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Paving your way to the top of the affiliate game will be a thorny journey. Only one out of six affiliates will make more than $50 thousand from their endeavors, with only four percent earning more than $150 thousand. But thorny doesn’t mean impossible, especially if you’ve harnessed the holy grail of affiliate marketing – affiliate link tracking.
Your mastery of affiliate tracking defines you as a market player, whether as an advertiser or affiliate network owner.
Mostly because affiliate tracking unlocks every bit of data regarding your affiliates and marketing campaigns, putting you in the driver’s seat of your business. From tracking affiliate performance to optimizing your marketing campaigns, advanced affiliate tracking can grow your business in every aspect.
Read on to learn how affiliate link tracking can scale your affiliate business.
Affiliate Link Tracking in a Nutshell
Tracking affiliate links is extremely important for advertisers from all business avenues, from real estate to insurance to clothing. Link clicks are the number one marketing metric for 83% of marketers, with 59% of marketers using clicks as the top affiliate program monitoring metric.
At the same time, affiliate tracking is quite simple:
- An affiliate receives a unique affiliate link comprising the advertiser’s ID, which makes it possible to connect the affiliate and the purchase made by the customers who followed the affiliate link.
Affiliate link tracking may work differently depending on the tracking method and affiliate tracker software. Still, the gist of the process is always to connect customers to their traffic source, with all ensuing consequences: on-time affiliate payments, affiliate analytics, and more.
The better you know your affiliates, the more effective you can be with your affiliate marketing, whether working with affiliates directly or through an affiliate network.
Cookie vs. Pixel-based vs. Cookieless Affiliate Tracking
Cookies are unlikely to remain on the scene for long, as Google seems to be resolved in its promise to phase out third-party cookies once and for all. However, the demise of cookies has been postponed several times already, with the latest deadline of 2024.
Cookie-based affiliate tracking works as follows:
- When a customer clicks an affiliate link, the affiliate tracking software places a cookie in the clicker’s browser. This cookie may expire – a standard cookie lasts up to 60 days – or live as long as the advertiser/affiliate needs to accomplish the campaign’s goals.
- When customers make a purchase on the merchant’s website, they are assigned a unique ID tracked by the cookie. The affiliate tracking system records this ID, product details, and associated commission amount.
- The final connection between the customer and the affiliate is made by comparing the merchant’s and affiliate’s data sets.
As insightful as cookie tracking might be, it will likely soon become obsolete. The technology has been frowned upon by the public for too long to evade Google’s fatal blow.
Pixel-based affiliate tracking boils down to placing a tracking pixel – an invisible 1×1 pixel image – on the merchant site, which collects data, such as IP addresses, referral URLs, browser versions, and more, to measure the website’s conversion rate.
Pixel-based affiliate tracking is more accurate than cookie tracking, as the pixel cannot expire or be disabled (which many customers do, having grown suspicious of cookies), unmistakably connecting the customer to the affiliate. That said, pixel-based affiliate tracking can only track several types of interactions – clicks, page views, purchases – while omitting demographics and history of purchases.
As its name suggests, cookieless affiliate tracking (server-to-server tracking or postback URL tracking) makes it possible to track conversions without cookies, which is valuable considering the dire situation with cookies.
Here’s how cookieless affiliate tracking work:
1. When a customer clicks an affiliate link – the one with an embedded click ID key – they are sent through a series of redirects that collect customer information and transfer it to the following parties:
- The ad tracker
- The affiliate network or affiliate tracking platform
- The advertiser
- The landing page itself: the click is assigned a unique ID in the URL of the landing page
2. Upon the purchase, the conversion is attributed to the right affiliate or affiliate network, with the customer ID sent back to the tracker and the affiliate.
3. The affiliate sends a postback, and the ad tracker verifies the conversion.
Postback URL tracking will allow you to track the performance of your affiliates, including clicks, leads, and sales generated from each affiliate. You will know who performs and why and who needs assistance. Likewise, you will be able to protect yourself from affiliate fraud.
