Last updated on February 19th, 2020
If you’ve used eBay’s EPN program for any amount of time, you’ve probably stared at a “Rover” link thinking “What the hell does all of this mean?” – If you have, you’re not alone. Here we’re going to look at what each component of Ebay’s affiliate links translate to – Including what’s crucial and what’s theoretically fluff. Plus, we’ll also see how to create or edit eBay EPN Partner Links manually, in case you ever want to roll your own.
One thing I like about the Amazon Associates Affiliate Program is that creating a link manually is pretty easy – just slap a query string with your tag at end of almost any URL. They even provide a tool where you can paste the link in to easily check if it works. With eBay it’s not so simple. Not only are eBay’s links much more bloated, but the affiliate link will vary depending on what tool you use. Nonetheless, it’s worth understanding what each piece of the link does, and what you can safely do away with. Especially if you ever need to mass-change the campaign ID on your site.
EPN Tracking URL Parameters
Thankfully, eBay provides a pretty nifty page detailing the meaning behind each piece of the link that the Link Generator tool outputs. You can see it here:
Just in case that page ever disappears, I’ll repeat the important part below. Plus I’m going to color-code it to make it infinitely easier to understand. The following is a sample eBay EPN Partner Affiliate link produced by the Link Generator tool:
Ebay EPN Affiliate Link Components
- 711-53200-19255-0 – This parameter is the Rotation ID. It indicates that this link is for the eBay US program. There are different values for other eBay programs, such as eBay UK, eBay DE, etc.
- 1?icep_ff3=2 – This is Geographic Parameter. It represents which of Ebay’s geographical sites the link points at (eBay US, eBay UK…). The value changes depending on the type of link generated, as well as the tool that produced it.
- pub=5575307250 – Your unique publisher ID goes here. It’s the ID used for tracking and reporting. Allegedly it isn’t indispensable for the link to affiliate correctly.
- toolid=10001 – This indicates the tool ID for the utility that generated the link. That means things like SmartShare, the Bookmarklet, and others. There are different ID numbers for the other tools. Tracking this information enables you to see per-tool performance in the reports section.
- campid=5338249215 – This is the unique Campaign ID from your account. Arguably this is the most important component in the URL, as it’s what tags the link to you. Every EPN link has to have an associated Campaign number to work.
- customid= – If you were using a Custom ID, this is where it goes.
- icep_item=132085031455&ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lg – Last but not least, here we finally find the part of the link which actually says where the URL is pointing to on eBay. It will often look odd as the URL is encoded. That’s because the server wouldn’t necessarily understand the URL if it had components like an ‘https://’ at the beginning as well as somewhere in the middle.
While I’m guessing that was helpful, it’s anything but a straight-forward way to construct affiliate links from a human’s point of view.
Extra info – Query Strings
In a URL, everything after the first ‘?’ is known as a Query String. Technically, it’s not really part of a page’s URL. Rather, it’s generally used for other purposes such as tracking, conveying information, modifying the on-page content, etc.
Each value between the first ‘?’ and each successive ‘&’ is known as a ‘Parameter’. For example, your Campaign ID is one parameter. The Tool ID is another. There is no hard limit to how many there can be, and they don’t generally need to be in a specific order.
As if the previous URL wasn’t tedious enough, depending on the tool you use to create it, the syntax changes. For example, see the following eBay EPN link examples with the affiliate parameters in green:
Ebay’s Bookmarket Tool
Ebay’s SmartShare Extension
One salient point is that SmartShare’s links are shorter, but more complicated. The SmartShare links has affiliate parameters both in front and behind the destination URL. Using this method to manually create affiliate links isn’t very practical. You can’t simply copy and paste a single snippet to achieve it – you’d need both the front and rear portions.
While the Bookmarket links are a tad bit longer, all the affiliate parameters are in front of the link. In theory, you could paste the prefix above (bolded in green) to any eBay page to manually affiliate it. However, depending on eBay’s servers, it may or may not understand the destination URL if it is not properly encoded.
Tip – Use a text comparison tool
If you want to play around with eBay’s EPN affiliate link creation tools to see what changes in the input produce what changes in the output, use a text comparison tool. The tool highlights only the parts that have changed. That makes understanding the URLs eBay’s tools spit out much easier.
Minimum needed to manually create an eBay Affiliate Link
The minimum need to manually create a short working EPN link seems to be as follows:
- https://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/ – Default link portion. This is the same for any eBay affiliate link.
- 711-53200-19255-0 – Geographic parameter. Creating a test link with any of eBay’s tools you can easily find the one you need.
