ClickBank Crackdown?

April 11, 2011 , 13 Comments

ClickBank, popular affiliate network and cesspool of scammy make-money-online offers, have recently announced (kind of) a new set of guidelines. These guidelines could mean a very serious crackdown on said scammy offers. Is this the end of the “infinite upsell” era? Will some dignity and accountability finally return to this particular section of the ClickBank marketplace? Probably not.

Read on to see all the details of the new guidelines and learn why it probably won’t make a difference.

The New Guidelines

First, let’s go through the guidelines, accompanied by some comments from yours truly:

Most importantly, please do not significantly alter your Pitch Page after approval. We recognize that some changes are necessary for testing, but if you need to make significant changes to your page (such as earnings claims or images, sales messaging or video content), please notify your Account Manager so we can ensure the new page is also in compliance.

Ah, the good old bait-and-switch. It is a common practice among certain CB vendors to put up a harmless sales-page, wait for approval and then switch it out against the insultingly stupid, overhyped sales-page we’ve all become so accomodated to.

For Internet Marketing products: Per the new FTC information, sales material shouldn’t create the impression that customers can easily earn money without putting in much work, and should give specific ideas of how they’ll earn the money (e.g., content marketing, video marketing, social media, etc). Sales pages should also not overstate how much can realistically be made, or imply that earnings are guaranteed.

There go 95% of all the make-money-online sales-pitches. What they’re saying is: no blind offers, no “only one click” promises.

The FTC also strongly discourages false urgency/scarcity messaging (for example, “Only 3 copies left!”) when there is no actual scarcity. Closing the doors to new customers after a specified amount of time and reopening later is fine.

What?! I’m sure there were really only 3 copies left! Surely, they wouldn’t lie to us?!

Any Pitch Page references to ClickBank sales stats need to be verifiable by ClickBank, and need to have been earned by the methods being promoted. For example, selling an affiliate training product using sales snapshots from a vendor-only account is not allowed.

It would be a heck of a lot of work, actually enforcing this. It would also completely change the landscape and I expect that vendors will switch to PayPal-screenshots or other sources where they aren’t held accountable.

For vendors using video Pitch Pages, if a Buy Now button appears during the course of the video, the price must appear as well. We also request that vendors provide transcripts of video sales letters when submitting a product for approval.

Very harmless, compared to the others. I wonder why they only insist on showing the price on the sales-page for videos with appearing buttons.

For upsells, the initial product purchased must be valuable and usable on its own, without requiring the purchase of the upsell offers. Customers must also be able to immediately access their original purchase upon completion of their order, before being presented with upsell offers. An access link may be placed on the first upsell offer page, but the link must be very clear and conspicuous (i.e., not hidden or in a small font). We highly recommend that vendors use ClickBank’s official upsell flows to present upsell offers to customers.

That first part is practically un-enforcable. But the rules about access and link placement really throw a wrench into the typical product structure that starts with $37 and leads up to three- or even four-figure products after various upsells.

Please submit product approval requests at least several days before your launch, so that ClickBank has time to thoroughly review the offer and request changes if necessary. This is especially the case for products with video sales letters, since making changes to these can take time. We may not be able to accommodate last-minute requests.

This is in there to make it seem like they really will enforce the new rules. Whether or not that’s going to happen remains to be seen.

To prevent customer complaints, vendors should not close refund request tickets or switch tickets from Refund to Tech Support more than once, and the latter should only be used when actually trying to help the customer and save the sale.

And we finish off with a nice little insight into some more scammy vendor practices: Switching out ticket statuses from “refund” to “tech support”. Really, how low can you stoop?

What Happens Next?

Does this mean there will finally be peace in the kingdom of IM? The rules laid out would mean that about 95% of all the current make-money-onlin offers on ClickBank would no longer be approved and most of them would have to drastically change their offer pages and entire sales-structures for a chance to pass.

Call me a pessimist, but here are some reasons why I doubt this will make any difference:

Saying vs. Doing

Even before this update, there were regulations in place that should prevent a lot of the bad things that were (and are still) going on on ClickBank. The first point in the new regulations addresses the practice of switching out the sales-pages, after ClickBank approval. This is something that “everyone” was doing and the people at ClickBank knew about it. They were absolutely aware of the terrible sales-pages and scammy offers in their marketplace and therefore they were also aware of the fact that vendors switched out sales-pages. They simply turned a blind eye.

Who’s to say that they won’t just keep turning a blind eye?

No Public Statement

Something that strikes me as peculiar about these new guidelines is that they are nowhere to be found on the ClickBank website. They were mailed out to all (or most?) of the CB vendors. I got the list from Jon Volk’s blog and apparently, the list is genuine. But it’s not published on the CB blog, or in the newsfeed or anywhere else on the site.

I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty strange to me. It’s almost like they want to scare the vendors into behaving, but not put themselves in a position where they’re publicly accountable for the new guidelines.

It may just be too early to tell, though and for all I know, the new guidelines will be published in the coming days.

Nobody Needs ClickBank

Even if CB are absolutely serious about these new regulations and even if they are adamant in enforcing them, that doesn’t mean the scammy offers will stop. There are other affiliate networks. In my opinion, almost all of them are better than ClickBank in every possible way except one: ClickBank has the best name recognition and largest user base.

And even if they all crack down on crappy offers, vendors can still just run their own affiliate programs. In fact, they may just discover how great that can be. Sure, there are benefits to having your offer on an affiliate marketplace. But let’s just say: I’m not exactly a huge vendor, but I’ve already saved five figures in fees by running my own affiliate program, instead of going with ClickBank.

