eBay[c] The Missing Manual
Authors: Conner N.
Published year: 2006
Chapter 5 took you through the basics of creating a great auction listing. This section gives you tips for making your auctions even harder to resist.
The title of your auction is critical because buyers willor won'tfind your auction by searching titles for a particular keyword. For example, if you're selling a Canon EOS Rebel XT and you title your auction "Digital Camera", people using "Canon" or "Rebel" as keywords won't find it. So don't just slap your title together. Do some research to get your auction in more shoppers' search results.
One good place to do that research is through eBay Pulse , a section of the site that keeps track of trends and hot items. You can find it by typing pulse.ebay.com into your Web browser's address bar or, from the eBay home page, selecting Buy eBay Pulse. One of the things eBay Pulse tracks is the most commonly used search terms. On the eBay Pulse main page, you can see what the most popular searches are for the whole site. Or you can choose a category from the Category drop-down list to see the most popular search terms and most-watched items in that category (Figure 6-4). See which of these hot search terms you can work into your titlebut make sure youre not violating eBay's policy against keyword spamming , using inappropriate keywords merely to attract attention to your auction (Section 6.5.1).
In addition to naming your item, use a few attention-getting words in your title. Other good words include rare, bonus, sexy, mint , or some eBay-specific acronyms like NIB (new in box), NR (no reserve), or VHTF (very hard to find). For a list of common acronyms used on eBay, go to Help eBay Acronyms.Tip: eBay Pulse maintains an ever-changing list of the 10 most-watched auctions on the whole site. Some are just plain goofy (like evil dolls or celebrity images on toast ), but all are attention-getters. Study these auctions to see what makes them watchable. By selecting a category on the eBay Pulse home page, you can also view the most-watched items for each category; check out your favorite categories to see how sellers build the auctions eBayers watch.
When you look at other people's auctions, you've probably noticed descriptions that are too short to be helpful ("It's a digital camera. It takes good pictures.") and others that are too long to be readable: line after line of densely packed prose that not only tells you the brand and dimensions of a plasma TV but lists every single show the seller's ever watched on it. Buyers want complete information about what you're selling, but they want it in a clear and easy-to-read format. The best item descriptions (Section 18.104.22.168) consist of four parts : an attention-getting opening, features and benefits, known flaws, and a call to action. Here's more on each part:
Get their attention . Start with a short statement that echoes and expands on what's in the auction title. Think about why a buyer might be shopping for your item, and then create one line to get that buyer excited about your auction. For example, if your title is Schwinn Mesa Mountain 19" Bike Bicycle New !, you might start off your description with something like this: This brand-new Schwinn Mesa mountain bike is a proven performer on tough terrain .
Describe features and benefits . Describe in detail the things that make your item worth buying, and in a way that makes it clear to buyers how the item can benefit them. Why does a buyer deserve your item? How can it make the buyer's life easier or more fun? A diet book, for example, is more than the number of its pages or its sales rank in The New York Times . Show potential bidders how buying the book could make life better with an explanation like this: Follow this program and wear clothes you thought you'd never fit into again . If your item is one of a kind or an heirloom, give a little of its history to show what makes it unique. Throughout your description, keep paragraphs short and use bulleted lists to make the text easy to read. (There's nothing like a seemingly endless paragraphespecially one written in all capital lettersto drive buyers away.) Of course, the claims you make for your item must be accurate.Tip: Don't save the best for lastput your item's strongest selling points right up front. Assume that some buyers will stop reading after your first paragraph, and make sure that paragraph says what you need to get across.
Don't try to hide flaws . If there's anything wrong with the item, from a small scratch to a missing part to a broken switch, explain this in a brief paragraph of its own. If an item is used, say so. Don't make excuses; just let buyers know the item's actual condition. An accurate description of any flaws will protect you from claims that the item wasn't the way you described it in the auction. And a scratch or a loose thread isn't always a turnoff; buyers looking for a deal might prefer a slightly flawed item to one that's brand new, if it saves them some money.
