eBay Partner Network – Committed To Quality Or Only Saving Money?

eBay recently released a report entitled, The Coming Evolution in Affiliate Marketing: A Focus On Quality that as its title suggests, reports on how online businesses are starting to look for more quality traffic, leads and sales from their affiliates. While the report does offer some insight into what is producing a quality customer for online businesses, it is much more about the eBay Partner Network than anything else.

Affiliate marketing is no doubt going through a revolution. The days of garbage affiliate sites filled with banners from 30 different merchants making any money are a thing of the past because of much more diligence in search engines cleaning up their indexes. It is also becoming increasingly more difficult to become a member of certain affiliate networks such as EPN and some CPA networks because they either want to see an already developed and quality looking website actually owned by the applying affiliate or know that you have some experience generating revenue online. Also, it must be somewhat of a burden for businesses to keep a lot of dead weight in their affiliate programs, which is why you see companies such as eBay periodically purge their programs of non-producing affiliates.

In combing through volumes of data that eBay has gathered since bringing their affiliate program in house with EPN, they have come up with some interesting results. eBay is finding that incremental sales (sales that would not have happened if it were not for the affiliate) are often much higher from small affiliates that build quality content sites, than from large volume affiliates that send tons of traffic and produce a huge amount of sales. This tends to explain the often frustrating ACRU (new eBay sign-ups) payouts experienced by some eBay affiliates.

While I’m sure the data gathered by eBay in the last several months as outlined in the above mentioned report has been helpful in peering into the activities of affiliates and helped them better adjust their pricing structures in paying these affiliates, it is woefully incomplete and somewhat flawed. I say this for several reasons but the biggest is that they have not been running their affiliate program and gathering data long enough to really understand what’s going on.

The eBay Partner Network has only been in existence since April 2008 and all affiliates that had links going through Commission Junction had to have everything changed over to EPN by June 1, 2008 (Their original 30 day deadline was extended by an additional 30 days). Couple that with the fact that there was probably an additional month of wild swings in clicks due to spidering activity from search engines needing to be filtered out and assuming data gathering ended by Jan 30th to be able to write this report, and you have only 7 months of good clean information.

How a company like eBay can make such decisions about buying trends through affiliates and payouts for those affiliates when they haven’t even gathered complete data for an entire year, makes little sense. Not only that, it lacks long term thinking that could come back to hurt them. It is especially short sighted when you take into consideration the extraordinary changes in the US economy and on Wall Street starting back in October 2008. Traditional buying patterns may have changed or stopped completely since people have lost their jobs and much of their savings and their investments in the market. A simple example would be that people still shop for merchandise and click-through from affiliate sites to eBay, but are much less likely to buy. They are in effect, window shopping on the web.

The biggest problem many affiliates now have with eBay is with their payouts of new eBay sign-ups or ACRU’s. The way eBay reports these ACRU’s within the affiliate’s EPN interface is the thing that has most affiliates bugged. Affiliates don’t know how much they will be receiving for these new eBay members until the 10th of the following month that they are created in. This makes it difficult for the affiliate to keep track of their revenue actually earn from eBay. For example, in my January Affiliate Income Report I stated my earnings from eBay were $401.92, yet when I received the payout from EPN into my PayPal account towards the middle of February it was $70 less because my ACRU’s were adjusted down from $28 to $10 for each new sign-up.

What’s happening here is eBay is paying out anywhere from $1 to $50 per new member sign-up based on the lifetime value of each new member and they are determining that value by gathering anywhere from 10 to 40 days worth of data on a new member. How eBay makes this decision based on such little data is simply beyond me. Can you really determine what a new member is going to do for their lifetime with such a small slice of their activity? While they claim in the report that thousands of affiliates are receiving increased compensation because of the new pricing structure, there is certainly a buzz around the net on blogs and in forums, including their own, from affiliates that are receiving less compensation. They might want to read their own affiliate forum to see how many people are ticked about the new ACRU payouts. It is terribly unmotivating for affiliates to expect a certain payout at the end of the month only to have it decrease by a significant amount several days later.

While eBay supposedly benefits from crunching all their data and paying out affiliates based on the quality of their leads, they don’t share that data on how they determine the quality of the leads you send them. There is a report in your EPN interface that allows you to see individual campaign quality as long as you have enough ACRU’s to register in the report, but all my reports say I don’t have enough data determine my quality. Funny, somehow eBay determined the quality of my ACRU’s and it would be nice if they would share that data with affiliates so they can do something about it. Hey eBay, we can’t change what were doing if we don’t know what were doing.

