How to Rank Multiple Times in Google — Or: How Voucher White Labels Dominate the Results Pages

LoisH
LoisH
Mar 23 · 16 min read
  • About 50% of the Google results for the most searched voucher keywords in cthe United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain are from white label sites hosted by well-known national newspapers and tabloids, like the Daily Mail, Le Monde, El País and BILD.
  • There are cases where the affiliate marketing company Global Savings Group by operating multiple white label sites “owns” 3 (or 30%) of the Google results for the most searched keywords – with each result leading to essentially the exact same content.
  • While in the past there were only white label sites in non-U.S. markets, recently the first white label sites started to appear in the American Google results too. Currently, about 8% of the results are from white label sites. This share seems to be growing rapidly.

Wait, what’s a “voucher code white label” site?

I recommend to review my previous post “How a Rocket Internet Startup, Daily Mail, and Others Exploit Google’s Algorithm and Make Millions” but put briefly: Some online advertising and affiliate companies operating voucher code sites (think of the websites that appear in Google when you’re looking for a code before ordering something online) figured out that if they can get an online newspaper website to host their vouchers under a white label that these will rank really, really well in Google. These white label sites get enormous amounts of traffic — in some cases millions of visitors each month — from Google and monetise this traffic through affiliate links. The proceeds are then shared between the actual operator of the white label site (the provider of the voucher codes) and the host (mostly newspapers). An example is discountcode.dailymail.co.uk in the U.K. and coupons.cnn.com in the U.S. As discussed in the previous post, the companies involved are making millions in pounds and dollars from the visitors they receive from Google.

What share of the Google search results are from white label sites?

To answer this question, I collected data. The methodology was very simple: First, I used Google Trends to get the top 6 most searched keyword combinations for “discount code” in the United Kingdom. The most searched keyword was “asos discount code”. I then entered these combinations in Google.co.uk, making sure to disable personalisation by appending &pws=0 to the search results URL to get representative results. The positions white label sites appeared in where recorded in a spreadsheet. The same process was then repeated for Germany, France, Spain and the United States. Further, for each white label domain I tried to identify the company that owns and operates it. This wasn’t always easy as it’s, as we will see, in the best interest of the operators to stay under the radar.

Voucher code white label sites in the United Kingdom
Google search results for the search “asos discount code” in the middle of March 2019. White label voucher code sites highlighted.
  • Savings United operates two white label sites that appear in every single of the 6 results pages. Isn’t it remarkable to rank twice for every search?
  • The Global Savings Group operates two white label sites that are a bit less successful. There are also a few other, smaller operators.

How many visitors do these white label sites get?

There isn’t any data for Savings United’s sites on Similarweb, but we can find out that discountcode.dailymail.co.uk receives about 3 millions visitors each month.

The discount code white label from the Daily Mail is getting about 3 million visitors according to Similarweb.
90% of the visitors discountcode.dailymail.co.uk receives are are from search engines.

Ranking the same content multiple times

The white label operators managed to achieve something that most other companies can only dream about: Appear multiple times in the same Google results. Actually, it is even better for them: White label sites allow their operator companies to not only appear multiple times in the same results but to do so with essentially the same content.

White label sites allow their operator companies to not only appear multiple times in the same results but to do so with essentially the same content.

Of course, the content isn’t exactly the same — that would be too obvious, instead, it’s cleverly reshuffled and rephrased. Here’s a random example with Home Depot coupons from the American CNN white label (coupons.cnn.com) on the left side and from the Business Insider white label (coupons.businessinsider.com) on the right. Both are operated by the Global Savings Group.

CNN vs Business Insider white label results for “Home Depot coupons”.
White label operator database set up where all white label sites show the same content from a central database, after applying some text transformations and reshuffling.

Everything is the same, only trivially transformed to make it less obvious for visitors and harder to detect for the duplicate content and spam filters of search engines.

Some coupon codes on the sites are marked as “exclusive”. Below is a screenshot of an “exclusive” coupon for the online store Aldo from the coupons.CNN.com white label:

From coupons.CNN.com.
From coupons.BusinessInsider.com.

The situation in France, Germany and Spain

When I wrote my previous story “How a Rocket Internet Startup, Daily Mail, and Others Exploit Google’s Algorithm and Make Millions” about 9 months ago, there were no voucher white label sites in the United States. My explanation for this was that Google is monitoring and policing the U.S. market much more than non-U.S. markets. An aggressive strategy might work in non-U.S. markets by going unnoticed by the Google web spam team. I don’t think that’s the best explanation any more. Most likely non-U.S. markets are dominated by white label sites because that’s where the leaders in white label, the Global Savings Group and to a lesser extent Savings United, first focused on.

