The eBay Partner Network (EPN) affiliate program offer another potential revenue stream for forums. It is especially useful to get some feeds of eBay auctions that are relevant to the niche of your forum.
There are several ways to integrate eBay affiliate links into a forum:
- One way, that is a little risky from a security point of view, is to use the Editors Kit and insert the html into a page. See this example, which is on a page created in vBulletin using the Logician’s web templates. Links need to be available to pages like this from different places in the forum so visitors and members can get to the page (eg your Admin’s signature).
- The other way is for auctions to be a new message in a thread from an affiliate RSS feed from eBay. See this example, which uses the vBulletin Post Items as Posts modification (rather than post as threads which is the vBulletin default for RSS feeds). This thread can be a sticky thread to give it some prominence.
Depending on the keywords that are relevant to your niche and the nature of the products on eBay, there may or may not be enough good quality products to make this worthwhile. That is why I prefer the later option and each post is sent to the moderation queue for checking its relevance before it comes live (the Post Items as Posts mod allows this as an option). A moderator is assigned to delete posts daily when auctions end. This way, there is only current auctions in the thread (how happy would you be visiting a thread of eBay auctions on a forum if most of the auctions were closed? Would you go back to look for me later?).
You could have eBay auctions as a new thread (rather than the example above of a new post in a thread), but it could quickly take over the forums ‘new posts’ or external RSS feed (I used to get a RSS feed of new posts from a forum I visited regularly; then they started a RSS feed from eBay of ‘relevant’ auctions and 70-90% of the new posts RSS feed I got were for rubbish eBay auctions; I canceled the RSS feed and rarely visit that forum any more). If you are going to use the eBay feed as a new thread, at least exclude it from ‘new posts’ and your external RSS feed.
eBay are getting more particular who they allow to sign up for their affiliate program and there have been increasing examples of accounts being closed by eBay due to ‘poor quality traffic‘. They also recently changed the model of payouts. There is more at the EPN Blog and plenty of discussion at the official EPN Discussion Board, at eBay Affiliate Forums and at eBay Forums.
One problem with eBay and your forum is what market are you targeting? Where do your visitors come from? Is your forum local or global? eBay currently operates affiliate programs for Australia, Belgium, Canada, Spain, France, India, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland and the United States. Which one are you going to use? I use all of them and do one of two things:
- Set up a sticky thread for each country to take the eBay RSS feed as a new post. Visitors from each country can click on the thread relevant to their country.
- Use OpenX to geotarget. You just set up a zone on the site; then set up all the regional eBay’s in OpenX and link them to that zone. OpenX will then serve up which ever one matches the IP address of the country of the visitor.
As an example of the geotargeting from OpenX, below should be a eBay banner targeted at your country (that is if you are in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Spain, France, India, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland or the United States). If you not in one of those countries, it should be showing an Adsense unit (it is supposed to be 99.9% accurate; but AOL users in the United Kingdom, usually get routed via a USA IP address).
I think the key messages are integrate eBay into the forum without it dominating it and geotarget each of the regional eBay sites.