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eBay Secrets: Researching Items

by James S. Bray about a year ago in how to
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How to Google Search Like a Top-Rated Seller

For the past 6 years my job has been selling items on eBay stores. In that time, I’ve developed a few tricks of the trade that I will be sharing in this new series I’m calling eBay Secrets. There are several tricks of the trade that can change the game for your eBay store sales. In this installment, I will be discussing some tips that can help you find information for items online that might be more difficult to find. Without knowing exactly what you have to sell, you won’t be able to list it because you won’t know what price to set. No listing means no sales and no profit. I will be discussing listing and pricing in this series in the future, but for the time being, we will be looking closely at the Google search engine and how you can use it to find almost anything you need.

Often, I find myself searching for obscure items on the dark corners of the internet, scouring public sales records, parts catalogues, and technical documents. Sometimes you come across something that you think might be worth something, but you don’t quite know where to start to solve the mystery. With the right search habits, it becomes much easier to track items down faster, so you can know what they’re worth, if anything. The more time you save in your searching, the less wasted time on items that aren’t worth much, and the faster you’ll be able to list your high-ticket items. Thankfully, I’ve honed my skills over years of searching for miscellaneous, sometimes discontinued RV and bus parts and accessories. Follow this guide and you’ll become more efficient at your e-commerce gig.

There are a couple of reasons you could have trouble trying to find an item. You either don’t know what it is at all, or you know what it is, but can’t find it online anywhere to price it. Sometimes, the search to find an item seems hopeless at first, but, with a little detective work, you will be amazed with what you can find online. There have been very few items I’ve come across in my time that I have not been able to locate with the right information. But, there’s the question: what is the right information?

Relevant Information

Before you make a listing, you will want to make sure you have the following information on hand:

Brand name & Part number.

These are fairly straightforward. What company made the item and what number did they assign to it? The part number is usually printed somewhere on the item itself, or on the packaging somewhere. In rarer cases, it can be in the instructions or in the technical documents. If you aren’t sure if it’s a part number, go ahead and give it a search anyway. This could still be the number people are using to refer to it. Still, part numbers usually have meaning behind them, the number and letter blocks that make them up will often stand for color, model, and other details about the item, so they deserve a story all their own. For the time being, though, this information should suffice.

What the item is called.

This is also fairly straightforward, but sometimes you will find yourself in the possession of an item of which you don’t actually know the name. You might know what it does, or have some vague notion of that, or you may even know a more colloquial term for what the thing is, but without the name that it is often called by in the industry that it is used for, will not lead to sales. So it seems simple and not worth mentioning, but it is absolutely essential you make no assumptions, but to go where the information leads you. If you close the book too early, or with insufficient information, you could lose hundreds on the sale of the item. Small details can really mean the difference between a week’s pay and a fraction of a day’s pay when you make the sale. Always do your research.

An understanding of what the item does.

In some cases you will know the name or part number of an item, but not have a very good understanding of what it does. It’s difficult to sell something if you don’t know what it does, but you can do it if you have the brand name, item name, and part number. Knowing what the item does is helpful not just for listing the item, but also for setting the price of the item. Sometimes you will have something of a brand which is not listed for sale anywhere else online, so you will have to set your prices based on a comparable item of its kind. Try to understand as much as you can about the item before listing it for sale. Again, noticing subtle differences between similar items can sometimes mean the difference in hundreds of dollars on a sale.

All of these things are required for a good listing, but they are not all that it takes to make a successful listing. Each of these pieces of information is ascertained from researching the item online. Now that we know what information is needed, let’s discuss how we can best locate the pieces that we’re missing.

By KOBU Agency on Unsplash

The Research Process

Researching mostly includes the use of Google search (don’t bother with other search engines), but as you sell more and more things in your niche, you will likely bookmark your favorite go-to sites that have the best information. Often these include manufacturer websites and other online retailers who have already done the research for you. Of course, Google search is sufficient almost entirely on its own, but you will also want to make it a habit to simultaneously make your searches on eBay, because using search filters there can be useful when items like yours have sold recently. Sometimes you will get lucky and find an item like yours in sold listings that wouldn’t be as easily found through the search engines.

