Only God(s) and Google actually know what people want.

The rest of us have to guess.

Here comes tracking.

Tracking is looking for answers in patterns.

Patterns are everywhere. Even right now, hidden in the way you interact with this blog.

Think about it: you are currently reading the following article on a certain device type made by a certain manufacturer from a certain country.

If there are more people like you, affLIFT could make some adjustments in the content or design of their blog to attract more similar people. But first, they would need to track this information.

Spoiler alert: they do and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Everyone tracks. Websites, online stores, mobile apps, social services. The need to know one’s clientele is natural. Delivering the best content to the best people is the essence of marketing.

The difference in digital marketing comes from the fact that they track the visitors' move from one web page (a page where they’ve seen your ad) to another (offer page). You need an external platform to collect all the crumbs of data. Such platforms are called ad trackers.

How does an affiliate ad tracker work?

Ad trackers act as intermediaries between the visitor’s steps. When a visitor clicks an ad, they are not directed to a landing page, but to a tracking domain. A tracker gets the following information:
  • Values passed in tracking tokens, such as campaign name or placement ID,
  • Additional information that the tracker can derive on its own from visitor’s user agent, such as country name or device type.
Then a tracker immediately redirects a visitor to the landing page.

This brief explanation consists of 78 words and it probably took you around 25 seconds to read it. In reality, this occurs in milliseconds. Hummingbirds don’t blink that fast.

The rest of the journey works the same. The moment a visitor clicks on the “Buy now” button on your landing page, they are redirected through a tracker again and sent to an offer page.

Once a visitor converts, an affiliate network reports this conversion to you. And lastly, you may choose to send this information about conversion back to a traffic source.

The circle of information is now complete.

Let’s reiterate.

There are 4 steps of passing information:
  1. From a traffic source to a tracker (a visitor lands on a landing page).
  2. From a tracker to an affiliate network (a visitor lands on an offer page).
  3. From an affiliate network back to a tracker.
  4. From a tracker to a traffic source.
At each point, an ad tracker captures and records appropriate information.

Where do trackers live anyway?

Trackers can be self-hosted operating on a rented server or work in a cloud. Both of these options have their benefits and drawbacks. Read the following article and pick the best option for you.

How do platforms communicate?

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We have tracking parameters for communication.

They are a part on an URL and they consist of parameter_name={token} pairs, where:
  • Parameter_name describes a type of information passed.
  • {token} is a placeholder. It will be replaced with an actual value.
When you will be submitting campaign URLs to traffic sources in your affiliate career, it will look like this:

https://some_tracking_domain.com?campaign_id={campaignid}&placement_id={placementid}&banner_id={bannerid}

When a visitor clicks your ad, tokens will be replaced with concrete values and the URL will look like this:

https://some_tracking_domain.com?campaign_id=1234&placement_id=ABC&banner_id=banner1

Everything is clear. Perfect communication.

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And don’t worry about knowing tracking parameters. Good trackers have templates with them for the most popular traffic sources and affiliate networks.

The future-proof solutions

The method described above is a classic redirect method of tracking.

Big players don’t like redirects.

That’s why good trackers have alternatives. The no-redirect zero-millisecond direct tracking method. The Coke Zero of tracking. Similarly to Coke Zero, it has been designed to address the general dislike towards the main option.

Or was it Diet Coke that was introduced earlier and Coke Zero (now Coke Zero Sugar) is an alternative of an alternative?

Don’t drink either of this stuff.

But take interest in this alternative method. It uses a small script that you implement on your landing page. This script makes a request to a tracker with visit info on page load.

From your perspective, everything inside a tracker looks the same. A visitor won’t be able to tell the difference either.

Is that all the trackers do?

No, far from that. Affiliate trackers gradually become the central point of affiliate’s work with the introduction of integrations.

Integrations enable trackers to communicate with traffic sources more directly with the use of API. It’s like two people who know each other so well they finish each other’s clicks.

Depending on the level of integration, trackers may:
  • Automatically fetch cost information.
  • Pause or resume campaigns from within a tracker.
  • Change bids on the placement level inside a tracker.
Integrations are the industry’s new hot topic.

Why all the hustle?

Affiliate marketing is a game of high volumes. Small changes on one end result in huge changes on the other. You only need to know what changes to make.

Most traffic source and affiliate network platforms have rudimentary tracking solutions. They can tell you if you were profitable.

An affiliate ad tracker can also tell you why you were profitable.

What would you prefer: knowing that you caught a fish or also knowing where the fish are and what is the best way to catch them?

The willingness to learn, the drive to ask questions and courage to challenge hypotheses is something that separates true affiliates from kids that just want to burn some of their parents’ money.

So, which do you want to be?

How to Start in Affiliate Marketing: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Good, you’ve decided to be an affiliate. Congratulations! But right now, you must be torn with millions of questions in your head.

Just chill! We’ve got you. Read this guide and start from there.
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