Before we start, I’m going to make an assumption – you are reading this because you want to find out how to get your eBay listings to appear at the top of relevant search results, so that you can in-turn drive more traffic to these listings and increase your sales.
Sound about right?
Well, the good news is that you’re in the right place. Throughout this article we will outline what you need to do to increase the visibility of your listings, ensuring they rank well for even the most advanced eBay searches.
Ultimately, if you want to sell more on eBay, you will need to make sure the following tips and best practices are a key part of your selling strategy.
Keep in mind that in order to scale your eBay business effectively, you'll eventually need to invest in eBay inventory management software to prevent account suspension, expand across eBay's worldwide sites and build a more profitable business.
So, what’s the secret to ranking high enough that your products are seen by customers looking for something that you sell?
In short, the answer to this is understanding how buyers search on eBay, and more specifically, how your potential customers are using eBay’s search engine - Cassini.
Rolled out back in 2013, eBay’s internal search engine, Cassini, has the integral role of determining how well a listing meets the user’s search criteria and ranking each listing accordingly.
Now while there a range of ranking factors Cassini uses for its Best Match Algorithm, several of which we will outline later in this article, without a solid understanding of your customer’s search behaviour and the process they take to find your products, you may well be missing out on views, traffic and more importantly sales.
To get started, there are three fundamental things you should be addressing when it comes to creating your eBay listings:
- The keywords that eBay buyers are using to search for an item that you sell
- How these same customers are filtering their eBay search
- How eBay decide how to rank listings
So, let’s start with keywords.
Keywords are essentially the phrases or individual words that a buyer will use to search for a particular item. Being able to identify the right keywords for your product and using them in your title can make a huge difference to the amount of traffic that your eBay listings attracts. After all, the closer your title comes to matching a search query, the more likely it is to be seen by a potential customer.
Of course, there’s a whole algorithm behind eBay search rankings i.e. how high up your listing ranks on the search results page, and while we’ll get to that in a bit, your starting point should be to optimise your listing titles for increased visibility.
How to identify the keywords your customers are searching for on eBay
There are a number of steps you can take to identify relevant keywords, however one of the most effective things you can start by doing is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes – think about which search terms are they likely to be using to find your products.
Let’s say you are selling a pair of men’s brown leather shoes. Think about the details they would be searching for – brand name, colour, style, as well as any other relevant details. The examples below should give you an idea of the sorts of titles retailers selling brown shoes are using.
Ideally, you should be as detailed as your 80 character title limit allows, keeping in mind that the more descriptive a users’ search query is, the more likely they are to make a purchase.
Now while brainstorming keyword ideas can go a long way, it can also help to use a tool to understand general search demand for the search terms you’ve identified. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great resource for understanding the monthly search volumes for individual keywords and Google Trends can provide relative search volumes over time, which is particularly useful for understanding things such as seasonal demand.
The eBay Search Bar is another useful tool, as it delivers the most popular search queries related to your keywords. For more guidance on how to use the eBay search engine to not only identify popular search terms, but also products that are in high demand on the marketplace, we would highly recommend having a read of this guide.
Once you’ve got a better understanding of how to conduct keyword research for your eBay titles, you will need to think about how users refine/filter their product searches when looking for a specific item.
Optimising your product listings for eBay Advanced Search
Sure, the titles you use for your eBay listings are certainly an important ranking factor, and of course they play a crucial role in convincing customers to click on your listings, but they’re not the only thing considered.
The reality is, optimising your titles is only the first step in increasing the visibility of your listings, and to improve your chances of appearing at the top of the page, or even at all, you will need to complete the Item Specifics for each one.
Because when a user refines their eBay search on mobile (or alternatively uses eBay’s advanced search feature on desktop), eBay will filter out the listings that don’t match their requirements.
In fact, unless the user manually selects the ‘Search in Description’ option, which is unticked by default, eBay will only include the listings that have the appropriate item specifics.
This means that unless eBay knows the Item Specifics for each and every one of your listings, it won’t know that your product is a good match for the customer and therefore won’t display your listing in their search results.
