Click Tracking - Understand How Your Tracker Works


When first starting out, understanding how to setup tracking can be tough...

In fact it's one of the biggest technical struggles I see affiliates try to overcome.

After reading this guide, you will not only understand what a tracker can do for you but how it works and how it will be a huge advantage for you in the long run.

A tracker is the foundation of every successful affiliate marketer because it allows us to recognize trends and take advantage of those trends that larger advertisers would overlook.

Simply put, it allows us to collect more data about our visitors which allow us to make optimizations to maximize our profits.

Let's dive right in, shall we?

Guy Going Crazy Over Complicated Tech Disclosure:  Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase or signup.  

Common Click Tracking Terms

Before we dive too deep we first need to understand a few terms.

When I first started using tracking tools, I didn't understand what a "subid" or "tracking id" was which was very confusing.

The problem got worse when the terms used were different from company to company.

Terms

Each tool uses different terms to describe their features. So, I thought it would be helpful to give you a glossary:

  • KPI: A measurable value of how well a specific data point is performing which stands for key performance indicator.
  • User-Agent: A line of text passed from your browser that identifies browser, operating system and other data about your device.
  • Query String: A string of data, generally containing "key=value" pairs (called parameters), in the query component of a URL. The query component is indicated by the first question mark ("?") character and terminated by a number sign ("#") character or by the end of the URL.
  • URL Parameter: A "key=value" pair in a query string which allows data to be passed along to the destination URL. The "key" is the name of the parameter, and the text after the equals sign ("=") is the value. Multiple parameters can be passed through the URL by separating them with the "&" sign.
  • TrackingID: TrackingID (or ClickID): A unique id generated by trackers, traffic sources and/or affiliate networks. It is used to identify a specific click on the respective platform.
  • SubID: Much like a TrackingID, SubIDs are used to pass information about a click to either our click tracker or affiliate network. These get confusing because often times networks use different URL parameter names. But things like SubID, TrackingID, S1, S2, etc are all simply URL Parameters used to pass a specific peice of data.
  • Tracking Link: The link generated by your click tracker, that captures data about the visitor and stores it in your tracker.
  • Offer Link: Often times affiliate networks will call the links they provide a tracking link as well. This can get confusing so for the purposes of this guide, I'll refer to any tracking links from an affiliate network as an offer link.
  • Postback: A URL that allows a pre existing TrackingID and other information to be passed as a URL parameter back to our tracker which is used for things such as conversion reporting.

What Is A Click Tracker?

A click tracking tools provide two primary functions, data collection & optimization.

Data collection: Most modern trackers have two types of data they collect.

  • Standard KPIs that are detected from the user-agent and IP address of the visitor's device.
  • Dynamic data which is passed through the URL from traffic sources and partners.

Before we go over the types of data tracking tools can capture, we first must learn some basics of how databases work.

How A Click Tracker Works

I've noticed several marketers, even those that have used tracking tools regularly don't fully grasp how their tracker functions, which limits their ability to harness the tools full potential.

A tracking tool is simply a database, which visually would look just like an excel spreadsheet.

As someone clicks on our tracking link, either through an ad or directly, it's able to collect data about that visitor.

This data is stored in our database, which can later be analyzed in our reporting.

Data Collected

Now that we have a basic understanding of how a click tracker works, let's dive into the type of data they allow us to capture.

Standard Data

The standard data that you'll have access too will be determined by the specific tracking tool that you are using.

However, most trackers in 2019 provide information such as:

  • Device Type (Mobile, Tablet, Desktop)
  • Device Info (Manufacture, Model, Operating System,)
  • Browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc)
  • Internet Service Provider known as ISP & IP address
  • Geoinformation such as Country, State/Region, City & Zip/Postal code
  • Referrer information

Standard data is automatically captured when a visitor clicks on our tracking link provided by our tracker.

The tracking link performs a redirect to our offer or landing page but during that redirect it stores the user-agent, IP & referral data.

From collecting this information, the click tracker is then able to turn this data into more useful KPI's as mentioned above.

