• http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Great piece, Greg. To my thinking this highlights the fundamental weakness in their business model. They are totally dependent on SEO in the worst sense of the word. Because they add no real value for consumers or retailers (if they didn’t exist would people not find coupons just as easily, possibly from the retailer directly?) they have no brand identity. If they disappeared tomorrow no one except their investors would notice. That’s a bad place to be as a business.

  • ChrisC

    Always an interesting reason why they block the backlink checkers bot from MajesticSEO… that tells us a thing or two.

  • MadraRua

    Google Ventures have a seat on the RetailMeNot board. Just saying.

  • Mike July

    Such as?

  • cbets

    Yeah, very risky indeed, especially with their link building tactics. Here’s a sweepstakes promotion that just came out a few days ago: http://www.womansday.com/sweepstakes/29634

    Incidentally, I’ve been reporting them to Google for years, but no action as far as I can tell. Would love to escalate this through the media (the new spam reporting process ;-). It’s more support of the article by Jacob King about how Google has a blind eye when it comes to companies they’ve invested: http://www.jacobking.com/google-does-seo

    Edit: link just got nofollowed. proof in google cache while it lasts.

  • RyanMJones

    You say it doesn’t qualify as a brand. What are the requirements to qualify as a brand? Seriously… I think once you attempt to list them, you can see how hard it actually is to algorithmically categorize brands.

  • iamoldskool

    not to throw fuel on the fire, but retailmenot is in part owned by Google

  • http://www.bradsdeals.com Rebecca Lehmann

    As someone who works in the coupon space, the thing that disturbs me most about the Pricenomics write up is that the chart of the mostly likely domains to rank number 1 for retailer+coupon keywords includes bit.ly and sbwire, both of which are used by a heavily penalized offshore competitor to build quick, easy to burn doorway pages with thousands of quickly acquired paid for and utterly black hat spam links. It’s so transparently bad that it’s embarrassing that Google hasn’t figured it out yet. Especially the thing with bit.ly. First, why index bit.ly instead of the destination page? Second, why would you still rank bit.ly when you’ve already decided that the destination page doesn’t deserve to rank? Surprised that Patch.com didn’t make their list, too.

  • Mark

    RetailMeNot – the site where the vast majority of the codes don’t even work.

  • cbets

    Doesn’t matter to them as long as the merchant’s affiliate code gets set. For an amusing view into the history of the company, check out these old posts from the founder of retailmenot as he was just getting started. He was not very popular with his affiliate colleagues: http://www.abestweb.com/forums/couponers-corner-13/founding-retailmenot-173011.html

  • http://coupon4mom.net/ Bimbimvn

    Does anyone think that RetailMeNot has a certain favors from Google?
    P/s: That’s for fun !

  • http://nicholsonrecords.com/paul Paul Nicholson

    So… no actual information as to how they did it, what techniques they’re using that could be especially vulnerable? I was hoping for some useful information, not just a recognition of one of thousands of sites that are dependent on SEO for their bottom line and are (surprise) really good at it and (shocker) could be affected by Google changes. That’s true of every nearly every affiliate business and for that matter the vast majority of online commerce. Any insights on their success would be appreciated.

  • http://nicholsonrecords.com/paul Paul Nicholson

    this is useful information! thanks! – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retailmenot

  • robdwoods

    Hi Rebecca,
    I agree with you on the Patch sites. Spammers have been taking advantage of the domain authority of both sbwire.com and patch.com to rank in this space for a while. 1) put a heavily optimized release or article on one of those sites full of links to your thin affiliate site 2) pump a ton of crappy links to the piece 3) the article ranks via both the domain authority and links to the page 4) it takes Google several crawls (or sometimes never) to catch that the page has poor links. Even then the domain authority usually protects the page from being penalized 5) if you get caught you just kill the page so it doesn’t link to you anymore 6) if there is a penalty for crappy links it’s the host site that gets hit, not yours. Pretty bullet-proof spamming unless Google can catch this type of behavior a lot faster and on a lot more granular level than they do currently.

