Commission Junction Review: How To Make Money With CJ Affiliate in 2020?
The year 2007 was the first time I heard about someone making six-figures per year on autopilot from Commission Junction (now known as CJ Affiliate by Conversant)
“What’s Commission Junction?”, I asked a tech-savvy friend.
“It’s an affiliate marketing platform”
“What’s affiliate marketing?”, I innocently asked.
That’s right, I heard about Commission Junction (CJ) even before I had any idea what affiliate marketing was.
That’s how long it has been around.
Almost every experienced and successful affiliate marketer has been a CJ affiliate at some point in time.
But is it still as vibrant and profitable as its early years? Should you become a publisher on CJ Affiliate and start promoting products? Or is CJ a dying platform that makes money by scamming its affiliates and suspending their accounts when it’s time to pay their commissions?
In this detailed beginner’s guide, I’ll be responding to all these questions. I’ll also tell you how to get started with Commission Junction and the best ways to make money from it as an affiliate marketer.
What Is Commission Junction (CJ Affiliate by Conversant)?
Commission Junction is among the world’s top affiliate marketing platforms for digital & physical products (although mostly digital). It started operations back in 1998 when the internet was a very different place from what it is today.
Affiliate marketing was still a new concept in the online world and making money was much easier since there was no competition, Google algorithms, or unnecessary affiliate regulations.
As a result, CJ quickly became one of the fastest growing online businesses and attracted thousands of affiliate marketers who made millions from it in its early days.
Because of its exponential growth, Commission Junction was acquired in 2003 by ValueClick and was later rebranded in 2014 as CJ Affiliate by Conversant.
The core business, however, remained the same.
More than two decades later, CJ Affiliate is still one of the most popular affiliate networks with thousands of advertisers and pays more than 1.8 billion dollars every year in affiliate commissions.
In fact, according to a market analysis by Datanyze, CJ Affiliate is the second most popular affiliate network after Amazon Associates, with a market share of almost 8%.
Affiliate marketers prefer Amazon Associates because of their physical product range. Among the platforms exclusively dealing in digital products, CJ Affiliate is the clear market leader ahead of giant corporations such as Rakuten and ShareASale.
But it’s not just about the number of sites that use CJ Affiliate.
The quality of affiliates is an even bigger question and this is an area where CJ Affiliate once again leaves behind all its competitors.
According to SimilarTech, CJ Affiliate is the number one choice among the top 10 thousand affiliate websites in the world.
This includes multi-million dollar publishers such as CNN, TIME, BuzzFeed, and many others who rely on CJ Affiliate to find relevant and high-quality brands that they can promote to earn a consistent income through affiliate marketing.
Why The Leading Brands Use CJ Affiliate?
Some of the world’s most popular and trusted brands including Barnes&Noble, GoPro, and Lowe’s recruit affiliate marketers through CJ Affiliate.
I tried to find the exact answer to this question but there are a lot of different perspectives on this if you search the internet.
But here’s my conclusion.
The number one reason why brands trust CJ Affiliate is its strict affiliate recruitment and publisher policies. This gets them a lot of hate from affiliate marketers because they’re more focused on recruiting the right affiliates than just boosting their numbers.
But it makes them ideal for advertisers because they know they’re working with the best publishers available.
Recruiting affiliates, of course, can drastically improve the ROI of a company’s marketing efforts because advertisers only need to pay affiliates when they sell their products.
I also really like the incremental calculator on CJ Affiliate’s website that lets advertisers calculate exactly how much increase in sales they can expect by working with CJ Affiliate.
Advertisers can get a comparison by entering their existing traffic and sales numbers. I used random numbers to see how it works.
Based on these numbers, this is the comparison CJ Affiliate showed me.
It shows several other states that do a great job of convincing advertisers to start recruiting affiliates.
Overall, I think it’s the credibility of CJ Affiliate and its marketing strategy that helps them attract such high profile advertisers.
Why Affiliate Marketers Use CJ Affiliate?
I’ve already shown you how popular Commission Junction is among affiliate marketers.
The reason is simple.
It’s a reliable platform that gives you access to some of the world’s most lucrative and credible affiliate programs.
No matter what niche you’re in, you can find relevant products, membership programs, training courses, and other types of affiliate offers to match the needs of your audience.
Plus, the payout rate and cycle are pretty convenient so there’s no reason not to join CJ Affiliate as a publisher.