Dynamic Data

Unlike standard data, dynamic data is passed through the URL which means you can pass any data you want.

Several traffic sources have dynamic tracking tokens which allow us to pass traffic source information through our tracking URL automatically.

Tracking Parameters & Macros

Now

Not all traffic sources have dynamic tracking macros, but if a traffic source does, I highly recommend taking advantage of them.

A tracking macro allows us to dynamically pass information through our tracking link with the use of URL parameters.

Setting Up Tracking Parameters For Bing In Click Tracker

The picture above, shows how I've setup Bing Ads tracking macros in my tracker, in this case RevMax.

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  • Name: This is what we want a particular type of data to be labeled as when we look at our reports.
  • Parameter: Will be the label of our URL parameter on our tracking link associated with this data.
  • Value/Macro: These are provided to us from our traffic source, in this case, Bing Ads. The easiest way to think of these is our traffic source will perform a "find and replace" for each of these macros and "paste" in the information they have about that click.

This is how my tracking link would look, if I were to run a Bing Ads campaign with these macros.

The link that I would paste in to Bing Ads when I set up my campaign would look like this:

https://ppcmode.com?s1={CampaignId}&s2={Campaign}

When a visitor clicks on my Bing Ads however Bing would change the link to this:

https://ppcmode.com?s1=335673075&s2=Campaign-Name

This data would be added on top of our standard data collected all for the same click.

Our click tracker then takes all this data and stores it for us to view later.

Manual Tracking Parameters

As mentioned though, not all traffic sources provide dynamic tokens.

Sources such as Facebook, Snapchat, Quora, etc do not currently offer them.

This doesn't mean, however, that you can't pass information to our tracker from these sources.

It just means that we have to enter this information manually and break up our campaigns much more.

Some examples of data that can be passed through our URL parameters include:

  • Banner / Ad creative name/id
  • Placement (Domain, Site ID, etc)
  • Demographics (Age, Gender, etc)
  • Interests

If I was attempting to target 25-50 Females on the Facebook newsfeed placement, but wanted to dial in exactly which age range converted the best.

To take advantage of this though, multiple campaigns would need to be created targeting the data we manually entered in this case 25-30-year-old females.

https://ppcmode.com?age=25-30&gender=Female&placment=NewsFeed

Then another create another campaign targeting 31-35-year-old females while also changing our link:

https://ppcmode.com?age=31-35&gender=Female&placment=NewsFeed

Then just repeat this process for each data point I wanted to capture.

While adding data to our URLs manually is a pain in the ass... because you have to make sure you input all the data correctly in a URL and associate it with the correct targeting...

Putting in this extra work will increase our chances of finding profit pockets in whatever traffic source/offer combo we decide to test.

Conversion Tracking

Now that we understand URL parameters and how they function, let's go over how we can then pass the data we've collected to vendors, affiliate networks & clients.

All the data that we collect, both dynamic and standard is all assigned a TrackingID.

Each tracker often calls this TrackingID something different, often times it'll be called a: TrackingID, ClickID or SubID.

Regardless of what our tracker calls it, the TrackingID will always serve the same purpose.

A TrackingID is important to understand because the TrackingID holds all the information about that click with a single "name".

It's much like if you had a friend named John Doe and someone who didn't know John Doe simply had a message for you, "call John Doe".

The other person may not know John Doe but by simply passing their name along, you know exactly who they are referencing because his name identifies him.

With just a name, you would be able to associate which phone number to call.

A TrackingID is no different...

It simply allows our tracking tool to "understand" which click is being referenced because it's "name" is the TrackingID and all the data associated with it.

TrackingID's are responsible for the feedback loop between our tracker and knowing if a conversion occurs from our affiliate network.

The first thing we'll want to do is find out which URL parameter our affiliate network uses for TrackingIDs.

We'll be using the affiliate network YTZ as an example, but this process is the same no matter which network you decide to run with.

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The only different will be the URL parameter they use for TrackingIDs and the macro to pass that data back to us may be named differently.

