Announcement/Need Feedback - User-Submitted Referral Code

Update — a updated referral system has been announced and discussed here. Thread closed.


It all started here when @noelstewartx asked about Green Man Gaming referral codes. Basically I intended to implement a system that allows OzBargain members to submit their own referral code, and when a user clicks on the main link, a random code from a random member is picked.

I guess it is to maximise the gain of contributors. Signing up or purchasing with those code don't cost you anything (and in some cases both referral and referred get mutual benefits). So why not? More dough to buy things. However the danger would be all the greedy ones gaming the system — we shall see how bad it goes :)

Here are the documentation:

  • Referral Links on OzBargain
  • Posting Referral Links

For now I have enabled this feature on both Vitacost and Green Man Gaming. You need to post 2 or more +5 deals from a merchant before you are allowed to enter in your referral code (and I just realised that for Vitacost it means only 2 users can do that at the moment). This is intended to encourage contribution, rather than just piggy back your referral code on someone else's deals.

Yeah another policy change. Posting affiliate/referral links is no longer allowed in comments. Post good deals, put in your referral code and earn your credits that way.

More merchants will be supported in the future — the system I've developed enables me to easily turn on/off this feature on any merchant, provided the merchant supports this kind of "refer a friend" scheme. However I would like to trial run this on Vitacost and GMG first to see how the community reacts.

Finally, I want to make a distinction between "referral link" and "affiliate link" here. I know it's all technicality, but referral links are those earning you store credit, letting you refer a friend — Vitacost, GMG, Amaysim, etc.

"Affilite links" however, are usually used by web publishers and are issued by affiliate networks (once they approved your site and let you into their affiliate network). For now I am happy with the former (referral links) but not the later (affiliate links) to be posted. I might make an exception to Amazon associates (just remember: DO NOT claim that you represent or are affiliated with OzBargain), but don't bother asking me whether you can post your clixGalore, AffiliateWindow or CommissionJunction links.

Update 10 October 2012:

First posts and users less than 6 weeks old are not allowed to post referral links anywhere in the deal. Documentation has been updated.

closed Comments

  • Scotty , Just to clear the woods, does this include forum comments in regards to the posting referral links

    Thanks

    • I won't enforce it for now especially if someone asks for referral codes. However moderators reserve the right to remove those comments if getting too spammy.

  • Id like to raise the topic of supplements with possible prohibited substances.

    Do you think its worth that all bargains by vitacost should be researched by poster to make sure they don't contain in their ingredients prohibited substances. Rather than waiting for a bargain to take advantage of posting a referral link, that it should also have no prohibited substances.

    I would be more than happy to gather all the info for a wiki

    • Things that can't be imported into Australia — that would be an obvious, whether you are a referral or not. We'll add that to the deal posting rules for Vitacost (and other supplement shops).

      • Hi Scotty
        I meant like supplements containing lecithin, egg albumin , unprocessed bee products etc etc if thats what your referring to

        • Sorry when I said "obvious", I mean if the supplements containing prohibited substances then obviously it should not be posted on OzBargain (unless someone really wants to get into trouble).

          However whether a product contains prohibited substance, that's up to individual research. Sorry I am no expert on that. Do report posts that you don't think should be posted.

    • Eastern, do you have a list of prohibited substances that are applicable to Vitacost?

      • i can compile one using the australian customs website and documentation on iherb/vitacost website to form a wiki

        • +1

          Cool, I've compiled things from old Vitacost deals. You can see the latest version if you go to Submit and put in a vitacost url.


          Before posting, please make sure your product is not banned by [[http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page4369.asp|Australian Customs]].

