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?
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.
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.
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?