How Affiliate Networks Pay for Generated Links
Tracking affiliate marketing performance is only half the job – the other half is to pay what you owe. As an affiliate network – an intermediary between affiliates and merchants – you can receive and issue payments for any quantifiable actions, including clicks, impressions, sales, and leads.
Popular Affiliate Payment Methods
CPS pays a percentage of the product’s sale price or a flat fee. CPS doesn’t require an upfront investment from advertisers and nullifies any risks, as advertisers only pay a portion of their profits.
PPC pays for every click on their affiliate link, taking into account not only the clicks generated but also the quality of the landing page, the audience’s conversion potential, and the keywords used in the campaign.
CPI pays $2 to $20 for 1,000 ad displays to potential customers. CPI works best for affiliates with a high traffic volume and advertisers willing to increase brand awareness rather than immediate sales.
CPA pays for a specific action, such as visiting a merchant’s website, subscribing to the newsletter, buying a product, or installing an app or software. Ultimately, CPA is a win-win for affiliates and merchants.
PPL pays for a generated lead – a customer who fits the affiliate agreement’s criteria (for example, a customer who has created an account on the merchant’s website or downloaded a demo).
Did you miss our recent article on pay-per-lead marketing? Check it out here to see how it can bring your business greater success and increased ROI.
The key to the best payment model is to combine different payment methods based on the strength and weaknesses of your affiliate network.
Must-have Affiliate Link Tracking Features for Affiliate Campaigns
Whether an advertiser or affiliate, you need an affiliate link tracker – or rather an affiliate tracking system – that would allow you to collect and interpret the click and clicker data into marketing insights and would integrate with your CRM or lead management system.
Below are the four basic link tracking tools you might want to see within your affiliate link tracker, using the example of Phonexa’s link tracking software for business:
- Deep link generator: Sending customers directly to the landing page rather than the homepage will optimize the customer journey to secure more leads and conversions over time. As part of your affiliate link tracking software, a deep link generator will automatically generate deep links that seamlessly drive customers to conversion.
- Tracking URL parameters: Automatic URL tracking enables timely revenue issuance and data-driven marketing decisions for advertisers and affiliate networks. The most common URL parameters to track are affiliate ID, campaign ID, traffic source, and keywords that triggered the purchase.
- Direct link tracking: Direct link tracking – through a tracking code embedded in a link – instantly attributes conversions and sales to the right affiliate, ensuring the effectiveness of affiliate marketing where there’s a lack of space for promo content.
- Redirect links: Redirect link tracking is used when a marketing campaign involves an intermediary landing page or website from where the user is redirected to the offer. A popular use case for redirect links is pre-sale campaigns when you warm up a customer before they reach the product page.
As part of Phonexa’s affiliate link tracker, these and other features enable real-time affiliate tracking and analysis, growing your bottom line, whether as an advertiser or affiliate network.
Affiliate Link Tracking Software Top Features
1. An Overarching View of Your Campaigns
Advanced affiliate link tracking methods – see the table below – will bring all important data in one place to simplify control over the process and free the resources for any tasks you cannot automate.
Advanced Affiliate Link Tracking Methods
Customer Journey Tracking
Advanced affiliate link tracking software will unlock the full customer journey, including how affiliates and customers interact with ads, links, and other marketing material. This, in turn, will enable in-depth segmentation and content personalization.
State-of-the-art link tracking software suites will track offline purchases – for example, purchases by influencer marketing affiliates – back to the affiliate network, ensuring timely payments.
Lifetime Customer Tracking
Identifying the marketing power of the promoted products is paramount for both affiliate networks and advertisers. Per-product tracking, a feature widely available within affiliate tracking software, will help you maximize your ROI with your most marketable products.
A comprehensive view of your campaigns from a single dashboard will allow you to adjust automated affiliate management with just a few clicks. Setting up your click tracking software may take some time, but the system will pay off quickly, saving tons of your resources daily.
An affiliate marketing tracker works equally well with any number of affiliates. The objectivity of data collection and analysis for an infinite number of affiliates will help you scale without worrying about the software being overwhelmed or clogged.
