Everything you need to know about affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is a referral program where sites pay commissions to affiliates who send traffic to their site that results in a sale.


In our case, eBay’s partners send their users to shop the eBay global marketplace. A percentage of those users will likely buy something after being referred to our site. And, once they do, our partner gets credit for that sale.


What is an affiliate network?


An affiliate network serves as the intermediary between traffic partners (affiliates) and commerce sites. Unlike many other retailer affiliate programs, eBay manages its own affiliate network, giving us the unique ability to provide partners with the tools, reports, and resources they need to succeed.


A Brief History of Affiliate Marketing


Affiliate marketing is one of the earliest forms of performance-based online marketing. In the 90s, at the dawn of the modern Internet, organizations and individuals began creating websites and content. Once search engines made it easier to find and navigate this content, marketing changed forever.


As the world spent more of its time and money online, marketers invented ways to leverage this communication channel, and opportunities for partnerships between website owners began. Content creators developed new ways to monetize their sites, including how to get paid for the exposure they gave merchants in the form of site visitors. Merchants learned how to reach new audiences, but also to pay content creators only when their exposure turned into actual sales.


Online advertising also changed during this time, shifting from businesses paying for a fixed number of ad impressions to models that emphasized higher quality, measurable results.

Each of these events led to the modern state of affiliate marketing.


How do affiliates earn money?


Affiliates can be compensated in many ways from commissions on the sale of goods and flat fees paid for the completion of a form, to bonuses paid on the types of visitors you send. Each partnership is different in terms of payout structure and rates (See our rate card).


How does affiliate tracking work?


To track the activity and effectiveness of affiliate marketing, you need two things: an affiliate link and a cookie.


When you promote or send traffic to eBay, you’ll use an affiliate link. An affiliate link includes a unique ID that we call a campaign ID. When someone clicks on your affiliate link, the Campaign ID gets stored in a browser cookie on that user’s computer or mobile device. The cookie contains several pieces of information to help us track their eBay shopping activity after they click your link.

Learn more about tracking and cookies


Affiliate models


The evolution of the Internet created opportunities for a range of different affiliate partners, from individuals with a Facebook account or blog, to content review sites, deal aggregators, and app developers. As people continue to invent new ways to refer traffic to merchants, new models will surface, but here is a quick list of the current affiliate models that are popular, summarizing the primary promotional method.

Affiliate models

Content (Blogging)

These publishers create valuable, unique content that is of interest to its visitors. Content sites include news and op-ed outlets, blogs, influencers, and review sites.

Deal & Coupon

These publishers aggregate and provide their visitors with coupons or deals on a merchant’s site.

Email Marketing

These publishers send emails including deals, promotions, and products in which they think their customers might be interested.

Loyalty & Rewards

These publishers provide either purchase rewards or incentives in the form of points, miles, cash back, or charitable contributions.

Online Comparison Shopping (OCS)

These publishers aggregate product information from multiple retailers to enable customers to compare multiple products based on price, reviews, and features.

Product Listing Ads

These ads display more detailed information than standard text-based ads to encourage users to visit your website. They are also referred to as shopping ads and appear on various Google properties.

Social Sharing

These publishers are typically one individual, or a group of individuals, that monetize their sphere of influence.

Tools & Mobile App

These publishers enhance or simplify the online shopping experience through browser extensions, downloadable software, and mobile applications. Many could also be considered loyalty & reward publishers.