Is It Time To Get Rid Of Commission Junction?

One of the first affiliate programs I joined was Commission Junction. In the early days of this blog, I added some kind of product to the end of every single post. I tried to match it to what I was talking about in the post, but since I can sometimes be all over the place that didn’t always work. Sometimes I added a product, sometimes just an affiliate link, all in the name of trying to make a buck or two off a post here and there.

conj_func
As opposed to this;
who remembers?

Unfortunately, I never made any money off any of those things from the blog. As a matter of fact, though I have made some money through Commission Junction over the years, I’ve never made any of it from any of my blogs; that’s kind of interesting isn’t it? I can’t say it was total ad blindness because when I checked stats I would see clicks on ads, but no conversions; so sad…

But that hasn’t been the worst part. I’ve been paid $150 over the course of 6 years; that’s not good is it? Truthfully, I’ve earned more, but not “made” more. What do I mean by that? Most of the time, even when I could prove a purchase, I wouldn’t get paid. Commission Junction’s policy is that you have to work things out with the advertiser; they don’t get involved unless you can’t get the publisher to respond to you. However, it turns out that’s pretty much a lie as well because they’ll send you an email, ask you to try again, then closes the ticket almost immediately, as if they never got it. What the hey? Reminds me of Tim Bonner’s post about money back guarantees that aren’t.

I’ve done some testing over the years by buying products that I wanted from some of them. I’ve used my computer, my wife’s computer, and my laptop just to see what would happen. The only advertiser that’s ever immediately paid me is 123inkjets. GoDaddy has only paid me when I’ve contacted them with proof of purchase, as they’re who I’ve always recommended to people to buy their domain names from, using my affiliate link of course. I did have one other that paid me, but it took about 3 weeks of back and forth conversations with them; that was a purchase by someone else.

However, the latest trouble I’ve had, with a company called Fansedge, has led me to start thinking about my relationship with them and how positive it HASN’T been. I mean really, I’ve had some advertisers drop me because I wasn’t making enough sales, some not approve me because they didn’t like my website (it’s not always this blog by the way), and frankly it’s a pain because, without notice, Commission Junction has sometimes changed up one of their formats without telling anyone and, of course, I’ve gone in, spent a lot of time creating something, only to find out later that they’d discontinued it and that’s why it didn’t work; sigh…

I've got nothing.
Creative Commons License OUCHcharley via Compfight

Of course you don’t have to take just my work for it. Go look up their name and “not paying me” on Google and you’ll see post after post of complaints by people. One of the other things they’ll do if, after so long a period of time, start taking $10 per month from your balance, as if it’s costing them anything to hold your money; that’s how the federal government makes money off us through taxes by the way, holding onto the excess we (well, most of you anyway) pay to get that yearly refund and making money off the accumulated interest.

Understand this though. If I decide I’m done with Commission Junction, I have a lot of work cut out for me. I have my Services and Stuff page that would have to go through a major overhaul because the overwhelming number of the links on the main page and the banner ads throughout are from them. My other websites have some of their products and banner ads on them as well.

I probably wouldn’t officially drop them; I’d just remove all ads, let the money dwindle away since I’ll never get it anyway, and move on with life. Even though Google Affiliate Network is gone, I still have Linkshare, through whom I’m connected with Barnes & Noble (that’s an affiliate link; I think you could save some money on purchases lol) and, whenever you see me advertising a book, comes through them. They have a lot of advertisers and I could always populate my site tht way.

This leads to the question about affiliate marketing in general; I think I’ll leave that for the next post (a teaser! lol).
 

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Google Affiliate Network Done For

Wow, what a week eh? The mess in Boston, the mess in Texas, the mess in China, the mess in Washington DC… at least no one died in DC but what a horrid week around the world.

gan

With all of that, news that the Google Affiliate Network was shutting down probably slipped through the radar of most people; indeed, this is the first time I thought about talking about it. I remember when I wrote about GAN the first time how I thought that they would be a viable group to challenge Commission Junction, whom I first introduced here in 2008. After all, they were backed up by Google weren’t they? They even had my favorite offline company, Barnes & Noble, as one of their anchors. What could go wrong?

What went wrong? Over all these years, other than a couple of book sales that I believe netted me 50 cents or so total, it just never developed properly. Their formatting was a mess; their homepage was a mess. Some of the companies they got to allow them to advertise were quality, such as Allstate and Motorola, but they didn’t stick around long. Even Barnes & Noble left, going to Linkshare, along with other top companies like Microsoft.

I never got the feeling that Google really knew what to do with this type of thing. For that matter I never quite figured out what to do with most of what they had either. The interface was always kind of difficult to work with. I had many problems finding either banners or products that would fit into what I needed. CJ and Linkshare are both much easier to use when looking for something specific to market.

