|ClickBank Affiliate Woes: When Tracking Breaks Down
Hardly a day goes by without a forum posting in which ClickBank is challenged about the reliability and integrity of its affiliate referral tracking mechanism - the hoplink system. It cannot be denied that ClickBank's technical infrastructures do not always inspire the greatest level of confidence. But this article sets out to demonstrate that a range of factors play a part in the integrity of affiliate tracking and any one of these can be the cause of those much-reviled commission losses.
Given the reliance of affiliate programs on cookie technology, it is important to understand the problems that may arise from this technology and what can be done to alleviate them.
The browser cookie is an essential ingredient in accurately and consistently allocating commission to the correct referring affiliate. If no referral cookie is present on a prospect's computer when she makes a purchase, no affiliate will collect the commission. With ClickBank's hoplink system (though not necessarily with other affiliate systems), this requirement holds true even if the prospect purchases immediately upon referral.
There are four reasons for missing cookies:
Deletion: Cookies can be deleted through a variety of computer maintenance operations. Some of these are explicit (e.g. instructing the browser to clear all its temporary files) and some are automatic (e.g. software utilities that perform routine, scheduled computer housekeeping).
Expiration: Each affiliate program implements its own policy determining the time period referral cookies will remain valid. Once a cookie reaches its expiration date, it ceases to have any effect on the allocation of affiliate commission. ClickBank's affiliate tracking cookies are valid for 60 days.
Overflow: To comply with the recommendations of the Netscape Cookie Specification, a web browser needs to support the storage of at least 300 cookies. Beyond this level, the browser is free to delete cookies in order to reclaim disk space, on a first-in-first-out basis. In theory, this means that referral cookies may be prematurely deleted if a large influx of new cookies causes the limit to be exceeded. In practice, this issue is
no cause for concern, as disk space is now abundant and most modern browsers do not implement such limits.
Rejection: If the prospect's browser is configured to reject cookies, or uses filtering criteria that reject cookies from the affiliate program's domain, a referral cookie will never be created for that user.
Little can be done by affiliates to directly protect against cookie deletion or expiration. Therefore, affiliates should be aware of the issue when selecting products, giving preference to products most likely to generate a prompt purchase. Any product that requires an extensive period of reflection prior to purchase represents an increased risk of commission losses to the affiliate.
Cookie rejection is also a serious issue for affiliates. The current versions of all major browsers are installed with cookies enabled, so it takes a conscious effort on the part of the user to disable support for cookies. However, inaccurate media coverage of cookies has increased the number of web consumers who do systematically reject them.
Fortunately, following a series of recent change to the ClickBank hoplink system, a referral will now only take place if the client computer accepts the ClickBank tracking cookie. This is great comfort to ClickBank affiliates, who can no longer be deprived of their commission because of cookie rejection. Merchants, in contrast, may not be so happy that willing prospects are being turned away because of an errant configuration in their computer.
ClickBank faces a difficult balancing act in attempting to implement systems that are fair to both the merchant and the affiliate. And whilst the company's technology may not always be perfect, it is reassuring to note that not every forum scare story is founded on fact.
About The Author
Copyright © Tim Coulter. All rights reserved.
Tim Coulter is a consultant and software developer who helps netpreneurs to harness marketing technologies.
He is also the author of "ClickBank - The Definitive Guide" The Ultimate ClickBank Tutorial & Reference Manual.