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  1. #1
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    When Ebay agreed to sponsor the lunch in Vegas and indicated that they were truly interested in hearing what issues affiliates had with the program and responding to those issues, it seemed to be an excellent opportunity to possibly have some of the concerns addressed.

    So with the encouragement of Mackin and his facilitation of putting myself and Eva in direct contact with each other, I went about collecting some data. I've never promoted Ebay myself, but I've followed the threads here over the years and have a pretty good feel for frustrations and concerns many affiliates are feeling regarding the Ebay affiliate program. I did some research on the program and talked with some of the members here (a very big thank you to those members who generously provided me detailed information regarding their Ebay stats!). I then set about doing some testing and attempting to sort through the data. Of course the main areas I was looking at were the parasitic relationships that Ebay has and the numerous reversals, as well as if there was a connection between the parasite relationships and the reversals that affiliates are seeing.

    I captured 9 videos and wrote up a brief explanation of each and forwarded those to Eva. I received a very quick response saying they were interested in discussing the information. So we arranged to meet for dinner Friday evening.

    Ever so hopeful, I went directly from the airport Friday evening to a dinner meeting with both Eva and Ryan. Both seemed like very nice folks and they continued to express a desire to improve their program and improve affiliate relationships. I soon learned that both had been in all days meetings the week prior to the Vegas event and although they had read the explanation letter I had forwarded, neither one had actually viewed the videos. This somewhat limited our discussion as they were having difficulty visualizing exactly what I was talking about.

    I was a bit surprised that during the lunch Q&A time that no one brought up the issue of reversals and parasites, although I heard many whispering comments on those issues at the tables.

    I'll say what I found out regarding reversals in my own testing and what Eva and Ryan told me at our dinner Friday. A member here was generous enough to forward me the spreadsheet of their Ebay stats from CJ. Granted it was a small sample as their commissions for Ebay have dwindled significantly over time as many others have. I was however able to see a pattern with the reversals and what appears to be happening in many cases with the reversals.

    Per Ebay's TOS, they have a one time occurrence per link click thru. So you will be paid for one Bid or BIN for time a user clicks through from your link. Because the CJ provides the user ID and the time stamp, you can follow each of the Ebay customers that came from your site. What I saw was an obvious pattern for the reversals. A user would click thru on one link from the aff site and they might do a registration, one Bid and 2 BIN's. The registration would stick as well as the Bid, but the 2 BIN's would be reversed. This is correct per Ebay's TOS. Or a user might click thru from a link do 2 BIN's. Then they would click thru a few minutes later from another link from aff's site and do 3 more BIN's. One BIN for each click thru would be credited and the others reversed for a total of 2 commissions and 3 reversals. Again this is correct per Ebay's TOS.

    So what appears to be happening for many of the reversals is that the CJ cookie isn't expiring as it should after the actionable commission event happens as it should for a one time occurrence merchant. This is not fraud IMO, but a programming issue either by CJ and/or Ebay and a reflection of Ebay's TOS regarding their pay structure of their affiliate program. What they will pay for is defined in their TOS and indeed is specified in those emails sent out by CJ where they proclaim the top aff made $1M in a month. I attempted to import to Eva and Ryan the importance that the system needs to be tracking only those transactions that are commissionable.

    Another affiliate had also shared with me the % of reversals they were experiencing over the last several months. These figures ran along the lines of: Jan 0%, Feb 20%, March 17%, and April 32%. I attempted to express the concern of affiliates at experiencing this continual upward trend of reversals and the associated decreased overall commissions they are earning. Their response was basically that would be the numbers they would expect given the TOS changes they have made. If you will recall in Feb Ebay allowed incent sites to be included in the program and in April they began to have their own paid advertising efforts and natural SE traffic over ride the affiliate cookie. The April change in the TOS seems to be what they attributed the jump to a 32% reversal rate. It appears what is happening is again bad programming. A user clicks through from and affiliates link to Ebay but doesn't perform a commissionable action at that time. They go off web searching some more and price comparing at other sites. Then next day, they decide to go back to Ebay. To get back to Ebay they click through from a SE listing and they do a BIN. The CJ cookie would track as a BIN for the affiliate, but Ebay would also track that the BIN was associated with a SE click thru. They will then go back and reverse the aff BIN as the last click came from their own natural SE traffic. Again, this is per Ebay's TOS.

