I will start by saying that even though I don't have thousands of auctions on my resume', I have been buying and selling on ebay for more than ten years. I know what works on the buying end. Selling is a dark art that few have mastered, but doling out misleading advice, as if they are actually interested in seeing the buyer do well, in an effort to maximize the money they receive is not the key to success.
First, there are a couple of legitimate reasons to place an early bid: a) remove the "buy-it-now" option from an auction, b) lock down the auction––prevent the seller from making certain revisions that can only be made if there are no bids, and 3) to make it harder or less likely that the seller will cancel the auction, although they can still do so up until the 12 hour limit. That's it.
Bidding incrementally hours or days before the end of an auction is amateurish, and participating in a bidding war with several bidders is even more amateurish. These bidders soon loose sight (assuming they had any to begin with) of the objective––which is to win the auction for the least amount possible. What often happens is, it becomes a battle of wills between the bidders. Beating the other guy at any cost becomes the goal and the winner is actually the loser because he ends up overpaying. That's good for the sellers and for ebay. I suppose I could go on about the thoughts and motivation of buyers who engage in such foolishness but I won't. The key fact here is that they do not know what their maximum is––their motivation becomes to win the competition between bidders. What started out as bargain shopping inevitably ends up with the most motivated and least insightful of the participants overpaying. Sellers absolutely love it when this happens and therefore they tout the advantages of bidding early and try to convince buyers that so called 'sniping' is a loosing strategy. Not true.
The key to the ebay game is knowing exactly how much you're willing to pay. I turn it around and think... at what price would I rather not win? I turn that general notion into specific dollars and cents, always an odd amount, never an even dollar amount ending in 5 or 0. If I really want the item I'll add a couple of dollars to ensure I won't be remorseful if I miss by a couple of dollars. I add the item to my watch list and wait patiently. If it bids up past my maximum I delete it and forget it. It's actually good for thoughtful buyers that most bidders bid in increments up from the current price. It only works against a thoughtful bidder when it turns into a bidding war and the price goes into the stratosphere. The only thing better than no bidders at all on an item of interest, is two or three bidding slowly buy at bid increment the winning bidder changing each time. As time for the close draws near, if the item is still well below my maximum I know that I'm going to beat the incremental bidders. The only bidders I am in competition with are other thoughtful bidders who are watching and waiting like me. If they're willing to pay more they will get it, if not, I will. Surprisingly often there are no others. If I very much want or need the item then I bid higher than I think is necessary and I usually get it for less. If I'm bargain shopping I do it differently.
Placing the bid is done one of two ways: live bid or sniping service. The live bid is kind of dangerous because it depends too much on your internet connection and page load speed. You also never know when ebay will send you to the login screen or add another confirmation screen, checkbox, or other detail that could cause you to miss the last second bid submission. I have never had a sniping service to miss submitting a bid and furthermore, it always seems to go in at exactly the time I have selected. It has the added advantage of me not having to be on the computer as the auction ends. Therefore I prefer it. I don't win every time, but I also don't lose to anyone who is just upping the current bid buy an increment. I wonder what those guys think after they've invested hours in this incremental nonsense just to get beaten in the last few seconds as if their bids didn't even matter?
Bargain shopping requires a different technique. I research the completed auctions and find out what the high and low range are for the item I'm interested in. Then I create a folder on my bidding service site. I place all bids for a particular type of item in this folder. It will bid on each item as the auction closes until I win, and then it cancels the remaining bids so I don't end up winning more than one. If I want to win one in a short amount of time I will create auctions starting low and going a bit higher each time. If there is no urgency I will set all bids at the lowest price I think I should be able to get one for. Then I wait. I will receive an email when/if I win. If not I'll set up another batch of bids in the folder and try again.
Remember, these ideas and techniques are effective, but only against incremental bidders. Experienced buyers know that there is no reason, that it's even counterproductive, to do anything other than bid your maximum amount at the last second. These people are the competition but fortunately there are a lot fewer of them than the mindless incremental guys. Adopting this mindset has allowed me to be more successful and to interface with the site and other bidders a lot less. I hope others benefit as well.