There are some things that I wish I had known before I started blogging. I never thought my blog would earn money, but now that it does, I sometimes wish a more experienced blogger would have told me to avoid using Shopstyle as one of my affiliate networks.
Shopsense/Shopstyle Collective (I use the names interchangeably) is a network that pays you for each click that your blog generates, regardless of whether that click leads to a purchase. In contrast, I use another affiliate network called Rewardstyle that only compensates me if a reader makes a purchase after clicking my link; with Rewardstyle, I don’t get paid if the reader clicks the link but decides not to buy.
I used both networks for a long time, and I’m here to tell you that I wish I hadn’t touched Shopstyle at all.
If you’re curious how much each Shopsense click is worth, they will literally never tell you. On the Shopsense FAQ, it states vaguely that:
You earn a set amount for every valid click that goes from your site . . . The rate you are paid per click depends on a number of factors, including how often clicks result in sales for the retailer, the amount of each sale, and whether those products are returned for a refund. As a result, the rate you are paid can vary over time.
And, boy, does the rate vary! Shopstyle enticed me by initially granting me 5 cents per click: with 20 clicks, I was already making a full dollar! In contrast to my other affiliate networks like Rewardstyle, which only paid me if I make a sale, Shopstyle promised to guarantee income even if my readers didn’t make a purchase.
But the goods times didn’t last. Within a year I found that my rate per click was dropping to 3 cents. This doesn’t sound like a big difference, but it’s a 40% decrease in my earning potential.
And how much is my rate today?
1/2 of a cent per click. 1/2 of a penny. It would take 200 clicks for me to make a single dollar from Shopstyle. Shopstyle has effectively gutted my earning potential by 90%.
(Update: At the end of this post, I asked you to click a Shopstyle link to test my payment rate (thanks for clicking guys!). I found out that my rate just dropped to 0.4 cents a click.)
And look closely at my earnings:
I had linked an ASOS item that earned 2 clickthroughs, and a Talbots item that was clicked on, yet I received ZERO cents for those clicks. Why am I not being compensated for certain clicks? I will never know. There is no transparency for what you can expect to earn from each item that you have worked hard to link.
In contrast, Rewardstyle tells me upfront what I will earn from each purchase. Sure, my readers might not buy anything and I would not be rewarded solely for the click, but when they do make a purchase, I can count on a specific amount in my account.
Today, I looked up how much I made in Shopsense recently. $9. In the same amount of time on Rewardstyle, I’ve made $125.
“But Brittney,” you might be saying to yourself, “Maybe you’re just using Rewardstyle more than Shopstyle! And didn’t Shopstyle say that the payment rate depends on the quality of your traffic? Maybe your readers aren’t buying anything from the Shopstyle links, so your traffic quality is low.”
Good points. Luckily, Shopsense actually helped me conduct an experiment that demonstrates how both of these assumptions are false.
In November 2016, Shopstyle told me that if I used Shopstyle exclusively on my blog for the entire month, they would reward me by giving me an additional 20% of my November earnings. I decided to take them up on the offer. For November, all my new links would come from Shopstyle only.
My old Rewardstyle links were still active, but I predicted a decrease in my Rewardstyle earnings because all my Rewardstyle traffic should now go to Shopstyle, since I would only be using Shopstyle links.
My blog traffic was normal in November and I posted regularly. If my traffic was good enough to make good money on Rewardstyle, then I should see a bump in my Shopstyle earnings given the same traffic. Plus Shopstyle had promised to add 20% on top of any amount I earned!
I made a little over $1 on Shopstyle that month. In contrast, my existing Rewardstyle links from October and before still earned me $38. So without even trying to use Rewardstyle in November, Rewardstyle still earned me more money.
And that’s how I learned that Shopstyle’s compensation system is a scam. All my traffic was diverted from Rewardstyle to Shopstyle. If I had the same number of readers, and my readers clicked at the same rate they usually did, and they bought things at the average rate, then why didn’t my Shopstyle click rate increase?
This is a slightly less important concern, but the lack of reliable analytics is another downside of the Shopstyle system.
- When a reader clicks a Rewardstyle link, my dashboard immediately shows me what link was clicked and how many times.
- Shopsense, on the other hand, only updates once a day, usually at midnight.
- This means that I can’t track how well a link is doing during the day to determine whether my readers like what I’m showcasing.
- I also can’t see how much I am making so far that day, whereas I can easily track my Rewardstyle commissions by the minute.
Another downside is that Shopstyle only lets you see the top ten most clicked items.
- So if your readers click more than 10 items (which they should be doing, if you want to make money), there is no option to expand the list to show more.
- You also can’t tell which items are unpopular, because the analytics just stop reporting after the top 10 links.
This is one of those cases where it’s useful to compare a simple screenshot of Shopstyle vs. Rewardstyle. See how simplistic Shopstyle looks next to Rewardstyle’s data breakdown?
In Rewardstyle, you can expand the list and see every last link that was clicked, and how many times it was clicked. You can even see when the clicks occurred, and what platform your readers are engaging with the most, whether it’s blog or instagram.
Blogging is all about analytics, and it’s no wonder that I slowly turned over to Rewardstyle to better track how my links were doing on an hour-by-hour basis.
“But Brittney, all the major bloggers use Shopstyle now! Barefoot Blonde and Gal Meets Glam and Pink Peonies!” It’s true; these bloggers all use Shopstyle even though they used to be featured on the Rewardstyle page. But those major bloggers are rumored to have gotten a huge payout to use Shopstyle. They might also have been promised higher commission rates if they switch to Shopstyle.
Ultimately, these larger blogs are fundamentally different from mine. I don’t have a large readership that generates a lot of clicks that can add up. Instead, I have a smaller readership, but one that seems to trust my recommendations; I have more long-time readers whose clicks are likely to lead to a purchase. Rewardstyle makes more sense if I want to maximize my close audience.
P.S. Oh btw, if you feel sorry for me, you can click this Shopstyle link. I might not even earn any money from it! Who knows! And if I do earn money, it will probably be 1/2 of a penny. Update: I have earned 2 cents from 5 clicks. I thought my rate was 0.5 cent a click, now it’s apparently changed to 0.4 cents.
I hope none of you make the same mistake I do.There are too many affiliate network options out there for you to settle for Shopstyle’s vague nonsense.
If you have a large following, you might be tempted to use Shopstyle because you get money for each click. But let me warn you: just like how Shopstyle stopped paying me 5 cents a click, your rate could get slashed as well. You’re still getting screwed if you have 5,000 clicks a day but each one is only worth half a cent. Unless you can get a guaranteed flat rate from Shopstyle, or unless your blog is big enough to support a higher rate, it’s not worth your time to earn pennies a week.
And although there are fundamental problems with Rewardstyle as well, I find it to be the better alternative so far. You can see my blog’s growth reflected in my Rewardstyle earnings, but as my readers grew, my earnings in Shopstyle paradoxically went down.