The famous Tracking trick

We would love to be magicians (too), but we’re not!

I mean, Michael (our CTO) is very good. Probably one of the best in town. And yet, he’s not a magician! 

As for me? Forget it. I’m just a regular guy who’s been around the track a few times.

No my friends! Tracking isn’t a magic trick that happens out of thin air.

Tracking is simple once you’ve got the experience, the understanding of the mechanism and the tricks to troubleshoot the problems when they happen… and they tend to happen more often than one would think.

The totally insane paradox in the affiliate marketing industry is the following:

The entire industry relies on that tracking thing and for some strange reason, it’s the very last thing that shows up in the help files of affiliate networks or traffic sources.

Sadly enough, when you manage to find the documentation, it’s either not clear, or it’s incomplete. Leaving you (often us) with the tedious “try & error” nightmare.

I could very well imagine the affiliate program manager getting a note from a junior affiliate manager saying:

John, I’ve got this high potential affiliate who needs to setup a postback offer link so he can get conversions in his tracking manager. Between us, it sounds a bit fishy, but I’d rather ask since I’m not too sure about it.

And John saying:

Ah, right. Not too sure either, but I heard one of the new techies has done something about this a few months ago. I’ll ask him to write some documentation about it and update the site in the next release.

That was a few years ago, the help file was written by a junior techie and since then, the help file hasn’t been updated.

That is the sad story about tracking and why, even experienced affiliates, have some difficulties putting their head around it.

Alright, I’m overreacting. As a matter of fact, there’s been some great progress and it’s now increasingly easier to connect and integrate with programs, third party technologies and networks. But, believe it or not, some of the biggest players in the industry, are still not providing any sort of tracking integrations or proper documentation.

AdWords for instance: We all know that they don’t really like affiliates. But common, if they can provide a postback / server 2 server url for mobile apps tracking, they can clearly do the same for the web, no? NO. And we’re still uploading those CSV files with our conversions. Bummer!

As of March 2018, you can use the “hack” we discovered to automate your AdWords conversion upload. We call it the Adwords Postback URL hack! More info here

Amazon Associates: The mother of all affiliate programs

  • No pixel tracking,
  • NO server 2 server tracking and
  • NO dynamic variables!

Nothing! Nada! Niente! Que Dalle!

Yet, both companies together represent the GDP of decent size countries, for which they are to be eternally grateful to the affiliate industry.

My point is that tracking isn’t something that can be learned overnight and regardless of our experience and expertise, we sometimes fail at integrating a new affiliate network or traffic source. That’s part of the game!

Affiliates are lone DIY marketers, relying on their skills and instincts to get S..t done and if you’re not ready to dig and sweat, your chances of success will be slim…

It takes about 2-3 trackers to finally settle down with the one that suits you. In this case, too, there is no magic formula and there is no “perfect” or best tracker as someone asked the other day on Warrior Forum. Each tracker comes with its top features and shortcomings, but one thing is certain and recurring across all tracking platforms you will ever use:

You will always need to setup every traffic source, every offer, every offer link, every Call to Action, every postback URL, every campaign, every flow and every affiliate network.

There is a good tracking software out there. It will meet your particular requirements, at a certain point in time. Perhaps your requirements will evolve and you’ll move to another tracker or perhaps the tracking software will evolve and open up your mind to new marketing venues and tactics.

If you’ve been in affiliate marketing industry for a while, you know how fast the industry evolves, making what you were doing 12 months ago totally obsolete. To keep up with that pace and have the ability to grow with the industry, you have no other choice but to gear up with the affiliate tools that will serve your needs and allow you to use data to evaluate business opportunities and test accurately new venues.

Take away:

We published a while ago an article describing the conversion tracking flow, which summarizes what actually happens behind the curtain at every step of the way. Don’t hesitate to revisit this post when you bump into errors or get confused.


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TrackingDesk service was discontinued in June 2019.

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