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How to run affiliate campaigns on Google Ads

Google Ads is undoubtedly the most sought after traffic source, but it can also be the most challenging to work with. As an affiliate marketer, before you can actually start running profitable campaigns on Google Ads, you need to get over two major tracking challenges inherent to Google Ads:
  • Google Ads doesn't allow the use of redirect URLs.
  • Google Ads doesn't provide a Postback URL for conversion tracking.
Before I get to the exact guidelines on how to run your affiliate campaigns on Google Ads, it is important to understand that what Google cares about is providing value to users searching for information. Google will use various metrics and data sources to rate your ads, landing pages and user experience. These metrics will eventually factor into your ads quality score. Consequently, if you want to make the most out of your Google Ads campaigns, it is strongly recommended to embrace the tools they provide, rather than fearing the "big brother".

Myth #1 Google doesn't allow affiliate campaigns


There is a big myth that has been going on in the affiliate marketing industry about Google and Affiliates. Supposedly, it's against Google Ads' policy to run affiliate campaigns on Google.

affiliates-capaigns-on-google-ads-png.8389


According to what you can see, it's not forbidden and you can check out other queries to be 100% sure.

Myth #2 Google Ads conversion tracking with Google Tag Manager


In your quest for the solution to tracking affiliate campaigns in Google Ads, you have probably seen plenty of posts and videos on how to track affiliate links using Google Tag Manager. Essentially, you are led to think that by sending “outbound” clicks as conversions to Google Ads, you will be able to optimize your campaigns.

The biggest mistake you can make is assume that since all visitors that make a purchase start with a “Click on your Call To Action”, it will be enough for Google to optimize your ads according to this goal.

Since your conversion data is used by Google algorithms to determine who should see your ads, you will provoke the following counterproductive outcome:
  • Google will serve your ads to users who have the most chances to reach your desired Goal - AKA Clicks on Call to Action
Now, and this is what will kill your campaign:

If other advertisers are bidding on the same keywords, but their desired goal is a “sale”:
  • Google will serve their ads when users have the most chances to convert to a sale.
Who do you think is going to survive the bidding war?

Now that you understand that unless you are properly tracking and feeding Google Ads with as much conversion data as possible, your chances to run a successful campaign on Google Ads are very thin.

Step by step guide to run an affiliate campaign in Google Ads:


AnyTrack.io is an affiliate tracking platform that is fully integrated with Google Analytics.

Map the Google Ads tracking flow:
  1. Ad Click
  2. Landing page
  3. Call to action click
  4. Conversion on affiliate network
  5. Affiliate network fires the AnyTrack Postback URL
  6. AnyTrack sends conversion data to Google Analytics
  7. Google Analytics syncs conversion with Google ads
Since AnyTrack strictly follows Google tracking methods, you can work with confidence and make the most out of Google's powerful optimization engine.

Prerequisites to get started:
  • You need an AnyTrack account (if you don’t have one yet, you can start here for free)
  • You need a Google Analytics account.
  • You need a Google Ads account
AnyTrack basic settings
Very much like Google Analytics, you are prompted to create a property and add the AnyTrack tracking code to your site.
  1. Add your site (the domain name)

    afflift-png.8390


  2. Paste the tracking code in the head of your site (you can also add it through Google Tag Manager)

    afflift-tracking-code-png.8391


  3. Verify that the tracking code has been installed by visiting your site

    tracking-verified-png.8392


  4. Then you are prompted to establish a connection with Google Analytics
    1. This connection will allow you to track onsite events such as
      • Clicks on Call To Actions
      • Form submissions / Optins
    2. This connection will grant permission to AnyTrack to configure conversion goals
      1. goals that will be used to sync conversions with Google Ads
  5. google-analytics-goals-png.8393


    Once you've click on install, you can see them in your Google Analytics Goal settings.

