A Brief(ish) History Of Voucher Codes, Cookies & Clicks

Since my Click For Cookies Or Use Forced Clicks & IFrames? post back in August 2007, things have moved on significantly in sorting out the issues raised in that blog, but there does seem to be some confusions in the air. Nowhere more so than in the click, forced click and iframe area.

Indeed after my blog yesterday – Visit Site & Get Discount Code – Switch Over Completed – some kind sole commented it was a “sad day indeed as loquax goes to the dark side of affiliate marketing”.

1. Forced Clicks & Cookies
For me this has always been the most significant issue that required resolution. The dropping of a cookie, usually via an insite iframe and sometimes sneakily via a low pixel iframe. Some might call it cookie cutting, or cookie stuffing or a forced click. This was occurring on a number of voucher code sites.

2. Reveal All Discounts & Visit Site Ethical?
In November, Kieron raised the question about whether using the click to reveal discounts was ethical. My comment at the time was “[re was it ethical] it’s not for affiliates to decide is it? This is a time for networks to start establishing best practice and standards”. The discussion on the blog suggest that the practice of click to reveal is debatable.

3. Voucher Sites So Much Hard Work
This is from a merchant’s point of view and raises the problem of users being misled into clicking on a ‘click to reveal discount’ when codes don’t exist or have expired (and therefore setting the cookie). It questions, quite rightly, whether this is false advertising.

4. Discount Codes & Forced Clicks
Earlier this month Lee McCoy brings the discussion of discount codes and forced clicks back onto A4U. Iframe issues, and by this the sneaky setting of them via 1×1 pixels, has been stamped out but “click to reveal” is prevalent. Webgains, Paid on Results and Affiliate Window give their stance on what they regard as unacceptable and acceptable practice.

5. Click Here To Reveal Why I Will Probably Adopt
Kieron explains why he may well start using the click to reveal practice on his sites, along with some self imposed ethical guidelines.

6. Visit Site & Get Discount – Switch Over Completed
As blogged yesterday, our switch from show codes to reveal codes is completed.

7. Hidden Offers vs Hidden Codes Another View
Stephen Pratley provides us with a view from a merchant and affiliate perspective. He also raises the issue about using “click and reveal” for non-existent or expired codes.

So Where Are We Now?

1. Using 1×1 iframes to burn cookies is not on – and no affiliate should employ this method.
2. Click to reveal code and visit site seems to be ok, provided (1) there is a code and (2) that code is in date.
3. It needs to be clear to the user what is going to happen when they click.
4. Affiliates need to make efforts to maintain their sites.

But Is It The Darkside & Unethical?

Tough question! Having played with codes for sometime, I do fully understand why the click to reveals methodology is employed, but as long as a network says it’s ok, then I’ll consider employing that method.

However, for expired codes and non-existent offers things – which simply lead to a customer being misled and/or a cookie dropped. This is an issue that needs to be addressed as it’s misleading consumers and harming merchant reputations.

The process we’ve used on Loquax is fully outlined on the blog and takes into account user, merchant, network and affiliate.

The user can read how much discount they’ll get and what will happen if they choose to click.
Only merchant’s with codes and codes in date appear – no cookies can be set if the code has expired.
As far as I’m aware we’re working in an acceptable way within network policy – if not, now’s the time to say!

Finally, at the end of the day we do want to earn a living – and here’s the thing – if this reveal code stuff doesn’t work, either because it puts off users, or networks decide it’s wrong, or something else, it’ll take 10 minutes or so to switch it all back to it’s original form.

And finally, this is as probably as close to ‘unethical’ practice we’ve ever come – and yet we’re doing it within the network guidelines and putting in self imposed guidelines too – and unveiled it for everyone to see. Our duck isn’t quite ready for a shiny black helmet yet!

1 Comment A Brief(ish) History Of Voucher Codes, Cookies & Clicks

  1. Stephen Pratley April 9, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Nice summary Jason. The major reason why I think affiliates actually SHOULD use click-to-reveal on valid codes (and only on valid codes) is more down to tracking than ethics. Showing your codes (i.e. the specific letters to enter at checkout) makes it easier for other sites to nick your unique codes, and also make it possible for the user to go to the merchant site without dropping a cookie.

    From a merchant’s POV this helps see exactly who is driving the incremental sales, big basket sizes and so on so that the affiliate partners providing real value get the biggest rewards.

    I’m glad that enough affiliates out there are giving the implications of their site design due consideration and being open about it. There’s a real rush of discussion on the topic this week.


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