Coupon Codes: Tips and Tricks for Affiliate Marketing

By James Kitchener | 16 Aug 2013

Following the recent issue highlighted by Ruslan Kogan, it’s worthwhile noting the ways brands can leverage coupon codes as part of their affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing, while having been around for over 15 years now, is still considered ‘black magic’ by many retailers. Without a proper understanding of the medium, brands can get caught out, as recently evidenced by Ruslan Kogan’s article on the subject.

While pairing an affiliate campaign with a coupon strategy can have great benefits for a retail brand, these have to be implemented correctly in order to yield results.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with Kogan: TV product page

A customer is about to purchase a new TV on when they notice a discount code field.

The presence of a discount code field or coupon option is a sure-fire way to tempt people to search for a working code via Google.

In this case, a likely search query is ‘Kogan Coupon Code’.

Google search for coupons

A Google search returns results for ‘Kogan Coupon Code’

The very first hit on Google appears to be a likely candidate to fulfil the customer’s need for an easy discount. They have nothing to lose by trying it out, so the customer clicks through to the most like website…

RetailMeNot Kogan coupon

“I can get free shipping? Get Deal!”

In just a few simple steps an affiliate coupon code site has managed to accrue a commission from Kogan by simply dropping a cookie on the user’s browser at the point they clicked ‘Get Deal’.

Given that this isn’t the desired outcome of the brand’s affiliate marketing goals, I agree with Kogan. This is not cool.

But what can an advertiser do to protect themselves from these coupon affiliates cannibalising sales? Here is a simple checklist to help tackle the issue:

  • If you don’t have any active promo codes, remove the corresponding box from your website. At the very least you could make it much more subtle (it should be a means for someone to use a code they already have, rather than prompt customers to go off-site to search for one)
  • Reduce your payout to coupon/sales/discount sites. This is what big programs run by the likes of ASOS, The Iconic and others are doing. Alternatively, you could take this a step further and ban coupon sites from linking to your website altogether.
  • Research publisher websites before accepting them into your program – be sure to visit each website that applies to your affiliate program in order to ensure they are legitimate and relevant (e.g. not a coupon site)
  • Leverage search engine marketing – by bidding on ‘your company name + coupon’ and similar search terms in Pay-Per-Click advertising, you can control the use of company coupons and keep them out of the hands of coupon sites
  • Many merchants fear that coupons shared with members will end up being shared online, only to appear on an affiliate publisher’s site. Active coupon code monitoring helps merchants ensure these codes remain offline. Merchants can quickly and easily identify when a consumer posts a code to a website and then reach out to the website owner to request removal of the code
  • Consider providing an approved coupon on your site in order to encourage purchasing behaviours and prevent users from leaving the site to search for discounts. Perhaps even try pre-filling the coupon field to encourage speedy conversions.
  • Create a coupon code page on your website, listing all current promotions. Benefits here include:
    1. Accelerated purchasing – on-site coupon codes help potential customers make a purchase from you faster that they might have otherwise. Especially if the offer is valid for a limited time
    2. Increased customer loyalty – shoppers that discover you offer coupon codes will be more likely to make repeat purchases
    3. Entice customers away from competitors – it’s common for shoppers to break routine shopping patterns in order to take advantage of a coupon. This can lead to increased new visitor traffic and sales to the business
    4. Enhanced linking – this is the icing on the cake for a good coupon strategy. People regularly link to coupon pages and share them with friends via social media networks. This will also help your search engine rankings due to a greater volume of inbound links and social signals pointing towards your website

As with any marketing campaign, merchant brands need to carefully weigh up their goals and experience in order to implement a successful strategy. Start by understanding the medium before carefully working through a checklist of priorities in order to ensure the correct result.


11 thoughts on “Coupon Codes: Tips and Tricks for Affiliate Marketing”

  1. As Kogan did to discover this issue, the only thing that really works well is testing with metrics.

    If your goal is to get new traffic, use your analytics tools to monitor new customers gain from that campaign.

    I don’t fully understand why he didn’t detect this earlier, I would have thought that % new customers would have been one of their primary metrics when testing a new channel. I’m sure it would be now as it should be for most people – if not everyone.

  2. Let’s not foget there are plenty of legitimate uses for coupons which Kogan has failed to take into consideration, such as up sell incentives and offline advertising tracking.

    Coupons are a great way to encourage affiliates to promote your brand, as it gives them something to offer their audience. As James points out there are ways to ensure the coupons are used for new customer acquisition..

