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How Publishers Are Using Moonpull

How Publishers are using Moonpull

Steven Brown

It’s approximately a year since Moonpull started adding Publisher clients to join our portfolio of network clients.  We now have a significant body of knowledge on how we’ve helped publishers develop their businesses to face and conquer many of the challenges to good publisher-advertiser relationships that occur due to tracking issues.  This article gives some pointers based on how publishers are using Moonpull data.

Publishers and Moonpull

Moonpull audits have been used by a number of publishers ranging from smaller content affiliates, email marketers to loyalty websites. The platform offers the flexibility for anything from individual link checks through to more strategic auditing, including via API for larger Enterprise users.

The more successful users have set up regular audits of their most important advertiser partnerships, to ensure full understanding of any changes in tracking. We have worked closely with many of these users to arrive at a best practice way of using the data to give clarity as well as to provide the basis for a more informed commercial discussion with individual partners. 

Enterprise Publishers Using Moonpull

“Tracking is such an important topic – and we’ve put together some really good teams internally at TopCashback to work out how we monitor and improve it – so great to bring Moonpull officially into the mix here.”
James Little, TopCashback – Linkedin

Our larger publisher clients typically have good BI systems for analysing conversion rates over time by advertiser, offer and many other metrics too.  One of the concepts we explain to publishers is that we help them see tracking matters that will not be in their BI, however hard they look.  This is down to how the Moonpull audit process works.

Decisions are needed

Moonpull affiliate audit

During 2024, the environment around tracking is changing and, as these changes are impacting the whole industry, there is no avoiding them. Businesses are becoming Moonpull clients to get some visibility on any issues – rather than flying blind. Moonpull enables them to have visibility on:

  • Which advertisers have a high quality first party tracking implementation
  • Which advertisers currently require consent for first party tracking.  
  • Which advertisers have a highly reliable and carefully managed first party tracking implementation

Moonpull provides awareness of how Chrome’s cookie deprecation and legislation around user consent for cookies will affect them.  Our clients are also becoming aware that tracking management and monitoring is an always-on task for all in the channel because first party tracking has more points of potential breakage than third party tracking.

A good set of decisions may mean a publisher can maintain their revenue trajectory by the end of the year. Without decisions, it may be a reduction in revenue by, perhaps, 30%, possibly with increased administrative costs too.  These decisions combine to become a Flight to Quality for the publisher.

Decisions are needed, and an appropriately-comprehensive dataset is needed

Long-term strategic decisions need the best datasets.  Our clients are incorporating our data with their BI for decision making about which advertisers to focus on and build relationships with.

“We need to arm ourselves with the right information and the Moonpull reports mean we’re giving constructive information to clients about their tracking rather than potentially being viewed as your typical moaning affiliate”
Chris Said, Genie Group – Linkedin

Common themes that our publisher clients learn or have reinforced during the induction phase

These are some of the key themes that arise:

  • Advertisers usually have both first party and third party tracking in place; it’s not an either/or for almost all advertisers.   
  • Third party tracking is actually very reliable, as it usually utilises a cookie being set on the network redirect.  If the network redirect process breaks it’s a big deal, so it so rarely breaks and it can be considered to be in place practically 100% of the time.
  • Basing one’s thinking about tracking around the ‘memory cookie’ demystifies tracking and makes it understandable.  Tracking is complicated to make reliable, but it’s not complicated to look into the most common reason for tracking breakage, namely the absence of the memory cookie.
  • Tracking can be broken due to actions at any stage, by the user, publisher, network, agency or advertiser.
  • Most advertisers, especially the bigger advertisers have implemented first party tracking.  It’s the quality and reliability of the implementation that is key.  The larger (e.g. global or multilingual advertisers) have complicated sites that need careful tracking implementation management.  It can be an art as much as a science to get right reliably. 
  • The quality of a conversation with an advertiser is a good additional datapoint on whether the advertiser is one to commit to building a relationship with in the future.

There are already big differences between Chrome and Safari.  Safari doesn’t permit the fallback third party tracking (and hasn’t done since early ITP restrictions).  Therefore most advertisers with compromised first party tracking already lead to publishers losing commission on Safari.  This is a big deal considering Safari is around 30% of browser usage in many territories.

