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  1. #1
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Cookieless Tracking
    Another thread got me to thinking about a dynamic non-cookied shopping cart page residing on the merchant site where the shopper would complete their purchase. I know I know, affiliate sites adding directly to the merchant's shopping cart has been discussed here before, but I think the topic warrants further discussion...

    All the pre-sell would necessarily need to be accomplished on the affiliate's website including a quantity field and a "Purchase Now" or "Add to Cart" button. An affiliate ID, qty, and product code would be included in the request header to identify the affiliate and the product when opening the merchant's cart page. The merchant site would store and maintain that affiliate ID for the duration of the shoppers session in the event of additional purchases of other items on the site. Rather than setting a cookie, the merchant site would collect a bit of non-personal identifying information such as zip code + left part of email address (left of the @) prior to displaying the cart. (The method, timing, and type of identifying information is up for discussion.) The affiliate ID could be paired with that info and stored in a database for later retrieval based on a specific duration. This would be essentially "first referral sets a claim and always gets the commission" rather than last cookie.

    This method would solve the problem of lost cookies by any number of different hazards, with the benefit that NO buying shopper would be lost by the affiliate. Cookie stuffing parasites would be obsolete. It would be much more difficult for for eBates type sites to steal the commission as the whole process would be product based rather than category or site based. And as long as your site delivers the customer first, no other site or process can claim the sale until the duration of your claim expires.

    DISCLAIMER: The above are ramblings for the purpose of stimulating new ideas for tracking affiliate delivered transactions, and not necessarily offered as finite methods.
    Last edited by Boomers; August 14th, 2008 at 03:43 AM.



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  2. #2
    Life is Supposed to be Fun! Rexanne's Avatar
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    Boomers, I think this idea sounds good in theory but the problem would be trusting the merchant to honor all sales by each affiliate - there's no "trusted third party" to ensure everyone is playing fair. I don't know for sure, just what hits me between the eyes when thinking about this plan.

    I work with a merchant who tracks sales from my site by URL referral. This entails a level of trust which will always leave questions unless I know the merchant and know for sure they practice the laws of karma. LOL - I don't trust this merchant 100% but I get paid for sales each month and know about what the program should be pulling in so I play along because the amount of sales per month is pretty consistent with what I think it *should* be. It's still not ideal or better than cookied tracking but I could be missing a lot and look forward to more program-wise individuals to add to the discussion.
    Peace,

    Rexanne

    Rexanne.com
    Loving Everyone's Child Creates Magic


  3. #3
    Newbie HazelB's Avatar
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    Clickbank has been trying a cookieless approach in addition to cookies for over a year now since their super affiliates got slammed by an army of idiots overpaying for aggressive PPI campaigns. They are understandably secretive but I believe it has to do with an IP/useragent combo and timing of cookies being set. With PPI the second (evil) cookie is set within seconds of the legitimate cookie.

  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rexanne
    Boomers, I think this idea sounds good in theory but the problem would be trusting the merchant to honor all sales by each affiliate - there's no "trusted third party" to ensure everyone is playing fair.
    Yes, there understandably may be a trust issue for some affiliates and associated with some merchants. But then again, can we be certain that a merchant is in fact reporting conversions honestly to the network? Networks can still be utilized for handling payouts, or if not, it would be similar to applying for an indy program with no middleman network. However, the draw of secure cookieless tracking may compensate for the risk somewhat, particularly if the merchant is converting well.



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  5. #5
    Affiliate Network Rep Webgains's Avatar
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    Hi guys,

    I saw this thread on the forum and thought it'd contribute to it. I'm not too sure if many affiliates are aware but we have a solution in place which addresses the issue of cookie deletion/blocking. In addition to our standard tracking methods (cookie, database and IP tracking methods), we have cookie-less tracking. This is a form of tracking which tracks if a Webgains cookie has been placed but has been removed by a user or an application.

    A fair amount of research has been conducted around the subject of cookie removal and according to Jupiter Research around 39% of users remove cookies at some point. This coupled with security software such as anti-spyware/ad-ware applications blocking cookies, has lead us to develop this form of tracking to help increase the number of tracked transactions for both merchants and affiliates.

    We developed this technology back in 2005 and our results have shown that up to 10% of all transactions tracked for our merchant/affiliates have come via our cookie-less tracking technology. The solution works for 95% of all internet users and is independent of the merchant's technology.