  3. Agreed, Coupons are a great tool for the marketer and aid in new customer acquisition, up sells, tracking and customer loyalty. For any digital marketing campaign; tracking and then optimizing are the key factors for the campaigns success.

  4. Aaron says:

    The Ironic thing about this is the fact websites promoting these Kogan coupons aren’t actually coupons but generic deal links.

    As a coupon marketer myself who only deals with real codes this situation irks me no end and is the only reason I got into coupon marketing to begin with – by offering a code only website.

    Coupons can work really well for an online store simply by utilising areas like brand marketing and not be store specific – it just takes a bit of effort on the affiliates behalf.

  5. The use of the generic deal affiliate links on coupon site pages optimised for the ‘coupons’ terms is simply further proof that many coupon affiliate sites are cannibalising sales for advertisers. Many coupon affiliate sites sole aim is to gain a click and drop a tracking cookie from a user who is already in the checkout process and doing a quick search for a coupon code prior to purchase.

    All advertisers with CPS campaigns on affiliate networks should do a google search for their own store name + coupon code so see which coupon affiliate sites are cannibalising their sales.

    Aaron – I agree that affiliate coupon site can work well when they focus on brand marketing and not simply steal sales at the store/advertiser level. Big thumbs up for running an ethical affiliate coupon site.

  6. nadeem says:

    Thanks for guidance

  7. Tom says:

    OK Gang,

    Get THIS! The statements below will explain to you *step-by-step* exactly (How & Why) – these “Scam Coupon Sites” are stealing Affiliate commissions from righteous affiliates that are actually promoting the products/service in the righteous manner….

    …And What You can Do About it, if you are an affiliate?

    An affiliate can promote a product/service on their site that provides a ton of value, and have done a ton of research in building that page…

    And as far as coupon sites — nothing gets me more frustrated knowing that a customer could have spent a week on my site, reviewed all my products, decided to click my affiliate link to arrive at the MERCHANT sales page, then see the coupon field…. then decide to do a search in Google as: “PRODUCT-NAME” coupon — then for them to see 20% -to- 50% on that specific product Link, which they ALMOST DEFINITELY will click to arrive on an THEIR Merchant Sales Page with THEIR Affiliate LINK dropped…..

    And they provided ABSOLUTELY O VALUE — just buttons that state “click here” or “get deal” —
    only to be redirected with their new affiliate link to arrive on the same merchant page they were on, but with guess what? No 30% -to 50% off like they promised…. but they will still get my sale and **steal my commission**. But what do they care?! Most of these coupons sites only intention is to steal money from affiliates and to get paid undeserved commissions.

    And you notice that most of these Coupon Site Links in the “Googles SEO results” are not updated, and don’t give specifics as to what coupon codes they are getting.

    *** So What Can You Do? ***

    Contact your affiliate manager, and explain this situation to them, and tell them you need an “exclusive coupon code” which will at least impede people from navigating off my site to search for other coupons in Google that.. (most of the time), are not actually “Real Coupons”, and are not actually “providing any value”….

    And list that “Exclusive coupon code” on your the “Top Feature” section of your site. Most themes and wordpress have this feature. You can also build your coupons as an Image — and if using wordpress, it works good in conjunction with the plugin “Dynamic Widgets — which gives you full control on which pages your “Coupon widgets” will appear. And you can even set times for when coupons expire.

    I always ask for coupon codes that are not set to expire, it just makes it easier especially if you run a lot of wordpress site’s… You can just list it as “Today’s Coupon Special”.

    So, if you still defending “Coupon Affiliate Sites” — then that means that you think it’s a good idea that “Coupon Affiliate Sites” steal commissions from Good, Honest, Hard-Working Affiliates that Promote their Affiliate Products on their own websites… and provide Real Value?!

    Please, at least admit this is what you think! Because this is exactly what happens! The truth is the truth!

    1. Aaron says:

      I was going to reply to Toms comment in a professional manner then I saw his site linked in his name – not a great example based on your comments. Further inspection revealed that comment was just spam.

      The negativity surrounding coupon websites is just as applicable to any affiliate website, be it a reviews site, comparison website or simple blog.

  8. hamza ijaz says:

    great information. Thanks !

  9. Kingsley says:

    I think you shouldn’t implement coupons just carelessly, it can hurt your business if you have worked without coupons for several years. Coupon codes might have worked for big companies, but they probably did lots of testing with this. If you have a 2nd business, you should definitely try it out though.

  10. iprism says:

    Thanks for sharing such a great, very informative and useful article about affiliate marketing tips.

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