    I will say that I saw no evidence that the degree of reversals had anything to do with Ebay's association with downloadable apps. Indeed, I did a test purchase and a parasite did nab the commission, however that commission never should in the affs stats because the CJ was overwritten. Therefore, the aff will see the click thru, but never see the commission nor a reversal in their stats. Therefore, the trend of your overall conversion ratio with Ebay would be a better indication to what degree the parasites may be impacting your Ebay earnings. The date of that event would be the month of Feb.

    I will post later on the parasite issue and what was discussed.

    I will just make this quick statement now regarding that issue. It was brought to my attention on Sunday, that some folks in their private discussions with Eva and Ryan, were told when they asked Ebay's stance on parasites that Ebay is parasite free. Now I suppose if Eva and Ryan were going off of CJ's definition of what is parasitic, that would be a technically truthful statement. However, looking at what most affiliates and myself consider parastic, that is far from the truth. As I mentioned, I did a test purchase and some downloadable app got the commission not the ABW member whose link I used. I will go into more detail regarding the parasite issue in a bit.

  2. #2
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    Thanks, great post and I would be interested to see what they say about the parasite issue.

    For the record, and i think i have posted it here a few times. The reversals aren't what bug me, they explained it and it makes some level of sense.

    But it is the loss of income. And this is consistent loss of income over the past 5 months. My ebay income has essentially been halved on twice the traffic.

    Chet

  3. #3
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    indeed, it's the epc that is dropping each
    time they email you can expect that it will.

    but I also have about 13 % ACRU's reversed
    over April.. how can THAT be explained with the
    multiple clicks story? since the reg, and acru
    was contributed to me, already the first click
    caused it to become acru, so cancelling of later
    clicks would not matter.

    the active's by faaaar make us the most money,
    i dont care about the nickles.

  4. #4
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    Shmoogle,

    But this could explain it in part

    quote:
    A user clicks through from and affiliates link to Ebay but doesn't perform a commissionable action at that time. They go off web searching some more and price comparing at other sites. Then next day, they decide to go back to Ebay. To get back to Ebay they click through from a SE listing and they do a BIN. The CJ cookie would track as a BIN for the affiliate, but Ebay would also track that the BIN was associated with a SE click thru. They will then go back and reverse the aff BIN as the last click came from their own natural SE traffic. Again, this is per Ebay's TOS.


    Substitute BIN with registration. If the user doesn't sign up at the time they clicked through from your link, but leaves Ebay and comes back to Ebay at a later time through one of Ebay's natural SE listings or paid advertising and does the registration, then the CJ cookie will still track. But an Ebay cookie will also indicate the "last" click was through Ebay's own efforts and they will come back and reverse your commission through CJ. This update to Ebay's TOS began April 1st and they are still working on the tracking so that the commission and reversal won't show for you at all in the situation as above.

  5. #5
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    That makes sense, i notice the nickels being reversed but not registrations.

    Checking my Ebay EPC

    Last year $12.93
    This year $12.98

  6. #6
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    Thank you very much Ms.B for the update...

    was it ever made clear that affiliates are far from happy about their TOS changes?
    Hi, I'm a signature.

  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador Andy's Avatar
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    My eBay EPC has fallen by over 50% from last year, and I am getting Registrations reversed.

    My SE ranking is the same, traffic is up, the only thing that's changed is eBay's allowing parasites in and this cookie issue.

    Either way, it is not fair to the affiliate who tries to operate honestly.

    Andy

  8. #8
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    We are also getting tons of registration reverals.

    Also, in their TOS changes of April, Ebay indicated that would no longer allow forced clicks. I would love to know how they are enforcing this since I still see zillions of sites popping Ebay in a pop-under, which is indeed a forced click.

    Did anyone hear anything about this in Vegas?

    ATKOgirl

  9. #9
    ABW Ambassador
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    "I was a bit surprised that during the lunch Q&A time that no one brought up the issue of reversals and parasites, although I heard many whispering comments on those issues at the tables."

    Whispering? How come no one just asked?

  10. #10
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    The first scenario you posted -- multiple commissions per click -- is definitely something that we do not deserve. I think that the psychological damage of giving someone money and then taking it back should not be dismissed though.

