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What Is Affiliate Tracking And Why It Matters For Your Business

The foundation of affiliate marketing is creating affiliate programs to generate affiliate links and recruit partners to promote them. But, affiliate tracking is also important since this practice is a performance-based concept. What is affiliate tracking, ...

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The foundation of affiliate marketing is creating affiliate programs to generate affiliate links and recruit partners to promote them. But, affiliate tracking is also important since this practice is a performance-based concept.

What is affiliate tracking, to be exact? Basically, it acts as a measuring tool to keep track of how your affiliate marketing campaigns perform.

The practice enables merchants to manage sales metrics and make necessary adjustments. If there are issues restricting your online sales, affiliate tracking can identify them.

Learn the basics of this strategy in this article. The sooner you start, the more beneficial it is for your business.

What is Affiliate Tracking?

To answer what is affiliate tracking, is an effective way to track online referrals for eCommerce businesses.

Imagine the kind of word-of-mouth referral in the past. Someone may walk into a store and say, “Helen introduced your shop to me since she said you have the best service in town.”

The store owner may reward Helen with a discount on her next order so that she would refer it to even more people.

However, It seems impossible in this digital era. Online customers from all around the world can come to your eCommerce store.

We will need to utilize affiliate tracking here. It lets merchants see which affiliate partner referred their brand to customers and leads.

Now, we no longer need the customer to tell us directly that someone referred them. Affiliate marketing tracking software lets you know whether that buyer comes from an affiliate’s channel.

Most people think of this process as using affiliate links. Which is true, but not entirely.

Affiliate tracking works in various ways, including via coupon codes or even link-free.

Moreover, it exists to manage your partners and provide a reward system. This type of tracking enables affiliate performance monitoring and pays their commissions swiftly.

How does Affiliate Tracking Work?

Cookie tracking

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Using cookies is popular in affiliate tracking. Most Internet users have encountered them every time they visit a new website.

Traditionally, affiliate marketing is associated with cookies. This technology stores information via communication with a web browser, including

  • shopping cart content
  • registration information or login details
  • user preferences

The purpose of cookie tracking is to store a link or an ad on your website that a customer clicked on. It also saves various data attached to that click, such as the specific page they visited and the click’s time and date.

You might have accepted cookies to read content on a site or opted-in for the page to remember your username or password. This is the common user experience with cookies.

So, do not be surprised when you see dog toy offers popping up after googling for “dog food.” The cookie saves this search as something of interest and aims to target you later.

Setting up the cookie window for your affiliate marketing program is simple with management apps like UpPromote. Its maximum value can be up to 10 years.

Postback URL tracking

In what is affiliate tracking, postback URL tracking is a privacy-friendly option. It is one of the most reliable methods to track and manage performance.

Affiliate networks assign an ID, which is a tag, to the merchant’s URL. This ID changes when a potential buyer hits the landing page, making it a more complex process but ensuring better performance than cookies.

Note that users can delete cookies from their browser or use the Incognito Mode. That way, no browsing history is tracked to count for an affiliate commission.

While postback tracking maintains the tracking parameter as long as the buyer stays in the online shop. It uses an invisible link to exchange conversion data between a merchant and an affiliate.

This is why this practice is called cookieless tracking.

It does not rely on information saved in a browser and, instead, enables direct communication between the 2 parties above. You will have an easier time keeping track of new conversions via a third-party server.

Pixel tracking

Pixels in an affiliate campaign is a snippet of code on a website. It enables affiliates to track conversions within the affiliate tracking platform.

The pixel is often placed on thank you or other pages that confirm conversions, activated when an affiliate-referred customer reaches the site.

After being triggered, the buyer’s browser contacts a server for a 1×1 image file. Then, it transfers some affiliate-identifying information during the process.

There are 4 common tracking pixel types, including:

  • iFrame: Mounted as an integrated frame on your site’s landing page.
  • JavaScript: Applied to the site’s code as a script.
  • Image: A 1×1 image placed on the landing page, which is literally a “pixel.”
  • Postback URL: Similar to the aforementioned method, tracking from server to server.

