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Improving your eBay Auctions By Testing

Back when I was doing free weekly eBay coaching sessions, I did many eBay auction reviews. During the reviews, I suggest changes and things to test. In today's article I am going to discuss testing. Specifically what to test, and how to test.

When I was in college, I had a instructor come into class the week before finals and hand out a sheet of paper with information about what would be on the test.

The sheet said one word. . .


I wasn't happy back then, but it's appropriate here. You need to test everything because tracking and testing to incrementally improve your results is a wise strategy.

When I worked as a marketing analyst we tracked and tested everything. You don't need to be as diligent as I was, but tracking and testing will certainly help you increase your profitability.

One note here, some things aren't worth testing. For example, it would be a waste of your time to test including images in your auctions because we know photos increase bids. You might want to test the size and locations of your photos, but you wouldn't test running an auction with and without photos.

Before you start testing things, here's 19 Ways To Quickly Improve Your eBay Auctions.

Some of the things I have suggested testing during the web coaching sessions are:

  • Trying to stand out from a crowd by offering free shipping or lowering prices and raising shipping costs.
  • Changing the keywords in the your auction titles. Did you know eBay will tell you the five most frequently searched phrases for each category. Well eBay does. Even better, eBay even puts them in order. You can find these five most frequent searches by going into any category and looking at the "Related Searches" links found just under the search box at the top of every category page.
  • Removing links to store items. I've seen a lot of auctions with columns of links to store categories. Do these links help people find additional items or distract them from the single listing? I don't know.
  • Trying different eBay categories, or using the two category option. I know from my past results a Marx toy train accessory will usually bring more money listed in one of the Lionel categories. (Lionel and Marx are different brands of toy trains.) I wouldn't know that if I hadn't tested it.

    A short aside here. EBay's rules say you must list the item in the most relevant category. Because there is a Marx category, the item should be listed there. To get around this, I list in BOTH categories, and include the words "USE WITH LIONEL" in the title. That is also an acceptable way to get a keyword into a title. "USE WITH," or "FOR" and the secondary keyword.

  • Remember to pay attention to the eBay listing fees when selecting prices to test. An auction listed with a starting price of $9.99, will cost you 25 cents less in listing fees than the same auction with a starting price of $10.00.

    I once sold a case of the same product one at a time over the course of a few months. Every week the same listing with the only change being the starting price. Prices above $7.00 brought the lowest results, while prices under 2.99 brought the highest results.

    Starting lower resulting in higher bids tends to hold true across all items I have tested to the point where I now list almost everything at initial prices below a dollar. This also saves me listing fees.

  • Photographs. I am starting to see a correlation between having lots of large clear images and lower selling amounts. I think this is because the bigger photos exaggerate the defects. Today I am using fewer images in auctions for items I expect to sell for under $500.

    I have also seen some results leading me to believe having small clickable or thumb nailed images leading to larger images lowers bidding on items with values below a few hundred dollars. Especially when the thumb nailed images lead to images that are slow to load. More on eBay photos.

  • Having extraneous information in your auction descriptions is another thing to test. I don't like to put anything in my auction descriptions except a short link to my eBay Me page, a detailed description of the item for sale, a statement explaining shipping charges, and a clickable link to my other auctions. I see a lot of auctions with exhortations and warnings to non paying bidders and other distractions. I never use these in my auctions, but if you do, you should test removing this from your listings.
  • Your Guarantee. We tend to be afraid of offering liberal guarantees because we think people will take advantage of us. Start with a simple guarantee offering the purchase price back.

    With one of the books I wrote to sell on eBay I found the best guarantee was to tell the buyer to write his name and address written on the inside front cover then rip the cover off and mail it to me. I didn't start with that guarantee, I worked my way up to it as my confidence and comfort grew.

  • One last thing to test, your audience. I know my toy train buyers are either collectors, operators, dabblers, or dealers. Writing my listings geared toward collectors or operators forces me to address their concerns in my listings and helps identify specific keywords. (Dealers and dabblers will respond well to descriptions aimed at the other two groups.

    You might not be able to identify your audience by testing keywords. You might have to ask your buyers why they are purchasing the items. And your audience might not be who you think it is.

    Here's an example. Dr. Peter Dixon attended a web coaching session and asked about finding related affiliate products he could sell to his eBay buyers. Peter sells trees on eBay so my first thought was his audience is made up of gardeners. Thinking this I showed him how to find gardening related products.

    When I talked to him later, he said he thinks his buyers are not gardeners, but people seeking naturopathic and home remedies.

    That's two different groups of potential buyers. But it's more confusing than that.

    You see, during the coaching session, I recommend Peter insert a tracking code provided by Sellathon.com into his auctions so he could see what keywords were bringing people into his auctions.

    After a week of data provided by Sellathon, it looks like many of his buyers are nostalgia buyers looking for plants from their homelands. (The trees he sells are grown from seeds his wife's family ships him from the Philippines.)

    Any three of these groups could be the bulk of Peter's market. Knowing which one is the majority will take more time, but once he knows, he can tailor his auctions to the biggest group while including information for the smaller groups.

There are a lot of other things you can test, but the ones I have listed here are the ones that will have the biggest return for your time.


PS. Here's an article on common eBay selling mistakes.

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