    The second issue you bring up is more complex. That commission is debatable. If I turn a user on to an item and they view it via my site, but don't buy it, then later come back via another method -- perhaps a MSN button -- then who should get credited with the commission? The person that did the selling, or the person that just happened to greet the customer when he was ready to buy?

    Since eBay tracks the item number clicked on by the visitor, I'd think that they could give me the commission if someone bought that exact item even if they came in from MSN, and would give it to MSN in other instances. Or perhaps pay me if the user came back to eBay on the same day as clicking from my link, even if they were referred by one of these super-affiliates.

    This is a more visible issue because the big guys are getting the action here, and there are a lot of ways to lose this commission. The program is advertised as a 30-day cookie, but this concept cuts the odds dramatically of the 30-day cookie remaining unspoiled by other super-affiliates.

    Did anyone bring up eBay's practice of redirecting registered users from non-US countries (like Canada) to their sister sites, thereby negating the commission? This affects me heavily since 40% of my visitors are from Canada.

    I've been tracking US/Canada breakdowns of bids; I currently get about 27% of my bids from Canada, but just 1 out of 100 registrations have been from Canada. That's a glaring program error, and I don't think it's fair that eBay put all its efforts into paying people less when there is such a big problem with people not being paid for legitimate registrations.

    Ralph

  11. #11
    Domain Addict / Formerly known as elbowcreek Thomas A. Rice's Avatar
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    The way I figure it, the more complicated a program is, the less likely it is that I will earn money. Frankly, I have too many others issues to work on than to sit down and figure out the nuances of their program. I still have a few links up, but they are the absolutely last option I turn to to fill out a page now.
    Following everyone else is a GREAT way to become average.

  12. #12
    I like traffic lights
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    >Also, in their TOS changes of April, Ebay
    >indicated that would no longer allow forced
    >clicks. I would love to know how they are
    >enforcing this since I still see zillions of
    >sites popping Ebay in a pop-under, which is
    >indeed a forced click.

    Do you mean popping an eBay advert or popping eBay's actual site?

  13. #13
    ABW Ambassador CrazyGuy's Avatar
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    @Drewbert - they mean popping the site which sets a cookie (popping an ad doesn't).

    Ms B - I really appreciate you dealing with this so thoroughly. I was surprised and disappointed to read in another topic that nothing had been asked out loud, so this has been really useful.

    Your post highlights behaviour (one click, multiple bids) and elements of the TOS (cookie override by Ebay's organic SE) that I hadn't picked up on. Given that I promote Ebay and you don't, I'm quite ashamed of that

    [edited to add: obviously there are elements of the program that need to be improved - esp the reporting of things that aren't going to be paid for. A fleeting reference elsewhere to a SOAP interface to ebay may make it easier to keep people on our sites until and unless they are ready to go and make a commissionable action.]

  14. #14
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    quote:
    Whispering? How come no one just asked?



    They were probably getting a free lunch.

  15. #15
    Outsourced Program Manager Jorge - SHOPiMAR's Avatar
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    > The way I figure it, the more complicated a program is, the less likely it is that I will earn money.

    I AGREE.

    The commission should be easy to understnad like:

    1- receive 10 % of the collected revenue of all new member(s) you refer

    2 -receive commissions for the life of the customer

  16. #16
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    quote:
    Celicaphile said:
    was it ever made clear that affiliates are far from happy about their TOS changes?


    I hope I was able to convey that during dinner. They do know in general that many are not happy with the Ebay program. That is why they opted to go to Vegas and get feedback from affiliates.

    quote:
    ATKOgirl said:
    Also, in their TOS changes of April, Ebay indicated that would no longer allow forced clicks. I would love to know how they are enforcing this since I still see zillions of sites popping Ebay in a pop-under, which is indeed a forced click.

    Did anyone hear anything about this in Vegas?



    I don't believe anyone brought up forced clicks on Saturday. Ebay did bring that up to me Friday evening at dinner however. They seemed very adamant that forced clicks were a violation of their TOS, but they appear to be attempting to find an efficient mechanism for monitoring and enforcing that aspect of their TOS. ATKOgirl, I assume you are talking about web sites which are popping new browsers or iframes on their sites to auto cookie set.

