Order tracking and attribution
One of the first and most critical steps of the affiliate program initialization, integration consists of setting up target action tracking. Tracking is a process of transferring order data to the affiliate network.

Well-configured tracking helps monitor clicks through the affiliate link and target actions performed by users (purchase, registration, application/request). The advertiser has to transfer these data to the affiliate network, and the latter transfers that information to the publisher — all for better transparency.
There are several ways
how the advertiser can integrate tracking mechanisms into their website:
1. Tracking code
The easiest and fastest integration method. Requires a web developer who could embed the code into the advertiser website — for tracking data from the affiliate network. The tracking code comprises two parts. The first is introduced to all pages of the advertiser website; the affiliate network uses it to send requests to its server. The second is introduced to the Thank You page and contains the order data. The tracking code allows cross-device tracking, which relies on transmitting an encrypted user ID. This helps track which publisher led a user, even if the latter used different devices to place an order after following the affiliate link (e.g. viewed the product on the smartphone and ordered it on the PC).
2. Postback request
Configured with the use of a special server language. The request contains special keys, provided at the integration stage, and order data—just like the tracking code (order ID, amount, items, currency, etc.). The request is sent directly from the advertiser server (bypassing the browser and website). The simplest way to set up a postback request (without coding in the server language) is to use a module available for many popular CMS (1C-Bitrix, WooCommerce, OpenCart, ShopScript, Magento). This solution is considered the most reliable and, for integration through a module, the fastest.
3. XML
XML is a special file the advertiser configures following the affiliate network's recommendations and transfers to the network's server at a specific interval (e.g. once an hour). The file helps transfer the same parameters as with other integration types. But in this case, they are transferred in the XML language, compiled in a specific structure. The advertiser's task is to configure the export of all orders, generated by the publishers, to that file.
4. API
It's supposed that it's the advertiser who draws up the documentation for this type of integration. In this case, integration requires sending to the affiliate network a finished standardized solution allowing for order compilation. This may be an XML file created as per the advertiser's requirements, or a special API with the key returning a JSON-formatted response. As a result, the affiliate network will configure the match between the advertiser's and the network's parameters. This method is time-efficient for the advertiser as they need to design the standard for all the affiliates only once. It's even more suitable if there are numerous affiliates (e.g. the advertiser cooperates with several networks). However, what may take long is the configuration on the network's side, as this process requires involving the developer team. Eventually, the advertiser's standard is converted into the XML format and sent to the affiliate network's server, from where order data are exported to reports.
On average, integration takes 1-2 weeks (up to 3-4 weeks for API). It's not recommended to embed the integration code to the website with the help of Google Tag Manager (GTM) as it won't work if a user has an ad blocker enabled.
Choose the method best suitable for your business:
Mobile integration
Let's imagine a situation when the advertiser has both the main website and the mobile app. If the advertiser needs to drive mobile traffic, it's advisable to use an SDK module developed for integrating tracking into mobile apps. To perform integration, it's required to embed the module code into the mobile app. It can be used as a complement; regardless of the major integration method the advertiser chose earlier. 

Here's how it works. The user follows the publisher's link and gets to the affiliate network's tracking platform that checks whether the user has installed the app. If they haven't, the user is redirected to the mobile website version (the page specified by the publisher). If they have installed the app, the app is called with the help of the SDK on the affiliate network's side. Such an order will be counted in favor of the publisher who led the user to the app, and the module will send the same postback request as in the case of direct integration.
Custom integration
Rarely, when the advertiser works through an agency, integration becomes a custom process (the advertiser transfers order data to the agency, then the latter sends the data to the affiliate network). In this case, it's critical to make sure data transfer between all three parties is configured correctly. The most crucial elements are data transfer between the advertiser and the agency and advertiser's integration method (the solution must be advanced enough and meet the advertising market's standards). In case of global changes to the integration method, the advertiser must warn the affiliate network of the event beforehand, as making changes to a custom solution will consume even more resources and efforts of the developer team.
Attribution (Last Cookie Wins)
Attribution is the logic according to which the advertiser decides which publisher to pay for a target action performed if the user followed links of several publishers before placing an order. 

After following the affiliate link, the user is tagged with the publisher's cookie files — the user will carry this ID until they place an order or follow another publisher's link. Cookies have specific lifetime as set by the advertiser. Lifetime is a period during which the advertiser website will remember who led the customer (even if the user closed the browser after following the affiliate link and then got back). The lifetime period may be one day to one year or even longer: it's up to the advertiser. However, publishers usually go with programs offering a longer cookie lifetime.

