6 affiliate tracking methods [+ the outcomes of getting it right]

Set your affiliate marketing campaign up for success with accurate tracking. Find methods that work for you, uncover the benefits of affiliate tracking, and discover useful tracking features.

6 affiliate tracking methods
Saryu Batra
Saryu Batra
Product Marketing Manager
Read time: 5 mins

In 2022, affiliate marketing spending reached $8.2 billion in the United States alone. Research conducted by Zippia shows this revenue-generating channel is responsible for an estimated 16 percent of ecommerce sales globally. As brands continue to leverage the power of affiliate marketing, gaining valuable insights into partner and program performance through affiliate tracking becomes imperative for sustained growth.

In a nutshell, affiliate tracking captures and monitors marketing activities—including clicks, traffic, and conversions—from affiliate partners with the help of tracking solutions. Gaining a deeper understanding of these performance metrics helps brands determine the effectiveness of their affiliate program and strategize ways to optimize for success. 

Ongoing changes in data privacy legislation and corporate policy require marketers to review and update their affiliate tracking methods to remain compliant without compromising the efficacy of their affiliate campaigns. 

Key takeaways from this blog
  • Server-to-server tracking is a futureproof solution as it’s compliant with Intelligent Tracking Prevention [ITP]. This method uses APIs to track clicks and conversion events.
  • Affiliate tracking helps boost partner performance, optimize conversion rates, and prevent fraud.
  • Cross-device tracking helps accurately monitor customer behavior and prioritize marketing spending to optimize the customer journey.
  • Platform features provide perfect ITP-compliant alternatives to cookie-based trackings, like impact.com’s Universal Tracking Tag.

What are the 6 affiliate marketing tracking methods? 

Partnership management platforms, like impact.com, have built-in tracking software that offers various tracking method that works best for your business. 

Most tracking methods provide partners with a unique tracking link. Each link contains essential information that allows tracking systems to pinpoint which partners receive credit for a conversion. Methodologies used to track actions include: 

  1. Javascript/first-party cookie tracking
  2. Server-to-server tracking
  3. FTP tracking
  4. Promo code tracking
  5. CPC tracking
  6. Direct tracking
6 methods of affiliate tracking
  • Javascript/first-party cookie tracking is often the default method of online event tracking, which places tracking codes—Javascript tags like impact.com’s Universal Tracking Tag—on every landing page. These event trackers are commonly added to the confirmation page where a conversion event occurs, including any other intermediate, non-monetary success event such as account creation or sign-up for a newsletter.
  • Server-to-server tracking [also called “cookieless tracking”] uses APIs to track conversion and click events. The API tracking method is the most future-proof solution as it’s fully compliant with Intelligent Tracking Prevention [ITP]. This method automatically sends click and conversion data to management platforms, like impact.com, via an API call. 
  • FTP tracking uses an FTP server to receive and push tracking data. You capture data about visitors on your website before and after conversion and store this data in first-party cookies. Then, you’ll create a .CSV file of all the conversions that occurred on the site and submit them to a tracking platform via FTP, that’ll compare data points to attribute credit to a partner and appear in reporting.
  • Promo code tracking monitors how partners aid a brand’s efforts. This tracking method associates a promo code used at the time of conversion with a partner to ensure they’re credited correctly. 
  • CPC (cost-per-click) tracking is the tracking method used for CPC programs. This method enables brands to track and pay for clicks that drive traffic to their website.
CPC Tracking
  • Direct tracking involves creating custom rules within the Javascript tag and assigning credit based on the partner’s referring URL without the partner needing to append any tracking parameters to their links. 

The benefits of affiliate tracking for partnerships program success

Affiliate tracking remains fundamental to nurturing a thriving partnerships program. Brands gain access to valuable data to understand and optimize partnerships for growth—and can tap into the following benefits: 

5 benefits of affiliate tracking
  • Brands that accurately credit affiliate partners for conversions boost partner performance. 
  • Affiliates’ traffic is highly targeted, allowing brands to optimize conversion rates by testing new products and services. 
  • Brands make more informed decisions to create winning partnership strategies with access to performance data.
  • Tracking ensures affiliate partners only receive a commission for clicks or sales created, guaranteeing brands have low ongoing costs and risks.  
  • Monitoring traffic quality through affiliate IDs helps prevent fraud.
impact affiliate tracking platform

Winning outcomes of accurate affiliate tracking [with the right partnership management platform] 

Get an accurate view of the customer journey. 

Consumers often research on one device and take action on another. Roughly 35 percent of cross-device transactions completed on a smartphone begin on a desktop, while 20 percent start on a desktop and complete transactions on a smartphone. 

phone and desktop conversion stats

Seeing the big picture with cross-device tracking helps accurately monitor customer behavior and prioritize marketing spend to optimize the customer journey. Brands can link devices belonging to the same user and see how partners interact along the path to purchase alongside other channels.

Brands can leverage other partnership management platform features to streamline the user experience further. For example, impact.com’s TrueLink™ maximizes conversion rates by ensuring a smooth customer experience on mobile. Your partners use a single link that routes users along the optimal path, deep linking them directly to the right product or offer page in your app or website.

Truelink deeplink tracking

Track anything with methods that comply with evolving regulations 

Partnership management platforms, like impact.com, allow brands to plug into APIs to get accurate, reliable tracking of conversions, credit app installs, and identify users across their devices. 

With browsers clamping down on cookie-based tracking, the impact.com platform provides excellent ITP-compliant alternatives like the Universal Tracking Tag [UTT]. Since the UTT sets cookies in a first-party context, they remain unaffected. Placing the UTT across your site gives you the most comprehensive tracking information about the consumer journey, direct traffic, conversion paths, etc. 

Choose a partnership management platform with robust tracking software

Affiliate tracking solutions amplify program success. So, select a partnership management platform like impact.com that specializes in future-proofing your program with a modern, reliable approach to tracking. Discover how impact.com can help your brand find a consistent and accurate way to track partners. 

Gain more insights into affiliate tracking with the following impact.com resources: 

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