How does tracking work on affiliate networks?

Blog / Advertiser / How does tracking work on affiliate networks?
5 Dec 2022
One of the many important cogs in a well-oiled affiliate network is being able to track clicks from affiliates and purchases on the advertiser's website. Behind the scenes, it's quite technologically advanced, but we've spent a lot of time making it very easy for affiliates and advertisers alike.

As we said previously, tracking on affiliate networks is advanced technology, and in this blog post we will go in depth in these technical details. For those of you who think it's a bit scary, we want to say: "It just works!" and you don't really need to know more than that. We help you with tracking code installation, perform test purchases and approve your account. You just need to sit back and watch your first affiliates join your affiliate program!

But for those of you who are more technically interested or wonder how it works; Let's take it one step further below.

Frontend or backend?

The first thing we look at is what type of business you have, or specifically how and where the conversion takes place.

Does it happen directly on the website, like a classic webshop? Then the somewhat simpler frontend tracking fits perfectly.

Or maybe it takes place "offline" much later? For example an insurance company or a lender that has to process an application and pays commission only on approved applications? Then backend tracking is required.

We will go through both types below.

Frontend tracking

The simpler method is, as I said, frontend tracking, i.e. a javascript that is installed in your e-commerce solution. We have clear guides that you can follow, or we can we help with support, or alternatively do the entire installation free of charge for you. You choose!

Our solution consists of two parts. A small "base script" which is loaded on every page and which detects whether incoming traffic comes from one of our affiliates or not. If it doesn't, the tracking stops immediately. No data is sent to us for traffic that does not come from our affiliates!

Our script knows that traffic is coming from our affiliate by reading the so-called "query string" i.e. the part of the web address that comes after the question mark. Are there parameters such as advertiserId (the advertiser's ID) and channelId (the affiliate channel's ID), then we know that the traffic comes from one of our affiliates and our script saves this information in cookies on the user's computer.

The second part, our so-called "conversion script" is instead only loaded on the thank you page/receipt page, and it reads the above-mentioned cookies; If advertiserId and channelId exists, a function call is sent to our server, which stores information about the purchase.

We neither send, save nor read any sensitive information or other personal information. The only thing that is sent is the amount, currency and order number, and as mentioned advertiserId and channelId that link the purchase to a certain advertiser and affiliate channel.

All this is handled by a few lines of javascript code that are added to the webshop. Either via built-in functionality for tracking scripts in the webshop, via plugins (WooCommerce e.g.) or via Google Tag Manager, which is a very good general solution that works for all sites.

 

Computer and coffee on a table in a café

Backend tracking

Frontend tracking often works great. But in some cases, backend tracking is better suited. Actually, you can summarize it by saying that in the cases where the actual event that should generate commission to the affiliate does not take place directly on the website, backend tracking must be used.

An example could be a insurance company that wants to pay a commission to its affiliates for each approved insurance application. The application itself takes place on the website meaning our "base script" can usually be used. But the conversion, i.e. the moment when the commission is generated, happens hours or days later, when a administrator has reviewed the application. Then the user hast left the thank you page a long time ago and javascripts in the web browser cannot be run. That's where backend tracking comes into the picture!

Similar to frontend tracking, cookies with information about the advertiser's ID and the channel's ID are set. Some development hours are sometimes required for the advertiser to implement their solution. But the principle is that the advertiser's IT team builds a solution that reads these cookies and stores the information together with the application in its insurance system.

The application will then contain all the information about which affiliate channel drove the traffic.

When the agent approves the application, the IT team also built a solution that sends a so-called "postback" to our system. The call is very similar to the front end, but with the big difference that it is made from the advertiser's server and not from the customer's web browser.

You can read more about this in our backend tracking guide.

Summary

It is very easy to install our tracking code, especially frontend tracking. Often you can be up and running within an hour, and with our help it can be a matter of minutes! Our help with this is completely free of charge and the only thing we usually need is access to your webshop's admin panel, or your Google Tag Manager. Then we handle the rest!

In the case of backend tracking, it requires a little more from your IT team, but even then, we offer full support from start to finish.

And remember! It costs nothing to sign up to addrevenue.io as an advertiser. No start-up fees, no monthly costs and you only pay when you sell something from the traffic our affiliates drive. It couldn't be simpler and safer!

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We're a company that will offer commission to partners if they provide us with sales/transactions/signups.

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