When you go shopping, whether it be online or in the "real world" (I know, that's sooooo last century), you browse to see what's on offer before making a decision. Did you know that 90 percent of customers say that their decisions about purchasing products are influenced by online reviews? Marketing Land wrote a blog post about it:
So why not do the same with affiliate networks? This is the place to get the inside scoop on two of the top-rated networks around: Rakuten LinkShare and ClickBank.
For each, you will get:
- My initial opinion of the network
- Blogger opinions of the network
- User opinions of the network (via a variety of forums)
Think of it as an archive, snippets of multiple opinions from across the web all in the one place, so you don't have to spend the time hunting for them yourself. Let's see what I can dig up...
1. Rakuten LinkShare
Coming in first across the board on 'top affiliate network' lists is LinkShare. But how does it compare in the eyes of the average affiliate marketer?
My Initial Impression of LinkShare
It seems very up-market; I don't get the sense that it's catering to newer affiliates. It looks like they offer a lot of tools and support, but at the same time I wonder how simple the process of getting started with them is.
I can't browse their affiliate programs when I visit their website, so I have to sign up to get a look around. I found the "Publishers" vs. "Affiliates" thing a little confusing to begin with. If I were newish, I would be thinking, "Is a publisher just an affiliate?" And, "Where exactly am I meant to sign up?"
I know it's simple to read through the information to figure out where to go, but I feel like in this day and age on the Internet it should be straightforward: "Sign up as an affiliate here!" If we must sign up before being able to look around properly, at least give us a nice big button to do so!
In saying that, I think that the website looks professional and trustworthy, and I would probably sign up to have a look around.
Blogger Impressions of LinkShare
OK, so I know that a lot of us are affiliate marketers, and I understand why we do what we do, but boy do we do make it hard to get honest and unbiased opinions in search results!
However, throughout my digging I've managed to find evidence of the reasons why people may or may not like LinkShare. For starters, it's known for having helpful tracking and reporting features.
You can set your payment threshold as low as $1, which means that you don't have to earn big bucks before you get a cent. Another comment made in some of the blogs is that people find LinkShare quite easy to use, and the support is friendly and fast.
Another gem is that they've gone to the effort to make deep linking easy, sending people straight to a specific sales page rather than a homepage.
They have more physical products than digital products, so if that's what you're looking for, many would tell you that LinkShare is the place to go.
Unfortunately, some people have had trouble earning with LinkShare. I read a few instances in which people had used the network for a long time, and not had much luck.
Mind you, there are many more elements involved in making sales than what affiliate network you use, so it's hard to tell how much of this is due to LinkShare. Overall, though, the opinion is a positive one.
User Impressions of LinkShare
Forums are the opposite of blogs in the general angle of their commentary. Where blogs lean toward favorable reviews, forums are riddled with the issues people are having, making them much more negative generally.
I've done some digging however to get you a good variety of opinions:
It's true that some people love LinkShare.
It's also true that some people aren't so keen about it.
So what's the overall evidence? Why do people feel the way that they do? To start with, some people aren't impressed with LinkShare's API.
They did finish by saying that LinkShare is a reputable company, however, and that others have had good relationships. This brings me to my next point: LinkShare has some bigger-brand affiliate products, as was mentioned in the blog reviews above, "...everything from Macy's to AT&T to McAfee."
This is probably what accounts for the more up-market style of their application process. Big brands mean more competition, both in the online market, and even just being accepted into affiliate programs. In response to the blog post, someone mentioned their trouble with this:
At the other end of the merchant scale on LinkShare, it would seem that some are spamming affiliates via email under the umbrella of "Private Offers."
And while LinkShare responded with a blog post that explains how to filter these unwanted emails, most users seemed unhappy with this as a solution, believing it shouldn't happen in the first place, and that it should be resolved on their end.
This is just something you may have to consider when choosing the LinkShare network, though I do have a friend who uses it and claims that she never had any such problem.
Either way, LinkShare's support service does seem to be top notch. This isn't even a LinkShare forum, and the team responded to a question within 12 hours:
LinkShare went on to resolve the issue for all in the same situation.
LinkShare Review Summary
Overall it appears that the following can be said about LinkShare:
- It can be a bit more difficult to earn commissions with LinkShare, particularly if your new to affiliate marketing.
- LinkShare is more suited to affiliates who already have some experience.