          Commonly banned substances from Vitacost:

          • Supplements containing EGG YOLK, DAIRY, MSM, Kava, DHEA, [[http://www.aqis.gov.au/icon32/asp/ex_casecontent.asp?intNodeId=8198523&intCommodityId=13626&Types=none&WhichQuery=Go+to+full+text&intSearch=1&LogSessionID=0|Lecithin]], Melatonin, Xylitol, BEE POLLEN, Banana, Hoodia, Camu Camu Powder, or Cordycepts Powder, Yohimbe are NOT ALLOWED to be imported into Australia.
          • ALL DRIED BEANS, LENTILS, RICE, require an import permit, or may be subjected to Quarantine inspection fees.
          • Kava is a restricted import and needs a special permit when ordered.
          • Egg products, if the egg albumine in a product is high. This requirement is more enforced if using DHL as your shipping method.
          • Bee Pollen Granules and Powder are restricted. Pills and other forms are ok to import.
          • Products with Hormones like Pregnenolone, HGH, 7-Keto, etc.
          • Some Enzymes Products may be prohibited so please check with customs before importing products that contain enzymes.
          • All Dairy Products, and products with >10% egg content are not allowed to be imported into Australia. This includes most products that contain egg albumen.
          • Pet Supplements aren't allowed to enter Australia without an Import Permit.
        • and this

          Protein powders may be permitted entry into Australia for personal consumption without the requirement for an import permit provided the product is labelled with the individual ingredients including percentages of each ingredient adding up to 100 per cent. Alternatively the consignments may be accompanied by a manufacturer’s declaration listing the individual ingredients adding up to 100 per cent . Each of these ingredients must meet DAFF Biosecurity import conditions. It is the importer’s responsibility to provide sufficient documentation to satisfy DAFF Biosecurity that the product in each consignment is as stated.

          Protein powders containing dairy derived ingredients such as Whey, Isolate and/or Caseinates must be labelled as ‘originating from’ and ‘Manufactured in’ one of the countries listed by the World Organization for Animal Health (formerly known as the Office International des Epizooties [OIE]) as free from foot and mouth disease (FMD) with or without vaccination. If the labelling of powder does not specify the country of origin and manufacture, or includes the phrase ‘made from local and imported ingredients’, a manufacturer’s declaration will be required certifying that the milk component is sourced from an FMD–free country.

          Protein powders containing egg will need to be labelled as containing less than 10 per cent egg to be exempt from requiring an import permit. There must also be no discernable pieces of egg in the product. If the labelling of the powder does not specify the egg content a manufacturer’s declaration certifying that the egg component is less than 10 per cent (by dry weight) is required. Products with more than 10 per cent egg content and/or containing discernable pieces of egg require an import permit.

          Protein powders containing animal derived ingredients such as enzymes eg. pancreatin, trypsin, rennet and insulin and bovine serum albumin have an associated quarantine risk and may require an import permit.

          Highly processed substances that are listed as pharmaceutical excipients on the ICON database are not regarded as a quarantine risk in these products.

          Import conditions can be accessed via the DAFF Biosecurity Imports Condition database (ICON). This database lists the Quarantine conditions under which various commodities may be imported into Australia.

          Note: A non–commercial consignment is considered to be an item that is imported for non–commercial (personal) use in quantities of no more than 10 kilograms or 10 litres of the one type of item."

          From DAFF website

  • Awesome! Thank you Scotty!

  • Hey Scotty,

    Just posted a GMG deal if you wanted to check if it worked?
    http://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/78758

    Thanks!

    • DoH! Just checked my referral code on the GMG profile page and it cut off the end of it.

      How much of the referral code would it need?
      Do I enter just ?gmgr=romozewa or does it need to be the full string http://www.greenmangaming.com/?gmgr=romozewa or just romozewa
      ?
      When putting in the full string it cuts off to http://www.greenmangaming.com/?gmgr=romo
      Currently I've got it set as ?gmgr=romozewa

      Thanks

    • I think you've put the value in wrong. You had

      ?gmgr=<your code>
      

      In the text field. You should just have

      <your code>
      

      there instead.

      • Awesome, thanks!
        I've updated that now.

  • So within the comments you would prefer someone start an entirely new deal from the same site rather than add to the existing.
    Does that apply to all deals now and not just those with a referral link?

    I think there use to be the policy of grouping all deals in the one post.

    • People are free to post links or deals to other products on sale but just refrain from using a referral link.

      This applies to all deals.

