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  1. #1
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    Coupon codes or no coupon sites, that is the question
    I get declined more and more often by new merchants with this kind of excuse:

    "With apologies, your affiliate application has been declined. This is primarily due to the "coupon" or "free items" content of your site."

    I don't have a coupon site. I offer products on my sites and I include coupons and free shipping offers if the merchant offers them.
    I had to do it because my visitors were leaving my sites searching somewhere else for coupons.
    I can argue about "What's a coupon site?" but it's not the problem. The merchants are considering that if you have a coupon code on your site you're a coupon site.
    I don't mind to be declined at least not as long as the merchant is straight about it. The merchants have the right to be selective with their affiliates.

    Lately I noticed two things:
    1- Many new merchants with no coupon affiliates don't make it and close their programs a few months after the launch. (You have exceptions in a few verticals)
    By example if you look at the sales for this merchant (1st Phorm) before and after his decision to decline coupon sites.
    An other crooked merchant: 1st Phorm (1dboverdrive) - ABestWeb Affiliate Marketing Forum
    Before steady $75 epc, after $0. Not a single sale. How can you be excited about the program?
    The AM said: "we pay 40% commissions to our affiliates because we know that the large majority of consumers that try our product, come back as long term customers."
    Sure but no sale means no customer (and missing customers are not going to come back)

    2- Many coupon sites (Quite often the same using adware, toolbar...) hide their coupons to fire a cookie as soon as the visitor want to have a look at the coupon.
    Quite often there's no coupon. They are misleading the visitor and stealing another affiliate commission.
    It shows the lack of ethics of these (major) coupon sites and I think they are one of the reasons a few merchants don't like coupon sites.

    3- Some merchants are confused about coupon sites. They think these affiliates are all bad. And I wonder if certain networks are not confusing on purpose their merchants to make their "Technology Affiliates" using software, toolbar, reminder... more acceptable.
    Like if you don't accept coupon sites, you're going to lose a big potential.
    I thinks these networks don't tell their merchants the difference between parasites and coupon sites.
    By example: Duplicate Orders from Mulitple Networks - ABestWeb Affiliate Marketing Forum

    I've a few questions
    Are merchants making a mistake not to accept coupon sites?
    Coupon sites are predators and should be deactivated?
    It's what the customer want (save money).
    Networks should educate merchants about coupons and show them the difference with parasites.


  2. #2
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Networks other than Shareasale and AvantLink are not going to educate merchants. I think you should tune up this post and send it to every merchant that rejects you. Only by educating and starting a line of communication will they ever learn.

    IMHO I do think that many coupon sites are parasites and stand by my statement that if you do not offer a coupon do not work with coupon sites. BUT, if you do offer a coupon then you can leverage up to 500 sites to advertise your products.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick View Post
    Networks other than Shareasale and AvantLink are not going to educate merchants. I think you should tune up this post and send it to every merchant that rejects you. Only by educating and starting a line of communication will they ever learn.

    IMHO I do think that many coupon sites are parasites and stand by my statement that if you do not offer a coupon do not work with coupon sites. BUT, if you do offer a coupon then you can leverage up to 500 sites to advertise your products.
    Let's take an other example.
    Yesterday I received an email from this merchant at Shareasale, Tours4Fun:
    This message is to inform you that you have been removed from the affiliate program of the merchant: Tours4Fun
    The reason given was: would rather not work with coupon sites
    We can have a look at this merchant's stats to compare them in the future.
    This merchant is on auto-approve. First mistake if you don't want coupon sites.
    I signed up in 2009 and closed sales. The communication was around these lines: We look forward to working with you more closely in the future. "Over the next two months, we are going to be designing additional banners, special affiliate offers, a regular newsletter, articles/images/videos for affiliate use... Thank you for your time."
    7 Day EPC $98.77; 30 Day $98.38
    A steady over $100 EPC for the last 45 days and more...

    What's the reason for deactivating coupon sites?
    Are the affiliate sites closing sales on Tours4Fun good name? I don't think so.
    Is Tours4Fun offering coupons? Yes.

    Let's have a look at what could be an other reason: Competition
    The merchant have their own coupon page:
    tours4fun.com/landing/coupons.html

    Now, Chuck, who's the parasite? the affiliate or the merchant.

    I'm going to contact the merchant and send him to this thread.

  4. #4
    Affiliate Manager OutdoorPlayToys's Avatar
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    As a merchant who will be launching a program soon - this is one of my most confusing areas as well. Do I accept coupon sites or do I not? There seem to be so many "shady" sites, but I am not sure how to tell the good ones from the bad.

