Why Affiliate Marketers Need Ad Tracking Innovation Now

By Yogeeta Chainani, Co-Founder and CPO of Swaarm

Affiliate marketing spend is expected to reach $8.2 billion by 2022 in the US alone (source). Yet, the affiliate advertising tracking technology that exists today is legacy tech, built a decade ago. As more advertisers and publishers turn to alternative advertising inventory to diversify their traffic and revenue from the big four platforms (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple – GAFA), it will become more critical that the advertising tracking technology available reflects today’s affiliate ecosystem.

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Today, agencies are reliant on tracking platforms for accurate data, publisher management and campaign optimization to help them reach their client’s targets. The potential for tracking platforms is that they would be able to provide greater transparency in performance and assist ad agencies to detect weaknesses and surface revenue optimization opportunities.

Here are five essential ways tracking platforms need to innovate to help affiliate marketers reach their targets:

1. Critical analytics consistently available on your dashboard

It should be standard practice for tracking platforms to display all of the critical data on your dashboard. This includes your gross profit, performance metrics comparing yesterday to today, and quick access to your hourly/daily/weekly/monthly progress. Top offers and bottom offers performance should be viewable by offer level, publisher, advertisers, and by country, so that marketers can see the critical areas that require fast action. However, many tracking platforms fail to display everything affiliate marketers and publishers need.

Analytics software can solve this industry-wide issue by surfacing the essential data on a dashboard, making it easier and faster to view performance and take action when necessary. For marketers of varying data mining skill levels, it’s important that the most critical information is available without needing to use CSV files. Insights should be accessible by all.

2. Scannable tracking links without a third-party vendor

Although it’s logical to check tracking links to ensure they are fully functional, a common problem for affiliate partners is that occasionally they can’t remove an offer from the feed once the cap is reached. As a result, they won’t get any return after this point. One solution is for ad agencies to work with a third-party vendor to scan tracking links to see if they are redirected to an MMP (Mobile Measurement Partner) or a store. However, this requires you to share data with a third-party, which is less desirable.

Ideally, affiliate marketers would have access to an integrated tool that enables them to scan tracking links without sharing data with a third-party. When an offer is active, links would be repeatedly scanned to ensure they are hitting a store – saving money by avoiding sending traffic that isn’t doing anything by going to a broken link. Pro tip: this would be even better if enabling link scanning was available during the testing process while marketers are approving offers from a network.

3. Know your best performing publishers for optimization

Without knowing your best performing publishers, it can be difficult to confidently know where to invest and who to drop. This is just one example of how limited data insights can affect your ability to make critical decisions. These insights are commonly learned by pulling CSV files from your tracking platform, which takes time and resources that could otherwise be spent on analysis and optimization.

The holy grail is data insights in real-time. Having a transparent solution that lets you select what you want to filter, split and measure so that you can gain critical insights and optimize performance is the golden standard. For example, a marketer would be able to see which publisher performed best within the last 30 days in a single country, based on total revenue. They can then also see how much traffic is discarded based on certain rules, such as mismatched targeting or if the publisher was not approved. Moreover, marketers would have greater visibility with greater granularity at any time.

4. Attain transparency and visibility with network integrations

Another common problem with tracking platforms occurs during network integrations and offer approvals. When integrating a network, you may not have an option to select certain offers: you are required to select them all and put them on your platform. This is too limiting for marketers, who may want to be selective about which offers to advertise.

Affiliate marketers really want the ability to integrate networks and then decide if they want to automatically approve offers for that network. Further, they want to view a feed of offers, see how these offers from another network have performed on their platform in the past, and then select the ones they want to approve. This would provide greater transparency and empowers them to be more selective with the offers they approve and save time with auto-approvals.

5. Innovative automation

Automation is a critical component of tracking platforms, simplifying processes to give you more time to spend on analysis. As automated processes become more advanced, it is essential to use them to stay ahead of competitors. Tracking platforms can help account managers by automating anything and everything related to daily operations.

You’ll also need to approve and block publishers, set click budgets, conversion budgets and plan payouts. With the right technology, all of these tasks could be done autonomously by defining certain conditions to allow more focus on strategy moving forward.

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We’ve heard from dozens of affiliate marketers and publishers about how they want to see affiliate performance and tracking technology transform in 2021 and beyond, and the message is clear – more transparency on performance, deeper insights available at your fingertips, better integrations with networks and automation when needed. While the affiliate marketing ecosystem is complex and layered, I believe we can all rally behind these calls for change and innovation to develop solutions that benefit this rapidly maturing industry together.