My End With Commission Junction – B&N And Franklin Covey’s Fault

I should have known this day was coming. I initially talked about it in 2011 when I wondered why I have so many problems with Commission Junction, an affiliate program I’d signed up with a few years earlier and actually loved to use for a long period at the time…until I started having problems getting paid. I then waited another almost 3 years before I asked is it time to get rid of Commission Junction, after a few more incidents that were, frankly, starting to get on my last nerve, once again not getting paid and having affiliates dropping me for, of all things, not making sales for them even while I was promoting them.

avoid affiliate scams
Creative Commons License Wes Schaeffer via Compfight

The final straw for me has been two separate incidents that have happened within the last month or so, and frankly, it’s making me wonder about affiliate marketing across the board. I don’t know anything about Amazon as an affiliate program, but it seems like it might be the only one that can be trusted since they’re running their own system. We’ll see about that later on; for now, let me tell my tales.

The first one involves Franklin Covey. I’ve always been a fan of their planners, having owned one type or another since 2005. Over the last few years, instead of going to Staples to buy one, I started buying them through my affiliate program, which was always allowed under Commission Junction’s rules previously. I only made a small percentage off buying from myself, but I bought planners for both my wife and I at close to $90.

I did the same thing this year… only I didn’t get paid for it. When I reached out to the Franklin Covey affiliate program, the person told me I wasn’t eligible to get paid for using my own program. I wrote back saying that was never the policy before, and it wasn’t anywhere on the Commission Junction page that I could find. She never wrote back, and that irked me so I went into the system, closed my Covey account, and went to my websites to remove any reference to them.

The next story involved Barnes and Noble. I’ve loved this bookstore since I discovered it in the 90’s, and I’ve bought almost all my books through them. I’ve purchased 4 Nook products for myself, 2 for my wife and one for my mother. I’ve been a B&N member for at least 10 years, maybe longer, and I’ve always supported them in every way I could.

Many years ago I learned that they had an affiliate program through something that used to be called the Google Affiliate Network. I signed up and was approved and started promoting books I reviewed through their affiliate program. I didn’t make a lot of money but no one could say I didn’t try. At some point they moved to Linkshare, which later became Rakuten, and I went over there, signed up, and kept promoting both books and DVDs through them. I never had to buy anything using their program because, as a member I would take my 10% discount and be happy with it, and of course I’d always already read the books or watched the DVDs before promoting them.

bad affiliate programs
feel like I’ve been clowned…

At some point last year, it seems B&N had moved their affiliate program to Commission Junction… without notice. On a fluke, there was a book I recently wanted to promote, so I went to Rakuten… and no B&N! Research told me they’d moved, and I was irked because that meant all my book links had been bad for a long time.

Still… it was B&N, and my love affair with them said “okay, let’s just sign up with the affiliate program there and move on with life.” Hey, if I had to update all my links for all my sites then I was ready to do it. After all, I had a link on one of my other sites to lots of books, most through affiliates, and I figured it would be a relative easy switch.

Only… B&N rejected me. And without any reason… or notification. We used to get email notifications when affiliate programs declined us; not anymore it seems. I’m not sure if it’s B&N’s fault or CJ’s fault that I was informed, but that’s not the real issue here. My issue is that without knowing why I was rejected I have no way of deciding whether or not I agree with it or not; I can’t even appeal.

And… truthfully, I didn’t want to appeal. If you know anything about me, my number one morality and ethics point is “loyalty”. I’ve been loyal to these folks for all these years, even while their model and products have been failing. Frankly, I can get books less at Amazon, and I can get movies for much less at both Target and Walmart. The only thing I can’t get anywhere but B&N is their cookie… and now I’ll never get that again either.

To this end, I canceled my Commission Junction account last Thursday. When you don’t make a sale in 3 months or so they start feeding off anything you’ve earned. Because I’ve had so many of my sales not counted (even when other people have made purchases) and CJ says it’s not their problem, and affiliates don’t always answer, my account was down around $14 anyway; sigh. They wrote me on Friday as I was leaving town saying they’d closed my account and would send me a check; I guess I’ll be getting pizza whenever it shows up.