I have to wonder if eBay is really committed to quality as the title of the report suggests or if they are just looking for a way to save money by paying out less to their affiliates.

You can check the eBay blog to get access to the downloadable pdf report.

Popularity: 12% [?]

Tags: , , ,

If you have enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my full RSS feed or you can have posts send directly to your inbox if you subscribe by email.

Bookmarks: | del.icio.us | Digg it | Furl | reddit | StumbleUpon


Can’t Get Into The eBay Affiliate Program, Try This

Can't get Into EPN?It seems like the powers that be at eBay are making it more and more difficult to get into the eBay Partner Network as of late. Even those that have substantial web sites are having their applications rejected. While it may certainly seem unfair to those just getting into affiliate marketing, since eBay can make you quite a bit of money, eBay is just trying to protect themselves and the quality of the traffic going to their auction sites.

Gone are the days when a new affiliate can join EPN, put up a few links on their blog or site and start making money from eBay. In the offline world when you want to buy a franchise, having the money to do so isn’t going to guarantee you get the MacDonald’s you’ve been wanting. Franchisers want their name, image and complete system protected because that’s what makes that particular system work. So why should you expect eBay or any other large online company to be any different?

With Google not looking favorably on thin affiliate sites, article directories such as EzineArticles.com not letting you link to BANS type site pages with auctions on them and other factors, it is evident that the affiliate game is changing. It has been some time coming, but a few years ago the search engines were clogged with sites that featured every affiliate banner imaginable, Adsense arbitrage sites and so much garbage it took some time to find the results you wanted.

The point is, eBay is obviously one of the players demanding affiliates clean up their act. You saw it several months ago when they let several affiliates go who were sending them junky traffic and you see it now in the way they are selectively letting new affiliates into their program. So what’s a new and potential eBay affiliate to do who wants to join up? I’ll list a few things below, but they won’t be quick and they won’t be easy, because that’s not what eBay wants any longer.

These tips are all speculative as I don’t have a hot-line to the head honchos at eBay, but some should be pretty obvious they would help you get into the program.

1. Join eBay as a seller first and sell something – I would be willing to bet that eBay sellers will have a much easier time getting into eBay’s affiliate program than will non sellers. If you have been through the motions of selling through the auction format, you obviously understand the process and that can only translate into a better affiliate business for yourself. If you own a restaurant and want a MacDonald’s franchise, you have a better chance of getting one than if you run a lawn maintenance business or something else unrelated to burgers and fries.

I probably sold 50 things on eBay before joining as an affiliate and I’ve only had 1 item that didn’t sell the whole time while being a member. I was pretty familiar with what people wanted and how the business of eBay worked before the first affiliate sale was made.

2. Join eBay as a seller in your country of origin – As an addition to point number one, it’s probably a good idea to already be an eBay seller and have sold things on the site in your nation.

3. You should own the website you submit to eBay – this should be a no brainer, but people do submit really nice sites to eBay that they don’t own hoping that this great site will better their chances of getting in. If you don’t think eBay can figure this out, you probably don’t deserve to be one of their affiliates.

4. Don’t submit a BANS site as your only url – If you think you’re going to get into eBay with a BANS site and nothing else, it isn’t going to happen. Build a substantial niche site first selling other products from merchants besides eBay and once you get accepted you can add a BANS store to your existing site.

5. Build Your BANS site with content before you submit it – you can always use BANS as your content management system and build a substantial site before you put a single auction page on it. If your niche is cell phones for example, why not put up 40 or 50 pages of info about different phones, review and accessories available before you set up the site with auctions? You can always use Adsense and other affiliate programs to monetize your site even if you never get accepted to eBay.

6. If you have a make money site and that’s your niche, forget it! – Make money online sites and blogs are done, the niche is saturated and the party is over. If your only reason for building a site is to make money by telling people how to make money, do something else. eBay doesn’t want people selling scammy ebooks any longer (they got rid of those categories) on their site and if your an affiliate thinking there’s an EPN business there, there isn’t. Really, build something else, it’s done.

7. Make sure your niche is product related – I doubt very seriously eBay will let you in their affiliate program if your business is all about service even if you get a million visitors a day. eBay is a product driven business and they want affiliates that understand that. You stand a much better chance of being accepted into the EPN program if you have that cell phone site mentioned earlier than you do if your specialty is teaching people to speak in public or doing teleseminars.

