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Holes in Clickbank's upcoming Marketplace Ratings

Holes in Clickbank's upcoming Marketplace Ratings

From January 2nd, Clickbank will be introducing a new marketplace ratings feature to their affiliate program listings.

This statement comes from Clickbank: Effective January 2, 2013, star-based marketplace ratings will be published for each account on the ClickBank Marketplace. This rating applies only to products associated with this account. It does not vary at the product level. Your vendor refund and chargeback history establishes the rating using a 1 - 5 star scale. Products with 3 stars or higher reflect greater customer satisfaction.

So essentially, what they are trying to provide to you as an affiliate, is a 1 to 5 star rating on the quality of each product in their marketplace.

This is calculated based on the refund and chargeback rates of the various products, and new products automatically start with a 3 star rating.

I was first informed about this when I met with Clickbank in person in their Boise offices back in July, and I immediately raised concerns about how this is calculated, however it seems those concerns were not heard so I've decided to make this blog posts so that affiliates and vendors at Clickbank can be aware of the potential problems with this system.

Why a product's quality can't be assessed based on the refund and/or chargeback rate:

1. Some vendors have very poor sales pages
, so only the absolute 'wallet out / ready to buy everything on the subject' visitors will buy. Hence these products, no matter what the quality, will probably have low refund rates, as these are a different type of customer to those who are right on the fence that never bought in the first place.

Other vendors may have a much better product, but equally may have better marketing in place, which pushes those prospects who are 'on the fence' into becoming buyers. However they may also have higher refund rates due to the fact that some of those who are on the fence may also quickly refund.

For example:

Product A is an average product, with so-so marketing behind it. It has a conversion rate of 0.5% (which means 1 in 200 people who visit the sales page buy the product), and a refund rate of 2% and 0% chargebacks.

So Clickbank's marketplace rating may result in 5 stars.

Product B is a great product, with great marketing behind it. It has a conversion rate of 3% (which means 1 in 33 people who visit the sales page buy the product), however the refund rate is 8%, and chargebacks are at 0.5%.

So Clickbank's marketplace rating may result in 3 stars.

From the above, as an affiliate, you'd assume product A was a better product, but it isn't. It just has a higher marketplace rating because they have poor marketing which has resulted in far lower conversion rates, and as a result a lower refund rate.

2. Some vendors really 'sell' their money back guarantee

If you are a vendor and you have a great product and it has a conversion rate of 1%, yet you do a test and you see that by really 'selling' your money back guarantee strongly, you can achieve a 2% conversion rate, you'd probably decide to keep that strong guarantee right?

There's a big difference between just subtly saying:

"There is a 60 day money back guarantee"

Vs saying overtly:

"Heck, all you need to do is shoot us an email at [email address] any time within 60 days, and you don't even have to give a reason and we'll refund your money. We want to put the entire risk on US, not on you. Yes we realise some people may rip us off with this refund policy, however we believe that most people are honest and we'd rather put our trust in you rather than having you feel like you need to put your faith in us. So there you have it, you have nothing to lose, if our product does not live up to every claim you see on this webpage, or if you simply regret buying for any reason at all, you can simply send us an email within 60 days for a full 100% prompt refund"

Yet with the new marketplace rating scheme, it discourages vendors from boosting their conversion rates through 'selling' their money back guarantees. If you really hype up your guarantee, you'll boost your conversion rates, which is great for you, great for your customers (as they have more faith in their protection in what they are buying), and better for your affiliates who promote your products as there are higher conversions.

However refund rates will be higher, there are always going to people who will take advantage of such overt 'selling' of the money back guarantee. And furthermore, those people who were on the fence anyway and decided to buy, might be more likely to refund.

So, you'd get a case where the product quality is no different to a product that has 5 stars, however due to better marketing (really making the customer feel safe with the guarantee), the product has 3 stars (or less) due to the higher refund rate from those taking advantage of the ease of refunds.

3. Some vendors don't give prompt refunds

Some vendors who receive an email asking for a refund, will either not reply, or will make the prospect go through several hoops in order to receive their refund. Or worse yet, won't get round to refunding at all.

Yes the customer can go to Clickbank directly, but not all customers understand this, so a product can be perceived to be higher quality due to low refund rate (and hence get a good marketplace rating), yet it's really just rewarding their questionable refund reduction tactics.

4. Some affiliates send different quality traffic to others

I've experienced having an offer with a 3% refund rate, suddenly climb to 15%, only for it to drop back to below 10%, all with no change to the salescopy nor my product. The only thing that changed was the traffic sources employed by my affiliates who promoted me.

If you have a great product, that converts well to sales, you'll get a lot of affiliates trying different methods of promoting you.

Some will do SEO marketing, others may buy up facebook ads, or media buy positions, others may do solo email drops, others may try mailing your offer to their already established mailing list.

The more affiliates promoting your product (due to your good marketing) the more likely you'll get some affiliates marketing you to less-than-relevant sources, who may be more likely to be full of refunders.

In addition, if you are running a promotion, such as a launch, some customers may get caught up in the launch hoop-la plus bonuses etc, that they might buy, then regret quickly and refund.

Yet those refunds have nothing to do with the product quality, it's all a case of once again, penalizing the marketing.

