Why I Think CJ.com (aka Commission Junction) is a Garbage Affiliate Network

Feb 6th

I run a good number of websites in a variety of verticals. One of my sites that does exceptionally well in the search engines monetizes poorly with contextual ads and does not yet have the scale to sell direct ads, so I tried integrating affiliate ads on it.

When I initially applied for CJ with this site, the advertiser I wanted to partner with rejected my site (I am guessing because there was a new account associated with that site). The traffic quality and relevancy are as high as you can get though. About 3 months later that same advertiser contacted me asking me to join their affiliate program with my search-marketing.info website, which is wildly off topic. I joined the affiliate program and also added my relevant site to the account about two weeks ago. I integrated the offer and waited for the money to roll in. But did it?

This particular affiliate program was a lead generation program, which I figured had a delay in reporting while the leads were classified and approved. This site is a high traffic site in a big money vertical. The advertiser's ad was integrated similarly to how it is integrated on other sites still in their program today, and their ad was seen by about 100,000 people.

I logged in today and still no conversion. Odd. Weeks for an approval? Hmmmm.

I looked at my invalid clicks report and it said my offer from this advertiser was disapproved. I was not told why, and was not even informed of this disapproval (from the advertiser who approached me) until after I searched out the information.

Meanwhile that same company is paying search engines thousands of dollars to buy similar traffic to the stream they rejected from me. I know someone in upper management in the marketing department at that advertiser, so I will ping them to see what is up with their affiliate manager, but how many publishers get scammed like this every day? Sleazy workflow their CJ.

The value add for publishers going through an affiliate network (vs going direct) are

  • having fewer accounts
  • independent reporting (for if you don't trust the advertiser)
  • the offer data on top performing offers

But on the down side,

  • many other marketers are looking over the same offers you are
  • some networks (like CJ) require tracking images or other footprints that identify your site as an affiliate site to search engines (and search engines do have algorithms to detect and demote certain types of affiliate sites)
  • communications channels are generally worthless when you add a bulky affiliate network to the mix

I have had a number of affiliate networks come to me asking me to join them, often offering reduced rates, but I still don't see their value add, especially after this experience.

Published: February 6, 2008

New to the site? Join for Free and get over $300 of free SEO software.

Once you set up your free account you can comment on our blog, and you are eligible to receive our search engine success SEO newsletter.

Already have an account? Login to share your opinions.

Comments

February 6, 2008 - 8:08pm

Hi Aaron,

Uhh, someone was against that idea in the first place. Probably stole $1000 worth of leads. Kinda tasteless and unprofessional when they didn't notify you that you were terminamted.

I guess certain verticals are waning.

February 6, 2008 - 8:21pm

Aaron,

Firstly thanks for your ongoing, insightful commentary.

I work for an organisation that has a significant brand and at present running a strong affiliate network. The issue is, are affiliates actually adding value (sales yes, but value) or diluting the brand and forcing us to actually compete against ourselves?

Be interested in your views on whether affiliates add value for a strong brand or provide diminishing returns.

Thanks,
Dave.

February 6, 2008 - 9:24pm

My membership with CJ will expire in March unless I'm able to churn a profit before then, but I've been too busy with other projects to really take a stab with this network. It's a shame because I wanted to try out affiliate marketing using eBay and the BANS (Build A Niche Store) template to see if I could generate a profit, but it may be too little too late.

I'd like to try AzoogleAds as well but I submitted an app over a month ago and haven't heard back from them since. Oh well.

What else is there that might be worth the trouble?

February 6, 2008 - 9:30pm

Hi Dave
As a person who is both an affiliate for other companies and a person who has thousands of affiliates for my company I can say that some affiliates add real value and bring in new traffic streams whereas some get money for nothing and a third group provides free branding but does not convert well.

In the case of the site in the above example, the site has useful content that generates organic links and featured the ad within the active content area of the site. There was not a hard sell on the ad but it was well integrated.

Did our site add a lot of value to the transaction process? Certainly some. More than most affiliates. And our traffic stream was quite clean. We were ranking for keywords that the advertiser was not ranking for, giving them reach outside of their brand, rather than doing classless brand damage like this guy did.

February 6, 2008 - 10:06pm

Hi Dave,

I've seen similar comments by advertisers but that just sounds like you have a bad set of terms. Block affiliates from bidding on whatever set of phrases you're unhappy about and reward those areas to the highest volume who DO add value to your brand.

If it will cost a merchant more profits to rank for a keyword than it will to pay an affiliate who is holding that position, then the merchant is getting a fair shake. Is affiliate marketing one of the lower ROI channels? Sure, but ROI is only good for bragging rights and if you have other options. For most merchants, they don't (or at least don't want to pursue other options) so affiliate marketing is still a great opportunity.

