11 Ways to Improve eBay Sales

eBay increase sales
Specific criteria helps listing rise to the top of eBay search. Getty Images

When eBay introduced its new search engine, Cassini, in June of 2013, a lot of things changed for eBay sellers. Auction site eBay basically changed the way listings appear in buyer searches. The goal of Cassini is to provide a better customer experience and to match listings more precisely with what a buyer searches for. After Cassini was implemented, sellers saw a drop in page views mainly because Cassini began matching buyer searches with quality results rather than quantity. It is better to have 10 quality views on an item than 100 views by buyers who aren’t seriously interested in the product. Cassini is about relevancy. So don’t panic if views are down. And remember, it only takes 1 buyer to make a sale.

Doing things the old school way on eBay doesn't work anymore. Many sellers are confused as to why their traffic and sales have dropped since Cassini's update in June of 2013. Cassini is designed to provide consumers with a more targeted shopping experience. It is about the buyer finding the perfect item. eBay feels that if buyers find more relevant items, more sales will occur, and everybody wins.

What Is Cassni and Why Should eBay Sellers Care?

The objective as a seller is to improve your search ranking on eBay by giving Cassini what it wants. Many strategies that sellers have been using for years no longer work, and even more importantly, sellers can be punished for doing them. If you know better, you can do better. Some suggestions may seem time-consuming or unnecessary, but these suggestions have come straight from eBay during webinars, eBay email updates, or announcements on eBay since the Cassini update in 2013. To learn more details about Cassini, here is an in-depth 40-minute video on YouTube.

Include 8-12 Photos per Listing

This tip came from an eBay Seller Outreach specialist. Every listing is allowed 12 pictures free of charge. Even if you personally don’t think more photos will help sell your item, use 8-12 photos anyway for the boost in search. If you are using a listing service like Auctiva or InkFrog, the photos will go into the description area of your listing. You should actually load them into eBay as well to improve search ranking.

Offer a 30-Day Return Policy

Cassini rewards a 30-day or longer return policy. eBay has a money back guarantee, so if you sell on eBay you have a return policy whether you want it or not. But, adding a 30-day or longer return policy to your listings will provide a boost in search. Cassini punishes listings with a return policy less than 30 days.

If the thought of returns makes you nervous, be sure to describe items accurately so the buyer knows exactly what he is receiving. Consider selling items that don’t have a high return rate. I won’t sell electronics or formal wear because those were frequently returned items. For the most part, returns are rare but they are part of selling merchandise so it is a necessary evil we must all live with. 

Write Titles for a Human Buyer, Not a Computer Search Engine

Keyword stuffing is dead on eBay. It is no longer advisable to use all the characters in the space for the title. Use what is relevant to the buyer, and put the words in the same order a buyer would. For example, if you are selling a pair of Levis jeans, an old title might be, "Men’s dark washed boot cut jeans Levis 34x34 pants 5 pocket denim dungarees casual." A customer isn't going to search for jeans using those words in that order. A better title for Cassini is, "Men’s Levis jeans 34x34 boot cut dark wash." The order of words in the title is important to Cassini. A great way to test this is to search for the same type of item you are selling on eBay and watch what eBay starts to prefill in the search bar. Also, avoid category stuffing — don't put an item in more than one category just to get more views. Put it in the category where it belongs. 

Complete All Item Specifics

Don't skip those little boxes with check marks that describe the item like color, brand, size, style, country of manufacture. It seems repetitive if you have this information in your title and description, but eBay also wants it here. Also, add an item specific if something relevant isn't there. 

Offer Free Shipping When It Makes Sense

Free shipping will give you a boost in search, but don’t do it at the expense of losing money. A good rule of thumb is that if the item weighs 16 ounces or less (including packaging), it can be shipped First Class domestic and the cost is under $4. If the item will reasonably fit in a USPS flat rate mailer or flat rate padded mailer (and it makes sense to ship it that way), the cost will be about $6, depending on your eBay discount.

Add the appropriate amount to the asking price of the item and offer free shipping. (Obviously, you aren’t shipping the item for free so you have to incorporate the cost into the asking price.) Free shipping works best on small lightweight items, smaller clothing items (not coats or boots), accessories, items that aren’t breakable, small toys, etc.

