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Selling your First item on eBay

Updated on June 11, 2013

Any user who searches a popular eBay category will find hundreds of results competing for attention, and the higher up the listing you are, the more views your product will have. It's therefore absolutely essential that your products appear as high as possible, but it's not obvious how you can influence that, given that you won't be a PowerSeller for some time. Exactly how eBay ranks results is a bit of a mystery, but my observations are:

  • It gives a significant boost to items that offer free postage. The cynical might conclude that this is because if you include postage in the price of your product, eBay makes more money, since listing fees increase according to the price of the product.
  • The more you pay for your listing in terms of eBay's optional extras, the higher it is likely to appear relative to your other listings.
  • When you're selling multiple items, items that are already selling best will appear above the others.
  • Counterintuitively, items with longer to go until their listing ends will appear above those with shorter end dates. Again, it may not be a coincidence that the fees will also be higher on these items.

Selling your item on eBay
Selling your item on eBay

The 80/20 rule applies to eBay selling, just as it does to Google AdWords and many other aspects of running an online business. If you're one of the 20% of businesses that systematically analyse the impact on profitability of each of their options, you have an instant edge on your rivals — an edge that might make the difference between a viable business and a failure. My advice is to "split-test" your listings. Wherever possible, create two listings for identical products (this works best if you're also selling in quantities). Make the listings the same except for one feature. For example, you might pay the extra fee for a subtitle on one of the listings. Run the two items simultaneously until they finish and compare the results.

First, look to see which of the two comes up higher in the rankings (you should find the subtitle gives a slight boost), then compare sales. Also compare the number of views of each product. If one of the two listings is a clear winner, your next should be based on that one, testing a new feature each time. This may seem long-winded, but expecting instant results on eBay is a fantasy. It's only by following an analytical approach that you will develop an understanding of how to market your product effectively. Here's how to get started with your listings.

Titles with impact
Titles with impact


Click Sell at the top 11141 of the eBay home page, then select Advanced Sell. There's a principle with systems such as eBay, Amazon and Google AdWords that you should never allow the service provider to pick your settings for you, because they're unlikely to suit your product exactly. Type a descriptive phrase into the text box: this will help eBay find a product category. Click "Start selling", and select from the categories you're presented with. If you can't find the right category, click Browse to look through the entire category list. Click Continue.


As with a Google Ad, your title is critical. Use your research to give you a head start, and make certain your keywords are in the title. It's worth experimenting with adding "new" to the title (if your product is new) because many people still assume that all items on eBay are used.

Perfect Picture
Perfect Picture


Now add some pictures. The first is currently free of charge, so there's no excuse for not having a photo, and its usually worth adding at least one more. Don't use generic shots that just convey the type of item; buyers want to see the actual product they're buying. Make the effort to take a good photo, as it makes you look more professional. You can get perfectly acceptable results with a blog-standard digital camera: the essential part to get right is the lighting. Natural light is often best, but you need to minimise shadows, and that often requires a couple of lamps (with "natural light" bulbs) and preferably a light tent; a small pop-up white tent used to diffuse light. If you do have a digital SLR, this is where it will pay for itself. Take all your photos in RAW mode and you can adjust the exposure and other settings without digital noise (grain) and image compression artefacts becoming visible.

Clinch the Sale
Clinch the Sale


Spend time on your descriptions. Always repeat the title of the listing at the top of the description box. You need to list, briefly, what you're offering and, if you have a unique selling point, say what that is. eBay buyers have very short attention spans, so you must clinch the sale early — in this respect, less is more. You can just use the standard editor for most purposes, but if you know a little HTML you can add tags to include other media for no extra fee. This is well worth doing to enhance your listing with elements such as your logo and extra photos.


In most cases you'll want to list your items as "Buy it Now" purchases. The advantage of this to the buyer is that they don't have to wait until the end of the auction to know they've secured the item — it's more like buying from a shop. You can experiment with the auction option once you make a success of "Buy it Now". Also enter how many you want to sell: if you have multiples of the same product, entering the item with additional postage. That's an amazing result given that there were only 98 items in the list overall, and it put the free p&p version of my item on the front page. At the bottom of the page you'll see "Your fees so far": remember these eat into your profit. Click Continue.


You'll see a number of options under the section "Make your listing stand out". Most of these will have a positive impact on sales, although it may be minor. This is an area you should test, beginning with the cheapest option. Featured Plus is expensive and guarantees only that you'll appear at the top of the search page that you'd normally appear on. In other words, if you would otherwise appear quantity here cuts down on your listing fees and adds to your credibility as a retailer rather than a private seller.

Selling your first item on eBay

As a new eBay shop-owner you may be limited to accepting only PayPal, but in any case PayPal should always be an option. If you have the ability to accept cheques as well, you need to decide whether the hassle of doing so outweighs the extra sales you might generate; few retailers accept cheques these days, but some eBayers prefer them to PayPal.

Now for the important question of postage. eBay likes items with free post and packing, so your first split test should be to see if you can make more money increasing the price to include it (thus making p&p "free") or selling at a lower price plus p&p (and coming further down the results). As an example, my first split test resulted in the item with free p&p appearing 34 places above the identical halfway down page 3 of the results, paying for Featured Plus would make you appear at the top of page 3.

essential tips

If you select Featured First, you stand a chance of appearing at the top of the first page - depending, presumably, on how many others are also paying for this. These very expensive options should be experimented with only once you've nailed down your pricing and presentation.

Check out the listing preview to ensure it looks how you want it to. Make sure you review your fees and, crucially, note the Final Value Fee. The Listing Fee is paid once, no matter how many items you're selling within the same listing; the Final Value Fee is paid per sale. Be certain you can make a profit after these are taken into account.

Once finished, don't forget to click "Save this listing as a template" so that you can base other product listings on it. Click "List your item". Give it a few minutes and see where it appears when you search for it.


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    • peachpurple profile image


      3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      does it work for selling handmade cards?

    • kikalina profile image


      4 years ago from Europe

      Very good tips for an ebay newbie.


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