10Beasts: A Unique Affiliate Site Case Study
In November 2018, I did a presentation at the Chiang Mai SEO conference.
I used 10Beasts as an example and discussed tweaks I would do to the website to increase its conversion rates. If we were to potentially work with them, that is. I also wanted to show how even well-known authority sites were not always the ones to copy as they don’t have perfect layouts, nor are they always optimised for conversions, as much as one may think.
As luck would have it, someone who worked for 10Beasts was in the room.
Then, In December 2018, we took 10Beasts on board as a client.
This is the CRO story of 10beasts
And here’s my promise:
I’ll show you the whole process no-holds-barred.
I’ll take you down into the depths of conversion rate optimization.
I’ll show you the highs and lows. The banging-the-head-against-the-wall moments.
And the finally-we-nailed-it celebrations.
This is what a CRO campaign looks like.
Buckle your seatbelts. It’s gonna be a fun ride.
This is a long one. Here are the highlights of this case study:
- The Rise of 10Beasts
- The Start of the CRO Journey
- The question that got us stumped
- The Pivot
The Rise of 10Beasts.com
10Beasts came into prominence when Glen Allsopp featured it on Gaps.
The site had only 8 pages. Yet it was ranking for thousands of highly-competitive keywords. On its 5th month online, it had already generated $80,000 in commissions.
Then at the end of 2017, Luqman Khan, the owner, sold the site for over half-a-million dollars.
But the story doesn’t stop there.
Less than a month after the sale, the site got penalized and lost a lot of its rankings.
You’d think that was the end of it.
But in only 5 days, they got all the rankings back after disavowing many of its .edu links.
By the time we took on 10Beasts as a client in 2018, the site was getting hundreds of thousands of visitors a month
The start of the CRO Journey
A site with this much traffic is a delight to work on. The more traffic, the faster and better we can split-test. Based on the thousands of tests we’ve done on similar sites, we were confident we could get results as quickly as within two weeks.
It looked like it was going to be a straightforward run-of-the-mill CRO test.
The first step: site audit and evaluation
I talk a lot about the 80/20 when deciding which pages to work on first.
This means choosing the top pages that make the most revenue.
By this time, 10Beasts already had about 50 pages.
So we chose the top 10 that was making the most money.
Why start with this?
It’s the best way to take advantage of low-hanging fruit:
You want to see an increase in affiliate commissions right away. And working on pages that are making you money now is how to do that.
But how do you know which pages generate the most money?
But seriously, that’s what many affiliate site owners do. They have one tracking ID for all affiliate pages and make a rough guess at which pages are generating most of the revenue.
This guessing game, more often than not, will give you false data. Not to mention – that’s a terrible way to start a conversion optimisation campaign.
And you miss a lot of valuable insights about your business when you don’t track the individual performance of each of the pages.
So if you don’t do this already, then let it be the first thing you do after you read this article.
Here’s how to set-up individual tracking IDs:
- Go to your Amazon associates dashboard
- Hover on your account name on the top right corner and click Manage tracking IDs
3. Click Add tracking ID and make a new ID.
4. Make a different ID for each of your money pages.
5. Change the links on your site using the tracking ID you made for that page.
After you’ve changed the links, wait a month or two, depending on your traffic. After this, you should get a clear idea which of your pages generate the most money.
Do you want a 20-100% conversion rate increase?
The second step: deciding what to test
With affiliate sites, we almost always work on the comparison tables first. From our experience, this is where sites can get the most revenue booster .
So it was only natural that we looked at 10Beasts’ tables to guide our first test.
The original table on their money pages looked like this:
Looking at it, the one thing that stood out to us was the lack of images.
Images are important when buying online. When you can’t touch or feel a product like you can in a store, you have to show them what it looks like.
It creates an emotional connection with the product – which is vital in making the decision to buy.
But that’s not the only thing we felt needed changing.
Think about it.
A comparison table is not just a visual representation of the products on your page.
It has an even more important purpose:
To get inside the mind of the buyer, meet him where he’s at and answer his questions. The table gets him pumped to buy the product before he even reaches Amazon.
