SEOmoz Pro Review – Coupon Voucher Promo Discount Codes?

 

Would ranking for these terms bring SEOmoz additional traffic and take traffic away from affiliates? Would that be a benefit to the long-term SEOmoz brand?

Tom Critchlow of Distilled has quite a disturbing post today for affiliates on the SEOmoz blog, encouraging brands to rank for their own coupon codes.

The suggestion is that brands should try to rank for their own voucher codes and take that traffic away from affiliate coupon sites. Unfortunately in some cases that might be biting the hand that feeds you.

Many of the sites that offer various forms of vouchers & coupons are brand evangelists, and the page on their site which offers regular updated coupons to their audience also acts as a conduit to product reviews, in much the same way as product reviews would link to the most recent coupon codes.
If affiliates are smart, they also have access to coupons from competing products and brands.

Whilst you can stamp out the traffic pure coupon sites receive by ranking for your own brand… and that could quite easily make a visible “net gain” to justify SEO jobs, the negative effect is hard to quantify.

Lets take Tom’s example to extremes and rank for as many terms used by affiliates as possible.

[brand] review

[brand] sucks/scam/

[brand] vs

[brand] compared

[brand] cheap

[brand] coupon/discount/bonus/rebate/voucher/promo

These are all bread and butter terms for affiliates, but if you cut off all the terms affiliates can rank for, many affiliates will just write about your competitors instead.

This also happens frequently in reverse when vendors don’t supply affiliates with coupons, affiliates will rank for your “[brand] coupon” and offer an alternative product instead.

By promoting the existence of coupons to your primary user base, that increases the traffic for the search term, which makes it more lucrative for affiliates to rank for the term.
Also a higher percentage of your existing client base will search for coupon codes for every transaction. It is much easier to do this on the internet than brick & mortar stores where the coupons might have ended up with the junk mail, or simply forgotten.

Many online brands have been created or significantly enhanced by strong affiliate partners, and coupons often are provided to ensure affiliates get the sale and to add urgency/increase conversion rate.

There is a danger that some advice that might seem obvious could backfire and be very difficult to repair.

In his article Tom mentioned Argos, who I found ranking much higher than stated with their current “voucher” page, however they were also targeting the term via PPC.
UK search for Argos Voucher Personalization off
The problem with their PPC listing? It doesn’t link to a vouchers page.
Argos are however a store that makes vouchers extremely prominent, displaying them in a section on their home page “This Week’s Highlights”

Of course SEOMoz itself doesn’t rank highly for any of the terms highlighted, maybe that is a “Headsmacking Tip” too (they have an affiliate program)

Update 30/11/2009

I just want to tie this in with some more discussion and found some coverage by Scott Jangro of a challenge for coupon affiliates to prove their value.

I don’t think it is the right question to ask. For me the important factors are:-

  • Did coupon affilaites in some way in the past help create an ecosystem where price concious consumers actively look for coupons online in Google because they could find them?
  • Should coupons always be available to affiliates?

I am sure Affiliates did help create an ecosystem, so it would be wrong to say they add no value.
Affiliates should never be in a position that someone using their links has to pay more for a product than if they went to a site directly.

I also still feel that vendors should be careful competing with affiliates on what might be “cream” search terms where a coupon site might be a final destination within an affiliate’s value chain, or part of their overall SEO strategy. If part of their revenue for a product line is stripped away, it could affect their willingness to promote in other ways.

 

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Comments

  1. Steven Morgan says

    Whilst I agree with the premise outlined in this post about looking after your affiliates and providing them with something “to go at” ultimately voucher code affiliates largely adopt aggressive, borderline spammy techniques, dropping cookies with nasty “click here to reveal” JavaScript designs. This type of affiliate provides no additional brand value, and therefore should be cut out of the loop where ever possible.

    Those affiliates adding value are unlikely to be targeting “brand voucher code” terms anyway, and will be answering a question about the brand / affiliate product.

    • says

      Doesn’t that come down to policing your affiliate program, not competing with affiliates who add value?

      If you can justify SEO specific to one search term that is on my list, you can justify it for all.

      Affiliates who add value and have access to coupons will target that term as well

      What happens if/when all the major search engines cookie affiliate referrals from their search results so no click is free if you have an affiliate program?

      The #1 ranking site for the term Tom highlighted is run by Mark Pearson of Markco Media http://www.markcomedia.co.uk/about/

      Founded in 2006 by Mark Pearson the company, starting with just a single member of staff, has gone from strength to strength over the last 3 years and now – with 3 offices across the country, a team of over 50 dedicated employees including web developers and designers, paid search professionals, creative and international content writers, international account managers, and a dedicated sales team, web properties world-wide and merchant sales of over £200 million in 2007 and £500 million in 2008 – we are ideally positioned and proud to deliver a quality, results driven service every time.

      The coupon market isn’t inhabited by minnows, and messing with the ecosystem isn’t necessarily a wise choice.

      I am advising caution

      I am sure the world’s oceans would be a lot safer without sharks – lets make them extinct? But they play a role in natural selection, clean up dead/dying animals, etc, etc We also wouldn’t have “Jaws” films, so Steven Spielberg would probably be unknown.

      In many ways the existence of coupon sites encourage shoppers to look for coupons

      The SEOmoz “headsmacking” series from what I have seen in the past is generally items that “should have been obvious” – they shouldn’t contain bear-traps.