Finish with a call to action . End your description by coming right out and telling shoppers what you want them to do. Use active language: Bid now or For great deals, check out my other auctions or Add me to your Favorites list ! It's also a good idea to thank the shopper for looking. This simple courtesy shows that you're aware of the buyernot just the item you're trying to sell.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION
eBay Keyword Ads
What are eBay Keyword Ads?
When you've searched on eBay, you might have noticed the box or banner ads that appear at the top of the screen, above the Search Results list. These ads are called keyword ads; they appear when shoppers search on keywords associated with the ads. They also appear when shoppers browse a related category.
When you click a keyword ad, you're whisked to the ad-owner's eBay Store (Section 7.3) or a list of his current auctions. For example, someone selling consumer electronics like CD systems and MP3 players might choose keywords like " Sony CD player " or iPod so that his ad appears at the top of the page when shoppers search for those terms. If the shopper clicks the keyword ad, she's then browsing that seller's auctions exclusively.
How much do keyword ads cost?
eBay charges for keyword ads on a cost per click (CPC) basis: no matter how often your ad appears, you pay only when someone clicks the ad. In addition, there's no fixed cost per click for keyword ads. Instead, sellers set the price by bidding on the keywords they want to link to. The CPC for a particular keyword is the bid of the next highest bidder plus a penny. Or, if you're the only bidder, you pay just 10 cents per click (eBay's minimum CPC).
For example, you're willing to pay up to .50 per click to direct buyers to your eBay Store. Your bid of .50 makes you the highest bidder. The next highest bidder has bid .20 per click. When someone clicks your ad, you pay .21the next highest bid plus a penny.
The CPC can change as the bids change. For example, if you're the highest bidder at .50 per click and the second-highest bidder drops out of the program, the new second-highest bid might be, say, .00, so you'll pay .01 per click. eBay rotates the ads according to bids; ads with higher CPCs display more frequently than lower-paying ads.
Will the program increase traffic to my eBay store and auctions?
eBay claims that more than 20,000 sellers have signed up for its keyword programa tiny percentage of all the sellers on eBay. And many of the ads are for things like Anything Points, or the PowerSellers programsuggesting that individual sellers haven't found them worth the cost.
To check out whether your competition is buying keyword ads for the items you sell, from the eBay home page select Services eBay Keywords Keyword Suggestion Tool. Type in a keyword that relates to your product (along with an eBay-generated verification code), and click Go. eBay not only suggests various keywords; you can click the View link to see the current bids for various keywords. You can also see the ad that goes with each bid. Do an Advanced Search (Advanced Search Items by Seller) to check a sellers past auctions and see whether the advertising seems to help sales.
When you're deciding whether or not to bid on a keyword, think like a buyer. When searching for products on eBay, do you look at the keyword ads or go straight to the Search Results list?
If you do want to try it out, sign up at Services eBay Keywords Get Started Now!
There's no doubt your description is importantit can generate the excitement that turns a shopper into a bidderbut unless you have a good photo, shoppers may never even read your scintillating prose. (You add photos during step 3 of the Sell Your Item form; see Section 5.4.5.) Most buyers check out the photos in the search results list before they decide whether or not to look further into an auction. If your photos are out of focus, poorly lit, cluttered, or otherwise hard to make out, it probably doesn't matter how good your description is; you're going to lose potential bidders.
You don't have to take a photography class to learn how to take compelling, attractive photos of your eBay items. Follow the tips in this section, and with a little practice, you'll be taking photos like a pro.
You don't have to go so far as to set up a professional photo studio in a corner of your dining room, but having the right equipment does help you take sharp-looking photos. Here's what you need:
Camera . To take photos, you obviously need a camera. A digital camera is the easiest solution, because you can transfer images to your computer as soon as you've taken the shots. (If you prefer to work with a film camera, you'll either need a scanner to get the pictures onto your computer, or you'll have to go to a photo processor to get your pictures copied onto a CD or uploaded to the Internet.)
