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Comparison of Conversion Tracking Methods

A guide to selecting the proper Conversion Tracking Method for your Link Tracking Offers

Simma Baghbanbashi avatar
Written by Simma Baghbanbashi
Updated over a week ago

Conversion tracking is essential to performance marketing. It provides your team with data to track members' performance so you can see their impact and tailor your future marketing efforts.

Each Link Tracking Offer must be configured with a particular Conversion Method. This is how conversions are tracked from your website or app to Aspire.

We have a few tracking methods to choose from; each one has strengths and weaknesses, and they all vary in the channels they can handle and the technical resources they require. The available Conversion Methods are:


Server Postback Tracking

Also called server-side, server-to-server, and server-based tracking. This method relies on the advertiser’s servers, rather than the user's browser, to track sessions generated on clicks to attribute conversions. The servers record and then pass the transaction ID or partner ID back to Aspire. No data is stored on a user’s computer.

There are two protocols for server postback tracking: with transaction ID and with partner ID. Using transaction IDs is the best practice and the protocol we typically recommend, but in some rare cases, transaction IDs aren’t usable.

Server Postback is the most accurate and reliable method by far. We highly recommend using Server Postback tracking if your team has the technical resources available to implement the server-side calls.

Pros:

  • Most accurate and reliable method, as it does not rely on browser-based tracking (i.e. third-party cookies)

  • Independent from browser restrictions

  • Works on mobile devices

  • Able to attribute across channels

Cons:

  • Requires the ability to store data on a server

For more information on setting up Server Postback, click here.


Javascript Postback Tracking

Aspire's Javascript Postback tracking provides a cookieless tracking solution for brands running their networks. Sessions and conversions can be generated inside the end user's browser by implementing the tracking scripts on your website page.

The Aspire Javascript postback offers client-side functionality for session storage and creator conversions. By utilizing the Javascript postback, you'll have the accuracy of server-side postback without the technical setup effort.

However, since this method depends on the user's browser, it’s still susceptible to some of the same risks and limitations as traditional pixel tracking. For example, Apple’s Safari browser now fully blocks third-party cookies by default. That means pixel tracking won’t work at all in Safari, but JavaScript Postback tracking will. However, Safari also deletes all first-party cookies (and other script-writable storage) after 7 days without user interaction. If you’re using JavaScript Postback tracking, this means your conversion windows on Apple devices will be capped at one week.

Pros:

  • Provides the accuracy of server-side tracking with the setup effort of client-side tracking

  • More reliable and accurate than pixel tracking as it relies on first-party cookies via our SDK

  • Less sensitive to browser restrictions than cookie-based tracking

Cons:

  • Some browser restrictions may still apply

  • Does not support cross-channel as postbacks do. Cross-channel is referring to when the user changes devices during the session to conversion process. For example, the user begins the session on their desktop and then converts on mobile. This is not possible with the Javascript postback.

For more information on setting up JavaScript postback tracking, click here.


Pixel Tracking

Also called client-side, cookie-based, and in-browser tracking. This method relies on the user’s browser to track conversions by placing a cookie on the click that is called again on conversion to authenticate the session and attribute the conversion to the correct affiliate. Implementing a conversion pixel is as simple as placing a snippet of code on the conversion page.

💡 Aspire's recommendation is to use pixel tracking as little as possible, as pixel tracking only works for non-mobile web traffic where cookies can be stored. Additionally, major browsers like Safari, Chrome, and Firefox are moving away from allowing tracking-related cookies even for first parties.

There are two protocols for pixel tracking, based on the HTML iframe or image tags. All pixel-tracking protocols track click sessions using cookies and are subject to the limitations imposed on cookies by web browsers. The best practice is to use the “HTTPS iframe pixel” protocol for cookie-based conversion tracking.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up

  • Easy to share data via cookies

Cons:

  • Inaccurate and unreliable

  • Only works for non-mobile web traffic in browsers that allow tracking cookie storage (i.e. does not work on mobile devices or in Apple Safari, and will not work in most browsers soon)

  • Conversion will not be tracked if the user deletes their browser cookies or switches browsers

  • Image pixels have additional limitations, such as only being able to load a single partner conversion pixel, and being unable to load partner iframe conversion pixels.


For more information on setting up pixel tracking, click here.

Source: TUNE


Frequently Asked Questions

What are the disadvantages of pixel tracking?

Pixel tracking is highly inaccurate because it relies on cookies stored within the user's browser. It is commonly used because it's simple and easy to implement, but we don't recommend this tracking method due to browser restrictions making it increasingly obsolete.

For pixel tracking to function, a web browser must be able to load simple HTML containers and accept third-party tracking cookies. This wasn’t a problem until the last few years, when major browsers (including Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox) began to block third-party cookies by default. Because it relies on these web browsers to function, any browser that blocks third-party tracking cookies now breaks all pixel tracking in that browser.

Additionally, pixel tracking doesn’t work if the conversion occurs on a mobile device. That means conversions on mobile web, in the app stores, and in apps will not register. (Mobile devices and smartphones usually have cookies blocked as a default setting, so a cookie will never be placed on mobile in the first place.)

In addition, sometimes pixels just don’t fire and you won’t know why. Possible reasons include:

  • The customer cleared their cache between click and conversion.

  • The customer moved across browsers. For example, if they start the purchase in Google Chrome but finish in Safari.

  • The customer moved from mobile to web, or vice versa, between click to conversion.

  • The customer purchased after 30 days from their link click. The 30-day period is the cookie expiration date.

What is Server Postback w/Partner ID?

When using this postback tracking protocol, Aspire will provide you with a "partner ID", offer ID, and any other information set up in the offer to store in your server. When a customer makes a conversion, your server will send this information to Aspire who then matches on partner ID and offer ID.

This method can be used to track recurring purchases. For example, if you want customers who make monthly purchases to be attributed to one of your members. In this case, the brand has to associate a customer with a partner, and every time that customer repurchases, that information is sent to Aspire.

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