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Write Effective Listing Titles

The first thing anyone searching for an item sees is the title of the listing. You get up to 80 characters to use in your eBay listing title (bear in mind that only the first 55 will show in search results, but the other keywords still show up in searches). How do you make them count?

It's amazing how bad some listing titles are - for example someone selling a new game for the Xbox 360 called Stealth Agent 3 (I made that up) could and probably would list it as 'Xbox 360 game' - I've seen similar, and it does happen. Which is more likely to sell 'Xbox 360 game' or 'Stealth Agent 3 Xbox 360 Game Brand New and Sealed'? Anyone searching for Stealth Agent 3 won't see the listing for 'Xbox 360 game', and the seller loses a sale.

So what should you put? Start by thinking about descriptive words that describe exactly what you're selling. If it's a branded item, mention the brand. If it's for a certain use, mention the use. Going back to games as an example, Stealth Agent 3 might be released on a number of different consoles, so always include the console it's made for in the listing title. Also, think about how you would search for the item. What keywords would you type in to bring up what you're looking for? If you want to buy a red baseball cap, you'd search for 'red baseball cap'. Sounds simple doesn't it? You'd be surprised at how many people selling a red baseball cap would omit one or more of those three essential keywords from their listing title.

If you've used all the right keywords and still have a lot of space left, how should you use it? One idea would be to put common mis-spellings or alternative spellings. For example, if you were selling an adapter, also use the word adaptor. Of if you're selling a TV aerial, include the word aeriel. Have a look too, at what others are putting in their listing titles - don't copy them - but you can get a good idea of what works and what doesn't. Is the item new or used? You could include that in your title. Some categories have common search terms, for example clothing will often say BNWT (brand new with tags) and some potential buyers may search for that when looking, because they want brand new clothes, not second hand ones. A word of caution - don't put 'as new' or 'like new' as this is classed as keyword spamming and could get you in trouble with eBay.

What not to put - avoid things like LOOK, WOW or even worse, L@@K!!! People just don't search for those kind of words. It's probably best to avoid phrases like Cheapest on eBay, unless you're 100% certain that you are in fact the cheapest on eBay. Avoid brand names that might also be classed as spamming. For example, if you're selling some earphones that are suitable for iPods, but not actually made by Apple, then put 'White earphones for iPod', not 'White iPod earphones'. If the product is generic, but suitable for different brands, then you need to include the word 'for' or 'fits' in the title. I know from experience that eBay will remove listings that violate their Keyword Spamming Policy

Should you use a subtitle? Subtitles are very expensive in comparison with the listing fee, and in my opinion should be used either very sparingly, or not at all. The words in the subtitle aren't searchable, unless the buyer ticks a box to include them (and even then it doesn't always work), so you gain no advantage in search terms by using a subtitle. Sometimes it's worth doing, if you really want to catch the eye, or you need to convey extra information that just won't fit in, in 80 characters.

eBay have provided some resources to help in your research for popular keywords. Take a look at the Keyword Index to gain some insight into the most popular eBay keywords on a weekly basis. Or for a more detailed breakdown by category, try Keywords by Category. Also, for the more advanced user, you could try eBay Research Labs for research into keywords, best match and other useful information. You will find a listing title optimizer there too. Be warned though, read the instructions, it's not for the faint hearted!

A Word of Caution

Since eBay introduced Best Match 2, it is sometimes feasible to have less keywords in your title. The new Best Match measures impressions - IE how many times your listing shows up in a page of search results, and if they show up too often in searches without people buying the item, your item will drop lower in the search. It's important to think very carefully about your title, and only include keywords that will tempt buyers to click on and buy your item. Use too many generic search terms and it may have a negative effect on your visibility.

There are also reports that using unneccessary non-alphanumeric characters (such as * + £ !!) may have a negative impact on search and these are best avoided in my opinion.
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