Erik Kalviainen is a co-founder of ProductWiki.com, a site that has steadily grown in popularity to become a top-rated content and research site for products. ProductWiki is seen as an ideal publisher for eBay as it promotes original and engaging content that helps buyers with their purchasing decisions. ProductWiki defines itself as a free and unbiased resource for high quality product information. The ProductWiki community creates and maintains concise product reports that include a mix of objective description information, subjective opinions and reviews. Product categories are focused on regular consumer products such as electronics and housewares, but they also extend to other categories such as software. First launched in the fall of 2005, the website has undergone many upgrades and is one of the largest stand-alone wikis on the web. We recently had a chance to speak with Erik about his site successes.
eBay: Hello Erik. Thanks for joining us today. We’ve enjoyed watching your site grow and become a strong partner within eBay Partner Network (ePN) over the past few years. Why did you choose to start working with eBay?
Erik: We chose the eBay Partner Network for 3 reasons: 1) the broad product coverage of items sold on eBay, 2) the attractive revenue share model, and 3) the eBay brand is one that our community looks to as an option for their online shopping.
eBay: You have some great insights on how to leverage eBay and affiliate marketing on your site. How did you get started in affiliate marketing?
Erik: I co-founded ProductWiki with two others in June 2005 with affiliate marketing and price comparison in mind as the ideal monetization component to the website. ProductWiki's goal is to help decide people "what to buy", whereas the affiliate and price comparison links will help them with the "where to buy". This revenue model aligns itself with users' interests.
eBay: Can you tell us how long you have been working with eBay and what this partnership represents as a percentage of your site revenues?
Erik: Yes, we joined the eBay Partner Network in November 2007. eBay Partner Network represents about 15-20% of our commission revenue. As we expand our product database into more and more niche products, we expect this share to increase, as eBay is the most consistent option for these types of products.
eBay: It is a good idea to have a balanced portfolio of revenue streams. How to you decide between the various advertising options available?
Erik: We evaluate our advertising options by balancing maximum yield against the user experience. Our best advertising options will have the following characteristics: 1) high CPC values, 2) strong brand affinity to our users, and 3) product coverage. ePN is very strong in the last two characteristics as often users prefer eBay to retailers because of their ability to get a good deal or find a hard-to-come-by products.
eBay: It must be exciting to see your site and product grow so quickly in popularity. As you look to the future with ProductWiki, what new trends or changes do you see coming in the affiliate industry?
Erik: Affiliate marketing is often found on sites that are strong in content. I think there is a trend towards a higher quality of this content. It's not sufficient anymore to put up thousands of thin pages and expect to attract a large audience. Web users are demanding more and more out of their experience and are looking for deep, helpful information.
eBay: We have seen the same trend with improved content. Fortunately your site seems well positioned to capitalize on this trend. Are there any other concerns that you have regarding affiliate marketing?
Erik: One of my major concerns with affiliate marketing is the trend towards the big fish gobbling up more and more market share, which, in turn, squeezes out the small retailers. This reduces price competition and makes it harder for them to convert to a sale. You see many programs such as ePN introducing a quality score to help offset this shift.
eBay: It’s great to hear that this trend towards rewarding quality can help smaller publishers. We also like to ask our publishers which thought leaders they follow and/or which sites and communities they use for their own research.
Erik: I've always been impressed with Google's ability to offer great products for free while following their "Don't be evil" motto. As far as sites go I use ProductWiki for products. Facebook for friends. LinkedIn for business. Google Reader for news. Google Buzz / Twitter / digg for fun.
eBay: In addition, do you have one tip that you can share with other affiliates about improving their performance with ePN?
Erik: Use A/B testing and traffic analytics to try out different designs and strategies to optimize your affiliate marketing yield. It never ceases to amaze me how much can be improved by focusing on affiliate optimization in this way.
eBay: We definitely endorse this tip and would recommend using different campaigns in the eBay Partner Network interface to help in comparison. Since we’re talking about your integration, could you elaborate a bit on some of the ePN tools that work best for you?
Erik: We have a fairly straightforward integration; we rarely use any ePN tools other than reporting tools (which are really good). We use a simple "search results" type affiliate link to eBay and we pass in our product title as the keyword. We maintain a clean database, therefore this technique works very well in getting good results from eBay. The eBay link is placed among other online retailer links along with a logo in our "where to buy" section to create a seamless integration.
eBay: Sometimes simple integrations can be the best. What product, programming, or research tools have helped you?
Erik: We have a sophisticated system for monitoring retailers and manufacturers for new product releases. This coupled with our internal analytics helps determine what products, and thus, eBay links that make it on the site.
eBay: It is always good policy to know your product and your audience. Have you done much work on researching your site users or what they want?
Erik: We keep a close on eye what other big sites are doing right (and wrong) to help shape our site. We also rely on blogs for research into User Experience. This is very important because it accelerates the development cycle and allows our company to run very efficiently. Why recreate the wheel? While it's important to create experiences and features that are unique to your website, the majority of all interactions on one website are happening exactly the same way on another.
eBay: That’s a great tip. Do you also listen to feedback from visitors to help you improve your site? How has that helped?
Erik: As a wiki, we are very committed to including our community in our design. Suggestions come through various channels including email, getsatisfaction, or the website itself. We think it's very important to listen to the community in this way, as many of our best features have been sparked in such a way. It's best to pool ideas; you never know where a good one may come from.
eBay: It is an excellent idea to use Getsatisfaction.com to engage your users. As you know, eBay is all about community and sharing. Thank you, Erik, for sharing these important industry insights, and thanks for your ideas to help foster quality content-based integrations with the eBay Partner Network.
The eBay Partner Network Team