However, despite its high standards, CJ Affiliate still has its share of crappy products. It’s not like you can pick any product from CJ and immediately start making money from it.
Not at all.
You have to be really choosy and need to consider several factors before signing up for a product.
But more on that later in the post.
The Major Pros & Cons Of Commission Junction For Affiliate Marketers
There’s a lot to like about CJ Affiliate but it doesn’t mean it has no weaknesses.
Let’s look at some of the major pros and cons of Commission Junction to help you decide if its the right affiliate platform for you.
- CJ Affiliate is among the oldest and most credible affiliate networks for digital & physical products
- It has some seriously big brands on board as advertisers.
- Many second and third-tier brands also join CJ Affiliate as advertisers because of the top brands
- CJ offers one of the best reporting dashboards in the affiliate industry with real-time transaction monitoring
- They offer timely payouts within 20-days of the month’s end (in which you made the sale)
- Filtering and choosing affiliate programs is quite simple
- Creating affiliate links is a hassle-free process in CJ
- The minimum payment threshold is a friendly $50 for direct deposits.
- CJ offers a very limited range of physical product affiliate programs. Its primary strength is in the digital product space
- It has a long learning curve for beginners because of the huge number of programs and options available (a good problem to have IMO)
- Their affiliate approval rate is lower than other platforms so you need to have a functional website or any other platform where you’re generating traffic before applying. Not ideal for complete beginners
- Even when you get accepted as an affiliate on CJ, it doesn’t mean you automatically qualify for every affiliate program listed on the platform. You’ll have to apply to every program separately
- CJ does not offer payouts via PayPal or checks which is a big turn-off for many affiliates.
- CJ certainly isn’t the best when it comes to customer support. You need to make sense of things yourself or wait for days to get a response from their support reps.
Is Commission Junction A Scam?
A Research-Based Answer
If you search Commission Junction on Google, you’ll come across many different forum threads and user reviews claiming that it’s a complete scam.
Here’s an example.
But you’ll also see positive reviews like this one.
Here’s another example
So what’s the truth?
Is Commission Junction really just a big scam that has partnered with the world’s top brands to plunder poor affiliates who’re just trying to make a living online?
Every comment on the web has a context and you can’t decide whether a company is a scam based on just a few comments by dissatisfied affiliates.
The mistake that most new affiliates make with CJ is that they don’t carefully read the terms and conditions before joining an affiliate program.
Remember, every affiliate program listed on CJ has its own set of rules. For example, some programs allow traffic from only a handful of sources.
Let’s say a program does not allow PPC traffic to affiliate offers. But you sign up for it and start driving traffic with PPC ads.
Your dashboard will keep showing your progress and your sales numbers and everything will appear normal.
Until the payout date arrives because that’s when the affiliate program will analyze your traffic sources.
And when they discover that you’ve sent traffic from banned sources, they’ll deactivate your account.
Secondly, remember that the affiliate programs listed on CJ are independent advertisers. Ideally, CJ should make sure there are no agreement violations by their advertisers and the interests of their affiliates are protected.
But that doesn’t happen in some cases (from at least what I’ve seen in research).
That’s why you (as an affiliate) must choose advertisers carefully. Only work with well-known advertisers with a clean background and a long list of successful products.
Don’t jump on a product just because it pays well (I’ll share specific metrics you should consider).
In short, CJ itself is not a scam but since it is such a huge affiliate platform, there can be cases where advertisers try to take advantage of affiliates.
So be careful in choosing the right programs to promote.
Steps To Become An Affiliate On Commission Junction
You can become an affiliate on CJ for free by signing up as a Publisher on the signup page.
This will redirect you to a simple sign up form that you need to fill to create your account and confirm your email address.
This is the confirmation email you’ll receive once you submit the signup form.
Once you click on the “Create My CJ Publisher Account” link, you’ll be redirected to a page where you’ll need to read and agree to their policies and affiliate terms & conditions. You also need to certify that you’re at least 18 years old to operate an affiliate account.
Once you’re done with this step, you’ll be redirected to the login page where you can sign in to your CJ Publisher account.
Can you start promoting affiliate products now? Not so fast.
Commission Junction Publisher Onboarding
You still need to activate your account by completing several onboarding steps that include submitting your tax documents, completing your profile, adding your website, app, or any other promotional property for review, etc.
Although you need to complete every section in this list, two of them are really important and will largely determine your success or failure as an affiliate on CJ.
