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How a Website Exploited Amazon S3 to Outrank Everyone on Google (usejournal.com)
427 points by poof_he_is_gone 74 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 117 comments



I am more surprised that this kind of coupon trickery still pays off and the retailers are burning money on it.

The way I see it, you only search for coupons once you see a product at a retailer and you want to buy it (or even once you already have a shopping cart built up, and are on the checkout form where the coupon field is). So the retailer already acquired you as a customer, and you're ready to checkout. Most likely you'll end up checking out anyway even if you don't find any valid coupons (which is what's currently happening, since most coupons don't work anyway).

So why are retailers still paying out affiliate revenue in this case? They have the customer already. This shady affiliate doesn't bring them anything they didn't already have.

They can easily fix this by only paying out affiliate revenue for actual, legitimate affiliates, those that brought you a brand new customer. If the user already spent time browsing your website and built up a shopping cart, don't pay out affiliate revenue even if they do end up clicking on an affiliate link after.


Marketing pro chiming in here - this is done so the marketing departments of all these companies can claim credit for driving a ton of sales.

The people who are working at these big legacy retailers in 2018 tend to not be very sophisticated about online marketing. I'm being polite with that understatement.

So nobody calls out the marketing departments on this because there is so much political BS going on anyway as everybody is scratching and clawing for their piece of an ever shrinking pie.

I worked in a similar situation and I wanted to stop working with these coupon sites for the obvious reasons you pointed out. I got overruled by higher ups and I later came to learn that my complaints about this practice were a career limiting move.

They just want to be able to take credit for driving a ton of sales even though everybody with half a brain realizes they are not generating new sales. They are simply cannibalizing the business because the vast majority of the time these people would buy at full price anyway if their Google search never turned up a coupon.


100% this. I think people who have not worked directly in marketing dramatically underestimate just how much of marketing at a big company is taking credit for sales that were going to happen anyways. People have performance driven bonuses/promotions/whatever, TRULY generating demand is very hard, taking credit for sales you didn’t drive is WAY easier, and most companies have very feeble checks and balances against this.

For example, talk to anyone running Google AdWords campaigns, they’ll tell about “branded” vs “unbranded” search terms, and how you should treat them all as one big bucket. They’ll say the unbranded terms generate demand, while the branded terms are the “closers.” This is PURE BS. “Branded terms” are literally someone searching for “Jira”, clicking the ad that takes you to Jira instead of the top non-ad link right below it, buying Jira, then saying “they bought it because of the ad.” Unbranded is people searching for “issue tracking software”, seeing a Jira ad, clicking it, then buying. That’s legit, but likely the CAC for unbranded is like 2-5x the LTV of the customer, and totally not worth it. But if you lump it together with the “branded” ads (people literally searching for your exact product, and randomly deciding to click the ad over the legit search result right below it), the CAC looks great. Marketing is FULL of BS like this.


If your competitors are advertising for your name, they will close many of your potential customers. Unfortunately, Google pushes everyone to do branded ads this way.


Isn't this a useful form of price discrimination, though? The coupons allow you to sell your products at full price to those who are price insensitive, while also allowing you to sell at a discount to price-sensitive buyers. Only the latter are willing to go to the hassle of looking up the coupon codes.

My wife installed a plug-in on our family computer that looks up coupon codes for you at checkout time. But often they don't work, so I don't even bother with them. To me, that suggests that even if its 'easy' to find the coupon codes, the coupons still work as a form of price discrimination.


Favoring those who are price sensitive isn't necessarily benefitting those who are less wealthy (this wasn't explicitly stated, but it's often implied in praises of price discrimination, please let me know of this isn't what you meant with this comment). Wealthier people often have time to find better prices, or have others find better prices for them. Also, people with better information skills are often better at identifying the best price (and people with such skills tend to be better off in general). A poor person balancing several jobs may not have much time to research prices.

