The Beginners Guide to Searching eBayDocument Transcript
The Beginners Guide to
Introduction to eBay Pg 2
Chapter 1 - Choosing your keywords Pg 4
Chapter 2 – Narrowing your search results with Categories Pg 6
Chapter 3 – Understanding how eBay uses your search terms Pg 11
Chapter 4 – Eliminating unwanted results Pg 15
Chapter 5 - Sorting the search results Pg 16
Chapter 6 – Using ‘Search Options’ Pg 17
Chapter 7 – The ‘Advanced Search’ Pg 21
Summary and Quick Reference Sheet Pg 23
This work is written by Tom Sexton, owner and web-master of
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Copyright 2007 by TES International
eBay is the world’s largest online auction site, with over a billion new listings in 2006.
Finding exactly what you want can sometimes be a nightmare. Not to mention the fact
that you’re dealing with vendors, or even just individuals that you don’t know. Make
sure to ALWAYS read the entire auction page and take note of any restrictions or special
requirements. eBay has a ‘Feedback system’ for letting buyers and sellers build a
reputation in the eBay community. Whenever you buy or sell an item in eBay, at the
conclusion of the auction, you have the opportunity to leave Positive, Negative, or
Neutral feedback for the other person. Look for sellers with Positive feedback, and
preferably large amounts of it. The better someone’s feedback is, the better the chance
that they are an honest, reputable seller that you can trust.
There are 3 formats for eBay auctions; 1) the traditional auction and 2) a Buy It Now
auction, and 3) Classified Ads. I will only be discussing types 1 and 2 in this book In the
traditional auction, the highest bidder wins the auction, as long as the bid is more than
any ‘Reserve Price’ the seller MAY have set. A seller has the option of setting a
‘Reserve Price’ that indicates the minimum amount he is willing to accept for the item. If
the bids do not exceed that amount, the auction will end without the item being sold.
You can not find out what the Reserve Price is for an auction, except by putting in a large
enough bid to exceed it. Starting prices are chosen by the seller and will vary no matter
which format of auction is used..
In the Buy It Now auction, the seller sets a fixed price, and you can purchase the item
immediately for that price.
A regular bidding format auction can have a ‘Buy it Now’ option also. Once the first bid
is made on the item though, the Buy It Now option disappears.
So if you’re in a hurry to get an item, you’ll either want to find the ‘Buy It Now’ format
auctions that have a price that you’re willing to pay, or find some auctions that are ending
soon, and hope you can win one for the price you’re willing to pay. We’ll discuss later
how you can narrow your search to particular types of auctions, or auctions ending within
certain time periods.
One more quick note before we get started…
eBay has a nice feature which allows you to enter the maximum amount you’re willing to
pay when you place your bid. If the amount entered is high enough, your “effective bid”
will be just enough to beat the highest current bid. The bidding increments increase as
the item’s price increases, so eBay may increase your bid by .50 cent on lower price
items, and up to $1 or more on higher priced items. If another buyer increases their bid,
eBay will automatically increase yours, up to the amount that you have specified. If two
buyers have both put in “max bids”, eBay will continue to increase the bid amount until it
reaches the limit set by one of the buyers.
In this book I’m going to focus on how you can set up and execute your eBay searches so
that you get the best set of resulting listings that you can. I’ll show you how to narrow
your search down by choosing the right categories to search in, specifically forming your
search criteria, and selecting the right search options. We’ll focus first on what I’ll call a
‘Basic Search’. There’s really no name for it, but the alternative is an “Advanced
Search”, which will be covered later. The “Advanced Search” allows you to specify
price ranges, Buy It Now only auctions, location specific results, and more.
I’ll cover the Advance Search in Chapter 7.
In order to buy or sell on eBay you have to set up an account by Registering. This
registration is FREE, quick and simple, and allows you to buy or sell, save custom
searches, set up a user profile, and more. You’ll especially like the ability to save the
searches you have built. Once you’ve built a custom search, you can even elect to have
eBay send you an email when new items are put up for sale that match your search
started, So let’s get
and HAPPY HUNTING!!
Chapter 1 - Choosing your keywords
When choosing your keywords, you want to be specific about what you’re looking for,
but not so specific that it severely limits the number of auction items returned in the
search results. Your goal is to get the most listings that have exactly what you’re looking
for, so you can pick out the best price, or possibly bid on multiple auctions, trying to win
one with just what you’re willing to pay.
NOTE: The eBay search process is NOT case sensitive. Using the keywords ‘xbox
gaming system’ will get the same results at ‘Xbox Gaming System’.
