Desperate times call for desperate measures. A coupon company that has largely operated behind the scenes is going public with a coupon site of its own, after Google blew up its business model and forced it to get creative.

Savings United, which provides online coupon content for the websites of publishers like Time and the Los Angeles Times, has introduced Coupons4Real, its first standalone coupon code site.

Ordinarily, the launch of yet another coupon aggregation site hosting coupon codes you’re likely to be able to find elsewhere, is not big news. And there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about Coupons4Real – except for the backstory behind its creation.

The stated purpose of Savings United’s new venture is “to satisfy the growing need among online shoppers for reputable and verified discount codes for well-known brands.” The actual purpose is more along the lines of an effort to salvage what it can of its coupon business, after Google made major changes that appear to have cost Savings United some major clients.

For more than a decade, Savings United has aggregated online coupon codes and published them on their business partners’ websites, customizing the content to make it look like their news publisher partners are curating the coupons as a service to their readers. In reality, it’s an effort to make some money, for both parties involved.

“We know you’re under increasing pressure to raise revenue,” Savings United states in a pitch to prospective clients. By partnering with Savings United – or any one of several other competitors who offer a similar product – a news publisher can host a custom-made coupon page on their website, and earn a commission any time one of those coupons is used. Savings United earns revenue as well, by getting its brand partners’ offers in front of more potential shoppers, leveraging the online popularity of the news sites, which tend to rank highly in online search results.


At least until recently, they did. Earlier this year, Google apparently grew tired of coupon publishers piggybacking onto news sites’ search rankings, and of news sites watering down their stature and authority by selling out part of their websites to commercial content, and cracked down on the practice. Effective in early May, news websites that publish “third-party content” such as coupon codes, “without close oversight” and “intended to manipulate Search rankings” are being penalized by ranking lower or not at all in Google search results.

Many news sites seeking to protect their couponing income stream have scrambled to adjust. But others have given up – including some Savings United clients. While Time and the Los Angeles Times still offer Savings United’s coupon content, other publishers like the Washington Post and Wired no longer do. Their coupon pages have disappeared from their websites, after publishers faced the prospect that having their coupon pages flagged as spam could damage their overall online reputations and cause their entire websites to vanish from Google search results.

So Savings United needed somewhere to publish all of its coupon content. Hence, the launch of Coupons4Real.

“In light of recent industry changes and large media houses feeling the squeeze from search engines hiding their content,” the new website explains, “we feel it is important to continue providing reputable deals to users around the web and fill a glaring hole left in the couponing sector as large publishers abandon the industry.”

While the site looks like just about any other online coupon aggregator, its unique selling point is that Coupons4Real promises to donate half of all revenue earned to organizations that promote social responsibility and sustainability.

“We want to redefine the couponing game, not by playing dirty, but maybe by doing it a bit differently than how it’s traditionally been done,” Savings United explains. “We’re here to shake things up – by using our corporate power and market expertise to help others and make a real difference.”

The world’s largest internet search engine has certainly shaken things up already for coupon providers and news publishers. The question is whether one of those coupon providers’ effort to “redefine” its mission will be enough to make up for it.

Image source: Mockuper

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