Blog has moved!

We now have a new home for the blog. You will find all the old posts there and any new ones will be going there instead of this blog. We will keep tabs on this blog for a while but cannot gaurantee timely response to any comments. The new blog home is:

http://blog.scrobbld.com/

Please use the new blog for updates and comments.

Making eBay auction listings with HTML templates

Creating HTML listings gives you a great advantage over other dull and chaotic looking auction listings by giving the listing more flair and structure. They can make your listing stand out by create a lasting impact on the buyer and persuade them to buy your items.

So here I give an introduction of how to make an html listing using HTML and CSS. Don’t get scared, it is really simple as you will see below. The code explained below will generate a listing that looks like this (which will be embedded within your eBay listing):

HTML auction listing

HTML auction listing

First we define the styles that we will be using in the listing. You don’t need to understand this completely now, you can have a look, and as you move along this article, you will have a better idea of what it means.

So here’s the CSS styling.

<style>
#template_design {font-family:”Trebuchet MS”;}
#template_design .section {font-size:14px; padding-bottom:15px;}
#template_design .section h2 {font-size:18px; background-color:#eeeeee; padding:3px;}
#template_design .section h3 {font-size:16px;}
#template_design .section p {margin-left:5px;}
#template_design .section p.imagesSection {text-align:center;}
#template_design .section p.imagesSection img {margin-right:10px;}
#template_design .section .red {color:#ee0000;}
</style>

The CSS styling is enclosed in <style>…</style> tags. Headings are represented by <h2>…</h2> and <h3>…</h3>. 2,3 represent the levels of headings, so h2 is a higher level heading (bigger text) and h3 is a lower level heading (smaller text). Colors are defined in a particular code called HEX code preceded by a # symbol. A list of color codes can be found here.

Lets have a look at a small piece of HTML code now. (Note: Text enclosed in <!– xyz –> is a comment and will not show in the actual HTML page.)

<!– Begining of a section –>
<div class=”section”>
<h2>Photos</h2>
<p class=”imagesSection”>
<!– replace the src and alt atribute values below this line –>
<img src=”sony_vaio_1.png” alt=”replace_with_image_label1″ />
<img src=”sony_vaio_2.png” alt=”replace_with_image_label2″ />
</p>
</div>
<!– end of section –>

The code above defines a section of the listing. This could be the “Photos”, “Description” or any other section. You can change the section heading by replacing the text between the <h2>…</h2> tags which says ‘Photos’ in this case. You can add you own images by replacing the src=”” attribute’s value which says “sony_vaio_1.png” . This will a url to an image that you have uploaded either on eBay or somewhere else on the internet using one of a number of sites. You can remove images by removing the <img /> tag completely or you can add more by adding more <img /> tags.

Let’s have a look at another example, this time of the ‘Description’ section:

<!– Begining of a section –>
<div class=”section”>
<h2>Description</h2>
<!– replace the text below this line, remove if not required –>
<p>Replace this with some description of your product, line 1.</p>
<p>Replace this with some description of your product, line 2.</p>

<!– add class=”red” like below to make the text red, remove if not required–>
<p class=”red”>Add class=”red” to make the color red, line 3</p>

<!– make a section of a line red, remove if not required –>
<p>Make a <span class=”red”>section of a line red</span>, line 4</p>

<!– you can add subheadings like this, remove if not required –>
<h3>Subheading</h3>
<p>Some text under the subheading</p>

<!– you can add lists like this, remove if not required –>
<h3>List heading</h3>
<ul>
<li>List item 1</li>
<li>List item 2</li>
<li>List item 3</li>
</ul>
<!– end of list –>

</div>
<!– end of section –>

You can add new paragraphs in your description by adding text enclosed in <p>…</p> tags. If you write <p class=”red”>…</p> then the enclosed text will be red in color. You can define other colors also by adding the color definition to the CSS code at the top, as it has been done for ‘red’. If you want to make a part of a paragraph red, then enclose the text between <span class=”red”>…</span> tags.

