eBay removed our top selling listing with well over 1000 items sold. Here is how we got it back to #1 on search results within 2 weeks.
In my first post – The Perfect eBay Listing I told the story of how we came to sell GPS devices on eBay, and how we managed to get an edge over the competition and reach the #1 spot on eBay search results.
Well, the journey was not all smooth and sunny…
It was some time in September 2011, Max and I decided to take few days out for a trip to Slovenia, including the famous climb to the top of Triglav Mountain. We were on our second day of climbing when we got the worst possible news from eBay – Our best-selling listing which we had been constantly optimizing for months, that had well over 1000 items sold, was removed by eBay due to one of the images being in a trademark violation.
This was a punch below the belt, at the time ALL of our business depended on several best selling listings, the removed listing (it was on eBay Australia) was the major source of revenue and income.
We were devastated, months upon months of endless hours spent researching, studying our customers, designing and optimizing our listing description, providing awesome customer support, fighting for every customer – all went down the sewer. We were back to square one.
I remember that climbing the mountain became much more of a mental struggle for me than a physical one. I felt helpless, there was nothing I could have done to save the business, I didn’t even have access to a computer to try and email eBay to discuss the removal.
At the time, I didn’t know that this was just the first of many times that the “sky would fall” in on us, we would be in much worse situations down the road, and I’ll be writing all about it in future posts.
With no distractions, out in the wild, Max and I had nothing else to discuss but the lessons we learned from this failure. With each passing day we became more and more determined to rise up and rebuild the business. We learned never to put all the eggs in one basket again, ever!
Upon returning home, we wasted no time and immediately launched a brand new listing in place of the removed one. We were desperate, willing to try anything to reinstate the business we’d been working so hard on building.
Studying every piece of information we could get our hands on, we had a pretty good understanding of how eBay’s search algorithm works.
We knew that some of the most critical factors in eBay’s ranking system were “Recent sales” and “Sell through rate”.
Recent Sales – Is the number of items sold recently. If you have 100 items sold on a listing but you have had just a few sales in the past few weeks/months – your recent sales rank is low.
Sell through – Is the number of items sold divided by the number of clicks on your listing. A higher sell through rate (STR) is better, meaning that members were more likely to buy your item when they clicked to view your listing.
(For more on eBay’s search algorithm read this post.)
The listing that eBay removed had high recent sales and as we had constantly kept improving it’s description, it was highly converting too = high sell through rate (It was nearly 4%, meaning that out of every 100 visitors 4 actually purchased a GPS from our listing).
It also had the one thing that was the hardest to achieve – it had a very strong “social proof” of more than 1000 units sold.
(I talk about the importance of social proof in this post.)
We were proudly presenting a heading on that listing that said –
“You can stop searching! This is the best GPS deal on eBay.”
More than 1500 units sold to happy customers
With a new listing we had to start all over, with a big fat zero under “sold items.”
Waiting many long months to regain even part of our reputation and sold items history was not an option. We didn’t have any other sources of income, so we had to quickly get back on the horse.
We saw only one possible plan that had a chance of getting us back on top of eBay search results in a reasonable time – selling at a loss.
By default, eBay filters search results by “Best Match” using it’s search algorithm (currently called Cassini).
This is how most eBay customers are searching eBay.
“80% of buyers don’t change the order, and/or don’t even know they can re-sort the results by price” Suzanne A. Wells
But knowing that there are many “Dollar driven” customers on eBay who actively change the filter to “Price + Shipping: Lowest first” – we wanted to make sure that our listing appeared first in at least some of their search results.
Offering the lowest price was never a possibility and was certainly not our focus on eBay (Read more here under Focus, focus, focus!). Our plan was to quickly gain “Recent sales” and “Sell though rate” in order to kick our listing back to the top of the default (best match) eBay search results.
To ensure we had the lowest price on eBay – we had to sell the GPS devices at a loss, losing a few bucks on every unit sold. BUT! every unit sold got us higher on eBay’s search results, so we were “investing” in marketing, promoting our listing with every sale.
After 10 days we already had 40 sales and the listing climbed to the middle of the first page of search results. 5 days later we were already in the top 3 spots for the search term “GPS.” As soon as we got back to the top, we raised the price and regained our position.
The listing got 80+ sold items, which was far from the 1000+ we had on the removed listing, but it was a solid number – strong enough to keep us at the top.
After raising the price to our normal levels of profit, we quickly covered the losses from the units we had sold below our cost price.
The lesson we learned from this experience is that we can “hack” our way into the top eBay search results, without having to wait the natural time it takes to get there.
It’s important to understand that lowering the price alone is not enough! Prior to using this method we invested months in continually improving our listings descriptions, images and titles.
Lowering the price for a non-optimal listing may get you to the top of search results, but unless your listing looks and feels professional and is highly converting, your chances of staying at the top once you raise your prices are slim.
Important note on “good till cancelled” listing format –
A few days ago I had a phone chat with a CrazyLister user, she is a new eBay seller who wants to learn how to increase her eBay sales. We talked for about 20 minutes before I realized she didn’t list her fixed price listing for the “good till cancelled” duration, instead she chose “30 days” – which meant that every 30 days her listing was completely reset, losing all her recent sales, sale through rates and the position gained in eBay search results.
Except for exceptional circumstances, you should ALWAYS select the “Good Till Cancelled” listing duration when selling on eBay. This way your fixed price listing will continually gain recent sales and become “social proof” by constantly increasing the “items sold” info.
Yeah, but what if I run out of stock?
Good question! If you expect new stock for an item, and cannot sell it at the moment – don’t end your listing! I repeat – DON’T end your fixed price listing! You will lose all of your gained “SEO power” on eBay’s search results.
Recently we had to triple our prices to ensure that nobody bought from a specific listing before we had new stock in hand, and to make sure our ad stayed live. It took eBay several years, but they have finally introduced a very useful feature – the “Out of stock control.”
Using “Out of stock” allows your listings to stay alive, keeping all their metrics and positions in search results, but they will be hidden from customers – ensuring that you won’t be sold short.
Here is how to enable “Out of stock” for your eBay account –
1. Hover over “Account” and click on “Site preferences”
2. Tick the “Out of stock” – “Yes”
Boom! Whenever your eBay quantity reaches “0” your listing will be hidden from search results, but will keep all of it’s metrics, until you add a new quantity.
How can you implement this in your business?
Here are the steps we take to “hack” our way to the top of eBay search results –
1. Create professional, highly converting descriptions for your eBay listings
2. Optimize the eBay listing title
3. Lower your price to a break-even point or even lower if needed. This will give you initial traction and sales from the “dollar driven” customers.
4. Check your position on eBay search results every day. Once you reach the top of page one, raise your prices back to their normal levels. If you’ve done 1 and 2 right, you should stay at the top even after raising your prices. Even if you’re not offering the lowest price on eBay!
Feel free to share your comments, questions and experience with eBay titles.