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Puttin' on the Hits

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Posted November 18, 2003 By Beth Cox     Feedback

Auction sellers finally have a way to get some real metrics on visitors to their eBay auction listings.

Like many serious eBay sellers, I have fooled around with the free tools offered by some of eBay's partners. But I have to admit, I have no knowledge about who is looking at my listings other than a simplistic counter that gives me a total number of hits.

However, there now may be a useful and not terribly expensive way to garner a great deal more information about my customers and my "almost-customers," too.

A company called Sellathon recently launched a product called ViewTracker, and they say on their Web site that ViewTracker "tells you ... in real-time ... exactly how each auction visitor found you, what words they searched for, what categories they browsed, how they sorted their search results... even where they live."

Seems to me that just knowing the search terms used to find your auctions would be amazingly helpful as you craft future listings. Listing an item on eBay is a little like fishing - you cast your line into a really big ocean and see what happens.

I've always viewed the item descriptions that I write as more akin to advertising than product descriptions, and knowing the right words to use to attract more lookers would be very helpful.

Lexington, KY-based Sellathon calls its product "the only 'Second-Generation' Auction Visitor Tracker in the world."

"On the rest of the Internet, no serious webmaster would consider trying to compete without access to visitor data, Sellathon says in its ViewTracker FAQ. "But eBay sellers have never had access to this data..."

Indeed they haven't.

"These types of tools have been available to Web masters for years -- analyzing where visitors come from, what search terms they use to find a site -- and it's great that auction sellers can benefit from the same kind of data," said David Steiner at "eBay is so proprietary with their information that sellers can use any tool they can get to help them refine their auctions to get more eyeballs."

"So far early reviews are positive," Steiner said.

How does ViewTracker work?

The company says that whenever a seller is creating an auction, ViewTracker users can add a little code to the bottom of the auction and include it in the auction description.

The code causes two things to happen. First, it loads a small (88 x 31 pixels) Sellathon banner and places it at the bottom of the auction. Every time a visitor views the auction, it sends Sellathon's computers information about the visitor, the auction he's viewing, and the previous page the visitor viewed. From this data, ViewTracker deciphers the information that appears on the seller's stats page.

Sellathon CEO Wayne Yeager told me that this is brand new (launched Nov. 3) and already 1,300 users have signed up. "We're receiving testimonials faster than we can put them up on the Web site," he said.

"Imagine ... you run a little shop, but you don't know who your customers are or which items they're interested in or where they come from ... or anything! You'd have a pretty tough time keeping the doors open, right? But that's what eBay sellers have had to do for 8 years. So the overwhelming sentiment we're hearing is one of empowerment and gratitude," Yeager said.

Currently, ViewTracker provides the following information about each visitor:

  • The sequential number of the visitor. (Is he or she the 14th visitor or the 126th?)
  • The date and time the visitor arrived at your auction.
  • The visitor's IP address. (By clicking the IP address, you'll see ONLY those visits originating from this IP address.)
  • The visitor's geographical location (City, State, Country)
  • If the Reserve Price was met when the visitor arrived.
  • If the item has received a bid yet.
  • If the current visitor is the high bidder, a bidder who has been outbid, or no bidder at all. Also, if the visitor is watching this auction in "My eBay" Whether the visitor browsed a category, searched a category, searched all of eBay, used eBay's Product Finder Utility, came from "See Seller's Other Items", or some other page.
  • If browsing, which category he was browsing in.
  • If searching, which category he was searching in (if applicable).
  • If searching, what search term(s) did visitor use?
  • If searching, did visitor search "Titles Only" or "Titles and Descriptions"?
  • Which page of auction listings did the visitor find your auction on?
  • Did the visitor elect to view Auctions Only, "Buy it Now" items only, or both?
  • What search preferences/options did the visitor select. Some examples include: Show/Hide pictures, Sellers that accept PayPal, Price Range, International Availability, Regional Searching, Gallery View, Show Gift Items, etc.
  • How did the visitor sort results? For example, High Price to Low Price? When you relist an auction, ViewTracker treats it as a completely new auction and restarts the counter at zero.

What does all this cost? A single user license for the basic edition runs $49 (for up to 25 simultaneous auctions) and pricing scales up from there. There's also a 20-day free trial.

I asked Yeager about the competition, and he said at the present time there is none.

"We invented this and actually have three patents pending on some of the underlying technology," he said, adding "every good idea on the Internet gets stolen by somebody, so the secret is to be prepared for it."

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