Voucher codes have been a very popular way to track the effectiveness of campaigns even before the web came along. They are great because they transcend marketing mediums. You can give a voucher online to be redeemed in store or you can give a voucher code to a chap handing out calling cards on Oxford Street for redemption online. They have been working well until recently.

Even in an early post of this topic back in March 2008, I heard rumblings. Rumblings from the affiliate community that voucher codes are killing all their hard work. An affiliate spends loads of time pre-selling a customer and at the last moment the buyer sees a box saying “if you have a promotional code. enter it here”. This kills the poor affiliate’s commission and gives it to some other affiliate. Case in point – we went to Centerparcs and managed to get a discount by doing that search at checkout.

Now the codes are affecting organic search again

Google has been talking about clamping down, recently, on domain and sub-domain leasing. Due to some rather clever new technology from Majestic, I can now see just how powerful this technique has become. Several of the UK’s major publications monetize their site in part by offering readers discounts. Fine… but the way they are managed is by sending the user to a subdomain of the site in question, which is entirely controlled by the affiliate company.

The voucher code page that I looked at included low LD (Links Density) “followed” links in blocks of genuine text, on subdomains of major sites. They have high page metrics, and high traffic throughput. I’d love to show some here, but I like being at conferences and would rather not get hissed at.

But on balance, it’s win-win?

Well – those offering voucher codes win. It’s the brands that lose. 20 seconds before pushing the “sale” button and savvy surfers go to their not so favourite search engine and get a discount on something they were going to buy anyway. Everyone loves a deal. But the problem is that the voucher code as a way of tracking the source of a marketing channel is breaking down.

Last month I went to buy one of those needlessly large fridges with needless ice making and cold water facilities. (Significantly better for the environment than the half size one we had before, by the way.) We went to Currys, and found the exact one. Delivery charge… £45 extra. Since we decided that even if we could fit it into the estate (car, not house), we couldn’t carry it into the kitchen, we decided to just check online first.

The net result? We got a discount through Can’t B arsed.com after a quick trip to Google. We also got it from Dixons’, not from Curry’s. We also got free delivery.

So I’m happy. I got the deal. But as a tracking mechanism, promotional vouchers are rapidly becoming unreliable.

Oh yes… that Google voucher? I got it from a Google paid link in New Media Age this morning.


Dixon Jones

An award-winning Search and Internet Marketer. Search Personality of the year Lifetime achievement award Outstanding technology individual of the year International public speaker for 20 years in the field of SEO and Internet Marketing, including: Pubcon; Search Engine Strategies (SMX); Brighton SEO; Ungagged; Search Leeds; State of Search; RIMC and many more.

1 Comment

shana · 9th April 2008 at 7:21 pm

Thank you very much dixon.i got free Google voucher.

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