eBay to Syndicate Contextual Ads

Auction giant eBay will test a contextual ad system that syndicates links to eBay products to affiliate sites.

The company announced the beta system at its annual eBay Developers Conference in Las Vegas.

Like Google’s AdSense or Yahoo Publisher Network, the system, called AdContext, scans the text of a Web site for keywords and returns an ad with appropriate eBay content. A content site covering the World Cup, for example, might automatically display ads with soccer-related merchandise.

The move is thought to be a way for eBay to lessen its dependence on Google for traffic. Recently, the company struck a multifaceted marketing partnership with Yahoo in part to achieve the same end.

“EBay for the last six months or so has been very concerned about their dependence on Google for traffic,” said Matt Booth, VP and program director for interactive local media for the Kelsey Group, noting recent HitWise research that found Google accounted for nearly 60 percent of U.S. search traffic in May.

Part of eBay’s Affiliate program, AdContext automates and simplifies some of the results that could previously be achieved only with access to the company’s APIs and advanced programming techniques. EBay, with partner Commission Junction, has one of the Web’s largest and most long-running affiliate programs. CJ will manage the distribution of AdContext code to affiliates, and will sign up new affiliates attracted by the program.

Depending on volume, affiliates can earn anywhere from 40 percent to 70 percent of eBay’s revenue on a particular item. They also receive between $12.00 and $20.00 for each new active registered user they send to the auction site. Commission Junction also takes a cut for managing the program.

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