A good listing title and great photos might get your listing views, but they can’t always make the sale alone. A good description closes the deal by answering questions and building excitement. Here’s how to write an eBay description that converts visitors into buyers:
Last updated 1/1/2021.
1. Make It Easy to Skim and Read
Dense writing makes readers glaze over. Hold your readers’ attention by doing the following:
- Use lists.
- Keep all the points in your lists short—no more than one sentence each.
- Limit all paragraphs to three sentences or less.
- Use a variety of sentence structures.
- Favor short sentences.
- Separate the sections of your description with headings.
This kind of writing is great for buyers in a hurry, as they can quickly see your most important points in your headings and lists. It encourages them to quickly decide to buy your product.
It also makes your writing seem to move faster. People who have the time will actually read it rather than falling asleep on the back button.
The excerpt from this seller's successful laptop listing (over 150 sold) shown below is a perfect example of the kind of fast-moving writing that makes sales.
2. Keep It Short
Your description doesn’t need a thousand words. A handful of short paragraphs and lists are all it takes—and in some cases, just one of either will do the job. Get to the point and provide the most important info ASAP so the reader can decide whether to buy in seconds, not minutes.
The 78-word description on this blank CD listing has helped make hundreds of sales:
3. Write to Sell
Perhaps the most famous selling advice ever is Elmer Wheeler’s “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle!”
This simple advice is no less true today than it was in the golden age of door-to-door salesmen.
Imagine you’re driving down the street in a strange town, looking for a place to get dinner. You see billboards for two restaurants, Jim’s Steakhouse and Jane’s Steakhouse. (Bear with me if you’re a vegetarian—think about seitan or tofu instead.)
Jim’s billboard shows a bunch of cows in a field eating grass. The bottom of the billboards says, “Premium grass-fed beef at Jim’s Steakhouse!”
Jane’s billboard shows a sizzling steak in transfer from a flaming grill to a plate, where it will join attractively arranged and garnished potatoes and veggies beside a frosted glass of gently foaming beer. At the bottom is a simple slogan: “Good times. Better steak. Jane’s Steakhouse.”
How about now?
Which restaurant would you go to? I can tell you that I’m as much in favor of grass-fed beef as the next guy, but I would be going to Jane’s.
The difference is that Jim’s beef being grass-fed is a feature of his product, while the delicious meal I’ll have if I visit Jane’s is a benefit of hers.
Always start with the benefits—the sizzle. Talk about the thrill of taking your kayak down white-water rapids rather than just saying it’s made of durable plastic. Hook parents with memories of when they played with the classic toys you sell rather than launching into how they don’t pose a choking hazard or no longer contain lead paint.
That doesn’t mean don’t follow up with the features after the benefits. If both Jim and Jane had killer billboards with great slogans but only Jim’s also mentioned that his beef was grass-fed, then I would definitely choose Jim’s.
Here’s an example of a successful sunscreen listing (over 100 sales) by seller "editorspicks" with a description that does a fantastic job of highlighting benefits. Rather than limiting itself to describing features, it says things like “Increases skin smoothness, softness…” and “Glides on easily and absorbs quickly.” They make putting on this sunscreen sound like a day at a spa.
4. Cater to Cassini
eBay’s Cassini search engine looks through your description when deciding whether to rank your listing for a keyword. Exactly how it determines rankings is unclear, but our research suggests that it’s a good idea to use each keyword you want to rank for at least once in your description. Just be careful to follow all the principles of good writing described above and the rules of grammar at the same time.
For a more detailed explanation, see our article on eBay SEO.
5. Don’t Hide the Bad News
Don’t ignore the problems with a used item. Sure, you might make a sale faster thanks to leaving out the bad stuff, but you’ll lose it all—and future sales as well—when the buyer returns it as not as described and leaves you negative feedback.
20,000,000 miles, flies like new!
Mention repairs just like existing problems. Some buyers won’t want something that doesn’t have all factory parts. On the other hand, some might be glad to hear that one part that always breaks down has already been replaced.
Describing the flaws might actually help you make the sale faster. For example, if you’re selling cars on eBay, few people will believe the description of a vehicle with 150,000 miles if it doesn’t mention any scratches or rust—or have the photos to prove it’s clean. Clearly describing all problems makes you seem far more trustworthy.
Take a look at this 1974 Volkswagen Beetle listing. It managed to hit $5,351 with 39 bids…
...yet in the description, the seller clearly describes how three of the four windows have fallen off their tracks.
As you can see, describing the flaws doesn’t stop you from getting a good price, and it does a lot to make sure your sale is final and your eBay feedback score stays high.
6. Leave Your Black Hat at Home
“The world’s largest auction website ain’t big enough for the two of us.”
You might be tempted to break the rules in your description. Maybe you think you can get away with some black hat SEO, doing things like including brand names other than the one you’re selling (“These Converse sneakers are way better than Nike sneakers!”). Or maybe you think your product descriptions are a great place to disparage your competitors or call out that one buyer who ripped you off.
Don’t give in. If you do any of these things, you can count on eBay to rip your listing down and slap you with sanctions. Let your accurate, brilliantly written description do the job it’s supposed to: sell your item to the people who want it.
More Ways to Improve Your eBay Sales
Now that you know how to write an eBay description, you’re in a much better position to make sales. Read our other tips on how to compete on eBay to discover more shortcuts to higher profits!