      Regarding guidelines of grouping deals in one post, you seem to be talking about a separate issue. That is still a guideline and can be seen here

      • I thought I was refering to this new policy change.
        This is how I see it operating now.

        Posting affiliate/referral links is no longer allowed in comments. Post good deals, put in your referral code and earn your credits that way.

        If you find another deal from the same merchant, on the same day, you didnt create the first one, and want to use a referral code then you have to create a new deal.

        But if you dont use a referral code then you have to/should combine it in the comments.

        • Whether it's a referral link or not shouldn't make a difference whether you post it in the comments or as a deal (in the description). I understand what you're saying and it's good feedback. The reality is that people were always able to post their referral links in their deals. If we see bad deals being posted just to get their affiliate link, then they will be limited.

          I guess the big picture is we want to reward good contributors to this site. But how do regulate users who's goal is push bargains to the limits to gain maximum reward? It's going to be tricky.

  • Thanks for sending me here Neil.

    As I said it seems like people are just posting anything that has some % off (even if very low) just to get a chance to post their referral link. I think the quality of the Vitacost posts has gone riiiight down as a result of this.

    • Just for a point of clarity regarding Vitacost,

      The last 3 posted were from a serial spammer and were removed. Another 4 spanning the 27 to 29, were removed (1 from a ghost spammer, 1 duplicate, and 2 requested by the OP). So there have only been 3 posts published in the past 7 days.

      http://www.ozbargain.com.au/deals/vitacost.com

  • One of the issues here is that some of the posts of late are just standard Vitacost prices, rather than Vitacost specials.

    And of those most are protein powder, which seems to be more of interest to many of the male gaming set members.

    Like the Green man gaming posts, as many of the members now have referral links of their own, the competition heats up.

  • Could the same system be put in place for sites such as Amazon? As far as I am aware OzB uses their own affiliate link for these sites for users that are not logged in, but could it be set to, say, no user affiliate links for certain sites contained inside the post body itself, and then 50% of bargains follow the OzB link and the other 50% follows a random users aff link ? and when a user meets the required posting criteria (Maybe a bit tougher, 5 deals at 10 or 20+ ?) they can add their aff link into the rotation?

    Again, I don't even know if this makes sense, just rambling on.

    • It's possible to be used on other sites such as Amazon, however we are still working out whether it is a good idea to do so. I have seen an increase of affiliate-link deals over the last couple of months and I do not wish to encourage this kind of culture where you go to OzBargain to earn extra bit of cash.

      There are some sites where both the referral and referred gain benefit — Green Man Gaming, Vitacost, Amaysim (I think). We'll prioritise those first.

      • Understood, it would appear to be more a way to reduce the affiliate links contained in messages and outlaw them from being posted completely, while allowing those who have worked hard and uncovered good deals (hence the tough requirements (From my suggestion anyway, the GMG/Vitacost requirements are quite a lot lighter)) in the past a bit of reward for their effort.

        I am not sure whether this would reduce the amount of money made by OzB or increase it as there would be a guaranteed 50% of all deals with affiliate liniks instead of offering a user the choice between the OzB link and a personal link (Which appear to be clicked at a reasonable rate).

        Overall a positive step though, I like it.

      • +ve

  • is OzBargain cycling vitacost referral links randomly? I've had 3 referrals in the last week, haven't posted anywhere except in the comments of a deal maybe 1-2months ago? crazy.

    I know constant mediocre Vitacost postings are annoying, but 2 posts with +5 leaves only a handful of users able to use their referral links and my opinion is that the community is losing out on heaps of possible referral rewards. Any chance of (active) users registering referral links to a list that is used say 50% of the time for Vitacost posts?

  • For now I have enabled this feature on both Vitacost and Green Man Gaming. You need to post 2 or more +5 deals from a merchant before you are allowed to enter in your referral code (and I just realised that for Vitacost it means only 2 users can do that at the moment). This is intended to encourage contribution, rather than just piggy back your referral code on someone else's deals.

    Scotty, did you change your mind or is this feature broken? Since the above announcement on the 29th of September, I can see at least 6 first time posts that if the above info was correct, should not have been possible.