If Clickbank proceeds to determine product quality based solely on refund rates, they'll be likely to lose vendors, and/or have vendors who are unsure of whether to aim for a high marketplace quality rating through refund reduction strategies that reduce the conversion rates (as opposed to being motivated to increase the quality of their products).

The only real way to assess product quality is for Clickbank to review the products themselves, I realize this is too costly, however it could be well worth their while to do this for the top 200 or so products in the marketplace, while charging a fee for any other product to get 'reviewed' if it falls outside the top 200.

Even then, even with a review, it's hard for Clickbank to determine the quality without being an expert in each niche itself. Products can 'look' good, and still be a waste of time.

I believe Clickbank should strongly consider changing this upcoming 'Marketplace Rating' feature, to being a 'refund rating' instead, because that is what it really is. It isn't a measure of the product quality at all, they haven't even assessed the product itself, it's merely a measure of the refund and chargeback rates and should be labelled as such.

I understand what Clickbank is trying to do, they want to increase the quality of products in their marketplace, but I believe this 'automated' way of assessing product quality is likely to result in some of the best products in their marketplace receiving 3 star ratings, while some mediocre products will find their way into higher marketplace ratings due to substandard marketing and other reasons other than product quality.
 
To me this is something that will be bad for affiliates as it discourages vendors from doing good marketing, it discourages affiliates from exploring other traffic sources (and vendors from doing so in case those sources affect their refunds) and it encourages a raft of questionable refund-reduction tactics which are already present online and may become more prominent (I hope not).

Please comment below, I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Kind regards,

Mark Ling

Update: I was just chatting with some other top Clickbank Vendors about this, and they raised another point, which is the fact that refund rates will be higher on products that offer a $1 trial. This can easily skew the refund rate to be higher, but in reality they were on the fence and wanted to take the product for a 'test drive' and then asked for a refund (some ask for a refund instead of a cancellation). 

These new measures by Clickbank may make $1 trials less viable, without sacrificing marketplace rating points (and without it affecting other Clickbank algorithms).

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  • Reply twfitz625 days ago

    Really good insights for CB vendors and affiliates to be aware of (into the changes coming CB's upcoming Marketplace Ratings). In addition hopefully this will help stop or at least bring about significant modification of CB's changes.

  • Reply Bobbie-Jo Labelle 625 days ago

    I love the way you think! I would like to see the Refund rate, and i would like to see a customer rating, both of them separated. These would help in promoting and buying for yourself. I hate buying products and finding out that they are nothing what you thought it would be, having a product rating would maybe encourage vendors to produce better products or promote them properly.

  • Reply James Scott • 625 days ago

    Mark,

    You are completely correct about the marketplace rating system. Heck, they should not even put it in place because this is what it will do -

    Once you have a low rating, affiliates will struggle to trust you. Even, if you had a great product which does well, this one aspect alone can cost vendors massively in the long haul.

    And the worst part is, this isn't within your active control. You are correct about what traffic source my sales come from, some of my affiliates consistently get a higher refund rate just because their subscribers have bought a few relationship products on clickbank before & clearly understand the easy refund process and exploit to it to a certain extent.

  • Reply Jade Campbell625 days ago

    Thanks Mark, for once again keeping us all informed thoughtfully, honestly and diligently about the questionable shananigans by all and sundry in the ecommerce marketplace.

    Quite frankly Clickbank is heading for a massive backlash with this sheer illogical stupidity- for ultimately they will be affecting their own revenue and reputation when their major vendors leave in droves for being penalised for something beyond their control when they are doing their utmost to provide quality products and service to CLICKBANKS CUSTOMERS. It smacks of blatant disrespect to alll their vendors by not even doing a poll, or listening to concerns, and cyber bullying in the extreme to suddenly have a flag rating you as a vendor for something you have no control over, and yet fly by nighters who are less than reputable having a better rating . . . . Who are the industry watchdogs? Honestly, people who work hard at making an honest living from this, need protection from the likes of Google, Clickbank and dont get me started on ebay . . . .
    As a community - we need to form an alliance and start rating these marketplaces - without us - they are history!!

    While I am not trading on Clickbank yet, they were part of my game plan - of all the training I have done full time over the past 8 months, the major focus has been on Ebay, Amazon, Clickbank, epub and all the social media nuances - so we are talking 8-16 hrs a day x 7 days, thats a lot of time and effort before you start making any significant changes to your income. So i can only imagine the huge $$ loss that some people have endured to enable them the time to learn, prior to getting to this point. Clckbank and others need to consider, how many good quality people who are Committed to the long haul will not bother with their marketplace, if there is a questionmark hanging over their ability to be successful based on unjust practises... Jade Campbell

  • Reply Troy Todd625 days ago

    Mark I here ya mate.
    This is a pretty crappy ratings system if you ask me.
    It amazes me how super affiliates like yourself and probably other super affiliates have raised the concerns with clickbank... and yet they do what they like anyway.
    You are spot on when you say
    -----"Customer satisfaction shouldn't be measured in terms of the people who refund, it should be measured in terms of the people who actually look at and use the product itself"
    ------ Yes the Amazon system would be better even though it is not perfect but it is a damn sight better than what clickbank is planning to do here.
    ----------------------
    Troy

  • Reply Mike Smith625 days ago

    Thanks for the info Mark, I did wonder why one of my merchants has given notice that he's moving from clickbank. I guess we will see more in the months ahead. When you have a good thing going, leave it alone.

