Online Descriptions that Sell

Captivate buyers with engaging descriptions

Do you ever wonder why some items sell and others don’t? Or how one seller can sell an item at a low price and, ten minutes later, another seller will sell the exact same item for a much higher price? It’s all a matter of how the individual seller lists that item.

An effective listing incorporates several important points:

  • Photograph(s)
  • A concise, compelling description with no misspellings
  • Clear terms and conditions

Taking eye-deal photographs

Take a good photo with a digital camera, or scan your flat item in a scanner. If you don’t have a digital camera, you can go on to eBay and buy a good quality one for around $200 (high megapixels are unnecessary). Many eBay sellers use the Sony Mavica Floppy disc series (easy to use, and it saves the images onto a regular floppy disc that pops right into your computer). For just a bit more money, you can get the super-cool, super-small Nikon Coolpix 2100.

tipBe sure to get as close as you can to your item — and keep down any extraneous backgrounds! Taking close-up pictures shows the prospective buyer what they want to see. If necessary, take several pictures of the item from different angles to show the buyer just how great your item is. You can also touch up the pictures in an image-editing program like Ulead’s PhotoImpact. The program is simple to use and can be purchased at extreme discount on the eBay site.

Upload the images to your free area (given to you by your ISP), an image hosting service, or use eBay’s picture services. If you upload the pictures to your ISP server or to an image hosting service, the only bit of HTML you will need to load the pictures into your auction description is:

<img src=http://yourISPaddress/~youruserID/picturename.jpg>

(Check with your ISP for the appropriate address to your space on their server).

If you’re using more than one picture, be sure to put the HTML code for a break <BR> or a paragraph <P> between the codes for the images — so they’ll appear on separate lines on the page.

By the way, if you’re photographing something very shiny, be sure there is nothing reflected in the image that will hinder the look of the item (like your face and the camera in the center of a silver tea pot).

Spelling success with good grammar

Nothing turns off a prospective buyer more than a listing with lousy spelling, sloppy grammar, and pitiful punctuation. You don’t need to have a description that will make an English teacher proud; your listing just needs to make it appear that you can speak the language. People aren’t usually comfortable spending their hard-earned money with someone who appears barely able to communicate.


Write your descriptions first in a word processor, and then run the grammar and spell checker. The process takes only a minute or so and may earn you mega dollars by knot uzing the wrong wurds.

Captivating buyers with delightful descriptions

Now you get to the meat of the auction. It’s time to pull out all the adverbs and adjectives that you can muster. Think excitement! Think infomercial! Use words that will make the prospective buyer excited about buying your item. No, don’t use the most overused words on eBay: “rare”, “hard-to-find,” and the others. Use those words only if they really apply to your item.

If the item is

  • Out-of-print, use the abbreviation OOP
  • New but has been sitting around for a while, use NOS (for new, old stock).
  • In mint condition, say so!

Click here for a longer list of these widely used online sales abbreviations.



Always ask yourself, “What would you like to know about the item?” If your item isn’t new, be sure to list any flaws (if there are any). Let the buyer know how long you’ve had it. Is it still in the original box? Has it been used only a few times? Does it look as if it’s traveled across the country on a wagon train — but hey, it is 100 years old? Is your item truly hard to find? What sets it apart from the hundreds of others that are up for sale?This is the time to let the buyer know what sets your item above the others, even if it’s only a low starting bid!

Considering shipping costs and terms

A posting on eBay without shipping costs is a listing that may not get very many bids. Savvy eBay shoppers are cautious about overspending on shipping. Many sellers begin their items with a low starting bid (or a low, buy-it-now price) and make up their profits with an outrageous shipping amount.Set aside a certain amount of money for handling costs, which cover expenses for tape, packing material, envelopes, and boxes. Handling costs also need to cover any monthly fees you pay to your shipping or postal service — as well as the cost of occasionally paying someone to bring your boxes to the post office or local service counter. Keep your handling costs reasonable, but don’t forget them.Let the reader know what forms of payment you accept — remember that accepting credit cards through an online service such as PayPal will definitely help you attract more bids. Also, it never hurts to reiterate whether you will ship out of the country or not — standing in line at the post office with international shipments may require charging a higher handling fee.


Do not, under any circumstances, allow your “Terms & Conditions” area to be larger than the description of your item. You want your customer to feel that you have a friendly business, but if you barrage them with negatives at the get-go, they may not be very comfortable spending money with you.

Writing a quality description that sells reflects the golden rule: Treat your prospective buyers the way you’d like to be treated. Make your descriptions interesting and informative, and most of all, sincere. Don’t forget to put together your own eBay “About Me” page, as well. That way, you can communicate further with your buyers by telling them about your business and supplying them with your Web site URL if you have one.

Marsha Collier is an eBay Top Rated Plus PowerSeller, author, and speaker. Her many appearances on local and national television and radio shows has helped others succeed on eBay.

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