    • 2 different things. The 2 or more, 5+ votes, is to enter your code into the referral system (the thing below the link box). This is separate from manually adding your referral link in the description.

      • It may not be a bad idea to put such a condition on being able to post referral or affiliate links.

        This could help enormously as most spammers wouldn't be interested in spending time digging up two other deals worthy of upvotes so they could eventually spam us their referral code, once they realise they can't spam they'll just move on and never come back. Win.

  • I was told to this post in this thread about Vita Cost referral system.

    In their T&C for the friend referral page you'll come across-

    Prohibited Conduct

    In order to continue offering this Program to its Members, Vitacost does not permit Members to:

    Purchase advertisements, such as Google Adwords, linking to Vitacost using a referral link; or

    In any way trick or deceive customers into clicking a referral link without their knowledge; or
    Use the Vitacost trademark in a manner not consistent with these Terms and Conditions;
    Sell referral codes or "how-to" guides; or

    Exploit the Program or assist other Members or referees in exploiting the Program.

    Members committing any of the above prohibited conduct may, at Vitacost.com's sole discretion, receive a courtesy notification that they are in violation of the Program's terms and conditions. Repeated or wanton abuse of the Program will result in a Member's disqualification from the program.

    I've bolded the ones which people are 'abusing' constantly on this site.

    Source: https://www.vitacostrewards.com/common/terms.pg

    • I understand your concerns but has anyone even received a "courtesy notification"? If not I don't think there is any need to worry at the moment.

    • Purchase advertisements, such as Google Adwords, linking to Vitacost using a referral link; or

      OzBargain is a free community bargain website where users can submit deals. These are not purchased advertisements.

      Exploit the Program or assist other Members or referees in exploiting the Program.

      If there are comments on how to exploit the referrer system, please report them and we will remove/modify the comment.

      If you link some examples, we can take a look. I should point out though, the onus is on Vitacost to manage it's referral system. We haven't had any direct requests as far as I know to remove any referral links. In fact, we have contacted Vitacost in regards to referral links, so they are aware of these posts.

      • I realise this is a free site for users.
        The "linking to Vitacost using a referral link" as it's own statement and nothing to do with 'Purchasing adverts-Google Adwords'. To me that was saying do any of these 1) Paid Adverts by using Google Adwords 2) Linking to Vitacost using a referral link - was all separate don'ts.

        Yes, there was a person (shigure22) telling people to use their ref code over and over by signing up with different email account each time- http://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/80553
        In fact they said "In order to make huge savings just make a new account with the referral link below and create multiple email accounts to receive the $10 voucher again :)."
        And like so many of these people who post Vitacost deals they are always first time posters and never someone doing vitacost posts over and over. Even a Mod read the post and made some edits to the original post to get rid of something but left that exploit part in. I realise even mods can over look things but I thought that bit would of rung alarm bells - This isn't an attack towards the mods if my wording seems that.

        All I'm trying to do is not get a good system taken off of vitacost because people out there want to abuse the system.

        • I have now removed it. Reporting it is the best way. I edited that deal for something else but honestly didn't read the entire description.

          Purchase advertisements, such as Google Adwords, linking to Vitacost using a referral link; or

          I'm not a lawyer but looking at those terms, it is all part of one statement. It's one bullet point per statement. Anyway, that's the interpretation. Vitacost are aware of referral links on this website and so far we haven't got any complaints.

  • Regarding Vitacost, we are coming up with new guidelines as there seem to be some not so good deals being posted.

    We've agreed that:

    • New users and those with a P tag won't be able to post affiliate links.

    Further discussions needed:

    • No affiliate linked post if the previous affiliate linked deal fails to garner more than 5 votes.
    • No referral links in the description for Vitapost and GMG deals thus enabling users to put their referral links in the built-in system.
    • No affiliate linked post if the previous affiliate linked deal fails to garner more than 5 votes.

      To me this sounds like the best way to make sure that posts are actually deals, rather than just referral spam.

