EPN ACRU Changes and You

EPN ACRU Changes and You

If you’re a member of the eBay Partner Network you’ve probably received the email talking about how there was going to be a new “Value Based Pricing” of ACRU’s (Active Confirmed Registered User) for US Program‏ starting in August for new members and that will be implemented by November for existing members. What does this change mean to those who operate eBay affiliate sites either though BANS (Build a Niche Store), phpBay, the eBay Toolkit or by other means?

Why is eBay Making This Change?

Quality Talks

The main reasons I see for this change is to insure a higher quality traffic and to reduce ACRU fraud and abuse.

eBay’s upper management has made it no secret that they favor big producers over the little guys. This is true for eBay sellers and it’s also true for affiliates. If you’re sending them trickles of traffic that are mainly ACRU’s and don’t lead to long term eBay buyers you are likely to see your EPN income drop dramatically. However, if you send a larger volume of quality buying traffic you are likely to see an increase in your ACRU value.

Another problem that eBay has had for years, first with the Commission Junction program and within their own program is low quality, incentivized, sign-ups. They don’t like this and have been actively combating it recently by suspending some affiliates’ accounts. This step is another in a chain of events designed to cut back on this activity and insure high quality sign-ups and repeat business from the new sign-ups.

What Does This Mean To You?


This could mean a problem for content light sites like most BANS sites and some blog based methods with weak content. BANS is already seeing Google mistrust, particularly when on .info domains. Now eBay is also going to be looking at the quality of your sign-ups and how much do they spend on eBay. If your BANS site has as it’s main revenue model grabbing ACRU’s on cheap products you’re almost certain to face a decline in income.

It also appears that eBay will be looking at repeat traffic from your site in calculating the value of your ACRU’s. This may impact not only BANS but others who depend heavily on the one time search visitor who clicks through to eBay. This is the standard search engine marketing model and eBay seems to believe that these first, and most likely only, time visitors from your site to be of less value than the rather rarer repeat visitors who click your eBay links time and time again.

Just like AdCENTS

eBay also indicates that the EPN program will work a lot like Adsense in that if you have low producing sites on your roster you will see an ACRU pricing penalty. Thus, you may find that you will need to remove sites that drag your account down, just like like you would have to do if you were smart priced in Adsense.

The bottom line on these changes is that eBay is going to be reviewing the traffic from your sites closer and making a quality judgment on it. The impact of the change will hit sites that incentivize sign-ups the hardest. Sites that are thin on content, have most of their revenue from ACRUs and have little or no repeat business will be impacted to some degree as well. I would guess that sites that bring in a good level of consistent buying traffic should be OK. However, it’s still unclear exactly how eBay will grade this activity beyond vague statements so far.

My Recommendations


If you’re running BANS sites I would strongly suggest that you add a blog to them or other relevant content such as topical articles. Not only will this help you with eBay but it should also help with your Google search placement as well. Rochelle over at Niche Store Strategies has a nice article about this, Advantages of Combining BANS and Blogging, that will give you some ideas.

If you’re using phpBay or EPN sniplet widgets like I do here on OpTempo, I would recommend making sure your content either encourages repeat visitors and/or brings in both new and current eBay members. I use reviews for this purpose here. Another method I use is to employ advanced eBay search techniques to bring out certain items. This can be helpful since your average eBay searcher isn’t that comfortable with using advanced searches. Even using product related videos from YouTube or Hulu may be enough.

Overall, I see this as a positive change that will weed out some questionable tactics, such as paying for signups, and it will reduce competition from lower quality thin affiliate sites. However, I am concerned about the overall impact on using search engine marketing methods in general. What are your thoughts on this change?


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2008-08-01 14:48:23

I signed up as an eBay partner and put a couple of widgets on a couple of blogs, but that’s as far as I have gone with it. I’ve been sitting back and waiting for the dust to settle.

In my humble opinion, integrating a store into an existing niche blog that’s getting quality traffic is the best way to insure any form of selling for eBay. BANS works, for now, but for how long? I’ll be watching and waiting.