This is the home page for eBay. You’ll start out by entering keywords into either of the
search boxes. You can sign in now if you like, but it’s not necessary in order to
For example, let’s say I’m looking for an xbox 360 gaming system in eBay. I could
enter the keywords
xbox 360 gaming system
click keywords to see results
in the search box, hit the ‘Search’ button and be off to the races. At the time this
document was written, this search returned only 26 items. Most likely, all 26 of those
items will be exactly what I’m looking for. That’s good, or is it??
The problem with this very descriptive set of keywords is that it is ONLY going to return
auction items that have all 4 keywords in the title. In a Chapter 3, we’ll discuss how
eBay handles the keywords that you enter, but for now, let’s just focus on the selection.
So let’s assume you change your keywords to
click keywords to see results
Now you’re going to get results that include any auction listing that have the keywords
‘xbox’ and ‘360’ in the title. Remember earlier when I said that the Xbox 360 has many
accessories, and even more games? This search returns 17474 items! Your search results
are now most likely to contain a large number of Xbox 360 consoles, along with older
Xbox systems, Xbox 360 games, and Xbox 360 accessories.
So while searching on very specific keywords is highly likely to return very accurate
results, it leaves out many auction listings that didn’t include all of our search keywords.
You’ll want to strike a balance between the quantity and quality of the auctions returned
by your search.
Selecting the right keywords is just the first step in finding an item on eBay. Now let’s
take advantage of the fact that eBay has divided its auction items into Categories.
Chapter 2 – Narrowing your search results with Categories
The first choice you need to make is whether you want broad results from any of eBay’s
more than 500 categories, or more qualified results, from a specific eBay category.
eBay groups its items in such categories as Antiques, Art, Baby, Crafts, DVDs & Movies,
Real Estate, and many more. Click here for a complete list. There are also eBay
Specialty sites, such as ‘eBay Express’, ‘eBay Motors’, ‘eBay Stores’, ‘eBay Business’,
‘Half.com’, and even ‘Apartments on Rent.com’.
If you’re looking for a car, truck or motorized vehicle, you might select ‘eBay Motors’.
For Business supplies, you’d select ‘eBay Business’. ‘eBay Stores’ is a feature eBay
offers to those sellers that want to set up online storefronts. If you’ve got a favorite eBay
seller, you might frequent their store.
For the purpose of this book, though, I’ll stick with the standard eBay.com marketplace.
This marketplace is subdivided into more than 1000 different categories and sub-
So, back to our search……
A search term of ‘red corvette’ will turn up a wide variety of results including, but not
Cars in the ‘eBay Motors’ or ‘Antiques’ category,
Model Cars or Hallmark Ornaments in the ‘Collectibles’
Toy Corvettes in the ‘Toys’ category,
Trinkets and Jewelry in the Jewelry category
Tshirts and jackets in the Clothing categorie.
So you see that without specifying which category you want results from, you’re going to
get any item that has ‘red corvette’ in the auction title.
By choosing a category, you’re taking the first step in reducing the number of search
results, and limiting the results to items that fit the type of Category you have chosen.
Remember, eBay sellers can choose to put any item in any category. Often times, sellers
will put “related” items in certain categories thinking that if someone is interested, for
example in a ‘red corvette’ that they may also be interested in a jacket with a red corvette
You can choose to browse categories and sub-categories without entering any search
terms. Selecting a category
will take you to a screen showing the sub-categories, and also offering you the option of
displaying all items in that category.
Ok, so I’ve digressed again. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, browsing a
Category in eBay is like window shopping. You can go from store to store (ie. Category
to Category) all day long, just looking at what is available.
So let’s get back to getting the best possible search results in eBay…….
If you haven’t already chosen one, you can also wait to choose your category after eBay
has returned the results generated by searching on your keywords. eBay offers you two
ways to re-do your search, that will narrow the results to just items found in specific eBay
categories. You can either click one of the categories in the ‘Matching Categories’
column on the left side of the page, or select one of the Suggested Searches offered in
the middle of the page.
*** In some cases, eBay automatically expands your search to include items based on the
intent of your search rather than matching the exact keywords provided. For example, if
you were to use the search keywords ‘drama DVD’ (without the quotes), eBay would
automatically include listings from the category DVD that contained the word ‘drama’.
This feature can be disabled by putting your keyword in double quotes. An example
By using the following search keywords:
Click to see results
you get listings that contain the keyword ‘action’ and the keyword ‘DVD’, AND listings
in the DVD category that contained ‘action’, even if you’re only searching in a different
By using the following search keywords:
“action” DVD or action “DVD”
Click to see results Click to see results
you get only listings that contain the keyword ‘action’ and the keyword ‘DVD’ in the
categories you’ve chosen, if any. If you click the keywords above, you’ll see that they
product similar, but different results.