Of course now I, and thousands of others, have to go through the process of finding all the links going back to GAN and removing them; that’s not going to be pretty. I’m lucky not to have all that stuff on my blogs but I do have other websites; ugh. That’s always the danger of some of these companies though; it happens on the other two sites I’ve mentioned as well. If CJ ever shuts down like this, I’m in real trouble.

Goodbye GAN; a promise that never quite fulfilled anything, like many other things Google has tried, but at least you gave it a shot. Meanwhile, I did a video on this topic with my Hot Blog Tips Hangout gang; you can check this out if you’re interested:


 

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Making Money Is Not Evil

Back in November I tackled the subject of making money in a post titled Are Your Views On Money Holding You Back. I pretty much made it clear that I tend to believe most people hold themselves back because they see rich people, or at least people they view as doing very well, as untrustworthy, and even though they want money themselves they don’t want to be seen in the same light by others.


by 401K via Flickr

Lately there’s been a lot of bashing against people who write these “make money” blogs. Yes, a lot of it is warranted, but not because they’re writing about making money.

The bashing comes because most of the people writing about it aren’t making any money at all. Some of those people might be making some money, but they’re not making a sustainable living wage. If you’re making $20 a month by blogging, you’re certainly not an authority on it. If you’re even making $1,000 a month, that’s actually pretty good but it doesn’t make you an authority on it.

Some years back, one of the topics I used to write about all the time were the affiliate marketing programs I was testing; I tested a lot. With each program I tested, I wrote about it, what I saw, and if I’d made any money off it and how much. Late last summer I started a series on all the programs I’ve tried and talked about the kind of money, or lack thereof, that I made. You can see an example of my talking about these affiliate programs here. In my mind it was the most honest way to talk about these things. I mentioned Commission Junction in that post, saying I love how many things they have and how it offers lots of options for advertising, yet also admitting that I’ve not made a lot of money in, what is now, 4 years.

Making money is NOT evil; how you make it might be. Those that pursue income by lying or being sneaky are evil. Well, that might be a bit strong but go with me here. When I was first learning about selling items online I purchased a book from a site called Rich Jerk. The book was actually pretty good, and its follow up, which was a series of extra chapters, weren’t bad at all either. They have an interesting schtick that I didn’t mind of being rude to customers; I thought it was pretty funny.

Then one day they sent a special link to show us how we could make some easy money online. It took us to a video where this guy showed us a way to make money using Craigslist. What he did was find an image of a cute dog on Google, and used it in an ad on a squeeze page. Then he posted something on Craigslist about the need to give his dog away to someone because he was moving and couldn’t take his dog with him. Within hours he’d had around 25 people send him email asking about the dog. What he did was reply to every person, telling them he’d found someone for his dog, and then talked about the training he did on his dog and sent them a link to his sales site. And he actually ended up making 7 sales from it, since his squeeze page was for a dog training manual.

Some call that effective marketing; I call it smarmy. It’s that kind of thing that keeps the hairs on the back of my neck raised high, wondering if certain things are scams or not. And that’s a horrible way to go around the internet thinking, but it’s also the safest way.

Please, go out and make money. I want everyone to live the life they want to live, which I hope is a happy life. Just do it honestly; trust me, if you don’t, you will eventually get called out on it, and then where will you be?
 

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Why Do I Have So Many Problems With Commission Junction Affiliates?

It must be something with me because I don’t see all that many other people complaining about these things, although I bet they are and I’m just missing them. Once again I’m having an issue with a Commission Junction affiliate that won’t pay me and another affiliate that’s dropping me; sigh…

The one that won’t pay me is called NothingButSoftware, which of course means they’re all about technology. I purchased a LCD projector from them for one of my local organizations, a non-profit, and I should have gotten a very nice commission from them. Instead I’ve gotten nothing. I’ve sent them 5 emails, 3 regular emails and 2 through CJ, but I’ve not heard a thing.

Here’s the other side of this, though. CJ states that the best they can do is contact their affiliates and ask them to respond to their publishers. That’s the response I’ve gotten every single time from them. That and their standard “if we haven’t heard from you in 3 days we’re going to assume the problem has been taken care of.”

What the hey? You know, I’ve had this love/hate thing with CJ. Some of the affiliates they’re hooked up with have been wonderful. I would easily recommend 123inkjets because they usually pay you within hours. I had that one issue with GoDaddy but once they learned about it they took care of me. Once I had an issue with FootballFanatics, a sports apparel company, but once I provided them proof they paid me (well, eventually anyway). But some others, like these NothingButSoftware people and 101Phones (which still shows me as an affiliate even though I yanked them over a year ago) are horrible. I did have a problem with Finish Line as well but that was through Google Affiliate Network.