A pretty big deal, right?
Just before I dive deeper on this topic, it’s worth clarifying what exactly these item specifics could be. To give you an idea, examples include product category, main colour, show size, collar size, material, length, style, fit and so on. It will be entirely dependent on the type of product you are selling.
Here’s an example of how Item Specifics work in a common search query.
As you can see, a search for brown shoes in the Men’s Shoes category delivers 327.504 results. Now if a buyer was to refine this search by selecting the shoe size as UK 9, they would then be provided with 47,740 results. Again, just to reiterate the point, if you hadn’t selected the item specific as size 9, your listing wouldn’t be one of the 47,740 listings.
Now assuming the buyer was specifically looking for desert boots, they would then be provided with 1,101 results, a lot less than the original 327,504 for brown shoes.
The problem is, even though including item specifics gets you on the list, 1,101 is still a huge amount of listings to compete against. In reality, unless you’re at the top of the page, it’s highly unlikely your product will be seen at all.
Optimising your listings for eBay’s Best Match algorithm
Again, creating a great eBay title and including item specifics will only get you so far, because if you want to rank high enough to be seen by potential customers, you will need to consider some of eBay’s ranking factors.
While eBay don’t outright tell us how much influence each factor has on your ranking position, they do provide some insight into the most common factors that are considered when it comes their sorting algorithm, Best Match. These typically include:
- Competitive pricing and reasonable shipping costs
Price isn’t everything but it’s worth noting that the item price plus shipping can influence your search position, for the simple reason that it is the price that drives sales in the first place, which directly influences your seller performance.
That aside, listings that offer free shipping do also achieve a higher placement in search results on eBay, certainly making it an option worth considering.
- List in the correct categories
Selecting the correct category for your product is incredibly important, mainly because it enables you to use the most relevant item specifics, helping buyers find your listings. In addition to this, there are other implications to keep in mind when choosing your listing’s category, for instance if you want to list internationally, opting for the wrong category can significantly limit you from being found by international customers.
It’s also incredibly important that your listings comply with eBay’s active content regulations.
- Accurate and relevant titles
We’ve touched on how to create titles using keywords that your customers are actually searching for, but it’s also worth mentioning that eBay will take into consideration how accurate and relevant it is to the user’s search term.
This is why your titles should be as detailed as possible, taking advantage of your 80 character title limit. Interestingly, a recent study on Web Retailer found that the more keywords eBay sellers include in their titles, the better their listings perform. Title Builder who conducted the study also found that acronyms such as NWT, NIB and OEM etc aren’t necessary and take up wasted space, simply because customers don’t search for these terms.
So, what should you include in your eBay titles?
It will largely come down to your product, but you should look to include details such as the brand name, artist or designer and item specifics (think size and colour), while avoiding the likes of punctuation marks, ALL CAPS and words such as ‘wow’ or ‘look’. You can view eBay’s specific guidance here.
- Generous returns policy
eBay prefer sellers who offer a competitive returns policy, which is why you should consider offering a minimum of 30 day returns policy (something that is required for Top Rated Plus listings). If possible, it also helps to cover the cost of the return.
- High-quality product photos
Always use high-quality, professional looking photos to showcase your products. These photos should clearly convey the item you are selling, which is why it is important that the colours are accurate and that you highlight any faults with the item.
- Seller rating and performance
One factor that almost always influences your search position on eBay is your performance as an eBay seller. Specifically, your performance is judged on things such as your feedback and policy compliance, with eBay preferring those with a higher DSR score, and even better an eBay Top Rated Seller status.
Something worth keeping in mind for those of you selling products in various sizes or colours, is that by using variation listings the sales history of each listing will be combined, in-turn strengthening your seller performance.
An important thing to remember is that just like all search algorithms, eBay’s Best Match is subject to change. By optimising your listings well enough that they address each of the Cassini search engine’s requirements, you do, however, increase your chances of appearing at the top of all relevant search queries.