- It's not the best option for digital products, but LinkShare is great for physical products.
- It's a good place to find big brands, but getting accepted by these merchants can be difficult.
- There's a risk that you'll get some email spam from less-than-desirable merchants.
- Any issues you have will be quickly seen to by their support.
Yes, LinkShare isn't perfect, but no affiliate network will be. If you're newer and you prefer digital products, then this network probably isn't for you. If you have some experience with affiliate marketing already, and great physical product brands sound pretty good to you, then by all means give LinkShare a go!
ClickBank rates fairly highly on "top affiliate network" lists as well, so I'm digging deeper...
My Initial Impression of ClickBank
It looks good, and it's friendly. I like the ease of finding the information for affiliates under "Digital Marketers" at the top. It seems very people-focused, as you can easily read through stories from real affiliates under the "Features" tab at the top.
My absolute favorite thing is that you can browse the marketplace without even signing up. It's like a door wide open: Come and see what you can promote here, and then decide whether or not you want to sign up.
It feels like ClickBank has nothing to hide, that it's not just trying to get information out of you; it's all very reassuring. There's no reason why I wouldn't at least have a look around at the products I could be promoting with this affiliate network.
Blogger Impressions of ClickBank
After browsing a variety of blogs, I have discovered some common opinions about ClickBank. To start with, there's a lot of positive feedback from people who've found ClickBank easy to get started with.
The problem of course with such an open network, is that you really do get the bad with the good...
It would seem that some research is required to check which products have the most promise. Thankfully, ClickBank has a really effective filtering process to sort the good from the bad.
Many have pointed out that the Gravity filter is particularly good, as well as other filters such as the average amount per sale or products by language.
ClickBank appears to be somewhat like a "serve yourself" buffet of options, but unfortunately, not all of the reviews of the support are as shining as the LinkShare support reviews.
At the same time, others have had positive customer support experiences, so while it's a little more touch-and-go, it can be fine depending on your situation. Overall, the blog reviews are positive.
User Impressions of ClickBank
Ah forums, where opinions fly free and no one holds back. I've found some very extreme opinions about ClickBank in my online travels. Some are unabashedly jubilant...
...and occasionally one is outright zealously condemning...
...but in all seriousness, there are a variety of highly relevant opinions on why people do or don't like ClickBank. To start, I found a great deal of positive feedback on how quickly people managed to make money with it.
Of course, it wasn't so easy for everyone. Some found it a little confusing to navigate.
A lot of people have said that's it's great for newbies, which is why a lot of people start there.
The theme of "be careful which products you choose to promote" is just as prominent in the forums as it was in the blogs. People who haven't filtered their search results to find good products to promote often complain about the products that they've ended up with:
That particular opinion however was slammed by several who have found great products using ClickBank. Most simply insist that you need to make use of the search filters, and look at the merchant sales page to determine for yourself whether you want to promote a product or not.
The one limitation with ClickBank products however is that you can only find digital products to promote, so if you want to promote physical products, this isn't where you'd look!
The up-side of this is that it's easy for ClickBank to be customer-friendly with their 60-day money back guarantee, and the general opinion of affiliates is that this is a very good thing! It gives customers buyer security, which can often result in more sales than refunds in the larger picture.
ClickBank Review Summary
In the end it would seem that ClickBank is great for newbies, and that a lot of people have made good money with it. You have to be conscious of which products you are choosing to promote, but there are plenty of good ones to be found. If you'd like more information on using the search filters in ClickBank, you can check out our free lesson here.
If you're looking to make money promoting digital products, which is a particularly good idea if you're just starting out, and you don't want to have to apply for each affiliate program individually, then this one is definitely for you. You can launch right into it fairly easily.
Conclusion: Rakuten LinkShare or ClickBank?
From all the evidence gathered it would seem that they are both good options for affiliate networks, but they cater to different needs.
If you are new to affiliate marketing, you want easy, fast-in-fast-out access to affiliate programs, and you'd like to promote digital products, then ClickBank is for you.
If you are more experienced in affiliate marketing, you want to promote physical products, and you don't mind the process of applying for each affiliate program individually, then LinkShare might be more up your alley than ClickBank.
If you have an opinion on either or these networks, or a question about anything to do with them, be sure to comment below, as there's never any harm in adding to the collection of opinions! The more opinions, the better the view we can get of each network.