      No referral links in the description for Vitapost and GMG deals thus enabling users to put their referral links in the built-in system.

      IMO goes a little bit too far at the moment. Users who have their code in the inbuilt system will still be getting plenty of traffic coming through their link with people that just use the normal deal link and people still have the option of rewarding the OP.

      An alternative I would suggest is to make referral links in posts invisible to non logged in users. This would mean that members of the community have the choice of rewarding the OP or taking the normal referral link and guests just end up rewarding those who are in the referral system.

    • New users and those with a P tag won't be able to post affiliate links.

      This will now be enforced, and description above has been updated.

    • "No affiliate linked post if the previous affiliate linked deal fails to garner more than 5 votes."

      Does that mean if you post an affiliate link deal which doesn't get 5 votes you will be forever unable to post another affiliate link?

      • My thought was if you post a deal with an affiliate link and that deal gets less than 5 votes, then you won't be able to post another deal with an affiliate link until you post a non-affiliate deal that garners more than 5 votes. So….

        User X qualifies to post deals with referral links for Vitacost.

        User X submits deal for Vitacost, with a referral link, gets 2 votes. User loses referral privilege.
        User X submits deal for Vitacost, no referral link. Gains 40 votes. User gains referral privilege.
        User X submits deal…referal link. Gains 12 votes. No change in privlidge.

        Etc…

        Anyway, that's just a rough idea. I think stopping the 1 post wonders should alleviate a lot of the issues to start. The referral system is here to reward members of this site and not for people to sign up and make a quick buck. OzBargainers always trying to make a quick buck so it's tricky.

  • -1

    I like the idea of cycling out referrals

  • vita coast deals should be weekly or something similar since you don't see people posting Woolworth weekly special individually which is the situation that is going on at the moment.

    • It's a bit different. Woolworths comes out with weekly catalogues whereas Vitacost or other stores come out with bargains at various times. How would you decide who posts the deals?

      • oops, read who as how or something like that, blurry eyes.

  • +1

    I posted this as a commend in another Vitacost deal, but I figured I'd post something similar here too. I haven't posted my affiliate link, I don't intend to, I think removing them from comments where people beg for clicks is a good thing, but I don't think Vitacost posts should be removed or restricted.

    This is a bargain website, and Vitacost has a lot of bargains. I go to the gym, I take a lot of supplements, these are very expensive in Australia. The deals on Vitacost are excellent to put it midly, and the shipping is icing on the cake. I don't want to traul through the website once or twice a week to find the best bargains, having someone post them is helpful and I don't begrudge them putting their affiliate link in the description because it saves me time.

    If you don't like seeing vitacost bargains, hide them, there is a system for that, problem solved.

    The bargains I use the most on this site are from websites that get posted nearly daily often with affiliate links, Amazon, Vitacost, Green man gaming. Discouraging users from posting them would mean I get less utility from this website.

    Nobody is getting hurt, nobody is getting scammed, these affiliate links are usually mutually beneficial, I don't really see the issue.

    • The issue that people have is the fact that many people are just posting products from the site with their referral code. It isn't a special on the site and they just want to post it to get referrals to make some dosh.

      In my opinion, if it is cheaper at Vitacost then it is in Australia, then I would like to know about the product, as would many other people. The problem that I see is that people get jealous that other people are posting referrals for deals which they could have posted referrals for.

      What I think we should do about Vitacost is have every user that has posted Vitacost deals (removing those that are negative and include the OP) enter into the database, that way everyone is getting a fair share of the love, and not just the first person to post the deal and have everyone get angry at them. I guarantee there will be a lot less angry "oh another one of these threads" and more "oh yay, maybe my referral will come up this time." We then become a team of Vitacost deal finders!

      Please note this is just my opinion.

      • With the referral system (see the announcement of this thread) we already do have this, i.e. cycling the referral code when people click on the main link.

        • Hey Scotty, the vitacost referral system has updated :) The old links still work but there is a new format to give.

        • Possible to PM me some examples?

