Turn Your Joomla Site Into the Next eBay!

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Internet auction sites give buyers a "virtual" flea market with new and used merchandise from around the world; they give sellers a global storefront from which to market their goods. But the online auction business can be risky business.

Despite complaints of fraud, online auctions remain a fun, efficient, and reliably safe way to shop – if you act prudently. Here's how:

Become familiar with the auction site. Never assume that the rules of one auction site apply to another. If the site offers a step-by-step tutorial on the bidding process, take it. It may save you frustration and disappointment later.

Try to determine the relative value of an item before you bid. Be skeptical if the price sounds too low to be realistic. "Brick-and-mortar" stores and price comparison sites may be good for reality checks.

Consider whether the item comes with a warranty, and whether follow-up service is available if you need it. Many sellers do not have the expertise or facilities to provide services for the goods they sell. If this is the case with your seller, be sure you're willing to forfeit that protection before placing a bid.

Find out who pays for shipping and delivery. Generally, sellers specify the cost of shipping and give buyers the option for express delivery at an additional cost. If you're not sure about shipping costs, check with the seller before you bid.

Protect your identity. Never provide your Social Security number or driver's license number to a seller. Do not provide your credit card number or bank account information until you check out the seller and the online payment or escrow service, if you're using one, and ensure their legitimacy. Examine the online payment and escrow service's privacy policy and security measures. Never disclose financial or personal information unless you know why it's been collected, how it will be used, and how it will be safeguarded.

So you think you want to run an auction site?

Creating auction sites is not for the fault-hearted, it's recommended to use a professional web design company to create and support your endeavor. Do not ever think you can do this alone – unless you want to start a niche auction site. For such narrow markets you can start smaller and make it up to the top.

Should you use a design company or build your own? You can certainly save thousands of dollars by using an "out of the box" package, or employing your own in-house IT skills. But These savings may be small compared with the turnover of a successful site – or, more seriously, the cost of getting it wrong. Use for starters a small niche to test. Testing never fails to provide you with information and experience that you never get anywhere else

Creating an auction site is nothing compared to running one, and you may wish to read before what such a site needs. Popular ways of getting a site started include:

* setting a price at which a bid automatically wins.

* featuring selected items on other auction sites, drawing visitors to your site by including your URL.

To deal with bogus bids and timewasters:

* impose rigorous payment terms and stick to them.

* vet all winning bids by telephone or email.

* require bidders to log in with personal details.

* run private auctions to approved bidders.

* Blacklist Offenders.

* check suspicious bids.

* automatically deny a second highest bid when highest is suspect.

Since I am consistently in the Joomla developing and Web site building, I surprised if Joomla is up to the Task of being set up as an Auction Site. I searched for some solutions few months ago. There seemed to be no key turn solution to this matter. I looked at some semi-professional components, but purely suited for some specific tasks as for instance to allow administrators to start an auction for some of his stuff. That's nice but there is no interaction, no community building, no traffic. Just maybe some bidders on your one or two items. Also there were some issues relating to support and some not so clean Ajax programming.

I sure surprised where all the developers have gone? …

Yet since last week I noticed the new Auction component ( http://www.thefactory.ro/shop/joomla-components/auction-factory.html ) by the guys at The Factory ( http://www.thefactory.ro ) ! I must say I'm impressed! They managed to design an "eBay in the box" kind of component. Not only the users can create Auctions, but there are nice features as Auction watchlist (so you can keep track of interesting auctions – getting updates on the evolution), Proxy bidding (so you can specify a maximum bid and the system will bid in your be to that amount) and other nifty features.

So you want to create your own eBay, or maybe the next Sotherby's? Well, now you can do it using Joomla.

How?

Together with some old partners from SEO-Executive Inc, I started setting up several sites using based on Joomla, installing Auction Factory as an Auctions platform on these.

Why Joomla? Fist because it has a rarely seen susceptibility. You have Templates (free and commercial – and I must salute all Templates from Rockettemplate- very professional), Content items, Articles, Banners, RSS (again I must give the thumbs up to The Factory Team – RSSFactory-FREE- is by far the best Aggregator – free or commercial!), Community builder-Joomlapolis did a great, great work releasing this piece of Jewel! Also Galleries (Zoom Media galley is my favorite). So in short: you got it all.

So we started putting Auction Sites together. We started some niche auction sites (mobile phones, domain names, turnkey websites), and some wide range (Anything goes).

We must say we were impressed by the ease of Joomla and Auction Factory – both go so smooth – installation, administration.

There is one trick with Joomla: SEO is easy with Joomla – meta tags are easy to set up, page titles are dynamic, but if you want to get the best out of it – you must enable SEF, and use a SEF Extension (Joomla's own code SEF is rubbish). We used mostly ARTIO Sef, but OpenSef is also a very good extension. Auction factory has a plugin for both OpenSef and ARTIO Sef, so there were nice URLs like /auction/nokia-8010-new-in-package.html or /auction/used-armchair-urgent.html

These URLS are very important for a startup site AND for one established. The chances of getting a higher position into Google or similar engines is at least doubled!

The sites we set up got pretty soon (right to the next Pagerank update) a PR 3, and we are hiring for a dramatic increase in the next Google Pagerank update. Here are some SEO pointers, maybe you could use them too.

As a Auctions site administrator you must keep an eye on all transactions. Do not worry, there will not be so many at beginning, and when you got too many, just use the internal Reporting system from the Auction component. That's how users will alert you regarding some of the dubious auctions.

In an following article I will give you guys more details on setting up the site and what you have to keep in mind regarding all these issues.

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