Aaron - sucks about your experience with them. I've always had lower conversion rates with them than on other networks and yet they seem to be the most stringent in their approvals. For example, one campaign I'm running has 4x higher EPC over the past year (not 30 or 7 days) on another network with the same creatives. Different networks have different results, but 4x higher? C'mon now. Thanks for sharing that story.

So what's your next move on that one - white label?

February 7, 2008 - 3:06pm

So what's your next move on that one - white label?

For now the site is an AdSense site, but we will look for another program soon.

February 6, 2008 - 10:09pm

Aaron, I'm glad you expressed some of what I think about CJ and the big networks as well. It's so big and shiny with so many companies joining, I think surely, it must be me who just sucks at it.

I had one partner that had their own program. It wasn't great but I did around a $800 a month with it. Sadly, they switched over the CJ a while back, offered me a good deal to move, etc. Well, since the switch, I do about $60 on the same or more traffic. Something just stinks about it all. And I don't know who's to blame or who is ripping me off. Is it CJ dumping money into someone elses account or is it suddenly the program or is it me? This has happened pretty much all the time. Nothing does as well as it should on the big network or as it does in independent programs. But then these big companies that I really need to work with become exclusive with CJ and I just don't get it.

Another program with a big name corporation, I sent them over 40,000 click throughs and supposedly got one sale. And this is with something that normally does about 2% conversion over many years for me. Should have gotten 600 sales even at a lower 1.5%

Something is just wrong with it all. Why can't everyone just be honest and all make a little money? Instead of playing fair, it drives me to pull the links and then we all get nothing.

February 6, 2008 - 10:58pm

My bugbear is networks who don't tell you a promotion has ended, so the click goes to a stupid 'ooh, sorry, this isn't here anymore, but look! Heres some totally unrelated stuff you might like!'
As if I spend my time clicking through my own sites looking for expired ads :(
Terrible for my brand :(

February 6, 2008 - 11:07pm

I don't yet have anything bad to say about CJ, but there always seems to be confusion over payments and such if you read the digital point forums.

I have a competing software to BANS, so naturally it requires an eBay affiliate and thus CJ, so we'll see. I do know of others that do quite well with ebay and don't have any complaints so who knows what is going on.

I've heard about some spyware blockers blocking CJ cookies and such, but I don't have first hand knowledge of such.

February 6, 2008 - 11:36pm

Thanks for giving me the warning about CJ. I have just gotten into affiliates and thought it would be pretty convenient to go through them since they could keep all my affiliates in one place. I haven't had an awful experience with them, but I will try out other networks and keep my eyes open.

Is there any networks you would recommend?

February 7, 2008 - 2:58am

Hey Aaron,

A nice informative post today, people often go on about CJ is the largest and best AP but it's good to see the truth come out about what they really treat affiliates like.

I work for a company that runs quite a successful affiliate program (won't mention it since you said you have been bugged by loads of them) and we have quite a few affiliates who have switched most of their efforts to us away from CJ because they are not getting responses or aid from anyone.

It's difficult striking a balance between helping affiliates as much as possible and helping them too much and we try to be in constant flux, reaching it as closely as possible. I think the problem with CJ is that they think they have this down and don't try different things to help and advance their affiliates.

February 7, 2008 - 3:04am

Aaron,

I totally agree with your sentiments. I've actually had affiliate managers tell me that cj.com has actually stopped them for giving affiliates money owed to them because of tracking glitches on their end.

Something definitely isn't right over there. So many companies head their first because they're so well known but many of the smart ones end up leaving and managing their own programs or going to a better smaller network.

I make some decent money with them. But I'm sure it would be a lot more if they had better tracking. But like anything no one should keep all their eggs in one basket. Thank goodness
there are so many affiliate networks to choose from and work with.

They won't just drop you like a hot potatoes and not tell you why or even entertain a discussion with you.

Affiliates and business beware.

Eddy

February 7, 2008 - 3:35am

I have never really understood their policy of deactivating accounts that haven't made anything for a number of months. It's like banks treating a poor student like shit and then expecting them to stay with them when the student's graduated and making $.

seostudent7
February 7, 2008 - 7:13am

I'm not sure about CJ, but I have worked with other networks and they seem to be quite good...i'll stay away from CJ. thanks

February 7, 2008 - 10:05am

I've had experience with both sides of fence here (Publisher and Advertiser in CJ). I think all networks have their pros and cons. Overall, CJ has been pretty good to me on both fronts.