You don't need to get the fanciest, highest-resolution camera on the market. In fact, a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels is plenty because people will be looking at your photos on a computer screen, and smaller images load faster than those with millions of pixels. So if you'll be using the camera just for your eBay listings, there's no need to spend the extra money for high resolution you won't use.Tip: If you're going to be taking shots of small items, like jewelry or coins , look for a camera that has a macro lens , which lets you take close-ups without losing focus and produces an image about the same size as the subject.
Scanner . A flatbed scanner (the kind that looks like a photocopier, with a large glass panel where you lay the item you want scanned) is great for getting photo prints into your computer. You can also use it to make digital images of anything that's flat, like a book cover or an autographed playbill.
Tripod . A tripod will help you align the shot and keep the camera steady to prevent blurring caused by moving or jiggling the camera.
Lighting . Good lighting is also important for photos: too much can wash out the subject, while too little will make it look dark. Some sellers invest in professional studio lighting, but you can take good photos with a couple of lamps (see step 3 on Section 22.214.171.124).
Background . You don't want someone scrutinizing your sofa's plaid upholstery while ignoring the item you propped there for the photoso choose a solid-colored neutral background (a sheet can do the trick in most cases). Solid black is good for light-colored objects; beige, white, ivory, or light gray work well with darker or brightly colored items.
WORDS TO THE WISE
Advertising copywriters know that consumers respond more strongly to some words than to others. Writing coach Dawn Josephson of Cameo Publications (www.cameopublications.com) has identified the top 21 selling words. Work as many of these as you can into your item description and watch the bids multiply:
Taking great pictures is more than just pointing and clicking. For eBay-worthy photos, you need to consider background, position, and lighting, and then edit the image on your computer. For photos that sell, follow these steps:
Prepare the background .
Keep the background uncluttered. Drape fabric under and behind the item; choose a neutral color that will make the item stand out. You can also add texture to the background by taking a picture against wood (such as a butcherblock table) or moir fabric, but always keep in mind that your item is the important element. Don't let the background overwhelm the subject.Tip: For jewelry, don't photograph someone wearing the ring, earrings, bracelet, or necklace. A shot that's close enough to show the item's details will also showunappealinglythe close-up texture of the wearer's skin. Unless you're a whiz with image editing and can airbrush the model, stick to photographing the piece against a neutral background.
Position the item carefully .
Most items look best at an angle; it gives a three-dimensional item depth, as Figure 6-5 shows. Or you can take photos from several different angles to show all sides of your item. To shoppers, getting to look at lots of pictures is the next best thing to picking up an item and turning it over in their hands.
Adjust lighting .
Natural light is best for taking photos. Try setting up your shot next to a window. (If the sunlight coming through the window is harsh , diffuse it with a thin white curtain.) To avoid deep shadows, use two light sources placed opposite each other. Try not to rely on your camera's flash, which can create obscuring shadows or unwanted glare in photos of shiny objects.Tip: To get good detail for small items, like coins or jewelry, use a light diffuser. You can buy a professional-quality light diffuser, called a cloud dome, from www.clouddome.com, or you can make your own. Cut the bottom off a translucent plastic gallon-size milk jug. Place the jug over the item you want to photograph, and then shoot the picture through the opening in the top (the place where the milk pours out). If you need more light, set up a desk lamp on each side of the milk jug.
Set up your camera .
Using a tripod keeps the camera steady when you snap the photo. It also holds the camera in place when you switch items, so you don't have to reposition it every single time you set up a new item. Once you get the focus set, you can take pictures of a whole bunch of items without having to stop and readjust the focus.
Take the shot .
The big advantage a digital camera has over a traditional film camera is that, with digital, you can see the results of your shot right away. If the image doesn't look right, you can delete it; adjust the lighting, the item's position, or its distance from the camera, and try again.Note: Make sure you use your camera's shutter release button correctly. On some digital cameras , you press the button only halfway to focus and set the exposure. Then, after a second or so, you press the button the rest of the way down to take the picture. If you press the button down all the way in one fell swoop, you might end up with a picture that's out of focus or over- or underexposed . Review the first few shots carefully and adjust your button-pressing technique, if necessary.
Edit the image .