  • Reply starshine625 days ago

    Thank you for the clarification, Mark. Sometimes it's hard to figure things out, and I appreciate the time you give to render an explanation that makes sense. January 1st will be here soon enough, so we'll see what kind of results come up. Thanks again --

    Kris P.

  • Reply Desmond Sim625 days ago

    Hey Mark,

    G'day there my friend. Frankly speaking I have lost touch on how Clickbank work today. However based on your explanation, I believed, yes product quality would still be the most important to measure.

    I'm in the info-product creation industry the same field like the Guru which is my current mentor such as, Brendon Burchard, Eben Pagan, Greg Habstritt & many more that emphasizing creating a high quality products for ourselves is necessary in order to:

    1. Position ourselves better in our authority or niche
    2. Better Marketing Strategy
    3. More channels opportunity to be tapped on.

    The industry of such, changed dramatically for the past few years. I believed it is wise to spend some time and effort in making sure our product is high quality not necessary expensive.

    E.g.We can create a better image cover product by engaging some Elance Designer based in Philippines with just less than USD$60.00.

    Definitely there are more cheaper resources we can utilize. The next question is whether the products existing in Clickbank did get some exposure review from Yelp, Google Local or etc? This would be best to look upon for product review out there.

    I agreed it is very expensive to do self-review and perhaps Clickbank understand this path may not be feasible. Not everyone like Apple where they will take all responsible to ensure all apps submission be reviewed carefully or else risk to be rejected. Apple can have the resources but not many can be like them.

    Amazon has a better review structure and as the matter of fact, they are the leader in the industry of having their product listed to be reviewed. Though there are some minor flaws and I might not agreed fully, undeniable this could be Clickbank could model to ensure product quality is the key. The benchmark and scale is not there to enable them to perform stringent review.

    A simple review or stars based on combination of:

    1. Customer Satisfaction of Product
    2. Product Quality
    3. Support
    4. Follow-up.

    These are what I learned from some of the Fortune 500 companies implemented. Worth a try too.

    Desmond

    Mark Ling625 days ago

    You raise some good points.

    I think that 'if' the only factor they are considering is the refund rate, then they should at least make it a sliding scale based on the number of actual sales made.

    For instance, if a merchant makes 1000 sales in one month with a refund rating of 6%, and another merchant make 100 sales in a month with a refund rate of 3%, then if I were to guess, I'd say the product that made 1000 sales is likely to be a better product, or of similar quality, just has better marketing.

    It certainly is very hard to tell from just refund rates, but taking into account sales volume would at least provide some consideration to the part that good marketing plays in having higher refund rates.

    Remember I'm not talking about products that have 'high' refund rates like 20%. I'm talking about the difference between a product that has say 8% refund rate, vs another product that has 4% refund rate.

    8% could easily be achieved through good marketing of their no-questions asked refund policy. That would lead to more sales conversions, however also to higher refunds.

    Perhaps a bonus marketplace half point for any product making over 30 sales in a month, and a bonus full point for over 100 sales in a month, would help level the playing field slightly between the 'poor selling, but low refund rates' vs the 'great selling, but slightly higher refund rates' products.

    Just thinking out loud there. Really, they shouldn't really try to call it a measure of customer satisfaction based on such a narrow metric.

  • Reply Sydney Todd625 days ago

    I just recently requested a refund for a product and the vendor through their support service just kept saying the promised 'live' support was coming. All the while the 60 days were running out.

    Clickbank need to do something to highlight the bad support with some products when Clickbank has to do the refund for the vendor

  • Reply Jackson Lin625 days ago

    I totally agree, I have barely active affiliate accounts being "borderline" and subject in risk of termination. I have no idea why! They are barely active and don't get refunds or charge backs, on the other hand I have super active accounts with "good" ratings with 10%+ refunds and nearly 1% charge backs.

    This is just strange!

  • Reply Cindy Dinatale625 days ago

    Hi Mark,
    Thank you for the heads up. I must say, as a current Affilorama student, between the recent bad news with Google's exact domain name and now Clickbank's Marketplace ratings, this all sounds quite discouraging for affiliates, particularly new affiliates trying to starting out. Affiloblueprint focuses alot on Google SEO and promoting products through Clickbank. I agree that Clickbank should be more strict on their return policy. What do we to do in the meantime with good quality products that are rated poorly when this is implemented in the new year?

  • Reply Vasant Pai • 625 days ago

    Thanks Mark for the nice writeup.

    Many big-name companies do tend to get finicky (Big G, PayPal, AWeber, GoDaddy, to name a few) after they gain name and fame (from us being their customers), bringing out rules and regulations that sometimes turn out to be horrendous.

    ClickBank is no exception. If you are an existing, in-the-process, or potential wannabe CB vendor, consider this blog post kind of an upcoming "CB Storm" warning message and have a backup plan ready so you can shift ASAP to another platform, in case the "storm" does hit you or even before it does. I heard NanaCast/JVZoo is good one, both for vendors and affiliates.

  • Reply Vik • 625 days ago

    I am confused what your are arguing for here Mark.

    Why would do you suggest "Clickbank should strongly consider changing this upcoming 'Marketplace Rating' feature, to being a 'refund rating' instead,..."?

