Avoiding eBay Fees, Stealing Photos, Shill Bidding & Keyword Spamming
Posted by Adam Ginsberg on: 2006-05-03 20:37:48
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eBay, the world's auction site, has changed over the years. Now, more than ever, it is an extremely competitive marketplace. There is still ample opportunity to make money on eBay. However, for a seller to make money on eBay today he or she must be more savvy than than a seller from 3 years ago.
There are many ways you can become a top seller on eBay. The purpose of this eBay article is to teach you one of the lesser known strategies. This eBay article focuses on how you can compete, and win, in the eBay marketplace by learning, understanding and applying some of eBay’s policies – and using them to your advantage. Your goal, if you are going make money on eBay, is to be a top performer in your product niche, and this eBay article will show you how you can achieve that.
First, you must be aware of eBay’s policies. Second, you need to insure that you do not violate these policies. And third, you must monitor your competition to insure that they too are not violating eBay’s policies.
Have you ever heard the expression “knowledge is power”? eBay has established itself a level playing field. Everyone plays, supposedly, by the same rules. Of course, this supposes that everyone playing the game actually knows the rules. Like in most marketplaces, there are penalties - some sever - if such rules are broken. You must use this to your advantage.
1. Fee avoidance
eBay generates a significant portion of their profits from “final value fees”. As a result, many of eBay’s policies revolved around this specific violation. “Fee avoidance”, or the act of “circumventing eBay fees” can occur in many ways. Here is just a partial list of practices that might be considered a violation of this policy:
You can not: end an auction early in order to sell a bidder the item directly and cut eBay out of the deal
You can not: end a reserve-price auction early because it doesn’t look like bidding will reach the reserve
You can not: end a no-price auction early because it doesn’t look like bidding will reach the minimum you hope to get for the item
You can not: encourage bidders to contact you directly to purchase the item off eBay
You can not: require the buyer who wins the auction to buy something else. For example, a certificate for cheap airfare that requires the buyer to pay for three nights in a specific hotel.
You can not: give the buyer a choice at the end of the auction. For example, if you have a blue tie and a red tie for sale, they should be listed as two separate auctions – not one auction with a “choice” at the end of the transaction
You can not: include a static or clickable link to a non-eBay website
In most situations, it’s the bidder who reports to eBay that fee avoidance is occurring or has occurred. However, as a savvy seller it is your obligation to report to eBay these violations made by your competitors. Many times a new seller to eBay doesn't know they are breaking policies - and certainly doesn't know what to do once they receive a warning from eBay. From time to time you'll see people cease to be a competitor because they often quit selling on eBay out of frustration. Sellers who have a fee-avoidance complaint against them can expect a warning, temporary suspension or permanent suspension.
2. Stealing Photos
One of my students recently spent thousands of dollars on professional photos for their products, only to find their photos “stolen” and placed on that competitors eBay listings.
It’s not easy to take great photos – and it’s tempting for people who see a perfect photo to “right click”, save the photo to their desktop and upload the photo as their own. This occurs a lot – and is mostly done by new sellers on eBay who don’t understand that your photos are not part of the public domain for their own use.
Copyright laws apply to the Internet just as they apply to other media. Should you find your photos on the listings of a competitor, simply report this to eBay and that competitors listings should be removed. When you’re reviewing your competitors listings for violations, don’t just look at the titles, but review the entire listings and read the descriptions, looks at the photos, etc.
3. Shill Bidding
Shill bidding happens when a seller (or accomplice) bids on his or her own auctions – with the intent of driving up the price. For example, a seller might have two eBay ID’s and use one of them to bid. They might also convince a friend, family member or co-worker to bid on an item with no intention of buying it. Shill bidding can be tempting when lots of people are watching an item but no one’s bidding – just one false bid to get things rolling – or when bidding is slow and it looks like an item will sell for a lot less than the seller thinks it’s worth.
Shill bidding is a little more difficult to detect in a competitors listings – but is still something you should look for. Review your competitors “closed” auctions. Review the last 30 days of completed listings and look at the buyers/bidders. More specifically, look to see what the feedback score is for these buyers/bidders.
