Education & Training

Before the Auction: Writing Auction Titles

What's in a name? Plenty, especially when it comes to auction titles. Compelling, useful, and searchable titles are crucial to successful online auctions. Let's face it: If you can't grab them with your title, your auction will likely get lost in the shuffle. Here are some pointers on how to create better titles and therefore give your auctions the visibility and presence they deserve.

Naming Names

Of course you want to be descriptive, accurate, and concise when coming up with your titles--which is easier said than done. There's a fine art to penning good titles. What to include? What not to include? Be specific enough so that you appeal to buyers who know what they want, but general enough so that people who are merely browsing will be interested as well.

Think of a title as your one and only chance to nab potential customers--you need to lure them in quickly and convince them that your auction is worth checking out with only a handful words. For starters, you'll want to include the basics like the name or type of product (if it's a CD, say, include that, as well as the title and the name of the artist or band and perhaps the genre of music) and notable or distinguishing information (what the product is made of, if it's an antique, if it's a special or first edition, if it was made in a particular year, etc.). Some sellers like to include auction-specific information too, such as "No res" or "Dutch." Capitalization is another title tactic. So if you're selling a CD by the band Wilco, you could enter "WILCO" for visual emphasis (just don't overdo it by capping the entire title).

Avoid the following in your auction titles: irrelevant or synonymous adjectives ("cool," "awesome," "must-see"), superfluous phrases ("once in a lifetime"), slogans, buzzwords, and excessive punctuation (i.e., repeated exclamation points). Also, be aware that some sites impose character limits to titles, so you have to be selective about what you want to say (the limit at eBay is 55). Use the allotted space wisely and efficiently.

Keywords Are Key

When you're deciding on a title, consider whether or not the words included will serve as good keywords--that is, words that buyers will do searches for when they're looking for products on an auction site. Yes, with a snappy and well-done title you'll be able to attract some rubberneckers; however, most users rely on searches to find their products. By using good keywords, your auction is more likely to show up in more search results.

For example, let's say you're selling that Wilco CD, which is called "Being There." Here's a possible title:WILCO CD Being There - Country Rock - Uncle Tupelo. Here we have the band's name (in caps), the music format (CD), the CD's title ("Being There"), and the type of music (country and rock), in addition to the band (Uncle Tupelo) that several members of Wilco used to belong to. This covers a lot of keyword possibilities within a small amount of space.

How about if you're selling a Phantom Menace poster (which probably isn't worth as much as you'd like)? Don't just settle for "Phantom Menace Poster" as your title. You've got more space than that--use it. Include "Star Wars" as well (or any specific characters featured in the poster), so that someone who does a more general search for "star wars poster" won't miss your auction.

Lastly, it's OK to sacrifice some grammar and readability for the sake of having better keywords in your auction. And don't rely on using keywords only in your auction description. Some people will do searches for titles only (which is the default search on eBay, meaning that if your title doesn't include good keywords some folks might never get a chance to eyeball your auction).

Start Making Sense

One final note: Clever is OK, but avoid the obnoxious--no "[email protected]@K," "DEAL OF THE MILLENNIUM," or "MuSt HaVe!!!!" Such declarations are not only annoying but also unnecessary. As a seller, your auction title is one of the first things a buyer encounters. Basically, a title is like a first impression. Make it a good one.