Your comparison table educates him. So that when he clicks over to the store you’re promoting, he’s already primed with one purpose: to click the buy button.
That’s how important your table is. So don’t take this advice lightly.
You made that page to sell, right?
Then stop using an I-don’t-want-it-to-look-salesy mentality.
And dammit’, sell your goods.
With this in mind, what should be on the table to make it effective?
- Target different demographics
The people who land on your money page have different motivations and intentions. There are going to be people who buy on a budget and people who want the higher end product. There are going to be people who are minimalists and people who want all the bells and whistles. So you need to address these different desires.There are different ways to do this- but for our first test, which you’ll see below, we target each demographic by using a ribbon across the top corner of the image.
- Have a clear call-to-action that pops on the page
I’ve already written an article on how to make call-to-action buttons that get the clicks. Read it here if you want to learn how to do that. For Amazon affiliate sites, you can use CTA texts such as:
- Check on Amazon
- Check price on Amazon
- Check price here
- Add to cart
- Buy now at Amazon
- Buy now
Choose any one text from above or come up with your own (as long as it’s allowed by Amazon TOS) and test which one works best on your site, for your audience.
- Include benefits and features
This is part of educating your visitors which I mentioned earlier.
With all that in consideration, our developers went to work and made this table:
Notice the difference?
It looks cleaner and easier to navigate. Each image targets different market segments and helps the visitor identify which product to focus his attention to.
By breaking the table down this way, more people will buy because they are now more educated in a much better way.
The third step: deployment & the first win
So now, we have our shiny new toy, err comparison table, ready for the test.
We set up a split test on our preferred CRO testing software: VWO. We then began testing.
This is a waiting game
We started our first test on the 21st of December. Then it reached statistical significance on the 4th of January.
Here’s what happened:
For 6 of the pages, conversions increased.
But for 4 of the pages, conversions decreased.
Stop. Right. Now.
And read what I just wrote again.
I need you to grasp the lesson that every CRO person should tattoo on his chest.
Sometimes, your hypothesis works on some pages and not on others.
On. The. Same. Site.
Can you imagine what this means when you use that very same table on another site?
What am I trying to say?
You can’t just copy someone’s winning A/B test and think it will work wonders for you, too.
You’ve got to test it.
Now back to our results:
4 of the pages tests may have failed.
But look at the massive gains for the pages that increased revenue.
One page is up by 677%!
With this data, we further calculated what this meant for the overall revenue for all 10 pages.
Here’s what we saw:
The final commission increase was 55.1% when we roll out just the winners.
Notice how we’ve increased the products ordered by 30% even though there was only a small increase in clicks.
What to take away from the results:
Have a look at the data again.
Look at the number of clicks.
There’s only a 6.8% increase. That’s not a lot.
But look at the increase in orders.
That’s 30% more which resulted in a 55.1% increase in Ad Fees.
See what’s happening here?
The table didn’t make a big impact on the click-through-rate.
But it did something else — which is the ultimate goal of CRO.
It sufficiently educated the buyer.
It entered the conversation that was going on inside the visitor’s head. It filled the gaps in his knowledge. It answered the questions he had before he landed on that page.
And because of this, when he clicks the CTA and gets to Amazon, he arrives with the intent to buy.
This is an insight to really wrap your head around.
It’s not only about increasing click-through rates.
It’s also having a money page that sufficiently educates your visitor before he goes to Amazon.
Sure. Amazon already has high conversion rates.
But you can make it even higher if you have a page that puts the visitor into a buying frame of mind even before he clicks and goes there.
Just as we were doing our second test to work on the pages that failed, a hiccup stopped us in our tracks.
We had to cancel the test.
Which was a bummer for us.
But it’s good news for you:
Because of this, we’re going to show you exactly how you can analyze your Amazon traffic and earnings. So you’ll know how to optimize your money pages for more revenue.
Here’s what happened:
Our first test increased 10Beasts Ad Fees by 55.1%.
But after we declared this a win, the client had a big question that needed answering:
Look at their Google analytics comparing traffic between January 2018 and January 2019.
As you can see, the traffic doubled in 2019 compared to the same period the year before.
But here’s the catch:
This increase in traffic didn’t translate to an increase in revenue.
