When it comes to the sale of digital information products, probably only Amazon’s Kindle marketplace eclipses Clickbank. It is a powerhouse in the world of affiliate marketing, and a lot of popular digital products are sold through its payment and delivery gateway.
Clickbank also holds a very special place in my heart as the first platform upon which I made money online. Others have come and gone, but I will always have a special fondness for Clickbank. Just the name invokes some serious nostalgia for me!
I am going to cover CB from three different angles in this review, so it won’t be in exactly the same format that most of my other reviews are in. Instead, I will answer some common questions about the platform, and then look at its value from the perspective of:
- Affiliate marketers looking to earn a commission by promoting other peoples’ products
- Vendors looking to sell their own products online and earn money
- Customers looking to purchase any of the products for sale on the CB Marketplace, or which are being promoted for sale via CB’s payment processing and delivery system
Clickbank Video Review
I’ve just launched a new video review on my YouTube channel. I suggest you watch this first before continuing. At the bottom of this page you’ll also find the full transcript of this video (if you’re interested in reading along!).
What Is Clickbank?
At its most basic level, Clickbank is an online sales platform that allows people who want to sell their products (known as vendors) to provide a suitable mechanism for retailing to the public.
Let’s say you have a great idea for a product, such as an eBook about ice water fishing (because you just LOVE ice water fishing).
You decide you want to sell it online, because you reckon other people are interested in ice water fishing and would buy from you an eBook on the subject. You create your product, and make it the very best it can be.
But now what? How do you actually go about selling it to the hopefully adoring public?
It’s not just as easy as slapping up a simple website and hoping for the best – you need to be able to guarantee the safety of buyers’ information, manage access to their product, and be able to process refunds etc if things do go wrong.
Whereas once upon a time you would have to sort out your own payment processor and secure download facility when trying to sell your product online, you can instead use Clickbank’s platform to allow you to provide a secure gateway for customers, collect payment, and ensure speedy and accurate delivery of your product.
Of course that is only half of the equation.
When I first started out on Clickbank (back in about 2007) it was much harder than it is now to sell digital products. Even physical eCommerce was out of reach for many. This meant there were fewer platforms that made it accessible for the “layperson” to sell their info online. Unless you were tech-savvy and capable of hacking together a decent cart and delivery solution, you needed to turn to a third party to sell your wares.
So part of Clickbank’s rise came from the fact that it was quite an early pioneer in terms of providing a simple, effective platform for people to sell their products online. Vendors could spend more time focusing on product creation and promotion than the nuts and bolts of how they would actually do the selling!
Another big part of Clickbank is its affiliate program, which is perhaps one of the most famous on the Internet. Many aspiring affiliate marketers – myself included – first cut their teeth with this legendary network. There are offers aplenty, and the accuracy of the Hoplink tracking system is very good which means you can rest assured that you will be credited with the sales you make. There are plenty of big time affiliates who make an impressive living on this network as well, so it’s not just for small time players. I will speak in more detail to Clickbank as an affiliate network later on in this review.
The affiliate element of CB is a feature that attracts a lot of vendors. If you can get successful and talented affiliates to promote your product, then you can make serious bank. Of course it’s not just a case of putting your product live and getting affiliates; there is legwork involved. But
And what about the humble customer who is buying a product that is being sold through Clickbank? Truth be told, you won’t notice much at all except for when you check your credit card statement and receipt email. The whole point of the system is to make everything as seamless and as integrated as possible – the power of the CB network is that it works hard in the background to protect your payment and give you your download, so that you don’t need to notice what’s going on. That being said, I do have some comments later on in this review that specifically address some issues that product customers can run into from time to time.
The most commonly sold products on CB are information products (think eBooks, video training courses, audio guides) and software. I’m also starting to slowly see some physical products creep into the marketplace as well, which is an interesting development indeed. However, for the time being it remains clear that information products reign supreme on Clickbank.
Is Clickbank Legit?
One of the most common questions I see asked about Clickbank is whether or not it is a “legit” platform. On that basis, I’ve decided to address it early on in my review. What is most interesting is that this question gets asked both by customers looking to purchase products through CB’s payment gateway, as well as affiliates wondering whether or not they are going to get duped with stolen commissions or missed payments.
I have extensive experience with Clickbank from both sides of the spectrum; I’ve purchased a lot of products, and I have promoted as an affiliate. I have even worked for a business that sells a lot of its own products through CB, and helped a family member to sell their own product as well. Although I’m not a legendary, God-tier super affiliate, I nonetheless think I’m fairly qualified to answer the question of whether or not Clickbank is legit.
From the perspective of the customer who is buying the products sold through its marketplace, Clickbank is unequivocally legit. They offer a highly robust payment processing system, good service, and fast access to the products you buy. However, the bad press that CB has received in the past comes more from the caliber of some of the products sold (as well as what is perceived as an unwillingness on the part of the company’s management to prevent “bad” products from being sold) – I will talk more to this point when discussing Clickbank scams.
