Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon Sept 1 2014 11:01:11

Paying for Traffic: Should eBay Revive Seller Referrals?

By: Ina Steiner

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Remember when eBay would reward sellers for driving traffic to their own eBay Stores? I was reminded of the old referral program upon reading Brian Dunning's blog post in which he alleges improprieties in eBay's affiliate program, which rewards affiliate marketers for sending traffic to eBay listings (see today's Newsflash story to read more).

Four years ago, we reported that eBay had paid $2.8 million in affiliate commissions to Brian Dunning's company in 2006. The same year, it paid $10.5 million to another affiliate, Shawn Hogan's Digital Point Solutions.

That was just one year's compensation figures - the two were members of the affiliate program for multiple years. Yet eBay then turned around and convinced the FBI to investigate the two companies for committing fraud against it. (According to Dunning's allegations, 3 years after it complained to the FBI, eBay was still showcasing affiliates who were engaged in the very same practice.)

This 2004 article explains eBay's program that rewarded sellers for driving traffic to their eBay Stores:

"In a nutshell, the Store Referral Credit rewards you when you promote your eBay Store and drive traffic to your Store listings. If you send customers to your Store and they buy from you, eBay will refund you 50% of the final value fee for those items purchased."

eBay eliminated Store Referral Credits on March 30, 2010, when it eliminated Store Inventory Format listings, moving Store to Core.

But why not bring back a similar program? While affiliate marketers can drive a lot of traffic, it would seem logical that eBay sellers could drive more qualified traffic to their own listings.

Sellers with their own off-eBay stores mightn't bother with such a program, but for some sellers, it could provide an offset to eBay fees. And, in light of its recent security breach, eBay could use all the ambassadors it can get encouraging shoppers to return to its marketplace. What do you think?




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This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Mon Sep 1 11:25:58 2014

Tpo save a few bucks, eBay discontinued the affiliate program leaving a bad taste in many individuals mouth, not to mention those who were prosecuted for finding ways to do their job too well.

Since discontinuing the affiliate program, sales on eBay has been flat, traffic is thin and eBay appears to have once again shot itself in the foot in order to hold more revenue to impress eBay's real bosses on Wall Street.

On John Donahoe's next thinking day, perhaps he will consider the downside of his decision. Sales are flat, traffic is flat, and it would appear that eBay is desperate to grow sales.

Knowing that eBay cooperated with the FBI and informed on many of their past affiliate program members while at the same time apparently encouraging and coaching those members on how to break the law

Given eBay's past nefarious actions, I doubt there are many who would even consider trusting eBay in a second affiliate marketing program out of fear that they too might find themselves investigated and prosecuted by the FBI for their success.

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by: RCL This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 1 11:34:11 2014

I honestly wish eBay would not do anything for a year. I am really hoping for a Department of Justice investigation of eBay's overreaching practices. It's hard to hit a moving target. If they would just STOP for awhile.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Mon Sep 1 12:48:36 2014

There is one demographic  that if eBay chose to treat it with respect would automatically provide buyers:  that demographic would be sellers - both new and existing.  


RCL - I would not hold my breath on DOJ given Donohoe's involvement in the current administration.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: LDS Brother

Mon Sep 1 13:23:28 2014

I would GLADLY pay $19.95 for Featured Plus again if it were available ! For me doing away with Featured plus, cut my business in 1/2 then Donahoe has cut the 1/2 in 1/2 so I am down to $10,000 a year

IF Featured plus was brought back, I could at least get up to $20,000 but that isn't going to happen, and I am about ready for the undertaker from the stress, and so is my selling on eBay ready for the graveyard ! Thank you Donahoe !

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Mon Sep 1 15:24:40 2014

As I read Ina's article today "eBay Attracts Top Fashion Brands to Sell Direct" I know that this is the eBay Donahoe has dreamed of and this is pretty much what has come to fruition.  In doing so, he drove off many thousands of sellers who were also buyers. There is no level playing field and there won't be as long as he is CEO. Sellers like me will not spend one dime on eBay to purchase goods.

We have a marketplace with lots of sellers and few buyers. Congrats JD.  You got what you wanted, even though you put many hard working small business men and women out of business.

The best we small guys can hope for  is that the mega-retailers expend more effort on the site than it is worth, and leave due to dismal sales.  And, like Neiman Marcus, perhaps they will tire of all the returns they get from buyers who rent, ruin and return.

