Is the eBay Affiliate Program Worth Your Time?

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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

Graph - Affiliate Earnings 2011

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.

Recommended Reading: How to Make Money Dropshipping on eBay (the Smart Way)

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.

Also Check Out: Guide to eBay Dropshipping


About the author
Simon Slade
CEO of SaleHoo Group Limited

Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of SaleHoo, a platform for eCommerce entrepreneurs that offers 8,000+ dropship and wholesale suppliers, 1.6 million high-quality, branded products at low prices, an industry-leading market research tool and 24-hour support.

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  • Ryan Nelson 10th of December
    Nice article- definitely looks like ebay isn't an option anymore, which is too bad. It's one of the few sites with the brand recognition to actually convert traffic outside of Amazon
  • Sam 14th of December
    I was an EPN member for over a year. I was banned for no reason as I had done no wrong. EPN claimed the I was generating non-bonafied transactions and reversed 100% of my earnings just shy of £2300. I was NOT generating non-bonafied transactions. I emailed them to ask for the evidence of me apparently generating non-bonafied transactions of which EPN replied with "They are not at liberty to say" (or words to that effect). So EPN stole £2300 from me without proving that I did any wrongdoing. I'd like to see that work in a court of law.

    VERDICT: Good program to earn money BUT be warned that EPN will steal your hard earned money at a moments notice without proving that you done any wrong doings.
  • john 8th of January
    Hi getting approved on eBay partner network is now instant and open to anyone. Payments are not fast if you get any at all. What happened to me with eBay partner network has also happened to some of my friends and if you do a google search you will find that what happened to me and some of my friends has also happened to many others around the world. I reckon that anyone claiming to make money with eBay partner network are paid by eBay partner network to say so. You know, a bit like those scam websites that use to state that they have made thousands in one month. This is the type of business that eBay partner network are proving to be with the more time that passes.

    Anyway, here is what happened to me with eBay partner network along with some of my friends along with the rest of the world that begins to earn good money with eBay partner network.

    The moment eBay partner network begins to sort out payments (first week of the month) for the previous month earnings,
    they either issue an AS77on your account (termination of your account due to low quality traffic) or an LS43 on your account (termination of your account plus a 100% reversal of all earnings due to non bona fide transactions).

    What is interesting to note is that after some extensive research, me, some of my friends and the rest of the world did nothing wrong. We have all had good quality traffic (BUYERS) and NOT clicked on our own content as that would be classed as non bona fide transactions.

    So what is the problem

    Now after some extensive research, it is evident that eBay partner network issue out AS77,s when earnings are low and issue out LS43's when earnings are high.

    eBay partner network get you to join by telling you how easy it is to make money and offering double commissions for the first 3 months making the payment structure look brilliant along with eBay's so called trusted name. This is enough to make most people think that eBay partner network is the best thing since the invention of the wheel. eBay partner network does not want you earning money. Why would they. You spend hours if not days sending traffic to eBay. Traffic turns into buyers. eBay earns money. But now they have to give it to you via the eBay partner network program. low and behold, You have just been issued an AS77 or an LS43.

    Join eBay partner network at you own risk and expect eBay partner network to legally steal your money.
  • gary 19th of March
    There is nothing good about ebay partner network. You only have to do a google search to know that. Ebay partner network tucked me up like many other people around the web. I genuinely earned £1376 in a particular month and they stole the money from me claiming code; LS43 claiming that the money was obtained via fraud. I clicked on NONE of my own content and I have no friends that know about my content. Yet ebay partner network was legally allowed to steal my money. Ebay partner network are scammers.
  • john 6th of April
    Ebay Rocks! I am not sure what the other folks are doing but for my site I am driving a decent amount of traffic and have conversion rates on par with smaller networks. I like the reach of Ebay and the ease of working with them. Perhaps others are not a well versed in affiliate programs as I am. Also I have great offers to make. In any case I hop you'll give any channel a shot. The best way is to test and learn and see what works best for you
  • Bren 19th of June
    yes the eBay partner network has pretty much become a scam for them to get customer sales up and then not pay the affiliates, to be honest we should think about a class action lawsuit against them, they really need to be held accountable, lmao I love this faker about claiming how ebay is great
  • Yuriy 16th of August
    eBay Partner Network doesn't work.