You can add lists to the listing as shown in the code here by enclosing the whole list in <ul>…</ul> tags and then each list item in <li>…</li> tags.

Using the principles above, you can create the rest of the listing. Look at the complete code by downloading the file below.

Download the sample template which includes all the text given above together with the images in one zipped file here.

Ebay also has some advice on making HTML listings.

UPDATE: Please note that our blog has moved to http://blog.scrobbld.com/

How to avoid unwanted item returns from buyers on eBay?

You wake up one morning, you decide to list an item and make sure it is working and add a description. The item sells and everything looks good. A few days later you receive an email from the buyer accusing you of listing faulty goods or that the item is not as described. You say that the item was actually working when you sent it and it was probably damaged in the post. Subsequently, the buyer says that they wants to return the item, though refuse to pay the postage since ‘it is not his fault’ and ‘they are being patient over the matter’. He also mentions that he is willing not to leave negative feedback if everything goes fine. If you are a professional seller you probably send a prepaid envelope or pay for the postage and send another item or refund him. What a headache, Right?

But what can a seller do to avoid this. If you are already locked into a similar experience you might have to bite the bullet and take it as experience but here are a few guidelines to reduce the risks in future:

  • Cover yourself with your description: State the condition of your item and clearly mention the return policy if you have one, time limits, restocking fees, shipment responsibilities, and fees (that can be import tax fees).
  • Always watch your buyers, look at their feedback ratings and if there are any questionable ones contact the sellers to ask for their experience. Take advantage of eBay tools to block unwanted buyers and cancel bids.
  • Report the suspicious buyers to eBay.
  • If you think a buyer is registered under a false identity or address you can also report that specifically.
  • After the buyer is suspended open an unpaid item dispute.
  • Keep documents and pictures of your item and provide proof to eBay, PayPal and credit companies if required.

The sellers community can very much reduce the number of such events if they take the above measures, and discuss issues with other sellers. In general, just be careful and the selling experience can be a profitable and enjoyable experience.

Increasing Conversion Rates on eBay

The question is do you really want conversions? No you don’t, you only want conversions at the prices you want. So here are a few hints:

Provide Accurate Descriptions: As you may have noticed from previous posts, clear descriptions are the key for successful sales. The rule of thumb for marketing is that an online seller has an average of 3 seconds to convince the buyer. So if you have to make a professional HTML template, then do it as soon as possible. Divide your descriptions into sections for postage, payment, return policy and specifications for your item. Be nice with your policies and think of yourself as a customer when writing them.

Category: List your items in the right category. It’s really a big turn off to see some items listed in unrelated categories.

Pictures: Try to take your own pictures if you can. Buyers are losing more and more confidence in nice studio pictures downloaded from manufacturers’ websites and prefer to know what they are actually buying.

Promotions: If you think it’s worth it, try promoting your item on eBay by highlighting your item and adding subtitles and so forth.

Combined Postage: Offering combined postage (sending more than one items in one postage) not only attracts customers to buy more of your items but gives you a fair advantage over the competition.

International Selling: This one is somehow obvious. Offering items on international markets will give more exposure and traffic to your listings. However it is important to note down a few things mentioned in our previous post on international selling.

SEO for Listings: For detailed descriptions on this please refer to the previous post on SEO for eBay listings.

SEO for eBay Stores: If you are also listing your items on eBay store read the guidelines on SEO for eBay stores.

Good Customer Relations: Your customers are your long term investments. If you offer good service, not only do you get your customers come back again and again, but they will also recommend you to their friends and family.

Greed is good, but be ready to take risks: It is a good idea to do the research on the market and optimize your pricing, but if you think you can get traffic by low price auctions, do it. You may lose once but you will definitely win later.

Offering Available Payment Options: Buyers prefer various payment options so try to offer as much options as possible. Though obviously you now have to offer PayPal by default.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for eBay Stores

Here a few things you can do to boost the ranking of your eBay store in search engines.

