eBay Listings - How to Successfully Manage and Improve Performance
Read time: 12 minutes
As a high volume eBay seller, it’s essential to stay on top of all the best practices for listing and managing your eBay listings. To help you improve engagement and supercharge your campaigns, we’ve put together a list of top optimisation strategies you can put into practice and see instant results.
Please note however: this article assumes you have access to or are currently seeking an eBay marketplace management tool with which to create and monitor your listings - if you don’t, you should perhaps consider doing so! There are many sales performance and time savings benefits to be had.
9 Best Practices & Optimisation Opportunities for Your eBay Listings:
- Setting eBay Commercial Goals and Objectives >
- eBay Keywords: Optimising your Listings for Search >
- Item Specifics: Using eBay’s Compliance API >
- eBay Images: Optimising Product Images >
- eBay Selling Prices & Listing Visibility >
- eBay Product Descriptions: Aligning with Best Practice >
- The Importance of Responsive Design Within your eBay Listing >
- eBay Shipping: How to Deliver & Dispatch >
- Offering Returns: the eBay Return Process >
1. Setting eBay Commercial Goals and Objectives
From visibility and sales to increasing your profit margins, it’s essential to set clear goals and objectives for your eBay store. And because the marketplace is always changing, you should also get in the habit of reviewing your outcomes on a regular basis. As an example, your primary goal may be to increase listing’ visibility – i.e. drawing attention to your shop or brand. Or, you may want to increase profit margins rather than sales - in which case you will need to keep track of your courier rates and returns percentage, how many (if any) items you are bundling together, and how much you are being charged by suppliers.
If increasing conversions is your main objective, you will need to carefully measure listing views against sales to enable you to feed out poorly converting listings. As a rule, high converting listings are those which contain clear imagery, free shipping, returns and a good mix of keywords - all of which will be covered in detail throughout this article.
Higher conversion rate = higher visibility
One important thing to note is the higher your conversion rate, the more eBay will reward you with higher rankings. What you gain in sales you will very likely gain in visibility as a result. But this assumes that your main objective is conversions. You may want to make visibility your primary objective, to begin with, in which case you will want to focus on cross-promotions - i.e. making buyers aware of your other items within each listing. This can impact on your initial profitability but build your exposure and sales.
Whatever your objectives, you always ensure your goals are specific, measurable and attainable. Your marketplace management software should give you quick and easy feedback to implement whatever objectives you set. Within your seller dashboard, you can monitor your listings via a range of metrics including clicks, items sold, ad fees and sales. You can filter products, or if you are promoting your listings, you can see their segregated performance within the campaign itself.
Analyse, analyse, analyse...
To further strengthen your objectives and increase the accuracy of your projections, you should also think about downloading your metrics as a .csv file. In this way, you can better organise your data and see exactly which product categories are accruing clicks and sales, and where the opportunities lie for the slower-moving stock, aligned, of course, with your objectives.
2. eBay Keywords: Optimising your Listings for Search
Similar to Google, eBay’s Cassini search engine uses algorithms to determine where a product listing should be ranked. Although eBay hasn’t revealed all the metrics it uses to rank listings, it has given clear guidelines on a number of key ranking factors, one of which is keyword relevance.
To begin with, your title should be no more than 80 characters in length. You cannot go over this number. Your title should also contain no punctuation or special characters. You should also use keywords, ensuring they accurately reflect the nature of the product. You can find out what keywords to use with a third-party service, such as Terapeak, which uses supply and demand data to predict the best keywords to use in your listings.
Learn what works
You may also want to look at your best-performing keywords for any given campaign. From within your listing management tool, you should be able to see which keywords you are receiving the click-through-rate and which keywords you’re getting the best cost per sale on - enabling you to create a new campaign specifically targeting those keywords.
Relevancy is key
To gain further insights, you can use eBay’s own search function to find long-tail keywords. It is important to target long-tail keywords (as opposed to broader matches) to ensure your listing matches specific searches, plus has a higher chance of converting. For instance, by putting “water bottle” into eBay it will bring up “hot water bottle” “water bottle name stickers” “water bottle with straw”. You can use research methods like this either in the product-purchase phase of your analysis or to see what keywords are ranking around the products you are already selling.
