Archive | April, 2009

How to Create the Perfect eBay Item Title

30 Apr

Now that most of my shipping tips are out of the way, I thought it would make sense to move on to the eBay “Sell Your Item” form and work our way down.  The Item Title is one of the most important aspects of your eBay listing because it’s one of the only ways buyers will be able to find your item.  Usually, when a buyer searches for an item, all of the words they search for must be present in your title in order for your item to show up in their search results.  Because each Item Title is limited to only 55 characters, the words you pick are of the utmost importance.  Here are some tips to guarantee that your item will be seen by as many buyers as possible.

First, here’s some general advice:

1.      Never use words that a buyer is not likely to search for.  Words like “Awesome,” “Rare,” and “Great Deal!!” do not belong in an item title because a buyer will never search for them and find your item.

2.      Always use as close to the full 55 characters as possible.  There is always another useful keyword that can be added.

3.      If the item is new, make “New” or “NWT” the first word in the title.  This also helps raise visibility in “Best Match Search because new items are favored in search.

4.      I Recommend Capitalizing the First Letter of Each Word in the Title.  This calls attention to the item while not “yelling” at the buyer.  Never use all lowercase letters – it looks sloppy and gives the appearance that you are not interested in the item or the sale.

5.      If a word has an abbreviated form that the buyer may search for, use both the abbreviated and written out form of the word.  For example, if you’re selling a St. Patrick’s Day shirt, you’ll want to include both “Saint” and “St.” in the title because it’s possible buyers will only search for one or the other.  If a buyer searches for “Saint Patrick’s” and you only have “St. Patrick’s” in your title your item is not going to show up in the buyer’s search results.  Also note that eBay ignores most punctuation in Item Titles.  If your title is “Patricks” and a buyer searches for “Patrick’s” with the apostrophe the item will still display in the buyer’s results and vice versa.

6.      If the retail price of the item is much more than the asking price consider including it near the beginning of the title.  It should only take up about 4 characters, like $580 for example.  As you might have guessed, buyers are always looking for a bargain and this is an easy way to indicate that your item is what they’re looking for at a good price.

7.      It is no longer necessary to include both the singular and plural form of words.  For example, if a buyer searches for “American Apparel shirts” they will see all of the items that have “shirts” as well as “shirt” in the title, so including one or the other as appropriate in your title will suffice.

Next, I recommend doing a little research to find out what titles and keywords are most likely to bring the highest price.  I’ll be using the same Xbox 360 example as I used in the Raising Visibility in “Best Match Search” Guide.  The easiest way to do this is to search completed listings.  To do this, identify the most general keyword or phrase that a buyer is likely to search for and enter it into search.  I used “Xbox 360.”  Scroll down the page a bit and look on the left side for “Completed Listings” and click it.  You’ll have to be signed in to view these so do so if necessary.

Take a look at what titles and keywords other sellers are using to describe the item.  Make sure to note if the price the item sold for is green, red, or black.  Green indicates a sale, red indicates that the item did not sell at auction, and black indicates an item did not sell as a “fixed price” listing.  Once you start to get an idea, go to the top of the screen and choose “Price + Shipping Highest First” from the “Sort by” menu.

Don’t get too excited if there are some items that sold for thousands of dollars.  These auctions likely included extras.  Skip as many pages as it takes until you get to the specific item you’re selling and take note of what titles and keywords sold for the highest amount.  There’s nothing wrong with using the exact same title someone else has used in the past, but I recommend mixing up the words or tweaking it a bit so buyers don’t get confused and think your item is one they’ve already seen.  It’s also a good idea to check out the auctions that did well and note how they describe and display the item in words and pictures.  Also take note of auction duration and ending time.  Finally, check to see if you can figure out where the buyer is located.  Many times an auction that sells for a higher price than usual is purchased by a bidder in a country prone to scamming.  Try to emulate these same methods in your own listing and you should be just as successful.