Comment by jfc
2008-08-01 15:09:15

Hi RT,

Strangely enough, the technique I’ve had the least success with is integrating an entirely separate store into an existing niche blog although I may try it again at some point. I’ve had a lot more luck directly integrating eBay auction listings into posts or along side posts.

2008-08-01 23:12:33

Hey how’s it going Frank?

This move was inevitable considering how open to abuse and gaming their commission structure was. I have not had much success in finding niches that get a lot of ACRUs, and most of what I have made so far have been from sales, although what they class as ‘repeat’ is still anybody’s guess, I would think that the change might help me.

On the other hand, I’ve also recently had some sites deindexed by Google, pre-owned or otherwise. I’m still trying to figure out why, but my guess is yeah, they probably came across it, manually reviewed, and felt that it was too thin an affiliate site.

Comment by jfc
2008-08-02 08:16:56

Hi YC,

I suspect that they’ll be cracking down on those that offer incentives to sign up on eBay and those who bring in low value sign up traffic, such as someone who signs up, buys a $1 item and doesn’t visit eBay again for months.

On your deindexing problem, I agree, it’s probably the thin affiliate curse. I was checking out several BANS sites yesterday while researching this article and I found that there are a lot of very thin ones out there with no content or a single keyword stuffed paragraph. Try putting a blog on these sites, add about 10-30 short articles and see if this helps. If you’re really fully deindexed and not just temporarily sandboxed you may have to request re-inclusion though.

2008-08-03 18:03:43

Yeah it’s fully deindexed. Regardless I’ll still have to add a blog/content pages before asking for re-inclusion.

Never thought a BANS site will have so many problems. Something new to ‘fix’ every month. ;)

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2008-08-02 09:01:35

Yes it looks like this fairly obvious loop hole is closing fast! I wonder why just the US stores?

Comment by jfc
2008-08-02 17:02:13

Like usual, they’re implementing this in the US first and moving it out from there. Programs in other countries will be added later.

Comment by Luxury Paris Hotels
2008-08-09 07:52:47

Not for everything - with the requirement to use Paypal or COD ONLY for eBay they tried it first in Australia - doesn’t look like its going to work though

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Comment by Bunn Coffee Makers
2008-08-02 13:51:27

I’m sorry that eBay is doing this, but I understand why … there’s clearly more value in some signups than there is in others.

I’m curious which customers are the most valuable to eBay. I’d hazard a guess that it isn’t necessarily people who buy expensive items, but instead people who come back again and again. Any thoughts?

Comment by jfc
2008-08-02 17:04:38

Hi Bunn,

I think they’re looking mainly for repeat customers. So, if your site attracts new sign-ups that stick around plus already established customers you’ll get the ACRU bonus. If you’re the king at getting new signups who buy and never come back, you’ll find your ACRU’s priced downward.

Comment by Bunn Coffee Makers
2008-08-22 05:06:17

Judging from the buzz on several forums over the last day or so, ACRU changes are the least of our problems. Several people report that they’ve been dropped from the EPN program completely.

It seems very hard to discern a pattern as to who’s getting dumped … both big & small producers seem to have gotten the bad news email.

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Comment by jfc
2008-08-22 07:27:15

Hi Bunn,

It’s unclear at this point exactly how these changes will affect things but it has created a lot of worry about where eBay is headed with this and exactly what they mean about the traffic you send being ‘engaged’ with eBay.

I suspect it’s their form of “smart pricing” for low quality traffic but instead of dropping earnings they kick out the affiliate, apparently permanently.

Comment by gushin
2008-08-02 15:10:54

yeah, i read this and it did not make a ton of sense. thanks for taking the time to explain all this. my site i am developing with the phpbay plugin and i am trying to develop it with a lot of rich content so it does not get seen as a “thin content” site.

Comment by jfc
2008-08-02 17:06:29

Hi Gushin,

The thin content part will mainly affect Google’s like or dislike for your site. I suppose you could have a very thin content site that gets repeat eBay buyers who find it, just getting them to find it might be the tough part.

