Ebay

An Introduction to Bidding and Buying on eBay.

Have you noticed that whenever you open a newspaper, watch the TV or have a conversation, people seem to be talking about eBay? If you’ve never used it and you’ve no idea what it’s all about, then the chances are that you’re starting to feel a little left out. But don’t worry! This email contains everything you need to know about the basics of bidding and buying on eBay.

So What is eBay?

eBay is an online auction website – and not just any auction site, but the biggest one in the world. If you know how an auction works, then you already know how roughly eBay works. Someone adds something they want to sell to the site, and then buyers come along and place bids on it. The highest bid wins the item! It’s that simple.

eBay being an online auction makes a big difference, though. Buying and selling are not reserved for any elite. eBay accept almost any item, no matter how small, and will then advertise it on their sites all over the world. It’s a powerful combination of an auction and a slightly chaotic marketplace.

What is Bidding?

Bidding is when you say how much you will pay for an item in an auction. Bidding on eBay, however, doesn’t work in exactly the same way as a normal auction, at least in theory. On eBay, you tell the site what the maximum you are willing to pay for each item is, and then eBay places the bids on your behalf. That means you could say you were willing to pay up to $100 for something and only have to pay $50, if that was the highest maximum bid anyone else placed.

It’s not as complicated as it sounds – the best way to get used to it is to give it a try. First, the best thing to do is to go to the eBay website designed for your country. If you don’t know the address for it, just go to www.ebay.com and it will tell you there. Now, on the front page you should see a big box marked ‘search’: just type in anything that you’d like to buy there.

Wasn’t that easy? Now you should have a list of items for sale in front of you, along with how much people are currently bidding for them and the time when bidding ends for each item. If you click one of these, you can read the description, and then – if you’re happy with the item and happy to pay more than the current highest bidder is – you can bid!

How Do I Bid?

Go ahead and scroll down to the bottom of an item’s description page, and type the maximum you are willing to pay (your maximum bid) into the box. Then simply press the ‘place bid’ button – you will need to sign in once you press the button, or go through a quick registration process if you don’t have an eBay username).

If someone else’s maximum bid on that item is higher than yours, then eBay will tell you and give you the opportunity to bid again. Otherwise, you’re now the new highest bidder! All you need to do now is wait until the end of the auction – if someone else outbids you, then eBay will email you and you can bid again.

All sounds great, doesn’t it? But by now you might be wondering whether a site as chaotic as eBay can really be all that safe to buy from. That’s why the next email in this series will be about your rights when you buy from eBay.

10 Tips for Increasing Your eBay Response.

So you’ve got the buyer in front of your auction, and they’ve read the description. They’re must be interested, or they wouldn’t be looking… but just how can you push them over that line and make them leave a bid? Read on for some tips.

Improve your picture: In all that description writing, you might have missed the vital importance of your item’s picture. A picture with bad lighting or an intrusive background looks amateurish and won’t make anyone want to buy from you.

Add an About Me page: You’ll be surprised how much you can reassure bidders just by creating an About Me page and putting a little bit about yourself on your business on there. You can also have a few special offers there for people who bother to look at the page, and let people subscribe to your mailing list so that you can email them updates.

Use SquareTrade: Signing up at SquareTrade and displaying their logo on your auctions shows that you are committed to have them resolve any disputes that arise. You always see this on PowerSellers auctions – it makes you look more professional.

Write terms and conditions: Have the ‘small print’ clearly visible on all your auctions, giving details of things like shipping times and prices, your refund policy, and any other business practices you might have. This helps build confidence with buyers.

Show off your feedback: Copy and paste a selection of the feedback comments you’re most proud of to each item’s description page, instead of making bidders go and look for it. If you have 100% positive feedback, be sure to write that on every auction too.

Add NR to your titles: If you have extra space in a title, put ‘NR’ (no reserve) on the end. Bidders prefer auctions that don’t have a reserve price, and doing this lets them see that yours don’t.

Benefits not features: Make sure your description focuses on the benefits that your item can give to the customer, not just its features. This is a classic sales technique. If you have trouble with this, remember: ‘cheap’ is a feature, ‘save money’ is a benefit.

List more items: If you want more people to respond to your items, then list more items! You might find you have better like listing items at the same time, instead of one-by-one. There’s no need to use a Dutch auction – you can just keep two or three auctions going at once for an item you have more than one of in stock.

Accept unusual payment methods: To reach those last few buyers, accept payment methods that many sellers don’t, like cheques.

