With more and more online businesses becoming involved in affiliate marketing, more opportunities have arisen and most affiliate marketers will use an affiliate marketing network to search for offers for their blogs, websites, etc.

In this post, we will look into different affiliate platforms, as well as methods of tracking or attributing affiliate-referred conversions. 

There are two basic types of affiliate platforms; affiliate networks and in-house platforms. 

Affiliate networks like Hareer Deals are essentially mediators connecting affiliates with affiliate programs, providing tracking, reporting, and maintenance services both to merchants, meaning those who run their affiliate programs on these platforms, and to affiliates.

In merchant-affiliate relationships, affiliate networks are also the ones who pay affiliates, helping them aggregate payments across different programs, streamlining the payment process for both parties involved. 

Some merchants run their in-house based affiliate programs on proprietary solutions.

Should you prefer network based programs over indies? It depends.

Working with merchants through affiliate networks is more convenient, and especially for beginner affiliates. Though these affiliate networks will take a small cut of any fees generated, they do serve a valuable purpose in the affiliate marketing climate. They are more convenient due to their ability to aggregate payments across numerous affiliate programs, in addition to creating a directory or search engine for affiliate marketers to find offers and handling the administrative duties of running an affiliate network. Also across the board reporting is good to have. However, if the niche you chose to work in justifies joining in-house based affiliate programs, definitely go for it but be careful to only work with reliable merchants to make sure you can collect your profits! With smaller merchants, take it easy before you are 100% certain you won't burn yourself. 

For most affiliates, it is not an either or question but both and  joining both networks and indies allow them to work with a larger numbers of relevant merchants.

Speaking of tracking, clicks are tracked by the platform, either an in-house based platform, or an affiliate network, and it happens upon the click on an affiliate link.

Whereas, conversions are tracked on the merchant's confirmation page, or thank you page and it is done by a string of code, also known as the tracking pixel or cookies.  Affiliate sales are normally tracked using cookies (small text files set on the visitor's computer that has basic information to track their session and actions).

The length of time where cookies are stored on the visitor's machine is called the cookie lifetime. In our context it means the time period between the end user's click on our affiliate link and the last day when the merchant is willing to pay as a commission on the sale made by the visitor that we have referred to them.

Last click wins is the predominant model of attributing affiliate sales nowadays. This means that regardless of how many affiliates touched the customer in the pre-sale process, it is the last affiliate that sets the cookie on their machine before they place the order through that will get the full commission. 

Cookies are not the only way that affiliate traffic and conversions may be tracked. There are a number of platforms that do not depend on cookies for tracking or do not depend on cookies only. For example Tracking may also be tied to the shopping chart, the end user's IP or be URL-based when affiliate IDs are being embedded in each URL or it may incorporate a number of other cookie-less solutions. Those methods are called cookie-free or cookie-less tracking. 

Some campaigns set the cookie lifetime to days or even a month, and others offer extremely short cookie life periods of five hours or less. Your reaction may be why even bother with these short cookie lifetime campaigns. The answer is that even-though longer cookie lifetime is better,  shortlife time cookies are not so bad when you look at the fact that between 85% and 91% of purchases occur either immediately or within 24 hours after the end customers click on the affiliate link.

Is it possible to have all your affiliate reporting in one place? Certainly; there are both tools that can help you unify reporting across different affiliate networks and merchants. They are called affiliate statistics aggregators, but the good old Excel can do the work too. Exporting your reports and importing them into your own environment, either manually or by using network APIs works as well. Hareer Deals offer an advanced 2-way API that can help you integrate your reports with any platform you use.

I know that this post is a bit technical so if you want a summery here you go! Affiliate programs may be run either on an affiliate network like Hareer Deals or in an in-house solution. When it comes to the question of networks versus indie programs, I recommend working with both. Clicks are tracked by affiliate links while conversions are tracked by code on the confirmation page of the advertiser. Cookies and other methods may be used for tracking. Cookie life is the time period within which you get paid. Last click wins model is good to remember at all times. Most conversions occur within 24 hours and aggregation of affiliate’s reporting helps manage your efforts.