    Ebay and I also briefly discussed forced clicks in relation to the parasites. Unfortunately in that context with a particular example I gave them, it was used to justify that the parasite was "compliant" and not in violation of the TOS. More on that in my next post.

    quote:
    How come no one just asked?


    Don't know. I wondered that myself.

    quote:
    Ralph Slate said:
    I think that the psychological damage of giving someone money and then taking it back should not be dismissed though.


    Agreed and we did discuss that at lenght. I told them it was causing a whole lot of ill will and suspicion among some affiliates. Again they said they are working towards having that end of the tracking fixed.

    quote:
    Ralph Slate said:
    Or perhaps pay me if the user came back to eBay on the same day as clicking from my link, even if they were referred by one of these super-affiliates.


    It would seem however that the whole point behind Ebay's April 1 TOS change is that they don't want (or feel they should have to I guess) pay 2 times for one customer action (registration, BIN, or Bid). I've seen several posts also where it is implied or stated that the major portals, etc are super affiliate with Ebay. I did check several of these and this is not the case. I also asked Ebay directly and they said that is not the case. Marketing in those areas are not being run through the affiliate channel at all. Those are being run through their Advertising Channel and/or through their own PPCSE listings. Those clicks are not going through an affiliate link and CJ/BF tracking. I do agree that the TOS change in April is a leakage issue for affiliates and something they should think about.

    I agree it dramatically cuts the cookie life. IMO the Ebay cookie is pretty close to being a session cookie even though they call it a 30 day cookie.

    quote:
    Did anyone bring up eBay's practice of redirecting registered users from non-US countries (like Canada) to their sister sites, thereby negating the commission? This affects me heavily since 40% of my visitors are from Canada.


    This did come up at lunch and some affiliates gave examples in how they were combatting that problem and if what they were doing would be considered a violation of Ebay's TOS. I don't know if Ebay ever really gave a hard yes or no answer to that. When I brought it up in a general sense with them as a concern of lost revenue for affiliates, they knew it was an issue, but again said the technology wasn't in place to track commissions cross country platforms as those programs are all run separately. But that they were looking into it.

    quote:
    CrazyGuy said:
    Your post highlights behaviour (one click, multiple bids) and elements of the TOS (cookie override by Ebay's organic SE) that I hadn't picked up on. Given that I promote Ebay and you don't, I'm quite ashamed of that


    Don't be ashamed. It seems that you aren't the only one. Ebay asked me several times what they needed to do to improve their program. My repeated response was that they needed to improve their direct communications with their affiliates. And that they needed to stop relying so heavily on CJ/BF to make their program announcements. The foundation of any good affiliate program has to be honest and accessible communications between the Merchant and their affiliates IMO. All the other program specific concerns can't really be addressed unless that line of communication is there. Hopefully they will put something better in place than they currently have.

    Parasite stuff coming in next post. I apologize for the delay getting this info out. I'm still catching up from being away 4 days.

  17. #17
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    I loaded up the test computer with Zango/n-case, LimeWire, SAHS, WhenU, BargainBuddy, and Gator (was already installed for other purposes). Then BargainBuddy self installed CashBackBuddy. I then went to Ebay's web site in various manners to document what if any actions these applications were taking on clicks to Ebay. I captured 9 videos and forwarded these to Ebay. Like I said earlier, unfortunately, they had not actually looked at the videos prior to coming to Vegas, but had only read my comments. Since returning home, Eva has contacted me asking for access to the videos again. I sincerely hope that they do take the time to look at them as it was my feeling that they did not fully understand everything happening with these applications (and similiar ones).