Basically, these pixel types function similarly regarding the application. They just use different backend methods.

Just like postback tracking, this is an accurate conversion-tracking approach.

It also brings great advantages to publishers since they can place pixels in email. Despite being mainly used for conversion counting and statistics, it lets you monitor and send parameters, too.

Subsequently, you can track more than website visits and have an overall view of affiliate traffic.


When users connect to the Internet, their device uses a particular IP address.

IP tracking means every time you visit a website, the site knows which IP address you are accessing it from. This usually reveals your geo-location insights to serve marketing campaigns.

IP tracking is not commonly used, only when these 2 situations occur:

  • unidentified cookie, or
  • the user does not install Flash Player on their device

Even though they do not happen regularly, it is still possible to encounter them. That is when IP tracking comes in handy.

When managing the sales process, the affiliate marketing network looks for the last clicks from a known IP address. After locating such clicks, a specific ID will be added to the affiliate for precise attribution.

Impressions / Views

Unlike other approaches, impression or view tracking does not require leads to take action. Users do not have to click on the ad for the affiliate to be paid.

Cookie plays a crucial role throughout this process. It remembers which ad was shown to customers to be counted as a successful sale.

As long as the user sees your commercial ads beforehand, their repeated visits to your pages are considered purchases. Thus, the affiliate receives a commission from a customer’s impression or view.

Regarding various what is affiliate tracking practices, this is one of the simplest and most beneficial monitoring types. It is clear that affiliate partners in your program gain significant advantages from impression/view tracking.

Nonetheless, its simple exploitation also has a downside for merchants. You may encounter fraudulent activities, such as fake spam of views and impressions that did not happen in reality.

Fingerprint tracking

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Monitoring affiliates via fingerprint is fairly new in the list of popular methods for affiliate tracking. It

During this process, your end device receives a digital signature. The signature consists of basic details about your device, such as the browser version, the language, and the operating system.

Recent studies show that up to 90% of browser signatures are unique. Therefore, it can become a powerful affiliate tracking tool to later identify each customer.

Internet users are recognized in various time sessions if they use the same computer and browser. Note that cross-device fingerprint tracking is not available with other affiliate tracking methods.

Similar to postback URL and pixel tracking, this tactic is invisible to users and hard to dodge. This means more advantages for affiliates in tracking sales and boosting your revenue.

Why Do You Need to Care about Affiliate Tracking?

To run a successful online business, you need to pay more attention to affiliate marketing, especially tracking it.

Think of how affiliate marketing can change the game for your business.

You have a group of publishers ready to promote your products to earn a share of the revenue. And the best part is? Merchants needn’t pay commissions unless their affiliates bring results.

However, operating an affiliate program and recruiting partners is not enough. You must keep track of affiliate performances and relevant data for the best insights.

Because the thing is, almost every eCommerce brand can benefit from an affiliate tracking system. It helps measure the effectiveness of affiliate marketing efforts and identify areas to improve.

For example, a certain percentage of leads stop in the middle of the customer journey. How can you possibly figure this out without affiliate tracking software?

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All the tracking parameters (click-through rate, user engagement, return on investment, etc.) will give you an analysis of what to improve. Then, you can decide on a solution to optimize the strategy and increase affiliate sales.

Furthemore, tracking each partner lets you know which one is doing well with their promotional efforts. They will be paid precisely and fairly according to the number of generated sales.

Affiliate marketing can be a powerful weapon, but it is meaningless without properly tracking crucial statistics. Therefore, investing in this industry means you must also monitor affiliate performance.

And all of this complicated work can be managed automatically by worthwhile software such as UpPromote.

Common Affiliate Tracking Problems

The affiliate marketing industry can be a promised land for many people. But it does not mean anyone can pursue it without risks.

Regarding what is affiliate tracking, you should also learn about some of its common problems.