Buy some upgrades: The best upgrade is the most expensive one, which makes your item appear first in search results. In crowded categories, you might find that this is worth the money.

Once you’ve got some buyers, you want to keep them coming back to you. The next email will show you how to turn one-time buyers into long-term customers.

eBay Description Writing Tips.

Once you’ve drawn the buyers in with your title, the next thing to do is to tell them all about your item with the description. But just what should you write in your description?

At its heart, your item description is an ad. Without making it too obvious, you should be writing sales copy. You’re trying to get buyers excited about your products, and that’s usually hard – but on eBay, if you have the right thing to sell and give enough details, the buyers almost excite themselves.

Technical Details.

Include every technical detail you know, including the item’s manufacturer, its condition, how big it is, where and when it was made, its history, and anything else special about it. Don’t be too boring, though: the best descriptions are written in friendly, conversational language, and show a real knowledge of the item. Whatever you do, make sure you tell the truth!

Remember that most of the people who’ll be buying your item will be just as knowledgeable about it as you are, if not more – this is their hobby, and they’re experts. Don’t feel like you need to explain the basics of the item: just go into as much technical detail as you can. As a rule, don’t write anything in the description if you don’t know what it means, as the chances are someone will, and if you’ve got it slightly wrong then you’ll look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Interesting Details.

You might find that you enjoy writing a few things about how you got the item, why you’re selling it, and who you think might like it. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it gives your auctions some character and a personal touch, and can make people more likely to trust you. People might wonder what you’re doing selling 500 CDs all at once, and if you tell them the reason, then they’ll feel reassured that nothing dodgy is going on. If you’re selling them because you’re having a baby and you need the space, just say so.

Write as Much as You Can.

Leave nothing out of your description, even if that seems to you like it makes it cumbersomely long. There is no way you can be too thorough: someone, somewhere will appreciate that you took the time to write the extra information.

Don’t assume that anyone who wants extra information will email you to ask a question: many buyers are shy and won’t do it. Think of questions that buyers might have and add the answers to your description, as people generally tend to ask the same questions over and over again.

Each time a buyer does email you with a question, you should both answer their question and update your description so that it will include the answer next time. If people ask questions that are answered in the description, try putting these parts of the auction on a line alone, or in bold, to make them easier to notice.

In the next email, we’ll focus on increasing the number of buyers who respond to your auctions.

eBay Title Writing Tips.

Trying to be help your buyers find your auctions can be a truly daunting task. Most people only search eBay by title, not by description, and that means that you only have those 55 characters of the title to cover all the possible search terms. That’s not easy. In this email, I’ll give you a few pointers.

Don’t bother with eBay clichés: There are plenty of eBay auction titles that say things like « Super rare camera wow look low price ». These are stupid things to put in your title, as no-one is going to search for them.

Think like a buyer: If you were looking for your item, then what exactly would you type into that box? If you think it’d help, try searching yourself to find someone else selling your item. What were the first things you thought of typing?

Think like other sellers: Keep an eye on which sellers are doing best with items like yours, and try to copy their title styles – if it works for them, it can work for you.

Be specific: You should be sure to write the item’s brand and specific model number in the title, as people will often search only for this information. Make sure that you also say exactly what the item is.

A Few Examples.

Here are a few examples of good titles. They’re real, and they’re on eBay right now, making their sellers money. So what makes them good?

« Dell Latitude Laptop P3 500mhz Notebook PC Computer »

If you know about computers, you’ll know instantly what this auction is selling. It has manufacturer (Dell) and product line (Latitude), followed by a few technical specifications (P3 500mhz is the processor speed). Notice also that the title includes the four words ‘laptop’, ‘notebook’, ‘PC’ and ‘computer’, as the seller wants people looking for any of those words to see his auction.

« OASIS Don’t Believe the Truth CD Album (New) »

This auction for a CD is well formatted: it gives the artist name in capital letters, followed by the album name. It then manages to include the two key words ‘CD’ and ‘album’, as well as the word ‘new’ – that means that anyone searching for ‘new oasis cd’, ‘oasis new album’ and so on will find this auction.

« 1840 Penny Black stamp, certificate, four margins »

Here’s a slightly more obscure one, from the exciting world of stamp collecting. A penny black is one of the oldest and most famous stamps. It uses a few key words that collectors will consider important: ‘four margins’ indicates that the stamp has been cut out with some margins around it and so isn’t damaged, and ‘certificate’ tells you that the item has a certificate of authenticity – it’s a real penny black. Remember to use every bit of space to squeeze in as much important information as you can in the title.