In France, the Global Savings Groups owns 3 results for each of the top 6 keywords.

Highlighted in blue, the white label sites operated by the Global Savings Group:

White label sites in France. The Global Savings Group is very dominant providing 30% of the overall results.
  • Global Savings Group together with a German company SPARWELT are the most dominating ones with the highest rankings. Savings United seems to not have any (successful) white label sites active in Germany.
  • In Spain, there are 8 white label sites from 6 different operators supplying 42% of the results.
  • Both the Global Savings Group and Savings United operate white label sites in Spain and compete with two Spanish companies and one which seems to be based in Switzerland.

What’s the situation now in the U.S.?

In the U.S. it seems the white label operators are only starting up. The white label sites from CNN and the Business Insider, both operated by the Global Savings Group and launched only months ago, were already mentioned above. Compared to the European countries the white label sites have a much smaller share of the overall results. Only 8% of the overall results for the 6 most searched coupon keywords were from white label sites:

White label sites in the United States.
  • wired.com/coupons/: According to Ahrefs they receive about 100,000 visitors / month from search engines. They didn’t appear in the results for the most searched keywords. The operator is the familiar Savings United.

Why do the white label sites rank so well?

The answer seems to be that Google extends blind trust to anything hosted on (sub)domains from large newspapers and magazines. To see why this is the only explanation that makes sense, it’s helpful to first think about why the Global Savings Group, Savings United and other white label operators run white label sites where they have to share revenue with the host and second, to review the possible explanations for why white label sites might deserve to rank highly. In this analysis we’ll focus on the Global Savings Group but the same applies in a similar fashion to the other smaller white label operators.

Google extends blind trust to anything hosted on (sub)domains from large newspapers and magazines.

The Global Savings Groups not only operates white label sites but also has their own websites under the Cuponation brand. Actually, that’s the name the company was started under before they renamed in 2016 to “Global Savings Group”. As we saw above, in France, they operate three white label sites hosted by L’Express, Le Monde and Ouest-France. They also run their own website www.cuponation.fr. It’s clear that if they had to choose, they would prefer to have their own website be successful instead of the white labels. There are two major reasons for this: First, they wouldn’t need to share any of the revenue with the host and second, they wouldn’t rely on another company and be subject to risk that the host decides to change the operator of the white label site. Such operator changes seem to happen from time to time. However, sadly for the Global Savings Group, even though Cuponation.fr was launched before the white label sites, it’s nowhere to be found in the Google results.

  • The white label sites also don’t seem to have strong links (other than of course from the host website and the host’s other brands – but is there an argument for why these should matter?) nor many — often zero — mentions on social media.
  • Nor does it seem that anyone associates newspapers and magazines with voucher codes. While a lot of people go directly to websites like RetailMeNot and search for them in search engines, the white label sites get no direct type-in traffic and nobody searches for them specifically.

The tip of the iceberg — there are a lot more white label sites

While quite a few voucher white label sites are mentioned above, these are only the (currently) most successful ones. There are a lot more one can find on the second Google results page or when searching for less competitive keywords. For anyone interested, the the spreadsheet with the list of more than 80 white label sites from the previous story might be helpful. The list was made in June of 2018 and wasn’t updated. It might be partially outdated. Some of the white label sites might have shut down and others might have changed the operator.

Summary

  • The search results for the most important voucher code related searches in Europe are dominated by voucher white label sites with them representing about 50% of the overall results.
  • The United States are likely next.
  • The main operator of white label sites is the Global Savings Group from Germany.
  • They achieved something that most other companies can only dream about: Rank multiple times with essentially the same content on the Google results pages.
  • It seems that the share of results from white label sites is growing steadily.
  • The reason why white label sites rank so well seems to be that Google trusts their host domains.
  • Here’s the spreadsheet with all the data used for writing this story.

What should be done?

The domination of the search results pages by the white label sites is a structural issue. The large sites hosting white labels have all the reason to exploit the trust that Google puts in them. Google’s algorithm seems to be vulnerable to deception from domains it generally considers trustworthy. The white label sites are actively working on making it hard to notice what they are actually doing. To make detecting the duplicate content harder, it’s transformed and reshuffled. Some of the white labels even use the more technical difficult set up of delivering the white label site not through a subdomain like coupons.example.com but instead from a folder on the main domain like example.com/coupons/. For Google, to differentiate what part of a website is legitimate and deserves to be trusted and what parts are just for exploiting it is not easy.

Google’s algorithm seems to be vulnerable to deception from domains it generally considers trustworthy.

If you think something should be done discussing this issue on, for example, Twitter.

LoisH

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LoisH

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