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9 Tips to Fix Affiliate Tracking Issues

tracking issues

Tips for OPM agencies implementing affiliate tracking

Chris Tradgett

At Moonpull, we have always stressed that based on our experience, affiliate tracking by almost all networks is generally robust and well constructed to do its job. In such a technical industry with so many moving parts and so many commercial models, partners and technologies in play, it is hardly surprising that there are occasionally tracking issues that need to be addressed.

As networks are only part of the mix, there are other places issues will arise, such as with the publisher and advertiser aspects of tracking implementations. This is all part of what Moonpull examines in an audit.

From the perspective of an advertiser or their agency perspective, affiliate tracking issues will negatively impact your affiliate program in several ways. On one hand, they will result in low overall affiliate program statistics. On the other hand, non-tracked sales will result in low performance and earnings for the affiliates who drove them.

Broken Tracking or Downtime

affiliate tracking issues

AM Days and Loyalize founder and leading affiliate industry figure, Geno Prussakov shared this common frustration. “Downtimes happen. Unfortunately, they happen to affiliate marketing tracking too. Simply put, these are the times when your affiliate program doesn’t track affiliate-referred conversions“. He adds “One of the most frequent scenarios (when affiliate tracking goes down) is connected with merchants revamping their websites, but failing to properly implement the affiliate program’s tracking on the new version of their sites“. 

The usual approach has been to treat these as almost expected ‘downtimes’ with a standard way of dealing when these are reported. Using the three As, advertisers need to Acknowledge, Apologise and Act as outlined in his article, though that often only comes to light when affiliates notify that they may be missing sales.

cashback missing commission claim

Identifying Tracking Issues

For an affiliate, simple broken links can be checked using generic online industry tools such as Ahrefs or brokenlinkchecker.com, as Affiliate Insider suggests in their recent article but these tools don’t tell the whole story. 

Cashback and loyalty affiliates are often the first to alert to a tracking issue due to their inbuilt feedback loop. They will also develop a view of how worthwhile an advertiser is to promote based on the time spent claiming missed transactions. Potentially that will mean changing to a competing brand with fewer tracking issues. 

Set up for Success

Success for an affiliate program starts with ensuring the tracking is implemented correctly end to end throughout the ‘affiliate handover’ process. Publishers of course need to ensure they’ve configured the link correctly (with parameters in the correct order, when this is necessary); networks need to ensure their area of responsibility is working; and advertisers need to ensure that tracking is implemented correctly for their own website. 

Depending on the advertiser, this may be simple for a smaller brand; for many larger brands with websites dealing in large inventories, across multiple markets, currencies and languages the complexities spiral. Taking into account that websites evolve over time, as well as inventory and even structural changes, it all adds to the potential for problems requiring careful management. 

We have come to view an affiliate tracking implementation as having a ‘half life’ style decay and we see that around 5% of advertisers’ tracking implementations change each month. With this and the steady increase in consent-controlled tracking, up to 14% of affiliate commission may be lost. This is what Moonpull has been developed to identify and audit.

The Half Life Principle...

To understand a half life (normally applied to physics) we like this explanation of the half-life A half-life is the time taken for something to halve its quantity. The term is most often used in the context of radioactive decay, which occurs when unstable atomic particles lose energy.  But at Moonpull we consider that affiliate commission often follows a half-life decay curve and therefore any program needs regular monitoring to rebase it to the start of the decay curve

The 9 Tips

It is clear that setting up affiliate tracking correctly is vital to ensure a successful program and strong publisher relationships. All networks will have a set integration procedure and we strongly recommend following these to the letter. Some tracking issues arise on the advertiser side, so here are our tips to avoid those and ensure it all works.  

These tips are written from the perspective of an advertiser using first-party javascript tracking to set a first party cookie, but are all relevant, with a few adaptations, to advertisers using server to server tracking too.

1 – Home Page

Ensure the affiliate network has your latest home page. That may sound simple but is often overlooked, so ensure that all website code changes and projects have an affiliate tracking check included prior to going live.

2 – Tracking Parameters

Ensure the tracking parameters are carried through all pages on your (the advertiser’s) website.

3 – Javascript Tag

If using a network javascript tag, ensure that it is set to load early during the page load.

4 – Cookie Consent

When using a Consent Management Platform (CMP), make sure tracking is set up correctly. Within the EU and UK, in most circumstances there should be no cookies or javascript on landing, until Accept is chosen by the user. Scripts and cookies should then load to enable tracking to work correctly. Each market may have different rules, so ensure that CMPs and tracking are set up appropriately.

5 – Deeplinks

Of course all deeplinks and datafeed links and structure should also be set up correctly for successful tracking. Deeplink tracking issues are some of the most common problems seen in Moonpull audits.

6 – Item ‘Not Found’

If there is deeplinked traffic arriving on a ‘not found’ item or page, ensure that it has the javascript present. If a publisher has referred their website visitor to an advertiser, it is only fair for them to be commissioned appropriately for any resulting sales.

7 – 404!

If you redirect traffic when a product is out of stock, remember to consider the affiliate tracking in any internal redirect. Tracking parameters should be carried through even when a 404 is served and the user navigates to another page.

8 – Website Restructure

If doing an SEO-driven restructure don’t forget to consider the affiliate tracking needs to be implemented for all pages. This will be particularly important for datafeeds, which may break on a navigation change,

9 – Changing Traffic Manager

If you introduce or change your traffic manager, ensure you consider affiliate implications, for instance where you use GUID parameters or introduce further redirects or rules regarding attribution.

Why is it Important?

It’s clearly important for an affiliate publisher that tracking works 100% of the time and they are paid for their efforts of marketing your brand and referring customers. For an advertiser, if your network, affiliate management agency or OPM is compensated on a performance driven basis, then it is of course important for them as well. 

It is also very important for the advertiser itself. Where tracking issues arise and are not dealt with in a timely way, this can show up as just poor conversion rates and/or low EPCs and the program being viewed as not worth promoting by publishers. Similarly, no one wants a situation where publishers spend much time reporting missed transactions. 

A properly set up program with transparency in how tracking is set up and fewer tracking issues will benefit from a stronger relationship with all partners in the affiliate program.

affiliate partnership

Find out More

Contact us to find out how your program can benefit from Moonpull auditing and if you’re attending Affiliate Summit this month, don’t miss Steve Brown’s session on Wednesday afternoon.

If you are an advertiser, then your agency or affiliate network should be able to give your program an audit if they are Moonpull clients.  We thoroughly recommend this includes a thorough review of deeplinked urls as these are where we see many problems for many advertisers.

If you would like to see more of how Moonpull can benefit your own business, we’d love to hear from you. Please drop us a line on the Contact page

 

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