How to Optimize
Your eBay Store

by Kent Johnson

#100, 30 July 2007

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Building a Website for Successful Bookselling Series

Having sold books primarily on Amazon and the other fixed-priced venues over the past several years, I only recently decided to throw my hat in the ring and open an eBay Store. I had heard mixed reviews on Stores from other booksellers - some had had great success, while others (quite a few others) had closed their stores in frustration, especially after eBay raised their fees last year. And so I set out to discover why some were doing well with their stores and what they were doing different from the sellers who had given up.

Then the eBay seller is faced with the task of taking digital photos of his or her inventory - and I'm convinced you're not going to sell many books without at least one good photo - and writing a description of the item. While eBay does offer an ISBN-based pre-filled listing feature through Muze, I quickly discovered that it doesn't provide photos of many of the older books that I was listing, and I found their generic descriptions less than adequate for selling expensive books. At this point, I could understand why many sellers used to listing books on fixed-price venues throw their hands up in frustration.

The question is, Is an eBay Store worth the extra work (and extra cost) of building and maintaining it? And will it generate enough additional sales (as opposed to listing my inventory on another fixed-price venue) to justify the effort? Then, of course, there's the matter of generating enough traffic to the store to actually get steady sales, which is the real focus of this article.

Once I had my store laid out the way I wanted had my books listed in the appropriate categories, I waited for the sales to roll in. And waited. Over the next few weeks I sold a few books out of my store, but nowhere the volume I experience on Amazon, which has always been my primary sales channel. I suspect that many booksellers have experienced the same thing, which at least partially explains the wave of eBay store closings in mid-2006 after eBay raised its store listing fees.

After checking the "traffic reports" feature provided with my basic store account, I found that my store was receiving over 100 visitors per day, so some shoppers were finding it. What surprised me, though, was the fact that over 30% of my traffic was coming from Google and several other major search engines. I had always assumed that almost all eBay store traffic would be generated by eBay's internal search engine. Could it be that I was missing out on an opportunity to receive more traffic - and sales - by not optimizing my store to gain more exposures from the major search engines?

So I decided to adjust my marketing plan and approach my eBay store as if were just another stand-alone website (which in many respects, it is).

The first order of business was to use my keywords and the content of the site more effectively. The home page and category pages of a store are just like any other web pages, after all, and are submitted to the search engines by eBay. The keywords present on those pages will greatly affect how the search engines place them in their index. eBay even provides a "Search Engine Keywords" section in their store manager, which displays a snapshot of what the search engines see when they crawl through your store pages. Make sure the keywords shown effectively represent what you're selling, or edit them as needed until they do.

Next I re-wrote my store description, replacing the generic "I sell quality used books" text with copy that included the keywords indicating the types of books I specialize in. Then I went in and looked at the listing titles of the books themselves. Like a lot of eBay booksellers, I had been using eBay's Muze service to enter my ISBN-era books into my auction listings and had stuck with the listing titles they provided. The problem with this is that many book buyers don't search for books by title; they search by subject, which may or many not be included in the title. Unfortunately, eBay doesn't provide a means of editing the titles of store listings (at least not that I know of) so I was forced to cancel the listings in question and re-load them with the new, keyword-rich titles - and pay another round of listing fees, of course).

Once I had the keywords in the store the way I wanted them, I set out to get some quality inbound links to the site. Now in case you're not aware of the importance of links pointing into your site, this is one of the key components of the complex algorithm that search engines use to rank web pages. A book could be written about Google's Page Rank algorithm (and several have been), but generally, the more higher quality links that point to a web page, the higher that page will rank in the search results compared to the pages that compete against it. This is one reason that Amazon ranks so highly in the search engine results: There are literally thousands of affiliated sites that link to it.

>>>>>Click here for page two>>>>

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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