Setting Up Your Offer Tracking Link In YTZ

YTZ currently allows us to pass five different data points to them through our offer link.

Personally I use s1 for my TrackingID and pass other data through s2 - s5.

So when we add our offer link to our tracking tool, it'll look like this:

Adding A Tracking Macro To Your Click Tracker

So now, when a visitor hits our tracking link link it will redirect collecting information about the user and assigning a TrackingID.

The visitor would then be redirected to our offer url (if it's a direct link campaign) and dynamically append our TrackingID to it.

Changing the link from this:

https://ytztrackinglink.com/?s1={tracking_id}

To this:

http://ytztrackinglink.com/?s1=5c52b68016b5309620172588l105lgdfmlwz2p4gx6t7b

Now if we check our reports in YTZ, we can double check we are properly passing our TrackingID.

YTZ Report Showing A Tracking ID

As we can see, the click was properly tracked in YTZ with our TrackingID assigned to subid1 (s1).

When a conversion does happen, YTZ will show which TrackingID converted, allowing us update our tracker on which click made money.

YTZ Report Showing A Conversion

Now we can either update our TrackingIDs manually, or setup what is called a postback.

A postback is simply a URL that allows a pre existing TrackingID to be passed as a URL parameter which in turn stores that data as a conversion in our tracker.

To set this up properly we'll want to take our postback URL and set it up in our affiliate network, making sure we use the correct macro.

Setting Up A Postback URL In YTZ

The correct macro is the one associated with the parameter we passed the TrackingID to the offer in. In this case, it was "s1", so we will use the s1 macro {SUB1}.

And there you have it, our conversion tracking is setup.

When a conversion happens our click tracker will automatically be updated, after the affiliate network sends our TrackingID back to us through the postback.

The best part about it?

It allows us to keep our data private from the network itself. All they see is our ID but we are able to see all the data we've collected associated with a click.

Site Note: While some people will disagree with me I'll say this anyways. The data you collect is the foundation of where our profits are made. Because of this, I'm a strong believer in keeping as much of this data private. While most affiliate networks may be trustworthy, all it takes is one affiliate manager to share our data with other partners for you to get unwanted competition. This happens more than you'd think as I've benefited from AMs sharing this data with me as an incentive to test their offers.

Using Our Collected Data

All this data is useless to us, if we can't do anything with it.

That is where our campaign reporting comes into play, it allows us to break down KPI's to see the highest performing metrics.

By playing around with the data we have, we can find high ROI KPIs, then create new campaigns targeting only these high performing metrics.

This process allows us to find combinations of high performing KPIs and launch extremely profitable campaigns from the data collected.

Which wouldn't be possible without a click tracker.

The data we collect is the difference between a campaign losing money vs. making it.

Report Showing Geo KPI In Click Tracker

In the screenshot above, I broke down two KPI's for this particular campaign: Device Type & City.

As you can see Android devices from Toronto aren't converting as well as other cities.

So if possible I could simply stop targeting Toronto in my traffic source.

But

If this isn't possible, with my click tracker I still have other options.

Post Click Redirect Rules

Most click trackers these days, have what is called post click redirect rules.

Setting Up A Redirect Rule In Click Tracker

A redirect rule allows us to route traffic matching certain KPI's, in this case, City and route the traffic to either a new offer, landing page or completely different campaign.

This is powerful when there is unwanted traffic that you can't pause at your traffic source.

For Example: If the main offer you were running only allowed traffic from Canada, but your traffic source was sending 5-10% of the traffic from Countries other than Canada, you could redirect that traffic to an offer that accepts those geos.

Conclusion

Well there you have it, you should now have a better understanding of the power of using a click tracker.

Being able to optimize your campaigns post click is extremely powerful.

It allows you the ability to maximize your revenue for ever click generated.

Have any questions?

Leave a comment down below letting me know if you're currently using click tracking and if there is anything you're struggling to understand.

I'll do my best to answer any questions I get and then use your questions to further update my post.

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