplicate listings, it’s a lot easier for your buyers to find the product they want, and most importantly – you can build a big sales history under one listing, which will give it a big boost in the search rankings.

If the category you sell in doesn’t support listings with variations and you only have a single variation (such as colour choice) then state clearly somewhere in the listing that buyers should message you after buying with their preference, otherwise a random colour will be sent.

And that’s about it! This is a fairly basic topic and something that you are probably already aware of. However, I thought it would be a good idea to do a post on duplicate listings, in light of the more severe punishments introduced by eBay for offenders!

If anything is unclear, or if you have some questions about your own multiple listings, then feel free to post in the comments section below and I’ll get back to you personally.

Will be back on Wednesday with a detailed post on the latest eBay Seller Update!

All the best,

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  1. Great explanation about duplicate listings, enjoyed reading it. But…
    What about if you want to sell a fixed priced item, GTC, without promotion for example say at £10 but also want to test how good (if it is worth doing) the ebay promotion strategy works so you list the same item again (duplicate) but this time with a price of £12 with a promotion strategy cost of say 10% (£1.20) in essence making a further 80p profit?
    Some sellers, myself included like to do a little bit of market research with regards to pricing strategies and what works best. It is not a flagrant disregard to the rules. It’s about seeing which ad produces the best results over a period of time then eventually the least productive ads can be pulled.
    One item not promoted.
    One item promoted.
    One item free postage.
    One item with postage.
    One item with this title.
    One item with that title.
    I know the above could get out of hand as there are many connotations if mixed together and I do believe that flooding the ebay market place with lots of the same item is a bad thing.
    I am thinking more along the lines of how Google Adwords and Facebook ads work where you can have several ads for the same thing to see which performs best.
    Maybe ebay could introduce a fee based duplicate listing scheme (up to a certain amount of course – thinking single figures here) so we can test these metrics out without fear of reprisal.
    Obviously the smart sellers wouldn’t keep an advert active that wasn’t converting and the smart thing to do would be to pull the non-achieving ads so the achieving ones can rack up the sales numbers. Just a though!
    Would still like to know if a promoted and non-promoted duplicate listing is allowed though.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Tex,

      No, it’s not allowed – they would still be classified as duplicate listings.


  2. Hello Andrew,
    I sometimes list the same items, but in different categories, but with different descriptions to match the categories they are listed in. Does this still count as duplicate listings?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Yes, it does – as it’s still exactly same item.

  3. Hi Andrew,

    My Ebay business is mostly based on multi variation BIN listings and auctions which aim to attract potential buyers to my BIN listings and get rid of excess stock at the same time.

    However, I recently started creating separate BIN listings for each size and colour in order to attract more buyers. Let“s say I have “A” brand jeans listed under a multi variation BIN, I would create a new BIN for 34″ waist dark wash or 32″L light wash, etc. At first I thought it was a great idea as sales increased and initial results were promising. Then I realized some of my multi variation listings did not appear in best match even I was confident they would. I mean, the ones with adequate sales history, are not completely invisible and still appear on the 2nd or 3rd page of best match results but I have been wracking my brain for a while to find out if I got too ambitious and my plan backfired.

    So, my question is, does Ebay consider a multi variation BIN and multiple single parameter BINs for the same items as duplicate listings?

    Many thanks


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Oz,

      Yes, they are. If they flag your listings like this, it’s a breach of duplicate listings policy and can negatively affect your rankings.

      Most likely that’s exactly what happened to you.


  4. Hi Andrew,

    I just swapped over my listings from single to multi and forgot to take of some of the single listings. My best match search has died.. Lucky i read this post as it helped me identify the issue. Once removed do i need to do anything to have the listings start to rank better?

    Thanks heaps,

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Josh,

      Thanks for your comment.

      No, you don’t have to do anything extra – just out, it can take couple of weeks to get back to normal.


  5. Hi Andrew,

    I’m a new seller on eBay and I’m trying to get to grips with eBay’s duplicate listings policy.
    Recently, I have noticed that some of the top sellers for certain products are listing the same product in a variation as well as an individual listing but usually for a different price.

    I’ve taken a look at eBay’s policy and it says that duplicate listings have no ‘significant’ differences between them and then mentions price as one of these significant differences.

    Is it true that these two listings are sufficiently different according to eBay’s policy?

    Kind regards,

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for your comment.

      No, they’re not – basically – IF you have an item for sale in at least 2 listings, exact same item, it’s a breach of duplicate listing policy.

      Only way you can have multiple listings is to list them as auctions but even then – you need to get at least ONE bid on the listing before you can list next one.

