Well I got quite a surprise this morning when I awoke to find an email from EPN in my Inbox announcing their roll out of a completely new payout system for affiliates. Basically, they are dumping ACRU and paying out a cut of each product they sell via your cookie. Instead, they are switching to a daily EPC payout, which will pay you a flat rate daily, based on the amount of clicks you sent that day.

It’s almost like Deja Vu all over again… I remember writing a similar article on this blog last fall when Ebay announced their new tiered ACRU structure. In that article, I explained that there were good and bad things about the tiered structure. In a nutshell, the good points seemed to be that:

1. Ebay was mainly looking to weed out their worst affiliates and incentivised clicks. This would penalize the “Black Hat” affiliates and reward the “White Hat” affiliates sending quality traffic.

2. Affiliates sending quality traffic actually stood to benefit from the change, in some cases by twice what they were originally making.

Of course the negative was:

Ebay doesn’t give hardly any clues how they determine your traffic quality, and therefore, you can be on any tier of their structure without any clue how you got there, or any clue how to move up, or avoid moving down.

So the way this affected me is as follows –

I send basically 100% of my EPN clicks via niche sites. Not engaging in any kind of black hat techniques, or anything like that. In fact, I think if a human ebay representative were to review my portfolio of EPN sites, they would have a hard time finding any problem with anything I’ve got out there.

When Ebay first switched my account over to the tiered ACRU structure, I believe it was November of last year. For the next 4 months, I saw an increase in earnings of up to 400% monthly. I was in the $40 tier and everything was going great. (Note: this was during the holiday season, so I don’t attribute the earnings increase entirely to tiered ACRUs).

Anyway, come march, my quality score took a nosedive – down to the $10 tier, and my earnings fell back below what I had been earning before November 08.

The thing that really bothered me about this, is that I had hardly made any changes to my portfolio of EPN sites during that entire period of time. I began making so much money off EPN in the winter of 08, I became complacent and started concentrating on other revenue streams. So my question to ebay would have been –

“If I haven’t added any new EPN sites or made any changes to my existing sites in the entire span of 4 months where I had an excellent quality score, why all of a sudden has my quality score dropped dramatically?”

Unfortunately, there is no way to have that question answered. All I could do is continue working on improving the quality of my traffic and hope for the best.

Luckily, I did eventually bring my QS back up, and everything is back on track. I’ve had more trouble with Google keeping sites indexed than I have had with eBay this summer.

So what does this all mean?

My reason for a long winded story about my experience with the roll out of the tiered ACRU structure is that upon reading the email from eBay this morning, I got the exact same feeling I had when I read their email about the roll out of the new ACRU structure about 8 months ago, or so.

Basically, at first I thought: “Hey, I’m putting out better quality niche sites than ever, this should actually benefit me long term, as I’m one of the affiliates sending quality traffic”.

Then I remembered back to 8 months ago, when I basically had that same thought, and sure, everything was going great for a while… Until eBay pulled the rug out from under me and trashed my QS with no warning whatsoever, and I was left in a really bad position trying to figure out what happened and how to fix it.

So my feeling about this new change is that, it gives eBay the opportunity to keep touting the same line, that people doing the right thing will actually benefit from this…

But the reality is, it gives EPN the ability to completely dictate what they are paying out to affiliates without having to have any kind of transparency whatsoever. So basically they can slap their top affiliates with a 0.03 EPC one day regardless of any of the actual metrics involved, and the affiliates will have no recourse whatsoever. If you’re a Money Blogger using EPN as a primary source of affiliate income, you should definitely be concerned.

So overall, I’m not losing my mind over this, and (optimistically) I don’t think it will effect earnings for most affiliates that much right away. But at the same time, I mainly feel that this is another huge step in the wrong direction for EPN. It started when they moved away from CJ in favor of their own in-house system, and they booted thousands of affiliates with no warning or explanation, then they changed their ACRU structure in a way that allows them to completely dictate ACRU payout with no transparency, and now this, which seems even less transparent sadly.

Bottom line, this is why it’s so important to diversify what you’re doing. I’m dissapointed that this announcement came smack in the middle of my 100 EPN site challenge, but by the same token, I’m happy because the point of this challenge was to create better quality sites that could be monitized by a variety of different affiliate programs. So I’m going to continue right on doing what I’m doing, and if EPN turns to shit in a couple months, I’ll start removing the eBay ads in favor of other programs, and it will be their loss.

Speaking of the 100 EPN site in 30 day challenge, I’m about due for another update. I’ve still just got the first 20 sites up, but they are fully linked up and already bringing in money. I will have at least 20 more done by the end of this week, and I plan to have at least 40 more after that by Thursday of next week, so things are moving right along. So far, so good. Look for an update on that soon.

Edit: One key thing I forgot to mention… I took my EPC from this month to date and multiplied it by the total number of clicks I’ve received this month, and the total was only ~$7 less than what my actual monthly earnings are. This isn’t really that scientific as their EPC algos are going to change, but for a really, really, really rough estimate it’s not bad. There is little doubt that this change is going to dramatically affect anyone trying to make money blogging with EPN.

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