The last major point I want to cover on this series is how to get conversion data into your tracking system. This is important because without conversion data, you have no way of knowing what parts of your campaign are working and what parts aren’t. Conversion data gives you a path toward optimization and profitability.
When you use your affiliate network for tracking, the conversion data is incorporated automatically into your reports, so there’s nothing more you need to do. However, if you’re running a third party tracking system, you will need some way to bring in conversion data from your affiliate network. I’ll be covering three of the most common ways.
For the most part, they all work in the same way. Your tracking system places a cookie on the user’s browser when they click. Then, if a conversion takes place, the user will land on the offer’s thank you page. If you’ve placed your tracking pixel on the offer, the pixel will be “fired”. In other words, the user’s browser loads the pixel, and the pixel detects the cookie that was placed there earlier. The pixel then reports back to your tracker telling it which click converted.
An iframe pixel has the extra ability to fire additional pixels when it gets fired its self. This is useful for when you want to see conversion data in you traffic network as well. Many traffic networks have their own tracking pixels, and many trackers give you the ability to iframe a network’s pixel. So, any conversion that fires your tracker’s pixel would also fire the pixel from your traffic network, and you’ll see conversion data in both places.
Tracking pixels are easy to set up. You’ll simply copy the pixel code from your tracker and either place it into your network or send an email to your AM and have them place it for you. All of the most popular platforms that CPA networks use allow you to place pixels yourself (HasOffers, Cake, LinkTrust).
There are a few limitations to tracking pixels, however. Affiliate networks that use their own software interfaces may not let you place pixels. You can often work around this by asking your AM to place the pixel for you. Also, some users browse with their cookies turned off. This means that conversions won’t be detected for these users. Finally, and most importantly, mobile campaigns don’t support pixel tracking.
Post Back URLs
Also known as “call back URLs” or “server to server” tracking, post back URL tracking relies on subid information that you pass through your affiliate link.
Subids are simply another term for the variables that you pass into your affiliate network. To track conversions, you’ll need to pass a click ID number into your affiliate network through your affiliate link. In Prosper202, you would use the token [[subid]] in your query string. This is what an affiliate link from a CPA network might look like:
Note: I recommend always setting up your affiliate links to pass click ID information. I’ll explain why in the next section.
Just like the tracking link variables in the Bing example from the lesson on tracking links, the [[subid]] token is dynamic, and your tracker will replace it with a unique number to identify each click.
After you set your affiliate link up correctly in your tracker, you’ll need to copy your tracker’s post back URL and place it into your affiliate network. A post back URL from Prosper202 might look like this:
There’s one more step to complete before you’re finished. You need to add a token to the post back URL so that it will pass the click ID data back to your tracker. Since I attached it to the “subid” variable in the affiliate link, I’ll need to find out what token your affiliate network uses for that data in URLs. It will be different depending upon your network’s software. On most Cake platforms, the token is #s2# (It’s always best to double-check this with your affiliate manager.) My post back URL would look like this:
When a conversion occurs, the affiliate network will replace the token with the click ID data and send it back to my tracker:
Now my tracker knows that this click converted, and it will show up in my reports.
It’s a good idea to learn how to set up post back tracking. It doesn’t rely on cookies, and therefore it’s more accurate than pixel tracking. It’s also necessary for tracking conversions on any mobile campaign.
Manually Importing Conversion Data
This will be necessary in certain situations where you can’t set up pixels or post backs. You’ll need to have your affiliate link set up the same way you would for post back tracking. The only difference is that instead of a post back URL sending click ID data back to your tracker, you’ll copy the data from your network’s reports and past it into your tracking system.
This is also a sort of fail-safe way to make sure you can still get conversion data if things somehow don’t track properly (i.e. If the user has cookies turned off). But for this to work, you still need to have your affiliate link passing click ID data.
To access the data, go into your network’s reports and filter the results so that you only see converted clicks. Then copy the click ID data from each conversion onto a notepad and paste it into your tracker, wherever you update your conversion data.
And that concludes this series on the basics of tracking systems.