    goals-anytrack-png.8403

Connect with Affiliate Networks


AnyTrack is integrated with over 50 affiliate networks and affiliate management platforms such as Tune (hasoffers), Cake and Everflow.
You can check out the catalog here:

affiliate-networks-png.8394


  1. Select the affiliate networks you work with

    affiliaxe-png.8397


  2. Get your postback URL and add it to your affiliate account

    affiliaxe-png.8398


  3. Offer tracking
    ⚠ AnyTrack differs from the trackers you’ve used until now as you are not required to create offers and create/configure Call to Action URLs on your site. Practically, it means that you can add 1 or 10000 offer links on your siteand AnyTrack will automatically track them all, using one of the following methods:
    1. Auto-Track: If you’ve published your offer links on your site:

      For example: https://drip.pxf.io/c/169033/440781/5674

    2. Link attributes: If you use a redirect plugin or link cloaker you simply need to add a rel attribute with the affiliate network’s name or software. AnyTrack will automatically identify the link and append the subid / clickid accordingly.

      For example: hasoffers (see in the code) rel="nofollow hasoffers"
      HTML:
      <a href="https://www.website.foo/go/brandname/" title="brandname"  rel="nofollow hasoffers" target="_blank">brand name</a>

Note about conversion tracking
AnyTrack provides a true global postback URL as it tracks the entire data-set associated with your conversions. Beside the typical data such as the payout and the “clickid”, AnyTrack postback URL also tracks the conversion type such as sale, cpa, lead, install. This is particularly useful, when promoting offers that have several conversion goals within a funnel.

Settings in Google Analytics:
  1. Enable UTM override

    utm-override-png.8401


  2. Link your Google Ads and Google Analytics accounts so you can:
    • Sync conversion goals between Google Analytics and Google Ads.
    • See your Google Ads campaigns performances in Google Analytics
    • Share custom audiences from Google Analytics to Google Ads.

      google-ads-linking-png.8402

Google Ads account settings:
  1. Create a conversion

    google-ads-add-a-conversion-png.8409


  2. Select the kind of Conversions "import"

    google_ads_import_analytics-png.8410


  3. Select Google Analytics

    google_ads_import_analytics_continue-png.8411


  4. Click continue and you will have the ability to see the conversion goals from Google Analytics

    google_ads_select_conversions_to_import-png.8412


    You can edit individual goals - name, type, attribution window etc.. as you see fit. We recommend to increase the conversion window, especially for the sale conversion which is used for recurring commissions.

  5. Edit the conversion type sale and set it to Purchase

    google-ads-sale-png.8414


  6. Set the conversion count to every

    google-ads-every-conversion-png.8415


  7. Increase the conversion window to the maximum 90

    google-90-png.8416



  8. Save your conversion settings
General Account settings

  1. Navigate to your account settings, toggle the tracking settings and paste the URL template found in your AnyTrack account
    The tracking template is prebuilt with all required parameters that will allow Google to pass the required UTM parameters into your landing page and/or site url. These parameters will be not only collected by Google Analytics, but also by AnyTrack so that the data can be further used in other integrated applications.

    tracking-template-png.8417


  2. Now toggle the AutoTag Settings and enable it

    autotag-png.8418


  3. Save
That's it, your Google Ads account is properly setup to run your affiliate campaigns. You can now go ahead and create your first campaign and ads.

During the campaign creation, you will have the ability to select the bid strategy as well as the conversion goals to count in the campaign.

You can also open the campaign settings and update those settings.

roas-png.8420


Note that you can't select ROAS (return on ad spent) if it's your first campaign since no revenues have been tracked in the campaigns yet. So you should select CPA and select which conversion goal to optimize by.

google-ads-sale-goal-png.8421



This is how an ad will look like in your account.

google-ads-ad-png.8419



Key takeaways:


These guidelines will allow you to run your Google Ads campaigns with all the data you need to benefit from the powerful optimization features Google has to offer.
  • Track the entire customer journey
  • Test different bidding strategies with confidence
  • Optimize campaigns according to ROI
  • Re-target users according to their position in the conversion journey
Questions, comments you're welcome to join/start the discussion on the official AnyTrack thread.