The bottom line is that whoever is approving new eBay Partners now is going to want to be impressed by what they see you’re doing. They obviously want affiliates that understand the business of eBay, not people who are going to give it a try and see what happens.

Yes, doing the things listed above will take a substantial amount of time for you as an affiliate if you aren’t already somewhere along in the game. If you have some of these things in place just adjust and tweak where necessary and resubmit your application at a later date. Even if you never get accepted to be an eBay Partner your business will still benefit. eBay isn’t the only deal in town, it should just be an addition and another stream of income in the whole scheme of things.

Popularity: 21% [?]

Tags: , , ,

If you have enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my full RSS feed or you can have posts send directly to your inbox if you subscribe by email.

Bookmarks: | del.icio.us | Digg it | Furl | reddit | StumbleUpon


Better Category Stats At eBay Partner Network

Good news for eBay affiliates, the eBay Partner Network will be expanding their stats starting next Wednesday October 22nd so you will now be able to see the specific categories where your sales are being generated. Not only will you be able to see the top level categories, but you will be able to see down to the 3rd sub category level.

An example report screenshot is below:

eBay Categories Report

This is great news because many sales that eBay affiliates generate are not always in the categories or products they’re targeting. Since an eBay cookie lasts for 7 days once you send over one of your visitors, they can end up buying either closely related products to what you feature on your site or they may buy something not even remotely related.

This will now allow you as an eBay affiliate to see if your visitors are making purchases of related items and armed wth those stats you can now start to target items you may not have thought about in the past. For instance, maybe you have a BANS Store featuring model trains and in your research looking at the new category report you see that you are getting several sales in the antique model ship category, whodathunk? You can now include this category on your site or build a out a completely new site featuring these items.

You can also use the report to see the related categories that are already doing the best for you and likewise expand your efforts in that area. Maybe your model trains site specializes in HO scale Tyco trains, but you find many visitors are buying HO scale Lionel trains once they get to eBay, you can now put more emphasis on that category to feature it more prominently on your site.

At the present time you can download your eBay reports and see some of this information already, but the new category report coming out on October 22nd will allow you to get a quick look at the specific categories, in neat charts and graphs, where your sales are really happening. You can then act accordingly and tweak your Build A Niche Store site or whatever other kind of site you are using to take advantage of the eBay affiliate program.

Popularity: 8% [?]

Tags: , , ,

If you have enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my full RSS feed or you can have posts send directly to your inbox if you subscribe by email.

Bookmarks: | del.icio.us | Digg it | Furl | reddit | StumbleUpon


eBay Partner Network Changes Terms For ACRU’s

eBay Partner NetworkYou know, I could probably look it up, but I have no idea what ACRU actually stands for. However, for new eBay affiliates, what it actually is, will mean something different than it has in the past. It used to mean that eBay partners received a minimum of $25 for one of these which is a new eBay member sign-up who ends up placing a bid within 30 days of joining.

That has all changed as of today, again, for new affiliates only. New partners who sign up with eBay after August 1st will get paid for new eBay member sign-ups based on the quality of their traffic. The range will go from $1 per sign-up to $50. When I first read about this I thought there might be every level of payment in $1 increments, but it turns out there are only 4 levels that break down as follows:

Traffic Quality – Payment
Very Low – $1.00
Low – $10.00
Medium – $28.00
High – $40.00
Very High – $50.00

This looks like a pretty good payout, but it remains to be seen how eBay is going to determine traffic quality. And the way they are determining your traffic quality won’t be decided until the following month of when your ACRU’s are posted. In other words, if you get 6 new eBay sign-ups in August, you won’t know what traffic quality level you’re at and what you will be paid until the 9th of September.

One issue I see is that there are several days during the month when traffic takes a huge spike and doubles or triples from the average number of clicks I normally send to eBay. This seems to be some sort of a searchbot anomaly and greatly skews your EPC. It also would be nice if eBay would give some clearer guidelines as to what they define as low, medium, high and very high quality, especially since your level can change from month to month.

Suppose you send PPC traffic to a BANS store and it doesn’t work in that you get lots of clicks, but no buyers or no bidders. Is eBay going to take into consideration the numbers of clicks you send, bids that are place and winning bids placed. What about overall numbers of sales, will high volume affiliates be compensated accordingly? With eBay not disclosing their methods as things have been clearly defined in the past this leaves the door open for all sorts of issues and unhappy affiliates. It might be in eBay’s interest to be a little clearer on what they expect from the traffic being sent their way.