1. Carefully choose your store name: The store name is important firstly because it may give an idea of the primary field of the business and products to customers. Secondly the store web address is your store name which then appears in search engine results. To update your eBay store name click here.

Tip 1: Use Google trends to compare the importance of keywords. For example, a comparison between ‘computer’ and ‘computers’ in Trends shows that former is a more popular keyword for searching and hence a better term to describe your store.

2. Store Description: First of all use a template that contains a header with few descriptive keywords. Be descriptive enough for the audience and search engines and include the keywords relevant to the buyers search. To update your eBay store description click here.

Tip 2: Do not try to flood your pages with keywords. Use them sparingly.

Tip 3: Using irrelevant keywords might get you some temporary traffic but since it is useless traffic, it decreases your conversion rate and will lower your ranking.

3. Custom Pages: These are the pages where you can showcase of your items, have special promotions and more importantly describe your business history. Use it to your advantage to build reputation, to talk to your customers and increase your ranking in the search results. To create your eBay store custom page click here.

4. Custom Categories: Have your products be divided into customized categories. Search engines (specifically Google) will only index the eBay store pages if the store has at least 5 categories of products with subcategories[2]. Besides that it will be much easier for customers to browse your products with relevant categories.

5. Listing Headers: The same story of selecting keywords applies to your ‘listing headers’. Choose them carefully to show your item, where you are selling and if there are any promotions for the items.

Tip 4: Yahoo overture is a good tool for trying out different possibilities of keywords.

Tip 5: eBay pulse is another tool which shows the popular eBay searches.

6. Submit your products to Google: Use site connector to submit your products to Google.

7. Keep watching your stats: Keep track of your site stats on eBay Traffic Reporting or for more detailed stats use sellathon.

References:

1. eBay.com: Optimize your eBay Store.
2. Lycos.co.uk: Search Engine Optimization for eBay Stores.

How are things going…

Thanks to everyone who has signed up on the home page to be notified about when scrobbld.com finally goes live (drop your email in if you haven’t already done so).

We’ve had a great response so far, so that’s very positive feedback for us to keep working hard on the site and get it going as soon as possible.

I’ve received a few emails asking about ETA. Now, that’s quite a difficult one so I will try and give as good an answer as possible. We’re currently switching the hosting from Fasthosts to SliceHost (a thoroughly positive move after all the problems experienced with Fasthosts, more on that after we release at which time I will dedicate a whole post to abhorrent rantings about the “UK’s number one webhost”).

Apart from that, we are still testing with a couple of our most trusted users, adding support for PayPal subscriptions and ebooks and generally sprucing the place up. Will pull out a feature list shortly.

To finish, it remains for me to say, apologies for the wait, but I think you will see that it’s worth it.

Analysing international eBay market using Google Trends

What would you do if you knew from which countries people are most likely to visit your listings? Would you consider for example revising your descriptions or perhaps translating and welcoming in other languages? It would be great.

Google once again introduced another beautiful tool, Google Trends, where you can see hot search topics and compare them.

Here eBay.com, eBay.ca, eBay.co.uk, eBay.fr and eBay.de are compared which are considered to be the top eBay sites by the number of users and traffic. Looking at the Google Trends results the popularity is in this order:

  • eBay.com
  • eBay.de
  • eBay.co.uk
  • eBay.ca
  • eBay.fr


Note: Therefore you might want to consider listing on at least the top eBay websites when you go international.

Furthermore, it is also possible to see from which countries people are visiting each eBay website more. For example, below you can see the data for eBay.com. One might want to consider offering postages and prices on the listings or providing the descriptions in other languages to attract more customers.

How to increase ranking on eBay search results?

March 3rd 2008, Jamie Lannone: “As most buyers and sellers know, eBay’s Best Match sort option is an important Finding innovation that helps buyers find relevant items quickly and easily.”

The question is why “Best Match” is the default search method on eBay, what is it and how sellers can use it to their own benefit. That is the theme of this post.