After you've taken the best shots you can, scan or upload the images to your computer. Then open an image-editing software program such as iPhoto or MS Paint and edit the images to get rid of muddiness, cut out unnecessary space, and save the image as a JPG file (see the next section and the box on Section 126.96.36.199 for more on image editing.)
Your computer probably came with some kind of software that lets you work with images. Mac OS X has iPhoto, and Windows has MS Paint. Both of these programs let you perform basic image-editing tasks , like cropping, resizing, and touching up your images and adjusting contrast and brightness. If you've never used your computer's image editor, play around with it a little to learn what it can do before you find yourself in the middle of creating an auction, trying to get a picture to look right. (The box on Section 188.8.131.52 tells you more about image editors.)Note: For detailed help with iPhoto, check out The Missing Manual for the version of the program you have.
To tweak your pictures to make them look just right for your listing, consider these techniques:
Batch conversion . This technique lets you change a whole group of files at once.
Brightness . This setting determines how much light the image seems to give off. If you increase the brightness, the image will become whiter and lighter; decreasing the image makes it darker. You'll know if you increased the brightness too much, because the image will look washed out.
Contrast . Adjust the difference between light and dark tones to make the image easier to see. Increasing the contrast makes the light parts of the image appear lighter and the dark parts darker.
Crop . Cut out unnecessary background space around the item to focus viewers ' attention on your item. Cropping an image also makes it smaller, so it will show up faster in your listing. Just be sure to leave some space around the item; cropping too tightly makes the image seem crowded into its space.
Format . There are many different kinds of image formats, but you really only need to know about one. Save your images in the .JPG (pronounced "jay-peg") format, which is the best for displaying photos in eBay auctions. JPG files are compressed , which means that they're smaller than images saved in other formatsa plus when you want your photos to show up quickly on your auction page.
Resize . Make your images smaller so that they'll fit on a listing page.
Rotate . Flip your image vertically or horizontally, or rotate it from left to right.
The more buyers see of an item, the more confident they are in bidding. Multiple photos show that your auction has nothing to hide. If you want to include several photos with your listings, you have a couple of options: you can insert them into your eBay listing directly using the Sell Your Item form (Section 5.4.5), or you can host your photos (that means store them) on another Web site and tell eBay to grab the images from the other site and display them as if they were part of your auction page.Tip: Extra photos help some auctions more than others. If you're selling a one-of-a-kind item that buyers would want to examine in minute detail, like a car or a collectible figurine, include lots of photos. But if you're selling something mass-produced, like a book, CD, movie, or new-in-box item, one picture should be sufficient.
On the Sell Your Item form, eBay lets you display one picture for free; after that, you pay 15 cents apiece for any pictures you want to add. eBay also limits the size of your photos, charging extra for the "super-size" feature that lets buyers click a thumbnail photo to see a larger version.
In 2004, eBay introduced Picture Manager, a photo-hosting service that's also part of eBay. For a monthly subscription fee (which varies according to how much storage space you need), you can store your photos, manage them from My eBay, and include up to 12 pictures in your listing without that pesky 15-cent-per-picture fee. You can subscribe to Picture Manager at http://pages.ebay.com/picture_manager.
You don't have to host your photos on eBay, though, and there are cheaper places to do it (see the box on Section 184.108.40.206). Do a Google search for "free image hosting" and browse through the approximately one gazillion results to see what's available. Make sure that the image-hosting site supports auctions; not all of them do.
The Best Image Editors
When you're ready to move beyond the basics and get fancier with image editing, you might want to spring for one of the commercial image-editing programs available. Not every eBayer needs one, but if you take a lot of photosyou'll probably find them worth the price.
In addition, Mac fans can choose from a list of free and low-cost image viewers and editors at Tucows. Go to www. tucows .com, and then click the name of any program to get download instructions. Some popular choices include BME, Bosco's Foto Trimmer, HBImageProcessor, and imageX.
When you've found an image host that you like, follow its instructions for getting your images onto its server. Then, when you list an item on eBay, during step 3 (Sell Your Item: Pictures & Details) under Add Pictures, click the "Your own Web hosting" tab, as shown in Figure 6-6.