By using double quotes around your search keyword, you are telling eBay to ONLY
return items that have your specific keywords in the title. Click here for a complete
listing of the eBay Keyword Search Category Expansions.
Chapter 3 – Understanding how eBay uses your keywords
Now we’ll talk about how you should format the keywords that you enter into the search
box to get the most accurate results. In Chapter 2, we mentioned using double
quotes around a keyword in order to disable the Keyword Search Category
Entering some keywords in either of these boxes, and clicking on the ‘Search’ button
causes eBay to search for those terms in auction titles in all eBay Categories. So let’s
look at how we can construct our search keywords to get the more accurate results.
First of all, if let’s look at what eBay does with the keywords that you enter. Click on the
examples to see the differences between these searches in real time. Each example will
open in a new window. You can elect to have eBay search auction Titles (the default), or
auction titles and descriptions.
Search keywords Example
Click bold text to see result
More than one keyword Playstation 3 60gb
Enter the keywords with a space between This search returns any items with all
them 3 terms in the title, in any order.
Keywords with certain words in a particular “playstation 3 60gb”
This search returns items with titles
containing “playstation 3 60gb” in that
order only, but not those containing
just ‘playstation or just ‘3’ or just
Place quotation marks about the group of ‘60gb or the words ‘playstation 60gb’
To search for one keyword or another (playstation 3,ps3) console
This search returns items with titles
containing the words ‘playstation 3
Put parentheses around the keywords, and console’ or ‘ps3 console’.
separate them with a comma
To eliminate results containing certain playstation 3 20gb -60gb
Returns items with titles containing
the keywords playstation,3, and 20gb,
Put a minus sign in front of the keyword but not containing the keyword ps3
So now let’s look at these search terms in action and see how we can best use our
keywords to find exactly what we want.
In the following examples, our goal is to find an Xbox 360 console. This is a VERY
popular gaming system, and also one with a lot of accessories and games. Let’s see what
a search for just the term ‘Xbox’ gets us.
The first thing you should notice is that this search returns 45810 items!!! That’s
probably a little more than we’re willing to comb through looking for our Xbox 360
console. The results include games, accessories, Xbox 360 consoles, and older Xbox
consoles. There are also actions you can take on the results screen to “fine tune” the
results on this screen, but we’ll address those later.
Changing our keywords to ‘xbox 360 system’ greatly increases the accuracy of our
results, and now we’ve got 1113 different auctions to choose from. We will still get
some results that aren’t what we’re looking for (eg. The ‘Silver Chrome Xbox 360
System skin skins kit faceplate’ ), but we’ve got a pretty good listing of auctions to
Chapter 4 – Eliminating unwanted results
Many times when searching for a product in eBay, you’ll get resulting auctions that don’t
really have the item you were looking for. For example, when searching for the
keywords ‘xbox 360’, you may get auction titles like:
Instructions of how to buy Xbox 360
Mystery Auction for Xbox 360
Buy my other product not Xbox 360
Raffle for Xbox 360
One way we can reduce unwanted auctions from our results are to “negate” certain
keywords in our search. That means that eBay will remove auctions titles that contain
certain keywords from our results, as opposed to adding them.
For example, in order to remove the ‘Silver Chrome Xbox 360 System Skin skins kit
faceplate’ item from our previous search (on page 14), we could modify our keywords as
Original keywords: New Keywords:
xbox 360 system xbox 360 system –skin
Adding a ‘-skin’ keyword to our search tells eBay NOT to show any auction title that has
the word ‘skin’ in the title. You can also combine search features. Using a dash in front
of multiple keywords bracketed by double quotes prevents any titles from being included
in your results that contain the exact keyword combination that you place in the double
quotes. For example, using the keywords
Xbox system –“Xbox 360”
Click to see results
would return auction titles that contained the keyword ‘xbox’ and the keyword ‘system’,
but NOT titles that also contained the phrase ‘xbox 360’. You might use this search if
you were looking to find versions of the Xbox other than the model 360.
Returning to an earlier example of trying to find a red corvette….. Searching on the
keywords ‘red corvette’ from the eBay home page returns a total of 855 auctions.
Searching on keywords ‘red corvette –jacket –hotwheels –sweatshirt’ reduces our results
to 792. Since you won’t always know all the different non-car results that can show up,
negating keywords is most effective when you specifically know of some type of related
product that you don’t want to show up in your search results.