- /1?mpre= – Prefix to the destination eBay link. This is also the same for any link.
- https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fitm%2F132085031455 – Destination URL – The product/page/listing you are linking to. The link is in encoded form, which translates the URL to remove any problematic characters that servers might not understand.
- &campid=5338249215 – Campaign ID – The most important part! It’s the only number that needs changing if you need to modify the “ID” of an affiliate link.
- &toolid=20008 – Tool ID – It shouldn’t be necessary, but it’s often recommended. I’m not sure if omitting it might bug eBay’s tracking servers. Or even better, perhaps one could just make up their own in-house ‘toolid’ value.
Keep in mind that this isn’t really a hack – eBay used to provide instructions on how to do this for developers. Regrettably they removed that information sometime prior to 2017, as far as I’m aware.
Even this is more complicated than intrinsically necessary. If eBay wanted to, they could realistically leave the eBay destination URL at the front and only require adding the Campaign ID as a query parameter. Everything else is mostly for analytics or not completely essential redirections.
The only thing an eBay URL actually needs to correctly reach the correct listing is the eBay Item Number. While having the item name in the URL makes it slightly more user-friendly, it isn’t required. For example, the following two links lead to exactly the same listing:
You can safely trim away the listing name (in bold) if you want to shorten any given eBay EPN affiliate link. Or, if you want to make your links even shorter, use a Link Shortener.
Comparison – Manually creating Amazon Associates Affiliate Links
For comparison’s sake, check out how easy it is to manually create an affiliated Amazon link, with the important part in bold.
That single little suffix is all you need to add. Someday I wish eBay would implement something similar. Via this method, it’s a lot easier to understand and check your links. No to mention manually creating links while on any item listing without the need of a tool – I simply have my tag saved as a custom button on my mouse.
Site-wide change of the Campaign ID on your WordPress site
If you’ve moved your WordPress site from one domain to another, you might need to update the Campaign ID for every link on your website – Just so the tracking in your backend makes sense. One way to do so is to use a plugin such as Better Search Replace.
For example, if your old campaign ID is 5338249215, and your new one is 7328842814, create a Search for ‘&campid=5338249215’ setting the replace value to ‘&campid=7328842814’. The rest of the URL should stay constant. Definitely back up your database before ever using such a powerful tool, of course.
Tip – Don’t know where to find the ID number that corresponds to each of your eBay EPN campaigns? You can find them at epn.ebay.com/campaigns.
What eBay EPN should improve
I’m sure their engineers would disagree, but oh well. With regard to their links, there are a few things users like me would like to see improved in order to use them more:
- Bring back the “Link Validator” tool – If Amazon provides it, why can’t eBay? Heck, eBay released one in 2008, but they discontinued it! Often there are good reasons to make minor tweaks to an affiliate link. Examples are shortening links, reusing URLs or needing to change Campaign IDs. Having somewhere to check them just in case would provide a lot of peace of mind.
- Ditch the “rover” sub-domain – Ebay.com has brand recognition. Rover does not. Rover’s huge unintelligible links do not inspire confidence when it comes to clicking them. I don’t really see the advantage.
- Easily allow affiliation by pasting a query string – While it doesn’t have to be the default method eBay’s tools uses, it’s nice to have. Many users would like the ability to create a properly functioning affiliate link by simply pasting their formatted campaign ID at the end of the link. The analytics provided by the rest of query strings are nice, but often superfluous. Of course, for wide-spread use of this method, there’d have to be a link checker tool to make sure your link works.
Disclaimer – Use the info here at your own risk
Knowing eBay, they might change how they process their links at any moment. As such, nobody but eBay can guarantee anything will work forever. Use your own judgement and edit links under your own responsibility.
Nonetheless, eBay knows that their affiliates would crucify them if they “broke” any previously working links. All these methods are variations of what eBay’s tools themselves output, so the risk is small. There are hundreds of thousands of links out there currently using these methods. Whatever you do, test any links on the small-scale before implementing them sitewide.
Though creating manual eBay Partner Network links is indeed possible, it isn’t all that efficient or trustworthy. Automating it is certainly viable, but quickly tagging them yourself is not. I really hope that eBay makes their URLs more human-friendly going forward – Especially if they want their affiliate partners to choose them over the Amazonian elephant in the room. Personally, for the moment I think I’m going to mostly stick to using eBay’s Bookmarklet tool for eBay affiliate links.
Anyway, thanks for reading. I hope it was helpful! If you have any questions, leave ’em down below. Also, if eBay changes any of this and someone notices before I do, definitely let us know. Have a good one!