December 30, 2014

The Worst Ideas We’ve Ever Heard About Dealing with Affiliates Abusing Coupon Codes

Coupons in Affiliate ChannelThe discussion about coupons and coupon codes being abused in the affiliate channel is one that comes up often. Most often, advertisers with affiliate programs want to do one of these:

  • Boot all coupon affiliates from the affiliate program
  • Discontinue using coupons site-wide
  • Remove access to codes from all affiliates
  • Reverse affiliate commissions without warning affiliates of a policy change
  • Reacting instead of creating a plan
  • There’s nothing you can do! Coupon abuse inevitable.
  • Blame the affiliates and categorize it as a “necessary evil”

Cutting out a whole segment of affiliates is not going to help your affiliate program or enhance your online revenue. There are ways to work with this segment and all of your publishers as a whole better.

First a strategy for coupon use on your site should be tested and developed. As a merchant, you need to check your coupons and ensure the ones you are issuing have a positive ROI, what product or brand exclusions should be stated, etc. to protect your bottom-line.

Then, a plan to communicate to publishers the coupon policy should be established. A few ways to communicate to publishers is through an update of your terms and conditions and a newsletter to all publishers. In your tracking platform, create a Terms and Conditions document or insert a paragraph into your Terms and Conditions that describes ways publishers can promote your affiliate program. For example, explain that only affiliate exclusive codes are to be used for promoting that brand and that use of other codes may cause the reversal of commissions. Some tracking platforms, like Impact Radius, will assist you in protecting your coupon codes. Another strategy could be to exclude certain codes from being commissionable or allow commissions for certain publishers who promote certain codes. If your tracking platform doesn’t have this feature, then it might be a good idea to give exclusive codes to affiliates that include the affiliate’s site name in the code. When you do issue codes, monitor your coupon publisher’s sites and ask them to remove codes that are not compliant. Another way to combat consumers from leaving your site to even look for codes in the first place is to remove the “Enter your coupon code here” box unless the page is directly tied to an approved coupon affiliate.


If you’re interested in learning more about the role of coupons in affiliate, download our free introductory slide deck.