    Like your example product A, a good product with good conversions may have a high refund rate. So it would be rated 3 stars, even though it is likely a great product. This contradicts what you're saying in the line quoted above.

  • Reply Shirley Szerze • 625 days ago

    Thanks Mark for all your valuable insight.
    I agree with you that the label should reflect the source of the information and for me that would provide more clarity on the rating.

  • Reply sandy mathson625 days ago

    I agree that products should not be rated entirely by their refund rate; however, I feel that quality products should not receive a large number of refunds and thus their rating would be higher. Products of lesser value should and I am sure they do have a much larger refund rate which would give them a lower star rating. This would make me believe the their new system could work. As someone who has purchased a way too many programs and requested refunds for many of them as well, I wish that all programs were required to provide complete and accurate details about their program so customers would know if they really wanted or needed the program. It definitely would be extremely helpful if Clickbank reviewed each program manually by someone from their team to see if the program meets certain standards. This would eliminate the lesser quality programs and refund rates in total should be less. My complaint is the misleading information used in the marketing tools of vendors in order to just sell a product. I feel the new system could work, but I do not know all the details about why they wanted to make these changes.

    Mark Ling625 days ago

    I understand what you are saying, but you are probably basing it on your experience buying products from clickbank to do with making money online. I suspect your experience is not to do with niche products (e.g. how to play guitar, how to care for tropical fish, how to get your ex back, numerology, software, etc).

    I've seen many instances within my own niche products where some of my best products, the ones that get the best feedback and reviews from customers, also may have higher refund rates than some of my other products that aren't quite as good. Yet because I've spent more time on the marketing, run some promotions, tried some different traffic sources and gained more affiliates, the refund rates are higher too.

    They aren't 'high' refunds, but they are higher than some of the products of mine that I pay less attention to the marketing of (as they are not big sellers), so it will look like the customer satisfaction is higher with the other products (because of the lower refund rates), but in reality, the better products just had better marketing which lead to higher refund rates.

    For example, you could have product A which makes 100 sales a month with a refund rate of 3%.

    Product B might make 1000 sales a month with a refund rate of 6%.

    Both websites get 1000 visitors per day, yet due to good marketing, Product B has a much higher conversion rate and has many more happy customers, yet it does have a higher refund rate also.

    According to clickbank's new calculations, product A has higher customer satisfaction and hence a higher marketplace rating, yet they haven't surveyed the customers, nor seen the actual product, so how can they make this claim.

    If all they have looked at is the refund rate, then they should call it a 'Refund Rate' calculation. Unless they are looking at other metrics, calling it a measure of customer satisfaction is misleading.

  • Reply Zach Browman625 days ago

    I agree 100%

    I hadn't considered the traffic sources aspect of this - great point.

    Some friends of mine in the biz opp niche saw their refund rate go way up when they advertised on clickbank. They had to stop advertising there and it took months to get their refund rate down again.

    Who's asking for this? Who is it helping?

    I'm investigating other options.

  • Reply David Norden • 625 days ago

    I don't create products and have two accounts with CB, and I am making all my income with ONE product. I have ^put one of my accounts on hold so there is no income from the last 6 weeks, it is flagged at "below average" andthey warn me that without sales I will have to pay them fees starting in January ( they already charge these fees for inactive accounts), the other account id flagged as "very good" since I do sales everyday and that the product I sell (as an affiliate) is from very good quality and with a low refund rate. So the rating doesn't only measure the refund rate, but aso the frequency with which you sell products as a creator and/or as an affiliate I presume.I agree with you that a refund rate can not determine customers satisfaction only and also will contain the marketeers skills of the vendor, and also that clickbank never asks to customers why they are or are not satisfied with the products. They can ook at the systems hotels and the tourism industry have put in place if they want to have an effective system to measure customers satisfaction. For me Clickbank still only care to maximise there own revenues, they don't give a sh*t about the customers satisfaction since they never ask, and that as a buyer of a product you can not give feedback, you can only ask for a refund IF you know the refund URL page and the purchase number. If I want to increase the rate of my inactive CB account, I just need to buy myself one of two products under my own affiliate account to see my ratings go up. Of course I will will have then bought the product with a discount since I will have received the product commission into my account, and CB will also have received its fees and given me a better rating, but I guess this has nothing to do with the marketplace satisfactin about the priducts

    Mark Ling625 days ago

    Hey David, your rating of "very good" is your risk management rating. It is not the Marketplace Rating that I was writing about in this article, that is a separate thing entirely.

    In any event, to respond to your points, I don't really think they should be bringing in risk management ratings of affiliate accounts right away anyway as they need to get the mix right for vendors first.

    They also shouldn't be charging or rating any accounts that deal with low level numbers of sales, as they need to give them a chance to get off the ground.

    Glen 624 days ago

    I totally agree with Mark, the poor new vendor needs to have time to get their product off the ground before being judged by this 'rating system'.

    From memory when I first opened one my CB accounts years ago, I had two sales in two weeks, and both were refunded.

    If this rating system was in place then, I I would have been in line to get my account suspended.

    This rating system should only come in after say the first 100 sales. Or maybe a 3 month amnesty before it kicks in.

    That delay at least gives the vendor some chance to show some sort of pattern and generate some good sales.

