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How To Format eBay Auction Descriptions

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Here’s a question about formatting eBay auction descriptions from a reader:

Hi Terry
There is not much information about appearance of auction descriptions on eBay.

Maybe you could give me a piece of advice about how should look a really good description. I am talking about fonts, colors and sizes I should use.

Basically whether to use bold, italic, underline, centralize in my auction descriptions?
Best Regards

* * * * *
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This is a great question that is usually overlooked by most sellers.

The biggest thing to remember when you are writing an auction description is you are selling not entertaining.

Everything you do in your description needs to advance the reader’s desire to buy. If something doesn’t move the reader towards a buying decision, it should be left out of the description.

I’ve seen auctions that play music, with animated images of dogs running around, and other nonsense. These are just distractions that at best are ignored. If you’re selling a competitive item – something with lots of similar listings by other sellers – these distractions may cause the reader to move on.

I never stay on auctions that play music or are too cluttered if I have other choices. Most other eBay searchers won’t either.

The Best Match search results ranking makes these distractions even more important. Ebay ranks items in Best Match based on the actions of people who visit the listing.

This means if people go through a search to your listing and then leave quickly, eBay may decide your listing isn’t relevant enough for the search term and lower your search standing.

Ok now we know not to distract or drive away visitors to our listings. Maciej asked about fonts, colors and sizes.

In my listing template, I leave the fonts, text colors and text sizes undefined unless I want to make something stand out. When you don’t define text, the browser will show the default fonts and sizes. This means your text will be displayed in the manner the user has defined and is comfortable with.

If I want to make something stand out I use bold text. I used to do this for my shipping costs so buyers could find the cost quickly, but now I just input a flat rate shipping cost into the eBay form because people regularly look there for shipping information.

Sometimes – not often – I will italicize a word or phrase for emphasis. I don’t do this much because I don’t think it helps enough to spend the time adding the tags.

I used to do simple one column auction descriptions. This is the basic layout I used:

Overall photo of item at top. Same picture used for Gallery image.

Description of item here. This is usually one or two paragraphs. On some items worth more than $500, I might write longer descriptions. I don’t try to write paragraphs an English teacher would like, instead I concentrate on keeping each paragraph under 5 lines of text.

Keeping the description paragraphs under 5 lines of text makes the information seem less dense. Larger paragraphs will cause people to skim them and miss important information.

I’ve been holding the 5 line rule for years. I try to use the same rule here in the newsletter and in the articles on the website.

When I first started limiting paragraphs to 5 lines, the questions from eBay readers went down. This shows people are more likely to read shorter paragraphs.

Under the description I have a simple statement about shipping similar to this. “Postage and handling is shown elsewhere on this page. I ship once a week on Fridays by Priority Mail with delivery confirmation. Pay by noon (eBay time) on Friday and it will go out that Friday. Insurance is available at cost.”

Then under the shipping information I have more photos as needed to allow bidders to get a good idea of the condition.

Under the last photo I have simple statement telling people I combine purchases to lower shipping and then a link to my other auctions.

If you do not do international shipping the above simple description is enough.

About a year ago, eBay changed some rules about international shipping. They will now remove negative feedback from international buyers if you have the following statement in your description:

* International shipments sent by Airmail letter post.
* Import duties, taxes and charges are not included in the item price or shipping charges. These charges are the buyer’s responsibility.
* Please check with your country’s customs office to determine what these additional costs will be prior to bidding/buying.

EBay requires that statement to be “above the fold” in your description. This means it has to be visible without scrolling downward on the page.

That statement is 8 lines long and not relevant to the majority of my bidders. To get that above the fold, I’d have to remove the top photo, and sometimes fiddle with the description to keep it at the top of the page.

Rather than doing that, I added a simple line in bold red text to the top of my template saying:

Shipping Information is to Right >>>

Then I put all the shipping information in a simple column on the right side of the description. This is part of my template and doesn’t change for most listings.

Making two columns is done with a simple table. The left column containing the description and images is 800 pixels wide, the right column with shipping information is 200 pixels wide. Here’s a page explaining tables if you are unfamiliar with them.

In the shipping column, I use bold text to separate information for US Buyers and International Buyers.

Maciej also asked about underlining and centering text in eBay descriptions.

I center all my photos, but otherwise rarely center text. I don’t center text because it adds to my listing work and doesn’t increase sales amounts. My template has centered images in it so I don’t have to add the center tags.

I never underline for emphasis because the web convention is underlined words mean links. If it’s not a link, for example to my me page or to my other auctions, it’s not underlined.

I also never use background images or colors. My auction descriptions are just words in short paragraphs and photos.

One last point here. When I mention my template, I am NOT referring to one of the eBay provided templates that costs extra to use. Those are a waste of your money.

By template I mean the simple form I constructed with html tags and saved as a template in eBay’s TurboLister program.

Using the template and TurboLister I spend between 5 and 8 minutes writing each listing. The whole process I go through with each listing is described in detail in The Auction Revolution.

Did this answer your question? If not, try looking at the questions and answers within the General category, or do a search for other questions.
If you are unable to find an answer to your question, send me an email, and I will answer it.

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