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eBay Hacks by David A. Karp

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Putting Keywords in Your Auction

Hide keywords in your title and description to increase your exposure without violating eBay’s keyword spamming rules.

The title is the single most important part of your auction, as it is the only basis for standard searches on eBay. You have 45 characters with which to simultaneously describe your item and include as many search keywords as possible, so don’t waste them.

Say you’re selling a camera, and you want to attract as many bidders as possible to your auction. The following approach should help you construct the best possible title.

Start by including the full manufacturer name, product name, and model number, like this:

Nikon F100

If you were to put only “Nikon” in the title, any searches for the model name (“F100” in this case) wouldn’t bring up your item. Next, make sure to state what the item actually is:

Nikon F100 35mm Camera

One of the more common mistakes sellers make is not actually stating what the item is in the title or even the description. Think about it: without the word “camera” in the title, searches for “nikon camera” wouldn’t bring up your item.


eBay goes to great lengths to help sellers describe their auctions. If you’re not familiar with a certain category, check out eBay’s seller’s guide for the section. For instance, eBay’s Art Seller’s Guide (http://pages.ebay.com/artsellersguide) suggests that the word art is consistently one of the top five search terms.

Next, you’ll want to compensate for common variations by including them right in the title:

Nikon F100 F-100 35mm Camera 35 mm

Note that I expanded out the model number to cover both “F100” and “F-100”, as well as “35mm” and “35 mm” (with the space), all of which are different in eBay searches. Note, however, that I placed “35 mm” (with the space) after “camera”, because I wanted to maintain the order of the words “35mm Camera” to accommodate phrase searches in quotes (see [Hack #9]). For the same reason, you wouldn’t want to type something like “F100 Nikon”.

Next, if the manufacturer is known by other names (or other spellings), include them as well:

Nikon F100 F-100 35mm Camera 35 mm Nikkor

Finally, if there’s room, think about other things your bidders might be looking for. Remember, the title not only seeds search results; it must also compel bidders to view your item when it’s shown in search results and category listings. For instance, if it comes with extras or is brand new, say so:

Nikon F100 35mm Camera TWO Nikkor Lenses Lens

As before, I included variants of important words. I used “Lenses” to make it clear that multiple lenses were included, and “Lens” to catch any searches for “Nikon Lens” or “Nikkor Lens”. (Note that including plurals of your search terms may or may not be necessary, depending on the particular terms you’re using; see [Hack #10] for details.)


Be judicious with your use of capital letters. In most cases, putting the entire title in ALL CAPS is unnecessary, and will just seem obnoxious to your bidders. But a few choice words in all capitals will not only emphasize those words, but will help separate them from other words in the description without having to resort to unnecessary punctuation and prepositions like “with.” A good mix of upper- and lowercase will stand out better than an otherwise homogeneous title.

In this last example I used the word “TWO”, although I could’ve instead used the number 2 and had two more characters for other keywords. I did it because I had the space to spare and I wanted to emphasize that I’m including multiple accessories. But, depending on your needs, you might make a different decision.

Naturally, your ability to squeeze more words into the title will vary with the item being sold and which words you think people are likely to use in searches. If you run out of room, you’ll have to start prioritizing. Remove the less common words, phrases, and monikers and embed them in the description, discussed later in this hack.

Title Don’ts

eBay’s support for “fuzzy” searches is very limited, so in most cases, only exact matches will bring up your auction in search results. For this reason, never abbreviate:

Nikon F100 Cam. with two lenses & other xtras

For the same reason, be careful not to misspell the name of your item, or nobody will find it. This, of course, doesn’t include intentional misspellings you might include to accommodate your spelling-challenged bidders.

Next, avoid wasting space with prepositions (“with”), conjunctions (“and”), and punctuation (commas, periods, semicolons, and quotes). In most cases, nothing more than a single space is needed to separate words in your titles. But don’t take it too far; a lot of sellers make the mistake of squishing all their words together, like this:

NikonF100 with2lenses extrabatteries brandnew

This auction won’t show up in any searches, ever, and is so difficult to read that few people will bother opening it in category listings. Do this only if you want to completely hide your auction from bidders.

Don’t abuse keywords by using them to spam search results. A common practice is to include the word “not” followed by other manufacturer names, like this:

Nikon F100 Camera not Canon Olympus Minolta

The idea is to increase the item’s visibility by having it show up in a wider variety of searches, a plan that usually backfires for several reasons. First, anyone searching for a different manufacturer is very unlikely to be interested in your item. Second, this is in violation of eBay’s keyword-spamming rules, and is grounds to have your item removed. Third, this practice will probably end up annoying the very customers you’re trying to attract. Finally, these superfluous keywords are a total waste of space that could otherwise be used to include relevant keywords that will attract bidders who might actually bid on your item.

Here’s an especially bad title:

\/\ Nikon F100 35mm Camera ** @ LOOK @ ** \/\

Obviously, this is a total waste of space. Lots of fluff is consuming space that could be used to include more keywords. And when was the last time you searched for the word “LOOK” anyway? But a lot of sellers do this; a recent title-only search on eBay for the word “LOOK” actually generated 65,480 results.

In most cases, the asterisks and other symbols are also wasteful, but if you have the space to spare (which is rare if you do it right), a little decoration may actually help your item’s visibility in category listings, much like extra-cost listing upgrades such as Bold and Highlight (see [Hack #36]).

The Description

The description is used (obviously) to describe your item. But it’s also the only other part of your auction that is indexed by eBay’s search, so you’ll want to make sure to insert any relevant search terms that you weren’t able to fit in the title.

Since there’s no size limit for the description, you can use as much space as you like with keywords, variations, alternate spellings, and anything else you can think of. The catch, of course, is that description text comes into play only in “title and description” searches.

The only big “don’t” when it comes to auction descriptions is keyword spamming, which essentially involves listing a bunch of search keywords unrelated to the actual item being sold. As in the title, keyword spamming is grounds for removal of your listing.


As a seller, you have something at stake when other sellers flood category listings and search results with irrelevant auctions. Not only does this annoy bidders, but it forces them to include exclusions in their search queries (see [Hack #9]) that might inadvertently exclude your listing as well. If you suspect that a seller is keyword spamming, you have every right to report the listing by going to pages.ebay.com/help/basics/select-RS.html.

To avoid looking like a keyword spammer (even when you’re not), you’ll want to embed your keywords in your descriptions rather than blatantly listing them at the end. This is a much better way to “hide” keywords than, say, making them invisible with white text, as described in [Hack #40].

For instance, consider an auction for a used camera. Here’s a paragraph that surreptitiously hides intentional misspellings, variations, specific phrases, and other keywords, all of which have been set apart in boldface type:

“You are bidding on a like-new Nikon F3 35mm camera, complete with all the original paperwork, three Nikkor lenses (a 28-80 mm zoom lens, a 55mm macro lens, and a 105mm Nikon lens), and the original Nikkon warranty card. I’ve had the F-3 for only a few months, during which time I’ve only used FujiChrome 35-mm film with it. I’ve decided to go digital. Being a photo nut, I also have some other photographic equipment for sale this week, such as a used Canon, and some other cameras as well, so check out my other listings.

Note that since description searches also include titles, you don’t have to duplicate keywords in your description that already appear in your title.

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