How To Evaluate a Coupon Site Affiliate Application for Adding Value

There is a ton of talk about how to work with coupon sites as Affiliates and what adds value and what does not.  I’ve written a ton of posts about coupon sites and how to work with them, the dangers of coupon sites and how they can rip you off and even a post about how coupon sites are not your enemy.  One thing I haven’t written about yet is how I evaluate a coupon site affiliate application when they apply to my affiliate programs.  I usually never approve any of them because the goal of most is to rank for your trademarks + coupons or url + coupon codes and other variations.  However, there are a couple left that will help to add value to you by placing you in their newsletter lists of 200K+ people once a month and that rank for terms like halloween coupons, christmas coupons, etc… and will feature you for no extra money in these sections.  They will also add no index tags (not no follow) to their meta tags to make sure their dedicated page to you will not rank in the search engines for your trademarks, which in my opinion is a form of stealing from you that is about equal to adware theft.  Here are some of the most important things I look for when evaluating a coupon affiliate application before approving them into my program.

1.  Adware, toolbars, reminderware, loyaltyware, couponware, etc…

I have never come across a coupon site that uses these and doesn’t, in my opinion, poach sales from other channels or other Affiliates.  They either force a click or a redirect to their site and set a cookie on their site or the minute someone gets to your site or they show an ad to try take credit for other Affiliates’ traffic, for your own internally paid for PPC, CSEs, your email campaigns, etc… and take credit for them.  (There are other ways they can act, but these are three of the most common.)  The most simple way to find this is to first hit cntrl F and do a search for the words toolbar, download, browser, never miss, helper, etc…  The next thing I do is scan the site and the terms and conditions or privacy policy for anything related to software, downloads, toolbars, BHOs (Browser Helpers Objects), etc…  When I am looking at the sites I look for browser icons like Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari, then I look for things like power tools, shopping helper, images that say never miss another coupon again, shopping helper, coupon finder, etc…  These are things that help get visitors and even non visitors when they bundle it with other companies to download the adware, that may hurt you as a merchant.  Look in the side bar, the footer, the header, the terms and conditions, sign up as a member with a hotmail or gmail account to see if it is offered inside when you have an account, etc…  This is an instant decline from my programs.  There are other ways these sites hide them so they can trick you into thinking it is a value adding tool, so make sure you look thoroughly or find someone like me or Kellie Stevens from AffiliateFairPlay.com to come help you.

2.  Check the code on Merchant specific pages for SEO on trademarks

The next thing I do is click through any of the merchant pages to check and see if they are trying to optimize for a Merchant’s trademarks.  Here are the things I look for an example.

  • 1.  Title tags – I make sure they aren’t using variations of trademarks and words like coupons, coupon, discounts, etc…
  • 2. Meta Tags – I look for keywords, descriptions and most important, a no index tag.  If they are specifically using trademark or url + coupon, coupons, discounts, etc… they are probably trying to optimize for your shopping cart to poach people who see a coupon code box and use a search engine to find a coupon.
  • 3. H1 and H2 – If the H tags are your trademarks or urls and have coupon codes, coupons or any other extension, they are again more than likely using basic SEO techniques to rank for your trademarks which will poach sales from your shopping cart when people see a place to enter a coupon code.

These three things without a no index meta tag (even with to be honest) that are instant declines for the programs I manage.  The goal of their site, in my opinion, is to poach sales from the coupon code box and shopping cart on your site which in my opinion is not adding any value to you since these are people who are leaving your site for a coupon and would have shopped regardless of whose site is there.  You need to optimize your own sites to have the top ten listings for your trademark + coupons and if you add tracking links, you’ll see the around the same amount of sales that the coupon sites you kick out had been sending from these pages (you’ll see the poached sales being attributed to the actual last referrer and those channels will grow) and about their same conversion rates.  If you brand the sites for your own site you can usually even get better conversion rates, you can use value adding coupons and you can keep the commissions, network fees, etc… that you were losing before.  You are much better off and a lot more profitable by not working with the ones that rank for your trademarks.  Check out all of the work done in the meta tags below to rank for TripAdvisors trademark + extensions.  Everything from the logo they used to the tags and even a few other things.