At the heart of Clickbank is its venerable affiliate marketplace:
If you’re a customer looking to purchase a product, then chances are you will never actually see the marketplace. I don’t think I have ever heard of somebody browsing it to find products to buy. Instead, you will probably experience Clickbank when you go to buy an eBook or digital training course, or piece of software. Lots of different websites choose to sell their digital products through CB’s platform.
Of course you may want to go to the homepage and browse the customer marketplace just to get a feel for the products
Clickbank Sign Up Process
Signing up for Clickbank is a doddle. First, scoot on over to Clickbank.com and click “Create An Account”:
Now all you need to do is follow the instructions and fill in the fields on the registration page. This will set you up with an account that can be used to both promote products as an affiliate and sell
NB: If all you are doing is looking to buy a product that is processed via CB, then you don’t need to sign up at all.
Clickbank’s Refund Policy
One of the best features of Clickbank – at least from the perspective of the end customer – is its sound refund policy. All vendors (and I do not believe there are any exceptions to this rule) must offer a 60 day money-back guarantee on any products they sell. Furthermore, this refund must be offered “no questions asked”.
For affiliates and vendors, this isn’t quite so ideal. Nothing sucks more as an affiliate than making a bunch of sales, only to find that 10, 20, 30% of them are refunded a week or so later. Sometimes the percentage can be even higher, especially in the weight loss and Internet marketing niches. If you rely on paid traffic to drive sales, then this can make profitability calculations frustrating indeed. Refunds are also bad news for vendors; too many too often and you risk having affiliates abandon your offer in droves.
Serial Refunding On Clickbank
Ostensibly, the purpose of the 60 day refund window is to give the end customer a good deal. It also endears Clickbank better to merchant account providers and credit card processors; due to the occasionally questionable nature of some of the products being sold, there is a high risk of chargebacks.
As you might expect, chargebacks are not good news for CB’s standing with merchant account providers. Vendors who experience too many chargebacks and also find their accounts suspended or under greater scrutiny. By offering 60 days in which a customer can refund a product there is less chance of these dreaded chargebacks occurring.
Beyond the annoyance vendors and affiliates face at seeing refunds in their accounts, there is another, darker side to these refunds. Serial refunding is most prevalent in the Internet marketing niche. There are people out there
Clickbank Scams – How To Avoid Them
While the platform itself is very legitimate, you do need to be careful of the products you buy from Clickbank. It has a bit of a reputation as being a safe haven for illegitimate vendors looking to peddle, well, crap.
The difficulty with calling these products scams is that they aren’t really that at all. It’s not like you’re going to pay and then see your credit card being used in a dive bar in Cambodia or something – CB’s payment processing system truly does safeguard you to a large extent. No matter what you purchase, you’re going to get something.
So when people refer to Clickbank scams they are really talking about products that seem good from all their promotional material, testimonials, sales pages etc … but which are total crap. This is usually reinforced by loads of reviews that extol the virtues of the product, and put it up there with the Second Coming in terms of greatness. All the “external” factors lead you to believe you are going to be buying something great, but instead you wind up with a polished turd!
Here are some tips to avoid these
- Check thoroughly for product reviews before you buy. Just head over to Google and type in the name of the product + “review”. When researching Clickbank products that I’m interested in purchasing myself, I tend to look at reviews on forums and discussion boards as they tend to be most honest. Unfortunately, most CB products suffer the fate of having overzealous affiliates slap up copy-and-paste “reviews” that are just swiped from the affiliate resources section of the vendor site. Search for any popular product, and you’ll pretty quickly learn what I mean. I’ve got years of experience sorting genuine reviews from bad ones; if you are really keen on a product and not sure if the reviews you are reading are legit, then feel free to contact me and I can take a look for you. I always have time to help my readers, no exceptions.
- Exercise your right to a refund within 60 days. If you pay for a product and think its crap, then don’t sit there and sulk. Provided you take action within 60 days of the purchase date, you will get your money refunded to your credit card or Paypal. In the first instance you should always contact the merchant directly and ask for assistance. If that doesn’t get you any progress quickly, then the threat of a chargeback should get their wheels spinning. If they are still evasive about giving you a refund at this point, then feel free to elevate your complaint to Clickbank support directly and they will get your coin bacl.
- Be extra careful in certain niches. If the product you are looking at buying through CB is in a slightly obscure niche – think DIY wine making, or African dung beetle sculpting – then you are probably going to be purchasing a product that has decent value in terms of content. It is my experience that smaller niches attract honest and ethical vendors who have good experience and passion in a particular niche, and who want to share it with the world. However, big fish niches (Internet marketing, personal development, relationships/dating, and the recently popular survival niche) are choc full of the kind of “scammy” product I described above; crap information, attractively packaged, and then ruthlessly marketed.
