All you should know about Postback Tracking

23-Dec-2021

For most affiliate marketers, Postback Tracking is a constant pain they wish they don't have to deal with. The average marketer knows what a campaign URL is, where a landing page fits in the funnel and more, but Postbacks just seem complex. While it's truly a hard tracking method, it can be beneficial to your overall campaign strategy. In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about Postback Tracking, including why you actually need them. 


What is Postback URL Tracking

A Postback URL is used to gather metric data about your conversions for performance marketing analysis. In simple terms, these types of URLs contain parameters that track your conversions. These parameters include click ID, conversion value and placement ID to log into the affiliate network server or tracking server to validate the conversions. 

Also known as cookie-less tracking, callbacks or server-to-server (S2s), Postback URL tracking is a tracking mechanism that allows for information exchange between two servers without cookies. In other words, there is no client involved, making Postback URL tracking a future-proof and safe method for conversion tracking. 


How exactly does Postback URL Tracking work? 

Before we proceed further, it's important to understand how Postback URL tracking works. Stop thinking about affiliate marketing for a moment and think about how instant messaging apps work. They both share a striking similarity in that you get to read and receive a receipt. For instance, you can check when someone received your message and also when they read it. 

Postback URL tracking works in the exact same way because there is the transfer of data through the aid of parameters in the URL. Whenever the URL is clicked, the server receives real-time information of the affiliate the conversion came from. 


What is the Postback Tracking method? 

The postback Tracking method is a type of affiliate tracking that is seeing widespread adoption among affiliate networks and marketers today. It uses the advertiser and affiliate network's servers rather than the user's browser to track conversions. Because it is server-to-server, nothing is omitted, especially since all the pieces of information are stored on the network's server. It is usually compared with the cookies method, which is also known as Pixel Tracking. 

 


S2S Postback vs. Pixel Tracking 

When it comes to tracking protocols, marketers often wonder which is better between S2S Postback and Pixel Tracking methods. Both conversion tracking systems have their pros and cons, but to make an informed decision, you need to first understand their differences. Let's take a closer look at both protocols. 

  • Pixel Tracking 

Also known as client-based, cookie-based or in-browser tracking, Pixel Tracking relies on the user's browser to track conversions. The principle enabling this method involves the addition of an HTML code (Pixel) to the landing page or offer page to track the visitor's action. Each user's browser temporarily stores information about the visit to the site and the visitor's activities, and you can retrieve the converted visitor's session values from the browser. 

  • Postback URL Tracking

As explained above, this method is a little complicated. It works without the browser of the user as it relies on servers to track sessions generated on clicks to attribute conversions. When a user clicks on an offer, a click ID value is generated and sent to the affiliate network, where it is recorded. The user is redirected to the landing page, and when a conversion happens, the affiliate network fires a Postback while the ad tracker verifies the authenticity of the conversion. 


When should you use Postback Tracking? 

Postback Tracking offers more benefits when compared to Pixel Tracking, but it can be harder to implement. If you're looking to make a decision, only use Postback Tracking when your website's software is able to send a signal back to the affiliate network. You will need a variety of technical resources to set up server-side calls. Also, you will need to confirm that your affiliate network supports Postback Tracking so you can have correct conversion data. 


How does S2S Postback Tracking look like? 

S2S Postback Tracking might be hard to implement, but the process is very straightforward. For example, there are only two parties involved in the conversion tracking flow - the marketer (or advertiser) and the affiliate network. In effect, this means there are also only two systems involved: the affiliate network system and the affiliate marketer's data conversion platform. Here is an illustration of how S2S looks like. 

 




How to set up affiliate Postbacks (s2s method)

This is an example of a Postback URL:

https://examples.com/postback?CID={clickID}&payout={payment} 

Let's break it down. 

example.com - This is your tracking domain, whether cloud-based or self-hosted. 

? - The question mark separates the main part of a connection from the tracking parameters.

& - This character separates the tracking parameters from each other. 

CID- This enables tracking of parameters that transfer values. It is unique to the tracking platform. 

{ClickID} and {payout}: These are tokens that will be replaced with values when the link is activated. They are unique to the source platform, such as the affiliate network. 

Once there is conversion, the network's platform will activate the URL, and the tokens will be replaced with concrete information - giving you the desired confirmation. Here is an example of an activated Postback URL: 

https://example.com/postback?cid=1234&payout=1 


What are the pros and cons of the S2S Postback Tracking method? 

As stated earlier, S2S Postback Tracking has its advantages and disadvantages. Here is a brief overview of its attractions and drawbacks. 