coupon site meta tags
coupon site meta tags

In the next screen shot of this same site’s code you’ll notice a few things.  They have no follow tags placed on the links to the site to make sure they don’t give a backlink to the merchant and help the merchant rank for their own trademark + coupons.  (They actually wouldn’t have given a backlink anyways since everything is a redirect and points to a network server before it hits the merchant’s site.  They also may use no follow so that they tell the search engines not to follow their redirect path and their own internal tracking.)  The next thing you see in the screen shot are more images they are trying to rank for tripadvisor.com’s coupons and they even went after the alt tag next to the image name.  The last thing you see is their H1 tag which is also used to rank for TripAdvisor Coupon Codes.

coupon site code
coupon site code

3.  Use tools to see what their traffic is.

Use tools like Alexa and other ranking tools to see what traffic they get, but more importantly, the types of keywords that are driving the most traffic.  If it is mostly merchant + coupons, etc… then they don’t have traffic for you and they probably aren’t going to place you on a page dedicated to the merchant page they get traffic for because they built those landing pages for them and the customers in their shopping carts.  They probably don’t want to confuse or stop the shopping process since the person is already to check out and they may not have the top rankings for your store + coupons yet so if they distract the shopper and send them to your site, they could now lose a sale to another coupon site that ranks for your trademarks.  If they do however get relevant seasonal traffic like Halloween coupons or will give you featured space on pages that show up for generic terms like coupons, and they will put no index tags on pages dedicated to you (or not build them at all), then this could be a good thing.

4.  Look for sub affiliate networks, their own affiliate programs, etc…

Look through their site or hit cntrl F again and type in affiliate.  If you find become an Affiliate and they have their own affiliate program or if you see they have a revenue sharing program where you can promote their coupons, this is an instant decline for me as well.  If you cannot work with Affiliates in certain states, if you don’t want specific sites to be in your program because of adware, trademark bidding, etc… this is how they can get into your programs and why you never see the ads taken down.  You no longer have access to them since they are in one or more sub networks.  I’m not a lawyer so this isn’t legal advice, but my opinion is that partnering with these sites and letting them feed out your coupons, etc… to sites who are in states you cannot work with could potentially put you at risk as well of now having to collect taxes for those states since you now potentially have Affiliates in those states.  This is an instant decline for any program I manage.

5.  Look for other ways they can add value.

If they get through everything above, the next thing and one of the last things I look for are ways they can add value to me or my client.  I look for newsletter sign ups, blogs, forums, social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, and see how active their communities are.  (I also check to make sure they aren’t using the merchant’s trademarks on social sites to poach their current customers or promotions that way.  I look at using merchants names with hashtags, etc… the same as trademark bidding).  If they have a large and active community and ad space on these places, this is all where they can potentially send you traffic that you could not reach on your own and add value to you.

Once I have gone through those 5 things, and a few others, I then go and send a letter if it looks like they are going to be able to add value to my client.  In the letter I make sure they know the terms and conditions as well as tell them they have to add no index tags to any page dedicated to my clients and then I mention the extra exposure we would like in order to approve them in.  In exchange for placing us in their newsletters, etc… I will give them custom coupons which can only be used in these spaces and never on the dedicated pages.  I also check the dedicated pages for redirects and click through the coupons to make sure they aren’t trying to trick you by placing a redirect that looks like that code from a value adding section and not a click from the dedicated page.  You may also want to read this post on coupon site Affiliate attribution if you use Share a Sale because you could help to find this type of fraud by looking at the time the cookie was set to the time of the sale.  A few of the users may actually click from the value adding spot to the dedicated page and shop from there.  By looking at the time the cookie was set and compare it to the time of the purchase, etc… you can determine if it was a value adding sale or not.

These are some of the ways I evaluate coupon sites when they apply for my Affiliate programs.  It is very rare one will pass through and actually add value, but there are a couple of them that will be willing and can drive incremental sales.  If you have other things you look for or things you use to evaluate a coupon affiliate application before you approve or decline them, feel free to leave a comment below.  Coupon sites can add value to you, you just have to find a way to work with them that won’t chase away content and pure value adding sites and still add value to your own site.

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