10% Additional Sales For You

Affiliates have varying levels of technical knowledge, however, even those with minimal knowledge are aware that the tracking of sales via the affiliate channel can fail for a number of reasons if the Networks tracking technology is not robust enough to cover all contingencies. Examples of how sales may fail to track include, a Merchant removes the call-back code (normally during a site redesign), Merchant only has the call-back code on 3 of their 4 servers in rotation, customer finds the product online at work via your Affiliate site and goes home and orders direct. The list is almost endless on ways Affiliates miss out on sales but as most are very hard to detect, we are only left wondering what that percentage actually is.

So Why Deliberately Go Out Your Way To Lose Up To 10%

The question I am asking Affiliates, is this “why are you willing to lose up to an additional 10% of sales to poor network tracking set-ups?” Now I know only too well that some Merchants have been sold the dream and so don’t work with the Networks with the best tracking leaving you with no choice. I also know that some Networks make wild claims about great tracking that you publicly can’t test. Surprisingly, however this tracking they claim is great takes place behind closed doors and can’t be tested publicly. That is a bit odd for something that the public has to interact with so the sale can track, don’t you think?

What I Know From Tracking

Some Networks traditional cookie set-up is so bad that if a user visits X number of Merchants, the cookie will get so bloated and stop tracking everything for that user from that Network. Heck in some cases the user can’t even click to visit the Merchant site because the bloated cookie is stopping them. Thankfully the majority of Networks in the UK use a more advanced approach to the traditional cookie.

Nevertheless very few Affiliate Networks in the world offer additional tracking above and beyond the traditional cookie. Indeed, in the UK I know of only 3 Networks, Webgains, Paid On Results and Affiliate Future who offer Flash based cookie tracking, with Webgains being the 1st off the mark on that one, so hats off to them.

The big problem with the most advanced tracking being on these 3 networks is the lack of brands. Simply put, Affiliates are forced to lose out on sales because other Networks are not investing in the fundamental most important aspect of Affiliate Marketing and that is to ensure that Affiliates be rewarded for their efforts. Yesterday Paid On Results published a blog post that may have been over the head of many Affiliates. It showed in a pie-chart format, just how big a slice of “commission pie” Affiliates are missing out on. This is the 1st time any Network has actually broken down the percentages of how sales are tracked over the different tracking methods, for a period of 1 month and that’s a very large sample. It’s sure not going to be the same size as the largest Networks but we are still talking tens of thousands of sales so it’s very representative.

Here Is My Challenge To All Networks

Get your tracking up to the level of  Webgains, Paid On Results and Affiliate Future. Once you do I will be more than delighted to highlight on my blog who is improving tracking for Affiliates.

And To Affiliates

You owe it to your bottom line that when a Merchant shows up on another Network but has a program also with Webgains, Paid On Results or Affiliate Future, that you use the links via these Networks 1st before the others. You are going to make up to 10% additional sales if you do. That’s a lot of money over the Christmas period.

Follow People In This Post On Twitter

Why not let the Networks who are working hard to make sure your sales are tracking, know what you think. Follow them on Twitter @AffFutureUK, @PaidOnResults & @WebgainsUK.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Chris

    Great post and completely unbiased too mate!

    These type of posts are extremely helpful insights to us affiliates and especially useful where you are willing to identify other GOOD networks rather than just talking numbers.

    Very much appreciated and will certainly be changing a few links in the coming weeks to the 3 networks that offer more advanced and reliable tracking.

  2. Matt Bailey

    Hi Clarke,

    Interesting post. Do you have any data to back up the claims that some networks track up to 10% more sales than others? Have any affiliates switched networks and noticed a considerable change in conversion rates?

    Now I’m not pretending to understand the intricacies of tracking and am certainly not disputing what you say. However, I’m sure many people on here are aware of your association with POR and therefore may be slightly sceptical of your claims unless you are able to categorically prove this.


  3. hero

    thanks Clarke 🙂
    we have similar figures as well. These stats are very important for all affiliates, but especially for cashback sites where customer expectations need to be met.

    Unfortunately, it’s amazing how short sighted some affiliates are, especially those getting kickbacks from networks.

    you do realise of course that your article is read by merchants “why you should avoid these 3 networks” :-p

  4. Clarke

    @Matt yes I have data to back this up, anyone who understands tracking would get how this is the case without even needing to see this but the fact is like you say yourself, you don’t understand it and that’s the problem for many Affiliates also.

    Shortly Affiliates of Paid On Results will be able to see which sales came from which tracking method, so they can see for themselves the difference it makes and not just the overall network view as shown on the Paid On Results post.

    I can’t help people being sceptical, that’s their choice. As I am just about the only person in this industry that states my interests publicly and that’s about all I can do, having being an Affiliate in very good standing for such a long time and quoted by all my peers and indeed invited by the many Networks to their events in full knowledge that I have a 28% shareholding in Paid On Results says something, indeed in different blog posts on this site some of the Industry leaders have endorsed me as a trusted voice.

  5. Clarke

    @Hero glad to hear you guys at Webgains have similar figures, I would suspect this would be the case. As we see from the reply of Matt Bailey many people will be sceptical, but way I look at it Affiliates that don’t believe it can keep losing money, clearly not logical thinkers.

    I know your last part was a bit joking with regards to Merchants not using the 3 Networks listed here because they track better. To me it holds a great benefit for Merchants to truly understand where thier online spend is being effective and to reinvest in these areas to build a stronger online presence and you can only do that knowing the full picture.

