There’s no doubt that voucher and coupon affiliate sites are pretty heavy players within the affiliate marketing industry. It’s quite ingenious; shopping online, getting to the checkout and seeing that all too familiar "Voucher Code:" box.
Personally, those voucher code boxes slow down my transaction. Somebody is getting a better deal than me and I could save some money here. So, like millions of others, I head to Google and do a search for [website] voucher codes, in search of active voucher codes to save myself a few quid.
Well, I used to do that. I rarely bother nowadays because the amount of time it takes to find a "legit" voucher site normally outweighs whatever saving I would have made with the voucher.
The problem lies with affiliates creating (sometimes generating) sites with just about every possible web shop going, optimising them to pull in voucher-hungry punters. So the usual routine now is, you do your voucher code search, land on a page which says "click here to reveal voucher code" or "jump through this flaming hoop to receive voucher code" and before you know it, you’ve actually been punted off to the merchant website left only with a "sorry, no active vouchers" message.
Not particularly helpful for you, but great for the affiliate. You’re still probably going to buy whatever it is you were after and most importantly; you have their tracking cookie on your computer so they get their "hard-earned" commission.
As a pet annoyance, I was quite intrigued when I received this e-mail from WebGains today:
"IAB’S AFFILIATE MARKETING COUNCIL REVISES CODE OF BEST PRACTICE
The best practice guidelines that were introduced by the AMC in December 2008 have ensured that the voucher sector is now effectively regulated. In response to some issues and concerns raised by the industry, the IAB has revised the code of practice, in order to provide further instructions and clearer guidelines:
The aim of the IAB’s affiliate marketing council code of best practice for voucher code sites is to ensure that traffic from affiliate sites sent to merchants is not done in a misleading or confusing way and that consumers receive a good user experience. To this end all of the major UK networks are committed to enforcing the following guidelines:
1. Affiliates must not use a mechanism whereby users are encouraged to click to interact with content where it is unclear or confusing what the outcome will be. For example:
* Using "click to reveal code” and opening the site when no valid code is present or an offer/deal/sale is presented instead, without this being made clear before the click.
* Using "click to copy code” and opening the site when no valid code is available
* Opening the merchant’s site without making it clear that this will occur
2. Voucher code affiliates must clearly detail the nature of the voucher or offer/deal/sale before a user clicks to interact with it (by revealing, copying, visiting the merchant site etc)
3. A valid code is defined as a code that has been legitimately issued by a merchant for your use online. This code will have an activation date and, where provided, a deactivation date. When a code has expired it must either be removed or the fact that it has expired must be clearly stated in writing, not simply by listing the expiry date.
4. Sites displaying voucher codes must contain clear categorization and separation between deals/offers/sales and voucher codes.
5. Any affiliate judged by one of the participating networks to be contravening the code will be referred to the IAB’s Affiliate Marketing Council and all members will agree on a course of action. The discretion of the council will be used when determining what is judged as misleading or confusing and is not confined to the examples above.
Webgains is a signatory to the code of conduct and will monitor our affiliate sites to ensure they comply with the above guidelines.
Please ensure your websites comply with these guidelines. "
It’s obviously come to crunch point. Sometimes (not all of them but sorry, it’s true) affiliate networks turn a blind eye to dodgy merchants, as affiliates earning commissions means affiliate networks earning commission. However, when merchants are getting upset when dodgy cookie practise starts impacting on the bottom line, affiliate networks have to start slapping wrists or lose the merchant.
I’m not sure how much enforcement power the IAB will actually have to throw around, but if they get some of the major affiliate networks onboard and get them to actively enforce these guidelines, the next 6-12 months will be very interesting indeed.