In Part 1 of this four-part series, I discussed how selling items is just a numbers game. To borrow from that first post, this is the blueprint successful sellers follow:

  • They ATTRACT more people to their listings with clickable titles and eye-catching cover images.
  • They INTERACT better with those potential customers through accurate photos and complete descriptions that aren’t just a wall of text.
  • They CONVERT more of those potential customers into actual customers.

Today I want to discuss the first part of the first bullet point: attracting people to your listings with clear, effective, and irresistible titles.

Why do buyers click on particular listings?

You have items you want to sell. So do a lot of other people. And other people probably have items like yours. They may even have the same items as you. How do you make sure potential buyers click on your items and not other people’s?

You need to make buyers think your item will solve their problem better than someone else’s item. And yes, when you sell someone a sweatshirt you are solving their problem.

Before clicking on an item, buyers ask themselves these questions (whether they consciously realize it or not):

  • Is the item what they’re looking for?
  • Is the item a good value (meaning good condition and a good price)?
  • Is the listing trustworthy?

If your item isn’t what a buyer is looking for, they’re not going to click on it.

If your item doesn’t look like a good value, they’re not going to click on it.

If your listing isn’t trustworthy, they’re not going to click on it.

So, how do you encourage buyers to click on your listings instead of your competition’s? Simple: intriguing, keyword-dense titles and eye-catching cover images!

Today, let’s discuss your titles.

Bad titles doom you from the start

Before you even get to the detailed description of an item or all of your brilliant supporting photos that vibrantly show the item’s features, you have to reel buyers in with a good title. You have to get them to click on your listing. And in many marketplaces (like eBay), you even need to have your listing show up in the buyer’s search by including important keywords.

Before we look at some great listing titles, let’s look at some bad ones. The examples below are from Mercari. For each, what’s the problem?

Item 1: “Dope sweater”

I don’t doubt this sweater is “dope” … wait, it actually says “dope” on the front left shoulder, so is that what the seller meant? Who makes it? What size is it? Is it for men or women? What condition is it in?

Item 2: “Wallet purse”

So we know what kind of bag it is — a wallet purse — but who makes it? Chances are it isn’t something expensive like Coach or Gucci or Louis Vuitton or CHANEL, but what if it is? We definitely don’t get that from the title. Most items like these have the brand’s styling all over it so it should be readily apparent what brand it is from a good photo, but we’re looking at the listing title here.

If someone goes into the Mercari app and searches for “wallet purse” they’re going to get all of the listings with “wallet purse” in the title. Some of those listings have brand names attached to them. Others have additional detail about the item. This one has nothing, and as a result fewer people are going to click on it.

Item 3: “V-Neck Bundle”

You know the drill. What size? Are they even the same size? Men’s or women’s tops? What condition are they in? Why should I want to click on this listing? Right now, I don’t!

Great titles pull buyers in

Just as bad titles can bore potential buyers and drive them away from your items, great titles can elicit an emotional reaction that gets people excited about what you’re trying to sell.

Look at these Mercari items with good titles. Can you identify why they’re successful?

Item 1: “PS4 Playstation 4 Con…”

This is an example of good use of keywords. Playstation 4 often goes by PS4, so buyers looking for PS4 stuff could search for either. The owner of this listing has both of their bases covered. Now, whether a buyer searches for “PS4 controller” or “Playstation 4 controller” this person’s listing will appear.

Item 2: “NWOT Vera Bradley co…”

“NWOT” is a shorthand for item condition that stands for “New Without Tags.” Almost all categories of items have their own shorthand to denote condition, such as NWOT, NWT (“New With Tags”), EUC (“Excellent Used Condition”), NISB (“New Inside Box”), NWOB (“New Without Box”), etc. In such a short space, it’s difficult — nay, impossible — to describe an item’s condition fully, so these shorthand notations really help.

Item 3: “FREE SHIP Nike free r…”

Who doesn’t love free shipping? By putting it in the title, this seller has my attention. Plus, their use of capitalization really helps direct my eye to their listing. Note that too much capitalization can hurt your listing by violating the unwritten (and sometimes written) rules of the resale marketplace. Don’t spam buyers with all-caps titles — that makes you seem less trustworthy and more obnoxious — but do use capitalization sparingly to drive home your point by noting things like “FREE SHIPPING” or “RARE” or “VINTAGE” or “EMBELLISHED” or the like.