    I am sure the R.O.EYE & Econsultancy report in 2008 stated that tracking was one of the more important aspects of an Affiliate program to Merchants and Agency’s so hopefully that is indeed correct 😉

  6. Chris

    Why be sceptical? I’m fully aware of Clarkes relationship with POR as is everyone else. He has always made a point letting people know so as to be completely transparent and upfront – something I have a lot of respect for and something other people could learn a lot from.

    As this information has come to light, by one of the most unbiased & trusted people I know in the industry (albeit one of the quietest) it screams volumes. I know Clarke wouldn’t stick his neck out like this unless he was 110% sure with all the facts and figures to back him up.

    It’s also interesting to see another network confirm his findings!

    I’m switching networks where its possible so who knows if I will see a 10% increase. I guess its hard to tell with the run up to Christmas especially as I am a lazy affiliate who doesn’t do stats at the best of time 🙂

  7. HelenMarie

    Interesting blog, I also believe that dgm have additional tracking that works alongside cookie tracking and they have seen an increase in sales.

    From a client point of view I do think that it is great that there is more visibility and accuracy over tracking sales through the affiliate channel.

    I would be interested to know what the variance is, do all clients / sectors see such a huge increase. Does it work with DART tracking or other third party tracking?


  8. Clarke

    @Helen good news on DGM tracking, will need to find out more from them and get it highlighted.

    There is variance, for example adult toy shops and dating sites seem to have cookies deleted more often by users than gift stores, and in one of the examples we show beyond the traditional cookies called Customer Base very few merchants want to take part in this type of tracking but the ones that do show a strong percentage of additional sales, for example Customer Base works if you order from your home, the office or a friends house.

    Many of the additional tracking methods work fine with DART tracking and other third party tracking as most of these are just another hop in the journey of the click, where they don’t work is when 3rd party system that are inferior try to take over working out where sales come from and distribute commission on that basis. Additionally Merchants using internal process such as batching commission tend to be a lot poorer at tracking as their main business is not the tracking of sales, it’s the actually selling of items. This is of course on a case by case basis also.

    It’s hard to comment on all 3rd party tracking systems as each has a strengths and weaknesses and sadly people automatically believe that if someone is huge multi-national with millions of pounds backing them that they would have better tracking systems when in fact in a lot of the time it couldn’t be further from the truth, guess that’s why good parents taught their children never to judge a book by it’s cover.

  9. Interested

    Very interesting, have always known that on my sites I’ve missed out on sales due to tracking. Never really done much with the networks you have suggested that are capable of dealing with this but will certainly look at crossing over programs where it fits.

    Also (as per usual) it seems many agency folk still don’t get it yet are consulting to major brands!

  10. Adam Ross

    Hi Clarke

    We read your post with great interest as we were completing some major changes to the tracking options available on Affiliate Window. Like POR tracking is at the core of what we do and we have continually invested in this over the years.

    From a network perspective we feel there are two elements required to track sales, the first is the cookie/flash cookie/IP address/ETag and the second is the presence of the conversion tag on the confirmation of sale page. Both are essential and all networks should be looking to protect each element.

    When updating and improving our tracking systems, our primary objective was to ensure our conversion tag displayed in every circumstance, without this there is absolutely no chance of a sale tracking no matter how many backup methods used on each click.

    To achieve this we use a number of different methods. Firstly, extensive testing occurs for each merchant prior to launch and throughout the life of the programme to ensure the tracking tag is present for every route into the merchant site. We have automated monitoring solutions to detect changes in trends so if a merchant accidentally removes the tag in a site redesign or, using another example from this post, if the tag is present on 3 of the 4 servers on which the merchant site resides, we can quickly highlight this and act upon it.

    Secondly, in addition to a standard image pixel, Affiliate Window uses two additional methods to track conversions. These act as backups to the image pixel so if the customer uses security software to block the pixel from displaying, we will still track the conversion using the alternative methods. We implemented this over three years ago and saw performance across the network increase by almost 8%.

    Our secondary objective was to address the issue of cookies failing to drop and on this point I am happy to report we can now track using Flash Cookies and HTTP ETag. Please see our latest blog entry for more details – http://blog.affiliatewindow.com/?p=621.

    This is currently standard on all new merchant launches and being rolled out across the entire network over the coming months.

    This phased roll out combines our most advanced AWin Analytics solution which negates the need for an interstitial page thus avoiding interruptions to the customer’s journey.

    In addition to this, we use a 1st party cookie set from the merchant’s domain with IP tracking running as a backup.

    We will be monitoring the uplift, but as you’ve already demonstrated, enhanced network tracking ensures affiliates are genuinely rewarded more often.

    Adam Ross
    Affiliate Window

  11. Clarke

    Hi Adam, thanks for coming back and updating this blog post, good news for Affiliates and hopefully more Networks will upgrade soon.

    Can I ask, are you going to publish an indicator on Merchants pages to know if they have the necessary code in place for flash tracking etc, so Affiliates know who has it working as and when they are upgraded?

  12. Adam Ross

    Hi Clarke
    Publishing the information is a fundamental part of the plan as it acts as the best incentive to get merchants to upgrade. We want to add it as an extra parameter to the AWin Index alongside some other interesting improvements but in the meantime, we will make the information available on the merchant details page.

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