On priniciple I'm usually okay with rewarding diligence and thoughtfulness, but penalising those who lack the ability to perform this diligence and thoughtfulness may not be the best thing in this case.


The comment I was responding to was implying that coupons were an outdated marketing strategy. I was saying that I think it can help companies achieve higher margins by selling at higher prices to wealthier customers, while still achieving sales at lower (but still profitable) prices with less wealthy customers.

I wasn't making any comment on the social good of price discrimination. I agree with you that some pricing strategies (buying in bulk, buying without loans/interest, rewards cards, etc) may tend to reward the wealthy. But that wasn't related to the point I was trying to make. I was trying to say that coupons seem like they could still be a useful marketing strategy for improving companies average margins per sale.


Which plugin are you referring to that you don't bother with? The main one I know of is honey, which is automated, and takes about ten seconds while they run through the most popular, and if you choose to continue they'll run through the full list of recently valid coupons which adds at most another twenty seconds. 30 seconds of time to save 10 to 30 percent most of the time is worth it to me. The only time I ever think to skip the check is on sites like Amazon or Wal-Mart where the majority of coupons are for very specific items. But even on sites like Jet and Target I often get lucky.


Yes, I think it is honey.

You are right that it isn't that much effort to try it. I find it annoying because they never seem to work for me. In a world where our behavior is closely tracked, I have come to wonder if the coupons don't work for me because some algorithm has figured out that I don't care.

Which actually takes things full circle from the original comment I was responding to: I wonder if online coupons are now so sophisticated that they can _only_ be offered to the price sensitive. If so, I suspect even more strongly that they are still a good/relevant marketing strategy.


There's also brand image to consider. Constant sales or coupons affect that (and good luck dropping those once customers are used to it). Maybe it makes sense in some cases though? Vice versa for others.

What's their opinion of Apple, for example? Would they operate the same way there?


One of my businesses doesn't have an affiliate program nor do we offer public coupons, yet coupon sites still have dozens of fake coupons from us along with fake usage counts on the coupons and fake reviews.

Since they can't cookie stuff on us to make money they are just trying to get additional eyeballs for ads by organically ranking for anyone searching for a coupon for my brand.


Thanks very much: we have been completely mystified at what these sites are doing by listing fake coupons for our business too. So basically it's just black-hat SEO; I should have guessed.


The way I see it, coupons are about giving a discount to people willing to jump through hoops, in order to do price discrimination.


Personally, if I am checking out and I see a place for a coupon code and I can't find one, I feel like I'm overpaying. It usually wouldnt save me more than a couple of bucks but if it's something I was on the fence about buying anyway it can make me abandon my cart.


Well, assuming you don't get a place to enter your coupon code until checkout, that means you'd already decided that the listed price was worth it for whatever you were buying, right?


I often take a sale just to the checkout, to get an accurate picture of what shipping & taxes will be added.

"Shopping cart abandonment" is a specifically targeted "thing", and it's not unusual to get emails "reminding" me that I "forgot" that last crucial step of actually transacting.


I hate the is way of arguing. You don't decided that XX dollars is fair -- you decide that XX dollars, given everything you know, is fair. So XX dollars, if that is the best price might be okay, but XX dollars, given that there is a coupon or a sale next month is not a fair price.


I often take things through to checkout, even if I'm fairly sure I'm _not_ buying, as it's the easiest way to find out how much shipping is going to be added (this is especially true when I'm shopping on Amazon Japan or PayPal internationally, as going through to checkout is the only way to trigger the currency conversion).

Edit: It can also work the other way though - I've decided I'll purchase, see a coupon code box and think I might as well check (when I wouldn't have thought to otherwise), and ended up paying half the price (it was a monthly service though, and it made me less likely to cancel it when I wasn't using it as much, so they probably won in the end).


That's not necessarily true. I think most people, including me, assume that most retailers have some kind of coupon system and don't need to see a coupon field to think about coupons.