A standard attribution model is called Last Cookies Wins (or Last Paid Click). Under this model, the reward goes to the last source who led the user before the latter performed a target action (i.e. the source which was the last in the conversion chain). This model is the most popular one, as it's relatively simple (100% of the reward goes to the only one channel). There are some other models — e.g. multichannel attribution, where the reward is distributed between all publishers who participated in the customer acquisition process, proportionally to their contribution to program promotion and the sale. This system is fairer in terms of publisher's compensation, but way more effort-consuming in terms of development.
Deduplication
If the advertiser works with several paid traffic sources (e.g. affiliate network), one target action may be led in by several publishers (the user "touches" the website several times, and the order is placed after those "touches"). The advertiser needs to decide which source to compensate. 

The action will be counted in favor of the publisher as per the attribution model, but it's crucial to reflect these actions in the reports correctly. If actions are not properly reflected in statistics, the request will be sent to both affiliate networks, and attribution — and reward — duplication will occur. To avoid such an event, one should configure deduplication which will help transfer source data so the affiliates can be guided with this information and only prepare the order if it belongs to them. When integration is performed through a tracking code, deduplication is enabled by default: a complementary code part is embedded into the Thank You page, and a dedicated code is used to create a cookie containing the source data. In other integration methods, deduplication is configured by the advertiser.
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In which integration methods are requests sent from the advertiser's server to the affiliate network's server?
Miss. In tracking-code integration, the request is sent from the advertiser website. In XML integration, the request is made by the affiliate network's server (rather than vice versa). In Postback request integration, the request is sent from the advertiser's server to the affiliate network's server.
Miss. In tracking-code integration, the request is sent from the advertiser website. In XML integration, the request is made by the affiliate network's server (rather than vice versa). In Postback request integration, the request is sent from the advertiser's server to the affiliate network's server.
Correct! In tracking-code integration, the request is sent from the advertiser website. In XML integration, the request is made by the affiliate network's server (rather than vice versa). In Postback request integration, the request is sent from the advertiser's server to the affiliate network's server.
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Who gets a reward if the advertiser employs the Last Cookie Wins attribution model?
Incorrect. Under the Last Cookie Wins model, the first source can only be eligible for a reward if (1) it's paid (i.e. it's a publisher rather than organic or direct traffic) or (2) it was the last (the user didn't follow any other publishers' links after that source's link).
Bingo! Under the Last Cookie Wins model, the first source can only be eligible for a reward if (1) it's paid (i.e. it's a publisher rather than organic or direct traffic) or (2) it was the last (the user didn't follow any other publishers' links after that source's link).
Incorrect. Under the Last Cookie Wins model, the first source can only be eligible for a reward if (1) it's paid (i.e. it's a publisher rather than organic or direct traffic) or (2) it was the last (the user didn't follow any other publishers' links after that source's link).
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How long does a cookie live?
Right! It's the advertiser who sets the cookie lifetime: a cookie may live either for one browser session or for more than a year. It depends on the user behavior, time to purchase decision, and economic feasibility of increasing or decreasing the cookie lifetime.
Incorrect. It's the advertiser who sets the cookie lifetime: a cookie may live either for one browser session or for more than a year. It depends on the user behavior, time to purchase decision, and economic feasibility of increasing or decreasing the cookie lifetime.
Incorrect. It's the advertiser who sets the cookie lifetime: a cookie may live either for one browser session or for more than a year. It depends on the user behavior, time to purchase decision, and economic feasibility of increasing or decreasing the cookie lifetime.
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What order details does the advertiser need to transfer to the affiliate network?
Right! Email and payment details are private information that may not be transferred to any third party. On the other hand, the advertiser has to transfer order amount and currency—to ensure proper calculation of the publisher's reward.
Incorrect. Email and payment details are private information that may not be transferred to any third party. On the other hand, the advertiser has to transfer order amount and currency—to ensure proper calculation of the publisher's reward.
Incorrect. Email and payment details are private information that may not be transferred to any third party. On the other hand, the advertiser has to transfer order amount and currency—to ensure proper calculation of the publisher's reward.
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Why is it not advisable to embed a tracking code into Google Tag Manager?
Right! Google Tag Manager is a container allowing quickly embed a code into a website. However, if a user has an ad blocker enabled, the GTM-stored code may fail and the order won't be counted in statistics.
Miss. Google Tag Manager is a container allowing quickly embed a code into a website. However, if a user has an ad blocker enabled, the GTM-stored code may fail and the order won't be counted in statistics.
Miss. Google Tag Manager is a container allowing quickly embed a code into a website. However, if a user has an ad blocker enabled, the GTM-stored code may fail and the order won't be counted in statistics.
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How much and what should publishers be paid for?
Types of publishers
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