2008-08-03 16:53:46

I for one, am not surprised and I knew it was coming, although I do think that eBay should first make sure that they are even tracking the ACRU’s correctly as this has been a major issue for them. I am not worried my BANS sites are very deep with lots and lots of content and one of them actually has more content pages than store pages.

Also, my trends have been mostly current eBay registered users buying from my site, so the bulk of my money comes from commissions and not ACRUS.
Thanks Frank,

Comment by jfc
2008-08-04 08:37:34


They’ve been wanting to tighten up on ACRU’s and I think that was one of their reasons for moving it in-house.

I think they got the previous tracking problems resolved although they still seem stingy as compared to what some people saw under CJ, maybe because CJ looked the other way on some practices that eBay isn’t counting.

Comment by gushin
2008-08-04 11:56:54

just a note…i liked your explanation so much i made a short blog post about it on my main blog with a link to here. thanks again and thanks for your quick responses to blog comments.

2008-08-04 23:31:28

I was disheartened when the email came from EPN. And immediately I am seeing lower ACRU’s even though I am not new to EPN. Thanks for explaining in great detail what the email lacked. I suppose all my BANS sites, Book Brigade included, are thin and I had best get busy increasing the content. Thanks for the info.

Comment by jfc
2008-08-07 07:33:15

Hi Discount Books,

The lower ACRU’s are probably due somewhat to the time of year, which is traditionally slow on eBay, along with high gasoline prices and the uncertain economy. When I sold on eBay, the summer months were the worse time. Autumn, leading up to Christmas was usually very good and, after a short post-Christmas slump, things picked back up again until May/June.

eBay doesn’t seem to count as many ACRU’s as CJ did. They want to keep tight control on this since it was abused so much in the past.

2008-08-06 15:11:04

Looking at this in a bigger picture, it just seems as though all the spam type activities are slowly but surely being weeded out. Seems every time someone comes up with a technique to game Adsense or eBay or whatever, that loophole eventually gets shut down. Seems to me that you may as well get used to simply building valid and authoritative sites with robust content. It you do, then none of these maneuverings by Adsense, etc. will mean anything. Believe me I’ve tried all kinds of methods to game the systems but they all keep getting slapped down. My latest attempt was the .info/BANS tactic that up to now has been a waste of time and money. Given that I see decent revenue from Storestacker sites bolted onto relevant blogs and static sites, I will probably disengage those BANS sites from the web. From what you say here it might hurt the revenue potential on those non-BANS sites.


Comment by jfc
2008-08-07 07:36:28

Hi Splork,

It’s not clear yet exactly how eBay will be grading ACRU’s. A BANS site could get quality ACRU’s with repeat customers. It’s just unclear at this point exactly how eBay will be grading your sites. At least we’ll have some lead time to figure it out since they won’t start the pricing scheme until November on existing accounts.

Comment by Sunshine
2008-08-06 20:00:28

I for one believe this is more a response to Amazon’s recent earnings performance windfall and a quick way to tighten up their purse strings.

It’s their business and they can very well do what they want, however, quality ratings based upon some unknown criteria is, well a little suspect. Any honest traffic that I strategically bring to their marketplace at my expense is of good quality whether they’re repeat buyers or not. Especially in today’s market economy.

If they want to change their ACRU payout then so be it. They certainly don’t need to base it on some half baked reason. Just do like big Google and offer no reason at all for any changes.

Comment by jfc
2008-08-07 07:39:45

Hi Sunshine,

Over the past few years eBay has been wanting to be more like Amazon so I think you have a point there. eBay will tend to favor big producers who they think provide a good buyer experience, whether it’s power sellers or affiliates. It would be good to have some objective criteria we could use though.

Comment by The best quotes
2008-08-07 10:15:11

I think eBay is doing everything to get more users, it is a beneficial technique

Comment by Corey
2008-08-10 01:38:37

I love the BANS idea, but could not afford the price tag. I developed a way to create niche sites using Joomla which is a free software that installs through your cpanel. Check out my video: http://JoomNiche.com

And it avoids you making the mistake of leaving the BANS footprint everywhere which could get you penalized by Google.

Thanks for the good info about the new EPN guidelines.. Going to have to re-think the cheap stuff I’m pushing..??


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