The first one is your Network Profile.
This is your description as a publisher that is visible to the advertisers on CJ when you apply for an affiliate program.
Don’t take it lightly because it plays a major role in your acceptance/rejection in a program.
To write an engaging business profile, describe your business model, its primary goals, the key strengths that make you different, and why you’ll be perfect as an affiliate partner. If you have your website’s traffic numbers or any other stats to back your claims, that’s even better.
But be concise and mention the most important information upfront.
The other section in your onboarding process that’s important is “Promotional Property”
There are four sections here in which you need to share as much information about your promotional property as possible.
This is the primary platform you’ll be using to drive traffic to the affiliate offers you choose from CJ.
It can be a website, a blog, a mobile app, a social media, profile, an email list, a paid advertising campaign, or anything else in the list below.
The platform you submit in your application (for example a blog) needs to have an existing audience and regular monthly visitors.
A brand new platform that’s still struggling to attract traffic will most likely be ignored by advertisers.
The other important thing here is to choose your primary promotional model. To be more precise, you have to choose the ways you provide value to your audience with your promotional platform.
These two sections will determine what kind of advertisers work with you. For example, if email marketing is your primary traffic source, you will mostly be working with advertisers who’re looking for email traffic.
To finish the onboarding process and activate your account, complete the remaining steps by submitting your tax information, company details, and providing your payment information.
How To Get Paid As An Affiliate On CJ Affiliate
Commission Junction offers only two payment options - Direct Bank Deposits and Payoneer.
Direct Deposits are available to affiliates from a limited list of countries. In case you’re not eligible for bank deposits, you can use Payoneer for international payments.
Previously, CJ also processed payments via check but discontinued that option in October 2020. It also doesn’t offer PayPal or credit card payments.
To complete your bank details on CJ, you first need to submit your tax documents and company details.
After that, you can enter your bank details on the Payments page from the onboarding list.
Payment Frequency & Minimum Amount
The minimum payment amount for CJ affiliates is $50 while the maximum amount for a single withdrawal is $1000.
You’ll need to request multiple withdrawals if your amount is more than $1000.
As for the payment schedule, you’re paid 20 days after the month in which you make a sale. This means if you sell a product in January, you’ll be paid for it on the 20th of February.
Commission Junction Affiliate Platform - How Does It Work?
Once you complete the signup process, you’ll gain access to the Publisher dashboard which gives you a snapshot of your performance as a CJ affiliate marketer, plus several other important pieces of information.
The most important section in this dashboard for you is the Performance Summary.
Here’s what it shows for your selected duration.
Commission: The total commission you’ve earned by selling affiliate products or generating leads.
Sales: The total number of sales you’ve facilitated.
Lead: The total number of leads you’ve referred.
Clicks: The total number of clicks on your affiliate links
Impressions: The total number of impressions on your affiliate ads
Publisher EPC: It represents your Earnings Per 100 Clicks (EPC). For example, if you get 1000 clicks on your affiliate links that result in $5000 in commissions, your EPC will be $500.
Conversion: The percentage of clicks you’ve generated that converted into sales or leads.
By looking at this section, you can easily gauge your performance as an affiliate/publisher on CJ.
The other important section is Messages where you’ll recieve any announcements or messages from CJ.
Your CJ publisher dashboard also shows a list of the newest advertisers on the platform. You can use the tabs in this section to view the top advertisers as well as recommended advertisers based on your profile.
On the top of your screen, there are links to the other key sections of your account.
- Account (your account info and settings)
- Advertisers (to find affiliate programs)
- Links (to create affiliate links)
- Reports (detailed performance stats)
- Mail (messages from CJ)
- PayPerCall (find PPC affilaite programs)
I’ll explain Widgets and Placements later in the article.
Overall, I really like the clean look of this dashboard since it only shows you the most important information and shares the links to the rest of the sections.
This is what dashboards are meant for, right? I never understand why some affiliate networks try to put everything possible on the publisher dashboard. It only leads to confusion.
Thankfully CJ’s publisher dashboard is different.
What Affiliate Programs Are Available On Commission Junction?
The biggest reason we affiliates use platforms like ClickBank and CJ is to find high quality, reliable, and relevant affiliate programs for our audiences.
So what kind of affiliate programs/advertisers are available on CJ?
Are they easy to find and filter? Can you easily identify the best selling programs and the ones with the highest payouts?