    Glen

  • Reply Lyndon Friend625 days ago

    I totally agree, great idea to rate products assisting both buyer and seller with selection but also providing the product owner with a gauge on how his product is perceived. All the holes you've indicated Mark will seriously undermine their whole initiative.

  • Reply Linda Cooper625 days ago

    Hi Mark
    Great post and sure gives us something to think about. I really don't know what to say as I can see both sides of this. What you say is very true but also there are many products with high gravity that turn out before an affiliate knows it to be garbage with great sells page or a scam. Clickbank I know is pretty fast on shutting down scams so that usually is not a factor. So in weighing this guess you are right but also guess we all will have to wait and see and also maybe this will keep bad products off clickbank now!

    Mark Ling625 days ago

    Hey Linda, well this isn't keeping bad products off Clickbank, this system is for rating the products that are currently on Clickbank.

    What they are doing to get rid of bad products is they have implemented a system whereby if your refund rate exceeds 15% for an extended period, or if your chargeback rate is above 1% for an extended period, then you may have your account terminated (following a warning). Though they are changing that shortly to a points based system, but it will have a similar effect to this, where you lose 1 or 2 points for every day that your refund and/or chargeback rate is too high, if you reach zero points (starting from 100) you get suspended.

    I have no issue with that.

    I'm more concerned about the new Marketplace Rating system where there will be a lot of incorrect assessment of product quality between those that are deemed to be good vs those that are deemed to be excellent, ie 3 stars vs 4 or 5 stars.

    Why does it matter? Well you could have 3 or 4 vendors vying for top spot in a particular niche, and affiliates will have an incorrect view from the information that Clickbank has provided as to which product is actually the best quality.

    5 stars won't mean the best customer satisfaction or quality at all. It'll simply mean the lowest refund rate and lowest chargebacks, unless Clickbank decides to bring some more information into this calculation.

    Furthermore, you'll get products that should have been getting 1 or 2 stars, managing to manipulate their way into a 3 star 'good' rating, by implementing questionable refund-reduction tactics.

    And, as a vendor you'll get penalized for good marketing - e.g. Making your 60 day refund policy really obvious, making it easy to get refunds, etc.

  • Reply louis shenker625 days ago

    Surely, this is only one factor when a decision is to be made on whether to promote a product.
    One would then relate this new factor with gravity and take into account the gravity in relation to this new factor.

  • Reply Terry B • 625 days ago

    You are spot on product wise! How can a product be assessed as being good or bad just because some people want refunds. How many people buy a car without having a "test drive" ? That what people do they like to test drive things to see if it's right for them? Clickbank could well become "CLICKBROKE" if they start to discourage providers from offering people the chance to try the products first.

  • Reply kushal kumar625 days ago

    Agree with you mark, minutes back logged into my clickbank account to see the new rating system and they sure have to consider affiliates and vendors concerns before finalizing this rating based system.

  • Reply Martin Hamilton624 days ago

    I support what Mark is saying. Gravity is still the benchmark to me. Although marketing methods play a big part in gravity I still believe the product to be quality if it has a high gravity.

  • Reply Clickbank soon to be gone Super Affiliate624 days ago

    Funny Clickbank only want the top quality products with low refunds promoted, when they've only ever encouraged the buyer to get a refund with a click of a button..no questions asked.
    Ok, maybe that's understandable!

    The BIG question is how would they know what product is actually good with low refunds without it being promoted by affiliates in the first place?

    They've put the scare of losing points and being charged $5 per refund for the Affiliates, and yet they are expecting them to promote products so that Clickbank could get the stats and rate in their marketplace place. CB, the jokes of the year.

  • Reply Brad Howard • 624 days ago

    Who knows how it all shakes out... at least they're testing something to try and help clean things up. Don't guess, test... right? :)

    Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I feel that the marketplace ratings will give professional affiliates better data. If you've got a higher gravity product with a medium marketplace rating, you know that the vendor is selling the HELL out of that product. Now, all affs have to do is do their due diligence (buy the product and see if it's good) to tease out what's really going on.

    Hopefully, this also helps cull out the "bonus wars", blind promotion, and bullshit reviews from affiliates.

    The only thing I'm not a fan of is the fact that you're not getting granular control over affiliates, unless you whitelist, which basically takes you out of the marketplace. If you're being judged on all of this, you should be able to kill of the traffic that's pulling from a scammy aff account at the tip of your finger.

  • Reply Carlos Xuma • 624 days ago

    Yeah, right on, Mark. It's a misnomer at best. And a way to ambiguously rate - and reject - what they don't like. (Funny how these big companies slip into fascism as soon as they get to a certain point. Hello, Google?)

    My biggest concern is that this is called a "predictive algorithm."

    Perhaps you can shed some light on this in a future post as it seems to introduce the "X factor" in their computations. Allowing Clickbank the ability to get rid of you for things they "think" will happen.

    Again, great stuff, Mark...

  • Reply Rob Wiser624 days ago

    Excellent post Mark. I've been in touch with my Clickbank rep today about this, and the responses I'm getting have only added to my confusion. As it stands, one of the effects of this new policy is that it's going to scare affiliates away from promoting products that deserve to be promoted. Personally, I am a big believer in Clickbank and want to see them continue to gain momentum, so I hope that they take this feedback into account.