Anecdotally, there's been cases in the past where I see a product as valuable but overpriced, and a coupon makes the difference between a sale and a pass. I will go to the checkout screen with the product to try some coupons and see if they work, not having yet made the decision to proceed with the purchase.


"Most likely you'll end up checking out anyway even if you don't find any valid coupons"

I think that's quite an assumption. I have no data either way, but personally I'll rarely make a spur of the moment purchase without something pushing me over the edge. Those £60 sneakers? Pass. Those £60 sneakers with 20% off? Yeah, ok then.


> Those £60 sneakers with 20% off? Yeah, ok then.

How often do you find that those £60 sneakers were "on sale" for 20% off on one site, while being "full price" at £48 on other sites?

It's pretty common for me. There's much less variation in the price something is selling for than in the amount of "discount" you're supposedly getting.


I agree. I regularly fill carts expecting to find a coupon or abandon. At the same time, just make your coupons easily accessible on your site via a google search and save yourself some money. I have noticed this is becoming a trend and use it to avoid one more chance of malware on myrandomcoupons.com.


I work with a retailer who displays a coupon on every product page and it does cut down a lot of the normal brand+coupon searches - though there are a hard core who'll always look (unsuccesfully) for a better coupon off-site.


Sort of like how in Safeway every single bottle of wine is "on-sale". I know it works on many (most?) people but if something is always on sale isn't just for sale?


Describes about 80% of UK retail atm.


Michaels (the craft store) does this. And if you’re not getting 40% off at least one item with every purchase, you’re paying too much. Sort of like bed bath and beyond’s ubiquitous 20% off coupons, but online.


I did this a few hours ago. Without a coupon I moved on.


One of Australia’s largest online retailers agrees with you. https://venturebeat.com/2013/08/12/the-big-ugly-affiliate-ma...


Couldn’t the retailer just look up when the cookie was set? If it was set during some window before the user had items in their cart, pay the affiliate. If it was set after, or long in the past, don’t pay.


Then it's a game of trying to find ways to not pay your affiliates. Do you want to be the retailer than gets known in the affiliate space for trying to find loopholes not to pay what they said they would? People would stop promoting your site. You might as well shut down your affiliate program if you're going to not pay your affiliates sometimes.


It doesn’t look like these guys (or most “affiliates”) are actually promoting the site or driving traffic. They’re just dipping their spoons in the existing money river.


I have considered this as a possibility when it comes to shopping through affiliate portals (such as a credit card) in order to get bonus points.

I usually open a private window to mitigate them doing something less the super sophisticated.

In my case, I can often get the same item (or similar quality item) for same or near price, I value the extra points a retailer that participates through the affiliate program provides, and I choose that retailer.


It's fairly common for people to abandon the cart and come back later to complete the purchase, not always coupon related. Especially true with non-impulse purchases costing 3 figures or more.


> They can easily fix this by only paying out affiliate revenue for actual, legitimate affiliates, those that brought you a brand new customer.

Not so easy. New customers like to shop with coupons too. There's certainly no guarantee (or, in my opinion, even a likelihood) that only awarding affiliate commission for new customers would rule out coupon purchases. I personally always scout around for discounts and coupon codes before shopping anywhere - it has nothing to do with whether it's my first purchase or not.

> If the user already spent time browsing your website and built up a shopping cart, don't pay out affiliate revenue even if they do end up clicking on an affiliate link after.

I think this makes more sense without the "even" word. Also, if the link was clicked on before the cart was built up, a commission would be in order.


I have a browser plugin that informs me if Amazon products are cheaper elsewhere and will apply coupon codes for me. So at least in my specific case a retailer might lure me away from Amazon and to their site for a particular sale.


Does Amazon make sellers price item lower or equal to their own store fronts? This might mean that small brand owners or white labelers might not be able to offer same item on their own store front for price they offer on Amazon.


Some amazon affiliate must be making nice commissions on that plugin!


