EBay Expands Features for Affiliates

EBay Inc. now offers an affiliate tier in its developers program, with mostly free access to its Web services platform, as part of a mission to boost its customer base.

The decision lets an estimated 10,000 affiliates connect their business model software to eBay's application programming interface platform. The new resource is called the Affiliate API Tier.

“It gives them a real-time direct link to all of the eBay content, which enables them to be more effective at advertising or promoting our content in whatever contextual way they can,” said Vaughan Smith, senior director of Internet marketing at eBay.

The API Tier is unique in that it is managed along with the eBay affiliate program. EBay, San Jose, CA, will pay for leads and sales generated by traffic driven to the auction and retail site through applications affiliates built on the eBay API.

Also, this new tier gives the affiliate 50,000 free API calls a day — when the affiliate's application links to eBay's to retrieve pieces of information — after it pays the one-time $250 sign-up fee for driving new users and bids to eBay.

However, this is managed through a different set of API production keys because terms and conditions differ from those of the standard developers program.

“Affiliates are welcome to come and use our sandbox for a test to investigate their applications, and after paying the sign-up fee we give them access to the live eBay platform,” Smith said.

Signing up for the affiliate Web services program lets the registrant do several things besides retrieve real-time price and product information for all of eBay's 25 million listings. The affiliate can optimize search marketing practices with access to product-level details. It can build unique applications that improve both eBay bid and Buy It Now activity. The affiliate also can refine eBay shopping on its site.

Joining the eBay affiliate API program means that the company already has enrolled in the eBay developers program and the eBay affiliate program. It signifies that the company agreed to the terms and conditions of these two programs.

Companies participating have access to several API calls: GetSearchResults; GetItem; GetCategories; GetCategory2CS; and GetCategoryListings.

Once certified, the affiliate receives up to 3 million API calls a day based on the application it builds and how it plans to drive traffic to eBay. It will have three months of development time from the date the affiliate/API agreement is signed.

In the month after the development period is up, affiliates using the API must drive at least one active registered user for every 2,000 API calls or one bid/Buy It Now transaction for every 100 API calls. Also, the affiliate should drive at least 150 active registered users a calendar month or 3,000 bid or Buy It Now transactions.

EBay will offer technical support for registrants of this program.

“It gives people with technical skills the opportunity to build profitable businesses on eBay,” Smith said. “For example, eBay's top 50 affiliates are averaging over $1 million in revenue a year.”

To make life easier for new users, eBay has developed best practices for affiliates in the API program.

Take paid search. Making GetSearchResults API calls helps affiliates understand at any given moment the number of products for sale on eBay. This information may aid paid search affiliates in making better decisions as to which keywords to bid on in their search marketing programs. They also can gauge the demand and supply of keywords.

API helps affiliates in the natural search process as well. Affiliates can identify popular eBay items and categories and build better Web sites by using the GetSearchResults, GetItem and GetCategory API calls.

Similarly, a Web site owner can use API to show product-level data on its Web pages. So, for instance, a site on stamps can pull all product-level information from the thousands of live listings on eBay and post those links on the site.

In addition, eBay has best practices in comparison shopping to retrieve product and pricing information across the 50,000 categories on its site.

The new affiliate API tier is critical to eBay, more so as rivals Amazon and Google pull retailers away to their sites. The service also addresses the uniqueness of eBay's retail model.

“Because our content on eBay changes so frequently, we need real-time links to the items,” Smith said. “It's also important because it allows affiliates to pursue more sophisticated [sales] models. The affiliate program is actually one of our most successful ways of marketing eBay.”

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