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Very strange phenomenon w/ Conversion rates leaves me baffled

     
7:59 am on Jul 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Webmasters,

I have been noticing a very strange trend over the past couple of weeks that's got me both worried but completely stumped and I was hoping someone more experienced in this arena could help shed some light on this.

I sell a product through Clickbank for the past two months and use Adwords to send traffic to. The current payperiod has been really bad revenue wise although sales aren't that much lower. Here are some stats I put together for the last 3 payperiods:

Current: 53 sales/12 mine = 20.7% (avg. 5.3 sales/day)
Ending 7/16: 93 sales/51 mine = 54.8% (avg. 6.2 sales/day)
Ending 7/1: 99 sales/50 mine = 50.5% (avg 6.6 sales/day)

What I can't explain is the drop in sales from my own (non-affiliate) traffic. I do have more affiliates this payperiod although they are not using Adwords for traffic.

My impressions, CTR's, positions, Ad text and everything has remained constant. The only thing that's changed is my conversion rate from 3% to 1.4%!

There are no new competitors on my money keywords either. I have been running stats all over the place in the past few days but can't come up with anything.

Does this sound like a familiar phenomenon, and if so, does anyone have any idea as to where I should be looking for the problem?

Thank you so much in advance.

12:08 pm on July 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Look into someone using adware to overwrite/add an affiliate cookie on your sales.
If you can find proof of that happening, CB will disable the offending affiliate's account.
2:34 pm on July 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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The pay periods are every 2 weeks?

Depending on the product is there a chance the purchase decision is being impacted by US holiday season?

Do you differentiate between what is converting for you from PPC or organic search or links or branding etc.?

Do you put your own sales through ClickBank? And if so do you pay them a commission for your own sales?

How deeply to you track?

3:31 pm on July 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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There's actually a thread already started on this same topic - [webmasterworld.com...]

I'm noticing the same thing with my clickbank ROI - and I'm not really sure if it's a Google thing or a Clickbank thing.

Clickbank has been making changes to their sales page and payment servers. But Google has also been experimenting with their Quality Algos, and messing around with showing ads where they were not requested.

I have a feeling though that it is Google's doing. I've been having sales spurts over the last few weeks, and they seem to go according to keywords I'm using. For example I'll have 5 sales in an hour and they'll all come from the same keyword. Then I'll have a 12hr gap, then another 5-10 sales in an hour, and they'll all come from another keyword. Sometimes I'll get as many as 10 sales within a few minutes - all on the same keyword, and then not get another sale all day.

I wish google would be consistent - it makes it extremely hard to budget when they keep experimenting.

4:54 pm on July 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I am experiencing the same problem with 2 of my clients as venrooy has.

I don't understand the real fact. Every day the conversions and conversion rate will be high at the start and in the end it will be just opposite with low overall conversion & conversion rate. I am experiencing this from the month of June and still continuing.

8:26 am on July 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Thanks to all for the great responses.

bcc1234: I've already checked this and ruled out any cookie stuffing/overwriting.

AussieWebmaster: I only wish that could be the problem, but unfortunately it's not seasonal. I differentiate from organic and PPC although there isn't many organic sales as of yet. I don't understand the issue of deeply tracking (I went all the way to the individual KW level if that's what you're implying)

venroy & admagix: I guess your situations are similar to mine. Let's keep each other updated with any solutions we come up with.

Thanks again to all.

9:07 am on July 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

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bcc1234: I've already checked this and ruled out any cookie stuffing/overwriting.

How can you be so sure?

I'm not saying that what you are seeing is the result of adware, but how would you know?

10:44 pm on July 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I'm not 100% sure, but after clicking through all my money making ads and going all the way to the order form, scrolling down it reads: affiliate=[none]

I figured that if this was happening that the affiliate's name would be in there plus, I would have a certain affiliate making those sales consistently on a daily basis (which they are not).

Maybe I'm missing the point, do u have something more devious in mind here?

5:24 pm on July 28, 2007 (gmt 0)

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the adware problem is much more complex that can be explained here.

basically, you've now checked your computer to see if it's clean - so sales from your desk aren't getting credited to some tricky third party. but you really need to check the computers of everyone of your customers who buys - which you just can't do.

so you need to learn to detect the tell-tale signs of cheaters, plus do a little testing on mucked up computers from time to time, plus consult with your peers and affiliate network (not all can be trusted, some love getting a cut of the sales the cheaters unfairly take credit for) to be aware of which affs are screewing you.

[edited by: eWhisper at 11:38 am (utc) on Aug. 3, 2007]

4:19 am on July 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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What CB does is appens the nick of the affiliate as a parameter after passing it through their tracking URL.

What most adware companies do is create another hit through CB to overwrite cookies. Those who are not smart enough, allow the redirect to complete and hit your web server.

So what you would see in your logs are hits from one affiliate (or no affiliate) and then another hit from some specific affiliate within seconds from the same IP.

That's a sure sign that when a visitor with infected PC hits your sales page, there is a popup (sometimes hiddden) that does another hit with that company's affiliate id to set the cookie.

If you check your logs carefully, you'll be able to spot it.

The smarter ones don't let the redirect complete to your website. They go through all CB's redirect and cookie setting stuff and then stop short of hitting the destination (your landing page), so that there is nothing in your logs.

For those guys, you need to check the orders you received (and maybe the IP's of people hitting the thankyou page). For each order that had an affiliate, go back to the logs and try to find their hits with the hop parameters. If there isn't one of if the one that was recieved was from a different affiliate than what's recorded during the sale, then it's almost most likely adware.

You also might want to think about your affiliates, not just about your share of revenue.

If I'm your affiliate and all of the sudden, my conversion drops (because it's being stoled by adware), I'll stop promoting you. And since the adware companies don't actually promote you, but piggyback on existing referrals, then as soon as I stop sending you traffic, they will stop "making" sales.

So do some checking for the sake of keeping the overall sales volume up before your affiliates start dropping you.
Otherwise, it won't be just about the share of the affiliate sales any more.

6:52 pm on July 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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bccc1234, it's important to note that a cheater isn't always following another affiliate. if your products are only sold thru affs, you're right - but most do some promotion and branding of some kind. so the cheaters aff click will follow a normal traffic click as well as trumping ethical referring affiliates. it isn't so simple as double aff shows the way. in addition, sometimes a double tap is normal, like if two affs do separate ppc / sites, i bona fide aff can follow an earlier referral from another bona fide aff.

cb is horrid at policing their network, cheaters know this - i'd suggest you talk to your peers about other networks or taking it in house.

11:01 pm on July 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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So what you would see in your logs are hits from one affiliate (or no affiliate) and then another hit from some specific affiliate within seconds from the same IP.

RhinoFish, that's what the "(or no affiliate)" bit is all about.

 

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