      Of course, the question is – how effective is eBay in spotting those duplicates as it’s an algorithm at the end of the day…


  6. Hi Andrew. I have a different situation but still I think is fraudulent. So an item for sale allegedly sold being re-listed but not identified as such so it looks like a new listing. I watched an item without bidding it was then ‘sold’, a week later it was on sale again, this time I bid, before the auction finished I was out bid (I didn’t increase my initial bid) and the item ‘sold’, a week later the item was on sale again at a higher price. The seller never said they had multiplies of the item originally and didn’t appear to have been re-listed as a failure to pay by the buyer. So I got to thinking what if I had an item to sell, I have multiple email accounts and set up multiple eBay accounts, through them I can bid on my own stuff to artificially raise the prices, if no one genuine buys it I can let it go to one of my own ‘other’ accounts and re-list it later. Do eBay actually see the financial transaction? And even if they did you could buy your own stuff with your own money (it’s just an accounting entry) and simply re-list it again at a higher price until someone genuinely buys it. Explained all this to eBay not interested.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Gary,

      This is called “shill bidding” and is against eBay rules.

      Happens all the time of course and it all comes down to eBay’s algorithms that try to catch these shill bids based on IP addresses, login history etc.


  7. Hi Andrew,

    Great site by the way!

    I like to sell items in multiples such X2, X5, X10. Can I sell these as individual listings? or will that be considered duplicate?

    Kind Regards

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Tim,

      Those will be duplicates, yes.

      You should list these as variations, under one listing. Just think from customer perspective – a listing like this offers much better user experience than if you list different quantities separately.


  8. Hi Andrew,
    Well I have been reporting someone for 4 months now who continually puts up duplicate listings here in the UK. [Private seller making items at home]
    As well as putting up identical listings [apart from changing the words in the title] they also put up a listing with 3 or 4 variations and then lists each variation each as a separate listing.
    Have used ‘report listing’ buttons and spoken to eBay customer services on 3 occasions who looked at the listings and agreed and yet they keep doing it !!
    Whether that is because they list on a months basis and put the new listings up 2 weeks apart and when eBay look at them the item numbers have all changed ?
    The vast majority of us on eBay do everything we can to follow the rules yet some just seem to get away with it 🙁

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Angel,

      Yes, I know what you mean…

      But trust me – for one example you see that is breaching the rules and getting away with it, there are hundreds if not thousands who don’t. I receive regular emails from people who’s listings are flagged as duplicate and not shown in search, so the system works (kind of) – it’s just as with any automated systems, it does not work 100% every time.


  9. Hey Andrew! Love your site. Would you mind clarifying a couple points? My apologize if you already covered these and I just misunderstood the explanations. Thanks in advance for any help!

    1) Are the rules different for Auctions in eBay categories that sell one of a kind items? These listings would be considered New products (not Used) but they don’t have universal product identifiers nor are they required to have them.

    2) If you have a BIN and an Auction style listing that are identical on the same account, will eBay’s search engine suppress one of the listings in the search? Let’s say the auction has no BIN option and also no bids. Will they both show up in the search because of different pricing / listing format? Or will one listing still be suppressed until a bid is placed or some other factor?

  10. Hi Andrew

    Great info as always.

    I just wondered is it still OK to have a BIN link in the description like you said.

    And I guess by reading the policy it is ok to have a fixed price listing of one product and a auction of the same product but lower price?

    Regards, Tom

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Tom,

      Yes, this is perfectly fine to have such BIN banner in auction listings.

      And yes, you can have a BIN listing and auction running for same product.


      1. Thanks for your time Andrew

        Regards, Tom

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Tom! 🙂

      3. Is this still ok to do as of today 11-11-2017 and is it still effective as a ranking method?

  11. Hi Andrew,

    Quick question to clarify on the different starting price.
    I have a BIN listing with multiple variations – selling price of say £2.99.
    Can I run an action for one of the variations with a starting price of £0.99?

    Thanks for all you help, the articles you post are great.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Gregor,

      Yes, you can do that, it’s allowed.


      1. Gregor

        That is great thanks.

        One more question:
        With a BIN listing that has multiple variations based on width and colour how many individual auctions can you have?

        For example.
        A BIN listing sells belts that have 3 widths and come in 5 colours.
        Does that mean you can have 15 different auctions at one time or only 1?

        Hope this makes sense.

        Thanks again for the help.

        Kind Regards,


      2. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Gregor,

        Yes, theoretically 15 auctions.

        You have to remember that duplicate listings are monitored by robots so you want to make sure they do look different. Make sure title is different for each, images are different, image file names and descriptions are different for these 15 auctions (or whatever number you do).


  12. Great website!

    I am selling four of the same item but each is in a different, used condition. They all have scratches in different places etc.

    I have taken photos of each item separately and added a post it with a number to differentiate them but the descriptions are fairly similar and the titles identical.