The Bright Side

Whether or not we will see a big difference in the ClickBank marketplace anytime soon is uncertain. The mere fact that these new rules were drafted and sent out is already a good sign, though. It means that there is some kind of a response to scammy offers and some kind of movement against them. There’s hope that vendors who sell hopes and dreams instead of legitimate products will find find themselves in increasingly unpleasant circumstances and may even have to rething their position at some point.

Until then, my universal rule for purchasing IM products remains the same as always: buy from people who’ve given you reason to trust them, not from people making fancy promises.


About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Andy Iskandar says:

    Hey Shane,

    I wonder if you could do a review of all the alternatives to Clickbank out there?


    • Hi Andy,
      Don’t know if I can warrant a full review, but here’s a quick sampling: – affiliate network run by Mike Filsaime (who I’m not particularly fond of) with a remarkably un-intuitive user-interface. – awesome instant-payment affiliate network run by Andy Fletcher (who is a very cool dude). This one will hopefully replace ClickBank in the near future. – another instant-payment network, although I don’t like their way of handling payments quite as much as the DigiResults style.

      I think those are the main competitors for ClickBank-style digital products. Although none of them have as many products as CB does. As an affiliate, CB still sucks, but if there’s a good product that you want to promote (particularly outside of the IM niche), go for it. As a vendor, I don’t recommend you use CB.
      Also, as an affiliate, remember that many products come with their own affiliate systems that you need to register for separately (e.g. mine).

      Finally, for lots of digital AND physical products, check out: – bad user interface, but good network. – another good network that’s easy to get into.

      Plus, there’s about a gazillion different CPA networks.

      Reading all that, perhaps I should do a separate post on the topic, after all. :)

      • Andy Iskandar says:

        haha yup, that’s already a mini-post you’ve got there.

        thanks a bunch Shane!


  • Thanks forthe advice and info about new CB T&R. I like the quote “buy from people who’ve given you reason to trust them, not from people making fancy promises.”

  • Shane,

    I haven’t even fully read this post. So far, I only read the intro, but when I read this: “Will some dignity and accountability finally return to this particular section of the ClickBank marketplace? Probably not,” I had to silently nod in agreement, happy that you and I are sort of on the same wavelength.

    I’ll read the rest of this and try to come back with a reply…

  • “vendors should not close refund request tickets or switch tickets from Refund to Tech Support more than once”


    Did it say “more than once”?

    Implication: It’s okay to deny refund requests…but no more than once.

    Interesting. Talk about no-questions-asked, eh?

    Anyway, at least CB has a 56- or 60-day refund period.

    In the larger scope of things, there’s a very unfortunate reality: people who are desperate to make money online tend to not have good jugdement. Either that, or, because they’re new, they don’t know how to tell the false from the true.

    In any case, there’s something going on that causes people to fall for these over-hyped “products”.

    The one that really caught my eye (literally, I guess), was that “Stripped Down” one. It was that one with a video of a lady, and she said something like, “Surprised to see a woman on this video?”

    I knew right away that it was a scam, and closed that window in my browser. I didn’t even watch any more of that video.

    I mean, geez…no offense to her, because she’s probably an actor, but does she seem like someone who can push a couple of buttons and make money online? Didn’t someone have to push the buttons for her?

    And then, there’s that product with the supposed 16-year-old girl.

    Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. I just sort of feel bad for the people who really want to make money online, who fall for scams like this.

    • Yeah, that’s the disgusting part of all this: these vendors prey on the most desperate and those who can least afford to spend money on crap that doesn’t work.

  • Good post Shane. Will things change though? Probably not, but here’s hoping.

  • I doubt anything is really going to change over at Clickbank either. There’s just too much money at stake.

    I wish they would just implement some small changes at least, like preventing people from buying through their own links.

    • Yeah, how about that? It’s crazy how outdated ClickBank is, on the technical side of things.
      It’s only popular because it’s popular. In my opinion, CB has absolutely nothing else going for it.

  • Hello Shane I found myself more and more visiting your site and examining your suggestions. I like it very much! I wonder if I may suggest for you to do some video presentation of the Camtasia and in particular PIP, Picture In Picture video, where you, I’ve noticed, manipulate the video of yourself anywhere on the desktop whilst using your cursor explaining things.I think that would be neat. I know the Tech smith has a bunch of video tutorials but not much on PIP, (Picture In Picture) and the videos are not as detailed and clear to understand as you make your videos and clarity in your videos are in my view just outstanding. I can follow your videos with ease.I you decide to reply to this, can you also share your thoughts on the canvas on those PIP, different styles,no borders,transparent displays, etc…..

  • Agreed. CB is sought after because of the name recognition.
    I also doubt anything much will change.
    The marketers will try it on and see if they get penalized.
    If they don’t, business as usual.

  • I get annoyed that Internet Marketers, many of whom are decent, moral business-people are singled out and how all the hypocrites start coming out of the woodwork (funny how EVERYONE AND THEIR DOG seems to be welcoming the new CB guidelines and condemning those ‘other’ spammers).

    Sometimes the boundary between what is legal and moral and what is dubious is blurry. Take Thomson, for example: a well-known travel company who is being accused of illegal ‘scarcity’ marketing by Which? magazine by claiming a limited number of seats and then releasing more. How is that different from IMs holding back eBooks?

    I do (honestly) welcome a curb on blatant spamming and illegal marketing but I think this issue goes deeper than those who want to make a living online. People in glass houses and all of that…

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