Fraudulent activities

Some types of affiliate tracking come with high-level protection. But others might be easily hacked into. Here are a few types of fraud in affiliate marketing:

  • Click spam: Fraudsters attribute clicks to visitors who have not made them. They are also unaware of this activity.
  • Click injection: Another type of click spamming. Mostly exposed on Android devices.
  • Device farms: Also known as click farms or phone farms. It creates fraudulent install, clicks, and mobile engagement.
  • Cookie stuffing: Attach multiple cookies to a user without their knowledge.
  • Domain spoofing: Trick users into interacting with a phishing website or a malicious email as if they are legitimate.
  • Proxy sales: An adult tries to buy age-restricted products on behalf of an underage person, specifically under 18.

Note that you must have a stable affiliate tracking method to avoid these issues. Or else, you may miss out on around 10% of transactions on affiliate channels.

Code-based attributions

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Apart from the affiliate URL, merchants can assign publishers a special discount code or referral links themselves in the form of a code. Customers will enter this code at checkout; thus, informing the merchant of whom they take the code from.

This tracking type ensures conversion identification to replace the conventional cookie type.

Nonetheless, the main problem is that code attribution requires tracking all transactions. Publishers may benefit from this tactic, but merchants will have difficulty tracking cross-channel sales.

And just because you receive notifications of an affiliate code used does not mean the publisher is directly responsible for its distribution.

Code leakage is really popular on the Internet. Especially in the affiliate marketing industry, where it can happen with a social influencer or a coupon site.

Cookie length

Every affiliate program sets an expiration date for its cookie.

This duration can vary, but the default rate is usually 30 days. Big names like Amazon enable 24-hour cookie windows, while others can offer it up to 365 days.

For example, an online user visits your site via an affiliate link. If they buy anything within 3o days, your affiliate who referred them will receive a commission.

However, the sale will not count after the cookie expires.

Merchants can consider extending the cookie duration, though. This gives your affiliates more time to be credited for the commission.

Unfortunately, there is no way to make this cookie last “forever.” You can set it up for a maximum of 10 years, according to UpPromote’s policy.

Affiliate attributions

A customer can consecutively click on 2 affiliate links and only purchase from 1. In most cases, the attribution goes to the affiliate with the final buyer click.

Nonetheless, the last-click attribution can be insufficient in multi-assignment models. These models involve various affiliates affecting one customer journey.

Then, the affiliate attributed to the sale will differ. While other programs allow the first affiliate who receives a URL click to earn the credit, regardless of the final sale.

As a merchant, you should discuss this with newly recruited partners in your program. Make sure they are aware of your policy to avoid later misunderstandings.

Also, this decision is entirely up to you. You can either follow the popular last-click principle or assign the credit to the first-click.

What Are The Benefits Of Affiliate Tracking Software?

You might be doing alright with your eCommerce business. But we bet that you can do much better, especially with the help of affiliate tracking software.

You will not realize how much you need it until it helps streamline your workflow perfectly.

Performance measurement

Affiliate software helps with performance tracking via analysis tools and real-time reports. You will collect insights into how your affiliate campaigns are doing and whether affiliates perform well.

Some key features this type of app offers:

  • Conversion tracking: Track the affiliate conversion rate or the percentage of clicks on affiliate URLs that result in a sale/lead. This helps merchants see which partner generates the most sales and optimize their efforts accordingly.
  • Custom reports: A few tracking software have custom reporting tools for merchants to create customized reports. The ready data points and specific metrics help identify trends and patterns in their performance.

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Accurate payment

Besides keeping track of the affiliate performance, software ensures merchants commission the correct affiliates. Here is how it assists you in accurate affiliate payouts:

  • Tracking links: This platform’s tracking links contain unique codes for each affiliate identification. The system records successful sales and attributes them to the right partner.
  • Real-time reports: Reporting in real-time ensures merchants and affiliates see how their efforts contribute to sales. Your partners can also track their payouts with the exact amount of credit.
  • Commission calculation: The software automatically calculates commissions based on the agreed-upon commission structure between 2 parties.

