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Troubleshoot Your Listings

Use this checklist to increase your listing success


Are your auctions underperforming? Though it's true that eBay is often a buyers' market, driving prices downward for most kinds of goods, it's also true that many sellers' auctions don't perform as well as they might. So are you getting your money's worth when you sell on eBay?

This checklist will help you to find out.

  1. Is the price right? Start the bids low and don't price yourself out of the market. Whether you're listing fixed price or auction format items, it's important that you not price yourself out of the market. Be aware of the following when you set your starting bid or sale price:

    • You can find out what recent similar items have sold for using eBay's Advanced Search functionality, by checking the "Completed listings only" box near the top of the search.
    • In auction formats, items that start at $1.00 ultimately draw more and higher bids by the end of the auction, while auctions with higher starting bids draw fewer bids in total and ultimately sell for less.
    • Keep in mind that in most auctions the majority of your bids will be received in the final half hour or less. Don't get spooked by a value that seems low days later when you start a listing at $1.00. Bidders are watching your listing and will bid late in the process.

  2. How's your timing? Post the longest listings possible at the most opportune times. Longer listings have more time to accumulate both interest and bids, and you can significantly improve your results by timing your listings carefully.

  3. Are your item descriptions complete, informative, and concise? If your listings are difficult for buyers to evaluate, fewer buyers will bid. Check all of the following:

    • For best results, include a large, clear photo of the actual item you're selling.
    • Be sure to spell check your item description—misspellings look unprofessional and make buyers wary.
    • Choose your category well when you post your item listing.
    • For best results, use HTML to format your listings for readability.
    • Be sure to clearly spell out all shipping and payment information so the buyer knows how to purchase and receive the item.

  4. How's your feedback? Buyers avoid low-feedback or bad-feedback sellers. If your feedback profile is a low number or shows a percentage below the very high 90's, consider buying a few items on eBay to bring up your feedback score before trying to sell again. Low feedback has a very real negative effect on final sale prices.

  5. Are there other red flags in your listings? If a buyer finds unprofessional, confusing, or inaccurate information in your listings, he or she is sure to give your products a wide berth.

    • Make sure there's no contradictory product information (mismatched or incorrect specifications, mismatched photos, etc.) in your listing, since buyers won't bid if they're not sure what they're getting or they're not sure you know what you're selling.
    • Don't use stock photos unless you absolutely have to—buyers very much prefer to see photos that you've taken, since it gives them an actual view of what they're buying and proves that you actually have the item to sell.
    • Don't post listings that are too short or that lack sophistication. Very brief listings or listings that use general, slang, or approximate terms instead of specific descriptions scare buyers, since they suggest that a seller is unfamiliar with his or her products.

  6. Have you stated a warranty, exchange, and/or return policy? If not, do it. Buyers want to know what happens if they're unsatisfied with a purchase. Even if you sell all items AS-IS, you'll get more bids if you clearly state in your description that you accept no returns. Failing to list your return policy is a sure way to lose bidders.

  7. Is there a healthy demand for your item and/or have you checked for oversupply? The laws of supply and demand on eBay are just as important as are the laws of supply and demand in traditional retail. If you've attended to everything else and you still aren't selling at the levels you desire, do your research by searching through eBay to ensure that there is both a healthy demand and a lack of supply in the marketplace.

  8. Are your hopes realistic? Don't be sentimental or let your enthusiasm fool you. Even when supply is low and demand is healthy, for most types of goods you'll reach saturation quickly. Don't ever expect to build an entire business on a single eBay product, no matter how popular it is.

If you've gone over this checklist and still feel like there's room for improvement, learn by example. Return to that Advanced Search page and find completed items similar to your stock that have done very well in their final price. Then, emulate them to the greatest extent possible (without, of course, copying verbatim or stealing images).

Finally, experience counts for a lot. The more you sell on eBay, the more you'll develop a gut instinct for it and the better your auction listings will do.

In the meantime, happy selling!

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