Everything you need to know about marketing trackers and the important role they play in affiliate campaigns.
What is affiliate marketing tracking and what is it used for?
Marketing tracking is a form of surveillance and method of handling and inspecting marketing activities commonly undertaken by cloud-based or self-hosted tracking software and various plugins that are connected to the website.
Tracking is a crucial element of affiliate marketing. Potential clients and leads that stem from an affiliate marketing campaign must be precisely accounted for quickly and efficiently. The success rate of an advertising and marketing campaign can be evaluated through tracking.
Marketing tracking can be broken down into two categories; post-back URL tracking and cookie tracking. Whether you choose cookie tracking or post-back URL tracking depends upon the purpose of the marketing campaign and department resources. Tracking allows businesses to discover which areas of the campaign are most successful in attracting new leads, the level of click and conversion rates; in other words, it is an effective and accurate way of assessing how successful a marketing campaign is.
What is postback URL tracking?
Postback URL tracking is a very precise way of affiliate tracking as it communicates and deals directly with the servers. Nevertheless, it is somewhat more complex in comparison to cookie tracking and requires an in-depth knowledge of trackers in order to get it up and running.
Postback tracking does away with putting code on the advertiser’s webpage, instead, it keeps data stored on the merchant’s server.
So how does it work?
“When a visitor clicks on the affiliate tracking link, the affiliate network adds an ID tag to the URL of the advertiser, so that when the visitor arrives on the landing page for the advertiser, their ID is updated in the URL. If a lead or action is then generated, the Merchant server sends this information back to using the postback URL.”
Taken from wowtrk.com.
What is cookie tracking?
When affiliate networks want to publicize an offer or promotion it will use a tracking link that contains an affiliate ID code. When a user clicks on that tracking link, the unique affiliate ID code is kept on their internet browser within a cookie, a type of text file.
As long as the user makes a purchase or completes the desired action before the cookie expires then the affiliate, that is responsible for the user’s arrival at the web page, will take full credit for the sale and conversion. However, should the user clear their browsing data then the cookies will be removed thus removing the track.
Cookies are universally applicable, meaning they can be applied to most if not all websites, and can help to provide the vital information necessary for a business to assess how a marketing campaign is doing in terms of conversions, the number of leads, the origin of those leads, the amount of time a user spends on the website before clicking the call to action button, and so on.
The affiliate ID cookie is stored on the visitor’s internet browser for a limited amount of time, usually a month. Therefore, should the visitor return to the website through the tracked link and purchase something or sign up to something then the cookie tracking method knows which affiliate ID brought that visitor to the advertiser’s website, ultimately turning a visitor into a lead and then into a customer.
“A small piece of code known as a conversion pixel, is placed on the merchant’s page that loads up when a customer has completed the desired action. This could be a ‘thank you for purchasing’ or ‘thank you for registering your interest’ page. If a visitor clicks through an affiliate link and reaches the confirmation page, the pixel tracks this in the affiliate network as a sale or lead. It only requires a basic knowledge of html in order to set-up correctly.”
Taken from wowtrk.com
A lineup of a few affiliate marketing trackers:
Self-hosted and cloud-based trackers: what are the differences between them?
- Self-hosted tracking is any tracking software that requires the individual or business themselves to download, install, maintain, monitor and manage it from their own server.
- Cloud-based tracking is software that is run and maintained by an independent, third-party company and the data is kept on their cloud.
The types of businesses that usually utilize cloud-based tracking are small scale companies with a fixed budget and limited resources. Cloud-based tracking allows a business to divide expenses that can arise from general software maintenance when compared to self-hosted tracking.
However, with data protection regulation constantly changing some businesses have no choice but to use self-hosted tracking should their policies on privacy restrict the sharing of data with third party companies.
Advantages and disadvantages of using cloud-based tracking
- User-friendly – simply install and start your campaign.
- Does away with the need for IT administrators.
- The cost depends on the scale of the project.
- You pay for as much as you use each month.
- Constant updates and software developments carried out by the third-party company.
- Need to accommodate the campaign around the pricing plans and offers.
- Unable to change the source code.
- Depending on the privacy policies and terms of conditions of each business cloud-based tracking is not allowed due to third-party sharing of customer data.
Advantages and disadvantages of using self-hosted tracking
- Can be cost effective as you pay for the software upfront as opposed to a monthly fee.
- Source code access.
- Privacy policies are not infringed upon as data is not shared with other parties.
- Maintenance, IT administrators and server costs can build up over time.
- Can be time-consuming.
- Software updates need to be done manually.
- Requires an internet service provider.
5 key aspects to be taken into consideration when choosing either cloud-based or self-hosted tracking.
When it comes to cloud-based tracking software, the updates are taken care of by the third party company, therefore, it eliminates the need for you to spend time and resources on fine-tuning your software so that it runs optimally; with cloud-based trackers, it is done for you.
On the other hand, when it comes to self-hosted tracking software it becomes your responsibility to ensure that the latest version of the software is installed and running.
2. Data Protection
Companies that provide cloud-based tracking are often very much involved with and maintain the security of their client’s data to a professional standard. So, for smaller businesses who do not have the time and resources to spend on securing their data, cloud-based software could be the way to go.
In contrast, self-hosted tracking software is stored on and hosted by your server. Therefore, data protection, installation and the type of security becomes the responsibility of the individual company. So, businesses with stringent privacy policies are required to use a self-hosted tracker as the data is not shared with any other party.
3. Storage Limits
Depending on the cloud-based service storage is limited to a certain level, whereas self-hosted tracking software does not limit the storage capacity of files. Therefore, businesses that deal with big files and require a large storage capacity need to take this factor into consideration when deciding which tracking software to adopt.
The cost of running a cloud-based tracker is usually met through monthly fees which are to some extent flexible and can be changed depending on the type of plan you require. When it comes to self-hosted trackers, you pay an upfront, one-time payment which is commonly suited to large businesses.
With self-hosted tracking software, the number of users is usually unlimited. The ability to have as many users and departments involved with the campaign as necessary could suit large firms that need the involvement and contributions of various departments.
On the other hand, when it comes to cloud-based services, depending on the price plan, the number of users allowed is capped. Small businesses with small departments need not be concerned with user limitations.