I’ve written a ton of posts for Affiliate Managers about coupon sites, but I haven’t really written many for actual coupon Affiliates; so I wanted to write one today to try and help coupon sites show incremental value to their Merchant partners. Many of them will have their main goal to rank for your url or trademark + terms like coupon, coupons or discounts because it’s easy, fast money with no work or effort since it poaches your customers and cart. This (in my opinion) adds zero value to the merchant, unless they can reverse all sales that came from the trademark ranking, reverse all sales and credit the original Affiliate or channel that referred them or if they can drive at least 75% more sales through the rest of their site instead of just the poached ones which the coupon sites did not earn (which is almost 100% impossible to find). With that said, here are 5 ways that coupon sites can add incremental value and how you as a coupon site can show your value to programs that won’t work with you.
1. Ranking for generic terms that you cannot rank for.
Many of the older coupon sites got wiped out of the search engines for your trademarks so you may have seen them disappear from your top ten or twenty list (again, they were just poaching sales off your trademark or url + coupons, etc…). However, if you are a coupon site with a lot of age, you have an advantage over the Merchants and over newer coupon sites. Your site probably has a lot of authority and the age can help boost you in the search engines as well. What you could do is create content pages for more generic terms like gift basket coupons, autism coupons, back to school coupons and then start building an internal linking structure off of them. After you write your content and build your structure to add some juice to it, you just have to go out to other sites and start working on building backlinks off of these terms or off of your company name with these terms by the links and relevant copy to what you want to rank for. These terms have traffic that can easily drive sales for merchants and if you can rank for them, you can start to show why they should work with you and how you can drive more value adding sales.
2. Build your SEO back and drive revenue.
If you were removed from a program because all you did was drive sales off of the merchant’s trademarks, here is a way that you can help to rebuild your SEO (It isn’t white hat but isn’t 100% black hat either) that many of the surviving sites use, and can add value to your Merchants again so that you can get back in the program and make more money.
The first thing is to build a widget that displays coupons and has a tracking system. In the widget you’ll want to include tags like keyword, name or title and if you are able to, include a keyword rich backlink from the widget. You also want to make sure your brand is on the widget so that people know where they got it and you can also place a link that says, get this same widget here. Once you have the widget built, break it out into categories like sports coupons, back to school coupons, grocery coupons, etc… Now you need to do a ton of outreach to find Bloggers and other sites that feature the adware companies that have these widgets and get them to replace their widgets with yours. Many of them will place it for free because it adds value to their site by showing new coupons from a coupon feed that you need to have in your widgets. Others will ask you to pay on a click basis. This is where it can get tricky.
If you give out your coupon codes to other sites and offer them your Affiliate Links, in my opinion (I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice), this turns you into a sub Affiliate Network and will cause you to be removed from my programs and many others when the Merchant’s find out. If you are paying them to display your widget on a click or impression basis, in my opinion this does not make you a sub affiliate network which may potentially put Merchant’s at risk of Nexus Tax issues and other problems with sub affiliate networks. If you’re giving them actual affiliate links and they are actively using them on their sites and getting a percentage of the sale, this in my opinion makes you a sub affiliate network and may potentially put your Merchants at risk if they cannot work with specific sites because of nexus laws. You do have to talk to a tax attorney or lawyer to get actual legal advice on if this is correct.
Once you have the sites displaying your widgets that rank for terms like grocery coupons, back to school deals, christmas saving tips, etc… you can push specific merchants out to these sites through the feeds and begin driving incremental traffic and adding value to them. It’s going to take a lot of effort to do this, but once a few mommy bloggers or other bloggers who copy people they look up to have them featured, a ton of others will follow if you do it correctly. This is a great way to start rebuilding your traffic with SEO and driving in new streams of traffic for your site and your Merchants. In order to not have the affiliate links appear on the other sites through the widget, just show the deal and have it link back to your own website where your actual Affiliate links are.
3. Focus on your newsletter.
Take your newsletters and make sure you are clearly displaying them on your site. When you send a newsletter make sure that you are tracking which email addresses click on which types of links and if your software or system allows you to tag them, mark them into categories like sports, home, age ranges or other things that cause them to click and potentially shop. Now you can start sending more relevant coupons to these people by pulling a list from the tags you create. This can help increase your sales and decrease your opt out or unsubscribe rate since the emails are more targeted for the user. Your merchants will enjoy the higher EPCs (which I still think is a fake metric that you shouldn’t use) because your click through to conversion rate should increase and you can still send the larger blasts with general items when you need to which usually lowers a Merchants EPC.
4. Do a featured coupon space on your site.
Almost every coupon site features coupons on their homepage or has a featured coupon of the week on their homepage. What I don’t see a lot of is a site wide featured coupon of the day or week. This could be one way to attract more clicks and drive incremental sales for your Merchant’s without a ton of extra work. If you can generate enough clicks on this space, you could also begin to sell it as ad space or a featured placement when you have sales data to back up the added value. One other option is to having a scrolling text bar that runs coupons across them and you can change out the coupons to run for as long as you want. This can help to catch people’s eyes, cause clicks and hopefully drive incremental sales. If it isn’t an option to add a featured coupon site wide, why not have space in your categories set aside for featured coupons, deals or products that are on sale.
By adding specific products on sale you can measure the products that are being moved without a coupon code and show value from your category. Even if the person uses a code with the product, if you set up different tracking urls for the products and codes in that category, you can show which sales came from it and why it is incremental (as long as it isn’t ranking for the Merchant’s trademarks or urls).
5. Add a product blog.
Because of the authority and relevance of your site, ranking for product name + coupons can help you generate new traffic and add value to resellers of the product. Think about As Seen on TV products like the neat receipt scanner. If you are in their program you aren’t adding value or incremental sales by ranking for their product names (this can be argued because they don’t want their resellers to take sales from the money they spent on their TV commercials and ads, but at the same time the resellers also buy products from them and add value with their foot traffic from in their stores and the other traffic on their websites which are incremental sales). However stores like Best Buy, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and other retailers carry these as seen on tv products and by sending them the traffic off of the product names and product name + coupon (which will be easier for coupon sites to rank for because of the relevance with coupons) you can drive incremental sales. Just remember to make it a value adding blog with actual content for the products. Here is my free guide to learn to blog.
Coupon sites can still add a ton of value to Merchants, they just have to begin working harder at it and actually showing what is value adding and what is pure theft (in my opinion) by ranking for the merchant’s trademark + coupons. There are a ton of ways to compete in the coupon space and make money with coupon sites, you just have to work hard at it, start writing actual copy and not the spam with the same or similar copy across every page, and also start working with driving traffic from sources besides merchant’s trademarks that can drive sales. Feel free to share your own ideas on how coupon sites can add value to merchants and also make more money below in the comments section.