3. Real-time Updates
Real-time reporting, an integral part of affiliate software, will allow you to react to important changes in the global affiliate market and your particular affiliates. For example, you can adjust the performance of underperforming affiliates timely, double down on successful campaigns, and provide incentives for your most profitable partners.
4. Fair and Timely Payouts
Real-time tracking of clicks, leads, and sales made by your affiliates – a must-have function within your affiliate marketing tracking software – will enable precise commission calculation, identifying affiliates who have met the payout threshold and adjusting the commission rates according to the custom payout rules.
5. Fraud Prevention
From cookie stuffing to fake leads to fraudulent transactions, over two-thirds of affiliate marketing participants have been a victim of affiliate fraud. Affiliate tracking software can prevent it through transaction monitoring, fraud score calculation, validation checks, and other anti-fraud practices.
Phonexa’s Lynx: On Guard of Your Affiliate Campaigns
As popular as affiliate networks still are, they face severe competition from SaaS platforms, and not without reason:
- First, proprietary software can cover your full spectrum of marketing needs by integrating with a CRM or lead management platform. For example, Phonexa’s Lynx smoothly integrates LMS Sync into a coherent lead management system that covers marketing from A to Z.
- Second, affiliate networks sometimes provide little incentives to maximize advertisers’ revenue, forcing the latter to focus on their best affiliates while not having any benefits from the large pool of affiliates from a particular affiliate network.
In-house managing affiliate programs are becoming increasingly popular, but that doesn’t mean solutions like Phonexa are no benefit to affiliate networks. On the contrary, affiliate networks can leverage SaaS affiliate marketing solutions to improve across the board, giving their affiliates more marketing power and ultimately growing their ROI.
How To Scale Your Affiliate Campaigns
1. Never Stop Researching the Market, No Matter Your Success
As the ever-growing affiliate marketing spending – a whopping 10% a year – unequivocally indicates ever-toughening competition in affiliate marketing, you must constantly research the market. Likewise, if you’re a seasoned marketer, you must keep abreast of the affiliate market to identify gaps and opportunities to capitalize on.
2. Expand Your Affiliate Base in a Smart Way
As tempting as it may be to set up an affiliate network once and allow it to take its course, you must do the opposite: nurture your affiliates as if they’re your leads. You will likely have to overcome similar challenges like understanding your affiliates’ motivation, re-engaging inactive affiliates, and more.
- Read more about affiliate marketing tools for your business.
Here’s what you can do to maximize the value of your affiliates:
- Define your ideal affiliate: Defining or redefining your ideal affiliate – you will likely have several groups of affiliates – is crucial for understanding how you can grow and scale. Imagine your affiliates underperforming due to mismatching creative materials and you not knowing about it! Defining your ideal affiliate is essential for recruiting the right affiliates and providing them with the right marketing help.
- Constantly reach out to new affiliates: Use your online presence (website, blog, social media, forums, etc.) to spread the word about your affiliate network while reinforcing your offer with incentives like low commissions, exclusive marketing materials, data analytics, etc.
- Provide round-the-clock support to your affiliates: From regular communication to data-driven feedback to instant request resolution, be within reach and open to discussion. With 83% of customers citing good customer service as the most important marketing factor, your affiliates will be inclined to stay with you if you respond to their requests immediately and insightfully.
- Split-test campaigns: A/B testing your ad campaigns will help you quantify your efforts to see what ad copies, CTAs, and landing pages work best.
3. Market Your Scale-tipping Extra
You may have several advantages to your offer, but you must also know your specialty — the irresistible magnet no affiliate can counter. It can be anything your competitors lack — for example, a two-tier affiliate program (theoretically, you can have an infinite number of tiers, but two tiers will likely be most practical) or an extra low commission.
Having an extra tier in your affiliate program is beneficial all around, from an increase in the influx of new affiliates to a higher sales volume and motivation in your current and new affiliates.
Scale Your Affiliate Network With Phonexa
With Phonexa, you can synergize affiliate click tracking with lead management, email marketing, and click and call tracking within a single software suite, all to grow your affiliate network with minimum effort and ever-growing profits.
