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  1. #1
    Affiliate Manager DandyMats's Avatar
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    Do coupon megalink sites really help merchants?
    Hey all,

    I've got some affiliates who are purely coupon code sites. Seas and seas of textual data, offering coupon codes or other links to 1000s of sites.

    The problem here is that this helps me zero. In fact, it hurts me. I have high natural search rankings already. So my customers are finding me the old fashioned way. Then they'll browse around - and like many online shoppers - they wonder if there's a coupon code for my site out there. Thus - they head to Google and search for my brand name + coupon code.

    Of course, they'll find one on one of my affiliate's sites and clickthrough. Now I'm paying the affiliate commission and losing the value from the coupon discount. All while I had this customer first.

    I'm running an affiliate program so my affiliates can drive traffic to me I wouldn't have had otherwise. But now, they are simply taking away money I've earned on my own.

    Any ideas how to remedy this situation? Is it simply a matter of removing all coupon-based affiliates from my program?

    Finally, I can't envision how this could work any differently. Coupon sites are apparently hot. But even if there was a legitimate, upstanding coupon site affiliate with one of my codes posted - the same thing would happen.

    Perhaps I'm supposed to believe that the money lost because of the issue noted above would be compensated for by new traffic also driven in by these same sites that I wouldn't have had anyway?

  2. #2
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    How old is your program? There's a natural progression, so I'll wait for you to answer before I weigh in...
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  3. #3
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    Just remove the coupon box. Don't offer coupons anymore.

  4. #4
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    Try searching for the term "coupon affiliates" using the search function here -- you'll find lots of discussions in which a wide range of views are shared.

    The first issue, I think, is your own web site: does your checkout page have a "coupon prompt"? If so, you're asking your customers to abandon your web site in order to search for a coupon, and you absolutely need your affiliates to "recapture" those customers. Worse, other web publishers (who originally referred the customer to you) will be upset that their advertising revenue is being diverted to another affiliate (since the last referrer is usually credited exclusively for the transaction).

    There are some merchants who exclude "coupon affiliates," there are some merchants who set lower commission rates for "coupon affiliates" (on the theory that they add less value than traditional web publishers), and there are many merchants who encourage participation by coupon affiliates.

    There are also some merchants who "pick and choose" only those coupon affiliates whom the merchant believes will add value.

    • There are some coupon sites which have loyal audiences who would probably not have found your web site if the coupon site hadn't referred them to you.
    • There are many coupon sites which draw 99% of their traffic from searches for "[merchantname] coupon" or even just "[merchantname]"
    • Worst, there are some coupon sites which create and list fake coupons in order to attract traffic, which actually COSTS you sales yet ends up putting money in the affiliate's pocket.


    There are some potential "technical solutions" to address the conflict between multiple referrers of traffic. One solution would be to have multiple channels (so a maximum of one referrer in each channel would be paid), but this is technically implausible and if the effect was to pay "coupon sites" a lower amount than other web publishers, they'd probably be angry. Another solution would be to "lock the referrer (for N hours) when an item is added to cart," so that a coupon-site referral wouldn't wipe out an earlier referral from another publisher -- but of course coupon sites would be even more upset about this.

    I'm not a huge fan of coupon sites as affiliates, but I suspect my attitude might be different if I'd invested substantial time and money in building a coupon site.

    Added: FYI, when I searched on your web site, it was really, really slow. And I do see a coupon prompt (on the "add to cart" page, not on the checkout page).
    Last edited by markwelch; June 8th, 2010 at 02:10 PM.

  5. #5
    Beachy Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust View Post
    Just remove the coupon box. Don't offer coupons anymore.
    That's what we did when we started our affiliate program. We removed the coupon box from the cart and decided to not offer coupons. We do, however offer a couple of special deals (in the SAS Deals Database) that coupon sites can publish.
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  6. #6
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    We deflect a lot of that by having a Coupon Code printed right underneath our coupon box. "Don't have a coupon? Use XXXXXX for XX% off".

    That way, we can still leverage coupons for partners, and reduce some of the abandonment.

    On a side note... Even with that there, 50% of our sales don't have a coupon associated with them
    Kevin Webster
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  7. #7
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    I assume that your program is relatively new as you would not have that question if you have been running your prog since the early 2000.

    It is true that some people does not see value in coupon sites.
    -It does drive sales if you are ramping up a new program
    -If you do not have a brand awareness out there, coupon sites will expose your customers to new visitors.