They are likely an affiliate for every site they recommend. My default for online shopping has been Amazon for a while, but I'm more and more frequently being pulled to Walmart and other sites. Tools like this plugin are a big reason for that.


This is bold and terrible idea. Affiliate programs encourage members to bring users, no matter through coupons or blog posts or other legit means. They have no idea if a user is coming because of a coupon or other reasons, how can they exclude this type of sites?

Besides, even if like you said a user is ready to buy something, there could be better coupons from rival retailers which bring the user to the site and look for the same product. Isn't this what a lot of retailers want? Using better coupons to bring users from competitors site?

There are many other scenarios, without considering those and just make the decision is really bad.


Simple: price discrimination.

Coupons allow you to selectively target price-sensitive customers with lower prices, resulting in better matching of your price to buyer's willingness to pay.


There are valid reasons for paying an affiliate to bring existing customers back to your site.

That said, affiliate networks expend a huge amount of resources into convincing retailers that coupons bring incremental sales. Reason being, it gives them an opportunity to plant cookies with every sale the retailer makes, not just those driven by a legitimate affiliate.


It also generates a feeling of urgency - buy now before the coupon expires.

You could say sales do the same thing, but online sales are so overused that I personally disregard them because I figure the store will have another fake sale soon anyway.


Online sales are not designed to get you to buy something BECAUSE there is a sale, they exist so you can feel better about paying for products you were ALREADY looking to buy. Yes, there is a little bit of a final push due to a sale but it’s not the primary reason. Source: I’m a CRO person and manipulate shopping behavior for a living.


This is just pointing out a site that's ranking--the title of the post doesn't go with the content of the post. The "how" isn't revealed.

Regardless, most likely there are links involved, and there actually be canonical tags involved, as well. If there are links involved they're most likely hiding them from link crawlers like ahrefs and Majestic.com.


The amazon domain is the 'how'.


That's what we would like to believe, but the concept of domain authority doesn't exist. (Just because a page is on a certain domain name it should rank... is false).

I'd put my bet on links (that are hidden), link ghosting, or cross-domain canonical tags.

It's not "just because it's on the Amazon domain". If domain authority existed, we'd see sites on Google sites, Business.site rank--and they don't.


> but the concept of domain authority doesn't exist.

I would argue that it does.

I spent 3-4 years deep in the blackhat SEO world - it was my living, and it almost completely was dependent on free subdomains because they ranked _so much better_ than fresh purchased domains.

Let's use a real world example.

Insert free dynamic dns service here - you create a subdomain on one of their 25-100 domains, provide an IP address for that subdomain and.. whala, spam site.

So let's say we've now got spam-site-100.free-dynamic-dns-service.com - it's a record is pointed to my host, I'm serving up super spammy affiliate pages on it. I don't build links to it, that takes too much time and investment... instead I just submit a sitemap to google and move on.

That's the short story. The long story is that I built hundreds of thousands of these sub domains for each service of this type I could find, on every one of the domains they made available. Over the course of time it became clear that the performance (measured in google search visitors) was VASTLY different based on the primary domain... to the point that I stopped building for all of them and focused on only a handful of highly performant and profitable domains.

I eventually stopped all of this because it caught the attention of some of the major retailers - I was out ranking jcpenny on their own products on subdomains/pages that had only been published for a couple days. They contacted my affiliate programs, you can imagine where that led. (I don't want to in any way impress that _every_ subdomain or page ranked that well - but it happened enough that it caused serious problems and I left the spam SEO world)

If domain authority is a myth, 1) why did my pages ever get any visitors with no links? 2) Why was the performance so vastly different dependent on the primary domain?

Also - this is still the case today. I'm still in Skype group chats with people who are still doing this same thing. It's always a cat and mouse game with google's spam team, but at the end of the day the same stuff still works.


