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Adding Profits with the Affiliate Program

The eBay Affiliate Program is a plan by which eBay pays you to help it get new members and drive traffic to other people's auctions. Sounds strange, but consider that you don't handle products, you don't answer e-mails, you don't pay for auctions, and you never worry about when the next 18 cubic feet of packing peanuts might arrive. Instead, you spend time doing what you love: building Web pages, developing keyword campaigns, and creating amazing new eBay API systems. And if you do it right, you make money — potentially lots of money.

Before you go into some kind of multilevel marketing imagine the possibilities hyperventilation attack, check out these clarifying details about the eBay Affiliate Program:

  • It takes work. Lots of work. You need to research eBay buying patterns (eBay provides you with lots of monthly information for free), find ways to reach the target buying audience, and create content that turns window-shoppers into bidders, buyers, and active eBay participants.
  • The potential looks stunning, but nobody gives you any guarantees. You might put in a lot of work but get nothing serious back from it. Heck, you might put in months of work with no payday. Then again, with the help of eBay's various affiliate tools and best practices ideas, you might strike a mother lode. It all depends on how much you want to put into it and how cleverly you approach the problem.

Joining the Affiliate Program costs nothing at the standard level. If you decide to join the Affiliate API program (for people and companies who plan to develop their own online applications that drive business to eBay), you pay a $250 start-up cost, plus some possible extra fees if your application makes too many API calls without generating enough bids. (Read the Affiliate API Membership terms agreement very carefully if you plan to give affiliate application development a try.)

The Affiliate Program does have one important limitation: You can't promote your own auctions through Affiliate Program links. Sorry, that just won't do. Because you already make money (at least hopefully) from selling stuff, you can't double dip by getting an affiliate bonus as well. (But you do get bonus points for creative thinking. Good job.)

eBay pays for two things: new members and bids or Buy It Now purchases. You get the most money for bringing a new member into the system, but you get the payoff only if the person comes to eBay directly through one of your affiliate links and makes a bid or Buy It Now purchase within the first 30 days after signing up. In that case, you get between $10 and $20 for your efforts, depending on how many people sign up through your links that month. If a current member goes through one of your links and places a bid or uses a Buy It Now link, eBay tosses between a dime and a quarter into your affiliate account, again depending on your total production for the month.

Like many performance-based programs, you make more money as you generate more business. Both the active registration and the monthly bid/BIN payment systems use a tiered system based on your total activity for the month, so more production means higher payments for every one of your affiliate link hits.

To get started in the Affiliate Program, you need a regular eBay user ID (no surprises there). To sign up for the program, follow these steps:

1. Start with a visit to Join the Program.

The Join the Program page outlines the steps involved in joining the affiliates program. Read over the information so you understand what's going to happen and then go on to the next step.

For an overview of the program itself, visit the main Affiliate Program site. It includes links leading to details on program payments, current success stories, and lots of tips for increasing your profits and building a strong affiliate business.

2. Click the Join Now link to start walking through the sign-up process.

That link takes you to Commission Junction, eBay's affiliate system partner. Commission Junction handles the details of tracking and counting clicks and disbursing money to program members.

You must join Commission Junction in order to play in eBay's affiliate pool.

3. It takes a few minutes to wade through all the Commission Junction signup forms, but eventually you emerge from the other side.

A few minutes after completing the process, your new affiliate package arrives via e-mail. That's it — you can start doing your affiliate thing!

At this point, spend some serious time getting to know the Affiliate Toolbox as well as the Best Practices section. You need to know your options in both areas before getting too far into planning your affiliate business.

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