11 Tips for Writing IRRESISTIBLE Titles

With practice (and a little extra effort) it really isn’t hard to write great titles that help your listings show up in product searches and make buyers want to click on them. Keep these tips in mind when creating your next listing:

1. The amount of characters you can use in your title varies by marketplace

You don’t need to use every single character available to you, but if you can fit in a few other keywords, do it. Just make sure your title doesn’t look like a random smattering or words clearly designed for search engines. Find that balance between readability and keyword optimization.

2. Include descriptive search terms to help people find your item

Think about what your buyer might be searching for when looking for items like yours. If you’re selling a PINK by Victoria’s Secret full zip long sleeve hooded sweatshirt with a sequin heart pattern that’s maroon colored, women’s size large, and in like new condition, tell the buyer those things in the title! But maybe do it a little more succinctly. Throw in a few extra terms, too. “Bling” is a popular term for anything shiny with sequins or embellishments. Colors, sizes, years of manufacture or edition can all be important. For things like electronics, toys, or collectible items, use product or model numbers when available.

3. See what else is working

A little research can go a long way, especially with items you don’t know a ton about. Search for the item on eBay and look at the sold listings. In particular, look for the things that have sold at higher price points. What words did they use to grab buyers’ attention?

4. Speaking of research, use eBay’s auto-complete feature!

eBay’s search feature is a search engine just like Google. It takes information about all of the listings available and what people have been searching for and tries to match each person up with the item they’re looking for. Just like Google’s auto-complete feature, eBay will attempt to finish the buyer’s search with other keywords derived from previous buyers’ searches. Use this to your advantage! If you have a pair of Under Armour compression shorts, type that into eBay’s search bar and see what else people are typing in!

eBay's auto-complete feature can help you find the right keywords to use on your listing.

eBay’s auto-complete feature can help you find the right keywords to use on your listing.

5. Style matters

Make sure your titles are easy to read. Capitalize the first letter of each word, don’t misspell things (this is really bad for appearing in search results), and break up the text with “+” or “&” or “,” where necessary (but not at the expense of using important keywords).


Just like the “FREE SHIP” example above, capitalization can effectively be used to emphasize important parts of your listing. “Victoria’s Secret LOVE PINK Hoodie Sweatshirt with SEQUIN BLING” is a great example of sparingly using capitalization to emphasize key words. “VICTORIA’S SECRET LOVE PINK HOODIE SWEATSHIRT WITH SEQUIN BLING” doesn’t work nearly as well.

7. Use category-standard or widely known acronyms or shorthand notations

Don’t go overboard with acronyms — people may not be searching for obscure ones — but things like NWOT, NWT, EUC, etc. can be handy.

8. Is it a men’s or women’s item?

For some things, like pink hoodies, it’s fairly obvious from the photo that you’re selling a women’s item. For other things, like blue jeans, it might not be as obvious. I find it helpful to just write “mens” or “womens” in the heading to help the buyer.

Pro tip: If you’re short on characters, omit the apostrophe in words like “mens” or “womens” or “Victorias Secret” — the search feature will still identify your variant and display your listing.

9. Boost your title with bonuses and features!

If you have available characters, include things like “free shipping” or “100% satisfaction guaranteed” or “authentic” or other similar phrases. These help the buyer to feel more comfortable parting with their money in exchange for your item.

10. Straight from eBay: “Don’t include words like “wow” or “look”

eBay says buyers don’t search for terms like these, so what value do they really have?

11. Don’t mislead buyers in your title (or anywhere in your listing!)

It’s important to get buyers to click on your item to learn more, but not at the expense of fooling them. Case in point, if your item is in good-not-great condition, don’t advertise it as being in excellent used condition. This is a gross violation of the implicit agreement between buyer and seller and will not only rob you of that sale, but potentially future sales on other items.

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Thanks for reading! In my full-time job as a Business Analyst for a health system, I apply analytical rigor to everyday business questions. My goal at Debt Free Dawn is to bring some of that rigor to the business of online resale but to do so in a fun and understandable way. Please ask me anything as I love to chat with fellow flippers!