Commission Junction was founded in 1998 as Commission Junction before being acquired by ValueClick in 2003.
It was then rebranded to “CJ Affiliate by Conversant” in 2014.
Any affiliate marketers I know still call them CJ though.
CJ was the best affiliate network in the world at one stage. And many people still use it — according to our affiliate marketing statistics page, it’s the fourth-most-popular affiliate network.
But let’s find out if it’s really worth signing up for.
CJ keeps things nice and simple for a new affiliate – you’re either an ‘Advertiser’ or a ‘Publisher’, so there’s no room for confusion:
It was an interesting exercise to go through the sign-up process again after almost 20 years.
First, you have to provide some basic contact information, which then triggers a confirmation email.
Click on the link in that email to get to the next step where you enter some basic payment details and choose a password:
You then need to add some information about your company:
And then some details about your website or blog:
CJ does ask how many unique visitors your site gets per month, but they also have a “Not Launched Yet” option.
I’d never apply to an affiliate network without an active website though – it’s just best practice to have at least some web presence.
All told, the CJ Affiliate by Conversant application process is painless and far less complicated than other some other networks.
What brands can you promote?
Having big brands on their books was always where CJ kicked the competition to the curb in the past.
And this network hasn’t changed one bit in that regard.
Here’s a quick sampling of the types of companies you can apply to represent via CJ:
CJ has still got probably the best selection of big brand names present on any affiliate network.
Names like Zappos, Verizon, Barnes & Noble and IHG (International Hotel Group) carry a lot of clout when it comes to attracting both affiliate marketers and other advertisers to this network.
So are the rest of the 2,869 advertisers (I counted) on CJ Affiliate by Conversant equally as impressive?
But CJ has enough big hitters that you won’t care.
Ease of Use
The CJ Affiliate by Conversant dashboard has remained relatively unchanged over the years, except for a few cosmetic tweaks here and there.
Your main “workspace” is thankfully uncluttered:
It provides a quick snapshot/review of your account and I do like the layout – there’s lots of white space so it’s easier to read and navigate.
Most of the actual functions you need are nested in a series of dropdown menus:
- Widgets (explained later)
- Reports – for stats nerds
- Mail – your internal CJ mail
- Placements (explained later)
- Insights (advanced reporting)
It’s to have them all in one place like this because it stops them from cluttering other parts of the dashboard.
What I really like about the CJ affiliate interface is that it doesn’t look or feel crowded, which is helped along nicely by the muted color schemes.
I have a pain in my face from staring at affiliate dashboards that are literally 15 different shades of blue – it’s enough to give you a headache.
CJ feels light and airy in comparison.
So, they score pretty high on the ease-of-use scale.
Finding affiliate programs
Even though this part of their interface grinds on my nerves at times, the end result is worth the effort.
To get started you click on ‘Advertisers’ from the top menu and you can then run quick searches for programs either by keyword or the advertiser’s name:
This works well for general searches, but the reality is that your niche is specific, so the programs you’re looking for will reflect that.
You can also search by categories but also by:
- Advertiser type
- Advertiser status
- Serviceable area
- Advertiser’s Country
- Geographic Source
For me, this is overkill, plus each sub-menu expands down, making it look and feel really messy. I’m not sure what the fix is, but there has to be a better way because this screen is where UX goes to die.
That being said, you can save your searches…which is just as well considering how many parameters you can mess around with.
But now we come to the really good stuff – filtering advertisers by their profit potential.
CJ comes into its own here.
Let’s say you’re looking for affiliate programs for your financial services blog:
Finding programs is easy enough once you search by category, but you’ll obviously want to find programs that pay well and have metrics to prove it i.e. their EPC.
You can filter every single program on CJ by:
- 7 day EPC
- 3 month EPC
- Network Earnings
Now, a trick here is to filter by ‘Network Earnings – high to low’ because brands with a high score here also tend to have relatively high EPCs and pay quite well too.
Sorting directly by EPC results in lots of brand new and untested affiliate programs showing up first:
Then every program after that is listed by its actual 7 or 90-day EPC.
So this looks and feels clumsy to use.
But I forgive them because CJ makes finding profitable programs so easy.
Which is exactly what every affiliate network should strive for.
There is – generally speaking – a high barrier to entry for most programs on CJ.
