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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Tracking Your eBay Auction Sales? Now that's Highly Sophisticated

Recently, Nate Elliott of Jupiter Research released a study indicating that three-quarters of search marketers -- primarily in-house marketing managers of small to mid-sized companies -- are "unsophisticated." Some indignation made the rounds of the forums as those with poor reading comprehension believed Elliott was engaging in snooty name-calling. Really, all he was doing was original survey research that divided marketers into two camps based on levels of experience. One might quibble with his assumptions about what makes a marketer more or less sophisticated -- buying a large number of keywords, for example, can be a security blanket covering other weaknesses in campaign strategy, and is hardly a "sophisticate's" tactic as it stems from the problems inherent in GoTo's original lack of matching options (now rectified in Overture's contemporary offering) -- but there is no question most online marketing professionals remain somewhere in the early phase of the learning curve.

A group even more likely to be tagged with the stereotypes the media reserve for "unsophisticated marketers" are eBay sellers. But this is rapidly changing as they adopt the same kinds of tools that we see other online marketers using. Because eBay sellers' pages are uploaded by them (and thus controlled by them), it's not a huge stretch to insert code in those pages that facilitates some forms of user tracking.

eBay sellers are learning what many webmasters learned years ago -- you can't run a competitive business with just a hitcounter. At the very least, you need to know what kinds of searches are generating the most sales.

One company offering an eBay traffic analysis tool is Sellathon, a Kentucky-based company run by former Trafficology editor Wayne Yeager. We also know Yeager as the individual who founded a service called UnclaimedDomains.com, selling it to Internet.com in April 2000.

Sellathon isn't the only entrant into the eBay tracking tool business. I recently met someone at an industry lunch who was close with the founder of an early entrant into the same field. It also seems like there are eBay-specific constraints which limit one to certain types of interesting data... the data provided by Sellathon, as far as I can tell, wouldn't measure up to powerful "conversion tracking" tools like ConversionRuler, because, after all, a lot of the activity is taking place on eBay's site, not the seller's site.

But it's an idea whose time has come, and Sellathon's solution is being adopted quickly by a mix of small and large companies.

Here again, it must be emphasized that the market is at an immature stage. Those who operate in the "eBay support industry" have done a great deal to help, but sometimes the focus of all the "help" seems misplaced. Why are we not doing more to help sellers with basic web analytics?

Scanning through the 100 items in the O'Reilly book eBay Hacks, for example, I see a number of highly sophisticated tricks for sellers to try, but nothing like what Sellathon's offering.

In the Hacks book, you get tricks like offering a 360-degree view of your item with a photo album and some Javascript code. Neat stuff. I love that when I go to the infiniti.com site. But the fact that sellers are going to so much effort without tracking that effort seems odd.

It's as if cavemen had been bestowed with major motion picture studios to help them make commercials ... before learning to count.

The days of "unsophisticated" marketers comprising a majority of search engine marketers or eBay sellers will soon be over. In the meantime, those who currently do fall into the unsophisticated category should spend less time feeling indignant about the label, and more time doing something about adopting the tracking, bidding, and analysis techniques that will help them compete.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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