Tips on Selling Items on eBay

Use good photos and detailed descriptions in your eBay listings.
Use good photos and detailed descriptions in your eBay listings. (Image: Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

EBay is synonymous with the "world's biggest virtual flea market." Vendors of every stripe sell just about every product imaginable through auctions and fixed-price sales. As the site has grown in scope and popularity, it has identified best practices for sellers hoping to maximize their profits. Whether you're just selling a few unwanted household items or plan to go into business as a professional seller, you're bound to find these tips for selling items on eBay to be useful.

Research Your Item's Value

EBay's Advanced Search feature is useful for researching the values of items similar to yours or, with any luck, exactly like yours. Search "completed listings" to see actual sale prices of items that sold and list prices of items that didn't sell. Although sale prices aren't always consistent, chances are you'll be able to identify patterns that suggest a realistic sale price.

Choose the Best Way to Sell

Sellers have many options. They can sell items at auction or at a fixed price, or they can use a combination by listing at auction but offering a fixed, Buy-it-Now price. In addition, there are a number of auction types available--reserve auctions, for instance, which set a minimum acceptable bid, and Dutch auctions, for quantities of items for which all winning bidders will pay the same price. EBay recommends that sellers with high-demand items likely to attract multiple bids use an auction format with a low opening bid and no reserve. It notes that such an auction "jumpstarts bidding" and boosts the ultimate sale price. To sell items quickly when you know the value or you have a quantity, a fixed-price sale is probably better.

Include Detailed Descriptions of Your Listings

The better you describe your item, the better your potential bidders can imagine owning it. Be very detailed in your written description. Describe flaws thoroughly. Buyers don't necessarily need perfect items, but they do want an accurate description of imperfections. In addition, include several clear, well-lit photos. Take close-ups of details you want to highlight and of defects you want to bring to bidders' attention.

Pack Your Title with Keywords

Shoppers who know what they're looking for search eBay by keywords. Keywords are the main words a person would use to describe the specific thing they're looking for. Your listing titles should contain as many keywords as possible. For example, a jewelry listing with a title reading "Round Diamond Solitaire 1 Ct. Ring G VVS Size 6" has a higher potential of being found by people searching for a ring just like that than would a title reading "Diamond Ring, Great Quality!" Targeting is key. It's better to have your ad found by one person who's looking for exactly what you're selling than it is to have it found by 1000 people who are looking for something else.

Keep Shipping Costs Low

Some eBay sellers make up for low prices with exorbitant shipping fees. Buyers are apt to find this ploy deceiving. However, they associate at-cost and free shipping as adding dollar value and a higher standard of customer service to the purchase and to the overall shopping experience. eBay has tools for sellers that calculate shipping costs.

Answer Questions Promptly

EBay has a direct-messaging system buyers can use to ask questions about your items. Someone who takes the time to ask a question is likely to be seriously considering bidding so answer promptly. Sign on often to check your "My eBay" selling information. You'll see message alerts there. Chances are, more than one person will have the same question, so be sure to check off the option that displays the questions and answers in your listing.

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