Never Trust Adwords Conversion Tracking
As any affiliate marketer knows, it’s a numbers game. You need to track, tweak and split-test your way to success.
99% of affiliate marketers don’t track which of their adwords ads are profitable and which are losing them money. That’s why 99% of affiliate marketers fail.
In theory, Adwords conversion tracking is the perfect solution. It allows you to track not just what adgroups or ads are converting, but even the keywords leading to sales. I fell in love with Adwords conversion tracking as I knew it would lead to my success. The reality, however, is that it does not manage to register every conversion every time. In fact, in my experience, it only manages to register 50%. This is due to a number of reasons, which include:
- Adwords uses a 30 day cookie. If your affiliate network uses a 45 or 60 day cookie, it will not track conversions after the 30 days. Similarly, if your affiliate network uses a short cookie like, Adwords will track extra conversions
- The visitor may close the ‘purchase complete’ page with the tracking code installed before it has fully loaded. Adwords won’t catch the sale.
- A customer could bookmark the page with the tracking code installed, causing it to be fired when they return
Suddenly, it seems that beautiful dream of knowing the exact ROI of each ad group, ad and keyword may be just another busting bubble in the over-hyper affiliate marketing world. Well, I’m ecstatic to announce that you can still track this stuff. It just takes a little bit more work. And for near-perfect tracking, it is worth every second.
The trick is to append a variable to all of your ad URLs. Then you have your landing page attach the variable to your affiliate link. The affiliate network should then display the variable in your conversion report. After a couple of months or so you can check how much an ad has made you in sales, then subtract the cost of clicks for that ad over the same period. If you’ve paid a lot more on clicks than that ad made you in sales, bin it. If it cost a little more, drop your CPC and bring it into profitability.
Most affiliate networks have different rules regarding the variables they show on your stats. For instance, some may require that you give your variable a certain name. Look through their help pages for more info on what you should call the variable, or whether they allow you to create different ‘hop links’ or aliases for different ads etc.
Let’s say I want to track which ads for blue widgets are profitable. I could create an ad with the following URL:
Then in the source code of the landingpage.php file, I would add this at the top:
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<?php $affurl = "http://widget.myaffnetwork.com/?ad=" . $_GET['ad']; ?>
Now the ‘ad’ variable would be passed all the way from my advert to my affiliate network. So they would see:
You’d now see ad=myad1 in your sales report next to any sales when happened as a result of someone clicking on that ad.