Google Analytics IS NOT Affiliate Tracking Software

Lucas Brown

Why Google Analytics won’t work for tracking affiliate marketing.

More and more advertisers are starting to increase advertising spend with affiliate marketing. However, they are relying on Google Analytics to track conversions. While this is a great way to reconcile sales, its a bad way to work with affiliates and affiliate networks.

Let’s get something straight.

Google Analytics is not an affiliate tracking software. Google Analytics is a web analytics software. There is a big difference. Affiliate tracking software has lots of tools to allow you to effectively manage and work with affiliates and performance based ad networks. Web analytics software does not provide tools to manage them, just reports performance.

Here are some problems you’ll encounter when trying to use web analytics software to manage affiliates:

  • No system to display affiliate pixels or postback URLs
  • Placing affiliate pixels / postback URLs direct on web page causes duplicate conversions
  • No interface provide for self-management
  • Can’t set and manage affiliate payouts
  • No way to generate and manage payout invoices

Here’s an excerpt from a recent support request from an affiliate network with an advertiser that uses Google Analytics for tracking.

I have a discrepancy with my advertiser XXX. They show 60% fewer leads (20 vs our 64) than us this month. I sent them the IPs associated with all the leads that tracked in HasOffers and he found that some of these IPs come from some of their other publishers and not us. I’m not clear why I’m tracking some other publisher leads in my network.

The advertiser above is using Google Analytics for tracking their affiliate marketing. This affiliate (one of our clients) provided the advertiser with their own third party conversion pixel in order to track their own conversions. The advertiser then placed this pixel directly on their confirmation page separate from their own Google Analytics tracking. For this reason, the affiliate recorded a conversion for every sale that had an active user tracking session associated with it, regardless if another publisher was responsible.

This is a clear case where the advertiser needs a system to manage affiliates. Affiliate software allows advertisers to only display affiliate’s conversion pixels or postback URLs when they are actually credited for a conversion. In the above case, advertiser XXX would have only shown the client’s affiliate pixel for 20 conversions. This would ensure that the advertiser is only displaying that affiliate’s conversion pixels when they are going to credit that particular affiliate.

We’re certainly big fans of integrating your affiliate tracking software with Google Analytics. Learn how to track each affiliate’s activity with the rest of your marketing channels in Google Analytics with this in depth how-to post: Integrating Google Analytics with Affiliate Tracking Software.

But please remember, Google Analytics is a reporting tool and not an affiliate tracking and management solution. If you’re an advertiser or know of advertisers that run their affiliate marketing using only Google Analytics pass this post along before they ruin any awesome affiliate relationships!

Lucas Brown

Lucas and his twin brother Lee began their first businesses before starting high school in their hometown of Elma, WA. They quickly found this world suited them, launching other successful businesses in college and reporting their first million dollars in revenue as sophomores in their dorms. Developing unique solutions for their own ad network, Lucas had the foresight to white-label their technologies to empower other businesses, which quickly became the birth of TUNE. As Chief Product Officer, Lucas leads agile product teams that strive to quickly meet the needs of an ever growing client base. As a founder, Lucas and his twin brother Lee supported the company in the beginning, growing to profitability by 2010. Lucas' expertise in complex business models, integrations, implementations, and his constant drive for innovation make him a cornerstone of this Seattle based startup. Lucas graduated from Babson College in Boston, MA.