Don’t over optimise
When it comes to product descriptions, eBay recommends having a keyword density of 5% to 7%. Therefore you will want to keep your keywords contextual and non-spammy. Also be aware that, perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, Cassini considers the item description to be far less important as a source of relevant keywords than the product title - hence you should spend more time optimising keywords in your listing title than in the description.
Create a keyword bank
As you would with your website taxonomy structure, it’s best practice to create a keyword bank with search volumes for your eBay listings and categories. You can then understand the ‘size of the prize’ - search demand for your entire products. This will enable you to see how you’re performing within the search demand, and your eBay market share. You’ll also be able to pull out seasonality search swings, which can inform your objectives accordingly at key times of year - i.e. over-indexing on promotions when search demand is high.
3. Item Specifics: Using eBay’s Compliance API
The Compliance API is a RESTful API that retrieves listing violations for any eBay listings. This means you will be able to keep your listings in compliance with eBay's policies without having to continually check them manually. The ability to retrieve this data is essential for large volumes of listings as it is almost guaranteed some products will have accidentally violated eBay’s listing policies.
Once you have information on listing violation(s), you can then set up a ‘createOrReplaceInventoryItem’ call of the Inventory API or ‘ReviseItem/ReviseFixedPriceItem’ call of the Trading API to revise them.
It is essential that you do this as failure to do so could result in missing listings, ultimately affecting your visibility on eBay as well as your bottom line. Any reputable marketplace management tool should also allow you to highlight parameters to make it easier to find the relevant code.
4. eBay Images: Optimising Product Images
High quality images are key to gaining engaement with your listings. A recent study has in fact found that eBay listings with high quality, self-generated images are far more likely to secure trust than those featuring poorly shot or stock images. The first step to optimisng your images, however, is ensuring you closely follow eBay's own guidelines.
Play close attention to the following when taking, editing and uploading your photos:
Acceptable image formats
In the first instance, be aware of the file formats that eBay accepts. These are:
eBay image recommendations
Thereafter, you should follow the below recommendations:
- Always use plain background (without border) when you are taking your own photos.
- For adequate zoom functionality, pictures should be 1600 px on the longest side.
- Bear in mind the maximum number of images for each product:
- 12 for non-motors product
- 24 for motors products
- while the minimum number of images for all listings is 5
- You should ensure there is no text hardcoded in your images. Including text in pictures violates eBay policy
- Watermarks should not be used. Google shopping disallows them, which means your listings won’t show up on there
Take a look at the pictures below to see the clear difference between a good and bad product description image:
Example of a Bad Product Image
- busy design
- embedded text
- overuse of promos
Example of a Good Product Image
- clean design
- no added text
- uncluttered background
N.B. When it comes to optimising your images according to the above recommendations, you can use the batch-process function in Photoshop (speak with your creative team). This will save you hours of time in editing potentially thousands of separate images.
Image compliance is key to eBay’s marketing relationship with Google
Perhaps one of the most important reasons to follow these guidelines is for Google Shopping policies. If you do not adhere to the above standards (particularly presenting images on a blank background, without any adjoining text) your images and listings will not show up in Google shopping. As an indispensable sales channel for any eBay seller, it pays to follow protocol.
5. eBay Selling Prices & Listing Visibility
Listing visibility is a major concern for eBay sellers, particularly at the present time where a single product can potentially translate to thousands of indexed listings.
Lower price, lower sales?
However, it is important to note that setting a low price will not necessarily increase listing visibility - eBay does not correlate low price with listing position. Likewise, given eBay takes a commission on each sale, low pricing is unlikely to positively affect its profits. See the example below where a higher price item lists above a lower price item.
In order to ensure high visibility, you need to focus on a widespread of metrics, all of which eBay factors in when deciding how high to rank your listings in its search engine. The most important factors in improving search visibility in eBay are the following:
Conversion Rate: listing visibility is directly to your conversion rate. In eBay's seller FAQ, it states: "The more sales you get from one listing, the better it will be displayed in search. Once you have gained some sales and the listing has ended, it would be best - in order to keep the history - to relist your item." Put simply, if you are selling a high percentage of your viewed products, you are more likely to gain higher ranking in the search results.
