I recently started an affiliate website in order to understand how I could build the most awesome affiliate system in the world. My new membership site, Hardworking Millionaire, will be sold mostly by affiliates, so a key step before I opened the site was to become an affiliate of something. I needed to know features to look for if I decided to sell Hardworking Millionaire subscriptions through an affiliate marketplace.
After reading Steven Wagenheim’s Honest Income Program ebook, I signed up for ClickBank. ClickBank is essentially a marketplace for ebook authors and companies to advertise their products. It means you as a publisher don’t have to set up complicated affiliate referral scripts and manage billing of your product — it does it all for you and sends you checks in the mail, minus a small percentage cut.
While I certainly understand the draw of ClickBank to product sellers, it leaves a significant amount to be desired on the affiliate end. As an affiliate, I am seriously frustrated by it. As a product seller, it may be better — I don’t know; I haven’t sold any products on ClickBank — but I still wouldn’t use or recommend it based on my experience as an affiliate.
Let’s run down five reasons ClickBank stinks for affiliates:
- The big reason: I can’t track what happens after the person clicks off my site! I can track how many people click through to the publisher’s site, but I can’t track what happens after that. Do they download the software? The software I am promoting has a free trial period. Does the publisher send them a follow-up email after their trial has expired? How many people have I sent to their site who actually downloaded the software? I have no idea. That makes tracking conversions nearly impossible.
- Another huge one: I can’t “deep link” directly to the download page, FAQ, testimonials, etc. The ClickBank link goes to the software’s home page, which looks like any software’s home page would. It lists features and a few testimonials, but it doesn’t have strong sales copy. Since I wrote strong sales copy, I would prefer to link directly to the download page. But I can’t do that — I have to link to the home page and hope that the person finds the download link, clicks it, etc. I know as a marketer that every click someone has to take decreases my chance of a sale. This, along with my #1 “big reason”, makes sales a lot more difficult.
- There is no way for me to communicate directly with the publisher. Another almost deal-breaker for me. Every publisher should have a special communication method set up for their affiliates. At the very least, this would be an email address where I can ask questions. Even better: an entire affiliate FAQ with a supportive mailing list, text that converts well, graphics, etc. It’s a damn shame that ClickBank doesn’t allow for this. Believe me, after being bothered by this, I’ve made it a top priority to set up an affiliate section and separate email access for Hardworking Millionaire’s affiliates.
- I have to be paid by 5 different people to receive a check. This one is just plain weird. You have to make 5 different sales, with 1 being Visa and 1 being Mastercard, before you can get paid as an affiliate. So much for being a “small” affiliate and just using ClickBank to process a few sales a year. I understand that this was likely implemented due to fraud, but I have to think there would be a better way to do this.
- There seems to be no way for me as an affiliate to receive email notification of a sale. This one seems such a bizarre omission that I’m still not sure I am just missing it. However, I have looked through ClickBank’s FAQ and entire affiliate section, and I can’t find any way to have ClickBank email me when I make a sale. If this option is in the system, it needs to be made much more obvious.
What About Other Affiliate Systems (ClickBank Competitors?)
I saw a reference to PayDotCom in a thread about affiliate marketplaces over on the Warrior Forum. I have to say, it looks like they’ve taken some of the above to heart…especially the payment complaints I mentioned. As an affiliate, I couldn’t find very much I wanted to sell on PayDotCom — it seems to be mostly filled with junk ebooks. As a publisher, though, I’d be more willing to use it than ClickBank. Ultimately, I find it likely I will either buy or build my own affiliate system for Hardworking Millionaire. If I decide to just sell an ebook or two in the meantime, I will try PayDotCom. Perhaps I will then write another rant about them. Who knows?
Valuable Lessons I Have Learned
This has certainly been an eye-opening experience for me. My number-one takeaway from all this is it doesn’t matter how great your keyword research, copywriting, and sales letter are if the website you’re linking to doesn’t convert. Publisher websites without strong sales copy — especially for tech-heavy products — will fail. As a corollary, if you are a publisher, don’t send your affiliates to your home page!
Likewise, affiliates would be wise to research publishers’ “pitch pages” before setting up keyword research to ensure that the publisher’s copy leads link-clickers quickly toward their destination (in this case, downloading the software.) Ultimately, you will also want a publisher who guarantees follow-up with anyone who signs up off the pitch page, particularly if they don’t have to buy the software right away. Otherwise, it’s very difficult to get even a single sale.
It’s foolish to rely on any of these “marketplaces” without building up your own affiliate list. I think it’s a terrible idea to rely on ClickBank as a publisher, because they refuse to release the email addresses of your affiliates. At the very least, ClickBank should allow you to send a batch email to your affiliates encouraging them to join the affiliate section of your site. Your affiliates, frankly, are at least as valuable an opt-in list as your “leads”, because your affiliates have a vested interest in bringing YOU sales. This is the biggest reason that I would never rely on ClickBank as a publisher.
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- PayDotCom. Sign up for PayDotCom!
- ClickBank. Sign up for Clickbank.