My top 5 affiliate programs — and why Clickbank isn’t one of them

October 19, 2017 affiliate programs blog post Sarah Lentz
This post may contain affiliate links, and if you click on them and buy the product (or something else), I may earn a commission, at no added cost to you. I only share links to products and services I would buy or have bought myself. See my Affiliate Disclosure and Recommendations pages for more information.

Why five?

Quick answer? I couldn't think of seven multi-product affiliate programs that I like well enough to brag about -- though I can think of some courses with affiliate programs that I could add to the list.

And I like the number 5 better than the number 6 (Sorry, Shareasale. You still matter to me -- mostly because of Tailwind -- and maybe someday you will be in my top 5). 

I'll share a list of those courses at the end of this post. Because who doesn't love a bonus?

My Top Five Affiliate Programs

  • Skimlinks: If I'd known how easy it was to use Skimlinks -- the footer script, the browser extension, and the snazzy linking bar -- I would have signed up right from the beginning of this affiliate marketing experiment. I made my first affiliate sale from a Skimlinks link in my home office post
  • Amazon Affiliates: I've recommended so many books and other good things on Amazon, it was a no-brainer to join their affiliate program. Plus, I love the ease of using their affiliate bar to grab links for my blog and for social sharing. I've also used their Native shopping ads on my blog (the home office post).
  • Shopstyle CollectiveI use this mostly to share home improvement, home office, and personal style ideas on Pinterest. They pay per click, so my commissions are slo-o-o-o-owly growing (but they're growing!). 
  • Ultimate Bundles: Even though I didn't make a penny from promoting the Genius Blogger's Toolkit (seriously, not one freaking penny! But then everyone and his imaginary friend was promoting that bundle at the same time), I'm sticking with this one -- mostly because I do honestly love some of their bundles -- so far, the Genius Blogger's Toolkit and the Work at Home Bundle. I just snagged the latter of those two (for the same price anyone else would pay), and it's available now, if you'd like to take a peek. I've already found some great resources that have helped me find more work-from-home jobs.
  • Ebay EPN: Since I've lost track of all the great things I've found on ebay, it only made sense to join their affiliate program, since I enjoy sharing links to things I think someone else would enjoy as much as I do. I still have that $25 ebay giftcard I haven't used yet. I've got some good things in my cart for Christmas, though, and will probably use it on some of them.

So, those are the top five. I actually applied to more programs than these five (plus Shareasale), but I whittled my list down to these and other single products with their own affiliate programs. 

I signed up to CJ Affiliates at first, because Vitamin Shoppe was affiliated with them, but it's also affiliated with Skimlinks, and the Skimlinks bar just makes it a lot easier to get links for individual items on the Vitamin Shoppe site. 

All I have to do is click on the brighter blue part of the bar that has the website's name in it under "Preferred Merchant," and it gives me links for either my blog or for sharing on social media. 

Now on to the more serious bit -- and, really, the main reason for this post (you probably guessed that). 

Why Clickbank isn't on the list

Let me be up front about Clickbank: I hate the way they sell.

I hate their sales funnels -- with the up-sell and then a down-sell, and another down-sell, and yet another down-sell (and possibly a fourth) before they finally confirm the original sale. 

I hated being treated to this, and I refuse to put anyone else through it -- though I did share a link to the things I actually did end up buying (after passing up the up-sell and every single down-sell item and growing more and more annoyed with whoever designed the whole thing). 

I wish I hadn't shared those links. But I did, and honestly I'm still not sure what I bought was worth the modest amount I spent on it. 

[Full disclosure: I've barely looked at it, so if I find something in it that actually does change my life for the better, I'll let you know.]

Just to be clear, the up-sell-down-sell-down-sell-down-sell-down-sell-confirmation model SUCKS! 

It's a crappy way to treat the people who took the time to wade through those crazy-long sales pages. I start skimming after the first few minutes, because ... I get lightheaded when I'm bored. 

I don't have the attention span -- or the time, really -- to read miles of "And you'll never believe this, but ..." sales copy. 

Pages like that remind me of those videos that start with a sob-story and slo-o-o-o-o-owly lead to the thing they're trying to sell you -- every so often saying something like, "And what I'm about to tell you will change your life" or "In just a few minutes more, I'm going to blow your mind with..." 

Yeah, not really. It usually boils down to "Here are some juicy bits, but if you want to know all my life-changing secrets, you'll have to buy this ebook -- or this "program" consisting of 3 ebooks and a set of coasters. (Wait, those are DVDs. Who can tell, anymore?).

And for a couple very inexpensive things, I thought, "What the hell. I'll check it out." 

And that's when they took me first to their up-sell (which I declined) and then to one down-sell after another (all of which I declined), until I was ready to yell through the screen, "Enough, already! Just take me to the confirmation sales page, so I can get this over with and get on to other things!" 

I bought those two items, because I was checking out Clickbank to see if I could find something I liked well enough to promote to other people. And what better way to do that than to actually buy something and look it over; if it was helpful to me, it might be helpful to someone else. 

Makes sense. And it lasted for two products. I went through two ginormous sales funnels before I decided, "Nope. Not doing this anymore. Waste of time."

I did say (probably in another post) that I'm a terrible liar, right? I can't sell things I wouldn't buy myself. I usually end up sabotaging the sale by saying something like, "Yeah, I get it. Actually, it makes more sense to buy <this other product> instead -- or nothing. You won't actually be missing anything. Save your money."

This was a problem when I interviewed for a job at a coffee shop a few years ago. They wanted someone who would enthusiastically promote their specialty coffee blends -- including those that cost around $20 a pound. 