    Would this be considered a duplicate listing?

    Thanks a lot

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jonny,

      No, this wouldn’t be a duplicate listing.

      I don’t think these rules apply to USED items at all.


      1. Thanks Andrew. I originally used “sell a similar item” and didn’t change any details and this prompted the duplicate message and that the next auction would go live once the first had sold. I then went in and added photos which made each auction live but I wanted to double check this! Cheers

  13. Hi Andrew,

    How about using GTC listings (for the same products which I have 30~50pcs each) across multiple eBay regional sites? Are they considered duplicate listings?

    I have some GTC listings on eBay.com and I am considering putting up GTC listings for these same products on eBay.com.au and eBay.com.sg, for the purpose of garnering views and hopefully purchases, from the individual regional sites.

    Is this the right way to go for eBay sellers that are looking to expand internationally?

    Thanks, Alan

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Alan,

      Yes, this is allowed as long as shipping doesn’t cross each other. You can’t offer Worldwide delivery on all listings:



      1. Hi Andrew,

        I am interested to hear whether you have ever spotted this having an impact?
        We are listing GTC items to multiple international sites whilst continuing to offer shipping from the UK listings as well (as we get a lot of sales this way). So far it doesn’t seem to have affected us. We certainly haven’t had any warnings or anything like that.


      2. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Dave,

        Personally no, but I basically cleaned this up very soon after these rules were introduced.

        But many people have contacted me who have got their accounts punished by eBay because of this. Especially companies that manage multiple accounts/shops selling same items.

        Sure, I still see a lot of duplicate listings on eBay so their algorithm is not that smart/accurate.


  14. Hi…

    Thanks for all the info. Now here’s the one that confuses me. I have 2000 or so GTC store items. Can I send 1 to auction format, starting with a lower price and not be counted as duplicate?

    Also here’s a good link for your readers, will check your listings for duplicates. Really saves time and no cost.


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Yes, you can have one auction and one GTC BIN listing for same item at same time. It won’t be counted as duplicate.

  15. For example i have a seperate bin listings for 80w lamp, 40w lamp and 10w lamp.
    Now i want to create a new one multi-variation listing with all these lamps 80w 40w and 10w. Will the new multi variation listing be a duplicate to the previous ones?

    Thank you Andrew for your helpful blog.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Martin,

      IF you keep active individual listings, then yes – they will be duplicates.

      But if you cancel all 3 individual listings and create ONE with 3 variations, there’s no problem with duplicate listing policy as you have already ended those 3 duplicates.


  16. Hi Andrew, sorry for my bed English. Can you tell me where I can see if I have duplicate lisitngs?

    Many thanks,

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Svetla,

      Currently eBay does not share/give any information to account holders about their duplicate listings. This information stays within eBay’s own system.

      But you, as a seller, should already know if you have any duplicate listings and sort them out.


      1. Svetla

        Thank you Andrew, one more question please. I sell floats and I make a listings with sets of floats. For example set of 6 pieces and set of 15 pieces from one model, with different price and pictures. Sets of 15 pieces I sell with free fishing tackle box, sets of 6 pieces without box, are they a duplicate listings?

        Many thanks,

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You should list them all in ONE listing and use variations for different quantity.

        Otherwise it “might” be seen as duplicate listing.


  17. Hi Andrew,
    Fab website by the way!
    I am a bit confused, ebay states that you are allowed 15 identical auctions.
    I listed 3 items last night and the first one got bids on it and l expected the other item to appear.
    Do you know why the other items did not appear when the first one got bids?
    Many thanks,

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Matt,

      It can take some time (hours, up for a day) for next one to go live.

      For this reason I personally list them manually – list first and then 2nd one once first bid is placed on first listing.


      1. Oh that’s a shame Andrew l was hoping to have 5 identical auctions finishing a night.

  18. Hi Andrew

    Thank you for the info!

    I have had duplicate listing on 4 BIN items for the last 2 months as i tried to ramp up sales due to the slow summer but you have made me realise that it actually caused the 4 original listing with sales history to get pushed down the search result. Would you advise me to remove the duplicate listings to go back to my higher spot on the search result?



    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Sam,

      Yes, of course – if you already have been affected by this, you should immediately remove all duplicates. I would probably go as far as removing all, if they don’t rank well and just start with new listings, with fresh history.


  19. Looking forward to your seller update post 🙂

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Yep, Sedrick – it will be published on Monday as it took more time than I expected (tons of things to cover there).

      Thanks for your patience.


  20. Doubt theyl shut the account down without prior warnings.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      No, of course not.

      Thy always send warnings first. Well, almost always.

      Sometimes they do ban accounts without warning – when counterfeit goods are involved for example.