  • http://www.bradsdeals.com Rebecca Lehmann

    The same guys were behind BugMeNot. I can’t speak to current strategy, but early on they leveraged BugMeNot pretty heavily to get RetailMeNot off the ground, and the evidence is still there. These days I suspect most of it is just the momentum of being first. They rank first, so they get the citations and the links, and so they continue to rank first, and it’s a nice tidy cycle.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    ” Most visitors to the site are searching on Google rather than visiting it directly.”

    I missed the part with the data showing that most of their traffic is coming from Google and that it’s not brand-related traffic.

  • cbets

    Yes, I think this one of the ways they got all the ‘retailer + coupon’ anchor text backlinks early on (they were at the footer of bugmenot). They just recently updated bugmenot and now only have one link at the bottom of the page. Majestic SEO shows a big increase in lost backlinks because of this. Like many coupon sites, they had an seo blog widget too. Wide spectrum of manipulative techniques early on. They also autogenerate huge numbers of pages to spam up the indexes. Here’s an appropriate one (wonder if they used up all these coupons because it’s empty now): http://www.retailmenot.com/coupons/blackhat

  • Chris Koszo

    Excuse me, RetailMeNot is a brand in my experience. I’ve had many people mention it off-hand when we were talking about buying something. Heck, I even went direct to the site myself and searched for SMX coupons just for fun ;)

  • Jackie Chu

    Retailmenot has a pretty robust SEO team as far as coupon sites go…they post pretty frequently on job boards. It’s rare to see smaller companies hire large in house teams so I’ve always kept them on my radar since I’m sure a lot of interesting stuff is going on there

  • Chris Koszo

    Why not block it and make your competitors do their own leg work?

  • Chris Koszo


  • Stuart David

    lol there share price is down 3% right now – you guys gunned for them today without any hard facts or anything beyond an explanation of what 98% of sites suffer with

  • Stuart David

    Nice reinforcing 10 minutes after it posting, really cements the argument for him. Also, Google “rimmkaufman” Greg Sterling.

    Thats quite cementing as well! Backing on a share drop to gain some cash from?

  • Doug Powell

    I use retailmenot and fatwallet for GoDaddy coupon codes. Right now, retailmenot is #3.

    The reason I prefer them, is the codes are typically working whereas most of the other sites have expired data.

    Google’s “goal” is to serve the best possible user experience for the search query. Do a search for godaddy coupon codes and ask yourself which of the 10 organic sites on page one:

    Look the best
    Have the information readily available
    Are updated frequently
    Actually have working codes

    From a user experience, who do you honestly feel deserves #1?

  • Doug Powell

    cbets – what is your beef with them? Looks like all your comments on SEL are anti-retailmenot?

  • Stuart David

    Aha tells me that your pissed that they aren’t letting you see what their doing .. or your clients pissed at you for not knowing?

  • Dick Bradley

    They have a super long history of forum spam, and they were founded by the same dubious people that made bugmenot.com. It’s amazing to me that they haven’t suffered a Penguin penalty, especially with the Google Ventures connection. There is something dirty going on there.

  • 7h3_4pp12en7ic3

    Really not at all valid to look only at search engine results and then claim it’s all SEO. There is such a thing as organic growth. Shoddy, cursory article with no real point, at best.

  • http://www.cmtrapolino.com/ Christina Trapolino

    I just want their website to die. They play dirty.

    The codes often don’t work because RTMN has no interest in working with businesses at all to ensure that they’re correct.

    A couple of years ago, I was managing the social media team at a national food brand. We went into crisis mode one week when RTMN’s incorrectly listed codes set our customer service department WAY back — because angry customers were pissed about getting “scammed” by *us*. We had to allocate a lot of resources because of the incorrect codes listed on RTMN’s site.

    I emailed RTMN’s “support” department and got nowhere (“our codes are user generated sorry good luck” copypasta from OutSourced IT Guy #23). For two days.

    Finally, I snapped and used the brand’s social media account to call them out for posting fake/scam codes. Their legal guys demanded an apology and for us to delete the tweet before they finally agreed to remove the codes.