I’m not getting rid of my Nooks, but I’ll never buy another one. As much as I’ve enjoyed having them, these days I can’t even download most of the digital movies I have to the SD card because the movie apps (except Flixster Movies) say they don’t support the Nook, even though they also say they support Android and the latest Nooks are Android.

I’m ending my membership with B&N, and I’m canceling the magazine subscriptions I have with them. I’m unsubscribing from the newsletter, and as much as I can I plan on never setting foot inside one again.

are affiliate programs a mess?
What to do…

As for the Franklin Planner… well, I have a love/hate relationship with that. I love having it but I hate using it; how goofy is that? I’ll have to think about whether or not I’m irked enough to stop using it entirely, go to another planner, or set up a totally different system that would do the same things the planner does, only electronically (which I partially use now anyway).

With that said… this also now means a lot of work for me, and this is the thing to warn everyone else about that uses affiliate marketing plans. One of the things I’ve been doing since I worked on my mobile speed issues is going back through old posts of mine that I’ve been internally linking to, cleaning them up and removing old code. I’ve also gone back to the earliest of my posts to see if I need to either remove old code or make the posts private if they serve no relevance anymore.

What I’m now going to have to do is go through this blog, 3 of my other blogs, and my Services and Stuff website and remove lots of code all over the place. I’ve already removed the link to books that I had on this site and I won’t be putting it back until I remove all the books I had on there that were linking to B&N wherever they might be. I also have to now speed up going to my business blog and removing all book codes to old newsletters that I’d left on the site even though I’d stopped writing new ones in 2013.

Ugh! All of this is going to take a lot of time, which I really don’t have, yet I also know that cleaning up old, bad code is essential to helping my rankings continue to climb.

This is why it’s better to create and then market your own products. No matter what else happens, you own your own stuff and if you have buyers you’ll get to benefit from those sales without having to give anything to the middle person. Then again, I need to think about re-pricing some of my stuff; at least that’ll be an easy fix.

That’s my story. How have the rest of you been dealing with affiliate marketing programs over the years? Also, for those of you using Amazon, please clue me in as to whether it’s worth bothering to take a look at it or not.
 

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Affiliate Programs I’m Connected With – Part Six, The Finale

Here we are at the end of this particular journey. Just so you know, there have been other programs I’ve been a part of that have either gone away or just aren’t worth mentioning for one reason or another. There could have been another 6 I might have talked about if I wanted to go in a different direction, but I don’t. Anyway, here’s the recap links first before we move on: part one, part two, part three, part four and part five.

Paul Myers’ Talkbiz News is a internet marketing newsletter I’ve been reading for years. I love reading it, and some of his articles have really made an impact on my thinking, including tone that’s a part of the image on this post. Two years ago he came up with an affiliate program to market both his newsletter and many products he’s created, and I signed up immediately.

To date I’ve made no money on it, but that’s probably more my problem than his. I’ve talked about the newsletter often enough, but not talked about his products all that much. He’s been around for a good while, though, and he’s not one of those guys that just pounds you with newsletters if he doesn’t have something to say.

Being In Heaven is a motivational movie that talks about the Laws of Attraction in kind of a different way. I actually wrote a review about it earlier this year. Obviously I signed up for the program before buying the movie since it hadn’t been released yet, but I received one of the earliest copies. I’ve sold 2 movies through their affiliate program, one of those purchases being mine (that’s one of the beauties of being with affiliate programs; you’re allowed to buy from yourself and thus make money while you’re spending money), as I was running their banner ad on a sidebar of this blog for awhile. The best thing about them is there’s no minimum for receiving your payment; if you make a sale, you get paid for it the next money, and it’s a 40% commission.

The final affiliate program to talk about isn’t quite an affiliate program, but since you can potentially make money from it I’m counting it. I wrote a post in April about making your blog available for Kindle. If you look to the right you’ll see my little advertisement for it. If people subscribe to your blog you earn money. I wondered whether anyone would subscribe to read a blog through their Kindle, since I don’t have one, but signed up this blog and my business blog anyway. And someone has subscribed to my business blog, last month it seems, and thus I made a whopping 30 cents. That’s not much, but I felt honored that someone would think enough about any of my blogs to pay to read them. I got the idea from Allan Douglas, so I thank him for it and hope he’s made money from it as well.

