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How Does Affiliate Tracking Work?

Affiliate software products give companies an ability to reliably track which affiliate sent traffic that generated a sale, in real-time. They also give affiliates the ability to reliably assess how successful their different affiliate campaigns are performing.

The most common ways these software companies track are through cookies.

A company gives its affiliates a tracking link which comes with a unique affiliate ID. When a potential customer (who the affiliate sends) clicks on their link, the affiliate ID is stored on their browser as a cookie for a short period of time, such as 30 days.

This means that even if the customer does not initially purchase but comes back a week later to complete the purchase, the person is still attributed to the original affiliate ID, sometimes even if a 2nd affiliate reaches out to the same person who clicks.

In order for this magic to work, a conversion pixel is placed on the companies thank you page that loads when a customer has purchased. As such, when a person clicks through an affiliate link and eventually reaches the confirmation page, the pixel tracks this event within the affiliate software being used as a sale or lead.

Cookies are normally only tracked within the specific browser, so if the person completes the transaction in a different browser, it will not be tracked. However some companies with proprietary affiliate software such as Clickfunnels can create sticky cookies which allows their affiliates to get affiliate commission whenever they send a new offer to their customers (explained below).