So now that you’ve written a winning title, you need to start on a great description. The next email will show you how.

How to Choose the Right eBay Product Category.

Some people think it’s easy to choose the right eBay category, and often it is. Sometimes, though, it might not be quite clear exactly what to go for.

Why is it Even Important?

Plenty of people use the category system to find items, when they’re not looking for something specific. If your item is listed in the wrong category – or you’ve just given up and listed it in ‘Everything Else’ – then these people aren’t going to find your auction.

Also, listing items in the wrong categories is against eBay’s rules, and eBay say they will remove any auctions that are wrongly categorised. They don’t often actually do this, but it’s not worth the risk – especially since breaking any rules can cause them to penalise your account, including losing PowerSeller status if you have it.

So What Can You Do?

eBay will suggest categories for you when you sell your item, if you type in a few words to describe the item on the category selection page and click ‘search’. You can make the best of this feature by typing in exactly what your item is, with brand name and model number (if any), so that eBay can find the best category for you.

If that doesn’t work for you, then search yourself for items like yours, and pay attention to which category most of them seem to be in (you can see this near the top of each item’s description page). Try different words and see which ones come back with the most results. You can also browse through all the available categories from eBay’s front page.

Remember that the more specific the category is, the better – use as many subcategories as are appropriate. Don’t just list your HP laptop in the ‘Computers’ category, for example – list it in ‘Computers > Laptops > HP’. Don’t worry: your item will still appear in the ‘Computers’ category, as well as ‘Computers > Laptops’, because items listed in subcategories are always listed in every category above.

Take some time to look through all the categories and get familiar with the way eBay as a whole is laid out. After all, that’s better than getting a few months down the line and finding that you still think of eBay’s category system like it’s some kind of scary jungle.

What if More Than One Category Fits?

Don’t worry, eBay have you covered. For a small extra fee, you can list your item in an extra category, to increase the number of potential buyers who will see it. This isn’t always worth it, though – some items only really fit properly in one category, and listing them in extra categories is just a waste.

Once you know where to list your item, the next step is to write your auction’s title. The title is the most important thing about your auction – the difference between a good title and a bad title can be the difference between $10 and $100. That’s why I’ll take you through the dos and don’ts in the next email.

Taming the eBay Search Engine.

If you know what you’re doing, you can quickly find what you’re looking for on eBay – and the more you know about how buyers find you, the easier you’ll find it to be found. Here are a few golden searching rules.

Be specific: If you’re searching for the first edition of the original Harry Potter book, you’ll get further searching for ‘harry potter rowling philosopher’s stone first edition’ than you will searching for ‘harry potter’. You’ll get fewer results, but the ones you do get will be far more relevant.

Spell wrongly: It’s a sad fact that many of the sellers on eBay just can’t spell. Whatever you’re looking for, try thinking of a few common misspellings – you might find a few items here that have slipped through the cracks.

Get a thesaurus: You should try to search for all the different words that someone might use to describe an item, for example searching for both ‘TV’ and ‘television’, or for ‘phone’, ‘mobile’ and ‘cellphone’. Where you can, though, leave off the type of item altogether and search by things like brand and model.

Use the categories: Whenever you search, you’ll notice a list of categories at the side of your search results. If you just searched for the name of a CD, you should click the ‘CDs’ category to look at results in that category only. Why bother looking through a load of results that you don’t care about?

Don’t be afraid to browse: Once you’ve found the category that items you like seem to be in, why not click ‘Browse’ and take a look through the whole category? You might be surprised by what you find.

Few people realise just how powerful eBay’s search engine is – a few symbols here and there and it’ll work wonders for you.

Wildcard searches: You can put an asterisk (*) into a search phrase when you want to say ‘anything can go here’. For example, if you wanted to search for a 1950s car, you could search for ‘car 195*’. 195* will show results from any year in the 1950s.

In this order: If you put words in quotes («  ») then the only results shown will be ones that have all of the words between the quote marks. For example, searching for « Lord of the Rings » won’t give you any results that say, for example « Lord Robert Rings ».

Exclude words: Put a minus, and then put any words in brackets that you don’t want to appear in your search results. For example: « Pulp Fiction » -(poster,photo) will find items related to Pulp Fiction but not posters or photos.

Either/or: If you want to search for lots of words at once, just put them in brackets: the TV example from earlier could become ‘(TV,television)’, which would find items with either word.

Don’t get too tied up learning the ways of the search engine, though: a surprising number of eBay users don’t search at all, preferring to look through eBay’s category system and save their favourites in their browser. The next email will show you how to make sure these people can find you too.