Terapeak Title Builder is another useful tool available for free from Terapeak. Start with the general keyword or phrase you used from the last section and enter it. Terapeak will randomly select 100 listings with that word or phrase and tell you how many of those listings include a variety of other keywords. It also shows the price those items sold for with the additional keywords listed. It’s a little deceptive because a keyword could indicate a completely different item from what you’re selling. For example, if you add “Elite” to “Xbox 360” you come up with a completely different item than the regular Xbox 360 console we have available for sale. Be careful here, but it might give you an idea of some extra words to include if you have some extra space in your title and can’t think of anything else to add.

Finally, BayEstimator is a tool available from eBay Research Labs that is helpful because it actually uses eBay search technology to help you create the best title possible. It’s a little bit complicated to pick up so I’ll let you look over their instructions and FAQ yourself rather than try to paraphrase here. I would only recommend BayEstimator if you are a seasoned seller or otherwise have an unhealthy curiosity for eBay search technology. It’s also unclear if it has been updated with new information since May of 2008. Nonetheless, it may be interesting to check it out. New sellers could probably spend their time learning more valuable techniques.

The goal is to create a title filled with keywords and phrases that buyers are most likely to search for, as well as one that eBay thinks buyers are most interested in.  The trick is to think about what words you would use to search for the item and then put those words in the title.  Along with that, you want to include keywords other people would search for as well.  Use the techniques above to help you get a feel for what those keywords might be.  Once you master that, you’ll be one step closer to maximizing hits on your items.

Guide Roundup – How to Ship on eBay and Paypal

30 Apr

Since I’m just about done with shipping guides for now, I thought I would create a quick cheat sheet for those who may have missed a guide.  The way the blog is currently set up is not necessarily conducive to the easy access of information.  I apologize for that and am working on a better setup.

When to Buy Shipping Insurance Part One – The Buyer’s Perspective – Explains that the buyer is not responsible for paying shipping insurance. If the item is damaged during shipment it is the seller’s responsibility to refund the buyer and proceed through filing a claim.

When to Buy Shipping Insurance Part Two – The eBay Seller’s Perspective – Explains the options sellers have to insure their packages. Shipping insurance is often not a wise investment because it is extraordinarily difficult to get a claim granted.

Utilizing USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes For Your eBay Business – Explains when it is cost efficient to use Flat Rate Envelopes and Boxes rather than variable rate packaging. Identifies the sizes and costs of each.

The Limitations of USPS Delivery Confirmation – Explains that Delivery Confirmation numbers are not meant to be used for “tracking” a package during transit. Nonetheless, it is imperative that a minimum of Delivery Confirmation be used on every item a seller ships.

How to Use USPS Signature Confirmation Effectively with eBay and Paypal – Explains when Signature Confirmation must be used by sellers on eBay when accepting Paypal. Also outlines its weaknesses for both the buyer and seller.

The Perils of International Shipping With eBay and Paypal – A Guide to Successful Shipping Practices Explains in detail the many international shipping options available to sellers. Following these guidelines is imperative for any seller wanting to open up their business to international customers. Without this vital information sellers run the risk of heavy losses.

A Tutorial on How to Use Paypal MultiOrder Shipping Efficiently to Save Time and Money on Postage Explains how to set up Paypal MultiOrder Shipping with easy to follow instructions and pictures. This cuts the time it takes to print shipping labels by as much as 90%.

USPS Shipping Tips and Tricks For Buying and Selling With eBay and Paypal This is a compilation of tips and tricks I have picked up over my 5 years selling on eBay.

If there’s a guide you would like to see posted on shipping, or anything else, leave a comment or send me an email.

EBay Using Policy Violations to Strip Users of Powerseller Status and Right to Fee Discounts

29 Apr

As reported yesterday, many members of the eBay community believe eBay is intentionally lowering Detailed Seller Ratings in order to deny sellers fee credits that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  Just last month, after two years of increasing speculation and accusations, eBay attempted to placate sellers by allowing them to create various ratings reports based on things like item categories and buyer location.  These reports all lack one key characteristic.  It is still impossible to verify whether or not the numbers eBay is reporting are accurate.  Indeed, eBay has every motive to inaccurately report Detailed Seller Ratings.  After all, their stock price is dependent on increasing marketplace revenue, not crediting it back to sellers.  Fearing that crafty sellers would figure out a way to use the new reports to pinpoint what ratings buyers actually left, eBay made up two new policy violations aimed at suspending anyone who tried to prove once and for all that they had been manipulating ratings all along.  It is also now a policy violation to ask any buyer what ratings they left.  Why?  EBay is doing everything in their power to deny sellers the evidence they would need to file a class-action lawsuit against the company.