You need to generate sales on the network before being approved, but you can’t generate sales without first being accepted to at least one program.
Way too many CJ merchants have this chicken-and-egg mentality when it comes to new affiliates.
Creating affiliate links
There was a time when creating affiliate links on CJ was a very vanilla affair.
It worked, but it was nothing to write home about.
But times have changed.
The standard way of creating links has remained pretty much the same – you click on ‘Links’ and then ‘Search’.
Then choose your advertiser and review the creatives on offer:
This layout is a hot mess, mostly because their focus is so heavily on mobile-optimized offers that it pushes the types of links you can create down off the main menu.
Pepperjam’s tabbed layout works so much better than this.
But to make up for this failing, CJ also offers two neat additional link creation tools.
The ‘Deep link generator’ is the expected bookmarklet for your browser, allowing you to create a link to a specific page of a joined affiliate program:
But you also get the ‘Page-based Link” tool.
And you still get credited for all sales.
But it doesn’t stop there.
You can also create product widgets for your site:
Basically, this lets you create a slideshow, collage, or grid featuring products from any affiliate program you’ve joined:
And the entire process is a drag and drop affair, so even a complete newbie can build “tables” of products:
We’re not sure why they’re called product “widgets” but the main thing is that it works.
And finally, we need to mention ‘Placements’ which is where you can create opportunities for advertisers to “buy” advertising space on your website:
Their affiliate link creation systems aren’t perfect, but CJ is still well ahead of the curve in terms of innovation.
Now it’s time to review when affiliates get paid, how you get paid, and how much you need to earn before being paid.
Affiliate commissions are paid on a net 30 basis, so you’ll receive payment for your referrals roughly 30 days after the purchase takes place.
Payments are scheduled for the 20th of each month for locked commissions earned, and it’s then a case of waiting for your check or direct deposit to show up.
This usually doesn’t take any longer than 7 days.
You can choose to receive payment via check or direct deposit:
But you can also be paid into a Payoneer account through ‘CJ International Payments’.
The only thing that’s missing is a PayPal option, but not every affiliate needs or wants that these days.
Affiliates must generate at least $50 in commissions before they can receive a payment.
Ideally, you’d never need to reach out to your affiliate network for help, but that’s not always going to be the case.
So, what support options does CJ offer?
Their default option is the ‘Support Centre’ – which is basically their knowledge base. Most affiliates will find an answer to their question here:
It’s also really well laid out and the search function is very accurate in terms of the results it delivers.
But if you need human customer support you can reach them through the ‘Contact Support’ menu option.
And from there you can use either the contact form or their web chat support for your affiliate marketing query:
But there’s no readily available telephone number if you want to hear a human voice…but a quick Google search will turn it up.
Overall, CJ customer support options are good but not amazing.
CJ Affiliate Reviews
Now it’s time to listen to the vox populi – some very candid affiliate reviews of CJ Affiliate by Conversant.
So the first piece of negative feedback is from an affiliate who had their account deactivated just before they were due to get paid.
And the next piece of feedback is from an affiliate who had their account closed down just before they were due to receive their affiliate payment.
And the final piece is from…well…you can see the trend here.
So the basic assertion – by these disgruntled types, not us – is that CJ Affiliate by Conversant will close your account down without paying you.
Making it just one big affiliate marketing scam.
But this is where context matters.
Maybe these affiliates did something to warrant this?
Like cookie stuffing.
Or purchasing their CJ account on some dodgy black hat forum.
CJ Affiliate by Conversant Summary
Year established: 1998
Number of merchants: 2,800+
Offer types: CPA, Lead, Sale, Placement
Weighing it up
So what’s our objective summary of Commission Junction?
- You get some seriously big brand names to promote
- Simple and intuitive interface
- CJ affiliates enjoy a wide selection of link creation tools
- You can also “sell” ad placement space on your site
- They pay like clockwork every single month
- One of the oldest affiliate networks out there
- Their affiliate program filtering system is bass ackwards
- It can be difficult to find programs to match certain niches
- They’re no longer the dominant force they were
So there you have our thoughts on CJ as an affiliate marketing network.
Overall, CJ still rates as one of the better affiliate networks, and especially for beginners.
They provide you with a solid set of tools, on a stable platform with plenty of support.
They might lack the bells and whistles of others, but all that glitters is not gold.
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