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The Moonpull Tracking Language

tracking terminology

Moonpull’s approach to consistent language for explaining a range of networks’ tracking with common terminology

Steven Brown

Moonpull recently held a roundtable for publishers to suggest and discuss actions they see that would help form better publisher – advertiser relationships in 2024.  One theme that was felt to be beneficial was a common and consistent language being used to discuss tracking by agencies, networks, publishers and advertisers alike.

Publisher Round Table discussing moonpull tracking language

Tracking evolution

At the Round Table, it was acknowledged that many of the networks and tracking technologies have developed during the same time period with all providers facing the same technical (e.g. browser constraints) or legal (GDPR or CCPA) challenges. As one would expect in a competitive industry, providers often articulate the benefits of the nuances of their own tracking as being more effective or as being unique in various ways. 

Disciples of tracking know there are often a lot more similarities than there are differences. In developing the Moonpull platform, we have necessarily arrived at a language which we use to describe the core components of tracking that allow our users to better understand the tracking landscape. It also helps to appraise implementations as part of the process of deciding the extent and extension of their use of advertisers’ programs.

Publisher Consensus

Moonpull publisher round table, November 2023, discussing moonpull tracking language

Overall, looking to 2024 there was a broad consensus that the publishers would have better advertiser relationships through the year and beyond with the following happening:

  • Networks explaining to the publishers their approaches to how current and future challenges to tracking are managed, and discussing with publishers to ensure the publishers are ready for how changes impact them
  • Networks continuing their efforts on advising advertisers on cookie deprecation, issues affecting tracking, and generally how they can have good tracking implementations 
  • A consistent language for the industry describing the components of tracking technologies utilised by all parties where possible 

This last point suggested that it is worth sharing the terminology we have developed in the Moonpull platform to describe some of these elements of tracking that are common across different networks.

The Moonpull Tracking Language

Here we share how Moonpull talks about first party tracking to our clients and in the industry generally. This includes all of: networks, publishers, agencies and advertisers. A caveat to keep this relatively simple is that it’s 95% right in 95% of cases. Importantly, first party tracking is tracking that has the memory stored in a cookie or local storage that is associated with the domain utilised by the advertiser. Our focus is therefore on first party methods.

We are looking forward in this document, so avoiding describing third party tracking (where  the memory is stored in a cookie that is associated with the network, rather than one utilised by the advertiser).

Tracking needs three components (as does any commercial referral):

record
of
referral

memory
joining
the two

record
of
sale

The referral  – A user leaving a publisher gets referred via redirects – or for a small number of advertisers or linking methods directly – from the publisher to the advertiser’s landing page (the page the user sees).  The referral process usually includes the creation of an Affiliate Network Identifier (ANI) for the referral.

The record of the sale  – For the affiliate industry the checkout process includes communication of the sale – along with attribution information so, typically the Affiliate Network Identifier – to the network.  It is usually in real time by javascript or server-side code, but sometimes is batched and sent to the network periodically, often daily.

The memory  – For the checkout to have attribution information to send the attribution information must be available at the checkout. Most commonly this is made available client side and is within a memory cookie or local storage.  Such a memory is written during the referral. 

We additionally use the term the ‘handover’ to describe the process from the initial use of an affiliate link by a publisher on a website, or similar, through redirects to the user being on an advertiser’s landing page, including after the giving of consent and thus all tags have been called and all cookies/local storage set.

Affiliate Network Identifiers

Each network has its own name for its  ‘Affiliate Network Identifier’ parameter. Examples are:

  • Awin: awc
  • Impact: irclickid
  • CJ: cjevent
  • Rakuten: ransiteid
  • Partnerize: clickref

Most networks have variants too, sometimes being the same letters but just with some capitalisation. In other cases the Affiliate Network Identifier is custom to the advertiser. However, its value is usually the same, with the same purpose that is described above.

To summarise the process: 

  • A user is referred with an Affiliate Network Identifier being generated to identify the referral, enabling the subsequent identification of the publisher id, advertiser id and other details
  • This Affiliate Network Identifier is stored for subsequent retrieval in a memory cookie 
  • This is then passed back to the network with sale information from the checkout

At this point in describing tracking, no technologies or tracking ‘techniques’ have been mentioned. These can be mapped onto the common language.

As this explanation relates to first party tracking, the common methods of achieving a first party memory are utilising:

  • Javascript on the advertiser’s page (or called from the advertiser’s own site)
  • Javascript called from the network (utilising a script called by the advertiser)
  • Server-side methods (which may: utilise a subdomain on the advertiser’s site that requests the ANI from the network or retrieves it from a parameter in the url redirect path after a network redirect)

The checkout code can also be either a server-side method or utilising javascript.

A Consistent Language

We see many people benefit from viewing affiliate marketing as a user gets referred with an Affiliate Network Identifier being generated to identify the referral, it is stored for subsequent retrieval in a memory cookie for being passed back to the network with sale information from the checkout.

This approach to viewing tracking is relevant to understanding the overlap of consent, deprecation and tracking methods (particularly including third party methods).

We hope this explanation of our approach to the language for tracking will help further users of affiliate marketing understand and use the channel better and go on to form stronger relationships with a focus on improving its commercial attractiveness.