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By Jacquelyn Lynn

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

On eBay, your product listing is the door through which prospective customers enter. So that's where you have the chance to say, "Welcome! Thanks for stopping by. I'm going to do everything I can to impress you with my high-quality service and merchandise." And it's a critical aspect of successful eBay selling, says Jim "Griff" Griffith, dean of eBay Education and author of The Official eBay Bible.

"Selling online has become very competitive," points out Griff. "eBay sellers who want to keep their loyal customers and attract new buyers have to be able to compete in this marketplace by offering customer service as good as, if not better than, sellers in other marketplaces. That has to be the driving force behind any selling anywhere, especially online, and [even more so] on eBay."

A buyer might start searching on eBay because of the value and range of selection it offers, but they make their final purchase decision based largely on the impression they get of the seller--an impression that is created by the combined elements of the item listing.

A great listing starts with the title; simple and focused is best, says Griff. Your title should consist only of keywords--that is, words shoppers will search for. "Words that aren't keywords would be things like describers, modifiers, adjectives, adverbs--anything that's editorial," he explains. "[Words] like rare, best, wonderful and fantastic don't matter in your title. No one uses [them] to search. You can editorialize about the condition or your opinion of the item in your description, but don't do it in your title."

Your title should include the name of the product, brand, model and size--words that someone shopping for that particular item will use to search for it. Don't worry about trying to be cute, clever, creative or even grammatically correct; your goal for your title is to let shoppers know they've found what they're looking for.

Also, Griff says you should separate the keywords in your title with spaces only, nothing else. Exclamation points and other punctuation marks that you might think draw visual attention to your item can actually have a negative impact on the title's effectiveness from a search perspective because they confuse the search software.

Finally, do your homework before coming up with your title. Check out current and recently closed listings for similar items, see how the titles were written and study which listings got the highest number of hits and bids, advises Griff. "You'll get some ideas about keywords that you may not have thought of for that particular item."

Get Creative
Once your title has drawn a shopper to your listing, your item description needs to do the selling. Griff suggests thinking about what a buyer would want to know, and then answering all those questions in your listing.

How you present your item is as important as what you say about it. If your description necessitates including a lot of information, avoid writing lengthy paragraphs that are hard to read. Instead, use bulleted or numbered lists so the information can be scanned quickly. (eBay has easy-to-use tools that can help you.)

Though it's not possible to provide too much information about the item, Griff says, it is possible to go overboard about your own terms of service. "Be brief and comprehensive," he advises. "Don't put huge paragraphs of legalese in your listings; that drives buyers away. Your terms of service, which include your shipping, payment and return policies, should be clear, easy to understand and come after the actual item description, not before."

A Picture's Worth . . .
Wondering how many pictures you should you include with your listing? "How many sides does your item have?" Griff says. "If it's a flat piece of art that only has one side, maybe one picture is enough. If it has a back, front, sides, top and bottom, spend the extra 15 cents per picture to show every side of the item. It provides a better experience for the buyer."

Photograph items against a neutral, plain background so all that's shown is the item that's for sale. Buyers don't want to see the rest of your living room or the dirty dishes on your kitchen table. Any background clutter only detracts from your product presentation.

Avoid using a flash; it tends to wash out details and distort colors. Light your item with as much diffused natural or artificial light as is needed for clear pictures.

If the item has a flaw, don't hide it--show it in a picture and mention it in your description. "Sellers who are really smart actually feature the flaws in close-up photos," says Griff. "Buyers love it because they can make an informed, confident decision."

Promotional Items
Part of the appeal of eBay is that the site's tremendous popularity virtually guarantees that you'll get exposure to prospective customers without doing anything accept listing items for sale. With that said, a little bit of promotion can go a long way toward increasing your profits.

Griff says a key part of promoting yourself on eBay is to maintain high feedback scores and seller ratings. "In our new default search, sellers who have higher ratings are generally given higher placement than sellers with lower ratings," he says. The easiest way to maintain a strong rating is to provide buyers with accurate and honest descriptions, reasonable shipping charges and great customer service.

When you list your items and are offered the opportunity to include Item Specifics, take advantage of it. This optional feature gives buyers the opportunity to make very targeted searches and gives them more information about your item. "A lot of sellers don't want to bother with this, but not using Item Specifics can be a disadvantage when it comes to how your item is placed in search results," says Griff. The layout and information included in Item Specifics varies by category. For example, Item Specifics in an apparel category would relate to size and style, but for music CDs, it would be genre and condition.

If you have a lot of items for sale, consider an eBay Store, which allows you to use built-in cross-promotional tools. Your individual listings can also drive traffic to your store and increase your total sales.

Of course, you may link to your eBay listings from any non-eBay site where you have a presence. If you do this, consider joining eBay's affiliate program so you can earn a commission by directing people to eBay from your non-eBay site--even if they don't buy your products. For details about the program, visit ebay partnernetwork.com.

Finally, keep in mind that no matter how great your listing is, if the product is not in demand and not selling in other venues, it might not sell on eBay. Griff says successful sellers study trends, anticipate market changes and manage their inventory and sales efforts accordingly--they don't assume that any success they have experienced in the past will continue indefinitely without change. Successful eBay listings feature products people want to buy from sellers who know how to present those items in their best light and then consistently provide superior customer service.

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