  • Reply Matt Greener624 days ago

    By sheer probability, a product that sells more will have more refunds regardless of it's quality, and that's not considering the plaque of serial refunders known to ravage Clickbank products. It seems that this just opens up another area for people to game the system and does nothing to tell of the actual quality and customer satisfaction with the product.

    Question: What is the benefit of listing future products in Clickbank compared to setting up your own affiliate platform?

  • Reply Duru • 624 days ago

    Thanks for bringing these new Clickbank changes to our attention. It stand to reason that since there are so many vendors and too many hyped products on Clickbank, this is one way they are trying to give some sort of quality score based on customer feedback after purchase.

    While their actual algorithm seems faulty as you describe, it seems even funnier to "blame it on the marketing". This is very subjective and has little to do with Clickbank. Their previous set of rules tried to limit the hype and the claims made by many vendors in certain niches, apparently it wasn't enough....

    I guess the lesson is that if you put a product on CB for sale you better have some mass marketing behind it!

  • Reply sean kelly624 days ago

    Over the past few years, Clickbank has inadvertently been building a reputation for having far too many low quality products arriving in and being approved by their marketplace.
    It occurs to me that this latest move may well be an effort to discourage the submission of such products by product owners. However, while this might be a good move in an effort to improve their reputation in the eyes of buyers and affiliates alike, I agree that the methods they intend to implement outlined in Mark's post are extremely flawed and could well have the opposite effect.

  • Reply Glen 624 days ago

    HI Mark,

    I know you said, that you had some discussion with Clickbank's head guy at a recent conference about this new 'system', and got nowhere.

    So how do we, as vendors, (Clickbank's lifeblood) get to have a real say about this?

    It seems Clickbank is 'shoving up the middle finger' to all us vendors and doing what they like.

    Glen

  • Reply Jonathon Ross624 days ago

    Personally I've never had much success with CB products and anything in the IM niche is practically guaranteed to refund given the junk in that niche. Physical products from Market Health, Sell Health, Moreniche, etc are a far better proposition.

    Mark Ling624 days ago

    IM products only form a minor percentage of clickbank products. I've had a lot of success over the years and continue to do so daily (as both an affiliate and a vendor) in niches outside of IM.

    I do agree, there are certainly other options out there though if digital products aren't for you and you'd prefer physical products.

  • Reply DaveX • 624 days ago

    I TOTALLY AGREE with Mark's main point

    ... CALL A SPADE A SPADE!

    Label the metric what it really is = REFUND RATING
    I'm happy to see them add metrics, but keep it real :)

    Perhaps some buyers could randomly receive a follow up BRIEF survey request direct from Clickbank after the sale ... Many will not respond, of course, but those who do are likely to create a far more realistic measure of customer satisfaction.

  • Reply Joyce Knake624 days ago

    I like Amazons rating system and the review s. I think it's more fair than looking at the rate of returns.

  • Reply Jackson Lin624 days ago

    Really, there should be better checks and balances to prevent system abuse, because the "broad brush" way of assessing a product's quality based on refunds is not accurate at all.

    Furthermore, using a "proprietary" future projection model (where we don't really know what the criteria is) to determine a vendor's ability to market on Clickbank is very unfair in my opinion. That's like having the criteria sheet blurred out in an exam and if you have had a poor streak in the past, it gives you no credit for future improvements. You don't know what you need to do in order to get better results because the rating system is "proprietary" so hidden or vague, but you get a general idea you need to "do better".

    That doesn't help the student nor does it help the university weed out the bad students who create trouble. In fact, it just makes the students get more frustrated and want to leave the university to go to another where the marking system is transparent!

    I could go on forever about the flaws in a "future projection model" as I have a finance degree also and as we have seen, NO ONE in the financial world was prepared for the global financial meltdown. Yet these businesses spend millions of dollars building "future projection models". So, I cannot stress how useless they are in reality, but how awesome they sound in theory.

  • Reply MICHAEL K AGBODAZE JR623 days ago

    Mark thank you for blog post. It's really informing. You blamed it all on CB. But I think a cursory look has to be made into it before any cogent conclusion can be drawn.
    Look at the tripartite with keen observation: The CB, Vendors, and Affiliates. None of these bodies can be in business without the existence of the other.
    Looking at it holistically, CB may not be pulling the right string by the introduction of product rating with that formula. Though some vendors over hype product creating instance calling for refund. I was interested in a product selling at $27.00 and bought it only to be sent to another page asking to pay different money before getting the product. That's something to do with Anik or so. It's appalling. I called for refund immediately.
    If, as a vendor, you claim to have nothing but the best product ever, I believe being realistic about this can rather make a better deal than the reverse, unless the marketing approves of that.
    That said, CB can also take measures to access the buyers to be convinced they really want what they're buying to minimise refunds. And also, they must not just be interested in premiums vendors pay but rather scrutinize the vendors' products to an extent.
    The collapse of vendor activity at CB, is the collapse of CB, and the collapse of the entire affiliate marketing!

    Mark Ling623 days ago

    Hi Mike,



    I wasn't blaming refunds on Clickbank.



    I was merely pointing out that the way they are planning on calculating product quality based solely on refunds and chargebacks is immensely flawed and is grossly unfair on those of us who strive very hard to produce the best quality products, while still doing good marketing as well.



    Based on Clickbank's upcoming algorithm, my best niche product is apparently www.kissing101.net. Which is a product that I had created back about 6 years ago. It's a reasonably good product, but I wouldn't put it in my top 10 niche products that's for sure.