    For example I thought Fatwallet was a "good" coupon site, but I have read in other threads that they are more like a parasite site.....

    My original thought was to not accept any coupon sites....but then a wise birdie told me that is not a good idea either.....so I am totally confused!

    If any one could shed some light that can help both a merchant AND an affiliate understand how coupon sites can work together and what to look for when accepting/declining coupon sites that would be very helpful!

  5. #5
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Let's have a look at what could be an other reason: Competition
    The merchant have their own coupon page:
    tours4fun.com/landing/coupons.html

    Now, Chuck, who's the parasite? the affiliate or the merchant.
    Looks like they are trying to keep the consumer on their site and avoid paying the affiliate the commission. If the affiliate is truly making incremental sales it will be due to them bringing the consumer to the site. This is a tough one because several of my merchants have found that if you take the coupon code out of the cart consumers are less inclined to go looking for one. So what is the other loss to the merchant if they boot all couponers? Take a look at the organic rankings for tours4fun +coupons (108,000): tours4fun coupons - Google Search

  6. #6
    Affiliate Manager OutdoorPlayToys's Avatar
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    Chuck,

    Is that true about removing the coupon code area? I would think that may be a way to lose sales no?

    Is there any statistics about this.....I know we have not had one coupon redeemed although we have had them listed on some coupon sites....but I would be worried that if I had someone in the cart who DID want to use a coupon and I do not have that option for them - they will just purchase the item from someone who did......

    This is interesting......

  7. #7
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    So if I look at their organic ranking they are trying to outrank a few affiliates just above them (All deactivated by the way). It's going to take a few cycles to get them the first position. Fine, but who will be competing with them, not their affiliates but their competitors and they will lose the sales.
    We had that kind of discussion with PPC affiliates a few years ago?
    I'm not sure booting all the couponers (maybe hundreds of affiliates) is the best solution in the long run.
    What they should have done is policing their affiliates. I'm not too crazy for affiliates hidding coupons or stuffing cookies.
    Let's check their stats in a few months and see how it goes.

  8. #8
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    Thanks Zeus, I hadn't given any thought to why other coupon sites were hiding coupons behind on-site clicks.

    I feel your pain... Two days ago I had a newly signed merchant (the program has been open for only a month) contact me to tell me that my commission had been reduced from 15% to 5% because I was a coupon site. I am so tired of this garbage that I just told her to close my account.

    It seems like merchants want the traffic we provide but they don't want to pay for it...
    When the only tool you have is a hammer - everything looks like a nail.

  9. #9
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    No merchant that I work with has given me statistics. One did say that they could see $100k/month effected with another browser session being opened. Recently I had another merchant shutdown their CJ program due to cannibalization by couponers as they were spending six figures a month on TV, radio.

    Zeus, that is the downside. If you boot a couponer that has a high organic ranking they will move to your competition. If they have been removed and are still organically ranked for your brand but the page is gone then the consumer has a bad experience. If they leave the page up and you block their IP then bad consumer experience. The merchant really needs to look at the competition and decide what is best.

    Looking into some new tracking technologies that can be used for social, offline, etc.

  10. #10
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    I feel your pain... Two days ago I had a newly signed merchant (the program has been open for only a month) contact me to tell me that my commission had been reduced from 15% to 5% because I was a coupon site. I am so tired of this garbage that I just told her to close my account.
    That is another compromise where the coupons eat too much of the gross margin. You have to look at your cost to drive sales and if you have enough ROI to keep doing it. If you were making good sales ask them for a trade mark +coupon easement.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick View Post
    That is another compromise where the coupons eat too much of the gross margin. You have to look at your cost to drive sales and if you have enough ROI to keep doing it. If you were making good sales ask them for a trade mark +coupon easement.
    I get that coupons cut into the bottom line but this was a brand new program that I hadn't even had time to create a campaign for. When I see a merchant making drastic changes like this so soon after the launch of a program it's a red flag for me. I cannot risk my time and effort while they design/redesign their program on-the-fly.
    When the only tool you have is a hammer - everything looks like a nail.

  12. #12
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Its a Catch22 for merchants and communication is the only way they know how its effecting affiliates. Just send them an email point to this thread and say no more. If they respond here or directly they are worth working with, if not then there are plenty of fish in the sea.

  13. #13
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    How many affiliate business models do we have, now? a bunch.
    Couponing is just one of them... the problem is, it became so popular that today you have many different business models using coupons.