NB. I want to make it clear at this point that I’m not wailing on all Clickbank products. There are some fantastic products out there that provide real value to customers. There is also nothing inherently wrong at all with selling information, even if that information is already publicly available in another format (if you can condense it, expand on it, or somehow make it better, then you’re adding knowledge and deserve to be able to profit). However, I also happen to have an intimate knowledge of the quality of many popular products on the network, and the fact that they are triumphs of marketing over substance.
I guess the ultimate lesson here is, as the Romans said, “caveat emptor” – let the buyer beware. And remember that if you are ever unsure about a product you’re thinking of buying that is sold through Clickbank, I will be happy to help you determine whether it is actually good or not … and suggest a suitable alternative if it’s not worth a buy.
This is where I’ve had the least amount of experience with Clickbank. On this basis I will be revisiting this section later after I have had the time to compile feedback from Internet users with more experience than me. I’m currently in the process of developing a product for sale on Clickbank that will form the nucleus of my vendor review.
However, I have also sold products in the past as a vendor – just a number of years ago so my experience isn’t quite as relevant as it could be.
I was formerly employed by one of the largest sellers of info-products on Clickbank, so got a lot of exposure at the time to the ins and outs of vendorship on the platform.
Furthermore, my dad and I actually partnered up about 5 years ago to sell a basic info product on there, and had modest success.
Here is my high-level feedback on being a vendor:
- Be wary of refunds (same goes for affiliates). In some niches like ‘make money online’ these can be truly CRUSHING. It doesn’t matter how good your product is, you will get bullshit refund requests that abuse the 60 day refund window.
- If you don’t need to recruit affiliates (i.e. you just want to sell your product independently) then I recommend you don’t use Clickbank as a vendor simply as you can get paid faster with other platforms like JVZoo, or even Shopify + Stripe.
- You’ll need to be wary of chargebacks as the chances are that you’ll lose disputes due to Clickbank’s somewhat ‘murky’ reputation.
From the perspective of being a paying customer looking to buy a product through Clickbank’s processing platform, there isn’t a whole lot more to add above what was described above.
I really do think that CB offers a top-notch, secure method for purchasing and downloading digital products. You can use all major credit cards and Paypal, you’re kept safe with a great money back guarantee, and there are loads of different products available to buy.
As a platform itself (minus the bad egg offers) I can’t really find any glaring faults from the perspective of being a paying customer. Provided you do your due diligence on the product(s) you’re buying, and you are happy with the thought of paying for information in the case of an info product, then you shouldn’t have any issues.
Where issues do arise for Clickbank product buyers is usually in the following areas:
- Many vendors surreptitiously add re-billing/subscription payments to their products. The way this usually works is that you purchase a product – say a $30 eBook. Without realising it, at some stage in the purchase process you have then consented to buying something like a 30-day free trial of a premium membership product, that will auto rebill at the end of the 30-day period (look out for any pre-checked checkboxes when purchasing ANY product on Clickbank). Many of the complaints I see customers make about Clickbank come from people who have inadvertently signed up to a rebill or subscription product.
If I recall correctly, I opened my first Clickbank affiliate account back in 2007, when I was still in high school. I didn’t make much money at first (for over a year in fact) but then I stumbled upon Travis Sago’s infamous bum marketing method, and went H.A.M with that. Within 3 months I was pulling $100 + USD per day which was a big amount of money for a 17 year old still at school, especially when exchange rate was factored in.
Although I don’t do so much on the network anymore – my day job and other side hustle activities keep me too busy – I still feel I’ve got enough knowledge to weigh in on this one.
Here’s what I love about being a Clickbank affiliate:
- No approval needed to make an account. Most CPA networks require you to go through some kind of verification process where you get grilled on how you are going to drive traffic, and how much experience you have. If you’re not confident on the phone (or you just don’t have the requisite experience) then you might get denied, which means no offers to promote! With Clickbank you can just create an account and get cracking. You aren’t going to get your account suspended or blocked without having either a) terrible, woeful refund rates, which suggests that you are doing something dodgy to get those sales or b) breaking lots of TOS rules. Compared to how twitchy some CPA networks can be, this is a Godsend for a beginner affiliate. You will make mistakes all the way along your journey … Clickbank doesn’t care too much.
- Heaps of different products to promote. Whether you’re into wilderness survival, wedding speech writing, sports betting, or anything in-between, there are loads of different products you can promote. Bear in mind that the biggest categories will probably always be Internet marketing, weight loss/muscle building, and relationship advice. However, you should not overlook the huge possibilities in some of those smaller categories and niches. There can be some real gold in products and niches that most affiliates don’t even bother to think about.
