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I once had the idea of doing an article on these surveys for money, which I guessed were 99% the same as envelope-stuffing (i.e. scams). I eventually decided I didn't want to spend that much time and money just to be able to write an article, but I checked it out a bit. This may not be correct, but it's based on a fairly substantial good faith research effort (actually paid for a "survey" database, filled out several surveys and tried to play along until I just couldn't keep up with the spam in the gmail account I set up for this). So my recollection is this
* survey companies have minuscule affiliate payouts (like a few cents per signup). I wasn't really looking at that end, so that may be incorrect.
* the big affiliate payouts are from places that sell databases of survey companies. These usually have nothing but a collection of companies that are easily available in a google search.
* the vast majority of survey companies are essentially along the lines of the free iPod thing and not really paying people to fill out surveys. In other words, you are not being paid to fill out surveys that are then used to improve products, services, marketing or what have you. In fact, the surveys themselves ARE the marketing. You are being "paid" (minimally) to look at ads.
* a couple looked semi-legit, but my impression was that they were simply more sophisticated scams. Let's just say that the typical setup is that they want you to evaluate a subscriptions service. They set up a special "survey" landing page where you sign up to the service for, say, $5.95 and they pay you $35.95 to take the "survey". Of course, if you don't manage to cancel, you get billed the annual fee two weeks later. It's up to you, the survey taker to cancel.
* There are some that are definitely legit that pay you to do focus groups in person. If you live right close to their offices, it actually seems like it might be a nice deal (they pay you say $75 to show up for a hour). I never responded to any of these since it was 45 minutes each way, so it would have ended up being more like 3-4 hours for $75.
*if you do one of these things, you will be spammed mercilessly. Don't even think of ever in any case giving out any email address that you will ever use again to any of these people in any way. I accidentally typed in my normal spam catcher address (thank god not one of my real emails) once and get dozens of survey spam mails even years later. The account that I set up for the experiment was getting a few hundred emails per day within a couple of weeks, which is why I quit trying to play along. Since you've basically signed up for spam, you would have to actually sift through these and read them (remember what I said about these beign advertising disguised as surveys and not actual surveys?). I can't imagine anyone who can stand seeing that much advertising in one day.
I could go on and, actually, I think if you wanted to put the time into doing followup interviews and so forth, you could probably write a fascinating article.
Could you actually make money on these as an affiliate? Not sure (like I say, that wasn't what I was looking at), but my feeling is that
- based on the number of AdSense ads and the immense quantity of spam I got, there is intense competition and I suspect that the CPC is high (and you'll need to do a lot of search engine advertising and probably spamming to make anything). So you could lose a lot.
- if you actually care about not scamming desperate people, which I would say is the primary market, I doubt there are any programs with decent payouts. Like I say, I think it's the modern "envelope stuffing" and, according to the US Postmaster General, they have never seen a legitimate work-from-home envelope stuffing scheme.