How to Start a Coupon Site Business

The Problem

Coupon site startups share a problem with most web startups that benefit from network effects: a serious chicken-or-the-egg problem, or a catch-22. You want to attract publishers to add coupons to your site, but to do so, you need to already have coupons and traffic! At first, it seems that the solution to getting a lot of coupons on your site is through a feed – but unless you already have original coupons, your site will not rank well or attract any attention if it shares the same data feed that thousands of other sites are using. It needs something unique to please both your users and Google; if you base your site entirely off of feed-based coupons, you run a high risk of Google considering it to be a clone of existing sites, and users will not find much value in your site either.

The Solution

To address this initial hurdle, you’re going to have to start with a large amount of manual data entry. You will start by finding coupons listed on existing sites – especially the sites of the businesses that publish their own coupons, since these coupons are often not listed on other websites, and are therefore relatively unique. Often, these coupons are image-based and are not even indexed yet in search engines.

To do this at scale, you will need to build functionality into your site that allows for outsourced labor to contribute to your coupon site; this data entry and management feature should include multiple user types: data entry users and data entry reviewers.

The data entry users are responsible for finding, categorizing and entering coupons into your site’s database. To ensure that a high level of quality is maintained (good coupons with accurate category tagging, descriptions, valid URLs, etc), your data entry reviewers will have privilages beyond the data entry users. They will be responsible for ensuring that your coupons meet your standards, and the links to coupons on external pages do not point to expired sites (they need to be checked regularly to maintain quality, since you’ll be linking to sites that often go down, have their URLs changed, and have coupons taken down). The data entry reviewers need to provide feedback to the data entry users, letting them know why their coupons were rejected. The data entry reviewer criteria requires more trustworthiness and skill than a data entry user, since the reviewer acts as a moderator that controls the coupons entered by many users.

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