7 Deadly Sins When Writing eBay Product Descriptions

5 min. read
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There are millions of listings on eBay, and thousands for any specific item you wish. So you can imagine how stiff the competition is for sellers. The typical eBay buyer has an attention span of 8 seconds for any one item they click on, and if they see something they don't like, they move on.

It could be anything from the lack of a photo to the shipping terms, but what most quickly turns off a buyer is a sub-par product description. Obviously, you want your eBay product descriptions to keep the buyer's attention long enough to make a sale.

There are two considerations when making a product description: form and content. Online auctions are highly visual, so buyers tend to make snap decisions based on how a page looks, and that includes eBay listings.

Before you can lure buyers into reading your product description, you must make sure the listing is visually appealing. Once they find the listing interesting enough to actually read, the content comes into play.

Below are the seven deadly sins when writing eBay product descriptions that can lead you to eBay seller hell.

1. Sloth: Poor spelling and grammar

One extra "s" doesn't spell success.

When an eBay buyer checks out an item, in the back of his/her mind, he/she is prepared to question the authenticity of the listing. After all, everyone is exposed to risks when dealing with people we're never likely to see in person.

Buyers need all the reassurance they can get, and giving them a product description that's full of spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, and punctuation problems just tells them that you couldn't be bothered to make good quality content, and they aren't likely to do you the favor of reading it. You can even hire paper writing help to help you get the perfect language across.

By omitting the proofreading process, you give off a very negative impression, one that lacks credibility and professionalism. That's not usually the best way to dazzle a buyer. Don't be lazy: Make the effort and learn the difference between “their,” “there” and “they're.”

2. Wrath: Screaming fonts

Why are you yelling?

The font you use defines the attitude of the seller. If you use very large fonts and/or all capital letters, it looks as if you're shouting at the buyer, demanding attention and generally a needy huckster with a bad temper.

On the other hand, using fonts that are too small or all lower case tells the buyer you don't really want to sell anything. Using fancy script or a funky font is likewise inappropriate and ineffective for product listings.

As a rule of thumb, standard fonts like Times New Roman or Arial in proper sentence format work best for product descriptions. Use all caps sparingly, if at all, and only for parts of your page that need special emphasis.

3. Lust: Using inappropriate colors

Well, this is distracting.

A product listing that is highly colorful may look cute, but it is also distracting and difficult to read. A busy background that uses lots of colors is doesn't produce conversions so much as it does headaches. Stick to solid neutral-colored backgrounds and sharp fonts in contrasting colors.

Using flashy graphics also adds little or no value to the product description even if they're funny or interesting. Stick to two basic colors like black for the body and red for emphasis. Rely on clear, high-resolution product images for your visual impact.

Now we go on to the meat of the matter: content.

4. Gluttony: Too much text, not enough information

A big blob of all caps with a brutal green, blue, and white color scheme. That's just awful.

Many sellers make the mistake of confusing a long description with giving information. They could have 10 to 20 paragraphs on product specifications and still never explain what makes this item a great buy.

You could ramble on and on about the technical specifications and fail to explain why they're good things in terms of user benefit. Remember the attention span? Buyers who see a very long, technical description can zone out and simply move on to some other listing with a more concise description.

Buyers are only interested in one thing: How will buying this item benefit me? They're not really interested in knowing that a handbag is made of a certain material if you don't tell them that the material is soft but durable, environmentally friendly, or anything else that directly relates consumer concerns.

You need to include the important features of the item too, but you must establish a connection between feature an benefit if you want to be successful. Engage your buyers with product descriptions that speak to them. Deliver a message that that they can relate to, and you'll make the sale.

Important note: You need to provide a complete and accurate description of your items to avoid problems later on, but emphasize pros rather than cons.

5. Pride: Too much hype

These sunglasses will make you 500 percent cooler! So cool that you'll emit a blue aura composed of street graffiti.

You may have a really great item for sale, but a big mistake is being too enthusiastic and infomercial-like about it. When you say that an item is of “excellent” quality, you should be prepared to back it up with facts, figures or product reviews.

It's easy to say that the item is “one of a kind,” but you should only reserve such a description for items that aren't being offered in a thousand other listings. In most cases, buyers already know a good amount about the item they're shopping for, so you don't need to oversell it.

Avoid superlatives and stick to a matter-of-fact run-down of the features of the item, and you will build trust with your buyers.

6. Greed: Too much emphasis on SEO

It is a good idea to make your listing more searchable by using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, but they should employed subtly in the product description because they can negatively affect the content's clarity.

You never want to sacrifice the flow of your writing in order to optimize. Stick to a couple of keywords and enter them into the text once or twice, but do so naturally. You can always improve the search-ability of your listing in other ways: through meta tags, the item header, and choosing the appropriate category.

The content, on the other hand, is what needs to be kept clear and concise to convert viewers to buyers. Use your product description to close the deal and not catch more flies, or you may lose traction at the finish line.

7. Envy: Using the manufacturer's product description

There is a time and a place for making copies.

eBay is largely a peer-to-peer website, so buyers appreciate a more informal tone in the product description. The copy provided on a manufacturer's website or their literature may sound impressive but it is often too formal to match your own tone as an eBay seller.

You need to weave cohesive content into your product description. You can lose the steam you built up in your introduction when you start using robotic language at the most crucial portion of the listing. Don't covet the high-brow nature of a manufacturer's product specifications; it provides no connection with the buyer, who just really needs the right push to bid or buy your item.

As a final note, a good way to assess the impact of your product description is to preview it. Read it as if you were a buyer. Would you read it to the end? Did you understand what you read? Did it engage your interest? Most importantly, would you buy it?

🎓 Learn More: eBay Dropshipping

If you answered no to any of these questions, you need to revise your product description. Learn more about writing effective product descriptions here.


About the author
Simon Slade
CEO of SaleHoo Group Limited

Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of SaleHoo, a platform for eCommerce entrepreneurs that offers 8,000+ dropship and wholesale suppliers, 1.6 million high-quality, branded products at low prices, an industry-leading market research tool and 24-hour support.

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  • KMC 28th of April
    In the section about proof-reading, did you really mean to say "dazzle the seller"? Isn't it the "buyer" we are supposed to "dazzle"?
  • Robert Usher 8th of January
    You do a fairly good job of telling and showing us what not to do. I was hoping to see more of what it is that we SHOULD do. Optimizing with good keywords used in a natural sounding title or description as well as in the benefits section. Where do we find these good keywords. I would have liked a showing of a list of found good keywords and how to work them into attention grabbing titles, descriptions and benefits would, indeed, be the kind of lesson I would like to see.