    I hope RetailMeNot either tanks soon — or that they fix their abysmal support system.

  • Jonah Stein

    Ryan, all you need is people searching for you by name. Get a strong enough percentage of your overall search traffic to be on brand terms and you are likely OK. The 37% traffic from non-google search is also helpful, since diversified traffic source are another very strong signal. For RTMN, most it is likely most of it is through affiliates and other paid channels..

    Having said that RTMN has gotten away with amazingly spammy stuff, like auto generated reviews with rich snippets.

  • cbets

    Stuart David do you have anything to add besides personal attacks and innuendo? What George just said makes a lot of sense to me. SEO is both their strength and will eventually will be their downfall if they don’t find alternative traffic sources. There are very few lucrative keyword space verticals that Google hasn’t eventually displaced with their own properties. Would not be surprised to see Google add coupons as an extended search result – much like they did with PLAs. It is a major risk for Retailmenot, we’ve seen the story play out many times before.

  • Stuart David

    Just joining the general tone of the article, its fair game in this space, hence your approach, so don’t act above it!

  • Stuart David

    Personal attack no? …

  • Henley Wing

    Answer: Not too long not that everybody in SEO-land is talking about it. This is a self-fulfilled prophecy :)

  • Stuart David

    — ..

  • Tian_Mian

    Why would SEL publish an article about RetailMeNot’s high questionable ranking and not mention that Google owns a big peace of RetailMeNot?

  • gregsterling

    That’s my analysis, understanding of past comScore data re coupon-related consumer queries (not from Priceonomics) and experience. Consumers search retailer + promo code. They don’t search RMN and the search again for the specific retailer.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    I dunno. I looked at the original article and didn’t see anything there about the percentage of traffic from Google or branded stuff. I also have a sinus headache from hell and don’t feel like thinking. Sorry if I came down a little hard on you.

  • ChrisC

    I have no reason to care, but those who really want to know how they are doing it can with other means. And if you were to do it with this example its not such a pretty sight and one that has seen other sites heavily penalised in the past (albeit manually by Google). Not sure if that will happen here though given their board members and affiliations.

  • Elad Barzilai

    The sad thing is that their tactics should’ve gaining them mostly a penalty after the last few penguin updates. Their huge backlink profile is full of those:

    Once again makes you wonder why some sites get penalized and others really don’t.

  • http://www.sandeepbali.com Sandeep Bali

    What’s the big deal on depending on SEO when one of your major investors is Google. They even have a Google Executive on their board of directors.

  • http://www.gutscheinsammler.de/ Gutscheinsammler

    This is linkspam from third parties, this will never hurt RTMN. :)

  • http://streamline-marketing.com/ Sal Conca

    Having worked in the affiliate marketing industry for 14 years I’ve worked with RetailMeNot countless times for at least 20 different major retailers. I knew the original owners and the new team.Whether RMN is or should be part of your strategy is up to the merchants and individual advertisers so I’ll leave that controversy for an offline discussion if you want to contact me. As far as a being a recognized brand, RMN has spent considerable amounts of money advertising, they’ve created a mobile app and experience that most others have not. The sheer number of eyeballs they receive makes them a household name. Want proof? Anytime I’ve told someone (friends, family) that I’m an affiliate manager, they say, what the heck is that? When I start with have you shopped online and used a coupon code, 90% of the time they say “oh you mean you work with sites like RetailMeNot?” As for the longevity of their SEO efforts, I’m not sure how much the Google investment matters other than receiving guidance on their SEO strategy. Everything else would be hearsay. All I know is many retailers currently depend on RMN (for better or worse) because of the stronghold they have which is mainly driven by consumer behavior.

  • Stuart David

    This comment was more informed and insightful than Greg Sterling’s entire piece.

  • http://streamline-marketing.com/ Sal Conca

    Thank you I appreciate that

  • Ashutosh R

    I checked for their FB app after reading this article headline. And the app says, “The RetailMeNot Facebook App will be shutting down on April 16th”. Check it out here: apps.facebook.com/retailmenot/