The demarcation line between subdomain leasing and alternative revenue strategy

Sites operating under a subdomain or subfolder of another brand attract the attention of SEO as well as search engines. This trend is very recently related to coupon sites using a well-entrenched media sub-domain, but potentially applicable to a large number of industries.

Whether this practice is encouraged or discouraged by search engine algorithms is of enormous consequence. es for the main owner of the site, third parties and their competitors who carry on activities in their own fields.

Subdomain Leasing

Third parties may publish content on a subdomain belonging to another brand, with unclear involvement of the owner of the primary site. Take, for example. A banner even states, "CNN Coupons is a destination offering offers and discounts to online retailers. It is a collaboration between CNN Digital and Global Savings Group. CNN press staff is not involved. CNN earns a commission when you make a purchase.

Coupon sites operated according to this model are very common. Global Savings Group, which also manages a coupon site using a subdomain of as well as dozens of similar properties located in subdomains and subdirectories of European websites, is a major player in the field. online coupons.

All our partners need to connect their different offerings, such as news, advice, recommendations or coupons, to ensure the priority of their user experience, "said Andreas Fruth, co-founder of Global Savings Group, in a statement to Search Engine Land. This may be the case with some of the Global Savings Group's media partners, but the banner on CNN Coupons somewhat contradicts this claim – after all, how could you work closely with a newspaper without their press team? [19659009] The level of involvement of the owner of the main site and its relevance to the main domain objective are key factors in determining whether such an agreement is actually a partnership or a ploy to third parties gain an unfair advantage in research and publishers do what is needed quickly. buck.


The third party content operator (such as, especially, coupon platforms) rents a subfolder or subdomain to a publisher (eg, a reputable media) to attempt to shoot part of the confidence that search engines extend to the content of the publisher.

This, in turn, confers on third-party content a questionable advantage over the results of the research relative to its competitors, which may lead to an increase in the number of visitors and an increase in revenues, which are then shared with the owner of the main domain. This strategy has primarily been applied to coupon sites, but could potentially apply to any unrelated third party content.

Third-party content operators may seek partnerships with media, particularly because of their credibility with search engines. However, Fruth cites the history of coupons in the print media as part of the precedent of this relationship.

"Different types of commercial content (such as coupons) have always been part of newspaper offers in the world of print media. As newspapers seek to diversify their revenue streams, given the declining CPM challenge for online advertising and the subscription platform, the creation of a dedicated content strategy for commerce is a fundamental pillar. for most media companies. "

The comparison is not quite From apple to apple, traditional newspapers do not rely on search engine algorithms to present their coupons to potential customers." And, as evidenced by many of Google algorithms can be manipulated.

Domain partners / owners and subdomain tenants?

It is unlikely that these sites will function as well in an organic way and on the basis of their They do not exactly offer unique content – many have the same coupons and are even structured very similarly.

If the data from SimilarWeb on are representative of the same. sub-domain coupon sites, it is also unlikely that backlinks will play an important role.The major role of referrals accounts for less than 0.5% and 94% of traffic comes from

There are dozens of other factors at play, but the elephant in the play is the link, if any, these sites must goal of the main site.

"While they [publishers] develop their portfolio of new content, some of that content they create and produce remains in-house (for example, [Business Insider’s] Insider Picks, CNN Underscored), while other content is being amplified with the support of specialized third parties, such as us, explained Fruth, recalling that "the central message: this is part of a specific strategy of the media company" .

If this is the case, we could expect to see more cohesion between the coupon site and the main site; However, changes navigation in news category headers on and no e-commerce content from Insider Picks or CNN Underscored appears on their coupon subdomains.

"The success of partnerships between major media brands and specialists Content and technology partners, such as the Global Savings Group, do not rely solely on the strength of the associated domains," said Fruth, anxious to distinguish the model his business of what is commonly referred to as "sub-domain leasing". Approximately 400 employees around the world, as well as the editorial and commercial teams of each of our partners, work hard to negotiate exclusive quality offers for our partners' users and to create quality content that allows us to Improve the overall user experience. "

" It has been shown that consumers prefer to receive their commercial content (for example, coupons) from brands they know and trust, "Fruth added. "It's easy to see if you're comparing CTRs to comparable positions between coupons of a big media brand, with higher brand capitalization, with offers from a stand-alone site without the same recognition. "

The magnitude of the situation [19659007] Anonymous Twitter Account @theloish published for the first time a blog on this phenomenon as it related to European publications in June 2018. In their Medium post they estimated that the annual business figure was about 8 million pounds sterling (about 9.7 million dollars). is a partnership between the Global Savings Group and the Daily Mail ;

The @theloish user has also compiled a Google sheet of more than 220 subdomains and subfolders related to coupons, as well as their operators and their traffic forecasts. receives more traffic than the vast majority of sites listed, but it is safe to assume that the revenues generated by these sites, for their operators and their media partners, are considerable. This also suggests that potential revenue loss for dedicated coupon sites in their own domains is likely to be significant, although some dedicated coupon sites may not take advantage of coupons submitted by users.

The Response

Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller answered a question about this issue in the June 28th Google Webmaster Central session at its opening hours.

"Perhaps the right approach is to find a way to determine the main subject of this discussion. your website and focus more on that, and then leave out those other things, "he said, explaining:" When it comes to quality, we try to look at the overall quality of the product. " ;a website. So, if some parts of a website are really of poor quality … overall, it may degrade the quality of this site. "

Google also discusses the practice via a three-part tweet from his Google Webmaster account on August 14. It says:" We were asked if third parties could host content in subdomains or subfolders from another domain. It's not against our directives. But as practice has developed, our systems are being improved to better know when such content is independent of the main site and treat accordingly. Overall, it is discouraged to let other users use subdomains or subfolders whose content is presented as if it is part of the main site, without close supervision or involvement of the main site. We advise you, if you want to be successful with Search, to provide value-added content from your own efforts and reflective of your own brand. "

The @theloish user and other members of the search engine community have noticed a substantial drop in traffic among some coupon sites, such as, which saw his visits decrease nearly a third between June and July 2019, and, which saw a 30% drop between March and July 2019 (according to SimilarWeb data) .The traffic has not decreased in all the subdomains of the coupons and it is difficult to know if they result from actions undertaken by Google or other search engines.

Members of the SEO community also monitored these sites as they appeared, which facilitated conversations about the relevance of these sites and the ethics surrounding their operation

Some are in agreement with the position of the Global Savings Group according to which coupons and publications of & # 39; news bring added value to all concerned parties. Others emphasize the nature and accessibility of the coupons, which make it an ideal material for this type of arrangement between third parties and publishers. The tweet below even attributes the reduction in traffic to the publication of the problem mentioned by @ theloish, and the link within it accuses @theloish of "denouncing competitors as a last resort to seek justice for failure on the market".