What is “Best Match”?

eBay “Best Match” does something more than just comparing the similar titles to the search terms. “Best Match” sorts the listings based on several cues gathered with two main aims of “conversion” and “good buyer experience”.

Why “Best Match”?

eBay introduced “Best Match” to its search results to:

  • Increase conversions: The main aim of eBay is to increase successful visits. This is calculated by using a ratio of search results to conversions (or ‘successful hits’). The more a listing is successful, the higher it is in the search results.
  • Provide a good buyer experience: Furthermore eBay buyer/customer satisfaction is taken into account in the search results (this will again result in higher conversion rates). eBay’s means of measuring buyer satisfaction are mentioned later in this article.

What are the cues that eBay uses for “Best Match”?

  • Search history to conversions ratio: As eBay says “This is tailored for each buying situation”. That means eBay takes advantage of all the stored historical data from age, gender, location, purchase history of all the buyers for the best conversion rates in the search results, and consequently make more money. In essence, if buyers running a particular search often end up viewing, bidding on, and/or buying a certain type of item more often, it will bolster the search rankings.
  • DSR (Detailed Seller Ratings): This is the second most important cue for eBay search sorting system. Basically the sellers that have DSR of over 4.7 and overall feedback of 98%, they stay higher in the search results. For those of you who don’t know DSR, it is a score from 1-5 rated by buyer comprising of four areas: item as described, communication, delivery time and postage, and packaging. In some cases eBay gives more weight to some of these factors which I will discuss later in the post. Only last 30 days are considered in this factor.

In the event that the decision cannot be made based on the above factors to break the tie, eBay considers the following factors:

  • Feedback: The overall feedback is used from the last 90 days.
  • SNDA (Significantly not as described): The number of ‘significantly not as described’ disputes/complaints.
  • INR (Item not received): The number of ‘item not received’ disputes/complaints.

It can be assumed that eBay gives more weight to SNDA than to INR and feedback. Statistically, if eBay received SNDA 9 times more than the other two, finally eBay will:

  • Degrade a listing if shipping and handling in DSR is less than 4.5

One might ask if the powerseller status will increase the visibility. eBay is not giving more attention to powersellers in the search results but as a result of higher sales the search results will automatically be biased to powersellers.

How can you increase your visibility on eBay?

Considering the factors above, here is a list of what you can do:

  • Communication: Try to communicate with your buyers, let them know when you receive the payment, send the package and just try to be helpful. (Scrobbld we will take care of this for you)
  • Good listings: Write an accurate description, take pictures of your items and try to make it look as nice as possible. Tip: Use HTML to customise the look and feel of your listings.
  • Return policy: Offer a return policy even if you don’t have one.
  • Reasonable shipping and packaging rates: Avoid charging customers on postage. Charge reasonable postage fees, this will increase your visibility. Also consider offering free shipping and combined shipping (sending more than one items as one package).
  • Shipping options: If you can offer more shipping options or international shipping, put them on your description as well as the shipping options section of the listing.

Good luck and see you on eBay!

UPDATE: Please note that our blog has moved to http://blog.scrobbld.com/

http://www.scrobbld.com: A new way to manage your eBay and PayPal orders.

References

1. ebay.com: Rewards and Standards

2. ebay.com: Rewards & Standards FAQ 2008

3. The Seller Sourcebook Blog: eBay Changing Search Results Again – Best Match Default

4. eBay Strategies: eBay Changes Strategies: DSR Best Practices

How to increase sales by selling internationally on eBay?

It is somehow obvious that going international on eBay increases exposure and therefore sales. However one might lose some time and money to be able to overcome barriers encountered. The objective of this post is to share those ideas.

Building the safety net

  • Write your descriptions accurately: An accurate description of the item saves a lot of hassle that might come later. Explain everything, be specific, missing components from the ones written on the box, has got scratches, condition is not new, one button is not working properly say it, and preferably say it in bold and capital characters ;).
  • Sell only presentable items: If you think your item is not in a saleable condition don’t sell it. It will save you time and money.
  • Decide on your return policy: Whether you accept returns or don’t provide a return policy. Explain in what condition you will be willing to accept the item back, if you are paying for the return postage, etc.
  • Research the restrictions in countries: Before you sell an item it is your job to find out if the item is not against the import policies of the country or the postage company you’re using, and let your buyers know of possible taxes/duties involved.
  • Research the postage prices and be fair: Find the postage prices for the postal companies you would like to offer, add the packaging prices and leave a safety margin for your costs (a small charge on the top). What I do not recommend is trying to make money on the postage. It will affect your exposure on eBay and it doesn’t project a good picture (eBay search results are based on many terms and one of those is fair postage price).
  • Find out the estimated delivery time: Go to the carrier’s website and find out the estimated delivery times, add it to your handling time and give the buyers an estimation of when the item will be delivered. Many buyers are looking for the fastest service rather than the cheapest.
  • Signed delivery: In comparison to local shipping the chances of items getting lost or damaged are much higher. Use a signed delivery for your items.
  • Use safe payment services: Use PayPal, Escrow or other payment services that cover you for unauthorized payments and deliveries.

Marketing Tips

  • Market Research: Terapeak offers eBay market research solutions for US, Canada, UK, Australia, France and Germany at the moment. The annual subscription is about $200.
  • Experience of international sales: If you have any experience of making international sales say it and win over competition.
  • Use eBay marketing tools: There are marketing tools such as email marketing and newsletters available on your eBay, use them, it’s free!
  • Offer a fair postage price: As mentioned previously this affects your ranking in eBay search.
  • Customer Feedbacks: In addition to previous point, customer feedbacks directly affect your visibility in search results.

Reminders

  • Communication: The winning point on eBay and basically any online business is the customer service. Notify them that you have received the payment, when you dispatched the item and send them the tracking number and the receipts (We take care of all this for you on Scrobbld).
  • Customs forms: If there is a any customs forms (tax) fill it out. Customs forms are available in post offices and on carrier websites.
  • List your item on eBay websites for specific countries: eBay allows sellers to list their items on sister eBay websites for different countries and offers to be paid via PayPal.
  • Specify postages in the listing: Other than the description, setting postage prices in postage section of the listings is important to attract buyers.

http://www.scrobbld.com: A new way to manage your eBay and PayPal orders.

Can a seller/buyer win a PayPal dispute?

The past few weeks I frequently received two main questions:

  • Can a seller win a PayPal dispute?
  • Can a buyer win a PayPal dispute?

PayPal offers both buyer and seller protection. Although sometimes inconsistent, with enough persistence, honesty and most importantly proof, you can win the case.

Can a seller win a PayPal dispute?

Most definitely, these steps can help you through the process:

  • Take the necessary precautions: A detailed discussion on precautions can be found in my previous article, I just received a PayPal dispute, What should I do?
  • Communication is the key: A vast majority of disputes can be resolved by communication.
  • Use all the tools to win if you had to: Collect all the documentations, contact PayPal by phone, fax and email, all of them.
  • Read the footnotes: Before using a postal service or method of delivery (cash on collection), find the relevant information or contact PayPal to make sure they accept it.
  • If you lose the dispute you can appeal: You can go back to your resolved disputes section and appeal against a lost dispute.

Can a buyer win a PayPal dispute?

Most probably. It is general knowledge that PayPal is on the buyers’ side. That means that if hard evidence cannot be provided by the seller, it is almost certain that the buyer will win the dispute. For buyers:

  • Communicate: Try to talk to the seller, don’t escalate, that is your last shot.
  • If you are sending the item back, make sure you use a reasonable signed postal service.
  • You don’t need to do much, just open a dispute and wait.

If you have anything to add, please drop me and email or comment.

http://www.scrobbld.com: A new way to manage your eBay and PayPal orders.