Since their traffic had doubled, shouldn’t that also mean their revenue should increase by a lot, too?
But it didn’t.
WTF was happening there?
It’s a perfectly logical question.
But it was beyond the scope of the test that we did.
See. We split test.
We split test the performance of an original page (i.e the one that you’re using NOW) against an optimized one which we make.
In these campaigns, we don’t split test between the performance of the pages from last year to the performance of the page this year.
There are too many factors that affect conversion rates at different periods in time.
For example, we may be doing the test during a different season. We may have arrived when the product was no longer that hot. Or perhaps, your current visitors have gotten so used to your page they now have ad blindness.
So when the client asked us this question, we assumed that the quality of the traffic had changed.
But you know what happens when you assume!
So we got ourselves into sleuthing mode to understand what was happening here.
We dug deep. And analyzed a whole year’s stats.
We looked at their Amazon earnings and Google analytics.
And this is what we found:
Most of the increase in traffic in the past year was for the Smartwatches page.
In 2018, this page was 1.24% of its traffic.
In 2019, this same page accounted for 44.47% of the site’s traffic.
All good, so far, right?
Who doesn’t want more visitors to their site?
But here’s the rub:
Looking at their Amazon earnings, this page was converting at only 1-2 %. That’s very low.
This meant there was something about the page that hindered conversions.
We needed to look at every element including the copy, the list of products and the layout.
We had to find out why the revenue, from the end of 2017 to the time we started the test in December, didn’t increase in proportion to the increase in traffic.
Here’s what we found for the smartwatches page:
- People didn’t buy the best product that was recommended. There wasn’t even a single sale.
- One of the recommended products links to a page on Amazon which was sold only by 3rd party sellers. Like this:
- There was another recommended product that was selling well, but it had a high return rate.
- The first 2 featured products on the table got a lot of clicks. But not a single piece was sold.
Now we were beginning to see why the page had a low conversion rate.
And this was just for the Smartwatches.
We had a few more pages to do.
This explains why the revenue didn’t increase much even with the rise in traffic.
Here’s a lesson to take away from this:
You can make the fanciest table. In our case, a table that has worked wonderfully on many sites.
But if there’s something else on the page that stops people from buying, then you’ve got to fix that first.
The products that you recommend can massively affect your conversion rates and, by association, your monthly earnings.
This goes back to what I was saying earlier.
And allow me to say it again because it’s that important.
Your money page has to sufficiently educate the visitor. It has to answer all his questions about the products and fill the knowledge gaps in his head. That’s the way you prime more visitors to buy the item within that 24-hour period Amazon gives you as an affiliate.
As you can imagine, our findings were useful for the site’s direction moving forward.
Do you want a 20-100% conversion rate increase?
Time to pivot and make some changes
With these new insights, we changed the course of our CRO strategy.
There were more pressing optimization issues that we had to address, first. We needed to:
- Update the list of recommended products, so that all outdated ones would no longer be on the list.
- Rearrange the order of the products putting either premium or popular items on the top
- Add features and benefits to the table to further educate the buyer
I see you and I hear you
You’re asking, “How do you find all these things out? Which products do you add or get rid of?”
Well, get ready, I’m about to show you exactly how we do it. So you too can optimize your money pages to make more sales.
I’ll show you how to find products to recommend and how to display them on your comparison table. I’ll also give you some ideas for CRO tests that you can do based on data that is available for you.
Let me introduce you to the wonderful world of Amazon reports.
“That’s all it is?” You ask incredulously.
I’ve done CRO on a lot of affiliate sites. And I can tell you this.
Many affiliate SEOs have not once downloaded their sales reports to analyze it. Or they simply don’t know how to extract the most useful data from these reports.
But using this data is what separates the men from the boys.
It holds a lot of insights. And you’ll get loads of ideas on what to do to increase your ad fees.
Here’s what you need to do first: To implement this process, make sure you install unique tags on your top 10 pages. Collect the data for a month or two, depending on your traffic. Then, it’s time to analyze the data.
Here’s what you do:
- Download the Amazon reports data for that particular tag and head over to the “Fee Earnings tab.”