Have I tested merchants that suck, sure. Have I dealt with shady affiliates who break the rules and cannibalize my other programs, yup. I thinks that just comes with the territory.

IMO, it comes down to testing and relationship building (like in other marketing channels). If I test an offer that sucks, I cut my losses and move on. When I find one that works, I try to build a relationship w/ that merchant so I've got someone's ear if results suddenly look "off."

If I've got a shady affiliate who's corrupting my program, I give them an opportunity to straighten out. If they don't, they're gone.

You really can't give CJ ALL of the blame for programs that don't convert (or have "odd" tracking blips). The merchant is partly responsible as well. If the merchant screws up the pixel placement (or limits its display) CJ most likely will not know. Sometimes these tracking issues are "real" technical problems and sometimes they aren't. If a merchant is screwing their affiliates, karma (and falling EPCs) will come back to bite them.

Just my $.02.

February 7, 2008 - 3:05pm

You really can't give CJ ALL of the blame for programs that don't convert (or have "odd" tracking blips).

My traffic was clean, I was invited, and I was kicked out without notification.

At the very least they should have notified me. And I do blame CJ for that.

February 7, 2008 - 10:19am

Know what is even funnier Aaron?

The guys I think you're talking about are now scaling way back on their affiliate program...they sent out a mass e-mail yesterday telling people that the program was going invite only and that most people wouldn't make the cut.

BTW, CJ does suck for the most part. Maybe it is time for the Cygnus Network.

February 7, 2008 - 1:42pm

The reason you get dropped from networks is because of the metrics they show. Many people pick advertisers based on what their payout history has been or their CPM figures. So if in your network you have a poor performing affiliate, you may want to drop them to keep your metrics high and attract more affiliates in the future.

February 7, 2008 - 3:04pm

The reason you get dropped from networks is because of the metrics they show.

My traffic was clean, I was invited, and I was kicked out without notification.

At the very least they should have notified me.

February 7, 2008 - 5:09pm

Yeah that sucks. However, I'm not sure how this type of activity can be avoided unless CJ runs the "entire" process. If merchants can boot affiliates w/o cause and also can control when/how the tracking pixel fires, you'll always have potential for problems like this.

February 7, 2008 - 6:57pm

My issue was not the bogus offer from the merchant followed by a quick rejection, but the lack of notification that went with it.

CJ needs to send notification to affiliates.

February 7, 2008 - 1:52pm

I'm a full time affiliate marketer. I'd like to work with CJ, but it takes them an entire day to report a sale. This is a huge competitive disadvantage compared to the other networks, who might host less offers, but offer real time tracking.

CJ.. are you listening?

February 7, 2008 - 2:25pm

CJ is a piece of crap. Wasn't their parent company investigated for fraud too? I've tried CJ and they consistently perform worse than any other rev model I could try. I think they just like to only pay for some conversions and hope you don't notice. I'm bitter I know, but I'll never use them again.

February 7, 2008 - 6:31pm

I have been with CJ over 7 years, back in 2001-2002 when my percentage conversion is over 2% from total natural traffic from SE, today even though I have generate natural traffic my conversion click lower than 1% event 0%. Some this situation make me sick.

February 7, 2008 - 6:52pm

Whenever we launch a new site we use CJ ads to fill the ad space because they look good and make it look like we have a lot of premium advertisers... but as soon as a new site gets the traffic to interest the bigger CPM ad networks and direct ad sales, we pull CJ immediately. They usually don't bring in much revenue at all.

February 7, 2008 - 8:48pm

I appreciate your sharing this experience. There are a lot of us just getting going and can't afford too many "learning experiences" like this.

February 7, 2008 - 10:41pm

On the positive side of the ledger, CJ's payments to publishers run like clockwork, and they recently switched to direct deposits for publishers in smaller countries (like me).

Also their data feeds are checked by a quality control team which means that they are actually usable. This means I don't have to spend hours cleaning up garbage in the feeds before publishing them like I do with some lower quality networks which don't even bother checking the feeds before they post them.

They are also more transparent about network outages. Other networks tend to sweep those under the carpet. And finally they have (for the most part) high quality merchants with big established brands that consumers trust and hence convert well for publishers.

Their publisher user interface is quite good. Although the pop up windows are a bit dated by today's dhtml standards. And they make you request each individual data feed rather than allowing their merchants' approved publishers to download them straight away.

They are not perfect by any means - I have heard some horror stories - but I have no real complaints so far (touch wood). As far as affiliate networks go, you could do a lot worse than Commission Junction - and no, I am not a share holder :-) Just my 2c worth.

