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 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.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Mitch Mitchell

How Influential Are You Online?

On Twitter yesterday, one of the folks I followed asked who they thought were the most influential Syracuse social media people. There were a few names bandied about, but I have to admit that somewhere along the way I was hoping that someone would mention me. However, it wasn’t meant to be, and as disappointing as that was, it seems to follow an interesting pattern.

We as bloggers spend our time writing our posts, hoping to drive visitors to our sites to read what we have to say and see what we have to show. Some of us hope to make a dollar or two here and there, if not necessarily through the blog itself, then by doing speaking engagements, workshops and the like, or having someone see what we write about and decide to pay us for it. However, to get all of that, it takes influence, because that’s what’s going to determine just how many people are going to come see what it is you do.

What I’ve noticed is that I’m more influential outside of my home area than within it. Though I’ve lived in this area for 35 years, I find that I’m kind of the great unknown. Now, a part of that is my fault because I don’t get out all that much anymore, and in the days when I did get out, there was no internet. It’s hard becoming a local cause célèbre, if you will, at age 50. Indeed, the local net community in general probably didn’t even know I existed until I went to my first tweetup last year. Oh, I had a local client here and there, but all because I participated in this consulting group; any local work I’ve done has come through them.

Just to spread this even further, most of my consulting assignments in my main profession have also been out of town. Do local facilities need the types of services I provide as much as out of town facilities? Yes. Do they even look at me? No, I’m pretty much ignored, even at health care networking meetings (I finally decided to drop out after being a member for 15 years), though I do still market to them from time to time. Not memorable enough? Me?!?!?

Back on the 22nd, I did my first workshop on social media marketing in central New York. It’s actually the first time I’ve given a presentation in this area that I’ve been paid for, and I’ve given enough presentations. Goodness, I’ve been in the local newspaper, local business newspaper, once on local radio (I don’t count seeing myself in the background on the local news, though I did laugh), and it seems no one really knows who I am around here; that’s a shame.

Of course, I kind of see it as my fault. One of the things about social media marketing is that when you do it, unless you’ve finitely targeted yourself to your local area, your message tends to spread everywhere, and let’s face the fact that there’s a lot more people “everywhere” than at home. The most consistent comments I get on this blog or any of my other blogs come from people “elsewhere”. The people who have bought products I’ve created are from “elsewhere” (well, I did have one guy I knew who bought one of my products, but he’s the only one). Any web work that didn’t come from my consulting group, or writing work, that I’ve gotten have come from “elsewhere”. Goodness, the article I wrote about one of our tweetups, where I mentioned about 30 names, only got 2 comments, luckily from local people, though I know a few more did see it at least.

Ah, I know what you’re asking; what about the topic about influence online? In that fashion, we at least have some tools we can look at. For instance, I’m sitting at an Alexa rank of 112,591 for this blog. My main business site is around 392,000, my other site is around 1.3 million. For my main search terms on my main business, I come up in the top ten, if not at #1. For my other business, I’m in the top 40 for half of the terms, but if Yahoo was the main search engine I could actually claim a bunch of top 10 slots; I’m going to figure that out one day. For my main business site, it’s linked to more than 3,000 other websites, and my other business site almost 3,000; for this blog, more than 14,000 links elsewhere. As a point of comparison, I popped in some other domain names, and I don’t see anyone else linked to that many sites that I know.

So, in a weird way, it begs the question what is influence anyway, and how does one use it? I think I’ll tackle that one next week. But I’ll ask this question again; how influential are you online?

Ultimate World War II DVD Collection

Ultimate World War II DVD Collection

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Mitch Mitchell

Figuring Out Who You Can Trust

My wife has this obsession with our roof. The problem first came to fruition during the worst rain storm the Syracuse area had in decades in 2002, when the entire area flooded. Our house was no different, and the roof didn’t handle things all that well; neither did the basement for that matter.

The issue with us was that when we bought the house, the realtor had recommended someone to do our roof for us, and we paid these guys $3,500. We had no idea what they did until later, and even now I’m not really sure what any of it means. This is the first real house I’ve ever lived in, so you can bet I’m not technically savvy.

We had to contact the attorney general to find this guy the first time, and he came back, did some kind of patch job, and fixed the ceiling in the master bedroom, doing a lousy job. A couple of years later we had another storm, not as bad as the first one, and it exposed a couple more spots, but by this time the guy and his partner was long gone. My wife took out a loan, we had some minor stuff done, and no more leaks in the house.

But we still have roof issues. She brought in one guy who did some roof work, but not the type of work I was expecting, and we probably paid him close to $8,000. We paid another guy $10,000, thinking he would take care of us because we knew him, and he did good work; only his work only covered one section of the house, which was about a quarter of the entire house. Nope, didn’t see that coming.

Over the past two years, we’ve had a bunch of people come to the house to give us estimates on what it might cost to get our roof taken care of. Last January, a guy came to the house to do some other work, took a look at the roof, and quoted us $18,000. Last summer another guy came with his wife, spent 3 hours with my wife (I didn’t want to be a part of it), and quoted a price of $29,500; we’re not quite that foolish anymore. We’ve had other people come by and never heard from them again; not a phone call, email regular letter, nothing; what the hey?

Last week we had two more guys come by to give us estimates. One guy said we needed so much work that he recommended a contractor to farm the job out to; that didn’t sound good. The second guy… well, maybe. He did his review, then came into the house, and I finally went out to sit in on the conversation. To be truthful, I’d never sat in on any of the other conversations because I always had a bad feeling about the people coming in to do the work, even the guy I knew.

His price; $8,800. He used a lot of terms I didn’t know, but my wife knew. Then he gave me a pamphlet which explained all the terms he was using; that was good. He said his company would guarantee the work for 30 years; that was nice. I asked him about the look of our roof, as it has a couple of places where it looks like it dips, and he said that had nothing to do with leakage and that it was common, and if that was a big deal then it would require a full reconstruction, which would get as high as $25,000, but that it wasn’t needed; I liked that answer also, and my wife said it was the first time anyone had ever said that.

Now, here’s the deal. At the end of the day, I still had to ask myself if I trusted him. With the wide array of prices, does the 30 year guarantee make one more trustworthy than the others? I can’t even say if the company is well known or not; I don’t know any roofing companies to say if they’ve been around a long time (okay, I know one, but I also know that one company is fairly steep, since they did the guy’s roof across the street, and they had to fix it 3 times before they got it right).

It’s the question I ask myself in wondering why I don’t have more sales on some of my other pages, or even here. Heck, my workshop next week doesn’t have as many people coming as I’d have liked, and I wonder if it’s a matter of trust, recognition, or just that people aren’t as interested in the topics as they seemed to indicate when we did our survey. I wonder if most of us don’t ask that question enough when we’re marketing to the masses. In today’s online world, where each of us has lots of people we’re competing with in some fashion, is there a way we can find to show that we’re trustworthy enough so that we might make more online sales?

Something to think about as you get on with your day.

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