Optimising Affiliate Network Growth: Advanced Approaches to Link Tracking

Oleksandr Rohovnin
15 minutes read
Oleksandr Rohovnin
15 minutes read

Embarking on the journey to excel in the affiliate industry can be a challenging path. Statistics reveal that only a fraction of affiliates – around one in six – manage to earn over £50,000 from their efforts, with a mere four percent surpassing £150,000. However, despite the obstacles, success is attainable, particularly if you have mastered the essential tool of affiliate marketing – affiliate link tracking.

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Source: Influencermarketinghub

Your adeptness at affiliate tracking distinguishes you as a significant player in the market, whether you’re an advertiser or an affiliate network proprietor. Why is this the case? Primarily because affiliate tracking provides access to comprehensive data concerning your affiliates and marketing initiatives, placing you in full control of your enterprise. From monitoring affiliate performance to refining marketing campaigns, advanced affiliate tracking has the potential to enhance every aspect of your business. Continue reading to explore how affiliate link tracking can elevate your affiliate enterprise.


Affiliate Link Tracking: An Overview

Tracking affiliate links holds immense significance for advertisers across various industries, ranging from real estate to insurance to fashion. Link clicks represent the primary marketing metric for 83% of marketers, with 59% of them using clicks as the principal metric for monitoring affiliate programmes. Simultaneously, affiliate tracking is relatively straightforward:

An affiliate is assigned a unique affiliate link containing the advertiser’s ID, facilitating the connection between the affiliate and the purchases made by customers who follow the affiliate link.


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Source: Moneymakingcrew


The mechanism of affiliate link tracking may vary depending on the tracking method and affiliate tracking software used. Nonetheless, the fundamental purpose remains consistent – to link customers with their traffic source, enabling timely affiliate payments, affiliate analytics, and more.

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Source: Influencermarketinghub


The deeper your understanding of your affiliates, the more effectively you can execute your affiliate marketing strategies, whether you collaborate directly with affiliates or operate through an affiliate network.

Cookie vs. Pixel-based vs. Cookieless Affiliate Tracking

Cookie Tracking

Upon visiting a website for the first time, you are typically prompted to agree to a cookie policy. This policy collects your data to provide tailored services based on this information, including affiliate tracking.

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Cookies won’t remain prevalent for much longer, as Google appears determined to phase out third-party cookies altogether. However, the extinction of cookies has been postponed multiple times already, with the latest deadline set for 2024. Cookie-based affiliate tracking operates as follows:

  • When a customer clicks on an affiliate link, the affiliate tracking software deposits a cookie in the clicker’s browser. This cookie may expire – a standard cookie lasts up to 60 days – or endure for as long as necessary to fulfil the campaign’s objectives.
  • Upon making a purchase on the merchant’s website, customers are assigned a unique ID tracked by the cookie. The affiliate tracking system records this ID, along with product details and associated commission amounts.
  • The final connection between the customer and the affiliate is established by comparing the merchant and affiliate datasets.

As informative as cookie tracking may be, it will soon be outdated. The technology has been viewed unfavourably by the public for too long to escape Google’s decisive blow.

Pixel-based Tracking

Pixel-based affiliate tracking entails placing a tracking pixel – an invisible 1×1 pixel image – on the merchant site. This pixel gathers data, such as IP addresses, referral URLs, browser versions, and more, to gauge the website’s conversion rate. Pixel-based affiliate tracking is more precise than cookie tracking, as the pixel cannot expire or be disabled (which many customers do, having become wary of cookies), unequivocally linking the customer to the affiliate. However, pixel-based affiliate tracking can only monitor certain types of interactions – clicks, page views, purchases – while disregarding demographics and purchase history.

Cookie-Free Tracking

True to its name, cookieless affiliate tracking (also known as server-to-server tracking or postback URL tracking) enables the monitoring of conversions without relying on cookies, a significant advantage given the current cookie landscape. Here’s how cookie-free affiliate tracking operates:

1. When a customer clicks on an affiliate link – one embedded with a click ID key – they are directed through a sequence of redirects that gather customer data and transmit it to the following entities:

  • The advertisment tracker
  • The affiliate network or affiliate tracking platform
  • The advertiser
  • The landing page itself: the click is allocated to a unique ID in the landing page URL

2. Upon completing a purchase, the conversion is attributed to the appropriate affiliate or affiliate network, with the customer ID relayed back to the tracker and the affiliate.