Free shipping only applies to domestic shipping, not international. Always use calculated shipping for international because the cost varies depending on the location. For example, it costs more to ship an item to Japan than to Canada. 

Run Sales With Markdown Manager

Cassini rewards sellers who sell things so it is important to move your products. Mark items down, liquidate, run sales, do what you have to do to keep sales going. Sometimes you have to do what’s necessary in the short term to get the desired end result. Cassini looks at your sell-through ratio — the number of items sold versus the number listed. Cassini rewards sellers who consistently sell items, and penalizes those who don’t.

eBay stores has a feature called Markdown Manager. Sellers can run sales on entire categories or just certain items. Find a tutorial on Markdown Manager here. Once you start moving to the top, you will sell more, and then be rewarded for selling more, and the cycle improves. 

Reset the RSS Feed

An RSS feed is a technology where a web feed is used to distribute information, or to distribute content to a large number of people at one time. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. eBay sends an RSS feed to Google. Sellers don't have to do anything to make this happen — eBay automatically sends information about each listing to Google using RSS feeds.

So what does this have to do with the search engine on eBay? Cassini, eBay's search engine technology, likes fresh content. It likes new listings. One way to satisfy Cassini, and subsequently make your listings appear higher in the search results, is to refresh the RSS feed. In other words, turn off the eBay RSS feed, and then turn it back on. You must have an eBay store to access the RSS feed. 

Keep Your Account Healthy

Cassini likes healthy accounts in good standing. Cassini looks at seller performance including feedback, top-rated status, detailed seller ratings, customer service and disputes history, communication, and shipping time. Serious sellers who really want to get sales offer 1-day processing time (get the item in the mail in 24 hours), respond to customer questions ASAP, handle disputes quickly to keep the customer happy, and go above and beyond to be the better seller. Getting to the top of Cassini is work, so be prepared to do what it takes. This is called the cost of doing business. Sometimes you have to do things for the sake of keeping the overall business healthy.

Check your eBay Seller Dashboard daily. Address any issues immediately, don’t wait. The seller dashboard allows you to download a report showing any transactions with defects so you can address those and learn how to be a better seller by not repeating the same errors. Learn more about your eBay Seller Dashboard here

Proofread Text and Write a Good Listing Description

If you do all the above correctly, and your item is viewed, don't lose a sale because your listing is sloppy. Text needs to be free of grammatical or spelling errors and organized in an easy to read format. Cut down on the long seller policies about returns, shipping, and other information that clogs up the description section. (Do you read all that as a buyer? Probably not.) A long description turn off buyers and Cassini doesn't like it. With Cassini, it can be worse to place well in search results lose a sale than to have not appeared at all. Use one color font, preferably black, left-align text (best for mobile shoppers), and use a font that is big enough to read on a mobile device. Short, sweet, and to the point works best, and if your buyer has questions, answer them promptly. 

List at Least One New Item Every Day

List something that you have not listed before every day. (Relisting unsolds doesn’t count here.) One seller who has 5 eBay stores, a tractor-trailer full of inventory and surpassed $250 in sales in 2013 swears by this method. Listing new items helps “stir the pot” and improve search placement for other older listings. New listings also appear at the top of the “Newly Listed” search on eBay. (Read more about this amazing seller here.)

If you can’t list every day, use the scheduling feature (it costs 10 cents per listing) and schedule items for those day you know you won’t have time. 

Don't Artificially Inflate Views

Cassini looks at the relationship between how many times your listing has been seen and the number of sales you generate. It is no longer a good thing to have lots of views without purchases. Be careful with blasting your listings all over Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest — if you are getting a lot of views and not so many purchases, Cassini punishes that and drops the listing lower in search. The objective is to let buyers find your item organically. Furthermore, a large number of views are irrelevant if nobody is purchasing the item. A lower number of targeted views are much more conducive to a sale. 

Take the time to pay attention to the details on your eBay listings so that items appear higher in search. Once items are boosted in search, don't lose buyers by having sloppy listings or bad policies. eBay is more than slapping listings up for sale, details matter!