    I'm not writing this post with concern to the high refund products that are rip offs. Those will be subject to other Clickbank penalties anyway with their other new policies.



    I've written the post more concerned that 'moderate/average' products will be the ones that will get the high 5 star ratings, while superstar quality products will get 3 and 4 star ratings, as they also get a lot more sales and higher conversions (from good marketing), leading refund rates to be higher, but yet the actual non-refunding product-consuming customers gain far greater value from these products.


    They should also take into account sales numbers more. To receive 5 stars for a product, it should also be getting a reasonable sales volume (e.g. at least 100 sales a month), otherwise there isn't enough data based on refunds/chargebacks to make that assumption (case in point my kission101 product which receives far less than 100 sales a month), likewise products that get low ratings (ie 1 star) shouldn't get any lower than 3 stars until they've had at least 50-100 total sales, otherwise the data could well be very skewed.

  • Reply Troy Todd623 days ago

    Mark, I think you or one of your staff needs to email this thread to clickbank so they can have a good read of it.
    Then they can see how affiliates and vendors feel about this.
    It is not just the vendor that gets affected here, it is the buyer.
    Imagine buying a product like your kissing101 just on clickbanks rating system that they want to bring in...and then you find out there are more recent up to date products etc...that you could have bought but you did not because of a lower rating, Very stupid system and they can do better.
    Clickbank, REALLY need to see this thread.
    Troy

    Glen 622 days ago

    It would really be novel thing for Clickbank to do something to actually 'help' vendors for a change, instead of looking for every way they can to make it harder for vendors to market products on their platform.

  • Reply Richard Cummings • 618 days ago

    The new ClickBank rating system is definitely flawed. While I applaud their notion of removing subpar products, there is no way they should penalize affiliates for selling--that is what affiliates do!

  • Reply Kyle • 617 days ago

    "Other vendors may have a much better product, but equally may have better marketing in place, which pushes those prospects who are 'on the fence' into becoming buyers"

    It would be nice if the world moved towards less "clever", "pushy", or "manipulative" ways of promoting their products.

    Instead of spending so much time and resources trying to figure out how to essentially "trick" someone into buying your product, just present it like this:

    1. This is my product
    2. This is what it does
    3. This is what it costs

    This would help to solve a multitude of problems in this world including Clickbank, Google, debt, morals and values, etc.
    (Before you consider me naive, I've been marketing for over a decade and have done 10 figures online)

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  • Reply Leon Wolinski615 days ago

    Good Article - There is another small contributor that will give an incorrect returns rating as well.

    For example, I have had a couple sales (both international) where it showed as a sale and then a couple days later it was cancelled. I inquired of course and it was because these charges from European charge info didn;t pay or be confirmed,
    I inquired to Clickbank if this would count against me on my return rating AND THEY SAID YES
    a small percentage
    So remember people , the way Clickbank is set up right now, even a bad charge will count against you

  • Reply thomasedmund661610 days ago

    I met with a CB director at an IM fair - the last IM fair that I attended. I did mention the quality of the products on CB - they mostly seem to be embarrassing - such as http://www.kissing101.net/ or stupid - how to make a huge amount of money with no effort - or a slight con - e.g. how to make a fish live longer, when that fish biologically only has a fixed lifespan - and no matter how much you care for it, it will still die at the end of it's lifespan. Then there are other products - such as the male organ enlargement products. Most people I think are too embarrassed to ask for a refund - rather than being happy with the quality of the product. I did produce a product on clickbank - got a 1% conversion rate - though it cost too much in marketing, and I had no mailing list to speak of. But I had a serious think before going down the path of enlisting other affiliates, and thought - is this really something that I want to be involved with. I took down two months of work - I did'nt want my name to be associated with IM. However it was difficult to clean up all the many stolen pieces of copy that even my small effort had generated. I got there in the end. To get back to the point - the ClickBank director defended the CB products by saying - well people buy this stuff. But it seems that no only are the products poor quality, but also the testimonials are paid for and fake. I cannot understand this discussion on quality. It is a no brainer. CB are not interested in quality of products. They are not interested in the customers of their products. They are not interested in the affiliates of their market place's products. They are only interested in making money, from anyone, anyhow, and staying just on the right side of the law. But then I understand affiliate marketing is laregly about finding people with desperate needs, and selling to them - using whatever psychologically manipulative techniques you can - and if you wrap it all up into the MLM pyramid scheme - and wowzers, you make some spare cash. The sad thing is that this approach does waste peoples time, it hurts people, it encourages people - wanabe IMers - to behave in a dishonerable way. Help me out here. Am I missing something?

  • Reply Steven Wood604 days ago

    CB is a joke; They are the cause of most of the refund's full stop.
    You can buy via your own affiliate links = refunds and commission theft is an everyday thing because affiliates know how easy it is to do that.

    None affiliates who buy refund products because it's so easily laid out for them in the CB email they get. So even if the product is of high quality most will refund, hey it's a freebie so why not.

    And now you get to see how well your affiliate account standing is? Like how can any affiliate really influence vendor refunds except not promote their product? So all affiliates are going to do is stop promoting high refund CB products. All that is going to do is force vendors to sell their products elsewhere.

