An outline of the affiliate referral process
Thus the publisher is ‘handing over’ their visitor with an understanding or product knowledge about the advertiser’s offering on the basis that they will receive the agreed commission for that action.
Mark Kuhillow’s description from 2007 is still the benchmark for this: “Affiliates need to be assured that they are being paid for all the sales they generate, and that the traffic they have driven is being correctly, fairly and accurately tracked as this will have a direct impact on the commissions they earn”.
A successful affiliate handover is vital for commission to be earned. A failed handover means commission is less likely or impossible to attribute thereafter.
Issues that affect the handover
The increasing complexity of many affiliate websites and of ecommerce systems and software has given rise to an increasing number of ways that the handover can be compromised. In this outline, we have concentrated on first-party tracking technologies which will be key in the longer term as third-party tracking approaches are increasingly deprecated.
Starting with the publishers
It’s very much in the publishers’ interest to make sure that their affiliate links are constructed correctly. All networks provide the link constructed for each advertiser and even down to specific graphic usually as an <a href…> html link:
This may seem to be an error proof method and should mean that all links should track properly. However in practice, Moonpull link audits do uncover instances where publishers have inadvertently introduced errors.
This can be from a number of things; the network instructions should make it simple but publishers often need to edit and adapt content which can result in:
- Errors in the program ID number
- Deeplinks appended for the wrong advertiser (yes, really!)
- Error in outbound link coding
Publishers are able to use the Moonpull platform to check links at scale ahead of putting a page live or starting a promotion, giving assurance of the best opportunity for conversions.
Network tracking issues
In our experience, the affiliate networks and SaaS platforms generally offer solid effective tracking platforms. The technologies vary as you would expect as some networks have been steadily developing for over a decade – or even two. Others of course are relative newcomers offering a different technical set up, often suited to a particular advertiser profile.
Networks using Moonpull are able to audit and monitor advertiser link performance at scale, usually via API. Regular auditing of standard and deeplink examples ensures that tracking is unaffected by any changes in the technical set up or landing pages.
This helps networks to ensure that tracking issues are minimised, and revenues for both the affiliates and the network are maximised. For the advertisers, this ensures that the publishers will see better conversion, improve the published advertiser EPC and help ensure better visibility on affiliate websites.
With several hundred network tracking solutions available worldwide and thousands of advertisers, and millions of affiliates, it’s not surprising that there are going to be differences in tracking integration.
Couple that with the variations in hosting, web design and ecommerce platforms and it becomes clear that there is going to be potential for issues to arise. And indeed as we have seen there are wide variations in issues that cause tracking to be compromised.
Examples can include:
- An advertiser may have multiple program IDs (eg one for each geography) – but sets the tracking cookie for all with just a single advertiser ID
- Tracking can break following an advertiser redirect when the crucial parameter to be written into the first party ‘memory cookie’ is lost
A regular audit of the tracking in the affiliate handover can reassure publisher partners of the effectiveness of the program. For an OPM agency managing the program, ongoing monitoring audits ensure they are fully in control of the ongoing campaign.
Cookie compliance management platforms (CMPs)
To add to the complexity, the steady move globally towards integrating CMPs to ensure that the website respects each web user’s wishes on which cookies they are comfortable with.
However, Moonpull sees several issues that arise
- Cookies incorrectly being set before the user clicks to accept – so tracking can happen without consent
- Cookies being help incorrectly because the network’s tag is not only held pending consent but afterwards too
- Consent messages that are so scary to the user that consent is unlikely
Using Moonpull to identify issues and solutions
This analysis is based on first-party tracking integrations. It is fair to add that Moonpull encounters the use of third party cookies by several networks as a backup to failing first party implementations. The Moonpull platform is the ideal technical solution for publishers, networks and agencies to gain visibility on cookie compliance and all the stages of the affiliate handover.
Ensuring that affiliate tracking is set up correctly for each event, is key to ensure that network and publisher revenues are properly accounted for; and agencies are credited appropriately for the effects of their account management input. It also ensures that the advertiser gets the best potential from their partnerships with the publishers.