5 Listing Mistakes You May Be Making

Overlooking these details can put your sales under a dark cloud.

by Brad and Debra Schepp
- May 26, 2011

Listing advice resides all over eBay, in print, and on the Web, but you may be surprised at some of the details that are still getting overlooked.

In our last article, we pointed out some often overlooked mistakes people make while operating their eBay businesses. We've been working with eBay sellers for a very long time, and some of those were mistakes we'd never thought of either.

This time we'll take a look at some of the listing mistakes sellers make, and give you advice that goes beyond, "choose good title keywords" and "write good descriptions."

Mistake No. 1: Photos don't give a complete picture

Hah! Faked you out! You thought we were going to skip photos, didn't you?

We've told you for years to post lots of photos and from every angle, showing every detail—and that's still great advice. Everyone else has said it, too. But there's another level to your photos, and that's providing photos that are either not detailed enough or which are actually misleading.

Barbara Freundlich of auelox2 on eBay specifically mentions the misleading type. She and her husband sell jewelry, and we all know how important details are when you're trying to decide what to buy. It's difficult to know the scale of a piece of jewelry or a particular gemstone strictly from a photo.

In our less experienced days, we purchased a necklace with a lovely little semi-precious gemstone and a diamond chip. In the photo it sparkled and shone brilliantly. When we received it, we were very surprised to discover it was miniscule! In looking back at the listing, we saw the dimensions were listed in metric measure, and we realized we'd purchased it without adequately calculating its size. We left great feedback for the seller because the mistake was clearly ours, and he'd done what he'd promised, but another buyer might not have been so kind. A photo that more accurately showed the scale of the item would have prevented any misunderstanding or buyer disappointment. Many folks like delicate jewelry, but that's not what we were expecting to receive.

A picture really is worth a thousand words, but only if the picture is clear and close-up

So as you take your photos for your listings keep in mind that these are the only way your buyer can actually examine the item. Your great descriptions are also vital, but nothing takes the place of accurate photos.

"A picture really is worth a thousand words, but only if the picture is clear and close-up," says Stephanie Inge, of Stephintexas. So get close up to portray your item in all its shape, size and glory.

Mistake No. 2: Missing out on item specifics

"Many sellers look at item specifics and feel like it's a lot of extra work they don't feel like doing," says Debbie Levitt, CEO of the eBay consulting firm As Was. "However, it's one of the main ways to be found in search results."

eBay's search parameters have given a real advantage to people who use item specifics. "When someone comes to eBay and does a search for 'title only,' eBay is now looking in the title and the item specifics. So items specifics are a great place to pack in extra, relevant keywords," Levitt explains. It may take a few extra minutes to get your listing ready, but if it will drive more traffic to those listings, you'll be better off for the effort. eBay makes using item specifics as easy as possible with drop-down menus and forms that let you add your own custom details.

Mistake No. 3: Not choosing your words carefully

There are millions of new items listed on eBay every week. Trying to make yours stand out can be a challenge. This is especially true, considering the dramatic rise over the last few years in the number of listings on the site as reported by AuctionBytes. First, you'll need to consider the words you'll put into your title to snag the buyers who do "title only" searches. Once you've gotten their attention with your headline, you'll need to use descriptive words to make the buyers want your wares. We'll look at both of these challenges, keeping in mind that not everyone comes to this task with a writer's background and experience. Don't worry, you don't really need either.

"Your headline must stand out above the competition to attract bidders," says Skip McGrath who sells on eBay as mcgrrrrr. "Your headline should contain two key elements: keywords that are searchable and emotional words designed to attract attention. Take some time to romance your item. Sell the benefits!"

You're going to be writing the description anyway, why not make it as appealing as you possibly can? Ask yourself why your prospective customer might want to buy what you're selling and then proceed to convince shoppers that the item you're featuring will be exactly what they're shopping for. In this instance, it's more important for you to think like a salesperson than a writer. You've always got grammar and spelling software to help you if you're feeling insecure.

Jody Rogers of Beachcombers! puts it perfectly well when she tells us, "For goodness sake, write clear descriptions without spelling or grammar mistakes!" Mix in a little of McGrath's suggested romance, and your descriptions will shine.

Let information be information and do not sacrifice easy-to-read for what you think is design

Mistake No. 4: Adding too many frills

You want your customers to have a clear and easily understood description of your item and great photos. Beyond that, a template will add a professional look and make creating your listings easier, too. But be careful about overdoing the design. This advice comes from Levitt of As Was, who makes her living helping sellers create strong and attractive designs for their e-commerce sites, including eBay.

"Some sellers think their listings need to be colorful and have design, so they make the text centered or purple or various colors," Levitt tells us. "Information needs to be organized and easy to read. It does not need to be designed. Easy to read, well laid-out text can help a shopper, plus look more professional."

If you want a design, select one from the many templates that are available right here at Auctiva or work with a company such as Levitt's to design your own look for your business. Otherwise, leave the facts alone.

"Do not design information," Levitt adds. "Let information be information and do not sacrifice easy-to-read for what you think is design."

Mistake No. 5: Details in the wrong order

Yes, of course, your descriptions should be detailed and accurate, but they should also provide your shoppers with the information they'll need to make their decisions, in the order in which they'll need that information.

The most often misplaced detail is the shipping information. Once your shopper knows what the item is, its condition and your price, the most important thing that shopper needs to know is how much it will cost to have it shipped, who will deliver it and when it is likely to arrive.

"You have two DSRs for shipping," Levitt reminds us. "Rarely is a decision made based on how you take payment or your company history. Put policy sections in the order in which they make or break someone's decision. At As Was, that means item pictures, item description and then right into shipping policies."

Sure, add information about who you are, why you sell what you sell, and what your business philosophies are, but don't make your shopper scroll through all that to get to the facts most important to a buying decision. Leave that for once your shopper has turned into a buyer based on your great photos, your accurate descriptions and your clearly stated shipping policies. Once you have a buyer, you have all the time you need to show them how fantastic you and your products are.


About the Author

Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Alibaba.com Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book, which Deb co-authored with John Lawson, is Kick Ass Social Commerce for E-preneurs: It's Not About Likes—It's About Sales.

For further information, visit Brad and Deb's website, bradanddeb.com.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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