    What's the percentage of affiliates using coupons, one way of another, 80%, more...

    I agree, most of the bad actors, reminder, adware, toolbar... are using the coupon model as their favorite vector to steal commissions from other affiliates and merchants.
    It doesn't mean all couponers are bad, like not all affiliates are bad.

    Who's saying these days all couponers are bad, we should get rid of them? They are the same who said the affiliate model doesn't work.
    They are merchants who doesn't want to dedicate the time and money to police their affiliates, AMs who don't know how it works.

  14. #14
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    just my thoughts..
    Quote Originally Posted by Zeus View Post
    I get declined more and more often by new merchants with this kind of excuse:

    "With apologies, your affiliate application has been declined. This is primarily due to the "coupon" or "free items" content of your site."
    Personally, after working with our companies Affiliate Manager, I have come to realize that Coupon Sites are helpful.. Content that is given to the affiliate of the site can still be manageable. We haven't had any issues with a coupon site to my knowledge but who am i to judge, i am new at this and just now learning the ropes.. I guess i'm looking to learn what helps the affiliate out..

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  16. #15
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    Here's the typical thinking of a stupid merchant (PetFlow):
    Coupon sites are stealing your money! Posted March 31st, 2011

    This is a guest post on ShoeMoney from Alex Zhardanovsky, a former coupon affiliate (BigBigSavings.com) and co-Founder of Epic Advertising (AzoogleAds).
    shoemoney.com/2011/03/31/coupon-sites-are-stealing-your-money/

    First this guy is an "affabulatore":
    You see, I used to run a coupon site myself, 10 years ago. It was called BigBigSavings.com and I made a ton of money from it.
    10 years ago, everybody with a website was making money. No big deal. If he made so much money, where's his site now?
    Who has been impressed by his site, in the past?

    re: AzoogleAds... "According to the Florida Attorney Generals site, Case Number: L07-3-1044 was opened to investigate AzoogleAds.com for the allegation of Unfair and deceptive trade practices" OK it was in 2007.

    So the guy is now a merchant, PetFlow.com. You think with his experience, he will have a top notch affiliate program. Wrong again.

    Today, the way these sites generate their revenue is when the customer is already at the point of sale, so none of the customers that coupon sites generate are customers that the merchant wouldnt already have sold their products to, on their own.
    It's so stupid. This guy has never heard of bad actors, toolbar, reminder, adware... Why is he unable to deactive them?
    He prefers to blame his own failure on coupons...
    Now, regardless of whether the user actually used the coupon provided by the coupon site or not, youre paying for the sale!
    Wrong again. Why is that guy so confused? Does he know what's a parasite?

    These kind of false statements are damaging for everybody.

  17. #16
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    Change of terms for Home Gallery Stores regarding coupons and deals
    I've a new email this morning regarding coupons and deals.

    Change of terms for Home Gallery Stores regarding coupons and deals
    Affiliate links from primarily coupons type sites will no longer be permitted.
    These new terms of service will be changed at SAS tomorrow.
    I like the "primarily coupons type sites" What's a primarily coupons type site?

    Who's the IDIOT spreading this nonsense? I suspect somebody from a network contacting all their merchants.

    I had a quick look at that merchant site: Home Gallery Stores
    I'm greeted by that
    Hi. I'm Shannon
    Welcome to Home Gallery Stores.
    We offer extra discounts on most orders over $1500.
    Sign up today and receive a 5% discount code.
    So the affiliate can't use coupons but the merchant is promoting them!!!

    If they are so mad about coupon sites why don't they get rid of the parasites and bad sites hiding coupon codes and stuffing cookies. They are at the top of search engines for this merchant.

    What are doing our networks to educate their merchants?


  18. #17
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    Amen Zeus!

    I don't see the difference between an overtly (honest) coupon site and, for example, a vanilla blog that posts a single coupon creative on a single page. Why do some merchants see them as different? They both have 1st page potential and therefore pose the same "threat" to the merchant.

    As I write this I am wondering, another problem could be how different merchants define coupon sites. It could get to the point where any site that utilizes a merchants coupon creatives is automatically branded a coupon site! Where is the tipping point? 1 coupon per page? 1 per site?

    I agree, it's all about education and merchants realising that they have to clearly describe and abide by their couponing TOS. (Not just make it up when they realise how powerful couponing has become as a selling tool)
    When the only tool you have is a hammer - everything looks like a nail.