    Flip side:
    -It competes with you in terms of SEO
    -Mature program, very little benefit from coupons.

    Either you work with coupon site or Not.

    If you have your I.T. to back you up, checkout Buy,com coupon utilization by affiliates.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
    We deflect a lot of that by having a Coupon Code printed right underneath our coupon box. "Don't have a coupon? Use XXXXXX for XX% off".
    That's what merchants should do to help seal the sales if you have coupons to offer.

    If you don't have any coupons to offer, like trust said, Just remove the coupon box from the checkout page.

  9. #9
    Network Rep & ABW Ambassador Carolyn - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
    On a side note... Even with that there, 50% of our sales don't have a coupon associated with them
    Dearest, that is probably the most surprising observation I've heard in a long time, why do you think that is?

    xox,
    c

  10. #10
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Heya CTang.

    For one thing, I think it's because we're small, so it's a comparably low sample size. Percentages are percentages however.

    In fact, I just pulled up one page of stats, and in our last 38 transactions, a coupon code was used only 8 times, despite it being right below the box.

    I should add that our Prompt Box is below the water line in our checkout process. I'm sure that adds to the story.
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  11. #11
    Affiliate Manager
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    Wow! That is interesting so few used it.

    I'm not a huge fan of coupon sites unless of course you were receiving some sort of special placement in exchange for an exclusive deal.
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  12. #12
    Member dsharpie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
    We deflect a lot of that by having a Coupon Code printed right underneath our coupon box. "Don't have a coupon? Use XXXXXX for XX% off".

    That way, we can still leverage coupons for partners, and reduce some of the abandonment.

    On a side note... Even with that there, 50% of our sales don't have a coupon associated with them
    That's really amazing that half your customer orders don't even use the coupon you provide right on the page. Your sales pages must be turning them into true impulse shoppers -- gotta buy now, gotta have it now!

  13. #13
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dsharpie View Post
    That's really amazing that half your customer orders don't even use the coupon you provide right on the page. Your sales pages must be turning them into true impulse shoppers -- gotta buy now, gotta have it now!
    We have a pretty unique and poignant product set. We convert well, and it's for the exact search phrases I was hoping we would

    I think a lot of them (the shoppers) are simply happy to find our stuff and at a fair price. So they buy and move on
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  14. #14
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    That or they're just blind. I checked out the checkout process and there is the coupon, right there. A simple copy and paste and they can save 5% and they don't. Dumb or blind.

  15. #15
    Outsourced Program Manager - Parenting Niche hermedia's Avatar
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    I have been looking at this issue for some time. Trying to determine how to balance the merchant's lost revenue for traffic they have already generated with the potential new traffic a coupon site may generate.

    I am considering all coupon/loyalty affiliates needing to 'pre-approve' all coupon/incentive websites they plan to run our program on and preventing the use of our trademark name (and variations). They could use our 'keyword list' ie- flower delivery coupon codes - just not 'business name coupon codes'.
    What do you think ?

    i.e.

    The use of websites dedicated solely to the distribution of coupon codes, loyalty, cashback, incentive, deals, and discounts to promote the ******* affiliate program links is not permitted without expressive written approval and permission from *******or *******'saffiliate manager.

    Approved campaigns using coupon or discount codes may not be placed on coupon related sites in conjunction with our Brand name or the following SEO terms:
    Last edited by hermedia; June 8th, 2010 at 08:11 PM. Reason: added sample terms

  16. #16
    Full Member gcarson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hermedia View Post
    I am considering all coupon/loyalty affiliates needing to 'pre-approve' all coupon/incentive websites they plan to run our program on and preventing the use of our trademark name (and variations). They could use our 'keyword list' ie- flower delivery coupon codes - just not 'business name coupon codes'.
    ....
    Approved campaigns using coupon or discount codes may not be placed on coupon related sites in conjunction with our Brand name or the following SEO terms
    Do you mean in PPC or just on their site? Are you going to limit their on page SEO?

    Quote Originally Posted by hermedia View Post
    The use of websites dedicated solely to the distribution of coupon codes, loyalty, cashback, incentive, deals, and discounts to promote the ******* affiliate program links is not permitted without expressive written approval and permission from *******or *******'saffiliate manager.
    So when an affiliate signs up, aren't you visiting their site and seeing they are a coupon, loyalty, etc site? On top of you already approving them they then need to get written permission?