      • says

        Indeed it does come down to policing your affiliate program – but a combination approach is almost certainly more effective.

        Size doesn’t mean that those sites add value. Markcomedia.co.uk runs several voucher code sites within the UK space – clearly in a bid to secure rankings rather than provide a quality service.

        Ultimately brand based affiliate voucher code sites are piggy backing the brand exposure that companies have worked hard to achieve. Big brand websites generally have the ability to rank well, they’ve earned it and they should exploit it.

        It can be argued that voucher code sites add value in terms of providing a “one stop shop” but if that’s the case then suddenly its not about search rankings and more about service provision. If the site is good enough people will use it because it’s a service, not because it ranks.

        I take your point about the ecosystem, but I just don’t think that brand targeted affiliate sites offer any value in terms of search rankings.

        I’m not sure that the post was in line with the headsmacking tips line either, and agree that a merchant would have to think carefully before implementing. Conceptually however, I have no problem with it.

        • says

          It is a chicken and egg situation in some ways… why are shoppers looking for vouchers in search results? Because they have found them available there in the past, or been encouraged to use them by affiliates.

          Companies do work hard for brand exposure, but part of that brand exposure is affiliate sites, and I would include in that coupon sites, even though they are at possibly the lower end of the quality scale.

          “Grubbygate” with ASOS slamming affiliates back in March 2007 is both an example of how affiliates can build up a brand, and the reaction affiliates take when their faces are rubbed in the dirt by the companies they have supported.
          Lots of affiliates are wary of having anything to do with ASOS in the future, even though there are reports of ASOS reopening their affiliate program on Linkshare to invited participants.

          That thread also highlights that a numbr of sites that have been ranking for ASOS terms have been sending that traffic to competitors.

          The one-stop-shop argument is a little off, because there has to be an source of traffic – just like ASOS no longer needed affiliates because they had captured lots of customers and could market to them directly. Sack the marketing department for doing a great job.

          I am sure a lot of sales for an outfit like Markco Media would be attributed to the coupon sites, but a lot of the coupon site’s ranking would be attributed to all their content sites. But something has to pay for the “top of the funnel” content.

          Do they need the search traffic on brand names to make money – it may only represent a small percentage of the overall, but as with any business a small drop in cashflow can prove to be a huge negative when margins are tight and companies often grow their staff based on growth predictions.

          Conceptually I didn’t have any problems with ASOS closing their affiliate program either, but the way they went about it.

          Obviously the things for affiliates to do is rather than rank for [brandname] coupon, just rank for all their customer support queries

  2. says

    I gues this depends somewhat on who you are.. Argos can do this becuase they are Argos, affiliates arent going to ditch them in the same way they might a smaller brand.

    I guess it also depends upon how much you value your affiliates, and how much revenue they drive, there is a ‘bottom line’ based decision to be made here.. if you see them as canibalising your own sales channels and the cost benefit stacks up do as Tom suggests.

    Alternatively you could just specifiy that your affilaites dont bid/promote themselves on voucher terms and work with them to refine their activity on your behalf.

  3. Gabriel says

    Those affiliates adding value are unlikely to be targeting “brand voucher code” terms anyway.

  4. peritoneal mesothelioma says

    This type of affiliate provides no additional brand value, and therefore should be cut out of the loop where ever possible.
    how much revenue they drive ?

  5. Mido says

    Ultimately brand based affiliate voucher code sites are piggy backing the brand exposure that companies have worked hard to achieve. Big brand websites generally have the ability to rank well, they’ve earned it and they should exploit it.

    • says

      No, big brands are piggybacking off the traffic that coupon sites can drive, because they have “branded” the idea and provided visibility to the concept that coupons can be found on the internet just by Googling.

      If you reset the clock and removed “coupon awareness” & “online shopping awareness” from the general public and started all over again, the isolated stores had coupons but no visitors. Coupon sites build up coupons as a public service for CPM advertising revenue – coupon sites act as a conduit between shopping locations much like Yahoo Directory used to provide a conduit between different websites.

      Progression from coupon sites are services like Dealoftheday or Woot – why can’t the manufacturers or software developers offer the same deals directly to their audience? What a terrible idea that Woot or DealoftheDay might try to make money off the service they provide.

    • says

      I haven’t got stats sorry

      However is someone’s default search is UK, Argos discount codes is one of the suggested terms where Argos rank 9th

      For a chain like Dixons, also suggested, and Dixons aren’t even on the first page

  6. says

    Could you comment further on this: “There is a danger that some advice that might seem obvious could backfire and be very difficult to repair”?

    What do you think would be so difficult to repair, even if it backfired?

  7. says

    I can’t mention how many times I’ve gone to a site to find a coupon for something as common as godaddy or dell. Everytime I always find one, and usually there is an affiliate link there. I’m sure those guys at the sites that provide this are making a comission on it, but if dell or godaddy just emailed me the coupons I’d use their link instead.

    I just wanted the discount and was happy to get the end result whether by means of an affiliate or not. Other sites that I frequent rarely use things like affiliate links (not sure if they even have programs) – but they are also all over the coupon sites, in which case, it might be very beneficial for them to go ahead and try to rank for their brand coupon — as they aren’t chopping off any hands.