Free trial + Free plan available here
About author
Laurent
Laurent Malka is the Co-Founder of Anytrack, a startup developing a conversion tracking software for affiliate marketers. He was born and raised in Switzerland, and now lives and works in Tel Aviv. He is a serial entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in marketing and business development. Laurent has been a panelist and speaker at numerous digital marketing events including SEMrush and IG Affiliates. He prides himself on his ability to connect the dots across disciplines, industries, and technologies to solve unique challenges.

Comments

Great post! I have been learning about anytrack and now i am really thinking to give it a try soon. However, i seem to be a bit confused about how would you be able to "Track the entire customer journey" as an affiliate marketer (since you dont have access to the analytics installed at the site that you are promoting) ? can you please elaborate @Laurent ? Looking forward to hearing from you :)
 
Great post! I have been learning about anytrack and now i am really thinking to give it a try soon. However, i seem to be a bit confused about how would you be able to "Track the entire customer journey" as an affiliate marketer (since you dont have access to the analytics installed at the site that you are promoting) ? can you please elaborate @Laurent ? Looking forward to hearing from you :)
In a nutshell, the customer journey starts when the visitor hits your site, engage with your content. Then, the visitor hits one of your offer links (this is the first significant event), which is simultaneously sent to all your pixels (GA, FB, tabool, Outbrain), then the user starts the conversion funnel.
Now depending on the network and offer, various events can be tracked. For instance ClickBank will send an event when the user hits the order page, and an other event When the sale is confirmed, and eventually an other event for rebills and upsells.
Each of these events is tracked via the instant sales notifications sent by CB to anytrack, and as different event types. So you can actually follow the customer journey.
Hence, the customer journey tracking.

Now, all these events are simultaneously sent to All your pixels, via server side api, so no need to have the actual pixel on the offer page or thank you page. Anytrack takes care of the data flow in the background.

Say hi when you give it a spin.
 
In a nutshell, the customer journey starts when the visitor hits your site, engage with your content. Then, the visitor hits one of your offer links (this is the first significant event), which is simultaneously sent to all your pixels (GA, FB, tabool, Outbrain), then the user starts the conversion funnel.
Now depending on the network and offer, various events can be tracked. For instance ClickBank will send an event when the user hits the order page, and an other event When the sale is confirmed, and eventually an other event for rebills and upsells.
Each of these events is tracked via the instant sales notifications sent by CB to anytrack, and as different event types. So you can actually follow the customer journey.
Hence, the customer journey tracking.

Now, all these events are simultaneously sent to All your pixels, via server side api, so no need to have the actual pixel on the offer page or thank you page. Anytrack takes care of the data flow in the background.

Say hi when you give it a spin.


@Laurent Thank you so much for the detailed answer as well, but I am brand new at this. So it still all comes down to your content (landing page/bridge page) that gets the consumer to click. I guess the question the for me, is how do you know your content is persuasive enough to provoke they necessary response to begin the actual journey?

Please be patient as I try and wrap my mind around this new world of affiliate marketing the right way.
 
@Laurent Thank you so much for the detailed answer as well, but I am brand new at this. So it still all comes down to your content (landing page/bridge page) that gets the consumer to click. I guess the question the for me, is how do you know your content is persuasive enough to provoke they necessary response to begin the actual journey?

Please be patient as I try and wrap my mind around this new world of affiliate marketing the right way.

You don't know until you test it.

When it comes to your ads and landing page copy, you need to test many variations and keep adjusting it. The only rule that says that you get it right, is when your return on ad spent (roas) is positive and you can start scaling.

Tracking your entire funnel is the only way to understand exactly why you succeed, and more importantly where you are failing.
Some of your funnels will have great CTR and LP engagement rate, but will fail at generate sales, and on the other side, some will have a low CTR but will generate a high sales conversion.

Understanding the entire funnel and being able to slice the data according to your google analytics dataset, is what will give you the insights required to fine-tune your campaign targeting and improve your performances.
 

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