  17. #17
    Moderator leeann's Avatar
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    Don't sign up affiliates with coupon sites if you do not plan to have coupons. However, no one is costing you money when they promote you within your guidelines. Coupon sites have valued steady traffic that base their browsing and buying by what merchants the site lists. If you are on the list it's a plus. If you are not, it's a loss. Nobody is costing you money if they have a spot on their site that promotes you.

    If you feel it does cost you, do as Trusts suggest and remove the coupon box and don't sign up coupon sites, but please think a bit harder about the concept that it is costing you money. In my opinion it gives you a competitive edge during a financially tight economy. But that's just my thinking I don't push the buy button without a coupon or some kind of cost saver.
    leeann


    Shoppers determine what has value and they like coupons. Stop manipulating who set the cookie just because you do not like coupon and promotional sites.

  18. #18
    Outsourced Program Manager - Parenting Niche hermedia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gcarson View Post
    So when an affiliate signs up, aren't you visiting their site and seeing they are a coupon, loyalty, etc site? On top of you already approving them they then need to get written permission?
    We don't auto approve any applications. We want our affiliates to tell us what sites they will be running our ads on (largely because we have parenting /child related brands that we need to ensure are not on sites with non- child friendly content. So yes I do check sites before approving an affiliate.

    The problem is a lot of affiliates that are signing up are not listing the 'affiliate coupon urls' in their application/network details. We want to make sure that the affiliates realize before they place their affiliate links on any coupon site , the site must be approved.

    So if they are an approved affiliate and decide to launch a coupon site after being approved they would need to get permission before running affiliate links on the site.

    Quote Originally Posted by gcarson View Post
    Do you mean in PPC or just on their site? Are you going to limit their on page SEO?

    It's the page SEO & CPC keyword bidding for 'coupon terms' combined with the trademark name that is the problem. i.e. "Old navy coupons" "Old Navy codes".

    My clients want to find a balance between establishing quality partnerships and not hurting their own organic search results.

    As Mark pointed out above:
    quote:
    " * There are some coupon sites which have loyal audiences who would probably not have found your web site if the coupon site hadn't referred them to you.
    * There are many coupon sites which draw 99% of their traffic from searches for "[merchantname] coupon" or even just "[merchantname]"
    * Worst, there are some coupon sites which create and list fake coupons in order to attract traffic, which actually COSTS you sales yet ends up putting money in the affiliate's pocket.
    "

    Just trying to figure out how to best provide opportunity to affiliates while not hurting my own clients causing them to pay for traffic they already go to their site through their own advertising.

    We'd like to offer coupons as a tool but realize there needs to be some restriction to make hem effective for both the merchant and affiliate.

  19. #19
    Outsourced Program Manager - Parenting Niche hermedia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by leeann View Post
    Don't sign up affiliates with coupon sites if you do not plan to have coupons. However, no one is costing you money when they promote you within your guidelines. Coupon sites have valued steady traffic that base their browsing and buying by what merchants the site lists. If you are on the list it's a plus. If you are not, it's a loss. Nobody is costing you money if they have a spot on their site that promotes you.

    If you feel it does cost you, do as Trusts suggest and remove the coupon box and don't sign up coupon sites, but please think a bit harder about the concept that it is costing you money. In my opinion it gives you a competitive edge during a financially tight economy. But that's just my thinking I don't push the buy button without a coupon or some kind of cost saver.
    I understand your point (being a single parent I count pennies I just received a white paper on coupon affiliate sales - looks like I will be reading in bed tonight Thanks for your feedback - it's a hard call for merchants.

    The lost money comes when the merchant has paid to get customers to their site and Then the customer stops and 'searches their name+ coupon code' finds an affiliate site and clicks the affiliate link and returns to the site. Now the merchant has paid advertising 2x (once to the original ad publisher - then again to the affiliate).

  20. #20
    Grandma broke her coccyx! Uncle Rico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hermedia View Post
    The lost money comes when the merchant has paid to get customers to their site and Then the customer stops and 'searches their name+ coupon code' finds an affiliate site and clicks the affiliate link and returns to the site. Now the merchant has paid advertising 2x (once to the original ad publisher - then again to the affiliate).
    Yet another instance of a merchant wanting to generate business by offering coupons to cash strapped shoppers and then complaining when they have to pay a coupon affiliate for providing a coupon. As has been said many times before, remove the "Enter your coupon code here" box and stop using coupons.