Listing Quality: whatever the product or category, you should ensure your listing contains:
- Clear and large images (as detailed in the previous section)
- Product descriptions that are straightforward, readable, and that stay within the keyword density guidelines of 5% to 7%
- Are correctly categorised with keyword-relevant titles
Compliance: utilising the Compliance API (as discussed previously), is essential for adhering to eBay’s listing policies. The API allows you to manage inventory and listing management, order management and fulfilment, post-order process management to keep your listings on track. In this way you will not suffer from a hit to your rankings due to listing violations.
Shipping & Returns: free returns are now an essential requirement for earning Top Rated Plus status, while by offering free shipping you have a strong chance of earning a “Fast & Free” badge next to your listing - a clear boost to your listing visibility and perceived trust levels. These factors are covered in-depth in eBay Shipping: How to Deliver & Dispatch and Offering Returns: the eBay Return Process
When it comes to increasing visibility you should also consider using eBay promoted listings. With this ad strategy, your listings are boosted up the rankings and you only pay commission on items clicked on and purchased.
Instead of placing all your products within promoted listings, you should create a curated selection such as seasonal products, obsolete items and brand new stock - the traffic and sales of the latter can be used to gauge the popularity of new products for use in future campaigns and stock purchases.
6. eBay Product Descriptions: Aligning with Best Practice
Structuring your Data
In addition to ensuring all the relevant keywords are included in your product description, you should focus on making your product description as streamlined as possible. This is an area where many eBay sellers become unstuck, going off-piste with an array of colours, fonts, and over-populating the description with other attributes.
Because eBay prefers sellers to put essential information in predefined fields, your product description should be more of a product overview than a blow-by-blow account of all the item’s specifics.
Your product description should not include:
In eBay’s own words, a good product description “offers a high-level summary of the product” and should, above all, “be concise”. Follow these guidelines to ensure your listings attract traffic and convert. Below is an example of a poor product description that breaks these rules:
Example of a Bad Product Description
In order to make an attractive listing to attract customers and convert, you should ensure the following points are met:
- Use a consistent font size and colour throughout. 12pt is best practice
- Add clear sub-headings within the product description
- Use bulleted lists: these are easier to skim read for the potential buyer
- Make sure there are no pictures within the description
- Keep your background plain. This helps your text stand out (and it looks way more professional)
See the below image for a prime example of a well-written product description - containing only the essential pieces of information:
Example of a Good Product Description
You should be utilising a consistent product description template for all listings. There are specialist eBay agencies (including 247 Commerce!) offering custom eBay store and product template designs - aligning with your core brand.
7. The Importance of Responsive Design Within your eBay Listing
Since Responsive Web Design (RWD) has fast become the industry standard, it is essential to optimise your eBay store for all the devices shoppers are likely to use.
63% and counting
And because 63% of eBay traffic comes via mobile, you make sure your listing or shop shows up responsively for those using mobile devices.
eBay recommends using HTML and CSS to detect browser/device type in order to customise the layout. When it comes to optimising for eBay, you should be aware of the core screen dimensions in accordance with the percentage of people who use them. We won’t labour the detail here as your dev team/agency should be well versed on this topic.
- 360x640 (small mobile): 22.64%
- 1366x768 (average laptop): 11.98%
- 1920x1080 (large desktop): 7.35%
- 375x667 (average mobile): 5%
- 1440x900 (average desktop): 3.17%
- 720x1280 (large mobile): 2.74%
While the obvious takeaway from these stats is that while most shop on mobile these days, more sales convert on desktop. It makes sense therefore to think of devices as fulfilling different parts of the customer rather than executing the entire process.
As a rule, right across the board, your responsive designs should incorporate fluid grids, flexible images and CSS styling to alter the site’s design and render it according to the width of the browser.
In addition, when setting up break-points, you may want to design for landscape as well as portrait . In this way, elements that stack vertically on mobile can be displayed as a slider with left and right navigation buttons, ensuring the user doesn’t have to scroll to navigate the content.
You should also be aware, again, of Google’s recommendations for Responsive sites:
- Avoid using media or any other content that is incompatible with mobile devices
- Avoid faulty-redirects for mobile users (i.e. A mobile user’s original request should be redirected to the appropriate mobile site’s URL)
- Avoid interstitials that cover up the original content. It may be frustrating for a visitor
- A web developer must avoid usage of tiny fonts which may result in a lousy viewing experience
Also keep in mind that to make your eBay store responsive, you will almost certainly need a web developer to create a store template for you. With a template in place, your pages will show up to maximise the available screen space and hence increase the chances of you making a sale.