Recently, eBay has devised newer, more efficient ways of denying sellers fee credits.  If you remember from my last article, there are two qualifications that have to be met to earn final value fee credits.  The first is minimum Detailed Seller Ratings. The second is current Powerseller status.  The Powerseller qualification denies most casual sellers from ever receiving a fee credit because it is necessary to have sustained sales of $1,000 a month for 3 months as well as a minimum feedback score of 100. Powerseller accounts are also username specific, so if a seller uses more than one username in order to sell a variety of products, they will have to meet these minimums on every account they expect to qualify for a fee credit; no matter what their overall sales or feedback might be.  The key to being a Powerseller though, is complying with eBay’s listing and marketplace policies that number in the hundreds.

EBay can issue policy violations to anyone they want, whenever they want.  No evidence or explanation is necessary and rarely is one offered.  Two “serious” violations and a seller will likely have all of their accounts suspended and their Powerseller status revoked.  By revoking Powerseller status, eBay no longer has to be concerned with a seller’s Detailed Seller Ratings. They no longer matter.  Diane, a Powerseller for more than two years writes:

“Until last month I had never received a policy violation in my three years selling children’s toys on eBay.  I received my first policy violation on March 2 2009 for “intent to disrupt a listing.”  Three days later and before I even received a response back about what the first violation was about I received another violation for “unauthorized item” on an Elmo playset.  Exactly one minute after I received that email I received another email that said my account was suspended…It took me 11 days of emailing and calling to get my account reinstated and when it finally was I realized I was no longer a Powerseller… Before I was reinstated I had to pay over $900 in eBay fees and I was told I would not receive any of the 30% credit I was due.  So much for 99.9% positive feedback, 4.9 DSRs, and thousands of dollars lost on shipping buyers items for free…”

Nicole, another long time eBay Powerseller reports:

“Two years selling on Ebay and they took away my powerseller status because Ebay says that I sell unauthorized items.  I told them that I get all of my items from reputable stores and I know how to tell if something is real but they didn’t care.  They even tell you they have no idea if what you’re selling is authorized or not but if anyone on Ebay says it isnt then that’s enough…Now I can’t get any fee discounts even if I offer to ship free…”

There are potentially thousands of stories just like these.  By issuing policy violations to revoke Powerseller status, eBay can more efficiently limit sellers’ ability to qualify for fee credits for the entire duration of the promotion.  By the time sellers are able to qualify for Powerseller status again, the promotion will have already expired.  Plus, eBay can deny sellers the fee credits they have already earned by forcing them to pay their fees before eBay even allows them to list another item.  Many of the complaints are from sellers who also offer free shipping and qualify for double fee credits.  These sellers can earn a total of as much as 40% off final value fees.  Why decrease fee credits from 40% to 30% by artificially lowering Detailed Seller Ratings when it’s so easy to make it 0% with no hope of ever receiving another credit?

There are no coincidences when it comes to eBay and money.  This promotion was well planned and executed from the start. Until eBay removes Detailed Seller Ratings and Powerseller status from its revenue stream, neither are safe.

EBay Accused of Manipulating Detailed Seller Ratings in Order to Deny Sellers Fee Discounts

28 Apr

In April 2008, eBay began issuing final value fee credits to sellers who met a certain set of qualifications.  These qualifications included minimum Detailed Seller Ratings of 4.6 in all four categories, as well as current Powerseller status.  At the time, most sellers were excited about having the opportunity to save money on fees that otherwise were only increasing.  Unfortunately for most sellers, these savings never became a reality.  First, for nearly two years it was impossible to find out what Detailed Seller Ratings specific buyers were leaving for sellers.  The program was completely “anonymous.”  How are eBay sellers supposed to improve customer satisfaction if they don’t know which buyers are dissatisfied and what the cause of that dissatisfaction is?  EBay has never provided a reasonable answer.