$20 a pound. For coffee. 

Nope. Can't do it. I get my coffee for $5 a pound at Aldi. Why would I pay four times as much, when I've had their fancy coffee (drip) and it's not four times or even twice as good as the stuff I drink at home?

And why would I tell someone else to spend $20 per pound on coffee, if I wouldn't do that myself?

Yes, maybe it costs more to produce, but no one should be guilt-tripped into spending more for their coffee than they really need to. 

Same goes for skin care products, cosmetics, wine, clothing, editing, and book cover design. 

Just gonna say this once: you don't always get what you pay for.

In a perfect world, maybe, things that cost twice as much would always be twice as good. But we don't live in a perfect world. We live in a world where one person might produce something of high quality and sell it for less than someone else charges for an inferior product of the same kind. 

It complicates things, I know. But we learn (sometimes the hard way) whom we can trust to create something worth the price (or more) and whom we can't. 

And we gravitate toward creators and marketers who treat their customers well -- not as sheep to fleece but as equals whose time and money are worth as much as their own. 

Don't ever assume your customer isn't as smart as you are. 

Depending on your faith or worldview, you may or may not believe there are consequences for mistreating or taking advantage of another person created by God in His own image.

Maybe you at least believe that what goes around comes around -- or some other version of the Golden Rule.

So, it doesn't make sense to treat your customers in a way you don't like to be treated. They don't exist to be manipulated and convinced that they need whatever you're selling. 

We don't get to waste other people's time rambling about our great new products, leading them on minute by minute using sob stories and continually promising what we have no intention of delivering -- without some money changing hands (and as much as we can squeeze out of them while holding them hostage for one down-sell after another).

[This is why I make it to the end of so few webinars. "Oh, shh-, Here it comes!"]

Few of us would tolerate being on the receiving end of this. So, why do so many marketers continue to use this model to torment their customers and waste their time?

I'm not saying Clickbank is the only affiliate marketing company to use sales funnels like these. I'm still a newbie to the ways of internet marketing, but I think we can treat our customers better -- and still make a living.

But if you've run across Clickbank-based sales funnels that were a pleasure to get through, let me know. As I said, I only made my way through the whole of two of them. The others I looked at also had horrendously-long sales pages, and I clicked out of them, because I wasn't interested in the main product they were selling.

I'm open to the possibility that some have had pleasant experiences with Clickbank -- as affiliates, as vendors, or even as customers. That hasn't been my experience, but if it has been yours, feel free to share in a comment. Your contribution will offset my own experience and provide a fuller picture of what others can expect.

Courses I'm happy to promote

So, as promised, here's a list of the courses I've bought and enjoyed, which happen to have affiliate programs. I'm focusing particularly on those that teach or at least touch on affiliate marketing. 

Fair warning: this list may grow as I work through both the Genius Blogger's Toolkit and the Work at Home Super Bundle

Click away and check them out, if you like. But I hope to see you back here, soon. 

I signed up for another free email course on how to make my blog more profitable, and the first email I received said that putting affiliate links in blog posts was "pretty dumb." 

I'll reserve judgment until I've gone through the whole course, and I won't reveal any other details, since I only just started, and the maker of the course is no stranger to successful blogging. But I'm inclined to disagree that putting affiliate links in your blog posts is always "pretty dumb."

It may not be the best way to a solid four-figure-a-month income for every blogger, but clearly some affiliate marketers are doing quite well with it. 

I am curious as to what she suggests, though -- other than "sell your own stuff." I'll hear her out and weigh it against what I've been learning from the courses I just mentioned (created by bloggers who are doing quite well by putting affiliate links in their blog posts). 

But I still can't help but wonder, "Just how aggressive do I have to be to be successful at affiliate marketing  -- or at marketing anything, really, including my own stuff?"

Because I'm really not ... at all aggressive. I can be assertive, and I have no problem putting myself between one of my kids and a creepy stranger and telling him to go away.

But getting up in people's faces to say, "Hey, you should buy this! It'll change your life!" when -- at least on some level -- I'm not convinced it actually would . . . it's just not happening. 

I can say, "I took this course, and it really helped me do X and Y much better than I was doing it before -- plus it answered some questions and helped me make better sense of Z. Here's a link if you'd like to check it out. P.S. It's an affiliate link."

I can also say, "Hey, you should check out the Grammarly app. They have a free version that has saved my bacon more than once (with my ebook self-editing). P.S. This is an affiliate link, but if you only get the free version (like me), I get nothin' -- but I won't blame you one bit, and you'll have a great new self-editing tool!" 

But I'm not going to push the Premium version of Grammarly, because I don't pay for it myself -- and I see no reason to, yet. Maybe someday I will, though.

What about you? What would you prefer to sell on your blog? 

  • your own created content (as ebooks, online courses, video courses, etc.)
  • your services (freelance writing, editing, book cover design, etc.)
  • other people's products (affiliate marketing)
  • a combination of two or all three of the above-mentioned options

You don't have to pick just one, after all. Do you have a favorite -- or a favorite combination -- that works particularly well for you? 

Or are you planning to forge ahead focusing on one or two of these?

I'm still working out what combination will work best for me, and which should be my primary focus. Still learning, trying things. and making mistakes.

I'd love to read something from you, too, so please share in the comments.

And have a great week!

Here's my top 5 list of multi-product affiliate programs (though there are also plenty of courses I'm happy to recommend). And here's why Clickbank doesn't even come close.

By Sarah Lentz

Writing and designing book covers are two of Sarah Lentz's favorite things. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, their four kids, and two messy but adorable guinea pigs.

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