Researching with eBay Completed Search Results

The key to continued success on eBay is to understand the marketplace and how your products can be best positioned to get the highest price and exposure. The easiest way to accomplish that is to study how the same items sold on eBay recently and adopt the best practices when you list the items.

eBay currently lets you search through the past 90 days of sales. You start by typing keywords in the search box at the top of any eBay page, and then clicking the blue Search button. When the results page loads, the left side of the screen displays a number of filters, or extra criteria you can provide to the eBay search, such as Condition, Listing Format, Item Location, and Price Range. At this point, the search results you see are for items currently for sale on eBay.

Scroll down the screen until you see a Show Only section on the left. Within that section, click the Completed Listings option. The search results change to show items that are no longer for sale and were completed within the last 90 days, as shown in the figure below.

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What can you learn from looking at completed listings? Almost everything you need to know before you list the same item for sale yourself. Pay attention to the following factors:

  • Know sold versus unsold items. The price listed to the right of an item title is either green, which indicates that the item sold for the price indicated, or red, which means the item was listed for that starting (or fixed) price and didn't find a buyer. You can also click the Sold Listings option below Completed Listings to see only items that found a buyer.

    Start with the Completed Listings option to get an idea of what percentage of the listed items found a buyer. If 100 of an item were listed, and only 5 to 10 found a buyer, either everyone else is overpricing the item or there's little current demand for the item.

  • Sort by price or ending time. At the top of the figure, look for the Sort box, which is currently set to End Date: Recent First. You can click the drop-down arrow to change the sort order to low price, high price, recent end date, oldest end date, or distance from you.

    In terms of research, the two most valuable settings are Price: Highest First and End Date: Recent First. Sorting by highest price will display the listings that got the most money for the same item. You can study those listings to see the keywords used in the title, how the item was described, and the format, length, and other settings.

    Sorting by End Date: Recent First will show you the going trend for sales, with the most recent sales on top. You may find that a month ago, your item was selling for $30, for example, but that over time the average sale declined to $15. Sorting by end date allows you to see the most recent closing prices. You can study the past sales range to determine where in that range you want to start your listing.

  • Understand which category to assign your listing. You may find that you could assign your item to more than one category. When you do a search for that product, the top-left corner displays a breakdown of the categories in which these listings have been assigned. Use this information as a guide by assigning your listing to the most popular category or perhaps to two categories if they are evenly split.

  • Study all the factors in other listings. As you go through the search results, spot what factors are showing up more often in the search results.

    • Are other sellers using free shipping more often? (You'll know by the green letters Free Shipping under the price.) If so, are those items selling for more or less than the ones without free shipping?

    • Are most of the listings using an auction-style format or a fixed-price Buy It Now? (The format filter on the left summarizes how many listings use each method.)

    • Which keywords show up in the most listings? Are certain keywords used some of the time but in the highest selling listings?

    After a while, you should start to get a sense of what works and what you can adopt in your listings.

    You can model your listings after a completed listing, but do not steal pictures or copy descriptions verbatim. Search results are meant to be a guide, not a fast way to rip off someone else's hard work.

The following example combines some of these techniques. Search for starting online business dummies belew to look for past sales of Starting an Online Business All-in-One For Dummies. The following figure shows sales in the last three months, in gallery view.

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When you look at the six previous sales, you can come up with some general trends:

  • The book sold approximately 50 percent of the time (three out of six listings were successful) with sales results in the $10.00 to $26.14 range.

  • The highest sale, at $26.14, was a fixed-price Buy It Now sale, and it appears that the price declined over time, with the most recent sales attempts unsuccessful. (Perhaps people were waiting for the 4th edition.)

  • A clear majority of these listings were in the Books, Nonfiction subcategory, and were listed as a fixed-price Buy It Now. Only one of the six listings used an auction system, and that listing received one bid.

  • The pictures all focused on the cover of the book (which makes sense) and many of them chose the stock image over a photo of the item. We can see from the pictures that the lowest unsold item is the 2nd edition, not the 3rd edition, which could explain why the outdated version didn't receive a bid at $3.99, since it's a much more outdated version of the same product.

  • If you were to roll your cursor over each listing, you could see that three of the six listings chose free shipping, and two of the three successfully sold listings used free shipping.

Because this example uses only a few listings, the observed trends should be taken with a grain of salt. The more listings you have, the better the trends should reflect the behavior of the marketplace. More importantly, any trends you observe are just guides and cannot predict future sales behavior.

After doing your research with completed items, deselect the Completed Items check box and see which current listings will be your competition when you put your item up for sale. Based on current listings, you might want to adjust your starting price to be the lowest or adopt other measures to position your listing better.

In the end, research is meant to help improve your sales results. As the 80's cartoon G.I. Joe teaches, "knowing is half the battle."

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