And there you are, all the affiliate programs I’ve tried, reviewed, and have now put in one place. I may turn this into a page since it actually ends up being a series so others can see them all at once, although they can just read this post and follow all the links that way. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and even if you haven’t, I bet you’d still have to say you haven’t seen anyone else write something like this. 🙂
 

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Affiliate Programs I’m Connected With – Part Five

Man, how long will this go on? Until I’m done, that’s how long. 🙂 So let’s recap quickly by giving you the links to previous posts on the subject: part one, part two, part three and part four. Onward and upward to part five.


Mailwasher Pro
Mailwasher Pro

Mailwasher is an actual program I use on my computer and one that I think is very powerful protection. Basically what it does is lets you view all your email while still sitting on the server. You can eliminate spam at that point or any other email you don’t want to download, then only download email you know is safe and what you want. Sure, every once in awhile timing will let one come through, but it’s really rare.

They have an affiliate program and so date I’ve been credited with 3 sales worth around $19, with one of those sales coming this week. If you follow the link you’ll see that the ads look kind of funny, but it was proof that if you write about something you like that you have the opportunity to make money from it, even if it’s not a ton of money. I have to say that I believe Mailwasher is one of my most valuable programs.

Pokerstars is the site where I was playing all my online poker, and of course that means they also had an affiliate program. I never really got to advertise this one all that much because, of course, online poker is illegal here in the states, and even when I signed up for it the sucker was illegal, though many people played on the site. Then the government started shutting things down for American players and that was pretty much that. I made no money off it, as I don’t think I have a lot of people visiting this blog that play poker, and basically, until the government relents and let’s people play online again, for money, I don’t think I’ll have enough people from other countries signing up through me.

SEO Book is a website that offers tools to help figure out how to make your website work better, gives some internet marketing training and other good stuff. I run one of their SEO programs through my browser, and back when I wanted to learn about affiliate marketing I purchased their ebook, which was pretty good. They offer an affiliate program for selling some of their products and they give you $20 to sign up. And for each sale you make you earn $50; that’s not bad.

Unfortunately, I’ve never made a sale, and I have to admit that I haven’t really pushed it all that much. I did have the book up on a sidebar for awhile, then they went through some changes and shut down the program for a short while and I removed it and never put it back. One of these days I need to get it back up somewhere because I believe in what I saw and it’s possible it can be used to help others and make some money along the way.

I’m stopping here as I only have 3 more to go, and that leaves me one more post, although it may end up being the shortest of the series.
 

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Affiliate Programs I’m Connected With – Part Four

The best part of writing a series like this is that you have built in links to previous posts that you can take advantage of, and that others can go back to see what they might have missed. So, here’s part one, part two and part three, and now we push on to part four.


by Debbie Kerr via Imagekind

Share-a-Sale is a program like Commission Junction, Google Affiliate Network and Linkshare in that they have multiple online programs you can advertise for. The main reason I joined was because I wanted to be able to highlight images like the one on this blog through the Imagekind site.

I thought I might make some money from it, but it just hasn’t ever happened. I’ve only ever signed up with a couple other programs there, but I have to admit that other than the images I haven’t really worked hard to market any of the others. So, no dollars, and just a few clicks over the years.

Chitika is a pay-per-click program like Adsense that offers ads that kind of look like Adsense. Something else they offer you is the opportunity to have them set up to only show to people who come to your site via search engines, where if people click on those ads you earn more money, but you supposedly won’t upset your normal visitors by seeing those ads.

I have made $6.16 through 3 years with the program. I finally discontinued using it because it just seemed like it wasn’t going to get the job done. I had it on 3 different websites over the years, and that’s all I’ve made; not impressive is it? I still have it on one of my websites, and in the last 30 days I made a penny; sigh…

Bidvertiser is also a pay per click program with ads that look like Adsense. As you’re noticing, there are programs that mimic the look of Adsense if you’re ever banned, and it’s possible that you might be able to make some money from it if you set it up that way. If I thought those ads would work on this blog, where I did run it once, I’d have it up since Google banned Adsense from it. However, over the years I’ve only made 85 cents total, and I’m presently running it on my finance blog.