8. eBay Shipping: How to Deliver & Dispatch
With 72% of eBay sellers now offering free shipping as standard, free shipping is quickly becoming the norm. This is backed up by eBay themselves. In a recent post, eBay said: "Free shipping isn’t a nice-to-have. At this point, it’s almost a must-have. When free shipping is available, 3 out of 4 shoppers say they’re more likely to shop online.”
Of course, you will not always want to offer free shipping. For items that require pick up, bulk shipping or which are expensive and may require insurance or customer-defined courier selection, it makes sense to add shipping on top. In practically every other case though, particularly for smaller, easy-to-pack items, free shipping is the way to go.
Also note that, to ensure you maintain healthy profit margins, your profit margins should always be higher than the cost of shipping you are providing for free. Depending on your supplier price, overheads on storage, you can select which products are viable to offer free shipping on and which ones may require paid shipping in order to secure a profit.
As ecommerce shoppers expect fast shipping as standard, eBay is working with sellers to improve delivery times. In their own words “Our research has shown that buyers really value free delivery within 3 days of purchase, with full tracking updates to follow exactly where their purchase is, as well as having the option to pay for next day delivery.”
Where you offer priority shipping in addition to free delivery, there is a strong chance that eBay will put the “Fast & Free” badge next to your listing.
Compare the two listings below to see how the inclusion of this badge instantly makes your listing 'pop out':
Where a buyer purchases multiple items, you will want to offer combined shopping. If you want to combine your orders into one single shipment then you can easily do so through a few different methods, however doing so manually can be fiddly. You will almost certainly need a marketplace management tool to set combined shipping rules across select products.
9. Offering Returns: the eBay Return Process
Selling in large volumes on eBay, it is essential to have a returns policy. In eBay’s own words: “Your customers will appreciate the peace of mind that comes with a generous returns policy and we recommend you set a 30-day returns policy or better on your listings.”
Of course, it’s essential to keep in mind the impact returns will have on your bottom line.
To make sure you returns are fully costed into your business model, you should create an Excel spreadsheet and cost up the number of returns which come in each month. From there, add together the total returns cost for the specific month, then calculate your total revenue in the same month. You can then work out the percentage (or average percentage, when calculating over several months) of total revenue you’ve lost on returned goods.
Once you know the percentage of lost profit (unlikely to be more than 1-2%) you can add the same percentage value to the specific product range to maintain your target net margin.
You should note that there are five main options when it comes to seeing your returns:
- No returns
- 30 days, paid by buyer
- 30 day free returns
- 60 days, paid by buyer
- 60 day free returns
Where possible, you should offer a 60-day return policy to customers – the longer your customers have to return the item, the more likely they are to purchase from you and, perhaps more importantly, the less likely they are to return in the absence of a pressing deadline.
It’s also worth noting that to be eligible to add the eBay Premium Service badge on your listings, you must offer 30 day returns as standard. Offering returns not only increases your credibility in the eyes of the customer, but in eBay’s as well. Here's how a Premium Service badge enhances you listing:
Lastly, it should be said that how you handle returns in practice is just as important. Where possible, you should offer a free return print label and, once returned to the warehouse, the item should be checked, and the original payment reimbursed as quickly as possible.
Managing and Improving your eBay Performance: Summing Up
As one of our biggest ever articles, we wouldn't blame you if you struggled to remember all the points we mentioned! To help put everything in context, here's a brief summary of the key takeaways:
Optimise your images: make sure your pictures are well-shot on a blank uncluttered background to attract buyers
SEO your product titles: prioritise titles over descriptions to ensure shoppers find your product and that eBay ranks it
Free shipping & returns: both are key factors in eBay awarding you "Fast & Free" and "eBay Premium Service" badges
Responsive design: your eBay store should be optimised for multiple screen sizes at each stage of the customer journey
Compliance API: sync your listings to the compliance API so you don't lose crucial sales through unforseen listings violations
Need a marketplace management tool to power your eBay listings or need help designing your eBay store? See our complete list of eBay marketplace solutions