    I will also make 2 statement here. First is that I am in 100% disagreement with Ebay stating to affiliates that they are parasite free. IMO, they are not by a long shot. Second, is that in my discussions with them Friday evening, I had the impression that their decisions and understanding of these applications are being based if not solely, then in large part, on information provided by CJ. I really did feel I was talking to CJ instead of Ebay a couple of times there.

    http://www.affiliatefairplay.com/ebay/video4.ZIP is a video of a test purchase I did. The orginating affiliate link click DID NOT get the commission and there WAS a cookie overwrite with another PID in the CJ cookie and not the PID from the first affiliate click. To be honest, I'm not really sure WHO got the commission, but I know who didn't. It should be WhenU based off the video. But when I went back and got the WhenU pop again to confirm PID, it was a different PID. That could just be WhenU having more than one PID. Anyway, since they hadn't seen the video I walked them through it. In the end, their response to me was that WhenU was the rightful earner of the commission because:

    1) WhenU did not do a forced click. I had to actually click on the link in the WhenU pop up.
    2) If the information in the WhenU pop up had been fraudulent or misleading, then that would be grounds for termination from the Ebay program. But it wasn't fraudulent or misleading information because Ebay does offer some products that have free shipping. It really doesn't matter that the particular product I was buying did not have any auctions with free shipping available.

    I really don't think I have to say much more about this and affiliates can make their own decisions on it.

    The other videos I provided are:
    http://www.affiliatefairplay.com/ebay/video1.ZIP
    http://www.affiliatefairplay.com/ebay/video2.ZIP
    http://www.affiliatefairplay.com/ebay/video3.ZIP
    http://www.affiliatefairplay.com/ebay/video5.ZIP
    http://www.affiliatefairplay.com/ebay/video6.ZIP
    http://www.affiliatefairplay.com/ebay/video7.ZIP
    http://www.affiliatefairplay.com/ebay/video8.ZIP
    http://www.affiliatefairplay.com/ebay/video9.ZIP

    Again, I think these are pretty much self explanatory. If anyone has specific questions after viewing them, I will answer as best I can.

    These other videos really show Ebay's own intrinsic traffic being diverted as commissionable sales by the applications vs. affiliate traffic redirection. However, given Ebay's April 1st TOS changes, I find it hard to believe that they really are ok with the actions documented in these videos. If their web bound affiliates aren't going to get a commission if the end user goes back to Ebay through natural or paid links on Ebay's part, then why are software applications being allowed to grab that very same traffic as their own? Will they apply the same forced click rule from video 4 to justify a legitimate commission to WhenU when the same thing happens on their own traffic? I would hope Ebay will come to realize that in both cases the commission really isn't going where it should.

    The only other point I want to bring up is that as far as the incent sites with apps go...I am seeing some of them specifically target new registrations rather than the Bids and BINS. For those of you experiencing a reduction in your overall number of registrations, this could be a reason in part (along with the April 1 TOS changes if the registration didn't happen in the session). This would not be a cause if you are seeing increased registration reversals. What I saw with the parasites were cookie overwrites, so those registrations would have never shown in your stats to be reversed.

    Again if anyone has questions, just post.

  18. #18
    ABW Ambassador Andy's Avatar
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    I would think that eBay would be smart enough to know better than to associate with elements that could be interpreted by end users as being abusive or taking advantage of them.

    For instance, the WhenU pop up offering free shipping that they said complied with eBay TOS, even though free shipping wasn't offered in any of the auctions for the product you clicked on. That seems very deceptive to me. For a business that depends on the trust of its users, it would seem eBay would stay as far away as possible from potentially deceptive practices such as this. Had I clicked on a WhenU pop up offering free shipping, then not found free shipping, I would feel like I was being lied to.

    It all creates a negative impression of eBay, because eBay's customers expect eBay to police its network. The very foundation of eBay's business model depends on this trust.

    I think eBay is walking a thin wire allowing this type of behavior. It will backfire on them, because it isn't truly 100% honest. If there isn't free shipping offered on a particular auction, a pop up advertising it should be against the TOS.

    Now I'm beginning to think I need to pull down all of my eBay pages and ads, because I'm not sure I want to promote them any more. If my site visitors come to my site to check on specific auctions, I would not want WhenU or anyone else popping up promising something that can't be delivered. And I'll likely put up an explanation on those pages advising why I'm not promoting eBay any longer.

    EBAY = FIX YOUR PROGRAM! CLEAN IT UP!! IT STINKS!!!

    Andy

  19. #19
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    What burns my chops on this cookie overwrites is that eBay does not allow a new customer to complete a registration and place a bid at the same time.

    Making a customer delay by having them complete their registration via e-mail can signifigantly cut into our ability to deliver "quality" traffic.

    If someone registers at work and then confirms at home then don't expect them to stop surfing in the meantime.

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