How to select the best landing page

Hi all, Successful affiliate marketing is not only about the numbers. It is mainly about the users - only when you offer them something they care about, will they convert on the merchant’s site and it’s this conversion that generates the commission for you.

In previous posts we have talked about optimization steps you can take that have to do with the publisher’s site, e.g. about choosing a successful niche, acquisition of the right traffic via SEO & SEM or about copywriting.

But once you have a qualified user, where do you send him (or her) on the eBay site? To the eBay home page? Or to a page with an item description? This article presents the main options for eBay landing pages and contains suggestions on how to make an informed decision on where you send your traffic.

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Spoilt for choice

The eBay sites have many different types of pages that you can use as landing pages for your campaigns. Some will be more successful, and others are less likely to lead to a sale. This one here is one of the inferior choices, as it is just links, with no images, nothing that catches the eye and no call to action. Apart from special cases (store and custom pages), Link Generator offers you the choice of the 3 main types of landing pages:

• eBay home page

• Search results pages or ‘SRP’

• View item pages or ‘VIP’ (item-ID link)Conceptually, these page types cover the range from the ‘very generic’ to the ‘most specific’:

• There won’t be many occasions when the eBay home page is your best bet. You should only really use it when you have no idea about the user’s interests and in this case, it’s better you drop him off at the front door, rather than sending him into a category that will most likely be the wrong one. However, if you truly don’t know anything about your users, your first priority should be to find out about their needs and intentions and only then come back to landing page optimization. The one time the home page is likely to be a good choice if you’re a publisher with a loyalty site where the user browses by merchant and not by product category. • Search results pages are more specific and therefore very flexible, as your choice of search terms and negative keywords enable a very high amount of customization and fine tuning. In general, you show the user a selection of items to compare and choose from. If you are not familiar with all the search and filter options, go to the Link Generator page in your ePN account and play with the features, including the ‘Advanced Options’ like exclusion of keywords or price ranges. James at RO EYE wrote a great post about improving the relevancy of Custom Banner through negative keyword matching and using the correct category id, which can also be applied to in this instance too. Search results pages are particularly good landing pages if you write about a certain product, for example, a movie and want to show the user the selection of movie posters, the DVD edition, T-shirts and other merchandise. • View Item Pages (VIPs) are the only page type that gives the user the actual option to bid or buy something – they are closest to the conversion. VIPs are an excellent choice if you already know exactly what your user wants, as he is being sent directly to the point of purchase. On the other hand, if that one specific item does not interest him, he has to find his own way around eBay to see other, more relevant results. Or in the worst case, he could bounce back to your site or leave eBay to another destination. View item pages are very good for shopping comparison or review site publishers where you can display the variety of products on your own pages before sending the users to eBay. Then, if a user is interested in one particular item he will click through to eBay for closer inspection and the purchase.

How to make a decision

You should use the following concept when making a decision on whether to send the visitor to a more generic landing page or to one that is more specific: the landing page should correspond to the stage the user is in of the buying process.

If a user is just window shopping for a digital camera, you want to drop him or her off at a more generic landing page. See this page as an example, which shows all items within the digital cameras category. If he is looking for something more specific, let’s say a new autofocus lens for his Nikon DSLR, then send him to a more narrowly defined search results page, for example, which is a search for “nikon af” within the ”Lenses” subcategory. And finally if you know that he wants to buy a specific product right now, then show him an even more specific search results page or a view item page. User in Buying Process

Landing page selection based on users’ stage in the buying process

How do I know where the user is in the buying process?

In many cases you won’t be able to tell where exactly in the buying process a user is. Here are some of the signals you can read:

Your own business model: if you operate a shopping comparison style site, you can assume that users are pretty close to making their buying decision, whereas users on a portal site tend to be further away from that point. Niche or enthusiast sites will usually sit somewhere in the middle: users are interested in a given topic, but may well be in a research rather than a buying mode.

Pages visited within your site: for users who visit overview pages or pages with more basic information within your site, you can make the assumption that they are in an earlier stage in the buyer process than users visiting pages with very specific information, e.g. a review page of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED. In the latter case, try a Custom Banner for this specific item to prequalify the user on your site and then send him to the corresponding view-item page on eBay for the actual purchase.

Search queries: if your visitor comes from a search engine by clicking on one of your ads, you will know which of your keywords has triggered that click. If he clicked on an ad that was shown for “Nikon af lens”, you know that he is interested in shopping around for lenses. If you know he clicked on “Nikon 24-70 2.8 price” you can assume that he is probably very close to a purchase. Likewise, search queries entered by users within your website are an excellent (and free) source of data about user intent.

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Search Traffic Analytics Insights from an eBay publisher, Dave Davis of Redfly Marketing

"If you are generating your traffic from search engines, you can go one step further. You can detect which keywords the visitor arrived to your site/landing page/application and dynamically change the type of landing page you send your visitor to on the merchant site.

It works like this: 1) Analyze all your keywords and run them all through the Microsoft adCenter labs commercial intent tool (http://adlab.microsoft.com/Online-Commercial-Intention/) 2) Create "buckets" of keywords that fall into the "high probability" of commercial intent category. These are your visitors that are in the final stages of the buying cycle. 3) Either craft specific content for that group of users or show/redirect them to content that is tailored to giving them that "final nudge" into buying (usually a positive review, some social proof or a custom message). 4) Send the user on to the relevant page on the merchant site to complete this action. In the case of eBay, this is 99% of the time the View Item Page (VIP).

This will of course be different for every site. It's up to the publisher to determine where their visitors are in the buying cycle and test where to send them on the merchant site from there.

In relation to QCP, these are the visitors that you want and we have seen dramatic increases in EPC as a result of segmenting out visitors into the different stages of the buying cycle and sending them to the appropriate landing pages on eBay.

This also has many other benefits. First and most importantly, it's beneficial to the user. It improves the usability of your site and reduces visitor "confusion". Secondly, providing content relating to commercial intent has been proven to play a role when being "rated" by certain search engines and finally, it plays a small role in determining the quality score in your paid search campaigns, see this blog post I wrote for more information.

Every publisher wants to make the most out of their traffic. As an affiliate, knowing who your audience is and what they want is half the battle. The other half is showing them the right offer for them and everyone wins."

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Don’t forget to test

After making a conscious decision about the type of eBay page to which you’re sending your visitors, you should always monitor the landing pages’ performance and conduct your own tests (see here for some optimization and testing tips). Remember to use different campaign IDs and a ‘true’ A/B testing methodology (test the variants concurrently and not in sequence) or more sophisticated multivariate methods, but make sure your campaigns are not too small (to get the most accurate data, try and keep the click volume above 100 clicks per day). Let your tests run for a longer than just a couple of days, as this (1) allows the QCP algorithm to capture the long term value and (2) eliminates day-of-week effects: always test full weeks, and not partial ones as this can skew results. Two weeks or even better four weeks are testing timeframes that you should consider.

Finally, please use the comments to let us know what you think, and to share your own experiences.

Frank Mickeler, eBay Partner Network team