eBay Tweaks Affiliate Agreement

Online auction giant eBay today sweetened its affiliate program, increasing payouts for acquiring new customers by as much as 50 percent, and tweaking its agreement with affiliates to better protect them from unscrupulous activities.

The program, which eBay runs through affiliate marketing service provider Commission Junction, pays affiliates between $12 and $30 for each new customer they bring the auction player, an increase of between 20 percent and 50 percent. Rates are based on a tiered scale, with smaller affiliates getting less, and larger ones getting more. Previous commissions ranged from $10 to $20. As recently as earlier this year, the commissions started from a base of $5.

“Our goal in whatever we do in our affiliate program is to make it the best place to be an affiliate,” said Ryan Spoon, an analyst at eBay. “We judge that by fairness, which we address in our terms and conditions, and by profitability, which is addressed by our commission structure.”

The affiliate program agreement is made up of a trademark policy, a privacy policy, and a downloadable software policy. The downloadable software agreement was updated to place more stringent controls on affiliates’ use of adware to acquire new users.

“We want to make sure users have a good experience. We don’t want anything, either on the affiliate end or the eBay brand end, to appear misleading or intrusive,” Spoon said.

Rules include making sure any application used can be easily uninstalled, properly notifies users of its function, and — most importantly — does not overwrite cookies belonging to other affiliates, he said.

“One of our top focuses is to make sure the affiliates that are driving traffic are rewarded for what they have been driving. We have no tolerance for any sort of theft,” Spoon said. “We’ve always kept an eye on this kind of thing.”

Downloadable applications make up a small portion of affiliate program traffic, Spoon said. Most of the program’s 15,000 active affiliates generate leads through search marketing, both paid keyword-based programs and natural search, he said.

Another change to the affiliate agreement becoming effective today is to require incentive sites, such as those that offer points for purchases, or return a portion of the commissions back to end users, or send them on to a charity. In the past, these types of programs have been allowed to join the program, and only investigated after the fact if they are found not to be in compliance. Now, they are examined up-front, before they are allowed to join the program, Spoon said.

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