Many sellers believe eBay intentionally manipulates Detailed Seller Ratings in order to deny sellers fee discounts.  Since it is impossible for sellers, or anyone else, to calculate their own Detailed Seller Ratings, they are forced to rely on whatever eBay says their ratings are.  Because the ratings are not public, there is no evidence available for the seller to prove otherwise.  On top of that, eBay announced the very next month that they would be doing away with Mutual Feedback Withdrawal.  Mutual Feedback Withdrawal had been an opportunity for sellers to work problems out with buyers who did not contact them about problems before leaving poor feedback.  Without it, there would no longer be any opportunity, and for many, no motivation, to fix problems and get unnecessary negative feedback removed.  EBay knows that more negative feedback means lower Detailed Seller Ratings. Lower Ratings means eBay would be forced to issue fewer fee discounts.

After two years of constant complaining by many in the eBay community, eBay relented a bit and made it possible to view certain Detailed Selling Rating reports.  With a little trickery, it is now possible to find out exactly what Detailed Seller Ratings specific buyers left.  I would explain how to do this, but soon after it was reported to be possible, eBay added two sentences to their definition of ”Feedback Manipulation”

“Taking any actions, including the use of tools, to determine the Detailed Seller Ratings a buyer left for a specific transaction may also be considered Feedback Manipulation.  DSRs are meant to be anonymous.”

How exactly is checking Detailed Seller Ratings manipulation of feedback?  How does it change the scores in any way?  Why are Detailed Seller Ratings “meant to be anonymous” while positive/negative/neutral feedback ratings have always been clearly visible and attributable to specific buyers?  What exactly does eBay not want you to know?  The answers become clear.  In order for eBay to deny sellers fee discounts, they cannot allow sellers to find out what their actual Detailed Seller Ratings are.  EBay will go as far as to permanently suspend a seller who attempts to find out what Ratings buyers have left.  EBay has a tool that tells them how many Ratings reports a seller creates.  If they go over a certain threshold, an eBay employee looks over the activity and issues a policy violation.  Two policy violations in the last few months and it’s a suspension, possibly forever.

EBay should not have tied Detailed Seller Ratings to their revenue stream.  Once they did, sellers around the world lost any hope of a fair feedback system.  EBay does not want to fix the flaws inherent in the Ratings system because they would lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue if they did.  EBay has put themselves in an impossible position where they are forced to deny even the most reasonable requests because of their responsibility to their stock price.  We can all pray that eBay finally discontinues final value fee credits based on Detailed Seller Ratings because only then will they be willing to make the necessary repairs to a system that has been broken for two years too long.

EBay has a new trick up their sleeve.  They are stripping sellers of their Powerseller status by issuing bogus listing violations.  Look for the full story tomorrow.

A Tutorial on How to Use Paypal MultiOrder Shipping Efficiently to Save Time and Money on Postage

27 Apr

You may also be interested in these guides: Utilizing USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes For Your eBay Business and The Perils of International Shipping With eBay and Paypal – A Guide to Successful Shipping Practices

Paypal MultiOrder Shipping (Yes I know “MultiOrder” is an odd looking word, but that’s what they call it) is a free and relatively easy to use tool provided by Paypal to print up to 50 domestic shipping labels at one time.  You can import your orders paid with Paypal, your eBay orders whether paid with Paypal or not, a .CSV or .TSV file, or make shipping labels from scratch.  MultiOrder shipping is faster than printing one label at a time because in MultiOrder shipping it is possible to quickly assign a “shipping preset” that is preprogrammed with all the information you would normally have to click for every label.  Once you familiarize yourself with the process, you’ll be amazed at how many labels you can print in the time it used to take to print two or three.

Click the link below or the title above to learn how: