This article has been excerpted from Expand Your Business Using eBay, available from Entrepreneur Press.
eBay is huge and growing every day, but it is still merely a dot on the map of the internet's larger shopping universe. Setting up shop on eBay allows you to tap into eBay's steady stream of traffic, but it also provides you with the tools necessary to make your items easily accessible to every internet buyer. Promoting your eBay operation on other sites and in the real world can increase your eBay traffic by orders of magnitude. Some methods of off-eBay advertising can prove to be expensive, some are quick and free, and some eBay will even pay you to do.
Following are the most effective methods for off-eBay advertising. You should begin with these techniques as soon as you get your on-eBay operation and promotions working like a well-oiled machine. When it feels like you can't grow anymore--or fast enough--using established on-eBay marketing techniques, these strategies will elevate your eBay operation to the next level.
Your Own Website
The first place you should set up some off-eBay marketing is on your own website. The visitors to your website are no doubt interested in the items you have to offer. And whether you offer your own e-commerce store or not, your website's visitors will be interested to know that you have put together an eBay operation. They'll hunt for bargains in your auctions and new items in your store and check your various informational pages. Your current customers will initially have the most interest in your new eBay operation. Make it easy for them to find it.
There are several ways to promote your eBay sales from your website. You could place a simple link or graphic banner advertising your eBay store. This would send a lot of traffic from your website to your eBay items. And if you didn't offer online shopping previously, this is a great way to serve the large portion of your website's traffic that would like to buy from you instantly.
A better way to promote your eBay items from your website is to sign up for eBay's Affiliate Program and to use the tools it provides. eBay's Affiliate Program is intended to reward individuals and businesses who send interested shoppers to eBay. The program is open to everyone, whether an eBay member or not. All affiliate members earn up to 65 percent commission on eBay revenue and up to a $22 commission for new active user referrals. By signing for this free program you can earn a commission back on your own sales just for promoting your own items. It's eBay's way of thanking you for using their selling platform.
The affiliate program provides many useful tools to help you create affiliate links to eBay. Using these tools, affiliate members can create many different types of commissioned links to any eBay item or page. eBay sellers, naturally, usually promote only their own items.
The most useful tool is what eBay calls the Editor Kit. Using this web-based tool, you can create banner advertisements that show photos, prices and ending times for your active items on eBay. You can specify banner template, color and shape to suit your tastes. But the real power of this tool is that it allows you to specify which items to present based on keyword, price range, purchasing options available and seller. Therefore, you can build banners that promote only your items, and only your most profitable items at that.
The Editor Kit produces what it calls a code "sniplet"--probably because "snippet" is copyrighted somewhere--that you then cut and paste into your website's HTML code. And that's it. The banner will update the products it displays based on the criteria you've specified and you will earn commission on every sale.
Other tools the affiliate program offer include are: a custom banners and buttons tool to help you create links to specific pages on eBay; a Product Kit that works much like the Editor Kit though with more aesthetic customization options; a flexible destination tool that allows you to create a text link to any eBay page; a keyword and UPC code linking tool; a full dynamic landing page for your website; and an RSS feed generator, which can help you to place RSS feeds on your website that list any combination of products from your auctions or store.
You can use feeds in a number of ways. The first example, outlined above, will provide the visitors to your website the opportunity to subscribe their feed readers to a constantly and automatically updated list of all your items on eBay. Another way to use your feed is, instead of sending the list of your items down to your customers, you can send it up to shopping websites that use feeds such as yours to build product databases.
Comparison shopping sites and search engines, such as Google, Froogle, Shopping.com, Yahoo! and others, use product data feeds to build their search results. By registering your feed with these types of services, you can easily publish your entire eBay inventory instantly to millions of new internet users.
If you conduct a search on Froogle, for example, you will be presented with item photos, descriptions, price and seller information for thousands of items. When a user clicks on any listing they are taken directly to the item page on the seller's website--in your case, to your eBay listing page.
You have many possible feeds from which to choose. You can publish a feed of all your items on eBay, of just the items in your store, or for items that fit into a specific keyword search. I suggest using the feed of all your items unless you are publishing it to a specific service where some of your items won't fit.
Some of these services will require periodic maintenance of your feeds. Unfortunately, not every service allows for one-time publishing with automatic updates. Some require that you resubmit your feed link every time it updates. If your store inventory is relatively stable and only changes every 30 days or so, then this may not be too much of an inconvenience. But if you find that your items change every day, this could become bothersome. Luckily though, you will find that this will only be a problem with the smaller shopping services. Large services, such as Froogle, which is operated by the Google Base program, often offer utilities to make the task of updating easier. Google Base offers the Google Base Store Connector program for Windows PCs at base.google.com/base/storeconnector.
Find all the shopping and search engine feed submission utilities that you can. It never hurts to expose your items to as wide an audience as possible. For a few hours of extra work, and no financial investment, you can increase the visibility of your items by several millions of online shoppers.
J. S. McDougall is a writer, internet programmer and owner of Fruition Web Systems, an internet development firm that works with small businesses to create dynamic websites, databases and communication systems. For more ways to grow your operations, read Expand Your Business Using eBay, available from Entrepreneur Press.