Fraud prevention

An affiliate tracking app can prevent fraud as a centralized channel to track and verify how your affiliate marketers perform. It detects any suspicious online activity to ensure they are only credited for valid sales, including:

  • Tracking links: The unique codes in tracking URLs attribute sales to relevant affiliates. They cannot take credit for sales that they did not generate.
  • Tracking clicks: Verify that successful clicks come from legitimate sources. It prevents the act of generating fraudulent clicks with bot traffic or click farms.
  • Tracking sales: Verify that successful sales are legitimate by checking for product delivery status or valid payment information.

Best Affiliate Tracking Software

As you understand the crucial role of affiliate tracking apps in what is affiliate tracking, an optimal management app is necessary now.

Of course, you might think that a newbie in the industry should try to figure things out on your own. Plus, the regular subscription costs for affiliate software might be over budget.

Well, actually, you need an automatic platform to monitor everything from scratch.

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UpPromote is one of the most reliable options on the market. It is a powerful affiliate tracking software that serves different business types, from newbies to large enterprises.

This app can certainly help automate and streamline your workflow. It offers diverse affiliate tracking tools, such as metrics and insights on clicks, orders, and commissions.

You will be able to learn about top-performing affiliates and frequently referred products. This amount of data will benefit your affiliate marketing strategy and improve its effectiveness.

All in all, using tracking software already gives you a fantastic head start. Do not bother doing manual marketing work that does not guarantee measurable results.

If you integrate UpPromote with a customer relationship management (CRM) system and an eCommerce channel, there are even better benefits:

  • Data consolidation: You can consolidate data in a single platform from various marketing resources. It helps you track and analyze data more easily by identifying patterns in customer behavior and how your affiliate program interacts with
  • Streamlined processes: Given the complex processes in affiliate marketing, you will be glad to have this integration. All the customer management and sales tracking can be automated to save you time and resources.
  • Enhanced tracking and reporting: It strengthens tracking and reporting capabilities than the software alone. Understanding customer behavior on a deeper level lets you optimize your marketing efforts accordingly.


  • How do I track my affiliate link?

Affiliate tracking software can automatically generate unique tracking links for each affiliate. But you can also track these URLs manually by:

Use link shorteners or cloaking techniques for cleaner URLs

Design custom landing pages to embed links

Manually add tracking parameters to the links

  • What is tracking ID affiliate marketing?

A tracking ID represents a specific affiliate in a program. It is assigned to this partner within a hyperlink and used to promote affiliate products on different platforms.

When a lead clicks on the link and makes a purchase, it tracks back to the affiliate and pays them a commission.

  • How to make sure the affiliate commissions are always tracked properly?

Rather than traditional cookie tracking, postback URL tracking has proven to be a safer alternative.

Besides this method to track commissions, you can also try powerful affiliate marketing software. They will power your business by tracking real-time transactions with helpful insights.

That way, all affiliates in the program receive precise credits.

  • What are the best affiliate tracking methods for 2024?

Cookies used to be the primary practice for tracking user data in affiliate marketing. But that is in the past.

In 2024 and further on, cookieless tracking will be the new trend. It ensures cross-platform monitoring by logging commissions and attributing them properly.


In general, what is affiliate tracking means extra transparency and effectiveness for your affiliate marketing process.

It allows both parties, merchants and their partners, to see how their efforts contribute to sales and commissions. Not only does affiliate tracking benefit your business data, but it also helps form long-term relationships with partners.

Therefore, every business that uses affiliate marketing should also focus on tracking. A well-rounded software like UpPromote will be a reliable platform to handle all the hard work.

Run your affiliate program with this software, and let it help your eCommerce store flourish!

Ellie Tran, a seasoned SEO content writer with three years of experience in the eCommerce world. Being a part of the UpPromote team, Ellie wants to assist Shopify merchants in achieving success through useful content & actionable insights. Ellie's commitment to learning never stops; she's always eager to gain more knowledge about SEO and content marketing to create valuable content for users. When she's not working on content, Ellie enjoys baking and exploring new places.