3. The affiliate dispatches a postback, and the ad tracker validates the conversion.Affiliate Link Tracking - Advanced Ways to Grow Your Affiliate Network - 2

Source: Offerslook

Postback URL tracking empowers you to monitor your affiliates’ performance, encompassing clicks, leads, and sales generated by each affiliate. This insight enables you to identify top performers and areas requiring support while also safeguarding against affiliate fraud.

How Affiliate Networks Acquire Generated Links

Assessing affiliate marketing efficacy is only one facet of the equation – the other is remunerating what is owed. As an affiliate network – an intermediary linking affiliates and merchants – you are responsible for receiving and disbursing payments for various measurable actions, encompassing clicks, impressions, sales, and leads.

Popular Affiliate Payment Methods

Cost-Per-Sale CPS reimburses a percentage of the product’s sale price or a flat fee. CPS eliminates the need for upfront investment from advertisers and mitigates risks, as advertisers only pay a fraction of their earnings.
Pay-Per-Click PPC compensates for each click on their affiliate link, factoring in not just the clicks generated but also the quality of the landing page, the audience’s conversion potential, and the keywords used in the campaign.
Cost-Per-Impression CPI disburses £2 to £20 for every 1,000 ad displays to potential customers. CPI is most effective for affiliates with substantial traffic volume and advertisers aiming to boost brand awareness rather than immediate sales.
Cost-Per-Action CPA remunerates for a specific action, such as visiting a merchant’s website, subscribing to the newsletter, purchasing a product, or installing an app or software. Ultimately, CPA benefits both affiliates and merchants.
Pay-Per-Lead PPL compensates for a generated lead – a customer who meets the affiliate agreement’s criteria (for instance, a customer who has registered an account on the merchant’s website or downloaded a demo).

Did you miss our recent blog on pay-per-lead marketing? Cheque it out here to discover how it can enhance your business’s success and boost ROI.

The key to selecting the optimal payment model is to blend various payment methods based on the strengths and weaknesses of your affiliate network.Affiliate Link Tracking - Advanced Ways to Grow Your Affiliate Network - 3

Source: Influencermarketinghub


Essential Link Tracking Features for Affiliate Campaigns

Whether an advertiser or affiliate, you require an affiliate link tracker – or, more accurately, an affiliate tracking system – that enables you to gather and analyse click-and-clicker data for marketing insights and integrates seamlessly with your CRM or lead management system.

Below are the four fundamental link-tracking tools you might wish to find in your affiliate link tracker, illustrated using Phonexa’s link tracking software for business:

  • Deep link generator: Steering customers directly to the landing page instead of the homepage optimises the customer journey, boosting leads and conversions over time. Included in your affiliate link tracking software, a deep link generator automatically creates deep links that smoothly guide customers towards conversion.
  • Tracking URL parameters: Automated URL tracking allows prompt revenue distribution and data-driven marketing decisions for advertisers and affiliate networks. The typical URL parameters to monitor include affiliate ID, campaign ID, traffic source, and keywords that triggered the purchase.
  • Direct link tracking: Direct link tracking – via a tracking code embedded in a link – promptly attributes conversions and sales to the correct affiliate, ensuring the effectiveness of affiliate marketing where space for promotional content is limited.
  • Redirect links: Redirect link tracking is employed when a marketing campaign incorporates an intermediary landing page or website from which the user is redirected to the offer. A common use scenario for redirect links is pre-sale campaigns, where customers are primed before reaching the product page.

In Phonexa’s affiliate link tracker, these and other features facilitate real-time affiliate tracking and analysis, bolstering your bottom line, whether as an advertiser or affiliate network.

Key Features of Affiliate Link Tracking Software

1. Holistic Campaign Overview

Advanced affiliate link tracking methods – detailed in the table below – consolidate all crucial data in one place, streamlining control over the process and freeing up resources for any tasks you cannot automate.

Advanced Methods for Affiliate Link Tracking


Customer Journey Tracking Sophisticated affiliate link tracking software will unveil the entire customer journey, encompassing how affiliates and customers engage with adverts, links, and other promotional material. Consequently, this facilitates comprehensive segmentation and personalised content.
Coupon Tracking Cutting-edge link-tracking software suites will trace offline transactions – such as those made by influencer marketing affiliates – back to the affiliate network, ensuring prompt payments.
Lifetime Customer Tracking Advanced affiliate link tracking software can attribute purchases made by lifetime customers to a specific affiliate network, provided the terms of use in the affiliate agreement permit this revenue model. Essentially, lifetime affiliate tracking offers enduring benefits.
Product Tracking Recognising the promotional efficacy of marketed products is crucial for both affiliate networks and advertisers. Per-product tracking, a feature widely accessible within affiliate tracking software, assists in optimising your ROI with your most lucrative products.

