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eBay Keyword Rules Explained

This is part two of a series on eBay Keywords. Part one covered Selecting eBay Categories And Keywords.

I got a question from a reader asking about keyword stuffing on eBay. She wanted to know exactly what it is, and why I recommend against it.

Keyword spamming or stuffing is using unrelated extra words in your auctions so you show up in more searches. Keywords are words people search under.

Keyword spamming is probably the most frequently broken eBay rule.

Keyword Spamming in Auction Titles

A common example is done by using the word not in the title like this:

Old Timex Watch not Rolex or Swatch.

If you're not aware of watch brand names, Rolex is a well known expensive brand. Timex is a cheap durable throw away watch, and Swatch makes inexpensive fashion watches for teenage girls.

eBay sellers use these misleading titles to get more people to view their auctions. In this case Rolex and Swatch are extra keywords unrelated to the actual item being sold.

I use this as an example because it is silly. Someone searching for a Rolex watch on eBay is not likely to be distracted by a Timex. A teenager searching for a purple Swatch is unlikely to look at a Timex either.

Keyword Spamming in Descriptions

Another way people add extra keywords to their auctions is in the description. You have surely seen eBay descriptions with lists of words in them. This is a less effective way to get more exposure because the majority of eBay buyers do not search by title and description. Depending on the study 60-75 percent of searches are title only searches.

These eBay sellers believe getting their auctions to come up in more searches results in higher prices. While keyword stuffing will cause the listing to come up in more searches, it will only result in extra bidding if the extra terms are related.

In the example auction title above, there is little chance a Swatch or Rolex searcher will look at a Timex, let alone bid on it. In fact, there is a good chance the auction will be ended by eBay and the seller will get a warning about keyword spamming.

Swatch and Rolex are only related to Timex because they are all watch makers. There is no cross over.

Using Extra Keywords Within eBay's Rules

In other cases, extra keywords can have a positive effect on price. In these cases you'll want to use extra Keywords. Here's an example. I sell trains and toys. Two 1930s makers of toy trains are Lionel and Marx.

In addition to making trains, Marx made a wide selection of accessories for train layouts. Things like street lights, stations, and bridges. It's very common to see these accessories on Lionel layouts, and Lionel collectors will usually pay more for them than Marx collectors.

A strict reading of eBay rules would suggest listing Marx accessories in the Lionel categories, or using the word Lionel in the title or description is not allowed.

This is not true.

Here's the rule taken directly from eBay:

"All listed items must be listed in an appropriate category."

Also eBay keyword rules expressly state the use of brand names for compatibility is allowed. Here's the eBay rule:

"You are allowed to list other brand names items with which the item you are offering is compatible."

Marx towers are appropriate for use with Lionel trains and eBay rules allow us to use brand names in order to demonstrate compatibility.

There is a second exception to the keyword rule concerning comparisons. Here's the wording from eBay:

"In your description only, you are allowed to compare the item you are offering to one other similar product, so long as your listing is not misleading in any way as to which company made the item offered."

Using this exception, I can list the Marx towers as all metal yet cheaper alternatives to the plastic towers made by Lionel. Note you cannot use comparisons in the auction title. Most comparisons in the title use the word "like" so avoid the word "like." (Actually you should avoid using the word like in your eBay titles.) In your titles you need to use the compatibility exception.


Unacceptable Title: Marx Metal Floodlight Tower not Lionel

Unacceptable Title: Marx Metal Floodlight Tower like Lionel

Acceptable Title: Marx Metal Floodlight Tower use with Lionel

Using as many keywords as possible in your titles and descriptions will help your get more visitors to your eBay auctions. These visitors will usually result in higher selling prices.

You just have to pay attention to the rules. Don't use lists of words in your descriptions, use sentences.

Part 3 covers Finding eBay Keywords.


PS. Even if you follow eBay rules - which I recommend, sooner or later some nitpicker with nothing better to do will complain to eBay about you violating the rules. Ebay will only contact you if the representative who gets the email thinks you are breaking the rules. When this happens, read the rules and explain yourself politely. Ask for clarification about what you can do and keep the response.

You can read eBay's rules on using keywords here.

Part 3 covers Finding eBay Keywords.

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