As an affiliate that promotes everything from clothes to surveys to video streaming, I see a lot of different offers and business models. Once upon a time I was happy to take $1 per sign up for an offer even if it meant sending my traffic away to a competitor. It was revenue! And I didn’t know any better.
Last week at ShareASale ThinkTank I had a number of conversations with bloggers about why they should not promote toolbars that will steal their commissions. Little did I know the big surprise I would receive from a merchant this morning.
SavingStar is a great way to save money using digital grocery coupons. I use them myself. I promote them to my members. I guess I should say “promoted.”
I received an email as a SavingStar affiliate announcing happily their new cash back shopping and toolbar. I’m sure that it is very exciting for them because it will bring in huge revenue for them. As an affiliate, huge warning bells went off in my head. Here are a few lines from the email that worried me most:
- We also have a toolbar which makes it seamless and easy to save all the time you see a deal.
- Through SavingStar’s Cashback Mall, you can save every time you shop at sites like Groupon, Travelocity, Proflowers, Macys.com, Sears.com, LandsEnd.com, BestBuy.com, and hundreds of other online stores.
- Enjoy promoting these amazing offers and I will be updating you more frequently about exclusive coupons, increased cash back and holiday shopping deals.
Unless I am misunderstanding something, SavingStar wants me to encourage my visitors to shop through SavingStar’s affiliate links. Those links include merchants that I myself promote. So if I am encouraging them to shop through SavingStar, I am basically flushing my own affiliate revenue down the toilet.
I may make $2 for convincing someone to sign up with SavingStar, but how much am I losing when I promote a Macy’s deal on my site but my visitors use their handy dandy SavingStar toolbar to get a deal and cash back? Even if the toolbar is not set to pop up when an affiliate link is used, are you willing to take the chance to encourage them to use a cash back site to get your $2 and then just hope that they do not ever use the cash back site?
I have nothing against the cash back business model. I own a cash back site. But I also tell bloggers not to promote cash back or coupon sites if they are going to use affiliate links themselves. If you aren’t going to use any other affiliate links, by all means take the CPA on referring your visitors to other deal sites.
SavingStar is just the most recent merchant-turned-affiliate to pull this. I’m calling them out only because 1) a lot of bloggers will not even catch that email, and 2) many will not understand the significance of the shift from just grocery coupons to online deals. Eric Nagel is working on a post you’ll want to read about some of the other ways you might be valuing short-term over long-term. I’ll link to that as soon as it is up.
Are you a blogger that has been promoting SavingStar? Will you continue to promote them? If you are a merchant or affiliate manager, how do you feel about participating with a “merchant/affiliate” like this?