  19. #18
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    Who's the IDIOT spreading this nonsense?
    Back when this started, it looked to me like it was coming from some SEM companies and affiliates who don't promote coupons.

  20. #19
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    I don't believe in coincidence. This stuff is coming from somewhere.
    I don't mind if merchants decide not to offer coupons, it's their choice. If they offer coupons on their own and don't want affiliates to promote them, it's an other subject.
    I hate that statement: "All the coupon sites are bad" and I'll like to know who's behind these comments.

  21. #20
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    Wink re: coupon sites
    There are parasite coupon sites out there, but there are just as many publishers who try to scam the system. Fortunately, the good far outweigh the bad and it is crazy to throw out the bushel because on a few bad apples!

    Our affiliate program is happy to work with coupon sites. We view coupons as a way to entice our customers and give an advantage over our competition (who don't offer coupons at all.)
    Last edited by mbossart; April 6th, 2011 at 10:54 AM. Reason: Removed link.

  22. #21
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zeus View Post
    I don't believe in coincidence. This stuff is coming from somewhere.
    I'm surprised sometimes at how many affiliate unfriendly policies get promoted by networks. I'm not saying that's where this is coming from, but I've seen other things (like terminating inactive affiliates) coming from the networks.
    Michael Coley
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     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  23. #22
    Full Member gcarson's Avatar
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    Coupon Sites Stealing Money!
    OK, I don't really think that.. but that was what one e-Commerce site owner thought and blogged about. Didn't see anyone post it here so I thought I would share it. I was just reading through some of the feeds I subscribe to over the weekend and this article caught my attention. I know this is always a hot topic on this forum. Here's the article:

    hxxp://www.shoemoney.com/2011/03/31/coupon-sites-are-stealing-your-money/

    The author, an owner of an e-Commerce site, basically says that coupon sites offer no value and merchants should stay away from them. He had an affiliate program on CJ and a huge percentage of sales were going to coupon affiliates. When he dropped his program on CJ, he saw no decrease in sales.

    Shawn Collins points out.. since this merchant didn't lose any sales after dropping their affiliate program, the program probably wasn't well managed in first place.

  24. #23
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    Featured: Coupon codes or no coupon sites, that is the question - ABestWeb Affiliate Marketing Forum
    I saw that post too and I made some comments about the person who wrote it.

    I didn't like also what shoemoney said about Affiliate Marketing forums like ABW and I guess others.
    The affiliate industry is in bad need of an affiliate marketing specific forum that has quality people and not just a bunch of kids acting like they are big ballers.
    Who is he thinking he is? Still bragging about the picture of his check, after all these years...

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  26. #24
    ABW Ambassador JoyUnltd's Avatar
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    Yes, it's a dilemma for all...shoppers are coupon crazy, online & off. Who doesn't shop at the grocery store without at least one coupon?

    Folks want coupons but you don't have to be a coupon site to offer them. Content sites/blogs can offer them & hopefully retain their commission...that is, if the merchant bothers to give ALL their affiliates a coupon code, not just the coupon affs.

    Commission rates are being dropped for coupon affs by merchants who are finally realizing that these sites are not driving new traffic + they're paying for sales they didn't have to that they drove via PPC/SEO. Content/blog affs can lose their commissions at checkout. Good deal, eh? Get the content affs to drive traffic, encourage the shopper to look for a coupon then pay half the commission you would originally pay. Just another thought.

    Recently dropped a program for that reason. I made a transaction, saw the prominent box for coupon codes at checkout, googled for coupon codes but did no more than click on the links to the main sites. Evidently, one or more stuffed their main site cookie as I wasn't given the commission.

    Wrote the AM who didn't know the transaction was mine. He told me that I lost it to a last minute coupon aff. I told him it was my transaction, I didn't use a code, didn't click on any reveal links or any links other than landing on the site, that it was cookie stuffinghe didn't respond.

    Yes, the program in the article was probably not well-managed, but the issues remain valid. As one commenter noted:
    Here in the UK the click to reveal practice is banned through collaboration with networks, advertisers and voucher sites. Im always surprised this is not the case in the US market.
    Why isn't this banned in the US?
    Rene
    Pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain. -Wizardress of Oz

  27. #25
    Full Member gcarson's Avatar
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    Zeus.. Sorry, I did a quick search but missed that you posted it already!

    I can't say I really read his blog all that much and don't really follow his opinions / views.. for some reason I subscribed to the feed. When he makes that comment, is he specifically talking about ABW? I can definitely see how the comment about 'kids' relates to some forums but not this one..

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