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Turning Words Into Dollars: Writing Winning Auction Descriptions

August 15th, 2007 by Skip McGrath

I spent two hours yesterday scanning over 100 auctions. In my opinion, only about 12 out of the 100 were well-written, complete and compelling

I am not talking about lacking professional-level writing skills – many of the auctions I saw would not impress a 5th grade teacher.

If you want to learn how to make money on eBay you really need to concentrate on writing good descriptions.

You have all seen the difficult-to-read auction descriptions: Small type, run-on sentences and paragraphs, missing information and so on. If you really want the item, you are forced to email the seller to get more information – or you just give up and go on to the next item.

My own writing skills are no where near the level of a professional writer or journalist, yet I am successful at getting my ideas across to a wide audience. Here are some rules I follow to write winning auction descriptions:

  • Use the HTML command <font-size=+1> at the beginning of your description or If you use eBay’s HTML editor, set it to Medium font size. This will increase the standard eBay type size to make your words readable on any computer screen

  • Clearly state what you are selling in the first paragraph. Make your paragraphs short – no more than two or three sentences. There is plenty of research that shows web page readers like to scan text. If you paragraphs are too long, it makes it harder to scan. Place an extra return between paragraphs to create some white space around them.

  • Use bullets to describe features and benefits.

  • Write short sentences and/or follow a long sentence with a short sentence
     

  • Write complete sentences (i.e. subject and a verb). Avoid complex punctuation and long prepositional phrases
     

  • Don’t worry about your auction description being too long. It is more important to include all the information a buyer needs than to have a short description. If your description is easy-to-read, potential bidders will keep reading until they have all the information they need.

  • Describe all relevant details such as age, condition, hallmarks, flaws, packaging, size, manufacturer, and so on.

  • Use “power words” to create word pictures and emotional responses. A few examples are: New, Rare, Genuine, Beautiful, Original, Charming, First Class, Lovely, Save Money, Bargain, Guaranteed, and Expensive-Looking. Stress any product benefits such as health, beauty, time-saving, ease-of-use, money-saving, etc. (Caution: When using power words, don’t exaggerate. For example do not describe something as rare if it is not.)
     

  • Personalize the description. Tell the reader how or where you found the item or how you use it.
  • Spell out your shipping and payment terms clearly and completely.

Follow these steps and you will see your eBay bids and final values increase.

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