That's completely invalid. A page with on a domain with a higher authority will almost always outrank one with lower DA, provided all the other variables are the same (esp. content length)

This is becoming even more true post an August update that seems to focus on "brands" (i.e. trusted domains), especially for medical, health and money related keywords


Can’t Google do manual penalties for some sites? How hard would it be for them to do manual bonuses for the top 100 sites in the world. That would be pretty much equivalent to domain authority, and I expect Google is doing just that.


Google penalizing an amazon domain would likely trigger some kind of legal action?


Probably, but I’m suggesting they are doing the opposite, and that therefore domain authority does indeed exist.


> the concept of domain authority doesn't exist.

Is that really the case now? It's been 3-4 years since I was involved in SEO, and it was very much a thing back then.


Actually, it's never been "a thing". Domain Authority is just a concept that was created by Moz--a metric. This is an interesting read: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/domain-authority/246515/

"No SEO will ever point to a Google patent or research paper to justify the idea that a Site/Domain Authority exists. Wikipedia has published a page about Domain Authority and the footnote links do not cite a single research paper or patent by Google. Not one. According to the footnotes, Wikipedia’s information is largely based on blog posts by SEOs. There are no links to anything official from Google."


There wouldn't be patents for that sort of thing, it's considered a trade secret.

The Googlebot patent 8,042,112 does describe the existence of a "boost" factor when prioritizing crawl.


Careful, SEO egos are fragile. They have to keep believing the fantasy. Their lives are built around it. They must so they can keep selling snake oil.


While cookie stuffing is nothing new in the wonderful world of Affiliate marketing, leveraging Amazon's force de frappe in this way is actually brilliant.

Not that I condone it but the sheer ingenuity can be appreciated.


Yea I can imagine the dev who found this by accident like, holy shit did that just work!


This concept is called the leeching and ranking. In this, mostly Google Sites & AWS S3 is preferred as a source by the leechers. Mostly used by coupon and movie download sites.

Finally, someone has openly spoken about it, instead of exploiting it a bit more!


I'm surprised Google didn't kill Google Sites yet.


Give it time... Sadly.


Google has tried to but hasnt killed it completely. Like it has reduced features on it.


What are you talking about? They launched a totally new version a little less than two years ago, and new features keep coming so they seem to be continuing investment in it...

https://www.blog.google/products/g-suite/totally-rebuilt-sit...

wolco 73 days ago [flagged]

Two years ago? That's old in google land. It will be shutdown soon.


Could you please stop posting unsubstantive comments to Hacker News?


I'm trying to understand how this works:

the s3 page has all links go to promocode.org https://s3.amazonaws.com/walgreens-photo-coupon/walgreens/in...

When you click on that you get redirected to promocode.org where you get re-prompted to click on the promo code and that's where the cookie promo gets tacked on the walgreens website.

I understand that amazonaws.com is a highly-ranked domain. What part of this process makes this particular s3 webpage rank up in search algorithms though? At the end of the day don't you need lots of _direct_ inbound clicks and links to this specific s3 page for it to rank higher?

The only way I see this working is if _indirect_ clicks of the entire domain count towards the ranking of this specific page -- that doesn't seem right though.

edit: looks like the paragraph above describes the concept of "domain authority" so that's probably the answer


Probably because Google is treating all s3.amazonaws.com links as being the same authoritative site, so they see each of these coupon sites as just a page of s3.amazonaws.com and therefore the site gets the link 'juice' from the root s3.aws domain.

Each page of a site doesn't need a ton of links to that specific page to rank, just links to the site in general (site being root link plus subdomains).

That's typically why blogspot-type services give you a subdomain, and not a page on their main domain.

It's been known about in SEO circles for a while[0], will be interesting to see if things change in the next major Google update.

[0] https://www.blackhatworld.com/seo/how-to-get-backlinks-from-...


> What part of this process makes the s3 webpage rank up in search algorithms though?

No idea. The article basically ends with "I'm not sure exactly how this happened so I'm going to talk to some experts". A bit of a letdown, tbh. I was waiting for the big reveal!