On great way to eliminate unwanted results is to add the keyword ‘-not’ to your search
keywords. That will eliminate any auction with the word ‘not’ in the title, and prevents
results such as
Blue corvette not red corvette or
Xbox 360 not PS3
Chapter 5 – Sorting the search results
eBay offers you several ways to sort the results of a search. You can elect to sort your
results by the following criteria. Click on any criteria to see the resulting auctions so you
can compare the results. Each is based on a search for the keywords “playstation 3
Criteria Result / Benefit
Price: Lowest first Sorts auction listings by price, and starts with the lowest current
If you’re only looking to spend a certain amount, sorting by
lowest current bid will show you auctions that might still be
under the price you’re willing to pay.
Price: Highest first Sorts auction listings by price, and starts with the highest
This will show you the most that has been bid on the items you
are searching for.
Time: ending soonest Sorts auction listings by their ending time.
If you’re in a hurry to get an item, you’ll want to bid on the
auction that is ending soonest. The sooner the auction ends, the
sooner the seller will be shipping the product.
Time: newly listed Sorts auctions listings by their listing time.
This shows items that have most recently been added in your
search results. If you’re not impressed with any of the existing
auctions, you’ll want to check back, and sort your results this
way to see the latest items that have been put up for sale.
Distance: nearest first Sorts auction listings by the distance from your location. Your
location is determined by you entering your zip code.
This is mostly relevant when you are bidding on items that will
not be shipped. Some auctions will state “Pickup only” because
of the size, weight, etc of an item.
Best Match Sorts auction listings by relevancy to your search keywords.
This sort attempts to find the “most relevant” items for the
keywords you have entered. The relevancy is based on
purchases made by other eBayers, category, and some other
Category Sorts auction listings by the category in which the item is listed.
This allows you to sort by, and see all the different categories in
which your item is listed.
Chapter 6 – Using Search Options
In addition to the ‘Advanced Search’, eBay also offers additional search options that
show up in the left hand column of search result pages. These options allow you to
fine-tune your searches even more.
Note that you can Customize which options display on search results pages. If you
are allowing ‘Cookies’ to be saved on your computer, your Customizations should
“stick” once you’ve changed them. Once you’ve selected which Search Options you
want, click on the ‘Show Items’ button to cause a new search.
Clicking on ‘Customize’ (see previous image) takes you to the following screen, where
you can choose which ‘search options’ you want to show up in your ‘Search Options’
To add an option to your list of choices, select an option in the ‘Available Search
Options’ box, and then click on the >> button. Likewise, to remove an option from your
list, select that option in the ‘Options you want to display’ box, and click on the <<.
When you’re done, click on ‘Apply Changes’.
Here’s a brief explanation of options, and when you might want to use them.
Location Choose the Country/Region of the seller. Default is Worldwide.
Use when you only want to purchase items from a seller in a
Items within X miles Select the amount of miles (X) and enter a zip code (Y).
Use when you only want to purchase items from sellers within a
certain distance from your zip code. This is especially helpful in
finding items where no shipping is offered, and you will have to
pick up the item.
“Show only” options. Choosing one of these options filters the auctions that will be
shown in the search results.
Items listed with Shows only auctions where PayPal is accepted as a form of
Use this option to find auctions that accept PayPal.
Buy It Now items Shows only auctions that have the ‘Buy It Now’ option.
Use this option when you want the item quickly, and are willing
to pay a fixed price to Buy It Now.
Free Shipping Shows only auctions with free shipping.
Use this option to find auctions with free shipping.
Get it Fast items Shows only auctions that participate in the ‘Get it Fast’ program.
Use this option to find auctions that commit to offer at least one
form of overnight shipping, and that ship within one business day
of receiving cleared payment.
Completed Listings Shows only auctions that have been completed.
This option is handy for researching the latest prices that have
been paid for an item in eBay.
Gift Items Shows only auctions where the seller has flagged the item as a
Sellers may choose to list their item as a Gift. This is purely the
opinion of the seller. If they list as a gift, they may offer “gift”
services such as expedited shipping, gift wrapping, or shipping to
the gift recipient.
Best Offer Shows only auctions that have the ‘Best Offer’ option.
This option can only be added to Fixed Price auctions. The ‘Best
Offer’ option indicates that the seller is willing to accept offers
from buyers. The seller can accept or reject the offer.
Items listed as lots Shows only auctions where you are bidding on a ‘lot’, that is, a
quantity of more than 1 of the item.
All items including Shows auctions, but also shows items listed in eBay Stores.
Items This adds items from eBay Stores to your search results.
Listings ‘Ending Select a value of X (hours or days). This option shows only
within’ X auctions ending within the time period you have chosen.
This option is useful if you know you want to purchase an item
within a particular time frame.