For more guidance on improving your seller rating and performance as a whole, have a read of our detailed article on growing a successful eBay business.
How to create listings that convert
The whole purpose of optimising your listings for increased visibility is so that they generate sales. What you may not be aware of, however, is that the Cassini Search Engine considers the relationship between how many times your listing has been seen and the number of sales you generate, as part of its sorting criteria.
This essentially means that having high visibility can actually be detrimental if your listings aren’t converting into sales, making it all the more important to look beyond eBay SEO and think about how to turn views into sales.
Below, we have further outlined some best practices that you can (and should) follow, in order to sell more on eBay:
- Use high-quality images
We’ve already talked about how images can help improve your search position, but more importantly they help convince customers to go one step further and purchase your products. With 12 images available free-of-charge, it’s a no-brainer that you fully showcase your items (faults and all). eBay themselves have some great tips on how to take high-quality photos, which we would recommend reading.
If you don’t have time to read it at present, a few things worth noting are to make sure you are accurately conveying product details such as colour and any faults, while also avoiding the use of text or artwork on the image (including tags such as Free Shipping or your logo). eBay further require a minimum length of 500 pixels on the longest side of the image, however if your images are over 800 pixels, you will enable the free zoom/enlarge feature on the view item page which can also increase the chances of making a sale.
- Create detailed product descriptions
When writing your item’s description, make sure you are describing the item in as much detail as you can. eBay suggest using around 200 words of text, however you should avoid using non-relevant information as the search engine will only read a certain amount of information per page. In addition to this, you should use image alt tags, add links to your other products and your eBay store, and avoid keyword spamming. With regards to links, do keep in mind that text such as “Visit my Store” and “See other items” will be more effective than simply using “Click here”.
- Free postage
While it may not always be viable to offer free shipping, it is certainly something that can encourage more sales.
- A clear returns policy
Ensure you include your returns policy within your listing. If you’re not sure what you should be including, take a look at this eBay returns policy checklist.
- Competitive pricing
While pricing is of course one of the factors that encourages a user to view your listing in the first place, it is still something you should keep in mind when it comes to converting them. If you are a Linnworks user, we would recommend that you download the eBay Price and Competition Analysis App from our Linnworks Application Store.
- Good presentation
At the end of the day, regardless of whether you do all of the above, a poorly designed listing template is going to limit your success as an eBay seller. With this in mind, make sure your HTML template makes you look both professional and trustworthy. If you are looking for a HTML eBay listing template that you can edit to meet the needs of your business, we have designed one that you can use free of charge.
Getting started with listing optimisation
Knowing that you need to optimise your listings in order to increase both visibility and sales is one thing, but finding the time to actually invest in doing it is entirely other.
The reality is, it comes down to prioritisation – if you want to generate more sales, you’re going to need to invest the time. To make the process easier for you, eBay themselves propose a plan that will require as little time as possible, yet has the potential to significantly increase your results.
1. Firstly, set aside an hour for research
- Take a sample of at least 10 listings that have had steady sales for the past 2-4 weeks
- For each listing, you will need to spend around 5 minutes researching the competition
- Start by typing in the phrase that you think buyers would search for and see where your listing appears
- Now apply the filters that your buyers are likely to select
- How visible is your item?
- Next, use advanced search to search for the following – live listings, completed listings and sold listings – write down what you notice and how your listing compares with those from other sellers
- Look at how they describe the same item, for example what keywords they are using
- Take a note of the price it is selling for
- Finally, think about what it is that is making buyers choose those listings over your own
2. Apply what you've learned
Amend your 10 listings based on what you've found
3. Monitor the results over the following two weeks
- How have these changes impacted your sales?
While following all of the steps and best practices listed above won't guarantee that your listings appear at the top of eBay search results (and in turn result in more sales), it will significantly increase your chances of increasing visibility and conversions. The final point to remember is that for listing optimisation to be effective, it is something that requires continuous work and simply doing some research once won't automatically make you a successful eBay seller.
To learn more about this topic, consider watching eBay’s webinar recording below.