New affiliates will end up being the guinea pigs for this new ACRU payment system from eBay as affiliates who signed up before August 1st won’t be subject to the payments. However, later this year, all affiliates will be moved over to the traffic quality system for ACRU’s. I just hope my traffic quality comes in at medium or better. 

ACRU’s are only a small part, around 10%, of my total revenue from eBay, so this won’t be that big of a deal when the change goes into effect for all affiliates. But for those that do earn a lot of income from signing up new eBayers, this might have a huge impact on their bottom line. Let’s hope eBay works all the kinks out of this as soon as possible.

Popularity: 9% [?]

Tags: , , ,

If you have enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my full RSS feed or you can have posts send directly to your inbox if you subscribe by email.

Bookmarks: | del.icio.us | Digg it | Furl | reddit | StumbleUpon


Build A Niche Store – The Most Basic Steps

Build A Niche StoreFor some reading this post, it is going to be very basic affiliate and eBay related information mainly because you probably work with these kind of things every day. However, there are people who don’t have eBay accounts, have never purchased merchandise or have very limited experience buying anything online and don’t have much of an idea of how ecommerce or affiliate marketing works.

Lest you think negative of this, don’t, because it is a huge opportunity as there are still hundreds of thousands to millions of people yet to be added to the economy of the Internet. And many of these individuals also want to learn how to make money online, but don’t know what hosting is, don’t know how to build a web site, don’t know how to upload files to a hosting account and so forth. They have no idea where to start. This post is for those people and actually came out of a conversation I had with a friend recently who wants to break into this field.

For someone who wants to get started in affiliate marketing and knows nothing about how any of this works, I recommend the eBay affiliate program known as the eBay Partner Network (EPN) and Build A Niche Store (BANS) to fully take advantage of the EPN.

Here are the most basic sequential steps you take to get started with EPN and BANS. (there are other ways to do this, but these are the steps I have taken or feel most comfortable with)

These are all steps to do after you have either decided on a niche to exploit or have done your own research. (that’s a whole other lesson) In the case of the friend I was talking with a few days ago, she already had a pretty good idea of what she wanted to do and after a little research on my own, it looks to be a very profitable niche. You of course never know though until you get in there and do the work.

Take these steps to build your eBay affiliate niche store:

Get a Linux hosting account at either 1and1.com or HostGator.com. I have used 1and1.com and HostGator is the recommended web hosting service by the BANS developers.

Look up domain names at Godaddy.com. Try and get a good keyword phrase in your domain name without making it too long. I like to use Godaddy.com to look up names because of the suggestions they recommend if yours isn’t available. They are very basic suggestions, but if you don’t know it by now, I like simple.

Purchase your domain name. 1and1.com gives you 3 free domains with the $9.95 per month hosting plan and your domains are $15 extra per year with HostGator’s $7.95 per month plan.

Sign up to be a member of eBay if you don’t have an account already. You need to be a member of eBay to be an eBay affiliate.

Sign up with the eBay Partner Network.

Buy Build A Niche Store.

Read the Build A Niche Store manual so you understand how everything works.

Log into your hosting plan control panel and set up an ftp account. This is a simple operation and instructions for this should be easy to find once you log in to your hosting account.

Download Filezilla if you don’t already have a program to ftp (transfer) files to your web host. This is a great free program that allows you to upload all your files to your online account.

Sign up for the BANS forum because there will be issues with your store or with eBay (get use to it) and the forums are a great place to get help when you can’t figure things out on your own.

Upload and install the BANS software according to the instructions in the BANS manual.

Find the correct eBay category number(s) for your niche and create your store. Also, make a logo for your header according to the sizes for the template you are using (found in the manual).

Add titles, meta keywords, meta descriptions and H1 title tags (in content titles at the top of your pages) and product descriptions for every page on your site. Depending on the size of your site you can do all this in an afternoon or for larger sites it can take several weeks.

Continue to add content pages on an ongoing basis.

Once you get your store in working order, it is important to stay connected to the BANS forum for some time so you can understand the process of how your store works by seeing what other people are doing or are having trouble with. You can also get inspiration and ideas from other BANS users for new stores.

These are just the most basic steps to get your store up and running, but beyond this you need to promote your store which you can learn about in this post, and in this post.

Popularity: 8% [?]

Tags: , , , ,

If you have enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my full RSS feed or you can have posts send directly to your inbox if you subscribe by email.

Bookmarks: | del.icio.us | Digg it | Furl | reddit | StumbleUpon