This is exactly what we’ll discuss in this section.
There are thousands of digital and physical product affiliate programs listed on Commission Junction. However, marketers usually prefer it for digital products.
The three broad affiliate program types are
Pay Per Sale: You earn a commission when your drive sales
Pay Per Lead: You earn a commission when you refer leads
Pay Per Call: You earn a commission when you generate phone calls
How do you find the best advertisers to promote as an affiliate?
I’ll explain this in the next section.
Finding Legit & Profitable Affiliate Programs/Advertisers On CJ Affiliate
To find the best performing affiliate programs in any niche, head over to the Advertisers page from your main Publisher dashboard in CJ
CJ does a great job in this section when it comes to search filters and ways to find the right advertisers. For a new user, it might seem like a bit of an overkill but these are really helpful tools to find exactly the kind of programs you want.
To be precise, here are the filters you can use to find different advertisers.
As you can see, you can search advertisers by name or relevant niche keywords to find affiliate programs.
You can also apply the following filters to make your searches more focused
- Serviceable Area
- Advertiser’s Country
- Geographic Source
Each of these search filters has more detailed options when you click on them.
This is the complete interface that you’ll see when you go to the Advertiser’s page
Since I’ve not applied any filters yet, you can see the total number of results in 2902 which shows all the advertisers on CJ right now.
How do you evaluate an advertiser and find out if they’re worth promoting?
Apart from relevance to your audience, the key metrics to remember are Network Earnings and EPC.
Network Earnings: The overall performance of an advertiser on Commission Junction. The green bar represents the volume of commissions paid by the advertisers to the publishers on CJ. The bigger the bar, the better.
Advertiser EPC: EPC shows how much the affiliates are earning per 100 clicks from a program. A high EPC shows a profitable program.
How do you find the right programs?
By using a combination of these two filters - Network Earnings and EPC.
A high EPC score alone doesn’t give you the full picture. I recommend searching for your niche programs by applying the Category filter, sorting the results by Network Earnings High to Low, and then finding high EPC programs.
This will give you the list of programs that have been consistently making money on CJ and also have a high conversion rate.
This is also important because, despite its high standards, CJ still has its share of low-quality products and dubious affiliate programs. By taking both Network Earnings and EPC into account, you’ll be able to find the most reliable programs in your niche and minimize the risk of any disputes with the advertiser.
To view the details of any program and read its terms and conditions, just click on it to open a dropdown section with all the details.
For example, here are the details of one of the top-selling web hosting affiliate programs on CJ
It tells you everything you need to know about the program. For example the best selling regions, the original website and social media accounts of the company, a detailed description of the target audience, and the program terms.
Remember that you have to apply separately for every affiliate program listed on CJ.
Every program has its own set of requirements and unfortunately, most of them look for established affiliates which means it can be a bit hard for a total newbie to get into a popular program.
But if your platform is strong and you have an engaged audience, you can still be accepted into any program.
Creating Affiliate Links In CJ Affiliate by Conversant
Most advertisers on CJ have multiple products listed in their product section. And each product can have multiple affiliate links like text links, banners, animated banners, images, etc.
Each link routes your visitors to a different landing page or product offer (depending on your program).
Finding these links with CJ’s classic link search interface can be confusing for a new user.
Thankfully they now offer several innovative linking options as well.
Overall, here are the methods you can use to create affiliate links on Commission Junction.
- Find Links On The Advertiser Page
- Use The Link Search Interface
- Use The Deep Link Generator Tool
- Use Page Based Linking Tool
- Create Product Widgets
- Create Link Placement Opportunities
Let me quickly describe each of them
Find Links On The Advertiser Page
This is the simplest method in which you’ll go to the Advertiser page, search for relevant programs and, if you get approved, click on the Get Link button to find all the links of the product.
The advertisers who have multiple products have a ”P” button next to the Get Link button on the Advertiser page (as shown in the screenshot)
When you click on this button you’ll get the list of all their products along with their affiliate links.
Simply copy the links and use them in your promotional campaigns.
Use The Link Search Interface
The link search interface allows you to find relevant products and affiliate links by searching for your niche keywords.
You can also search for product links from a specific advertiser or refine your search using the search filters on the page.
Deep Link Generator
Deep Link Generator is a useful CJ link tool that allows you to create deep links without having to log in to your CJ account.