Want to know more about Phonexa?
Schedule a consultation to learn how Phonexa’s click tracking software integrates with other Phonexa solutions to benefit your affiliate business. Get your custom marketing software suite now to generate more profits with your affiliate marketing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an affiliate link?
An affiliate link is a URL with a unique code or identifier to connect the product promoter (publisher, affiliate) and the product owner (merchant, advertiser).
Affiliate link example: “https://www.examplestore.com/?ref=affiliate123”, where “www.examplestore.com” is the merchant’s website and “?ref=affiliate123” is the unique affiliate’s identifier.
How do affiliate links work?
Affiliate links connect the affiliate to the product by comparing the data on both sides. You can do it via cookie affiliate tracking, pixel affiliate tracking, and cookieless affiliate tracking. Each affiliate link tracking technology has pros and cons, with cookieless affiliate tracking being the most advanced and arguably the most reliable.
For example, when someone clicks on “https://www.examplestore.com/?ref=affiliate123” and makes a purchase – either at once or later, depending on the affiliate agreement: some affiliate systems will reward affiliates for delayed purchase – the affiliate tracking software will record the transaction and attribute it to the affiliate with the ID “affiliate123.” Next, this affiliate will receive the payout, the size of which is determined by the affiliate agreement.
What is an affiliate tracker?
An affiliate tracker is a tool or a set of tools – sometimes, one may refer to an affiliate tracker as complex affiliate tracking software or affiliate management platform – that provides a broad range of functionality for tracking affiliates. Among many other things, affiliate trackers can create affiliate links, track affiliate sales, and provide in-depth reports on affiliates.
What affiliate commission is a good one?
The answer to this question depends on whether you are an advertiser, an affiliate network owner, or an affiliate.
– As an advertiser, you’d like to pay as little as possible to your affiliates while receiving high-quality traffic from them.
– As an affiliate network owner, you’d like to get as much commission as possible from the advertiser-affiliate deal you grant.
– As an affiliate, you’d like to receive gigantic commissions for the traffic you generate.
In reality, affiliate commissions vary from 10% to as much as 70% off the sale amount, as shown in the graph below.
What is an affiliate lock-in?
An affiliate lock-in binds an advertiser to an affiliate program, even if better options are available, to ensure a steady stream of revenue to an advertiser in exchange for loyalty to an affiliate program. Likewise, a lock-in incentivizes affiliates to produce a quality content by guaranteeing them sales over a determined period of time.
The downside of lock-ins is that they may result in advertisers overpaying for customers while not being allowed to switch to a more advantageous affiliate program, resulting in frustration and negative feedback.
What is a lock date?
A lock date (locking period) is the date that locks the transaction (usually the 20th of the month). Upon the arrival of the lock date, an advertiser can no longer edit or void the affiliate deal but must pay the affiliate for the leads, clicks, or sales generated.
What is link cloaking in affiliate marketing?
Link cloaking is nothing but changing random letters and numbers to meaningful words that represent the link’s content. As unpleasant as “link cloaking” may sound to the untrained ear, rebranding affiliate links is a legitimate practice to make them appealing to potential customers. The fact that some affiliate programs – for example, Amazon Associates – prohibit link cloaking doesn’t make this practice malicious.
What is click fraud?
Click fraud is intentionally clicking on an affiliate link to generate income within a pay-per-click affiliate payment model. Click fraud involves creating fake accounts, automated scripts, and using third-party platforms that imitate real website visitors.
To protect against click fraud,
– Establish how your affiliates should report suspicious activities.
– Monitor for an excess of clicks from the same IP address.
– Apply click filtering to weed out irrelevant clicks on your affiliate links.
Likewise, you can diversify into having multiple affiliate partners (putting eggs in one basket is never a good idea) or capping the amount of money per click/day/etc.
What is the easiest niche for affiliate marketing?
The most popular niches for affiliate marketing are finance, home services, insurance, education, e-commerce, gambling, health and beauty, dating, and gaming. This, however, doesn’t mean any of these niches is easy.