    When would it be used? If we do not detect our cookie or any of our other tracking mechanisms, our cookie-less method would fire which would enable us to catch the transaction and assign the commission to the appropriate affiliate.

    This form of tracking is not the "be all and end all" of tracking but it goes a long way to ensure that your hard earned commissions get tracked and paid.

    If you have any questions, don't hesitate to drop me an email/PM.

    Thanks

    Sachin

  6. #6
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    I think it was Brian Littleton in the "Ethical Issues in Affiliate Marketing" Panel that commented about Visa. There are no complaints that a Visa transaction goes through as the money is exchanged at that point. Granted the transaction is taking place at the shopping cart level rather than PPC, SEO or email.

    It would be intriguing if the tracking was done at the merchant level where a data table would be employed. The "first party" cookie would exist on the merchant server so a 120 day cookie would keep a record for 120 days.

    This still leaves the affiliate open to merchants who are snipping sales but that also comes back to conversion. A merchant who doesn't convert will be replaced by one that does. It allows honest smaller merchants to compete with larger merchants who cheat. I would think the network would foster this as they stand to make 40% more in fees.

    Part of the problem is that it takes more tech resources on the merchant side and from experience it can be difficult to get them to work through the complexity. Also, shopping carts and servers are not standardized and there is lots of variability.

  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sachin Thanki
    In addition to our standard tracking methods (cookie, database and IP tracking methods), we have cookie-less tracking. This is a form of tracking which tracks if a Webgains cookie has been placed but has been removed by a user or an application.

    When would it be used? If we do not detect our cookie or any of our other tracking mechanisms, our cookie-less method would fire which would enable us to catch the transaction and assign the commission to the appropriate affiliate.
    This is good. However, it still leaves the affiliate open to cookie hazards. I would really like to see a method that maintains a record of the affiliate referral/sale in the merchants system and resolved through the merchants shopping cart. Since the OP above I've done more work on automatically identifying the visitor's computer. It combines the visitors IP address and parses a combination of data from the header. I've got more testing to make sure each visitor will be unique. The problem with IP only tracking has to do with a computer network running behind a NAT firewall/router that appears as a single IP address to the Internet. If multiple individual users behind the firewall happen to purchase the same product through different affiliate links, there would be no way to distinguish between them. That's why additional identifying information must be retrieved.
    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick
    Part of the problem is that it takes more tech resources on the merchant side and from experience it can be difficult to get them to work through the complexity. Also, shopping carts and servers are not standardized and there is lots of variability.
    True. With the lack of any kind of standardization there's a whole conglomeration of systems. The buy off would be slow at best. The development of a live model system with detailed stats IMO would be the only conceivable first step. To continue to rely on inherently unreliable methods (cookies) to track financially critical data seems archaic.



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  8. #8
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    To get around the IP issue you could record the MAC address of the system in use. Not sure how that works for a Blackberry but it should for PC's.

  9. #9
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    i can say/confirm that webgains cookieless tracking indeed works have seen it myself (testing in the beggining and through conversions thereafter) and i was amazed the benefits arising from it.

  10. #10
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick
    To get around the IP issue you could record the MAC address of the system in use. Not sure how that works for a Blackberry but it should for PC's.
    The MAC address would be unique for sure but it's difficult to retrieve. It isn't available in http headers, nor through server-side scripts, so would have to be retrieved through a client-side script such as javascript. Even at that it would be OS-centric. This would introduce a new level of complexity resulting in more vulnerability that would fall short of the intent of the method, which in my mind is to develop a nearly 100% accurate and reliable means of tracking.



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  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KGP
    i can say/confirm that webgains cookieless tracking indeed works have seen it myself (testing in the beggining and through conversions thereafter) and i was amazed the benefits arising from it.
    Their methods do cover many cookie hazards but don't address malicious cookie stuffing/stealing/overwriting.



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  12. #12
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    boomer dont forget that we are talking for webgains a network started in europe... and specifically in UK... we as europeans are more "clean" than over the atlantic so we dont have such issues.. you see the good thing (especially for UK networks) is that they were proactive working with affiliates in a win win situation and "eliminating" any and/or such "activity"

  13. #13
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Unfortunately proactivity has been sorely lacking in this regard here and it seems that damage control has become a monumental task for any individual or group to tackle. I CAN develop cheat resistant tracking methods in my little corner of the world with the hope that others will take notice and follow suit.



