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PPC Conversion Tracking for Affiliates

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"Scrap"* or "Stub" by Carsten Cumbrowski, June, 2006r

an Idea for the Integration of Tracking features into eCommerce Sites to provide Affiliates with PPC Tracking and most importantly conversion Data. The Merchant with in-house program decided not to do it for technical reasons. I believe this to be a great benefit for Merchant and Affiliate and are convinced that it will find its way into every day Affiliate Marketing one Day.

Tracking is vital to optimize and get the most out of it. Being generic does not cut it anymore in today's competitive and much more "crowded" environment. Tracking and the use of that tracked data separates the successful and professional affiliates from the 95+% other affiliates that make $100 or less per month only. There are exceptions of course, but those are on the list of "endangered species". Success comes from knowing, not guessing

Tracking solutions become cheaper, simpler to implement and use and at the same time smarter and more powerful. High price tags and need for customization and code change made the tracking only feasible for bigger ecommerce sites in the past. Now almost everybody can do it without spending an arm and a leg. ecommerce sites that do not use those tools are stupid and if they are making money today anyway, then they are lucky. Same here, being lucky will eventually not work anymore no matter how lucky you are. The lucky ones from today will only be around and doing (or not doing)what they do today until enough competitors come along to end the peachy life and fall of the wagon.

Affiliates are always in a disadvantage when it comes to tracking, because the final transaction where the commission is generated happens at the merchant/service site and can not be touched by Affiliates. Affiliates are also depending on the merchant that he converts the traffic send to his site. Co-branding is a bit better, because it gives control back to the affiliates to some extent.

The classic way for affiliate to track success of certain activities is by sending a custom parameter (which is supported by pretty much everybody, Network, Aff.Tracking Solution and most In-House Programs, but it is very limited, especially if you do various different things that need to be tracked. It can be sufficient for highly specialized affiliates that do only SEM or Affiliates that only want to track SEM via the custom parameter.

Now Consider. Adding code into one site, for one affiliate is not feasible. I agree, but you have a lot more affiliates and I bet with you (name the price) that a large 2 digit percentage of your top affiliates across all themed sites, co-branded or not do PPC Advertising to some extend and probably also Organic SEO to some extend. I also bet that the same affiliates either use some form of tracking and analytics already and that the rest would do it, if they could track where a customer came from that was converted to a paying member.

What are the minimum requirements to find that out? You must track the "landing page(s)" where most visitors enter your site from, Home Page, Optimized content page, special created landing pages etc. The second place is the page right after the user performed the desired action. In your case, pays for a membership.

Tracking of other key Pages is a plus, but not a requirement some of the simple tracking solutions are also not able to track more than that. But some do and you should consider them too. Maybe primarily for your site to analyze, try changes and improve which you then also should deploy to all the co-branded affiliate sites. If you provide this tracking option to affiliates, then they can help you. too. What else do you want to track?

It would help you to find out where you "loose" the customer along the way. It would help you to improve on the site where you have an unusual high drop out rate (there is usually a reason for it and most of the time can be more or less simple changes reduce that rate to improve conversion). You would want to track places like signup form (free account), pages that are key to convert a free member to a paying member and every page from that point on until the transaction is completed (equivalent to a checkout on an ecommerce site).

ALL tracking solutions are simple pieces of code. Most of the time though is that "simple" code very dangerous external JavaScript code which can be used to do a lot of "ugly" stuff with as well.

You don't want potential malicious code provided by an affiliate being rendered on a customers page on your Website. That means you can not just simply copy and paste provided JS code without checking what it is.

The good thing is, you don't have to. All you need from an Affiliate is a simple alphanumeric string which is the ID used by the tracking solution to identify the site/account their customers. The rest is always the same for a single tracking solution.

What to do? Extend the Table that holds the Affiliate Account information by a number of new string/character fields. One (or Two) for each ID of the Tracking Solutions you want to support. Keep it a bit flexible for future support of other tracking solutions (which will almost for certain work the same way as the existing solutions). If you want to be able to add the tracking ID's to an Affiliate Account manually or make it an option for all affiliates is up to you. Having it available to use and configure by the affiliate right away is a very good selling point. You need only to extend the pages where tracking must be supported. You know the Affiliate ID. Get the Tracking ID's and render the necessary code for the tracking solutions that are supported and where the affiliate provided a tracking ID for. The Code will always be the same, only one value changes, the Tracking ID.

Practical Examples for 3rd Party Tracking.
In general, if the page where the tracking code is rendered is SSL secured, make all URL's in the Tracking code Secure too.

