Referring URL Tips & Tricks

As we mentioned in recent blog posts, we are making an effort to increase the transparency and accuracy of the referring URLs from traffic coming through eBay Partner Network links.   The referring URL is the address of the page that a user was on when they clicked a link. In other words, if a user is on Page A and click a link to go to Page B, the referring URL will be the address of Page A.

It’s important for us to understand where eBay ads are appearing so we can have a full picture when assessing the quality of traffic from each publisher.

We therefore ask for your help in making sure your websites or tools are sending accurate referring URLs to eBay when traffic is passed through affiliate links.

To help in this process, we are going to write a series of blog posts to help you ensure you are sending accurate referring URLs when people click on your links.

In this first post, we will focus on tips for a few use cases that may cause unknown referring URLs.  We are also going to point you to a few tools that you can use to verify that you are passing a referring URL.

1.    Browsers are not allowed to pass a referring URL from an HTTPS server to an HTTP server. So if you have links to eBay on an HTTPS site, the referrer will be removed. You can manually change the links to use HTTPS, or use Google Analytics' urchin.js script to switch the click links from HTTP to HTTPS. Otherwise, try to place affiliate links only on non-HTTPS portions of your sites.

2.    In some browsers, opening a new window with a Javascript command (for example, window.location.href or window.open) will cause the referring URL to be dropped. Instead of using Javascript to open a new window, use the href of your link with target="_blank" to open the eBay link and use an onclick event for any associated behavior you want the link to do (including click tracking, which is discussed below).

Here's an example link: <a href="http://www.ebay.com" onclick="myFunction();" target="_blank">eBay Link</a>.

3.    For a variety of reasons, some publishers link to an intermediate page (e.g. http://www.mysite.com/redirect.php?location=www.ebay.com) before sending the user to eBay. This can cause two problems: 1) it can drop the referring URL, and 2) it makes all of the referring URLs that are passed look the same. To properly use an intermediate page, use a 301 redirect on that page to redirect users to eBay. Then you can use one of the techniques we will talk about below to verify that the referring URL is being passed along after the redirection.

4.    Many publishers use Google Analytics to track their site activity, but some implementations are causing referring URLs to be dropped. The best way to set up Google Analytics tracking is to use the href of your link to open the eBay link and use an onclick event to trigger the Google Analytics tracking calls.

Here's an example:

<script type="text/javascript"> var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www."); document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "google-analytics.com/ga.js' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E")); function gaTrackEvent() { var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker("UA-xxxxxx-x"); /* Google Analytics tracking calls */ } </script> <a target="_blank" onclick="gaTrackEvent()" href="http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&pub=0000000000&toolid=10001&campid=0000000000&customid=0000000000&icep_item=230360004115 &ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lg">eBay item</a><img style="text-decoration:none; border:0;padding:0;margin:0;" src="http://rover.ebay.com/roverimp/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?ff3=2&pub=0000000000&toolid=10001&campid=0000000000&customid=0000000000&item=230360004115&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER]">

5.    We have identified four tools that should help most publishers verify that they are passing referring URLs, but there are many more options available.

  • HttpWatch (plugin for IE and Firefox) - follow these steps to get started with HttpWatch:

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    httpwatch_2

    httpwatch_31

    httpwatch_41

     

  • Live HTTP Headers (plugin for Firefox only)
  • Oxford Journals has a page that will show what referrer is being sent (instructions available at http://www.oxfordjournals.org/help/techinfo/ipcheck.html). If you redirect to the link on this page instead of eBay, you can see if you are passing a referring URL.
  • You can redirect to your own test page instead of eBay and check your server logs for the referrer.

Look for more updates as we come up with more recommendations on how to improve transparency.

The eBay Partner Network team