February 8, 2008 - 5:27pm

Hi Aaron, just thought I would let you know that this post my made my top five posts over at: http://www.workconnexions.com/blog/Leo/LeosTopFive.aspx

Great stuff.

February 9, 2008 - 5:02am

Aaron - introduce us to you other sites please. You refer to them in general terms, but I think they would make excellent, and honest, cases in point.

February 9, 2008 - 6:21pm

If I publicly highlight my sites I create competition for myself and I risk search engineers penalizing my sites. Some of my sites also have partners, and it is not fair to add risk to their side of the equation after seeing Google hand edit one of my most profitable sites.

February 9, 2008 - 5:24pm

Back in 2005 I made about $3000 with CJ. Also, it still work for me when I do websites for people and sign up them with hosting companies which listed on CJ.
But from another side CJ is a really junk. They don't care about publishers and work only for advertisers. It happened twice when my friends signed up for some services clicking banners on my website and I never recieved any commision.
One of my friends signed up to advertise on Yahoo by clicking banner on my site and spend there at least $500. CJ never registered this sale. Also, my blog reader commented that he signed up to Keyword program by following CJ affiliate link and told me thank you for good recomendation. CJ never paid.
Moreover, it takes 4-6 month in some cases to receive money for sale or lead.

February 9, 2008 - 7:23pm

"If I publicly highlight my sites I create competition for myself and I risk search engineers penalizing my sites."

And 20,000 people copying your site and idea :)

February 10, 2008 - 2:11pm

I can't agree more with you Aaron. I am especially tired of setting up dozens or hundreds of products from a CJ affiliate, just to have them 'expire' a few months later - now all that work was lost, and I have to redo it all. CJ offers no help or alternative. This really sucks.

February 11, 2008 - 1:37pm

CJ is indeed a crap network. I've never seen conversions as low as most of their offers. I've got to believe the crap tracking factors into it. It'd be nice if I could at least see my referers in their, so I could check to make sure everything was getting counted by sending in my own refs.

July 6, 2013 - 3:12pm

This is an very informative thread, but a little (ok, alot) outdated. CJ is still going strong some 4 years after all the comments here. Are you still having a problem with them?

July 7, 2013 - 5:57am

...it comes down to the particular advertiser & offer.

There are some advertisers who don't frequently change things & are willing to go the extra mile to promote shared success. But there are also advertisers who try to "make the numbers" by expiring offers & stealing your traffic for free if you let them.

The big thing to note about CJ is that it is primarily designed around servicing the advertisers & if the advertiser wants to soak the affiliate, there is no recourse whatsoever. The perception of impartiality is just that...a perception...but not the least bit based in reality.

True story here...one of the advertisers claimed that there were tracking issues with the old affiliate ad, so they allegedly disabled it. And by "disabling it" I mean ... they kept serving the ad unit, but paid nothing for it. Then the jackasses eventually had our affiliate account terminated too...but they still kept running the ads! So allegedly the error in the ad unit they created was so bad that they felt partners deserved $0 for it, but not so bad that they were willing to turn it off. Basically in short it was fraud & they stole thousands and thousands of Dollars. We basically relegated those jackasses to 3rd or 4th option in terms of monetization after that experience. About a year ago they pinged and asked if we could deliver more volume AND how we would feel about not being paid for leads (both questions on the same call)...I said "well you guys already stole plenty from us in the past." Based on the audacity of that call's theme, we further depreciated their ad placement. A few months later those jerks contacted us wanting to do a direct ad deal, but I didn't bother responding to them. I would probably need to charge them a $30k insertion fee for prior stolen commissions to be willing to run their direct ads on the site.

But that sort of experience might not be typical. We have some other companies that we are affiliates for that pay promptly, don't make us jump through loads of hoops, and don't keep changing things to create more work for us while doing nothing for us. The key point about the above crap sandwich experience is that while the experience may be abnormal, it is still very much possible, and when it happens the advertiser is always right and the affiliate is always wrong (even if the affiliate has done quite a bit of value added legitimate business for years and years).

New to the site? Join for Free and get over $300 of free SEO software.

Once you set up your free account you can comment on our blog, and you are eligible to receive our search engine success SEO newsletter.

Already have an account? Login to share your opinions.

  • Over 100 training modules, covering topics like: keyword research, link building, site architecture, website monetization, pay per click ads, tracking results, and more.
  • An exclusive interactive community forum
  • Members only videos and tools
  • Additional bonuses - like data spreadsheets, and money saving tips
We love our customers, but more importantly

Our customers love us!






    Email Address
    Pick a Username
    Yes, please send me "7 Days to SEO Success" mini-course (a $57 value) for free.

    Learn More

    We value your privacy. We will not rent or sell your email address.