Do you notice a pattern? Can you see a trend? Does the same user ID purchase multiple items from the seller (for an item that would have no need for multiple purchases)? When did these users registers? If shill bidding is happening, many of the “bidder” accounts will have recent eBay registration dates.
Shill bidding happens with new sellers who think "what's the harm in increasing the price just a little - no one will know." Shill bidding also happens with experience, high level sellers. Recently two top jewelry sellers were warned and had their accounts suspended by eBay for shill bidding...they were bidding on each others' auctions.
Shill bidding is illegal, and is another policy violation that eBay takes very seriously. eBay has very sophisticated tools and technology to track shill bidding. If you believe there is shill bidding activity going on within a sellers account, report it to eBay and they will begin an investagation.
4. Keyword Spamming
As you become aware of what keyword spam is, you’ll begin to notice how frequently this policy violation actually happens. While some advanced eBay sellers who are making money on eBay will actually keyword spam intentionally, many new sellers are unintentionally violating this eBay policy.
By definition, keyword spamming is "the act of trying to attract buyers to your auction by putting popular but inappropriate keywords in the title". In situations like this, sellers often use keyword spamming to make their items appear in a wider range of search results, even though what they’re offering isn’t exactly what the buyer is looking for. A title like: Brand new mens watch CITIZEN SEIKO ROLEX CARTIER is an example. One watch can’t be from all those manufacturers, but the seller wants his title to show up in the search results of people searching for watch – and also for anyone searching for any of those manufacturers by name.
eBay makes the point that keyword spamming is unfair to buyers – that a seller is wasting a buyer's time with a title that promises something that the seller doesn't, in fact, have to offer. There are several kinds of keyword spamming - all of which violate eBay's policies.
You can not:: compare. Your title must describe what you’re selling and not compare it to something that you are not selling. For example, let's say your have a listing that says: Womens purse, like prada for less. This would be considered a violation of the keyword spamming policy. The auction is not for a prada purse but the seller is trying to attract bidders looking for that specific designer handbag. Comparisons don’t have to use the word "like"; either. Titles like: even cuter than a beanie baby or workout clothes, not nike addidas puma also violate the policy.
You can not: include a list of related words. This restriction applies to both titles and descriptions. In a title you're limited to 55 characters, so you can’t really make long lists. However, it’s against eBay policy to fill up your item description with long lists of words that are there for no other reason than to attract the attention of shoppers who are searching by both title and description. For example, if you're selling cosmetics, don’t include a list of words like this in the description: lipstick lipgloss lip gloss glamour beauty lip liner and so on. Your auction might turn up in more searchers, but it’ll just upset buyers who are looking for something other than what you’re selling.
You can not: use misleading titles. This policy covers some of the previous violations but also anything else that could potentially confuse buyers or lead them astray. For example, you might be offering free shipping to buyers who use the Buy it Now option. If that’s the case, make sure you state this in the title.
Here's the point with keyword spamming. Since we know it's going on already in your category product niche, look for it. Research it. Find it. It's already there. Now that you are aware that this exists, report these sellers and their listing violations to eBay. The result will be in the warnings and cancellations of your competitors listings.
The goal of eBay is for all sellers to play by the same rules on the same field. It's your responsibility to insure that your competitors do not have an unfair advantage. Remember, "all is fair in love and war".
If you look closely, you can and will find active auctions that violate one if not all of the policies mentioned above. Can you get away with it? Maybe for an auction or too, but sooner or later, you'll get caught. Play with integrity to win. And, make sure that your competitors play by the same rules and with the same integrity. You never want to jeopardize your eBay account by violating the marketplace policies - just be sure that your competitors are not violating them as well. Do the right thing - report these violations to eBay.
Adam Ginsberg – Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker
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Adam Ginsberg is internationally known as a small business and online expert and highly sought after speaker and trainer. Adam has published the #1 best sellers "How to Buy, Sell & Profit on eBay" as well as "The Automatic Money Machine on eBay".
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