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  14. #14
    Affiliate Network Rep Webgains's Avatar
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    Hi Boomers,

    Our network has a policy against spyware/adware where unethical methods are used to overwrite affiliate cookies; we do not allow these type of affiliates onto our network. Nor do we allow affiliates who drop post impression cookies/undertake cookie stuffing.

    If we find affiliates doing such activities, we take the appropriate action to ensure they comply to our terms or take the relevant steps to suspend them from the network.

    Maybe you'd like to give some of our programs a go to see how well our tracking performs?

    Kostas: Thanks for the thumps up; i'll get Hero to sort you out with a couple of beers the next time she's over in Athens

    Any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

    Cheers,

    Sachin

  15. #15
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    i know as it hurts me too (i do have business over the atlantic myself)

    its because they (US networks) havent understand what buy.at and webgains along with other UK/EU networks havent understand... its a simple equation

    affiliates + merchants = network

    if you dont have affiliates you dont have merchants and vice versa...on any way you look at it if something is missing then you "dont have a network"...

    thats why i am in favor of cookieless tracking and networks like WG (WebGains) and buy.at

  16. #16
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    Question IE 8 announces cookie blocking...
    New here and just reading this thread with great interest...

    Marketing VOX announced today that a beta version of IE 8 expands features and visibility for users to block cookies... huge impact for all online advertising here...

    Seems time for all affiliate programs to move away from cookies as the primary tracking method and for top affiliates to demand this. As a new affiliate, one view point is am I spending my time chasing money that isn't there? I can drive traffic all day, only to be 'screwed' by tracking.

  17. #17
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Welcome linstein. Well composed first post.
    Yes, IE8, yet another hazard to tracking cookies. To generated interest in a tracking method change of this magnitude will require the buy off by merchants and then publicity touting higher conversion rates resulting from accurate tracking and black/gray hat resistance. Attracting large numbers of productive affiliates to merchants utilizing new tracking methods could ultimately revolutionize affiliate marketing for the better.



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  18. #18
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    Cookies / Tracking
    Thanks for the compliment!

    Most groups would have, say, an industry trade association a PAC or something to rally for higher standards. Other than online forums such as this one, are there any formal groups for affiliates to band together to press for change?

  19. #19
    Outsourced Program Manager Rufus's Avatar
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    AffiliateFuture have been using cookie less tracking for a while now we posted some details about this on this thread: http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread...ghlight=cookie we currently use a 3 pronged system running alongside each other.

    the results from this were actually quite surprising.
    Rufus Bazley,
    [URL=http://www.odst.co.uk]DataFeed and API Creation[/URL]
    [URL=http://jobon.info]Marketing Site[/URL]
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  20. #20
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by linstein
    are there any formal groups for affiliates to band together to press for change?
    There are a couple that address various aspects of Internet marketing, but both are in the embryonic stage of development. Search ABW for "affiliate voice" or PMA. With the vast diversity of methods, aspects, companies, and individual marketers, there is a lot of controversy around the formation of any sort of organization. Because of this, if any finally make it to a stage if maturity, their effectiveness is questionable. IMO Affiliate Voice has the most potential for clout and influence in the industry.



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  21. #21
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rufus
    we currently use a 3 pronged system running alongside each other.
    the results from this were actually quite surprising.
    Rufus, I appreciate your zealousness about your network. But my intent here is to discuss and gather opinion regarding a cookieless only tracking method that doesn't include your other "prongs" as tracking methods. I'm broaching not only the concept [that you have in place] to reduce/eliminate cookie loss, but to also obsolete existing black-hat methods through technology, which your system doesn't do.



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  22. #22
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Many networks have been working on alternative tracking methods. The best solutions, like what Affiliate Future is doing, is to combine several different methods (including cookies) and cause things to track if any one method works.
    Michael Coley
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  23. #23
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Unless networks are willing to own the shopping cart, I don't believe anything they do (within the context of tracking methods) will be very effective in removing the holes that are exploited by unscrupulous marketeers.



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  24. #24
    ABW Ambassador
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rufus
    AffiliateFuture have been using cookie less tracking for a while now we posted some details about this on this thread: http://forum.abestweb.com/showthread...ghlight=cookie we currently use a 3 pronged system running alongside each other.

    the results from this were actually quite surprising.

    indeed!!! AF has cookieless tracking as well ( their tracking "system" is very advanced overall)


    Rufus apologize for not mentioning you i totally forgot you

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