    Answer from Support:
    "Our Team confirmed that the transaction was not credited to your account. Please note that a number of issues can cause transactions not to track correctly. The eBay Partner Network does not evaluate transaction tracking issues on a case-by-case basis. The most common issues that cause transactions not to track correctly include:
    Links are formatted incorrectly.
    Campaign IDs are incorrect.
    A user clicks an affiliate link and then clears his or her cookies before completing a transaction.
    A user clicks a link on one affiliate's site, and then clicks a link on another affiliate's eBay internet marketing site link before completing a transaction. Only the most recent click is credited with the transaction."
  • Prageeth 30th of October
    Very good article. I was really impressed
  • Nicholas Barnes 18th of June
    I'm an eBay affiliate and not earned a penny since I signed up month ago so not a good start and same with Amazon affiliate program I hope to soon though.
  • Don 5th of September
    I built over 25 sites, big sites with plenty of viable content, not link farms. This took a lot of work, updates, staying up with new products, good images and information. I created plenty of traffic and started making money. Several years building these sites and "POOF" eBay changed the program and earning sunk like a rock out of an airplane.

    They wanted the traffic but didn't want to pay for it. Highway robbery and very dishonest. Live & learn! I was also a Power Seller and so-called "Charter Member" to eBay in the early days. They changed how they charge sellers, the one's who made eBay, put them on the Internet map. They kept raising the "rent" and hundreds upon hundreds left. eBay is still around but this is one more example of how 3rd party selling or affiliation can be a no win for the one doing much of the heavy lifting. You basically are used then thrown on the trash heap when your usefulness is no longer needed.
  • Ben 13th of November
    You have to be a computer expert to use eBay partner network as they ask for the impossible. Here is what they ask you for:

    Please provide the following information in detail
    1)         Campaign IDs for all of your EPN accounts.
    2)         For each account, provide:
    -          Website URLs of all sites you use to drive traffic to eBay.  If you are using social media sites, please provide us with complete URLs of pages where you place your promotional contents
    -          Any server logs:
    Please provide one week's worth of raw web server logs for any web sites that you use to drive traffic to eBay directly or indirectly. Server logs are produced by your web server and should show each access to the server, giving at a minimum a time stamp, the URL accessed, the IP address accessing it, the referring page, the user agent (i.e. browser) used, the return code and the number of bytes transferred.
    -          Any analytical information, such as Google Analytics, of all your sites you use to drive traffic.
    -          Any third-party agents that you are currently employing, and/or any server redirects.
    -          Details on any special promotional methods that require written approval. If applicable, please include the approvals you have received.
    -          An example outlining the steps the user would take to arrive to your site and the steps they would take to finally arrive at
    Please reply to this email with detailed information we have requested above within 72 hours, or you risk termination of your account and 100% reversals of your pending commissions.
    eBay Partner Network Operations Support.

    Now, not only do I not have a single clue how to get the info that they require, but they will also steal my commissions of £624 of they do not get the info within 72 hours. eBay partner network is a lost cause. eBay partner network are scammers.
    • Sam 1st of February
      Ya, the same happened to my friend. EPN told him that to clear is case, he had to provide server log details. He spent a month researching how to get into and understand server logs. He got no further forward as to how to get into server logs, you need to be a pc whiz kid he said. I also tried to learn about server logs and also came to the same conclusion that my friend did. To get into server logs you need to be a computer whiz kid. So I gave EPN a whirl to see what the crack was. My opinion was that my friend was clicking on his own content and EPN does not like that. Well, can you guess what happened. Yes, they said the same to me as they did to my friend even though I clicked on NONE of my own content. I sent EPN an email asking them to explain why they say EPN is simple when clearly you need to be a pc whiz kid to get into server logs. That was 6 months ago and at the time of writing this, there has been no reply. My friend lost nearly 3K and I lost just over 1K. All this has the makings that EPN is a SCAM, SCAM, SCAM. And I also think that just like any scam on the net, EPN pay people to say how wonderful it is and emphasize all the money that you can earn. In fact EPN SCAM people from their money. Did I mention that EPN is a SCAM, SCAM, SCAM.
  • Ben 22nd of November
    So I bought traffic from eBay and sent to my website, the traffic was directed to eBay as per eBay Partner Network agreement. The traffic turned into sales of over £600. Now eBay Partner network saying that the traffic is no good from eBay and that they are reversing 100% of my earnings. EBay Partner Network is one huge scam. I fork out money to earn money from EBay Partner Network and all eBay Partner network do is screw me over both ways by eBay keeping the money for the traffic that I bought as it is not the sellers fault and eBay Partner Network keep the money from the sales of the bought traffic from eBay. eBay Partner network are the biggest scammers of all time.
  • OSWALDO REYES 8th of December
    After reading your article. I am going to really consider getting into dropshipping instead of affiliate marketing. I am a beginner. I have a lot to learn about the business. I really need some GOOD advice on starting my own dropshipping business online. This is my goal and dream. I want to someday have a successful online dropshipping business.
  • mads 19th of July
    Ebay partner program sucks, they are scamming their affiliates..
    • Rhea Bontol SaleHoo Admin 13th of December
      Hi Mads! Interested it knowing about your experience.
  • Zackaryvandalen 26th of November
    I thought it was a pretty good marketing technique