    However, like I already said, even high-quality products get refunded because it's so easy to do that. Well, I'm not going to mess around with CB. I have a business to run and closing and making new accounts every so often is not what I want to be doing qualifying my accounts to get first payment then having to set back up my direct bank transfer. My account is green at the moment but with this new system, they are hell-bent on introducing, will confuse even us affiliates, so I think CB customers are going to be refunding even more than they do now.

    Just like Google they are becoming a casualty of their own success and greed.

  • Reply Wayne Bardell584 days ago

    I'm not a vendor, have just promoted others products as an affiliate. I actually like this move. I don't care if they call it Marketplace Rating or Refund Rate, I would like to know this information. I used to make very good money with Clickbank back from 1999-2005, but haven't done much with them since then but am thinking about getting involved again after the first of the year.
    I've noticed in the Marketplace that they have an option to sort the search results by Marketplace Rating, not sure if this is a new thing with their changes coming or if this option has been there for a while. But doing some searching when sorting by Marketplace Rating, most of the products coming up first do not have very high gravity. I've found that many products with a high gravity are not very good products, just because they sell a lot does not make it good. I think some sales pages are way overhyped, and if the vendor would be honest and tell the buyer exactly what they are getting the refund rate should not be high.
    I think Clickbank is probably being forced to do this to protect their merchant account. Banks are getting tougher with refunds and chargeback rates and if Clickbank had high refunds and chargeback rates they could potentially lose their merchant account, and then there would be no Clickbank. I don't know if Clickbank currently enforces this, but they should ban any buyers that frequently request refunds to stop the serial refunders.

  • Reply Hilgard Muller584 days ago

    Hallo Mark, my name is Hilgard Muller from Auckland. I have been trying to get hold of you without any success. I would like to set up an appointment with you and/or your team in Chrsitchurch to help me taking my website to the next level. I understand there will be a cost involved, let me know how much. I can be contacted at 0220877319 or 092679452. I am not a wannabe, the funds is available.

  • Reply MICHAEL K AGBODAZE JR583 days ago

    Mark, I'm almost dead if not dead! I've heard many nice things from you and your team and always try to hold to those things to one day have a happy moment, but to no avail. I need a critical advice on my 2 sites, why they've all failed to make a cent for me since when they were created. These are newhealthylife1.com and weimaranersecretsfound.com.
    Thank you, Godfather.

  • Reply Panda Lix571 days ago

    Hi Mark,

    I read this post in November and waited to see how CB rating panned out. I had no worries because my account performs very well. I was given a "Very Good" rating. But then something horrible happened. I had one refund, yes, just one, and my rating fell to "Below Average" overnight. I contacted CB, and all their rep could say was that it is a "sophisticated algorithm". Ok, I thought, let me wait it out, once I have more sales the account will go up to Very Good again. I have since made loads of sales, yet my account remains "Below Average". So today I sent this email.

    Hi,

    I contacted you about 2 weeks ago about my account rating. It fell from Very Good to Below Average after just one refund. I found this very unfair. The system was explained to me by a rep, but my question remained unanswered. I swallowed it and carried on. Since my email I have had numerous sales on my account that massively outweigh the one refund - my account is clearly performing very well. However, my account still reads "Below Average"; how is this possible? I've had one refund in about 4 months and lots of positive sales!

    Your rep said this was a "sophisticated algorithm". I can't see how if it doesn't recognise that my performance is anything but below average.

    It angers me that I am going to be subject to fees come the 1st January because of a poor rating, when the truth is that my account is performing very well.

    Please can you give me an explanation other than explaining that it's a sophisticated algorithm.

    Thank you

    This is just a money grab by Clickbank. Come 2nd Jan I will be subject to higher fees, even though I am one of the good guys with a great performing account.

    Sad that CB forgot who made them what they are.

    Cheers Mark.

    Steven Wood536 days ago

    I have been affiliating with CB since 2007 and use three accounts for different niches.

    Since the changes CB is making, I decided to set up individual accounts to test products before I promote them in my main niche accounts.

    One example I got from doing this method was; Four sales of the same product with 328 generated hops.

    Results:
    4 sales total with 1 refund.

    That test account is now yellow with just one refund... CB tells me that account has a 28.57% refund risk.

    So from what I can see is this so called sophisticated algorithm does not have the data to back track and calculate the overall performance since the setup of any long-standing accounts. It seems to me that all it works with is the data from its launch. So one bad month with one or two refunds will evaluate your account to a risk.

    Maybe, a few months down the road it will sort its self out and take the overall performance into consideration.

  • Reply Marianne Kadunc • 537 days ago

    Mark, as always your insights & updates are extremely realistic & useful! Completely agree with your thinking! As someone who has been an affiliate & am now venturing into being a vendor the changes to CB & their effects on marketers are crucial to understand. Thanks for the input & support you all the way!
    Cheers Marianne

  • Reply jammer123512 days ago

    has anyone seen where the clickbank market place has gone, i cant find the market place on the clickbank home page. I can see some products but what has happened to the rest of the market place?

    James • 508 days ago

    I just noticed this too? What happened to it? Supposedly we should be seeing a new marketplace with more detailed product information? Not have the whole thing disappear.

    Also, is anyone else having their account score decreased for refunds, but not increased again for sales? I have an extremely low refund rate. Around 1 in 30 sales gets a refund, but my account has been degraded to green now...?

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