Considerations about first and third party tracking

third-party tracking

Networks do have different methods of first party tracking, sometimes involving ‘server’ methods and sometimes javascript tags, so not all implementations are equal.  Therefore for one’s most important advertisers understanding some of the pros and cons of their implementation may be important too. 

The reliability of third party tracking is its strength when it works.  However when it is withdrawn, due to Chrome Cookie Deprecation in Q3 of this year, it will have big implications.  Third party tracking is the defacto ‘fallback tracking’ for first party tracking on Chrome for many affiliate networks.  So for the few months until deprecation, this will remain a  highly reliable fallback on Chrome for most advertisers and networks.

We often find it helpful to consider third party tracking  as ‘third party fallback tracking’ as it is usually lower in the tracking hierarchy than first party tracking but it can catch sales that get missed by any limitations in the first party implementation.  So when the fallback is either not present or removed, the light is shone on the quality and reliability of the first party tracking.

In cases where there is a poor first party tracking implementation, but it is thought to be good, there may be a ‘deprecation cliff’ when Chrome ‘flicks its switch’ to cease recognition of third-party cookies.

The Move away from Third-Party Tracking

“When you only have a limited amount of space to promote your “top” picks, you want to be sure that they are going to convert properly or you are just throwing away revenue. I was surprised to see that one of my favorite merchants is not tracking first party cookies. That will definitely have an impact on the extent to which I promote them going forward.”
Tricia Meyer, Sunshine Rewards

First party tracking is much more sensitive to actions on the advertiser’s website than third party tracking.  It can and does break for reasons such as:

  • Javascript accidentally removed
  • Redirects changing
  • Offers not being tagged properly
  • Home page urls being changed (e.g. from advertiserwebsite.com to advertiserwebsite.com/lan=en)
  • Typos in parameters
  • Cookies being set on the wrong domain

It needs to be monitored, and publishers need to reassure themselves on its reliability.  The above issues can appear unexpectedly and our experience suggests that the most unreliable links are often:

  • New links, with new offers
  • Older links that have suffered from the ‘half life’ degradation of tracking
  • Deep links that never first party tracked, but the issue was never noticed at the time

As most programs work on having a cookie window, tracking breakage can take days or weeks to be apparent.  But for a new campaign it’s immediate.  Therefore our publishers recognise a new campaign with new links should have those tested before use.

Flight to Quality

flight to quality

This recent article talks about the Flight to Quality.  We do think that this flight is taking pace and will continue into 2025.  With first party tracking needing always-on monitoring and the consent framework still evolving, the need to have quality relationships has now become an ever present of the channel both now and going forward.

How Publishers Use Moonpull

This is a typical approach over the initial months:

In the first ‘getting going project(s)’ publishers select links across a mix of:

  • networks
  • territories
  • advertiser size (larger, and smaller)
  • home page and deeplinks too (perhaps 50% of each)
  • perhaps some with potential conversion issues and those thought to track well

Taking their ‘important advertisers’ (perhaps using their BI for this assessment):

  • scheduling audits of important advertisers’ links weekly
  • from the early runs identifying those with consistent first-party tracking
  • understanding those are ones to double down on.  
Scheduled Moonpull Audits

This approach helps publishers differentiate which advertisers need a conversation about user consent’s impact on income from those advertisers where there is a concern about the underlying tracking. It provides a basis for  approaching the appropriate advertiser network or agency with data from their BI and Moonpull for a conversation. Determining through the conversations if a specific advertiser should be doubled-down on, or put into the ‘lesser priority’ pile, perhaps because they promise to get back to you but don’t.

In parallel, continuously auditing specific advertisers according to business needs as necessary, so perhaps those that are:

  • new offers
  • being considered for inclusion in a newsletter
  • new deeplinks
  • those flagged by BI alerts

Many publishers also recognise that there is a lot to learn.  Moonpull’s client service team appreciate this and guide newer clients to the right balance of short term immediate benefit and long term planning.

In Summary

2024 is a year with much management of affiliate tracking needed and the deprecation of third-party methods will throw light on poorly configured first-party tracking. This is leading to a flight to higher quality advertisers with more reliable and regularly monitored tracking set ups. 

Enterprise publishers are already making decisions and using Moonpull to illuminate their blind spots, and enable more informed commercial conversations and stronger relationships with their most important advertisers. 

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

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