How to get the most out of the Category Report

The category report can be a very powerful tool when optimizing your sites.  It enables you to compare your performance across all the eBay categories and it shows how well targeted your sites are.  Why is the category where someone makes a purchase important?

The Quality Click Pricing algorithm is designed to reward affiliates who get people interested in shopping on eBay, whether that is within a category related to your website or not.  However, there are good reasons to look at the category report when assessing the performance of your campaigns.  The link between the products you are promoting on your website and the category in which a user sent by you to eBay makes a purchase can be a very good indicator of the quality of your clicks.  This is because the higher the correlation between the products you promote and the category of purchases you see in your category report, the higher the likelihood that you are using the most relevant items to promote eBay on your site.  This is especially true if you have a niche content site or a site such as a shopping comparison site that has a page per product or category.  A further benefit is that the time between click and purchase is an important element of the Quality Click Pricing system, and the more targeted the traffic, the shorter the time between click and purchase is likely to be.

For example, if traffic sent from your site about camping mainly leads to purchases in the tent category on eBay, you can infer that your site is sending highly targeted traffic to eBay, and therefore this traffic is likely to lead to more incremental purchases.  On the other hand, if the same camping site mainly leads to sales in the book, DVD and clothing categories, you may need to do some further optimization, because the time between click and sale is likely to be longer. 

How do I use the category report?

To see the categories from which your users buy, you can use the Category report that you’ll find in the Reports tab of the EPN interface.  This report will also soon be available on your dashboard.  It provides a comprehensive view of your transactions by category, all the way down to level 3 of eBay's category hierarchy (for example Computing > Scanners > Handheld Scanners).  You can view the data split by a number of different metrics, but as the main component of the algorithm is still winning bid revenue, this is perhaps the most useful way of viewing the graphs.  You can also look at the data at a campaign level  This can be useful for publishers with many niche sites or who have one site with many categories, and have broken their traffic down into different campaigns according to these sites/ categories.  For more information on how to use the category report go to the user manual, select “Reports”, then “Summary Reporting”, then “By Category Summary.”

What to look at when viewing the report

Percentage of sales in a category

A question that is often asked is what percentage of sales indicates that the traffic is well targeted.  Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast answers to that question.  A good rule of thumb is that over 70% should be in the relevant category or an associated category, but this is likely to be lower if the category you are promoting is a high value category.  Let’s go back to the camping example from earlier.  If 75% of the sales are in the tents category, then the site’s content and ads are highly relevant to its users.  Conversely, if only 25% of sales are in the tents category and the rest in completely unrelated categories, then this shows that either the site, the traffic sources or the ads being shown are not well targeted.

Drill down to sub category level

Sometimes to get the full picture of how targeted your site is, you need to drill down to sub category level, as this can show a different story than looking at the graphs at meta category level.  For example, a review site publisher we have been working with initially started working with eBay Partner Network by monetising their vehicle review section with ads showing the relevant vehicle listings.  When initially looking at the category report that approach appeared to be working, albeit at a meta-category level, as a high percentage of sales were converting in the Vehicles, Parts and Accessories category.   However, after drilling down to sub category level, it became clear that most purchases were actually car parts rather than the vehicles themselves.  On discovering this, the review site carried out AB testing to see whether the vehicle or its associated parts would result in the better click through rate and EPC.  In this case, it was the car parts category that resulted in the higher earnings and therefore the ads next to all vehicles were switched over to promoting parts instead, resulting in a significant uplift.

Know how each campaign is performing

You should always remember that you can filter the report by campaign - it is vital that you use this functionality if you want to have the best overview of how all your campaigns are performing.  It’s especially useful for those publishers who have multiple sites about different topics or product review or shopping comparison sites that have different pages for different products or categories.  In the example about the review site, the links on the publisher’s vehicle review section were given a unique campaign id, without which they would not have been able to have done the analysis above.

Look at your SEO traffic

Even if you drive most of your traffic via SEM, it’s still interesting to look at the traffic you receive via SEO and direct traffic, as this may show a trend that you did not expect.  To enable you to do this, make sure you differentiate the organic traffic from paid traffic by giving it a separate campaign id.  For example, a shopping comparison publisher we have been working with, whose primary source of traffic is from Google, uses a campaign id per Google Ad Words group to track the EPC for each group of keywords bought.  The publisher then also gave a separate campaign id to clicks coming from direct type-in traffic or SEO. 

You may have thought that conversions from this traffic would have been scattered across a number of categories.  However, in actual fact there was a higher proportion of products from the technology category, the hypothesis being that tech products are the most common products bought using shopping comparison sites.  With this knowledge, the publisher made the homepage (where most of the organic traffic landed) more tech focused, which resulted in an increased EPC.

What can I do to improve the relevancy of my traffic?

If you’ve looked at the metrics for your account and realised that your traffic needs to be further optimized to improve relevancy, then here are some top tips:

• Ensure the traffic you are buying is targeted: o If you buy SEM traffic, check which keywords are generating traffic.  If they are not relevant to your site, the likelihood is that the traffic won’t be of high quality and that these clicks will dilute your EPC, and you should consider un-trafficking them. o If you are receiving a lot of traffic from SEO, then you may want to work on optimizing for more relevant keywords. o If you are buying traffic from Ad Networks, you may want to find alternative traffic sources or improve your sourcing. • Make certain the content of the site is targeted to its audience – there’s little point having a site about guitars and then writing mostly about golf clubs! • Check the relevancy of the products you are promoting to the topic of the site.  If they aren’t related, then read this blog post, which gives some good advice on how to improve the matching.

As usual, we would love to hear both how you got on with the points in this article and if you have any other tips to help your fellow publishers, so if you do, please comment below.