Just install the CJ deep link bookmarklet to your browser, visit the website of any CJ advertiser for whom you’ve been approved as an affiliate, find a product to promote, and click on the bookmarklet to generate a deep link for your promotional campaigns.
Page-Based Link Tools
In easier words, once you copy/paste this code to your site, you won’t need to create the usual ugly affiliate links.
Instead, you simply copy the products link to your site and CJ will detect if you’re a valid affiliate and credit you with any sales that are generated through it.
Create Product Widgets
This feature allows you to create slideshows of multiple products from the different affiliate programs you’ve joined on CJ.
You can embed these widgets on your website or any other approved platform and you’ll be credit for any sales that are generated from it.
Creating a widget is also pretty simple where you get a list of all your approved products that you can drag & drop to a widget.
Create Link Placement Opportunities
This is an innovative linking solution for high-quality publishers.
Here’s how it works.
You can create link opportunities on your website (or any other approved platform) and list them publicly for any advertisers who’re interested in marketing their products.
You don’t even have to be an approved affiliate for an advertiser to approach you for a placement opportunity.
If you have a high-traffic website, this particular linking option can be really useful for you.
An Important Thing To Note
Most affiliate offers have a certain life duration after which their links become invalid and you’re not credited for any sales that you refer to them.
To make sure that you’re not promoting any expired or invalid offers, keep an eye on the “Tasks” section in your main Publisher dashboard.
In the case of invalid offers, you’ll see “Review __ click(s) from invalid links” in the tasks section.
Plus, you’ll also get a notification in your dashboard when an ad becomes invalid or stops working for any reason.
So keep your eyes open otherwise you might end up promoting a useless offer for no reward.
5 Tips To Make Money As An Affiliate With Commission Junction
Before I say goodbye, let me share a few proven tips that’ll help you make a consistent affiliate income from Commission Junction.
1. Stay Focused On A Well-Defined Niche
Ten years ago you could’ve grabbed random affiliate product links from CJ and promoted them on the same website (or even in the same article) successfully.
You can’t do that anymore.
If you want high-quality advertisers to approve you as an affiliate, you have to position yourself as a niche expert with a dedicated following.
The more influence you have in a niche, the easier it’ll be for you to not only get accepted in high-quality affiliate programs but also negotiate special rates with advertisers that are not available to other affiliates.
2. Grow Your Email List To Maximize Profits
If you want to drive repeats affiliate sales, building an email list should be your number one priority.
Email marketing is among the most cost-effective ways to market a product. When someone joins your email list, they show trust in your content and allow you to contact them with more offers.
Make use of this exclusive permission by promoting useful, and high-quality products to your subscribers.
3. Create Problem Solving Content Around Your Products
Amateur affiliates create all their content about the products they’re promoting.
Successful affiliates, however, create content that focuses on the problems that their products solve and pitch the product as a solution to their audience’s problems.
There’s a huge difference in both these approaches.
The first one is completely focused on selling the product by singing endless praises and directly asking the customers to buy it.
The second one stays focused on the problems of the customers, shows them how they can be solved, and pitch the product as a possible solution.
In marketing terms, we call this approach content marketing and it always works better than the direct approach.
4. Stay Away From Low-Quality Offers
Just because a product has a high EPC doesn’t mean you start promoting it immediately. Make sure it is relevant to our audience and solves their core problems.
More importantly, research the advertiser to ensure they have a clean track record. Go to their website, read online reviews, check their social media profiles, and their Network Earnings on CJ.
Remember, promoting even a single poor quality product can ruin your reputation and hurt your future sales prospects badly.
5. Take Advantage Of Seasonal Offers
Most advertisers offer special affiliate links and products for events and occasions such as New Year, Boxing Day, Christmas, Cyber Monday, etc.
Always keep an eye on such offers, grab them early, and run well-planned campaigns for maximum ROI.
Are You Ready To Become An Affiliate On Commission Junction (CJ)?
CJ Affiliate has a lot more competition from the days it first started, but it’s still a high-quality affiliate network with a lot to offer especially if you’re an established affiliate looking for high ticket offers.
However, CJ is still only a platform and doesn’t automatically guarantee success.
To make money on CJ consistently, you need to go back to the basics of affiliate marketing, identify your niche, build your tribe, and promote high-quality products that solve the problems of your audience.
If you’re willing to play the long game, CJ can be a consistent source of high ticket affiliate offers that you can promote to your audience.