Pros 
  1. Secure and reliable: This is what makes S2S a go-to option for both marketers and affiliate networks. It allows for a reliable count of conversions, thus decreasing the risks of postback fraud. It happens on the back-end of systems, so it cannot be tampered with. 
  2. Allows for accurate tracking: Postback URL tracking doesn't rely on cookies, which means it works even if a user has cookies blocked in their browser or whether they delete their cookies, as in the case with Pixel tracking. 
  3. Transparency: This method can be used for verification should there be any disparity in the number of conversions. 
  4. Flexibility: There are more options for sending a signal about a successful event instead of firing beyond when the user is on the web page. . This advantage works particularly in the event that the offer owner wants to register conversion after a successful call or until after an order has been shipped. 
  5. Works on mobile devices: Unlike Pixel tracking that doesn't work on mobile devices, S2S tracking works on smartphones and other mobile devices. 

Cons 

  1. Complex to implement: The number one reason affiliate networks and marketers are discouraged about this method is that it is harder to set up. It requires direct communication between the network and the marketer to ensure that the ID is passed into the correct parameter. Technical expertise is also required from the side of the advertiser to store the data and send it back. 
  2. Implementation takes time: Because of the complicated setup process, this method can take an entire day for some advertisers to code the database to store the IDs. 

Why is Postback tracking important in affiliate marketing

There are primarily two reasons Postback Tracking is critical in affiliate marketing today. The first is that it allows for seamless tracking of conversions at the affiliate marketer's website. Marketers don't have to set up a 'thank you' page anymore to receive conversion data, as this method allows them to track and attribute conversions to their affiliate marketing with ease. 

Because Postback Tracking empowers marketers, it is now possible for them to determine how successful their campaign will be. They can now make informed decisions about how to proceed and how to improve their own ad campaigns based on the traffic. 

 Another reason Postback Tracking is important in affiliate marketing is due to the blockage of cookies on most browsers, including Chrome, Safari and Mozilla Firefox. As a result, the industry is preparing for cookie-less advertising because all pointers indicate that it is the future. With Postbacks, tracking can be done server-side without worries about the blockage of your pixels. 

 


How does affiliate marketing campaign data flow work? 

Here is an outline of the step-by-step process. 

The user sees an offer and clicks on the tracking link embedded in it. The URL here is the campaign URL. 

  1. The user transfers through several redirects. In the space of a few milliseconds, data is sent to an ad tracker, affiliate network, marketer and the marketer's landing page. The URL used is called a click URL. 
  2. When the user reaches the landing page, the click is stored by the merchant's ID, and an ID is assigned to the session.  
  3. The user makes a purchase, and the conversion is correctly attributed to the right affiliate. The marketer sends a signal to the tracker and affiliate network with an initial user ID. 
  4. Affiliate Network activates a Postback URL while the tracking software automatically activates a traffic source Postback URL to report this conversion to a traffic source platform. 



In all, there are two Postback URLs that can be used with a tracker - a Postback URL and a traffic source Postback URL. A Postback URL reports conversion back to a tracking platform while a traffic source Postback URL reports them to a traffic source platform. 

Now some marketers prefer not to use a tracker in their campaign funnel, and this is okay. All you need to do is to use a traffic source Postback URL as the Postback URL in your affiliate network platform. However, most marketers use a tracker in their funnel, so let's discuss it a bit further. Here's a pictorial illustration of how affiliate marketing campaign data flow. 

 

While it's not uncommon for the Postbacks above to be used in marketing funnels, they are actually not compulsory, and you can build your funnel without them. The second one, particularly, is optional. Nevertheless, you might want to still use them so you can have a clearer and more holistic picture. 

Additionally, it's important to note that you don't have to stick with the flow above, as you can take things a notch higher by including several landing pages and rotating offers. Alternatively, you can choose to further simplify the flow. The idea behind the data flow above is to demonstrate the logic behind S2S tracking even though you can apply it to other scenarios as well. 



Postback URL explained: how does it work in affiliate advertising 

A Postback simply refers to a message or data exchange between two servers that takes place when a user responds to the designated call-to-action. Thus, a Postback URL is a URL with added parameters that allow different partners to keep track of clicks and conversions being made. The parameters in the URL typically include:

  1. Click ID: This comprises random alphanumeric strings that help to uniquely find a user that made a conversion. Without click ID, Postback Tracking won't be possible. 
  2. Conversion value: This value is usually represented by the word 'payout' in a typical Postback URL, and it refers to the value of the revenue amount that has to be paid for the performed conversion. 
  3. Campaign ID: This parameter refers to a string of numbers, and it helps keep track of the campaign's performance. 

The work of a Postback URL in affiliate advertising is to provide some analytics so marketers can run successful campaigns. You can now track all the conversions without depending on cookies, with the implication being that you will receive highly accurate data. As a result, you will be able to share (or discuss) the data with confidence with the affiliate network. 

 

Conclusion 

Postback Tracking is the most popular tracking method right now because it allows both affiliate networks and marketers to track without a 'thank you' page or reliance on cookies. If you've read to this point, you probably have a solid idea of what Postbacks are and the benefits. So go ahead and start implementing. To find more informative articles on affiliate and performance marketing visit Offer18.com.



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