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  1. #1
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Protecting Private Coupons
    In light of the coupon code scrapers we've all seen in the last year, I have a question.

    Let's say I'd like to offer Mr. Coley a private coupon set for the aptly named Amazing-Bargains.com.

    I'd email him once or twice a week, as an example, with ABTENPercent or something like that, just to give it to him and make it easy to visually track.

    Is there a good way to protect Michael from having it scraped? Anything that can be done on the merchant side? (Aside from watching each click stream that that coupon comes from).

    On one hand, I don't mind moving all commissions generated from that code to Coley, since he probably would deserve the bonus anyways, and it's a great way to pay bonuses from an ROI perspective ;p

    But I also want to ensure that we're offering him a unique value proposition, which if the coupon is getting scraped daily, we might not be.

    Thoughts?

    Oh.. Don't check your mailbox just yet Michael.. You're a hypothetical in this case...
    Kevin Webster
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  2. #2
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    That's a topic that certainly comes up quite a bit, and creating exclusive coupons that always credit to the affiliate it was assigned to is certainly the most effective solution.

    With batch reporting merchants, that's fairly simple to implement. Just add an optional "exclusive affiliate id" field to their "coupon" table. During checkout, if an exclusive affiliate coupon is used, override the affiliate ID. (It's probably a good practice to log the original affiliate ID, if there was one.)

    With pixel tracking merchants, it's a little more complicated. I've suggested that networks allow an optional parameter in the tracking pixel to force the affiliate ID, and that they set up tracking and reports on the merchant side to keep track of these overrides. To my knowledge, no network has implemented it this way. Instead, they have more convoluted ways to do it that vary from network to network.

    One side effect of this is that it helps improve tracking. I have several merchants who offer tracked exclusive coupons like this, and I know that my orders (using the coupon code) will always track, even in these situations: the visitor goes straight to the merchant instead of clicking my link, a parasite intercepts the click, the user has cookies disabled when they click, or I've done something that broke the link.

    Merchants who offer protected exclusive coupons will get better exposure on from coupon affiliates and will be more successful recruiting coupon affiliates. This is a huge incentive for us.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     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

  3. #3
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    I'm not a code junkie (I have a partner who is), but how difficult is it to preprogram a shopping cart to autopop a coupon code when the the traffic come from a particular website?
    Kevin Webster
    twitter: levelanalytics

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  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador
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    Just make it a link with a landing page, no code. Example:

    10% off any order for Amazing Bargains site visitors, Click Here

    Goes to a page saying, Your 10% off discount has been activated, enjoy spending your money.

    Written better but general idea. In general I wish all merchants with coupons had them as links. Little more work on my side but higher conversions and no scraping.

  5. #5
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Noted. Thanks Trust and Michael.

    I'm surprised no one else has a comment on this.
    Kevin Webster
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  6. #6
    Grandma broke her coccyx! Uncle Rico's Avatar
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    As somoeone that runs 2 coupon related sites, I am always worried that my sites are getting scraped. On the other hand, there isn't a lot I can do about it. I do like the auto coupon links that do no use an actual alpha-numeric code, but instead the coupon discount is embedded in the affiliate link. Off the top of my head, I believe Buy.com coupons operate in this manner.

  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador
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    Yep, same with Lamps Plus**, Target, Overstock.com etc. and I like them not only because they have coupon links but the landing page also confirms the coupon. Like the Overstock $30 off $250 I just clicked, the landing page says $30 Off $250 Coupon Activated. Those are better than just codes. There are also merchants who have coupon links, which are great, but it would help if the landing page confirmed it. For example GNC. They have one that is 10% off any order but you don't see that on the landing page, but it's reflected at checkout.

    **Lamps Plus - You can use their coupon links or post the code. Awhile back I tried both and it really wasn't even close, the coupon text links I was using converted better. So good for affiliate, better conversion. Good for customer since they don't have to write down a code or copy and paste it. And it takes care of the scraping problem.

  8. #8
    ABW Ambassador
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    Yeah - I definitly like the links that go to a landing page that confirms and/or describes the offer. I think that works better than a code, and better than a link that embeds the code but doesn't have any information about the discount on the landing page.

  9. #9
    Affiliate Manager cbsturg's Avatar
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    I'm trying to avoid too shameless of a plug, but when we developed FreeQuotesWorld, we built around this consensus. That is, all of our coupons are applied via the url and the call to action is embedded on every page if a coupon cookie is set (check out http://www.freequotesworld.com/c/afftest/ for an example of how it works in general).

    I've toyed around with offering merchant exclusive coupons that will give the merchant the commission regardless of the last affiliate that referred the traffic, but that seems problematic as well. Currently, our coupons are written as a cookie that's stored for 180 days. That way your traffic can come directly to us and still see the discount and feel prompted to act. The general practice in the affiliate industry is that the last to refer gets the sale, so who do you award payment to: the last affiliate, or the coupon affiliate who's exclusive offer is still showing?

    The only way around this that I can tell would be to grab the current affiliate's ID from SaS and not display / process the coupon if it is an exclusive coupon for another affiliate. While not technically impossible, it could slow down the page a bit.

    In the end, is a solution like this necessary? As coupon affiliates, are URL-applied coupons sufficient, or would implementing additional exclusivity tracking be a huge selling point?
    Chris Sturgill
    "All my life I've had one dream, to achieve my many goals." - H. Simpson

  10. #10
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    If you control the shopping cart you can create a lookup table for the coupon code. The merchant server would set the cookie on the shopping cart thus avoiding blocked cookies on the shoppers browser. Then when the sale is completed only the exclusive coupon affiliates gets credit. This is offline from the network and needs to be batched back.

    With this scenario, only that affiliate will get credit and it will allow them to do offline marketing as well. They could care less who pimps their code since only they will get the benefit.

  11. #11
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick
    With this scenario, only that affiliate will get credit and it will allow them to do offline marketing as well.
    TREMENDOUS point there, Chuck. That's a huge factor that all of us had missed. We tend to just think online, but credited exclusive coupon codes would open up some big offline potential as well.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     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

  12. #12
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    There's offline advertising?

    Kidding of course. Thanks for the excellent point made, Chuck. Has being clean shaven made you even smarter?
    Kevin Webster
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  13. #13
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    No, getting back to higher elevation and low humidity has! Other than it was 105 degrees yesterday in Salt Lake City, glad I live in the mountains.

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