Listings ‘Ending in Select a value of X (hours or days). This option shows only
more than’ X auctions ending at least X hours or days from today.
Listings ‘Started Select a value of X (hours of days). This option shows only
within’ X auctions that have started within the last X hours or days.
This is useful for finding new auctions that have started within the
last X hours or days. Use this to see only newer auctions.
Items priced X to Y Enter price values for X and Y. This option will limit your search
results to items where the current or starting bid is between the
price ranges you have set.
Items listed in US $ This limits your search results to items which have a price in US
Some auctions may have prices in foreign currencies. You are
responsible for paying the seller in their listed currency.
Multiple item This option shows auctions that offer multiple quantities of the
listings same item.
Items from a specific This option limits the results to auctions offered by a specific
eBay Giving Works eBay Giving works is the dedicated program for charity listings
items where you can buy items to support nonprofit organizations.
Number of Bids This option allows you to only show items that have a certain
number of bids. You define the lower and upper limit of this
Classified Ads This option causes only Classified Ads to be shown in the results.
Store Inventory This option causes only Store Inventory Items to be shown in the
Items only results.
Chapter 7 – Advanced Search
The Advanced Search offers the same functionality of the basic search, plus some
additional criteria that you can use to customize your search results. You can still enter
keywords to characterize your search, but you don’t have to. Some of the options
available under the Advanced Search don’t require keywords. There are also other things
you can search on, such as an ISBN for books, eBay seller’s ids, and more. Here is a
screen shot of the Advanced Search page:
Now I’ll explain the different options (not all shown above) that you have on the
Advanced Search page.
Search by: Usage
Bidder This option lets you see a list of the items that a particular
bidder has bid on or bought.
You must know the bidder’s eBay id in order to use this search.
Category This option allows you to quickly search for items in a specific
area of the site. You can search within a category, in a basic or
advanced search, in your search results, or in an eBay Motors
Completed Listings This option allows you to search for auctions that have ended
and therefore see what items have recently sold for.
Country or Region This option allows you to find items listed by sellers from other
Currency This option allows you to find items listed in a particular
Favorite Searches This option allows you to run one of your Favorite Searches.
You must be signed in to save and use a Favorite Search.
Gift Item This option allows you to search for items that Sellers have
marked as ‘Gift Items’.
ISBN This option allows you to search for books by their ISBN
Item Number This option allows you to search for a particular eBay Item
Number. Each item in eBay has a unique item number, so
searching by item number will return exactly one result.
Keyword in This option allows you to search for items described by the
Title/Description keywords that you enter. By default eBay only searches the
auction titles. You can also elect to have the search include the
Multiple Item Listings This option allows you to search for auctions that offer multiple
Single Seller This option allows you to search for items offered by a single
seller. You must know the seller’s eBay ID.
Multiple Sellers This option allows you to limit your search to a group of sellers.
You must know the sellers’ eBay IDs.
‘My Favorite Sellers’ This option allows you to search for items among your
‘Favorite Sellers’ list. You must be signed in to access your
‘Favorite Sellers’ list.
Zip/Postal Code This option allows you to search for items in a particular
zip/postal code, or city. This is useful when you’re trying to
save on shipping costs, or you’re planning on picking the item
I’ve covered a LOT of information in the past few pages, and hope that some of it helps
you to get better search results, and therefore get better prices on the items you purchase
in eBay. This last page will make a nice little printout to keep handy when you’re
searching for items in eBay.
In order to get better search results in eBay
1) Choose descriptive keywords, but not so many that you limit your results
2) Search in specific categories, or limit the results you’ve gotten by choosing a
3) Structure the keywords and choose keyword operators to tweak the search results
a. For example, use “xbox 360 console” (with double quotes) instead of
‘xbox 360 console’ (no quotes) to get more specific results
b. Use parens to designate a search for one term OR another (eg. Using
(ps3,playstation 3) console
Searches for ‘ps3 console’ and ‘playstation 3 console’
4) Negate keywords to remove unwanted results
a. Use the dash option to remove results containing certain keywords (for
example: xbox 360 console –“playstation 3”
5) Use sorting options to filter your results (e.g. Price –lowest first, Time: Ending
soonest, Best Match, etc)
6) Use Search Options (box on left side of browser window for eBay page) to filter
results by ‘Buy It Now only’, ‘Completed Listings’, ‘Gift Ideas’, etc.
7) Use the Advanced Search to further limit your results to ‘Certain Sellers’,
‘Location specific auctions’, ‘items a particular bidder has bid on’, etc.
Now that you’ve learned how to create more productive searches, why don’t you visit
eBay and try out your new skills!!
Happy Hunting and Good Luck!!!!