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What Affiliate Marketers Haven’t Discovered in Google Analytics

Managing a website as an affiliate marketer requires a clear strategy. You need to create engaging content, make that content rank in the search results, and more.

Many valuable tools will help you achieve these goals. One such tool is Google Analytics (GA). The insights that GA can bring you are available for anyone running a business through a website. You’ll uncover a great deal of data relating to your website then act on this data to develop your marketing strategies.

This guide will discuss how you can use GA as an affiliate marketer.

How to use Google Analytics for tracking

You’re probably using PPC ads, social media, or search traffic to funnel leads to a merchant.

What you should ideally be focusing on here is the landing page experience. You’ll likely want to know:

  1. How are potential customers engaging with the content on your page?
  2. How many people are clicking through to the affiliate offer?
  3. How is the affiliate offer converting?

You would be looking at bounce rate factors such as time on page and bounce rate for point one. For point two, you would be doing event tracking. Event tracking would tell you how many people click and inform you about the conversion rate.

You can use the insights from points one and two to improve the user experience and determine what should be placed where on a page so you can maximize your earnings.

Use Google Event Tracking to track outbound clicks on affiliate links. You can access the dashboard through Behavior > Links. Assign each click its value by using the ‘Goals’ section.

The benefits of Google event tracking are clear. The feature allows you to monitor assumed profit margins. That means you can focus on clearly defining your marketing goals.

Goal values can help predict your marketing campaign’s profitability. To check your actual sales, you need to access your affiliate dashboard for your affiliate marketing program. Check whether those predicted margins align with the real deal.

Affiliate marketers like you will also keep track of other vital data sources related to their website (along with avoiding any potential marketing pitfalls along the way). These include the number of clicks and how far most of your website users scroll down each page. These insights give you a clear idea of how your website performs. There are then multiple techniques to improve your affiliate marketing campaign.

With pure, actionable data, you’ll know which steps to take as an affiliate marketer. Such valuable insights highlight the value of Google Analytics, which covers one extra-base of your marketing strategy.

Google Analytics’ limitations in affiliate tracking

Despite its success in monitoring the behavior of your website’s visitors, Google Analytics has a few downsides when it comes to affiliate tracking.

You can’t use Google Analytics event tracking for the last stages of an affiliate funnel. So, you can’t track what happens after a visitor clicks on your affiliate link and leaves the site. That makes lead acquisition more expensive if you’re running paid ads.

There are three main issues concerning the limits of GA.

  1. You can’t track off site actions. Assume you get some views for your ads and subsequent clicks on your affiliate link. You won’t know who eventually purchased the offer and who didn’t. As a result, you’re forced to run the same retargeting ads to people who clicked on the affiliate link regardless of whether they made a purchase or not. The result? Higher advertising costs and less effective targeting.
  2. GA won’t allow you to share custom audiences generated on other advertisement platforms. That’s troublesome because of the benefits off-site conversion data can bring.
  3. You cannot build lookalike audiences based on people who purchase the product.

In addition, as an affiliate marketer, you can’t place your Google Analytics tag on your merchant ‘thank you page’. You miss out on specific insights on how your PPC advertisements are performing. So, you switch between your affiliate programs, the advertisement platform, and GA.

Offsite tracking: Client-side vs server-side

Offline conversion tracking combines two actions: the actions of users on your website and the actions taken on websites outside of the initial website’s Google Analytics tag.

Offsite conversion tracking can be completed through one of two methods: postback tracking/client-side (API) or CSV upload/manual data (server-side tracking). There are pros and cons to each method. These are as follows:

Client-side tracking pros:

  • Easy to use and implement. Most vendors supply a piece of code that only requires a simple copy and paste to use. That’s why client-side tags have become the standard practice in the industry.
  • Cheaper: Data transmission costs tend to be more cost-effective.
  • Contextual data: Since client-side tracking takes place on a user’s device, you get direct access to user-specific data such as cookies and IP addresses. You can use cookies for your business’s ad targeting. You can use location data for personalization.

Client-side tracking cons:

  • Unreliability: Client-side tracking is becoming increasingly unreliable thanks to ad blockers and strict browser privacy settings.
  • Other restrictions: Further restrictions such as shortened cookie runtimes and browser memory complicate matters further.

Server-side tracking pros:

  • Control, accuracy, and reliability: Reduced scope of data management means your business can exert greater control over the transmission. Ad-blocking can be negated or less troublesome.
  • Greater performance: Server-side tracking works via the cloud. That frees up the processing necessities on a client’s device, causing a domino effect. Such a process leads to better performance and less battery, leading to an enhanced customer experience and a higher conversion rate.
  • Conversion rate synchronization: You can create custom audiences and lookalike audiences for ads on sites like Facebook and Google by syncing conversion rate data across several channels.

Server-side tracking cons:

  • Lack of support: Even in 2021, not all websites support server-side tracking. While Google introduced it back in 2013, sites such as Twitter and Tik-Tok have yet to take the plunge. That, however, may change in time.

The benefits and negatives of each of these approaches needs to be weighed. That way, you’ll see which is suitable for your business and marketing strategy.

Google Analytics and offsite tracking

Despite its many benefits, offsite tracking is difficult to implement. The technical knowledge required can be off-putting.

Fortunately, Google Analytics has an extensive API that helps developers implement server-side tracking. Depending on your technical skill, there are several tiers of off-site tracking methods. In order of complexity, starting with the simplest, these are as follows:

  1. Third-party affiliate tracking software: This connects Google Analytics to other ads marketplaces such as Facebook or Bing.
  2. Google Tag Manager: More complex than third-party affiliate tracking. Google Tag Manager only lets you track off-site actions if you add Google Tags to the merchant’s website.
  3. Google Analytics API: The most complete of the bunch. It gives programmers the best tools for server-side tracking.

If you’re looking to optimize your marketing funnels and boost your ad spend return, they are an essential part of your marketing process. They aren’t exclusive to paid ads either.

They are just like other tools that enhance your marketing strategy. Just like email marketing services that enhance your email marketing. Or that email verifier that helps you conduct an email address search and build your email list.

Wrapping Up

This article has demonstrated both the benefits and shortcomings of Google Analytics within the field of affiliate marketing. GA on its own is a powerful tool, but it lacks depth and can be inaccurate at times. You cannot track users’ actions once they leave your site. You can only track the actions they take on your website. But implementing offsite tracking negates such a problem. It allows you access to crucial data that will benefit your marketing campaign.

These valuable insights are highly beneficial to you as an affiliate marketer. You’re now armed with the correct tools to tackle the shortcomings of Google Analytics. We wish you the best of luck with the future of your affiliate marketing campaign.


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Anna Hendricks

I’m Anna Hendricks, a dedicated writer and editor for the digital marketing blog at Mondovo.com. I’ve spent over a decade in the digital marketing industry, using my love for words and storytelling to create content that truly connects with readers. My strength lies in making complex marketing concepts engaging and easy to understand. My work has guided numerous businesses through the dynamic world of digital marketing. When I’m not delving into SEO and content marketing, I love exploring the outdoors and spending quality time with my family. My commitment to producing top-notch content is a key contributor to Mondovo’s success in the digital marketing realm.
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