  21. Hi Andrew,

    I sell in one category and there are multiple sellers breaching the duplicate listings policy. They are low value items (around £2.99 for a single item up to around £7.99 for 5)

    I have reported them to ebay and yet ebay have done nothing. The sellers use different pictures and titles but are clearly the same item. Very frustrating as there are only about 2-3 pages for this item listing from the UK yet around half of the BIN listings are from the same handful of sellers who dominate the category. I don’t want to try and match them but it doesn’t seem to me that ebay are interested in low value items like mine.

    Hopefully they will catch up eventually.

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Yes, unfortunately that’s how it is… They only find & punish small fraction of sellers/duplicate listings creating an un-fair competition on the marketplace. The duplicate listings algorithm is an automated process, not manual one and from what I have seen so far, individual reports to eBay, from one seller, does not result in any action from eBay side.

      At least for now.

      But still, I wouldn’t risk breaking this rule as if you get caught, basically you’re done with that account and can start all over again.


  22. Hi Andrew,

    Thank you for all the info! When you say they will reduce visibility, do you think that they may push down your other listings because they have been removing duplicate listings of yours?
    E.g. We have had listings removed by eBay in august as they were duplicate listings, but some of our other products, which used to repeatedly show as number 1 on ebay search, are now appearing 10 or below. Do you think they use this as a method of ‘punishment’?
    Also, we find reporting competitors duplicate listing has no effect, yet ours are taken straight down! Any thoughts?

    Thank you!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Jackie,

      Yes, this is exactly what this is all about! They will “punish” your other listings too and lower their search positions. BY how much, for how long – we don’t know, but this is how it works now.

      Same thing – while you should report your competitors on breaking rules, it’s very random on when eBay does act on these reports and when they don’t. They probably don’t deal with a report unless several people report same. (that’s my guess).


      1. Jackie

        Thank you for your quick and helpful reply

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Jackie! 🙂

  23. Hi Andrew,

    Would it be considered a duplicate listing if you’ve got one main listing with all possible colours as variations [blue, green, red etc.], and then you also go on to create separate listings specifically for each colour [so a listing for Blue Widget, another for Green Widget etc]?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Ann,

      Yes, technically it would be a duplicate listing.

      As you’re essentially selling SAME product from TWO listings.


  24. Hi Andrew,

    Great post as always.

    Could I just check one point where you mention running additional auctions to get some extra traffic and sales in. Am I right in saying that these separate auctions can be for the same item as a fixed price GTC listing as long as they do not have a BIN option (unless they have a separate link in the description as discussed in one of your previous posts)?



    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Duncan,

      Yes, they can be exact same BUT they need to have at least ONE bid on.

      so you list first – once you get first bid, then you can list next. And so on.


  25. HI there,

    Im selling same product but in different sizes
    There is no multi listing in My category.

    For example i have wallpaper blue – unBRANDED
    Im selling
    1m by 2m
    next separate listing
    1m by 3m
    and so on.
    No im using same EAN for all listing but different sKU.
    Will this be detected as a duplicated listing?
    Should i use different EANs for each size?


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Adrian,

      They shouldn’t be counted as duplicate listings as long as you clearly state difference (size) in:

      * Titles
      * Description
      * Images

      But I would use a different EAN for each, yes.


  26. Thanks for letting us know about this Andrew. I did not know that Ebay took it that serious.

    I actually have two auction listings now which are duplicate listings, but with different starting prices.

    Do you know if you get a notification if you have actually been penalised by ebay?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      They’re both with no bids at the moment?

      Then yes, they will be classed as duplicates.

      eBay will send a message on duplicate listings, yes, and will automatically take both down. So to avoid that, just take one down now (if they don’t have any bids on). If one listing has bids on, you’re fine running both at same time now.


  27. Mike Sumray

    Hi Andrew,

    Many thanks for this post.

    I did read this policy and i have to be honest, I have a few duplicate listings in my store and read the rules on this a few weeks back.

    Do ebay notify me to say you are breaking the rules, or do they just penalize you without you knowing by reducing visibility? Would it be an idea to delete the duplicate listings even though they have sales history behind them? If i do delete the listing, how will ebay know now I don’t have duplicate listings. My sales have been slow on ebay recently but i just put this down to the summer time so im not sure whether i have been discovered. Generally, i follow every rule going and don’t try to beat them so just want to do the right thing.


    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Mike,

      Yes, from what I have seen, eBay does send a message/notification on duplicate listings and take them automatically down. It’s just it does not happen instantly and all the time – that’s why it hasn’t happened to you up until now.

      But yes, to avoid any penalties, you should just take one listing down (leave best) on your own.

      If you do this now, eBay won’t punish you.


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