Short URLs Not Necessarily Better

March 3, 2010

UPDATE: As of 14th March 2010, due to copyright infringement, I’ve changed the original uk-kindle domain name in this article to a new domain: cheap-find.com/kindle-uk/

I said that I’d post a follow-up about my UK Kindle affiliate experiment. At the moment, I’m still tweaking it: it’s just about breaking-even, with generated revenue roughly equal to the AdWord spend. With a little bit more tweaking, I’m hoping to tip this towards ‘positive revenue’, though suspect it will never generate any significant cash.

Anyway, on to the minor point I wanted to make…

My first Google AdWord got an excellent Click-Through Rate (CTR), thanks to some fairly well-targeted keywords, that balanced competition (low) vs volume (medium to high) vs implicit intent (e.g. including the word ‘buy’).

Amazon offer a range of affiliate options. I originally used the standard embedded affiliate link through to specific products, which you can see at the root URL, uk-kindle.com, which is a very basic HTML page – some introductory text (written to be both instructional and search engine friendly), followed by the affiliate links.

Amazon also offer something called the aStore, which allows you to embed a configurable ‘shop’ into an existing site, via a frame/iframe. I didn’t originally like the idea of this – for my situation, with no existing respectable ‘site’ to sit around it, it looks a bit bare, and is not particularly great for SEO. However, I did want to quickly test it, just to make sure.

I set up a second AdWord, exactly the same as the first, but linking to a different URL: uk-kindle.com/shop/, which uses a frameset to display the ‘embedded store’.

I configured each AdWord to display an equal number of times, as I was testing the performance of the websites, not the AdWords (which were exactly the same, except for the /shop/ part of the link).

The unexpected result was that the /shop/ AdWord actually produced a higher click-through rate, consistently, of an additional 3-4%. Remember: I wasn’t trying to improve the CTR, but to test the difference between standard affiliate links (at the root URL) and aStore (at /shop/).

My guess (this is probably detailed elsewhere with more scientific research) is that the /shop/ part of the URL better matches the intent of the user performing the search: a link to just uk-kindle could offer reviews, photos, or any other type of information. The /shop/ part of the URL explicitly states the nature of the website. As an additional benefit, I’d also expect to get higher quality traffic, with the /shop/ URL stopping people clicking who aren’t intending to buy a Kindle, and therefore saving me money.

And, in case you’re wondering, the aStore appears to out-perform the standard links too, though not by a significant margin.

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