To have eBay display the photos you've uploaded to your image host, you give the auction site a snippet of HMTL that tells it to find your photos elsewhere and make them appear seamlessly on your auction page. The HTML code for displaying a photo is simple:
(include the angle brackets, and put the actual Web address of your image inside the quotes).
Using this code, you can insert as many images as you like into your auction page. In step 2 of the Sell Your Item form (Describe Your Item), include the HTML code in the item description you write (the photos, not the code, will appear on your auction page). If you want rows of photos, put a break tag <br> between two rows (include the angle brackets).Tip: While you're learning, click Preview frequently to ensure the auction is shaping up the way you want it to.
For a fee, eBay lets you display a picture that viewers can click to jump to a larger version. But if you've opted to use another image host, you can get the same effect, as shown in Figure 6-7.
To make this magic happen, first create two versions of each image: a small one and a large one. Give each an appropriate name, such as photo1.jpg and photo1_small.jpg . Then upload both images to your image-hosting service.
UP TO SPEED
The Hosts with the Most
If you're looking beyond eBay for image hosting (so, for example, you can display multiple photos without paying extra for each one), where should you host them? A good place to start is with your own Internet service provider (ISP), the company you pay to access the Internet. Many ISPs offer freeWeb hosting to their clients ; contact your ISP's customer service department to find out whether yours does.
If your own ISP doesn't work out, there are plenty of companies out there just dying to host your images. When you're researching possible image hosts, make sure that the images can appear in your actual auctions. Some sites make shoppers click a link to see pictures, and anything that asks a shopper to do a little extra work is a bad idea. (The only clicking they're likely to do is the Back button.)
Here's a list of popular sites that host auction images for a fee. (Prices vary, and some offer a free trial period):
The following sites offer free image hosting. Some offer a free basic package and, if you need more space, a feebased upgrade. (One thing to watch out for if you opt for a free service: many free services support themselves by forcing youand anyone who views your photosto endure flashing, blinking ads, which probably won't win you any points with prospective bidders. Choose your image host carefully and make sure any ads don't interfere with your auctions.)
Next, type this HTML into your auction description (in step 2 of the Sell Your Item form: Describe Your Item):
<a href="http://myimagehost.com/myfolder/photo1.jpg" target=_blank> <img src="http://myimagehost.com/myfolder/photo1_small.jpg" border=0> <br>Click thumbnail to get the big picture!</a>
You can add to your item description a bunch of small photos that a viewer can click to enlarge. To create a simple table of clickable thumbnails, each with a caption, use this HTMLjust type it into your item-description form where you want the table to appear:
<table cellpadding=10 cellspacing=0 border=0> <tr><td align=center> <a href="http://myimagehost.com/myfolder/photo1.jpg" target=_blank> <img src="http://myimagehost.com/myfolder/photo1_small.jpg"></a> <br>Caption for photo 1. </td> <td align=center> <a href="http://myimagehost.com/myfolder/photo2.jpg" target=_blank> <img src="http://myimagehost.com/myfolder/photo2_small.jpg"></a> <br>Caption for photo 2. </td></tr> <tr><td align=center> <a href="http://myimagehost.com/myfolder/photo3.jpg" target=_blank> <img src="http://myimagehost.com/myfolder/photo3_small.jpg"></a> <br>Caption for photo 3. </td> <td align=center> <a href="http://myimagehost.com/myfolder/photo4.jpg" target=_blank> <img src="http://myimagehost.com/myfolder/photo4_small.jpg"></a> <br>Caption for photo 4. </td></tr> </table>
Figure 6-8 shows the result.Tip: For HTML basics, see Appendix B. For tutorials and other resources that help you snazz up your auctions with HTML, visit the HTML Factory at http://auctionhelp.htmlfactory.us/home.htm. Or post a question on the HTML/Photos board in eBay Discussion Boards (Section 10.1.1) or the Answer Center (Section 10.1.3).
eBay[c] The Missing Manual
Authors: Conner N.
Published year: 2006