I'm not sure either but it looks something to do with domain authority as the pages are hosted on amazon s3 and the domain is related to amazon maybe it makes Googlebot think the pages are affiliated to amazon so it ranks them higher (just like articles on wikipedia.org rank higher with less effort). This is all conjecture though because I'm not an expert so maybe somebody can correct me or add to it.


>When you click on that you get redirected to promocode.org where you get re-prompted to click on the promo code and that's where the cookie promo gets tacked on the walgreens website.

Not quite. Notice that when you click "Show Code" (the first click), a new window is opened and the existing window is redirected to Walgreens.com. All the action happens on the first click.


The concept of domain authority has been proven, time and time again, that domain authority just doesn't exist. Here's a recent explanation: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/domain-authority/246515/


From your article: "John Mueller’s(Google rep) response deflected a straight answer"

It really depends on how you define site authority.

As the article you cited states:

“I am just labeling that unknown multiplier effect as a trust factor, that’s all.

That’s a realistic definition of Site Authority, as a catch-all for all the quality signals that Google uses in it’s core algorithm.”

At least in the early 2000s having a page on a high authority(however you define it) domain automatically guaranteed higher rankings.

So even today, it is pretty much impossible to outrank wikipedia on some mundane(non SEO worthy) topic even when wikipedia article is more basic, has less inbound links and even cites the more substantial article which is based on some random "low quality" domain. Obviously citation needed here...


>> At least in the early 2000s having a page on a high authority(however you define it) domain automatically guaranteed higher rankings.

I totally agree. And in all of those cases, the page that is on that "high authority domain" has INTERNAL LINKS from other pages of that site. The site has high authority because other high authoritative links point to that site. And that site links internally to that page. That's why that page ranks.

That's completely different than having an orphan page or an "orphan site" (a set of orphan pages) that are on a highly authoritative domain. Just because those orphan page(s) exist on an "authoritative domain" doesn't mean that it will rank. Even 10,20 years ago that was the case.

In the case of this AWS site, the Amazon S3 page(s) that rank, they're orphan pages. I may be wrong, but if you go to the home page of that amazon domain, you can't click through to the page or pages that are mentioned in this original post.

Just because the orphan pages(s) or orphaned "site" is on an amazon domain, doesn't give it ranking power--because "domain authority doesn't exist.


>Employee at Google says domain authority doesn't exist.

I'm sure they wish we'd forget PageRank ever existed too.


A bit off topic, but if you wanted to get better savings (aside from coupons), try adding your products to a cart and leaving it alone for 2-3 days. Often, online places will offer you a significant discount by having items in the cart and not checking out. It's their way of getting you back in even if it means selling at break even prices.


I came into this post with a hunch that it would detail some weird social engineering stuff and it did not disappoint. What a weird, interesting world we live in.


Also, this quote gave me a good chuckle.

> Imagine Usain Bolt looking back as he runs the 100 meter dash and seeing you covered in sweat, screaming up behind him. Imagine the look on his face. That’s my face when I saw this page went from total obscurity to top ranking for “g2a discount code” in one month and generating an estimate 30,000+ visitors to that one page.

Really effective use of imagery. I love how he directs your attention to think about Bolt’s face, which is easy to imagine.


how is this social engineering? genuine question.


I’m referring to the explanation of what seems to be called cookie stuffing (based off other comments in this thread). Most of you probably already know about this, but it was news to me and very satisfying to learn why those shitty coupon sites exist.

The main idea of the post doesn’t seem to be related to social engineering, though. Sorry for the confusion, I should have clarified.


It seems less social engineering and more taking advantage of search engine stupidity (Domain Authority) to do run or the mill black hat SEO. I mean seriously, I would have thought a multi-billion dollar search engine would be more sophisticated than “durr, the domain has amazonaws in it, therefore it must be legit!”


I'm just going off of this Wikipedia definition of social engineering:

> Social engineering, in the context of information security, refers to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information.

