When affiliate marketing started in the late 90’s, the marketing landscape was far less complex. There was no paid search, retargeting, or social media. Today there are more marketing channels and more marketing spend. Back in the old days, you gave your developer a tracking pixel and they hard coded it to your confirmation page. Consequently, affiliate networks tracked every conversion that had a tracking cookie and credited it to an affiliate.
Fast forward to today where a typical transaction can include three or more different marketing channels, and deduplicating becomes very important. Deduplication is when credit for a conversion is given to only one marketing channel (i.e. paid search, display, affiliate, etc.). This is different than attribution reporting and analysis where we are trying to understand the total cost of a conversion and the role each marketing channel played. Deduplication is just a way to prevent more than one channel from claiming credit for the same conversion. For example, if you had two affiliate programs, you wouldn’t want two networks to get credit for the same conversion. The same holds true for two or more marketing channels.
I am surprised by how many advertiser today are still not deduplicating conversions. In the past few years tag management solutions have made this turnkey and transparent. Deduplication is typically done by utilizing pixel firing logic. A cookie is set on the inbound click that identifies the marketing channel. Then, when a conversion occurs, the tracking pixel for that marketing channel is dynamically fired, crediting only one channel with the conversion. Most companies use last click pixel firing logic.
When you deduplicate conversion credits, you get a much cleaner view of your marketing efforts since there is never any overlap between marketing channels. You also reduce the costs in your affiliate channel by only paying the media partner that drove the conversion rather than paying them if they were involved in the conversion.