How to Use eBay to Grow Your Other Businesses.

Most of the people who make money from eBay don’t actually make all of that money on eBay. There are all sorts of ways you can use eBay to give your existing businesses a helping hand.

The Supply Side.

If you have any leftover stock or used items from another business you run, then why not sell them on eBay? You can make this a regular thing, using it to get rid of things that won’t sell for the premium you ask for in a shop, or items that are no longer in demand in the town or city where your business is based.

You can really make a lot of money this way, if you know what you’re doing. You will, of course, already be an expert in the items you’re selling, as you use them in your business, and you’ll know that the items are of high enough quality to be sellable. This is a whole new market for your old inventory!

Not only that, of course, but remember that your good eBay reputation will make you a great buyer! If there’s ever anything you want to get for your business, the chances are you’ll be able to get it on eBay for a discount.

The Sales Side.

Here, though, is where the true power of eBay lies. eBay give you an ‘About Me’ page, where you can write anything you like and link anywhere you like. This means that you can get traffic to your business’ website by linking to your website from your About Me page and linking to your About Me page from each auction.

To create an About Me page, just click on ‘Community’ on the toolbar, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click ‘Create an About Me page’. You then get the option to either enter your own HTML or let eBay guide you through the process. All you need to do is write a little about your website, link to it, and you’re done – you’ll notice that more people start to come to your site straight away.

There are thousands of people who swear by this technique to drive traffic from eBay to their website – with a little persuasive sales copy on your site, they say, you can sell directly to buyers, cutting out the eBay middleman. What’s more, all the traffic you’ll get will be targeted – because the people who click through were interested in your auction to begin with.

This can be a really powerful technique, especially if you’ve already got an e-commerce site. Even if you haven’t, you might find it worth your time to set up a website that does nothing but list your eBay inventory with a few dollars off each item, with a PayPal ‘Buy Now’ button for each item. Then simply make the link to your About Me page read ‘Visit my website for even more bargains!’, and you’re done.

Now that you’ve seen how to drive visitors to your website, maybe you’d like a little help getting your auction in front of buyers. That’s why our next email will show you the secrets of taming the eBay search engine.

How to Think Like an eBay PowerSeller.

So what’s a PowerSeller? PowerSellers are the people on eBay who’ve made it, recognisable by the little ‘PowerSeller’ badge next to their name. You’ve probably seen these people around – and to succeed on eBay, you want to think the way they do.

How to People Get the Right to Call Themselves PowerSellers?

eBay gets to decide who can be a PowerSeller and who can’t, and they have strict requirements. To get in at the minimum PowerSeller level, you must have a feedback rating of at least 100 (minimum 98% positive) and sell at least $1,000 worth of items every month for three months in a row. There are different levels of PowerSeller membership as you sell items of greater value: $1,000 total is bronze, $3,000 is silver, $10,000 is gold, $25,000 is platinum and $125,000 is titanium.

If PowerSellers ever fail to meet the required amount of sales, or their feedback falls below 98% positive, then they lose their PowerSeller status. In short, the only people who get to be PowerSellers on eBay are the people who have been successful for a good while, and are on track to stay that way.

The Shop and the Marketplace.

This is the most important part of understanding how PowerSellers think. They don’t see what they’re doing as being some random bazaar, or a hobby – instead, they see themselves as a business.

Put it like this. If you run a stall in a marketplace, the chances are that you have a general area of business, but you mostly just sell whatever you can get your hands on that week. If your dodgy buddy got his hands of a job lot of something at a discount, then that’s what you’ll be selling. This might be fun – and when you have a good week, you’ll have a really good week – but it’s no way to run a real business in the long-term.

PowerSellers think far more like shops. They sell the same things again and again, every week – regular stock for regular customers. They do ‘boring’ business things like keep inventories and budgets. They know what they’re going to be selling, how much they buy it for and how much they expect to sell for. Just like a real shop, there can be hard times sometimes, but their income is stable and their business can grow slowly.

The best advice I can give you on thinking like a PowerSeller is this: don’t take long-term risks for short-term gain. Look after your reputation, manage your selling properly, provide good customer service and the rewards will come to you in due course. And you’ll get a little badge next to your name that makes people trust you more!

One possibility that you might have realised so far is what eBay can do for any other businesses you might have. Remember, millions of people visit eBay every day – why keep everything separate when you’re starting to tap into that kind of power? The next email will show you a few ways you can use eBay to grow your other businesses.

eBay – Part Time or Full? How to Decide.

