How the ’10 second rule’ affects your eBay listings

They say looks aren’t everything, but they’re pretty close to everything as far as selling on eBay is concerned.

According to high-level research, it takes potential buyers less than ten seconds to pick an eBay product listing and, having opened that listing, it takes another few seconds to determine whether to buy or move on.

If a listing doesn’t look good, if it doesn’t meet viewers’ expectations, it won’t be opened at all.

Try this test… Search for a specific product on eBay: make it one available from several sellers as opposed to rare antiques and collectibles available from just a few dealers. Scroll quickly through eBay’s search returns, without looking at price and focussing only on images and titles. Count quickly from one to ten as you scroll down and before ten becomes eleven, click on the next listing you’d probably choose in a real-life buying situation.

This split second choice while you’re in full swing looking at product listings is the way many people actually search on eBay.

So as a seller you are trying to create a favourable first impression that surpasses all competing listings, which in turn means you need to know why people make their split second choices.

Is it the image that does it for most visitors, or words used in titles, or is it a sub-title?

The answer is probably gallery image first and titles next with sub-titles coming up a close third. But if you get your gallery image and title right, the sub-title – usually the most expensive part of the listing – shouldn’t be needed.

Now let us look at features of titles and descriptions that will get people to open your listings and stay to learn more about your product…


  • Create credibility. Two pals turning over $100,000 every month in designer clothing and accessories tell how their sales jumped by almost 40% with the addition of just two words to their eBay listings. Those words were ‘100% Authentic’.

The same sellers made feedback a prime feature of their eBay listings, using a sub-title like this: ‘You can stop searching! This is the best GPS Deal on eBay Guaranteed by 1000s of customer feedback’.

When their listings got opened, a screenshot showing positive feedback comments for the product in question appeared at the top of the screen. (Source:

  • Have a high profile discount sale. This might be a short-term idea, given that eBay is constantly making changes and then soon afterwards reverting back to square one. But let’s look at it anyway.

On the outside of listings eBay used to reveal a sale was taking place by striking through the old price and replacing it with the new. That was an incredible way to generate sales from people searching hundreds of listings for those with discount prices.

Then eBay stopped doing that – and then they started doing it again. And so it goes!

So right now any sale you promote will show outside your listings. But whether your sale is or is not highlighted in search returns, it’s still a good idea to mention it in your listing titles – like this, for instance: ‘WIDGET This Size That Colour – 20% SALE NOW ON!’ Or this: ‘WIDGET This Size That Colour 20% SALE NOW ON!’

In the second example, a sub-title makes the listing deeper and almost always catches the attention of people scrolling quickly through search returns.

But a sub-title is more effective in competitive markets and for high-profit items. In low-competition markets and for low-profit products, a sub-title might cost more than benefits achieved.

An eBay seller I studied today tells how the percentage discount and words ‘SALE NOW ON’, in capital letters in the title, lifted his sales by 20% over a similar sale without the mention.

When you create your sale with its high-profile title, you’ll have to choose listings manually and then edit their titles and/or include a sub-title.

That could take much longer than letting eBay create the sale for you, but the reward should be worthwhile.

Remember to change your listings when the sale ends.

  • Use capital letters sparingly. Same goes for lower case letters too.
    Try this:

(i) Don’t use all lower case letters in your titles. It looks unprofessional, as well as being difficult to read. The same goes for all capital letters.

(ii) Optimise your titles with one or two main search terms all in capital and the rest with first letter only in upper case.

(iii) Place your most important keywords at the beginning of your title, preferably in the first four words. This helps gallery image and title work together and catch most people scrolling through your listings, including a good many who focus solely on image and two or three inches into the title and rarely absorb the final few words. One reason they do so is to save time spent moving the eyes horizontally across the title and doubling or tripling time taken to scroll downwards.

Here’s an example of all three tips used together: ‘TITANIC Postcard SIGNED BY SURVIVOR Real Photographic’.

Compare that title to this one: ‘postcard real photographic titanic signed by survivor’.



Several features inside a listing determine whether visitors stay to learn more about your product or move away from your listing.

Clarity, brevity and a professional layout are paramount among those internal features of the perfect eBay listing.

Researchers tell how eBay started life mainly as a place for everyday folk to sell their unwanted household goods and personal possessions. So, imperfect images – even blurred and badly cropped – as well as descriptions, including spelling mistakes and lots of different fonts, were acceptable to most visitors and buyers. That was then.

Since then major sellers have arrived at the site and the old folky listings are now looking sloppy and substandard and getting fewer clicks than big names like Tesco, Laura Ashley and numerous other high street companies with their picture and word-perfect listings.

Ways to make your descriptions top notch:

  • Avoid using huge chunks of unbroken text and use short paragraphs instead with breaks every five or six lines. Clear, concise text will get people hitting the order buttons; spelling and grammatical errors will make them wonder if your products are as substandard as your word skills.

People want to know all the benefits of buying your product, without waffle and repetition, and they want that information fast. Three hundred words spread over six or seven paragraphs is the optimum size, according to several research companies I studied today.

  • Make your description fit the average computer screen without visitors having to scroll far, if at all, to access it. Far too many people have slow computers and inferior or zero broadband access and some days it can take five minutes or more to scroll down a long eBay listing and for Internet access to break every few minutes.

In the end people in broadband ‘notspots’ give up looking and go in search of shorter descriptions that can be viewed without scrolling. Make yours short and you will capture a small and potentially very responsive share of the market.

  • Insert bullet points to highlight important parts of your description. Use a font style and font size that most people find easy to read. Arial and Times are popular fonts and size 12 to 14 can be read by most people. Try a larger font if your product is for older people, or others with poor eyesight.

Don’t use lots of different fonts in the same listing. Choose one font and stick to it in all your listings and make it a simple font without squiggles and thick lines that make listings difficult to read.

As an example, there’s a man I buy dog prints from on eBay. He doesn’t have a template: he uses just plain text in his descriptions. But every description has subtitles and bullet points coloured purple and a little larger than the rest of the text. The first word of every paragraph is coloured purple and emboldened. His paragraphs are never more than three lines and there is always a half-inch gap between paragraphs. His descriptions are always a joy to read.

That said, a template with attractive border and distinctive word and image layout helps you compete with those major sellers mentioned earlier, as long as the design is simple and uncluttered and doesn’t detract from images and text.

So should you or should you not use a template? No one knows for certain without testing. So try running half your listings with a template and the other half without. See which works best for you.

If you do decide on using a template, try using one of the many free ones available before shelling out on something that might be less attractive and not as useful as a paid-for version.

Key ‘free eBay template’ into the search box at and then hit the ‘Images’ button. Study screenshots, most made using free listing templates, along with some paid-for templates based on keywords used at the site.

Find one you like, make sure you won’t be charged, then use that for your next 100 listings or so. See what effect the template has on sales and profits.

Now you know how to create the perfect eBay listing, it’s time to turn that knowledge into action.

This article first appeared on Auction Genie. Read more and comment here