- Big commissions. One product I promote through CB earns me over $250 USD per conversion. I would need . The vast majority of offers available will earn you $20 USD plus. This means you don’t have to sell a lot to make a nice side income (if you live in a country with a weak currency relative to the US dollar, then a couple of sales a day could equal a big annual income). There are also many recurring offers available, which means you can earn each month from the same sale until the customer cancels their rebill. Most vendors offer either a 50% or 75% conversion rate – EPIC!
- Always paid on time. I’ve never failed to be paid correctly and on time by Clickbank, and don’t hear much about other affiliates having their payments missed either. Contrast this to some smaller aff networks where you will probably always have a nagging thought in your mind as to whether you will get paid out, you’ll never need to worry with CB. Just like Ja Rule, they are always on time.
Here’s what I dislike about being an affiliate:
- The generous refund policy can eat into your earnings. On the balance of probabilities the refund policy is a good thing because it gives customers a greater sense of security, which increases the odds of them buying. However, as an affiliate you can’t help but feel sad when you see a good run of sales only to find 10 or 20%, and sometimes more, have been refunded. Refunds are especially painful when they come close to the 60 day cutoff date. Because of these higher levels of refunds you are likely to experience, you will also have to deal with the annoyance of the Return Allowance.
- You’ll be competing with a lot of other affiliates. Any offer worth promoting has probably got a bunch of other affiliates, many of them with a lot more experience and resources, blasting the heck out of it. If you are a newbie this can be intimidating and put you off from taking action. It’s only natural to think that competition = low chance of success. Don’t shy away from competition. If other people are selling the offer (as indicated from the Gravity Score metric and more detailed research) then nothing is stopping you either. Market smarter, market harder, and you will do better.
- Minimum sales requirement and initial check payment. Not only do you have to make a minimum number of sales before you can cash out, you also have to have a blend of different payment methods e.g. Paypal and credit card. Check out the exact details here for more info. When you first start your account you can also only take payment in check, which sucks if you live outside of the United States. Make the change as soon as you are allowed to for wire transfer. This means faster payment and no risk of stale checks.
Reviewing Clickbank has been a monstrous task for me. When I started writing this I thought I’d be done in a thousand words. Instead I feel like I’ve redone Tolstoy’s War and Peace! Nonetheless, I have enjoyed writing this review and hope you have learned something useful from it. I certainly enjoyed writing it, and could probably talk until Kingdom Come about this topic.
Because Clickbank isn’t a product or service for sale (as opposed to most of the other products I review on this site) I can’t give you a simple recommendation like “buy it” or “run for the hills”. But here’s what I can say:
Whether you are a vendor looking to sell a product, an affiliate looking to make money promoting products, or a customer just wanting to ensure you get the item you want, there is going to be something for you on CB’s network. I genuinely think it is a good platform that has been marred with a certain less-than-perfect reputation due to some of the products that get sold on it.
Clickbank’s platform isn’t perfect. There are things about it that could be improved. However, it is important to remember that it is just a platform. There is only so much that can be done to stop unscrupulous sellers offering substandard products – especially in niches that have a reputation for this, such as make money online, weight loss and dating advice.
Therefore, there is an element of caveat emptor when using Clickbank. They are providing a platform, just like eBay, or Amazon’s marketplace, or any other marketplace out there.
What this means is that some people will sell good products, and some people will sell bad ones. The onus is on you to ‘DYOR’ (Do Your Own Research) and only purchase products that add value for you.
In this section, I cover some answers to FAQs about Clickbank:
- “How do you make money with Clickbank?” There are two ways. Firstly, you can create products and sell them as a vendor You could also get others to promote them so you give them a commission on each sale on a ‘pay on performance’ basis. Secondly, you can promote products as an affiliate and earn commissions.
- “Is Clickbank still profitable?” Definitely, but your success is determined entirely by your ability to be an effective affiliate marketer.
- “How much does it cost to join Clickbank?” Clickbank is free to join. If you wish to sell products as a vendor, then you will need to pay a fee to do so.
- “Can I promote Clickbank on Facebook?” – Yes. You may, however, struggle with direct linking Clickbank offers on Facebook ads. Instead, use an intermediary landing page. Clickbank’s top affiliate at the moment generates most of his commissions from this exact strategy (Facebook ads to landing page to affiliate link).
- “Can I buy Clickbank products from myself?” – although you can probably get away with it, buying Clickbank products using your own affiliate ID is against their Terms of Service and could see your account shut down. I’d advise against doing it. Also, vendors may block you for this kind of behaviour.
- “What is Clickbank marketplace?” – Clickbank Marketplace is where all the products that are for sale on Clickbank are listed. You can browse as both a potential customer (looking to buy) or as an affiliate (looking to promote).
Clickbank is a great platform for buying and selling digital information products and software. It isn't perfect, and because of the way the platform works you do need to be aware of unscrupulous vendors who might offer sub-standard products for sale.