The psychological manipulation in this case is getting people to click a button because they think that it will show them a coupon (and therefore save money), when in reality it does no such thing and instead puts a cookie in their browser.


By your version of the definition, asking your friend to pass the butter is social engineering.

The definition you copied is vague but includes the key phrase "in the context of information security". The coupon code sites are just scamming people by wasting their time (and primarily, scamming the retailers). It's essentially just fraud.

If this were in an infosec context (clicking something that pretends to be legitimate in order to gain some benefit), it'd be closer to phishing.


I don't understand the comparison to "asking your friend to pass the butter" but it doesn't seem like a fair comparison. I explained pretty clearly how I thought the cookie stuffing idea mapped to the Wikipedia definition and it seems like a reasonable mistake to make. But I'll take your word for it that the definition I used only applies to infosec.


Eh, I would think of it more like renaming yourself 'bill gates', then people who are not your friends will still pass you the butter because they think you are important. At least in the context of the article.


Let's decompose what is going on when you click on one of these pages : For instance : https://s3.amazonaws.com/walgreens-photo-coupon/walgreens/in... It's a page with fake coupons links

When you click the "show coupon" boutton, two things happen

1. A javascript "click" event is triggered (in coupon.js) and executes : window.open(https://www.promocodefor.org/promo/walgreens/walgreens-photo...) This opens a new tab at this url, this page shows the fake coupon code.

2.Since the button is a <a> tag with href="https://www.promocodefor.org/go/pcfc833699cf9ddea03", the current tag navigates to this url

Then you follow 7 redirect redirects (code 302) to pages owned by https://skimlinks.com who redirects to pages owned by https://www.conversantmedia.com who finally redirect to https://photo.walgreens.com/store/prints?tab=photo_Promo1

It's basically an affliate link to walgreens.

The question is how did https://s3.amazonaws.com/walgreens-photo-coupon/walgreens/in... rank so high in google ? Just because it's hosted on amazon doesn't make sense. There is a trick that we don't know.

I think it's hosted on Amazon S3 juste because it's very cheap hosting, since the site is a single .html file


The coupon thing seems crazy - Walmart must be spending real money to reward sites that actually did not provide a coupon.

i mean i know it's all about consumer surplus, but all walmart knows is that someone on the internet wanted to get a discount, did not get it, and now walmart pays random SEO cash. They lose margin, the buyer is frustrated cos they paid full price, and walmart knows nothing about surplus because the client paid full price - no differentiation no price signal.

how is walmart winning here?


Walmart only pays if they make a sale, so long as the commission isn't greater than their margin it's just a customer acquisition / marketing cost that drives sales if they have it and takes them away if they don't.

This is like saying "Most people who watched the TV ad didn't buy anything, how is Walmart winning?"

The age old saying is that you know half of your marketing budget is wasted, you just don't know which half. It still applies now even if you can track users.


But it's not a channel.

if i turn up at the till with coupon clipped from the tv guide, then putting coupons in the tv guide is a viable channel to reach me

if i turn up with a cookie from whichever SEO happened this week to be on top for "gardening gloves", but there is no legal coupon just a cookie, then what has walmart learned? that google is a channel ? it's too big to be useful


Not dissing on all affiliate marketing folks out there - whether it's the review website or similar professionals trying to make an honest living from the service they provide.

But affiliate marketing as a whole is one of the shadiest internet industry. The coupon thing is one of the many tricks in the book to get your cookie everywhere and earn $$ without providing any value.

There's an awful lot of fraud like that but somehow the benefits seems to outweigh it because the industry is still alive and kicking.

Having seen numbers for some affiliate channels, my guess is that it's probably grossly overvalued but people still buy into that because the numbers look good, from afar, especially if you compare them to Search or Social. But the pricing model (CPA > Cost per Acquisition / Conversion) is different so I guess both sides are fine with that.

It's a mouse and cat game that is the usual playbook between the "good guys" and "bad guys", as you'd see in security, pirating, etc ...

