Ask an expert: How do I write a great auction title?

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Q: How do I write a great auction title?

A: You’ve got to use both hemispheres of your brain for this one! On the one hand, your left brain hemisphere has got to be precise, calculating, and methodical. But at the same time, your right hemisphere has got to be creative, surprising, and fun!


Left Brain Stuff

Your left brain has to think like a search engine, and search engines are concerned only with keywords. Keywords are the nouns you use to describe an item. Notice I said ‘noun’ and not ‘adjective.’ No one really searches for ‘historic’ or ‘shiny,’ but everyone these days seems to be searching for Barack Obama, or blackberry.

Keywords help people find your item, and are the primary method of driving traffic to your listing. You will need to make sure that these keywords are in your title. If you’re unsure about what keywords to use for your item, check eBay’s completed listings for similar items, and see what keywords other sellers used. Or you can get help from one of the many keyword tools that abound on the web. Google and Wordtracker are very helpful for finding the most popular search terms people use for items, and eBay has its own keyword tool.

Must have keywords include: model number; brand name; year; size; dimensions; whether the product is new, used, refurbished; color; and the most common nouns for item.

kitchen scales

Next, you have to think about how to order your keywords within the 55-character limit imposed by Google. You need to front-load your keywords – place your most important keywords toward the front of your title. Otherwise your auction will go further down in the list.

Right Brain Stuff

The other half of your brain has to think like a live human being! This simply means that once you’ve gotten the left-brain stuff figured out, you need to compose your title so that it’s catchy, engaging, and memorable.

First, avoid tabloid-sounding clichés that make you appear desperate and over-dramatic. There many auction titles that claim to be “super” this and “absolutely” that; but these superlatives rarely help make the sale. They also waste valuable space that could be used for words people actually search for.

Next, DON’T USE ALL CAPS IN YOUR TITLE! Putting one or two important keywords in caps (such as the brand name) can be very effective. But all caps looks like you’re screaming yourself silly, which is pretty unprofessional!

Put yourself in your buyers’ shoes, and try to think like them. Which of your keywords (see previous section) would you (as a buyer) be looking for? Many experts suggest that you copy what other sellers do. But then if your ad looks like everyone else’s, what then sets you apart? Judicious use of misspellings can be a good way to get buyers other sellers miss.

Finally, be specific. If you’re selling a 1965 Ford Mustang silver 10,000 miles, then people know exactly what you are offering them, and know what to expect, and will be pleased when what they get matches exactly what you offered. This earns you invaluable trust in the marketplace.

And one more thing… you have to get started… now!

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  • Sophie 31st of January
    Great advice about the use of "cliché" titles. Along with those keywords not being used to search for items, I tend to automatically scan past any listings which are claimed as being "quality xyz" products and just review those with succinct descriptive titles.