And lastly, those whom I encounter who quiz me about eBay always tell me that they think their "search" is broken.  They never can find what they are looking for. They simply give up and go elsewhere.

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Mon Sep 1 20:59:38 2014

Instead of paying affiliates almost $14 million in commissions, why doesn't eBay just do some advertising themselves? I remember a time when eBay ads were everywhere on the TV, and I'd get a flyer in the mail at least once a month. Now, about the only time I hear anything about them is through posts on this site. If eBay wants buyers, they need to let people know they still exist. Maybe eBay can paraphrase John Denver's "Annie's Song": You used to love us, come love us again.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Mon Sep 1 21:38:30 2014

The criminal syndicate known as ebay has a long and appropriately tarnished history of illegal practices of which "cookie stuffing" is likely among the least egregious.

Remember the introduction of Buy It Now on the platform? enabled by stolen software.

Connections to illegal insider trading? At least two cases.

Unfair labor practices? See DoJ vs. ebay (2012)

Remember the Skype Fiasco?

Dummied up resumes for dummied down, incompetent C level management?

Just Google this topic! Ebay stains itself constantly with its sleazy, smarmy, complete lack of business ethics and illegal acts.

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by: Will This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 1 22:59:34 2014

No way. I would not drive traffic to eBay. Anything that would benefit John Donahoe in the short term or long term, won't happen from a contribution of mine. I want the present eBay to suffer, as long as John Donahoe is at the helm.

He single handedly ruined a good thing for many.

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by: nsc This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue Sep 2 00:14:35 2014

@ric, eBay traffic is NOT flat, it is DOWN. Compete.com shows only 72M unique visitors to ebay.com for 7/14, down from 89M in 7/13.

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue Sep 2 00:41:31 2014

Hey I remember those referral fees for sellers and I used to earn them. Then it didn't matter what I did, ebay was going down the tubes. But, working towards earning referral fees got me in the mindset so that when I went to ecrater where you have to promote your own stores, I already had plenty of practice and still work to bring buyers to my store. At last count I've had over 4200+ sales on ecrater. That is just an FYI for those that insist nobody sells anything on ecrater! :)

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by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 2 01:31:01 2014

I don't think it is possible to revive a dead horse.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Tue Sep 2 01:55:20 2014

What ebay needs to do is to operate with integrity and the highest ethical standards which hasn't been the case since Negged Meg Whitman took over in the 90s.

What seller with the possible exception of one here would have confidence that ebay would do what they promised?

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by: Ebay Seller-Ebay Buyer This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 2 02:36:45 2014

Seller referrals are not needed at all. Ebay needs to replace many at the top with experienced buyers and sellers who actually heavily use ebay and understand ebay. And they need to greatly increase their advertising, with a focus on only POSITIVE and FUN ideas.

Ebay's focus this year is completely NEGATIVE, which goes against all the basics of business. The seller update focuses on RETURNS and returns are a complete negative.

Instead of telling buyers, "we have you covered" which implies there are many bad sellers and you can expect your money refunded after you buy; advertise that Ebay has excellent, experienced sellers, who offer every product imaginable for fantastic prices.

Advertise that we have everything, from your favorite antique collectible to every brand new and sealed modern day product and that we have fun auctions or rapid fire buy it nows with same day shipping.

ONLY when ebay management remembers that the key to sales and marketing is POSITIVE advertising, will ebay begin to rise again

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This user has validated their user name. by: eBankrupted

Tue Sep 2 03:14:35 2014

I hate to break the news, but ebay isn't interested in helping you succeed. Reviving anything in the past that resembles helping sellers be successful is the opposite of the current business plan.

Ebay only wants you to liquidate. To get you to liquidate, ebay will only help destroy your business. If there is any meat left on your bones, they think up a new 'update' to attract the vultures to pick your bones.

Once the wealth of all sellers is vaporized, ebay will attempt fulfillment. They are your competition, not your advocate or friendly support staff.

Those hanging on to the sinking dream are risking their financial futures, like a beach sculptor would spend all day building a sand castle, and the next big wave just washes it away....

So how much more effort will you sellers put into conforming to the ever-changing standards, in terror of losing your stars or badge with a few unfair and untrue 'defect' reports?

Those who keep hanging on are like the people addicted to the grabber games, and they just can't stop pumping money in the machine because they almost get the stuffed animal reward every time. Almost!

When is enough enough to motivate you sellers to get a real job or profession? Are you addicted to the abuse? Were you beaten as children, and know no other way except to mind your master?