Examples Unsecured Page Code

<script src="" type="text/javascript">
Secured Page Code:
<script src="" type="text/javascript">
You must do that with all URL's to prevent Browser Warning or even Errors (Mixed Content, Secure+Unsecure Warning)

Google Analytics.
Insert Code into

 section of relevant pages.
The only information you need from the affiliate is the Tracking ID which is the value of the parameter "_uacct".
For example: UA-50000-1

<!---- Google Analytics ------->
<script src="" type="text/javascript">
<script type="text/javascript">
_uacct = "UA-50000-1";
<!--- End Google Analytics ---->

Google AdWords Conversion Tracking
Anywhere in Page Body of Confirmation Page.
Attached is Google's Setup Guide with same codes on all kinds of languages (PHP, JSP, ASP etc.) and also for various services such as PayPal (which you are using) and others.

ID which must be provided by Affiliate: 1111111111
Note: it's used TWICE in the code.

<!-- Google Code for Purchase Conversion Page -->
<script language="JavaScript" type="text/javascript">
var google_conversion_id = 1111111111;
var google_conversion_language = "en_US";
var google_conversion_format = "2";
var google_conversion_color = "CCCCFF";
if (1) {
  var google_conversion_value = 20;
var google_conversion_label = "Purchase";
<script language="JavaScript" src="">
<img height=1 width=1 border=0 src="

Google renders a little icon that tells the user that about the tracking. There are 2 formats. The 2 box using 2 lines is "2" and the longer one using 1 line is "1". The color is the Background Color. See Screenshot.

Value is the "Sales" Amount. For affiliates is it the "Commission Amount" which is $20.00. Label is just for categorizing. Google supports 5 different Label Values: Purchase, Lead, Signup,PageView and Default ("Default" stands for "other" in Adwords Reports). Note: Both, Value and Label are also used TWICE in the Code (URL and Variable)

In this case would the tracker make sense in the confirmation screen for the "Purchase" and also after the Free Signup, using Label "Signup" and Value = 1 (0 would work, but I am not sure what the report in Google would show)

Google Cross Channel Tracking
Google provides the feature to use their tracking system to track other "channels" as well. "channel" refers to another provider, like Yahoo! Search Marketing (Overture) etc. It requires that you generate for your other campaigns unique GOOGLE URLS which you then use as "Target URL" in the other service.

It is almost the same code as for the Conversion Tracker. The ID is the same as for the Conversion Tracker as well, so you only need to capture it ONCE for an Affiliate Account the option to render the ADDITIONAL Cross Channel Tracking Code should be a check box (1/0) Cross Channel Tracking works only if the Standard Conversion Tracker is enabled (Affiliates AdWords account).

Note for Affiliates: Conversion Tracking
google_conversion_type = 'landing' is a new parameter
the following 5 lines of the conversion tracker code must be removed for the cross-channel tracking

if (1) 
  var google_conversion_value = 20;
var google_conversion_label = "Purchase";

In the 1 pixel image url must "?value=20&label=Purchase&script=0" be replaced with "extclk?script=0"

<!-- Google Code for Default Conversion Page -->
<script language="JavaScript" type="text/javascript">
var google_conversion_type = 'landing';
var google_conversion_id = 1111111111;
var google_conversion_language = "en_US";
var google_conversion_format = "2";
var google_conversion_color = "CCCCFF";
<script language="JavaScript" src="">
<img height=1 width=1 border=0 src="

Yahoo! Search Marketing Conversion Counter
Add within Body Tag. You only need the cc_accountID value from the Affiliate: 1111111111. The Yahoo! Counter is smart and detects the use of http or https automatically and changes its tracking URL automatically.

<!-- Overture Services Inc. 07/15/2003
var cc_tagVersion = "1.0";
var cc_accountID = "1111111111";
var cc_marketID =  "0";
var cc_protocol="http";
var cc_subdomain = "convctr";
if(location.protocol == "https:")
var cc_queryStr = "?" + "ver=" + cc_tagVersion + "&aID=" + cc_accountID + "&mkt=" + cc_marketID +"&ref="
 + escape(document.referrer);
var cc_imageUrl = cc_protocol + "://" + cc_subdomain + "" + cc_queryStr;
var cc_imageObject = new Image();
cc_imageObject.src = cc_imageUrl;
// -->

RoboForm - Get 10% off with discount code CORTS (Ask Jeeves) Sponsored Listing
No conversion tracking available yet. Use Google's Cross Campaign Tracking (other PPC) instead.

MSN adCenter Conversion Tracker
Add somewhere in Body tag on conversion page (Sales Confirmation Page).Due to the display of a small link to MSN is it recommended to add it somewhere at the bottom right of the page.

Requires TWO ID's for the tracking, domainid and cp. I checked different campaigns and orders with different target domains and the values remain the same. The MSN AdCenter Help does not provide any information regarding the parameter. I assume that it will be possible in the future to have different domainid's and cp id's. This is not certain yet.

Note that the domainid is used TWICE in the code.
The Code shows a small URL which is not allowed to be removed or being hidden from the user (css).

Change the Script and Image URL to http:// or https:// depending on how the page is loaded. The URL to http://advertising.. remains unsecured.

msn_adcenterconversion_domainid = 11111;
 msn_adcenterconversion_cp = 5555; 

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