The final program I’m going to talk about today is much different than the others. Voxant Newsroom is basically a video of whatever type of news stories you want to show on your blog or website. If someone clicks on it to watch the video, you earn money. I had thought this would be a great addition to my finance blog so I ran it there for about 6 months. I made 3 cents, and that was that. However, I want you to see what it looks like, so I created a news feed below, which is local Syracuse NY news from one of our local stations.

It’s possible that if it’s put in the right place you might be able to make some money from it. Though I haven’t used this in a very long time, it’s possible that I might add it to one of my other sites, even this one, one day.
 

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Affiliate Programs I’m Connected With – Part Two

Obviously if this is part two, then there was a part one, which I hope you check out. Last time I mentioned 3 affiliate programs I’m a part of; here are some more. And, just to remind you, the links are to articles on this blog and not to the sites themselves, but there are links to those sites on some of those other articles.

Commission Junction is probably the second best known affiliate program I use, but it’s also been the diciest. I can’t say I’ve had great success with it, but it’s given me some of the best options for finding products and links to market to date. If you notice at the top there I have banner ads, and those are from CJ, as I call them sometimes. They rotate, so if you go to a page more than once you’ll see different ads, up to 5.

The best thing about them isn’t the fact that they have lots of different sizes and literally a couple thousand affiliates. The best thing about them is that they allow you to pop up specific products, with a template that’s formatted along with a “buy” button, which I kind of stole as the template for my books there to the left. The first three years of this blog had me adding a product or link of some kind at the end of every post, but I gave that up at the beginning of the year. Sometimes I pop a product in where my image resides. I use products on some of my other websites instead now.

I can say I’ve made money, but it’s been kind of iffy. I’ve talked about the problems I’ve had with some Commission Junction affiliates, which is irritating because I deserve to be paid. They don’t always support the publishers, which is us, and that’s depressing. But I have made some money here and there, to the tune of probably $400 over 3 1/2 years. Not great if you ask me, but more than some other affiliates. I’ve actually made more, but I’m not counting those affiliates that haven’t paid me.

Google Affiliate Network is Google’s version of CJ, with fewer advertisers but they’re getting bigger. Over the years I’ve made some sales, but not tons. That’s probably my fault as I haven’t used them as much as CJ except for Barnes & Noble, who just recently left them. The best thing about GAN, as I sometimes refer to them, is that if you have Adsense money and make sales with this program, it counts towards your monetary total, and thus you get to your thresholds for getting paid quicker.

The bad thing about Google Affiliate Network is that, like CJ, they don’t support the publishers. Instead, they tell you that you have to work directly with the companies, which failed me when Finish Line refused to pay me my commission, then dropped me because they said I didn’t make enough sales. This seems to be a major failing with some of these affiliate networks; they put a lot of affiliates together, but can’t make any of them treat you right. I’ve probably only made $200 in total over a 4-year period, most of that from the sale of books and DVDs.

The final affiliate network I’m going to mention is Linkshare. They’re like the other two networks I’ve already mentioned, the newest one, and they’re starting to add more companies to the mix. They’re the company that Barnes & Noble just moved to, and one of my other former affiliates also moved to. That might mean that Linkshare is the up and coming affiliate network for everyone, or that the terms are better for these companies.

The problem here is that I’ve yet to see a single sale from any of my affiliates, although once again I have to say I think this is probably my fault. Initially I only belonged to 5 programs and haven’t marketed them all that often, and now I’m only up to 9 programs. However, with the move of B&N and the fact that I like mentioning books and movies and thus putting links into some of my posts (in case y’all don’t remember, if you see a blue link that’s an affiliate link of some kind), and I do tend to sell some books and DVDs here and there, I hope that I’ll start making a sale or two over there. Because I haven’t made any sales I can’t say how well they pay.

Something you have to know for all of these is that the companies you link to will kill those links without your knowledge and, unless you’re always checking your old blog pages or your websites, you’ll have no idea unless someone notices one of your pages looking weird and contacts you about it. That’s kind of depressing, as I’ve seen many things go missing from older pages, but there’s really nothing you can do about that.

Three more down, and lots more to come.
 

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