Guest Blog Post from R.O.EYE: Optimising your Custom Banner and API integrations

James Skelland is the Technical Solutions Manager at R.O.EYE, the agency that supports the in-house eBay Partner Network team with account management and recruitment in the UK and Ireland.  James has been working extensively with publishers across Europe to help them optimize the products they showcase using the API or Custom Banner and here are his top tips to help you do the same.  And in case you are wondering why there are s’s in words where there should be z’s (that's zeds not zees), this is because James is writing in British English, as he is based in Manchester in the north west of England! One of the biggest benefits of an API or Custom Banner implementation is that it provides an automated pull of live data to your website - so why should you keep fiddling with it once it’s set up?  Well, with the quality of traffic now dictating how much you get paid, it is imperative to ensure that visitors who arrive on your site are given an accurate and relevant choice of live listings.  It can take only a matter of minutes to tweak your search query, and the benefit of displaying a tighter set of results can be a significant increase in your EPC.

The important word here is “relevancy”, so how do you make sure the most relevant listings are displayed to your visitors?  The first clue is in the reports available to you in the eBay Partner Network interface.  The blog article entitled “How to Optimize for Quality Click Pricing” already covers off various ways to optimise, such as splitting campaigns down, and using the different reports to work out where improvements can me made.

As an example, after reviewing the Transaction Download Report or the Category Report on a mobile phone Custom Banner campaign you are running, you ’ve deduced that it is the phones themselves which convert, not the accessories, so where do you go from here?

1 – Improve keyword search with negatives and positives Level: Easy Applies to: Custom Banner / API The easiest thing to look at is the actual keyword query.  eBay provides a handy table here, which explains some clever ways of entering your query.  Try it now by logging into ePN and loading up the Custom Banner widget.  Select a program and a campaign id, and enter the search term “nokia n95” (without quotation marks in all cases).  You’ll find you get a lot of accessories, including chargers, cases and batteries, so the first thing to look at is negative keyword matching.  Any keywords which you enter with a preceding minus sign will remove all of those items from the results.  From the results you have in front of you, pick a couple of words which you don’t want.  In this case, I will choose “charger” and “battery”, so I end up with “nokia n95 -charger –battery” and the widget will now return items without those two words. 

But we need more negatives than that.  Multiple words can be grouped together by using parentheses.  “nokia n95 -(case*, charg*, cover, battery, accessories, screen, cable, etc…)”.  Note that I’ve used the asterisk character a couple of times.  charg* will match against charged, chargers, charging etc.  You can just keep adding more negatives until you are happy with the results.  Negatives should also be used in conjunction with more positives for best results.  In this case, the word “unlocked” is a common word for handset results, so we’ll add that into the query as a positive.  If you try the following keyword query, you can see that there are far more relevant listings now appearing in the banner: “nokia n95 unlocked -(case*, charg*, cover, battery, accessories, screen, cable)”.

2 – Use relevant Category IDs Level: Easy/Medium Applies to: Custom Banner / API The next area to look at is the Category ID.  Using both the API and the Custom Banner, you can stipulate that listings are only pulled from a specific category.  In the above example, the mobile phones Category ID is 3312 and if you insert this into the Custom ID field in the Custom Banner, you will restrict results to only this category.  However, using the term “nokia n95” with this Category ID will still yield a few rogue accessories in the results, so to get the most relevant matches, category mapping should be combined with keyword matching.  In other categories, such as Vehicle Parts & Accessories, you can specify Category IDs right down to the make of the vehicle or the brand of GPS – for example there is a category just for Peugeot Workshop Manuals! 

If you are using Custom Banner, you can use the drop down menu to find a Category IDs.  If you are using the API, the UK Category IDs can be found here and to see IDs for other territories, change the in the address to the country’s own eBay site.

3 – Map eBay’s categories to your own site Level: Medium/Hard Applies to: Custom Banner / API Modifying the query string and the Category ID is all well and good on a small number of pages, but on larger sites, which use dynamic keyword insertion to make calls on multiple pages, this just isn’t possible.  One option is to set up a table, which maps your site’s category structure to eBay’s.  You could also include a third column in the table with any negative keywords you want to include in the query.  This table can then be referenced to insert the correct Category ID into your query, based on which page of your site the visitor is on.

4 – Querying multiple categories Level: Hard Applies to: API One final thing to consider: if you’ve filtered by Category ID for better matching, you may want to include multiple categories in your query.  For example, if you have a site about Apple computers and you don’t want to show accessories, then the meta category of Apple Computers and Components is not appropriate.  However, the two leaf categories of Apple Desktops and Apple Laptops & Notebooks are much more relevant, but how do you show them both?  The answer is that you can make a separate API call for each category, and then collate the results yourself.

All of these tips are fairly straightforward, but you’d be surprised at the number of publishers who don’t optimise their live listings.  Hopefully this post will at least give you a nudge in the right direction, and speaking from personal experience with publishers I have helped to optimise, once unwanted listings are replaced with more relevant items in your results, there are considerable gains in your EPC to be made.

James Skelland, Technical Solutions Manager at R.O.EYE