Searchers Don't Pay Retail

It's no secret that Google isn't the best search engine for everything. We saw that in recent explorations of live search and bathroom search engines. Another such area is finding coupons.

Google's a great place to find coupon sites, but then you have to sort through the clutter. I tried a search on "kodak coupons," and it's dizzying trying to figure out if and how you can get 20%, 30%, 35%, or 45%  off at, as the headlines of search ads indicate. Some sites we'll look at today make searching for coupons much more manageable.

Google Trends shows that the volume of searches for coupons so far this year is twice as high as in early 2008. The AdWords keyword tool reports that the top 10 coupon terms attracted 46.5 million Google searches in March 2009 alone, with "coupons" and "coupon" accounting for 37 million combined (the others, in order, are: coupon code, printable coupons, coupon codes, free coupons, grocery coupons,, online coupons, printable coupon).



Analytics firm Compete's blog reported that visitors to top coupon sites are up an average of 170% from March 2008 to March 2009. The blog distinguishes between two categories, "those primarily offering manufacturer coupons (40¢ off Viva paper towels), and those primarily offering retailer-specific coupons (25% off your Target purchase)." It then notes, "Of all searches containing the word ‘coupon,' the share captured by retailer-coupon sites grew by 30% year-over-year in March, while manufacturer-coupon share shrank by 11%."

Compete singles out some of these retailer coupon sites, including RetailMeNot, the fastest growing coupon site among the top five in the category. It's one of my favorite sites, one I go to before completing most of my online purchases. Please don't ask me why (I swear I'm doing alright during this economic crisis), but I recently ordered prints from Snapfish valued at 72 cents and went on RetailMeNot, where I found a code to save 14 cents off my order. It's addictive. And heck, if I'm going to rank all my habits, this is one of the better ones, right behind calling Grandmom.

What's so brilliant about the site is its perfect role at the end of the purchase funnel. When you have a sense of where you're considering buying something from, you can enter the Web site on RetailMeNot, and it will list all of the coupon codes. The coupons are ranked by how many other people used that code successfully, so the most reliable rise to the top while the duds drop out of view. In that sense, it's a massive time-saver as well as a mone- saver.

It hardly works for every site. Amazon rarely has any listings unless it's specifically promoting some service. And for some merchants, there's an error that appears that reads, "Sorry for the inconvenience but this merchant has specifically requested to have all user contributed coupons removed from the RetailMeNot system." From my experience, those retailers don't have coupons publicly available anyway, so it's not just RetailMeNot that's singled out.

Other sites are trying similar approaches. One I like is Tjoos, even if I can't always remember how to spell it. It's meant to be a play on "choose," but I can't tell you how many times I misspelled it when entering it into my browser.  According to Compete, Tjoos had about one-tenth of RetailMeNot's traffic in March, while growing three times as fast (off a much smaller base) over the past year.

The one twist Tjoos offers is that it has its own specialists who confirm that coupon codes work. Other coupon users can also contribute whether the coupons worked. As this column was written, Tjoos claimed to have 133,000 online stores, 20,000 verified coupons out of 165,000, and nearly 1,400 exclusive coupons. By comparison, RetailMeNot claims that over the past few years, its users have shared over 100,000 discounts at over 20,000 stores. The numbers aren't as important as whether the sites have current coupons for stores where consumers are shopping, and from the anecdotal tests I tried, they both perform admirably.

You'll find both Tjoos and RetailMeNot in Google when searching for discounts. Once you have a favorite way to seek a discount, though, Google's importance diminishes.

5 comments about "Searchers Don't Pay Retail".
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  1. Dave Warfel from Escape Creative, April 14, 2009 at 12:36 p.m.

    And RetailMeNot has a Firefox extension that alerts you when you reach a site that has a coupon available.

    You can download it here:

  2. Chris Baggott from Compendium Blogware, April 14, 2009 at 12:40 p.m.

    Great minds....I posted on Coupon Blogging today before I saw your post:

    This was in a response to the MediaPost story on Hearst and The problem is that the people who are producing the coupons are doing nothing to promote them to the search engines and instead rely on directories to distribute them. In spite of your experience most people hate directories (a concept that is one of the last online remnants of the old-media world.

    If Kodak had corporate blogs dedicated to their coupons, they would be the ones ranking in Google for the search you described. Directories only win in a vacuum where there is no other good relevant content.

  3. Jim Dugan from PipPops LLC, April 14, 2009 at 3:45 p.m.

    Our new mobile instant interactive e-coupon system is designed with the advertisers and users in mind. By simply going to one site anyone on the go can see all of the e-coupons available in their local area. By the simple click of a button the barcode for the advertiser created e-coupon is shown for instant savings at the point of purchase. Advertisers have complete control to create and edit at any time in real-time to run local to global advertising campaigns. With 70% of searches said to be for retail, Google's really on the way out. Inotherwords, if you're on the go and need to search for something (70% of the time for retail) are you going to waste your time on your mobile searching through Google to simply find the location or are you going to search on GripOffs Mobile which contains not only the info, but all of the advertisers in the area offering a savings. Most people prefer the information with a savings rather than just the surface search info provided by Google.

    We want instant interactive information and an instant knowledge of all of the best deals in the area. Don't you?

  4. Kim Logan from iGive, April 15, 2009 at 5:44 p.m.

    Coupons aren't our main forte, but we're now providing a great service to our members with

    The resulting list of products/stores from a search with this tool are flagged when the individual store is a part of our loyalty Mall, iGive, or when the product is available from one of our stores in the Mall. An additional symbol ($) indicates that coupons are available for that store. Clicking on the symbol takes you to the stores 'coupon' page where all current coupons are listed (membership not required to see this page).

    With this model, even when a person is not specifically looking for a coupon, they are alerted that one may be available anyway. Like I said, great service for the members!

  5. Sharon Collins from Inc, October 26, 2009 at 11:37 p.m.

    I think online coupons are more important than ever to people trying to save money on their shopping online at online store, retailmenot is one of my most frequently visited coupons website and here I also want to recommend you which has daily updated fresh coupons for most leading online stores

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