With eBay search, all you need to know is the filters on the left has one that shows sold listings and, from there you can also select the type of sale at the top of the page, between auction or buy it now. Google, on the other hand, has a little more to it, but tactics you use on Google search can be used on eBay too, like using quotation marks to find a specific phrase. This tip is extremely useful and you will find that putting quotes around part numbers to be indispensable, along with putting plus signs between two quoted search terms to find a combination of terms. This will immediately find most items that won’t prove to be a challenge.

In Google search, there is the main web search, and several tabs you can choose from, the other relevant ones are Images and Shopping. Anything you have a decent amount of info on (brand name, part number, model, etc.) that doesn’t show up on the first few pages in the main web search, images, or shopping is probably something you will have to do more digging to find. This is when you will want to start getting more creative with where you are looking. At this point, the best place to look is for the manufacturer’s website. Whatever brand your item is, go to their website and try to find the product there. If you are selling parts and not whole items, then technical information and other documents they may have on site will be what you want.

By Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

If the manufacturer doesn’t have a website, or doesn’t have the information you are looking for (this is frequent), then it will also be helpful to look for message boards and other forums where people talk about the thing you are trying to sell. This isn’t always an option, but when you can find one there is often a wealth of information to be found. The question is, how do you look for these things? Well, there are certain other keywords you can put into your search to find other sources of information. For the aforementioned example “forum” and “message board” would work, but you can use words like “instructions,” “diagram,” “wiring diagram,” “parts,” “replacement,” “sales record,” “price list,” and so on. Some of these are especially helpful, like “sales record” and “price list,” because with the right items you will be able to locate documents made public from local government agencies, or those that are meant to go to retailers from manufacturers.

With the addition of each of these search terms, it’s a good idea to check all the relevant tabs for results before adding another. Make sure the web search, image search, and shopping search are all well looked at before moving on to another search term. Sometimes you will unexpectedly see a picture of what you need, or some random piece of information that might be what you need, but has no picture associated with it, so won’t appear in the images tab. Usually what is in the web search is also in the shopping search, but the shopping tab is more visual and is good for ease of use when it has what you need.

When looking at the normal web search, you should find the part number or other piece of info that you’re looking for in the text preview of the page. Sometimes you will come across web pages or documents that are much longer than expected. This is especially true of price lists and technical documents. Recently, Google search has started highlighting the information relevant to your search and, when you click it, the page will automatically scroll to the correct place on the web page. This isn’t always true, however, so you will want to get into the habit of using CTRL + F on your keyboard, which will bring up the find on page search bar. There, you can type the part number or whatever search term brought you to the page. This will highlight each spot on the page where this phrase appears, so you can easily navigate them. This will shave some extra time off of your search.

By Desola Lanre-Ologun on Unsplash

Internet Safety

During your research, you will want to be careful and discriminate about which links you actually click. You will come across several questionable sites and, if you aren’t computer savvy, you will want to be extra careful not to click on something suspicious. Still, during this process you will sometimes end up on sites that are cause for concern. So, be careful what you click on, use ad blockers (most browsers have these add-ons), use a VPN to hide your identity, never download anything on these pages, and when you accidentally end up on one, get off of it as fast as you can.

If you follow these steps when researching your items to list on eBay, you will find the information you need faster. You will also likely be able to find those pieces in your stock that have been difficult to find more information on and, therefore, list. This saved time and more listed items will make your home eBay sales business more successful and put more money in your pocket. If you found this information helpful and want to see more stories where I break down the techniques I use to run two top-rated eBay stores, please show your support on this story.

You can do this by giving it a heart (this is free to you and means a lot to me!), or donating the amount that this article is worth to you. Each of these pieces takes time to write, edit, proofread, select pictures for and to format. Donations help make it possible for me to spend the time it takes to keep writing on Vocal. It’s always appreciated when my readers show their support, whether it’s reads, likes, shares, or donations, it keeps me happily creating content, so thanks for reading.

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About the author

James S. Bray

Non-fiction author of 'The New Frontiers of Lucid Dreaming' currently writing my first fiction novel.

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