Home eCommerce Blog Is the eBay Affiliate Program Worth Your Time?

Is the eBay Affiliate Program Worth Your Time?

Any online seller worth their salt is always looking for ways to maximize their income. This includes adding passive streams of revenue, and one of the most popular passive streams available is affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is basically the process of selling products for someone else, but without all the legwork. In many cases you can get paid for someone else's sale just by funneling buyers through to their site.

The eBay Affiliate Program has traditionally been one of the most popular options for prospect affiliate marketers. It makes a lot of sense at first glance. If you're selling on eBay anyway, and you sell to visitors funneled from your own website, you can get paid twice. Of course, you can also get paid for money spent on other sellers' products.

It sounds like a win-win. So why has there been so much derision, criticism, and all around scoffing mockery as to the efficacy of the eBay affiliate program? Is it really worth your time? Today's the day you find out, as we go through the data together.

Crash Course in the eBay Affiliate Program

How eBay's Partner Network Works

To get started, it's worth talking about how the eBay affiliate program works in the first place. To get started with your affiliate marketing, sign up on eBay's Partner Network site. After that, you'll receive a suite of tools to advertise for eBay. Once your ads are up and running, you can track your progress and revenue through the affiliate analytics tools provided to you upon signup.

Basically, you get paid between 50 cents and a dollar when a reactivated user (one who hasn't made a purchase on eBay in over 12 months) clicks through one of your ads and begins bidding on products. There used to be base pay for new users, but that compensation system has been dismantled. You earn additional funds whenever transactions are completed thanks to your click-throughs.

Simple, right?

Maybe not.

Late last year, October 1, to be exact, eBay made a drastic change in the way its referral data is collected. You see, cookies (small pieces of data sent from websites to be stored in user's browsers) are used to determine which sales on eBay came from where.

It used to be that these cookies would remain active from an affiliate referral for up to seven days, the same amount of time many of eBay's auctions last. Since October 1, however, these cookies only last for a paltry 24 hours.

And because most savvy online bidders don't bid until near the end of the auction, to avoid inflating the item price unnecessarily, many affiliates are no longer receiving credit for the bids that were brought in directly due to their marketing efforts.

As you might imagine, this policy change hasn't gone over all that well. Take a look at the comment section in that last link to discover just how badly people are hurting from the restructuring.

Forum Feedback

The eBay seller's forums are alight with complaints. A particularly vocal affiliate decided to post some tasty data bits for our appreciation. Take a look.

First you have his earnings in 2011. Not too shabby: He had some impressive spikes and fairly consistent earnings throughout the year, all by just running his websites as he normally would.

Graph - Affiliate Earnings 2011


But take a look at his latest earnings report:

Graph - Affiliate Earnings 2013

If you take a moment to look at the numbers on either side of the graph and compare them to the ones above you'll notice something quite strange. In 2013, his click-throughs far outstripped the numbers from 2011. In fact, he was driving more than twice the amount of traffic to eBay for the first three months of the year, but his earnings were paltry in comparison.

The earnings in 2011 were more than $2,500 for the whole year.

Chart - Affiliate Earnings 2011

Yet in 2013, with close to three times the clicks, he pulled in just shy of $100 for the entire year.

Chart - Affiliate Earnings 2013

Nor is this particular user alone in his woes. Another member of the Warrior Forum, a hotbed for affiliate marketers, issued an impassioned and lengthy retraction of any and all praise he had issued for eBay over the years. In this post, the former eBay affiliate vented his frustrations in eloquent clarity.

According to him, the average affiliate was taking a loss of up to 70 percent in earnings. The way eBay had requested affiliates to set up their advertisements worked completely counter to the way the new 24-hour cookie policy affected business, claiming that the e-commerce marketplace had effectively “double-crossed” them.

With so many complaining, it's hard to argue the logic.

Final Summation

Unfortunately, the eBay affiliate program doesn't seem like it's a viable option any longer. The fact that auctions are lasting longer than the affiliate's referral cookies, and that bidders won't usually bid until the end of an auction, is a real buzz kill. It basically guarantees that any auction that lasts over 24 hours won't result in any money for the affiliate who promotes it.

This is especially disappointing when you consider the fact that these affiliates are the ones increasing the prices by driving the bids. Without the additional traffic, those prices stay low, and the affiliates get no reward for their trouble.

One wouldn't think it would be such a problem, when more than half of eBay's listings are “buy it now”; however, more than half of eBay's annual revenue still comes from auctions. So the numbers don't really reflect the traditional listing's efficacy for the affiliates.

It's strange when one considers how popular Amazon's affiliate program is, and it also keeps a strict 24-hour cookie policy. The difference there is that Amazon is an actual online retailer, and not just a marketplace. There's no timed auctions, and the range of products available is even greater than that of eBay.

Even so, there are better options for affiliate marketers to consider, such as ClickBank, Neverblue, or LinkShare. If you're serious about getting into affiliate marketing, these are some superior choices.

Have you had any success marketing products as an affiliate? Let me hear about it in the comments.

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