- The next step in this process is to: Sort either by “Name” or “ASIN” column of the data that you downloaded. It’s recommended to sort by Name if the product has multiple variations like color, size, etc.
- Group the same products by color so that you know which products are sold the most.
So what do you do with all this data?
Here are some hypotheses that you can test.
Hypothesis 1: When you see that the second or third product you recommend is getting more sales than the first product, you can test this:
👉Run a simple split test by rearranging the products in the table.
Hypothesis 2: When you see premium products (the ones which pay the most Ad Fees ) get sold the most, you can test this:
👉Split test the old version against a new table with the premium product as the first one on the table. This could increase your overall Ad Fees because the #1 product usually gets the most clicks.
⚠ Note: Don’t recommend a premium product just because you expect it to increase your commissions. Do this only when you have the data to back it up.
Hypothesis 3: When a product which is not reviewed on the page sells well, You can test this:
👉 You can either add them to the table and add a new review section when you update the content.
👉Or If you are concerned about any SEO issues, add the new product to the table alone and add a “Read Review” link on the table. This link then leads to a page with a more exhaustive review of the product.
Got all of that?
I hope you have. It will benefit you a lot.
Testing the new hypothesis
On the 20th of March, we started the new test on 6 further money pages.
This time, we optimized the tables by using the insights we got from Amazon reports.
Here’s an example of what the table looked like with the changes we made.
We stopped the test on the 18th of April.
And the results showed a win for 4 of the 6 pages we tested.
And when we added only the winners, here are the results:
Overall, there was a decrease in clicks.
But the orders increased by 23.4%
The revenue by 61.4 %
And the Ad fees went up by 66.3%!
A simple table and product change and the difference in results were night and day.
We were quite pleased.
Do you want a 20-100% conversion rate increase?
Looking back, this was a long and eventful campaign. As always in the real world, it’s never plain sailing and we certainly hit a few speed-bumps along the way.
Ordinarily, with traffic like this, we would reach this increase in ad fees within 1-2 months for all pages.
But this is the reality of CRO.
You walk in. You expect things to go as normal.
But then sometimes, there are roadblocks where you have to pause and evaluate.
Where you have to dig into the data, find a new hypothesis and pivot strategy. And hopefully we’ve shown you how despite all the hurdles you can systematically improve your site’s conversion rate with the right strategy and logic.
And it’s not about how long the process took.
It’s all about the ultimate gains and the lessons learned.
It may have taken 4 months. But the insights gleaned from all these tests are ones that will continue to benefit them (and hopefully you) for a long time.
Thinking of doing this on your own sites? Here are the steps again.
👉 Do a site audit and evaluate which pages you want to do a CRO test on
- Work on the 80/20 i.e. work on the top 20% of your pages that make the most money
- Don’t know which pages are making you the most revenue? Track it using tracking IDS and wait for a couple of weeks to a month
👉 Decide what to test
- We recommend testing the comparison table first
- Include an image
- Target different demographics
- Have a clear call-to-action
- Include benefits and features
👉 Start A/B test
👉 Stop the test when it reaches statistical significance
👉 How to use Amazon reports data to find the best products for higher ad fees
- List popular or premium products first on the comparison table
- Add products which people buy but are not on the list
- If an item gets a lot of returns, exclude it from the list
- Don’t want to add additional content on the page’s review section for SEO purposes? Simply add a Read Review link on the table and link it to another page on your site with a detailed review of the product.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
This is unreal. Thanks for sharing, so much insight in here.
With your first split test, you mention when it had reached statistical significance.
I understand the concept but am curious as to how you would determine when that is?
Thanks again for the awesome post.
I’ve never seen this kind of gold before and I haven’t even finished the article
Thanks for sharing Kurt.
Great article with great insights!
They are no longer using the tables from the screenshots above. They removed the benefits and features and are now using a rating with stars. And a top 10 list for “Best Smartwatches”.
Is the conversion higher with this newest table?
It’s been a few years since we ran tests on this site and the content and products listed in the table are totally differed (new tech).
They will have split tested and possibly got different results. Once thing that is common when we run split tests is that different pages generate totally different results for table layouts.
Always be testing!