Comprehensive insight into your campaigns from a unified dashboard allows you to tweak automated affiliate management with minimal effort. While setting up your click-tracking software may require time, the system will quickly yield returns, saving substantial resources daily.

2. Accuracy

An affiliate marketing tracker functions adeptly, irrespective of the number of affiliates involved. The impartiality of data collection and analysis, even with an extensive affiliate base, ensures seamless scalability without concerns of software congestion.

3. Immediate Updates

Real-time reporting, an integral component of affiliate software, empowers you to respond promptly to significant shifts in the global affiliate market and within your specific affiliate network. For instance, you can quickly address the performance of underperforming affiliates, bolster successful campaigns, and incentivise your most lucrative partners.

4. Equitable and Prompt Payouts

The ability to track clicks, leads, and sales in real time – an essential feature of your affiliate marketing tracking software – facilitates accurate commission calculations. It identifies affiliates who have surpassed the payout threshold and adjusts commission rates in accordance with custom payout regulations.

5. Fraud Prevention

More than two-thirds of affiliate marketing participants have encountered affiliate fraud, from cookie stuffing to fabricated leads to deceitful transactions. Affiliate tracking software combats this through transaction monitoring, fraud score computation, validation cheques, and other anti-fraud measures.

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Source: Influencermarketinghub


Phonexa’s Lynx: Safeguarding Your Affiliate Campaigns

While affiliate networks remain popular, they confront substantial competition from SaaS platforms, and for good reason.

Firstly, proprietary software can cater to your entire spectrum of marketing requirements by seamlessly integrating with a CRM or lead management platform. For instance, Phonexa’s Lynx seamlessly incorporates LMS Sync into a comprehensive lead management system that encompasses marketing from A to Z.

Secondly, affiliate networks sometimes offer limited incentives to maximise advertisers’ revenue, compelling the latter to focus on their top affiliates while deriving minimal benefits from the broader pool of affiliates within a specific network.

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Source: Influencermarketinghub

In-house management of affiliate programmes is gaining traction, but this does not diminish the value of solutions like Phonexa for affiliate networks. On the contrary, affiliate networks can harness SaaS affiliate marketing solutions to enhance their overall performance, empowering their affiliates with greater marketing capabilities and ultimately enhancing their ROI.

Tips for Scaling Your Affiliate Campaigns

1. Maintain Continuous Market Research, Regardless of Your Achievements

With affiliate marketing spending witnessing a steady annual increase of 10%, it’s evident that the affiliate marketing landscape is becoming more competitive by the day. Therefore, it’s imperative to persistently conduct market research. Even if you’re an experienced marketer, staying updated with the affiliate market is vital for identifying potential gaps and opportunities for growth.

2. Strategically Grow Your Affiliate Network

While it might be tempting to establish an affiliate network and let it run its course, it’s crucial to take a proactive approach: nurture your affiliates as you would your leads. You’re likely to encounter familiar challenges, such as understanding your affiliates’ motivations and re-engaging inactive affiliates.

Here’s how you can maximise the value of your affiliates:

  • Define your ideal affiliate: Clearly defining or redefining your ideal affiliate groups is essential for understanding how to expand and scale. Imagine your affiliates underperforming due to mismatched creative materials without your awareness. Defining your ideal affiliates is crucial for recruiting the right affiliates and providing them with appropriate marketing support.
  • Continuously attract new affiliates: Utilise your online presence, such as your website, blog, social media platforms, and forums, to promote your affiliate network while offering incentives like competitive commissions, exclusive marketing materials, and comprehensive data analytics.
  • Provide ongoing support to your affiliates: Maintain regular communication, offer data-driven feedback, and promptly address any queries or concerns. With 83% of customers prioritising good customer service, your affiliates will be more inclined to stay if you demonstrate responsiveness and insightfulness in addressing their needs.
  • Conduct split-testing of campaigns: A/B testing your advertising campaigns enables you to assess your efforts and determine which ad copies, CTAs, and landing pages yield the best results.

3. Promote Your Unique Selling Proposition

While you may possess several advantages within your offer, it’s essential to identify your unique speciality — the irresistible incentive that sets you apart from competitors. This could be anything your rivals lack, such as a two-tier affiliate programme or exceptionally low commissions. Offering an additional tier in your affiliate programme can yield various benefits, from attracting more new affiliates to boosting sales volume and motivating both existing and new affiliates.