          EDIT: I see that they are forcing to use vitacostrewards.com domain, rather than a query parameter. The problem for that approach is that there is no way for someone submitting a product link, and then we automatically attach the random referral code on it. That means people still end up having to post their own referral link inside the content (at the bottom of the main post, of course).

  • With Vitacost's referral system update, I have decided to pull Vitacost from user-referral system we have here, as there is no way for new users to find out their referral code to be entered into our system to be randomly added to the out-bound link.

    However users can still add Vitacost referral link (from VitacostRewards.com) to the bottom of their post. Also for Vitacost we are also restricting 1st time posters and P-plated posters from posting referral link, as there had been some spamming issues.

  • I would like to suggest a change to the referral rules with regard specifically to livingsocial, and specifically to the input received from this thread http://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/99092 (I tried to do the right thing and totally messed it up.

    There is an opportunity for a LOT of people to benefit (not just one) - if we allow people to put their referral in the comments and then comment when they get their 3 referrals and the deal is free, and people can move on to the next one. It isnt an opportunity for mass greed - you and other members are just getting the opportunity to get the deal free.

    I know something similar was worked out for the ing referral thing, would be great if we could work something out here where we might all be able to get something for nothing, possibly even getting the users benefiting from non members using their link.

    I cant see an easy way to automate it, just having people post their referral in a comment and then again when they get the freebie would be best imo, then people can more to using the next referral down (or whichever they like i suppose)

    I hope we can make something cool happen here

    • I would welcome the ability to potentially get a freebie in this way.

      just having people post their referral in a comment and then again when they get the freebie

      Unfortunately, this introduces an inefficiency (timing of reporting the freebie) which could sobatage the intention (of maximising the freebies by introducing a system). Therefore an automated referral allocation would give the most efficient outcome.

      However, I can't imagine that LivingSocial would support this type of system. In a perfect exploitation they would be giving away 4 out of 13 sales at the 2nd level and 13 out of 40 sales at the 3rd level. Surely they can't be making 25-32% margin to cover this?

      (Of course, the later you purchased the less likely you would be to actually get three referrals under you with 68-75% of referalls not achieving the freebie.)

      • Totally agree that it would be great if there were a more efficient way to do the move down the referral list - but i couldnt think of one. The only one that came to mind was asking people with a record of not doing so quickly to either not participate or to put them at the bottom of the list? I dont think it needs to be perfect - I just think that as things stand we are all missing out

        • As an aside - it seems weird to be able to be a member for 18+ months and still be a p-plater for anti-spam purposes. I might suggest that maybe the green ps at least be lifted for lurkers of 6+months

        • The 1 and P plates have to do with posting and not just being a member. Sort of like you get a license but have no experience in driving a car. You start off on your L's, then P's and eventually after enough driving experience you have a full license. Posting affiliate links is a bonus for those who have been posting good deals.

          If everyone were honest and truly wanted to provide great deals plus as a bonus get referral credit, then that we wouldn't need this system or rules . Unfortunately, there are always people who are out to sign up to just to earn affiliate credit. The reason affiliate links were banned from being posted in group buy deals such as LivingSocial was because people just kept posting a huge amount of really bad deals just to get their affiliate links in there.

          We had to do the same with referral comments. Sometimes you would have deals with loads of referral links littered in the comments with very little conversation. It just turns this place into something resembling a SPAM farm.

          Going forward…

          So as the group buy deals have almost completely died off for the exception of a couple of sites, we could entertain the possibility of allowing referral links in the description for group buy sites the way we do with other kinds of sites.

          The P tag is for posters under 6 weeks. It identifies you as a new poster to members. The only restriction is not being able to post referral links in the description of deals. Perhaps the P plate needs to be more performance based, less time based, or a combination of both?

        • With the LivingSocial buy 1, refer 3, the person providing the referral must have themselves bought the deal to get the referral link to be able to provide it to others. Therefore, bad deals will die quickly as nobody will buy them.

          The issue then becomes optimisation of the referrals.

          When people use a referral link, it would be good to be able to mark it as used.
          When it has been used 3 times then it gets struck out.
          Can OzBargain provide such a platform?