Your E-Commerce Website

Q: "I'm planning to set up an eBay Store. Do I also need a website of my own? I know eBay has a rule that prohibits people from directing buyers to sites off of eBay, and I don't want to get into trouble there. But I've got some really great stuff that I'm not sure will sell on eBay."

A: When you are selling online, you absolutely should have a website of your own, even if you have an eBay Store. There are two reasons for this.

First, if you develop a following on eBay, excited buyers will naturally want to know what else you've got for sale, and they will be looking for your website. These days, everybody expects you to have a website, and you will look like an amateur if you don't have one.

Second, and more important, there is one place and only one place on all the Internet where you can sell stuff and keep 100 percent of the profits—and that's your website. Whenever you create a retail presence on another website—be it eBay, Yahoo!, Amazon, or anywhere else—that other website is going to want a piece of the action and charge you a fee for the privilege of basing your operations there.

All online retailers need to have at least one place where they don't have to share their profits with anyone else. Every online retailer needs his or her own website.

Having said that, of course, there are rules you need to follow when you have your own website and an eBay Store operating at the same time:

• You absolutely can link your website to your eBay Store and eBay auction listings—not only won't this get you into trouble, but eBay actually wants you to do this and makes tools available for you to create these links, free of charge.

• You absolutely can link your eBay auction listings to your eBay Store, and vice versa (in fact, you are crazy not to do that).


• Except for your About Me page (for an eBay Store, this is called the About the Seller page), you absolutely cannot link your eBay auction listings or eBay Store to your website or any other location off of eBay—this violates one of eBay's strictest policies.

• If you are using eBay to send newsletters to your frequent buyers, you cannot mention your website URL in your newsletters.

Q: "Can I use my website URL as my eBay user ID?"

A: No—eBay prohibits you from using a website URL as a user ID, and will kick you off the site if they see a ".com," ".net," or ".org" in your user ID name.

However, eBay does not prohibit you from using your company name as your eBay user ID. So, for example, if you are doing business offline as Cliff's Antiques and your website URL is, having "cliffsantiques" as your eBay user ID is only a natural thing to do. As long as it's not too obvious what you're doing (e.g., picking a business name that's so unusual that its only purpose is to create a unique website URL and user ID), you shouldn't have any trouble. Buyers on eBay are fairly smart—if they see "cliffsantiques" as your user ID, they probably will guess that your website URL is

Q: "Can I use my website URL as part of a trademarked logo and use the logo as my eBay Store name?"

A: A lot of businesses with names that cannot legally be trademarked (such as "Cliff's Antiques") do this as a way of getting a federal trademark registration. They create a unique logo with the name "Cliff's Antiques" included as part of the logo design and then submit the logo for trademark registration. Very often, that works and the logo is registered as a trademark by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (

I wouldn't try that on eBay, however, since eBay's search engine spiders are pretty adept at picking up ".com" names in eBay Stores and auction listings, and that might be pushing the envelope a bit too much. Keep in mind that if eBay kicks you off the site because of a name violation, you won't ever be able to use that name on eBay again, even if they let you open another eBay account down the road, using a different name. You don't want to build a following on eBay only to lose your "brand" overnight because you were recklessly stupid in setting up your eBay Store.

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