The Quality Imperative – Winning through Listing Optimisation

Tuesday April 28, 2020 | Posted at 2:30 pm | By Paul Dicken
April 28, 2020 @ 2:30 pm

A really valuable thing to do at any time – and it directly impacts your sales success – is to review your listing quality and see where you can further improve. In this post we’re going to make some general comments about listing optimisation, before we dive into the detail.

Why should you focus on listing quality? As Ford Motor Company used to say, quality is job 1. Your overriding goal is to ensure your listings are appearing as high as they possibly can in response to searches on the marketplaces where you’re present.  This is one job you can’t really cut corners on, and it’s so important. You can’t take a ‘catch all’ approach to all your channels. Marketplaces have different requirements and algorithms that govern where you rank on their platform. While they’re all generally influenced by pricing, your account standing, and on a daily basis how well your listing is optimised, they still have a different rule book, with different parameters.

When it comes to listing optimisation, there are 5 elements which are common to the different marketplaces. These are: listing title; images; listing description; search terms (Amazon terminology), item specifics (eBay terminology) or similar concepts used by other marketplaces; business policies. Let’s take each one of these elements in turn, confining ourselves with examples from the big 2 marketplaces.

Listing title: the rule of thumb is that each marketplace has a character limit on the title. You want to use as much of that limit as possible, and not go over it, or you’ll end up with truncated listing titles. Amazon has a 200-character limit, whereas eBay’s limit is 80. Treat them differently. If you use the Amazon listing title for eBay, you’ll get a truncated listing on eBay and you’ll rank poorly. If you use the eBay listing title for Amazon, you’re not using anywhere near your limit and you’ll rank poorly. 

Include as much rich keyword information as you can in the title, such as brand, colour, sizing, and a succinct description. Your titles don’t need to read like a coherent sentence, you’re looking to stack it with the right words. You can do this for your listings on a spreadsheet and import it, or to save time you can use concatenation, bringing data from multiple columns into a single title for each listing.

Images: again, marketplace requirements vary on images. For example, eBay mandate a plain white background for the main image, showing only the product. Amazon are very specific on image dimensions too. For products that are not particularly photogenic, we recommend you include a lifestyle or ‘use case’ image. One of our customers did this with one of their kitchen items and saw marked increases in conversions. Good images are a great way to reduce returns for the reason ‘item not as described’, so make sure you include images of the product from different angles. The more images you have, the greater your conversion rates pure and simple, although Amazon allows 7 to 9 images per listing and eBay up to 12.

Above all, make sure your main image is super clear, as compelling as you can make it, and compliant with the marketplace requirement. It’s the image that’s presented when someone is searching. eBay states that adding a second image to a list can increase sales by 10% for that product, and by 7% for including a third image.

Listing Description: these are a great way to avoid problems further down the line, like returns which can kill your profitability. Include rich information for the buyer, in a format that’s easy for them to consume and absorb: usage instructions, FAQs and so on, anything that will help conversion. Be clear with your language, make use of bullet points where you’re allowed and use small blocks of text, rather than the dense paragraphs you’re reading now (in our defence we’re articulating best practice rather than trying to sell to you)!

There’s no great science here, but you’ve done the hard work with your listing title and image to get them this far. You don’t want to lose them now; far from it, you want your description to help close the sale. According to eBay, a great description can drive a sales increase of up to 80%.

Search Terms / Item Specifics: this is where you do want to be as scientific as you can, because it’s really important for the rate at which buyers find exactly what they want, and find your product. Understand intimately how each marketplace’s filters work and what fields it allow buyers to filter on. Use those fields as your labels and use what they describe in the filters as your values.

A couple of examples will illuminate things here. If you use a label ‘colour’ and the marketplace calls it ‘main colour’, that’s not great, and the misalignment will adversely impact you. If something you’re selling on eBay is crimson, but it’s not in the marketplace list, then list as red and put crimson in Item Specifics. Remember on eBay clothing, for example, that up to 65% of buyers will find what they need using the filters. We can’t emphasise this enough: play by the specific marketplace’s rules. We’ve seen customers spending lots of time working on their listings’ Item Specifics, but many are not compatible with the filters and fields.

Business Policies: the one prevailing thought sellers should keep uppermost is that marketplaces need buyers to come back time and time again. Everything is predicated on the optimal buyer experience, which is why marketplaces will hold sellers to account to provide a fantastic experience.  Ranking by experience and great feedback is hugely important, and this primarily hinges on the business policies you offer and enhancements on other sellers’ offerings. For example on postage, if you offer eBay FAST & FREE you get a banner on eBay. Buyers can filter listings by FAST & FREE, and many do, just like many do by Prime on Amazon. eBay claims that FAST & FREE can attract an increase in conversion of up to 5%.

Another example is returns. eBay insist on at least 30 days, and 60 days is considered a best practice, and of course links back to the optimal buyer experience. To become an eBay Premium Seller – which unlocks cheaper listing fees – you have to offer 60-day returns.  Again, according to eBay, 69% of consumers say that the quality of a returns service is important to them when deciding who to buy from.

Having the eBay Premium Seller logo next to your listings signals trust to your buyer, and that can make a compelling difference against a close or even slightly cheaper competitor.

Would you prefer more information that’s personal to your own business situation? Listing optimisation advice is one of a range of Volo professional services. You can find out more here or please get in touch directly to start the conversation.

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