Going full-time as an eBay seller is living the dream: making a real income, working from home, being your own boss and all the rest of it. It’s the promise of a million scams, and it’s finally come true – at least for some.

What they don’t tell you in the success stories, though, is that becoming a full-time eBay seller is by no means for everyone. You really, really ought to try it part-time before you even consider taking it up full-time, and even then, caution is advisable. Before you burn your suit, here’s a list of questions you should ask yourself.

How Much Do I Earn From eBay Now?

Work out how many hours a week you spend doing eBay-related things (be honest here), and divide it by the average amount of profit you make in a week. If you were doing full-time hours, would you earn as much as you earn now?

Do I Have a Good Job?

Think about what you might lose if you give up your job to focus on eBay. If you’re in a well-paid job with good promotion prospects then it’s well worth reconsidering: you might get a few years down the line and wish you’d stayed in your traditional job, as you’d probably be the CEO by now.

Would I Really Make Much More Money?

Unless you’re selling a large quantity of small goods, most of what you do on eBay will be waiting for auctions to end – and you can wait at work just as easily as you can at home. This is why whether you would make more money on eBay really depends on what kinds of items you’re selling – for low value items, going full-time could be a good move. For high-value ones, the chances are you’ll hit the limits of how much money you have to invest in inventory long before you hit the limits on your time.

Is my Home a Good Place to Work?

Quite apart from anything else, you might find that the dream of home working is more of a nightmare in reality. People can start to depend on you to get things done that need to be done during the day. If you have a wife and children then they can resent the fact that you’re in the house but refuse to have anything to do with them for large parts of the day. Giving in to any of these things and stopping work for a while will cause your profits to fall.

Can I Survive if it All Goes Wrong?

In the end, would you be able to get by if you had a month or two where you sold literally nothing? Or would you be desperately looking around for a job and cursing the day you ever discovered eBay? That’s the real test.

If you made it through all these questions, then I guess you’re cut out for the eBay life – and even if you didn’t, you’d be surprised just how far you can get part-time. In our next email, we’ll show you how to think like the eBay elite: the PowerSellers.

10 Steps to Successful Selling on eBay.

So you want to be a successful seller with your own eBay business, do you? Here’s a simple, ten-step path to eBay enlightenment.

Step 1: Identify your market. Take a while to sit and watch for what sells and what doesn’t out of the items you’re interested in. Any market research data you can collect will be very useful to you later on. You’ll probably see the ‘sweet spots’ quite quickly – those one or two items that always seem to sell for a good price.

Step 2: Watch the competition. Before you invest any money, see what the other sellers in your category are up to, and what their strategies are. Pay special attention to any flaws their auctions might have, because this is where you can move in and beat them at their own game.

Step 3: Find a product: Get hold of a supplier for whatever it is you want to sell, and see what the best rates you can get are – don’t be afraid to ring round quite a few to get the best deal. If the eBay prices you’ve seen are higher than the supplier’s, then you’re set.

Step 4: Start small: Don’t throw thousands at your idea straight away – get started slowly, see what works and what doesn’t, and learn as you go. Remember that it’s very cheap to try out even the craziest ideas on eBay, and who knows, they might just work!

Step 5: Test and repeat. Keep trying different strategies until you find something that works, and then don’t be ashamed to keep doing it, again and again. The chances are that you’ve just found a good niche.

Step 6: Work out a business plan: A business plan doesn’t need to be anything formal, just a few pages that outline the market opportunity you’ve spotted, your strategy, strengths and weaknesses of the plan and a brief budget. This is more for you than it is for anyone else.

Step 7: Invest and expand: This is the time to throw money at the problem. Buy inventory, and start spending more time on your business. Set a goal number of sales each week, increasing it each time.

Step 8: Make it official: Once you’ve made a few thousand dollars worth of sales, you should really register yourself as a business. Don’t worry, it’s not expensive or hard to do – a lawyer is the best person to help you through the process.

Step 9: Automate: You’ll probably find that you’re writing the same things again and again in emails or item descriptions. This is the time to give up on the manual method and turn to automated software that can create listings for you, and respond to completed auctions and payments with whatever message you provide.

Step 10: Never give up: Even when it looks like it’s all going wrong, don’t stop trying until you succeed. If you keep working at it then you’ll almost always find that you make a real breakthrough just when things are starting to look desperate.

Once you get into the swing of things, you might start thinking that you should quit your job and take up eBay selling part time. But it’s not always as easy as that – there are all sorts of factors that you need to consider. The next email will weigh up the case for and against taking up eBay full-time.