I can’t be the only one who believes that if a company signs an organization to help push their products that they should establish some standards for how they’re supposed to work with you. I get the impression that each advertiser is running things their own way and CJ is just the puppet intermediary. That’s a shame, and they probably wouldn’t like the association, but I keep getting cheated by their publishers and it’s not fair. And if it’s happening to me consistently then it’s happening to others as well.

I did say I have another affiliate dropping me, right? This time it’s a company called Organize.com, and they’re dropping me because I live in New York, and our state has decided that these companies are supposed to be tracking any commissions I might have and paying taxes on anything I make. And Organize.com has decided I’m not worth it; okay, all New York publishers aren’t worth it.

I have to admit that years ago I didn’t like any of this, and now I’m siding with the companies against the state. Sure, states need money, but what gives them the right to pretty much take money out of my pocket, money that I’d be spending in the state and paying taxes on the stuff I purchase, to try to get funds that, for the most part, I’m not really earning anyway? I can imagine the trouble it must be for some of these web companies to try to track all these different state rules; I’m not mad at them for this. At least they didn’t drop me because supposedly I wasn’t making them sales like Brookstone did. And get this; even PokerStars hasn’t dropped me, although I pretty much can’t do anything with them for now since I can’t advertise to an American audience and thus it pretty much kills what I can do with them.

Affiliate marketing isn’t supposed to be this difficult. You make a sale, you get paid, you move on. This type of thing keeps coming up, not having affiliates pay you, and then it destroys the confidence we have in the process. It’s no wonder we’re always writing and worrying about scams.

Except this isn’t a scam; it’s just bad business practices.

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I Know Nothing About Affiliate Marketing

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about affiliate marketing, something I’ve been a part of for at least 5 years by now, and wondering “what the heck am I doing wrong?” I’ve made few affiliate sales over the years, but at least I can say I’ve made some. I guess that puts me ahead of a few people, but so many others are really rocking the industry. Then, after yesterday’s escapade and thinking about it some more, I realized one very interesting fact; I know nothing about affiliate marketing!


Going Crazy
by Frédéric Dupont

That’s a very disconcerting thing to come to, and though it’s probably over the top, especially since I once wrote an article on how affiliate marketing works, truth be told I’ve been looking for answers for a long time. I’ve read a lot of stuff; I even put together a post where folks could download free ebooks on the subject.

Last night on Zac Johnson’s site, as he was talking about another affiliate marketing program, I left a comment saying that it was nice for him to profile, but I wondered how he did things, even though I had read his book Six Figure Affiliate Blogging and even wrote a review on it. No answer yet, but he’s probably still asleep since I wrote it around 2AM.

You know what the problem is? Well, it’s actually twofold. One, I’m not innovative when it comes to marketing in the first place. It’s never been my strong suit, even though I’ve been working independently for almost 10 years now. I’m okay at networking, which has saved my behind over all these years, but marketing; nope. Two, with all the books and such that I’ve read over all these years, information I’ve eaten up and memorized and understood, I’ve never picked up that one big nugget that I’ve really been looking for, and that’s the first 3 steps of it all. And no, I don’t need to read “create a product” or “set up an autoresponder” or “capture emails for lists” again; none of that tells me a thing. I once asked Willie Crawford this question and he said he’d think about it and get back to me on it; didn’t happen, unfortunately.

I belong to Commission Junction as one of my affiliate programs, as you know. I used to pop one of their products or banner ads into every post up until the new year began. At least half of the time the product or banner ad had something to do with the topic of the day. Obviously just showing something that no one was interested in on that day didn’t work, as I rarely made sales from doing all that work, though I did get a few clicks here and there. My question was what the heck was I really supposed to do when I either selected a product or a banner ad from one of these advertisers; that’s the step I’ve never really gotten.

At least I did get one question answered a few days ago on Lisa Irby’s blog, where she had a post, along with a video, titled Why Some Blogs Don’t Perform Will Affiliate Marketing. It wasn’t in the video, which was still neat to watch, but in her response to the comment I made on the blog. I said it sounded expensive to do what she did, having to buy a lot of domain names, and after a back and forth she said she doesn’t buy a bunch of domains, but drives people to an existing site where she markets her items.

That was an aha moment for me because she’s the first person to ever say that from all that I’ve read. It takes a load off my mind to know that I don’t have to do like some of these big time marketers, create a product, buy a new domain name and push it like crazy. Whew! At least stage one is set; I’ve finally learned something useful, so thanks Lisa. That one nugget gave me other things to think about, and really that’s what it’s all about. I now have a better idea for what I could be doing.

In 2009 I wrote a post called Let’s Learn Affiliate Marketing Together; seems we still need to learn that lesson.

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