This post is a little unconventional as it is both attempting to shed some information but also solicit information from its readers. Read on…
We’ve been giving a lot of thought about how to create an affiliate tracking system that is both easy to implement for our merchants but accurate enough for our affiliates.
Tracking accuracy, we believe, is key to giving the transparency needed by affiliates to monetize any campaign. Of course, we agree that even with inaccurate tracking a publisher could increase his commission per sale to compensate for any loss but that makes it very hard for affiliates to actually compare the real vs. published payout.
If an affiliate is using Network “A” and sees a published payout of 50%/sale and gets a real tracking loss of 5% – then his real net commission is 47.5% per sale. That’s pretty close to reality.
The same affiliate might be tempted to promote a similar product on Network “B” that has a published payout of 55%/sale but because of their reliance on third-party cookies or pixel tracking they will see a tracking loss of 17% – then his real net commission becomes 45.65%. Not quite the same…
Of course, at UpClick, we’ve taken great care to only rely on first-party cookies to track our affiliates performance (and we’ve added quite a few tools which cannot be discussed here to increase this even further). Our system, at its most basic, uses the following architecture:
Affiliate Tracking Diagram for UpClick
This has the advantage of being able to track software sales through downloadable trials or many other avenues – all without adding a single script on our merchant’s pages. The downside is that we have to redirect the user to a hop link that is on our server (there are workarounds but they are harder to implement).
I must admit, though, that I am still a little puzzled as to the numbers I see from some affiliate networks that rely on third-party cookies that claim 95%+ accuracy. These doubts arose from our own internal testing that show close to 20% of untracked sales using 3rd-parties in the last few months as well as data from trusted sources such as WebTrends (read this…)
We would be happy to switch to third-party cookies (allowing our surfers to hotlink directly to our merchants’ pages) but are unwilling to rely on the new browsers increasing security defaults that block them.
Any ideas about how to solve this? Please submit them…