I was just working on Affiliate approvals and declines for a Client of mine when I got an auto generated email from a newer coupon site. This Affiliate applied to just about everyone inside the network and when you get the email back from them, after you hit decline or approve, you get their auto responder asking the Merchant for a banner exchange and backlink to their site. Although this may sound good to a new merchant or an inexperienced Affiliate Manager, or corrupt Manager or OPM, this is in no way good for your company or your Affiliate program. Here’s why. (BTW, I have a few posts on this blog about how to reduce coupon code box abandonment which is one of the arguments they give in that they can help with it. Here is one called What to do about your Coupon Code Box.)
- Other Affiliates
- Current Customers
a. No value
b. Paying again
- Boosting Your Competition
a. Affiliate sites (good and bad)
b. If they leave you
1. Other Affiliates.
Giving backlinks to coupon sites or other Affiliates off of your main site is not good for your program for multiple reasons. One main one is that if you are linking to a coupon site and you have content Affiliates, the coupon site with Affiliate links will have a very good chance at overwriting the original content Affiliate’s cookie when the shopper goes there for a coupon, and the content site who added value will lose the sale. If their sales keep getting over written, or if they realize your competition doesn’t do this, they will leave your program and sometimes will let other Affiliates know that you are allowing their sales to be stolen, which will take the work you did recruiting value adding affiliates and you’ll also be building your competitors program with new value adding sales because your content sites left you.
2. Current Customers
One of the things you have to remember as a merchant is that you are paying to send people to your website via ppc, email, etc… By sending people from your site to a Coupon Affiliate’s site, you are now taking the people you paid to bring to your site and sending them somewhere to get cookied by the Affiliate and having that Affiliate send them back with a tracking cookie on it. Now you have lost a ton of money and margin, here’s why.
You just spent:
- Money to bring a customer to your site
- Paid an affiliate commission
- Paid a network fee
- Paid out on a coupon or discount and lost more margin
- Paid your manager or OPM to take a customer they did not help in referring and took credit for the sale
That is 5 fees you have now paid just to bring a customer that was already on your site back when you never had to send them away in the first place.
a. No value – What I mean by no value to you in this is that if all you are doing is sending your customers to an Affiliate for them to send them back to you, then they are adding no value to you. Instead you are hurting yourself by showing your customers where to get extra discounts and now potentially having to pay extra fees and give discounts just to get the sales you would have had anyways. The only possible extra value you could get is if they give you permanent homepage, newsletter, etc… placements and they have millions of active users. Most of these sites will never do that though because if they only keep promoting the same merchants, their users get tired of their site, bored of the deals and go to another coupon site with more variety.
b. Paying again – I just wanted to say one more time that by sending your own traffic to an Affiliate’s site, you will probably have to repay for that same customer. You lose margin and you also pay fees you would never have had to pay if you didn’t make that mistake.
3. Boosting Your Competition
By linking from your site, especially the homepage, you are basically giving your Affiliate a backlink to optimize for your own trademarks and domains. Not only does this help boost them higher in the engines, but it can help them to outrank you since your link is saying to the search engines that their site is actually an authority about you and possibly over your own site. This backlink is stupid to give to them regardless. If you do decide to do it, make sure you add in a no follow tag so that at least you aren’t hurting yourself or helping someone to outrank you.
a. Affiliate sites (good and bad) – I said it is stupid to do this above, but in one scenario it can be good. If the Google autocomplete has reviews or scam in it and all of the results are bad ones, you can use this to help rank a site into the top ten and replace a negative review. However, hiring someone to do Online Reputation Management SEO (ORM), is your better choice because then you can start to control the reviews and scam listings and help to show that you are legit. If you rank your Affiliates for them and you anger them, guess what, you don’t own the Affiliates’ sites and they can easily bad mouth you, replace your links with competitors and encourage shopping at other stores or they can cause a bad user experience by posting expired deals for you and working ones for your competition. It is much smarter to optimize your own sites for those terms and have your own coupon sites and get them ranking for your trademark +coupon, etc…
b. If they leave you – I covered this above, but if you rank your Affiliates above or right underneath you and you have to part ways with them because of a bad relationship or nexus tax laws, etc… you now have someone who has your rankings and can and probably will send the traffic to a competitor since their goal is the same as yours, they want to make money. This is also why it is important to not give backlinks to your Affiliates, especially coupon and loyalty sites from your own site.
I am 100% opposed to giving Affiliates backlinks from the Merchant’s site. It causes unfair advantages for other partners, can cause you to lose margin and sales as well as takes more control out of your hands within the search engines and top ten results. If you insist on giving a backlink to your partners, you may want to set up a different site or blog and link to them from there. That way it isn’t a leak on your site, isn’t as harmful and since everyone can have one, it isn’t creating as much of an unfair advantage.