---

Also, this is hardly a secret but it's actually really hard to properly estimate the ROAS / ROI of advertising in general and most of it is like a black box.

You pour some money in, get more money out if you play your cards well. Maybe you nailed your strategy and execution, maybe you'd still have made the same money without advertising.


Don’t worry, affiliate marketing folks won’t be offended. They typically have a skewed moral compass. Source: was an affiliate marketer.


Or Walmart makes a profit because they dupe the real referers.

They can identify and cancel those SEO accounts and deny payout. Meanwhile, the real advertisers have lost their cookie and don't get their deserved payout.


I don’t know. The biggest shady coupon sites have been around for a long time now.


> Since most of the coupons you find on these pages don’t work, you may have wondered why do these coupon sites even exist? Their primary goal has been and will always remain to attach a browser cookie to your web browser

I really wonder why deleting all the cookies for a given website as soon as you close it isn't the default behavior and not even a built-in option in web browsers. I use Vanilla Cookie Manager in Chrome to make it work this way.


> I really wonder why deleting all the cookies for a given website as soon as you close it isn't the default behavior

Probably because users would find it annoying to have to log in to all their websites again.

The sad reality is there's not much point in having privacy features if nobody uses your browser so there is a balance to be struck.


It's called incognito mode.


AFAIK incognito mode doesn't let you whitelist certain websites you actually want to save cookies.


Fuck, im done :/


So in which niche you were cashing the cow in? :P


ISPs (not the US)


Can you share more how exactly these pages rank? Just making static page doesn't rank. (I shared this post with SEO community and few people commented there so) Along with making static page any other things need to be done? Like Spam Links, Social Signals, PBN Links, Guest Posts, Forum Links, etc.


Just normal linkbuilding.

This guy didnt catch any link with ahrefs but I was unable to rank properly without them. When I say links, I mean more than just links for getting it crawled.

So you still have to spend money/effort in it, sorry.

Also since it's been published here, any edge that you could get is over. It's going to be badly abused.


not the top link in any of the demo'd searches, so clearly the title is false. technically. still it's fascinating.

> Seth Kravitz is the CEO of PHLEARN, the world’s #1 Photoshop & Lightroom training company online

wow. i guess CEOs of any online company have to have deep deep understanding of SEO these days. and what better SEO than blogging about things unrelated to your company! as we just saw a few days ago from 3byte.


Should have given himself the title of "Your Majesty".


Expedia promo code works


Using another company (amazon in this case) to do your SEO for you.

This is so phishy. Doing a landing page on Amazon S3 and having all the link redirecting to your real website.

I'm starting to wonder if shady SEO marketing companies aren't already doing this to promote their "clients".

I hope the Google SPAM team we'll do something about it.


It's been going on for ages, they call it 'parasiting' and it's awful but it's worked for years


Search for a coupon in one browser and buy the product in another to keep these "marketers" at the bay.


Wouldn't it just be that https://s3.amazonaws.com is linked on tens/hundreds of thousands of websites and they're capitalizing on this for SEO value, rather than 'Domain authority'?


I feel an experiment coming on...


I assume they got indexed by using Google's webmaster tools to trigger a crawl.


It's not the indexing that's the trick. That means nothing in this context. The interesting part is how a site with no backlinks etc can outrank a ton of other sites. The running hypothesis is that google treats all aws links as being owned/operated by Amazon.


No need for Webmaster tools to get indexed. Share it on G+ or any webpage which is indexed in Google your site will get indexed pretty soon.


You can only trigger a crawl on your own verified property, AFAIK.


This works because Google rank based on domains, not URL's. All link power counts towards the domain, also boosting other pages on that domain.


A modern version of the old parasiting .edu hack.


lollll that's hilarious

now everyone's going to try that and it stops working

but then people are going to start naming their s3 buckets amazon-


Am I the only one that thinks this is 'paid prioritization'?


that's clever




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