  21. #21
    Advocate mellie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin View Post
    We deflect a lot of that by having a Coupon Code printed right underneath our coupon box. "Don't have a coupon? Use XXXXXX for XX% off".

    That way, we can still leverage coupons for partners, and reduce some of the abandonment.
    Many merchants are doing this, some even list or mention their coupons on other pages of their site increasing browsing and purchase interest.
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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by hermedia View Post
    It's the page SEO & CPC keyword bidding for 'coupon terms' combined with the trademark name that is the problem. i.e. "Old navy coupons" "Old Navy codes".
    But that probably wouldnt have much of an effect on organic search results for those terms, which is where I think a lot of the traffic comes from anyway.

    As for removing the coupon box - it's a hard choice to make especially when you use gift/coupons to track other promotions, especially once that are not derived from trackable internet traffic (direct mail). Besides, I feel like even if the box is removed there will still be people looking for a "deal" and some of the coupon sites simply have the "click here to get..." enticements that will still register as an affiliate sale....

  23. #23
    Affiliate Manager DandyMats's Avatar
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    Thanks for the well though out and spirited responses. As some of you suggested - yes - my program is new. Building it daily with auto-approved affiliates - for the moment.

    I certainly welcome and even enjoy using some coupon sites myself. But those are the ones with great design, great layout, organized content, and true/real coupons of value.

    On the other hand, the type of affiliate coupon site I was referring to were sites that are virtually design-less. Nothing more than a massive, massive sea of links in every possible category under the sun. No casual surfer bookmarks this as "their favorite coupon site" because of all the fun savings they offer. I think it's safe to say that no one is going to this site, clicking through 32 pages until they finally come across my website listed down a mile deep scroll amidst tight-packed text and links. I suspect these affiliate sites are most likely script-driven and I'm just dumped in alphabetically.

    So OK, I have a new program on auto-approve and I'm sure these are the affiliates who gobble up 100% of the programs that come online.

    This is the case I was talking about. And it many more than just one case. I'd venture a guess that never will anyone visit their site first and find me (what affiliates are supposed to be all about).

    And lets say I remove my coupon-accepting functionality altogether. Even without it - some customers I get first/naturally will still think there may be a coupon out there. And as I said - a search for my business + coupon code on Google does in fact return results from these websites (after all Google can easily find my listing buried deep within the bowels of these sites). Some of these sites/affiliates already aren't even showing coupon codes - just "great deal and great savings - must click link to see it and activate it - go".

    Someone may leave my site, search for a coupon code, find them, click through even though no coupon is available - and this affiliate is credited for a commision they truly didn't earn.

    In closely inspecting these sites that are now some of my affiliates, it's almost obvious that they exist solely for this potential. So they aren't out to earn commission by driving new customers to a websites. They are out to pick up the occasional surfer who drifts off my website to look for a coupon.

    So more specifially talking about these types of sites, I'd honestly like to know if they truly do have some value I'm overlooking.

    Otherwise, it likely just makes the most sense for me to drop these affiliates. However - I do see one potential benefit - SEO. While affiliate links with appended SIDs, etc. are not always pure to search engines, I think I might pick up some backlink juice for PageRank. So perhaps I should let the ride for a bit.

    Continued luck to everyone - love this forum and excited to keep reading and posting. You people know your stuff!

  24. #24
    Moderator leeann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DandyMats View Post
    Someone may leave my site, search for a coupon code, find them, click through even though no coupon is available - and this affiliate is credited for a commision they truly didn't earn.
    You forgot to mention the scenario that someone will search for a coupon code, see one listed for your competition on one of these super-coupon sites, and there goes your sale.
    leeann


    Shoppers determine what has value and they like coupons. Stop manipulating who set the cookie just because you do not like coupon and promotional sites.

  25. #25
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    DandyMats, you have a nice looking site and I was considering adding your niche product line.
    I understand what you're saying about coupon sites. Some should not be accepted in an affiliate program but don't think coupon sites are all the same and don't add value.
    I don't consider myself a coupon site but I've coupons (or deals) listed on my sites, because it's what's the customers are looking for. (What's a coupon site, anyway???)
    Even yourself you have $25 Off Sale in bold red letters on your home page.
    You recruit affiliates with: Program facts
    Free shipping on products - great offer for coupon sites
    I'm still not one of your affiliates because I HATE merchants recruiting affiliates like you do then dropping them because they offer coupons.

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