Grow Your Affiliate Network With Phonexa

Phonexa offers a comprehensive solution to enhance affiliate click tracking alongside lead management, email marketing, and click and call tracking, all integrated within a single software suite. This synergy is designed to expand your affiliate network effortlessly, leading to continuous profits.

Schedule a consultation to explore how Phonexa’s click-tracking software seamlessly integrates with other Phonexa solutions to elevate your affiliate business. Secure your tailored marketing software suite today and boost your profits in affiliate marketing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an affiliate link?

An affiliate link is a URL containing a unique code or identifier, linking the product promoter (publisher, affiliate) with the product owner (merchant, advertiser).
Example of an affiliate link: “https://www.examplestore.com/?ref=affiliate123”, where “www.examplestore.com” denotes the merchant’s website and “?ref=affiliate123” serves as the unique affiliate identifier.

How do affiliate links function?

Affiliate links establish a connection between the affiliate and the product by comparing data from both ends. This can be accomplished through cookie affiliate tracking, pixel affiliate tracking, or cookieless affiliate tracking. Each tracking technology has its advantages and disadvantages, with cookieless affiliate tracking being regarded as the most advanced and reliable.
For instance, when a user clicks on “https://www.examplestore.com/?ref=affiliate123” and completes a purchase – immediately or later, depending on the affiliate agreement – the affiliate tracking software records the transaction and attributes it to the affiliate with the ID “affiliate123.” Subsequently, this affiliate receives the corresponding payout as outlined in the affiliate agreement.

What is an affiliate tracker?

An affiliate tracker is a tool or set of tools – sometimes referred to as sophisticated affiliate tracking software or an affiliate management platform – that offers a wide range of functionalities for tracking affiliates. Among other capabilities, affiliate trackers can generate affiliate links, track affiliate sales, and provide comprehensive reports on affiliates.

What qualifies as a favourable affiliate commission?

The suitability of an affiliate commission varies depending on whether one is an advertiser, an affiliate network owner, or an affiliate.
  • Advertisers aim to pay minimal commissions while receiving high-quality traffic.
  • Affiliate network owners strive to secure maximum commissions from advertiser-affiliate agreements.
  • Affiliates aspire to receive substantial commissions for the traffic they generate.
In reality, affiliate commissions typically range from 10% to as much as 70% of the sale amount, as depicted in the graph below. Affiliate Link Tracking - Advanced Ways to Grow Your Affiliate Network - 7

What constitutes an affiliate lock-in?

An affiliate lock-in binds an advertiser to an affiliate programme, even if better options are available, to ensure a steady revenue stream for the advertiser in exchange for loyalty to an affiliate programme. Similarly, a lock-in encourages affiliates to deliver quality content by assuring them of sales over a specific timeframe.
However, lock-ins have drawbacks as they may lead to advertisers paying excessively for customers while being unable to switch to a more advantageous affiliate programme, resulting in frustration and negative feedback.

What is a lock date?

A lock date (locking period) is the date that finalises the transaction (typically the 20th of the month). Once the lock date arrives, advertisers cannot edit or void the affiliate deal but must reimburse the affiliate for the leads, clicks, or sales generated.

What is link cloaking in affiliate marketing?

Link cloaking involves transforming random letters and numbers into meaningful words representing the link’s content. Despite the potentially negative connotations, link cloaking is a legitimate practice aimed at making affiliate links more appealing to potential customers. The prohibition of link cloaking by certain affiliate programmes, such as Amazon Associates, does not render this practice malicious.
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What is click fraud?

Click fraud involves deliberately clicking on an affiliate link to generate income within a pay-per-click affiliate payment model. This fraudulent activity encompasses creating fake accounts, employing automated scripts, and utilising third-party platforms to mimic genuine website visitors.
To combat click fraud:
  • Establish protocols for affiliates to report suspicious activities.
  • Monitor for excessive clicks originating from the same IP address.
  • Implement click filtering to eliminate irrelevant clicks on affiliate links.
Additionally, consider diversifying your affiliate partners, as relying solely on one partner is not advisable, or setting limits on the amount of money per click/day/etc.
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What is the most straightforward niche for affiliate marketing?

The most popular niches for affiliate marketing include finance, home services, insurance, education, e-commerce, gambling, health and beauty, dating, and gaming. However, the popularity of these niches does not necessarily correlate with ease of success.
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Oleksandr Rohovnin avatar
Oleksandr Rohovnin
Oleksandr Rohovnin is a copywriter at Phonexa. His passion is digital marketing, innovative technologies, and – above all – distilling vast amounts of complex information into engrossing narratives anyone can relate to. At Phonexa, Oleksandr stokes passion for marketing automation and lead generation in every story he curates.
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