EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 196 - August 05, 2007 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 9

eBay's Affiliate Program: What Every PowerSeller Should Know, Part 1

By Julia Wilkinson

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There's a way to make money with eBay that doesn't require packing a single parcel. It's called the eBay Affiliate Program, and it allows people to make money by sending traffic to eBay. The program has been around since 2001, but recent changes, including opening it up to allow sellers to earn money by promoting their own listings, have made it more visible, and indeed, more viable as a new revenue source for eBayers. There are also new services, such as AuctionAds and Ztail, who are making it easier than ever to make money as an eBay affiliate.

"eBay's affiliate program is as strong as ever, and continues to grow," said eBay Affiliate Program Manager Lily Shen. "With the business development, marketing and pricing initiatives over the last year, we've been very successful attracting new publishers focused on innovation and creating new revenue streams by working with eBay. We also recently expanded the affiliates program to eBay's community of users, and encourage our buyers and sellers to promote their own listings - as well as others' listings - and make money by doing so."

eBay's payout metrics sound tasty to many - you can earn $25 to $35 commission per new active user referral (or "ACRU" - which means someone who not only registers for eBay for the first time, but also confirms his or her registration and places a bid or uses BIN to purchase an item within 30 days) and between 50-75% of revenue, depending on the amount of eBay fees your referrals generate (http://affiliates.ebay.com). But the reality of making money as an affiliate is not always easy.

"Getting going was tough," said Bobby Minnich, who along with his wife, Susan, runs CoinCommunity.com (http://coincommunity.com) and sells coins on eBay. "I was the typical new affiliate: sign up, throw up a couple links, and watch the money roll in. NOT! I now work 60 hours a week on my websites. (These include http://www.coincommunity.com/forum, http://www.coincommunity.net, and http://www.bobby131313.com, among three or four others currently in development).

But the good news for Minnich and other dedicated affiliates is, once they figure out what works, substantial sums of money can be made. "The eBay affiliate program allows me to work full time to make our websites the best they can be for our members. I have a part-time weekend job (14-16 hours) to supplement it, plus our coin sales, which Susan handles exclusively. The bills all get paid comfortably," said Minnich, adding, "How many other free sites have a full-time webmaster? :-)"

Another big success story, and a regular presence on the eBay affiliates online forum (at http://forums.ebay.com/db1/forum.jspa?forumID=118) is ComicArtFans.com, run by founder Bill Cox. In the last two months (May/June 2007), the site has been making just under five figures per month. But, like Minnich's site, the going wasn't always easy.

"We stumbled on the affiliate program," said Cox, who reports they were making about one dollar per day - or less - per month for the first 4 months.

"We didn't think we'd ever make money on it," said Cox. But then, after Hurricane Katrina, a lot of artists were doing benefit work, and Cox tried putting links to the sellers' eBay auctions on his home page. That home page strategy made the difference. He wound up making $800.

"A lot of eyes were on the Katrina auctions," said Cox. They were seeing results within a day. And people were bidding on ancillary auctions. "That's the way to do it," Cox realized.

The site now has around 10,000 unique people a day, and 5 million page views a month, although there are only about 2500 auctions running at any time in the original comic art category on eBay.

Of the eBay affiliate program, Cox says "I'll talk the most about it because I believe it." He says "The evolution of learning how to be an affiliate takes some time...You have to be creative - they give you the tools to get started, but it takes a bit of creativity to get beyond the basic tools."

Cox says he drives 6500-7500 clicks a day and spends 5-10 hours per day on the site, in addition to his day job. One look at the ComicArtFans.com home page and you can see the meticulous work Cox puts into hand-picking just the right auctions to feature for his users. He personally selects auctions from eBay for the site, and also does creative and useful things for fans like pulling the inventory of several art dealer sites into one place so you can search on all of it.

"I find anything," says Cox. "I try to find from the most popular artist to the most obscure - a lot of time the art doesn't meet the reserves; I don't pick it up again. I try to find as big a variety as possible."

Shen confirms these types of creative strategies work well: "The most successful partners are simply those who stay on top of trends, and best-optimize and scale their efforts around driving high-quality traffic that converts to new users and purchases. The key is finding the promotional methods and/or identifying the products and user experiences that best convert traffic to purchases on eBay," she said.

It's less important what type of platform you use to drive the traffic - be it a web site, blog, or ad campaign, and more important what the results are, Shen said: "It's fair to say that affiliates make the relevant business models work, regardless of platform. The biggest factors are how much quality traffic they can drive - and in the case of working with eBay or another third-party, taking into consideration the relevant policies."

And the method doesn't necessarily matter either: "Affiliates really use a variety of promotional vehicles. We see many affiliates using text links, but the effectiveness of any affiliate's campaign is ultimately related to the relevancy of the ads/links, placement, messaging and simply getting folks to convert," said Shen.

For Cox, what seems to work best are direct links to specific auctions, for which he uses the "flexible destination tool," which allows an affiliate to create a link to any single eBay page. Eighty-five percent of his sales come from this method, he says.

Cox also appreciates the 7-day cookie he says the eBay affiliate program provides, compared to some other affiliate programs that base results on only a one-day cookie.

Now Cox is experimenting with a sports cards related site. "I'm sold on the program." Says Cox. "I know it can work for so many."

Read part two of "eBay's Affiliate Program: What Every PowerSeller Should Know," at:
http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abu/y207/m08/abu0196/s04


About the author:

Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at YardSalers.net where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.


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