The ebay bubble is over. All that's left for them is to destroy your business and brag about low prices while you go broke! Are you seriously considering investing in Q4 inventory when you'll be forced into 90 day try-it-before-you-buy-it returns?

Anyone destroyed by ebay after reading this deserves to go broke. Don't say I didn't warn you. Ebay is thrilled when you suffer (just my opinion).

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by: WhatWas This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 2 09:28:56 2014

eBay desperately needs more eyeballs, it's just not a cool place to buy things any more. eBay is not attracting the (new) right buyers. They are attracting the bottom feeders - low low low price at any cost, bargain hunters. Those are the worst customers to attract!

eBay is trying to copy Amazon and Walmart Brands. eBay has no brand. They have no marketing plan.

Amazon has FBA for sellers and Prime for buyers. Both are high margin plays for Amazon. eBay has China and the cheap buyers to match! Low margin marketing play.

I did like eBay's commercials on TV, every other brand sells with TV. EBay tried to screw with google and manipulate their search and got spanked - hard. Nice job boys (idiots really). Traffic is way down. Can’t sell something without eyeballs!

The affiliation program - really shouldn't be a question - it's an industry marketing standard. Nice job boys (idiots really).

Traffic and eyeballs are KING! Beats the Sh!+ out me - what these idiots are thinking.


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This user has validated their user name. by: LDS Brother

Tue Sep 2 09:29:19 2014

THANK YOU eBankrupted for my much needed REALITY Check !

I equate your post a much needed SLAP to my face to wake me up !!!!!

$40,000 to $10,000 and sinking

I think I will print your post out and frame it, and hang it all over my place, so when I start day dreaming bout the good ole days and holding out some hope that things could change, I will then read your post again !

As I know your telling the 100% TRUTH !

In other words your post for people like myself is a "JUST KEEPING IT REAL DAWG" and I thank you for helping my see even clearer !

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Tue Sep 2 11:22:50 2014

Iheartjacksparrow spoke of a song to market eBay.


Perhaps more appropriate - Look up the lyrics to U-2's song ''You're So Cruel''   (or even better, listen to it - great song) includes the lyrics:


...''I'm only hanging on
To watch you go down
My love

I disappeared in you
You disappeared from me
I gave you everything you ever wanted
It wasn't what you wanted''...


Although it is not what the song is about, the entire first half and last two lines of the song certainly feels like it was written with eBay in mind!  If it wasn't the age it is I would have been led to believe  Bono et al have had an intimate knowledge of selling on eBay!


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This user has validated their user name. by: Don Wagner

Tue Sep 2 11:47:39 2014

I skim past most of the negative comments in these blogs, but must admit, it would be nice if eBay made an honest and full disclosure of their intentions with those who sell expensive one-of-a-kind collectibles at auction.

There are times, many times, that I feel eBay wishes sellers like me would 'get the hint' that we don't fit in and would just go away. I feel like the guy who walks into a party and everything gets awkward and quiet.  

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by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 2 14:26:10 2014

Ebay is again looking to fill its pockets with YOUR money.  Traffic?  They have to build some before they can charge referral fees!!! The problem is their traffic....they have far far less then they ever had before and asking you to pay for special placements isn't going to do a bit of good!

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by: LastGirl This user has validated their user name.

Tue Sep 2 16:13:51 2014

@Ebay Seller-Ebay Buyer said ''Advertise that we have everything, from your favorite antique collectible''. JD wants to rid the site of the old and used in favor of the new, fixed price items. Antiques would keep the flea market atmosphere which JD so dispises.

I usually don't wish bad upon a company but I wish ebay would go under simply because it is not as good and fun as it once was when I joined in 2001. One of the few positives that has been implemented under JD's reign is the tightening of security which has put the brakes on the number of Nigerian scams that used to plague the site.

When JD first came on board, ebay stock was around $23-$27 per share. Now it's over $50. Why can't it go back down to $23?

It's unfortunate that so much of corporate America caters to the investors. The vulture capitalists only care about the bottom line investor loyal, not customer or employee loyalty. That is why they do not want to give their employees a living wage; keep them parttime, low wages and no benefits because it's better for the bottom line. Ebay is run by a vulture capitalist.

@eBankrupted, you're so right on target.

@Don Wagner said ''There are times, many times, that I feel eBay wishes sellers like me would 'get the hint' that we don't fit in and would just go away.'' That is exactly what ebay wants. They want mom and pop sellers to go away although it was mom and pop who made ebay the colosal and great site it once was.

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