MarketLink Collectors Network
Today, ranking in search results is the driving force for e-commerce. When you have a basic understanding of how search engines operate, you will be able to choose the language for your titles and descriptions that will place your ads high in the search rankings. This section explores the art of the search, the importance of research when you are selling items from your collection and how to use this information to write a listing that gets your item seen by prospective buyers.
Extremely simplified - a Search Engine is a program designed to find, copy and save the name, address and content of every listed page on the the internet and then organize and present that info when their customers ask for it. Their objective is to determine the relevancy of these sites to the questions asked by their customers and display the best matches so their customers will come back. Our objective as sellers is to make sure that our web pages are designed and written is such a way as to rank in the Top Ten or first page of these search results so that their customers will shop with us - or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as it is called.
While there are many layers to SEO, the effective use of keywords (nouns and adjectives that are used by customers to find an item or a subject) is the most important one when selling one of a kind items on commercial marketplace sites. In general, the search engine is designed to evaluate the title, meta tags and first 200 to 300 words on the web page. (There's more info on these terms in the next column, Google and Everyone Else). Your title and description need to contain the keywords that a buyer would use to find your items. Choosing the right keywords AND the right order requires a little experimentation.
Here is a link to Google's Home Page. Experiment with a few searches and see if you can find the Boyd's Figurines that we have listed on eBay.
Compare the listings that come up determine the best keywords to use for the most exposure to different buyers. Now experiment a little with items that you will be selling. This is the best way to understand how important your word choice can be.
Click on any of the images below to see the different search results that we got for these figurines on the same day, same title, with different search engines. We used Google, Yahoo and Bing - both their shopping or product search and their general web search.
As you read through this section, also take a look at the Listing Design Section for some practical applications.
The chart shown here is from NetMarketShare and shows the gigantic lead of almost 85% that is held by Google over the other companies - namely Yahoo, Bing, Baidu, Ask and AOL. So you can see why getting your items "seen" by Google is the number one priority for online sellers. Learning the ins and outs of optimizing your listings requires a bit of knowledge of some technical terms. There are millions of articles that you can read, but here is a link to the horse's mouth, so to speak. The Google Seo Starter Guide is the best source of information on the subject. Take a few moments to read the sections about Title and Description. These are the two elements that you will have the most control over. The information about Meta Tags is also important. The marketplace site that you choose should have a system in place to create these tags for you, and/or to help you create them for yourself.
Most of the information that we found on this subject is directed towards web site owners and web masters. So as we provide articles for you to read, you will need to think about how to apply their suggestions to your circumstances. For example, one suggestion is to construct a url that is simple and easy to understand. They are discussing choosing a domain name for your own website. When using a marketplace site, that would translate into your store name or user id. Choosing a name that immediately let's the buyer know what your selling is definitely a plus. You also need to look at the url that your site assigns to your items. Usually, that is tied into your item title. Matching the words used in these url's with the keywords that your prospective buyers may use is your part in SEO on your marketplace. The site should provide you with the right tools. This is from the Help Pages at Bonanza and it explains how to optimize both the title and the content - How Can I Optimize My Item Titles and Descriptions to Get Noticed by Buyers?
The internet provides a variety of sources of information on just about any topic. During the course of planning (Step 1: Planning) through choosing a marketplace (Step 3: Marketplace) to knowing your product (Step 5: Listing Form) and completing the sale (Step 6: Paid & Ship) you will need to know how to use those sources to make educated decisions. The Search Engines are your gateway to these other sources. Let's take a look at a few of them and how to use them to your advantage.
There are thousands of people who are already out there buying and selling their stuff online. They have formed community websites where they exchange experiences, information and where they network and promote their endeavors. Here is a site that lists 1001 Forums for Antiques and Collectibles. But a web search for your specific area of can also produce great results.
Another way to evaluate the various marketplaces is to look at what their own members are talking about. In all cases, you must be a member to post, but you can read the posts at will. We have included links to the eBay Forums, ArtFire Forums, and Bonanza Forums, but almost all of the venues have their own under different names. You will find answers to many of your questions about site policy and function as well as sales and marketing tips. Some of the venues have separate forums for the different item categories as well. While most of the time you will find very helpful people, keep in mind that there are always the disgruntled few. So keep an open mind and look for the balance. Remember that the information here is people's opinions and experiences.
When we did a Google Search for "What is a Blog" the first result was "A Web site on which an individual or group of users record opinions, information, etc. on a regular basis." One way to use Blogs is for information about your collection or about selling or about anything else that interests you. To get you started, here is the link to Top Ten Collectibles and Antique Blogs
Or, you could decide to create your own blog. Most of the marketplace sites encourage you to blog about your items up for sale as a form of search engine optimization. In fact, ArtFire and Auctiva provide you with the resources you need to set one up. In addition there are hundreds of sites designed to host blogs. Some are free, others charge you a monthly fee and with others you can even earn money through ads and royalties. BlogSpot is sponsored by Google and must be tied into a Google email address. WordPress is also a free service and is very popular. We could not find a site search for either site, so if you decided to start a blog, be sure it is well optimized for Search Engines. Squidoo is also a free service with the opportunity to earn royalties and it does have a site search of sorts. Here is an article from Mashable that lists 40+ Free Blog Hosts
Researching the value of your items vs. the current sale price can be challenging. Closed eBay auction information is available to registered users through their "Advance Search" feature accessed from their home page. A web search for your specialty price guides should yield the sites that cater to specific categories. A standard for Antiques and Collectibles in general is Kovels. Their hard copy price guides are published each year and cover thousands of categories. They offer an online service as well, complete with free price guides, free monthly newsletters and a free membership level on Kovels.com. Additional benefits come along with a paid membership.
The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles is a hard copy monthly magazine that also has a website with great information for collectors of all types. In addition, you can always do a Google News Search to find out the latest trends in your areas of interest. Here is the Google Guide for News Search that explains how to use the service.
The Wikipedia Project is a project to create an online encyclopedia that is created by its users. Here is a link to the About Wikipedia page that explains the concept. It is a good source of information, but remember that the articles are contributed by many different individuals and may or may not be vetted for accuracy.
The saying may be old - but it's still true - Experience is the best teacher. When selecting where and how to sell your items (see Step 3: Marketplace) you need to know the various marketplace sites from the perspective of a buyer. We highly recommend that you bid on a couple of hot eBay auctions to get the sense of "auction fever." Search for some items through a search engine, go to different marketplace sites and do a search there. Purchase items on any site that you are considering to find out how simple - or - complicated the actual sale can be.
Let us make a note here about "Feedback" as a research tool. When you are buying online from individuals, you have no guarantees. One source that bends the odds of a successful transaction in your favor is the feedback system that is provided by your marketplace. Be sure that you take part in this part of the sale. You will be helping your seller or buyer in the process. But especially if you are brand new to the internet, earning good feedback as a buyer will give you a bit of a jump start when you decide to set up shop.