2018-07-20T15:04:43+00:00 July 2nd, 2018/Affiliate Marketing/By /

Affiliate Marketing: The 8 Best Affiliate Marketing Trackers Compared [2018 Edition]

4.1/5 (22)

Tracking your data is essential if you want to succeed as an affiliate marketer.

How are you going to make money if you’re not sure EXACTLY which ads are converting?

Or imagine if the campaign doesn’t convert during certain times of the day and you’re running it 24 / 7.

You’re burning money.

Let me break it down for you:

  1. You’re spending money to buy data.
  2. You make decisions based on the data to become more profitable.

So if you’re not tracking the data properly, you’re screwed.

You won’t believe how difficult tracking was when I first started affiliate marketing. There weren’t any trackers around in 2007, and I had to hire a guy to create a basic PHP tracking script.

I was calculating this stuff with a weird system of spreadsheets + (?SubID=X) + my made up code names so the networks wouldn’t know my secrets.

Then Tracking202 came out and changed the game. Now, I’d consider Voluum to be the “standard” in affiliate marketing.

Anyways, I’ve been noticing that more and more affiliate marketing trackers have come to the market. This is awesome because it gives us more options, and competition makes all the software step their game up.

So, my team and I decided to research and compare the features across all the different tracking platforms out there. Hopefully, you can use it to choose what’s best for you.

Pick wisely because it can be a headache to switch your tracker later down the road.

List of Affiliate Trackers

Here’s a quick overview of the most popular trackers available.

This list was curated June 2018. There are more trackers out there, but I wanted to limit it to just 10.

Here’s a quick list.

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

Overview Affiliate Trackers 2018

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

Cloud-Based vs. Self-Hosted Trackers

pasted image 0 10

It’s easier to compare the trackers if we split them into two camps: cloud-based and self-hosted.

These two camps have its own set of considerations.

For example, here’s are two significant factors to consider when deciding between self-hosted and cloud-based.

Data Retention Considerations

If you are going to use self-hosted trackers, you don’t need to worry about

Data Retention.

It’s always going to be on your server.

For cloud-based trackers, some companies will only allow you have 3 months of data retention on their first-tier plans.

So, you won’t be able to view and revive campaigns that you were running 4 months back, unless, you upgrade to a higher-tier plan.

If you are going with a cloud-based tracker, you don’t need to care about

Tracker Software Updates

If you are going with a cloud-based tracker, you don’t need to care about Tracker Updates,

They’re automatically done for you.

For self-hosted trackers, you have to do the upgrades yourself. Some trackers even make you pay for upgrades after a year.

You don’t want to be paying $249/year and then realize that you have to fork out another $200/year to make sure you are not running an optimized tracker.

Choosing Between Two Types of Trackers

pasted image 0 6

But Charles, how do I choose between these two types of trackers?

In my opinion, it boils down to four main things:

#1: Data Privacy

If you’re going to use a cloud-based tracker, all your campaign data will be stored on another company’s server.

Some affiliates are uncomfortable with that because, in theory, that company could see all your conversion data.

For example, some of these trackers are owned by Affiliate Networks. There could be a conflict of interest when an affiliate network can see all of your data.

If you don’t want anyone else seeing your campaign data, choose a self-hosted tracker. That way, only you and your team can see campaign data.

However, there is a downside.

#2: Dealing with Backend Servers 

Going with a self-hosted tracker means you’ll need to:

  • Determine the server specifications necessary to host the tracker
  • Install the tracker on your server (some have 1-Click installation)
  • Fine-tune your tracker to make it redirect as quickly as possible.
  • Setup monitoring in case your server can’t handle the load
  • Etc.

It can be a lot of work.

But…

I have a friend who loves that kind of stuff!

He told me he installed load balancers, has multiple data centers globally, tweaked his tracker configurations, etc.

He likes to be control of the whole server backend, so he knows that his campaigns are performing at their best.

Me?

I hate it.

I’d rather stick with a cloud-based tracker.

I want to focus on marketing.

So, if you MUST have campaign privacy and love the ability to optimize your tracking servers to perfection, then go with the self-hosted option.

#3: Pricing 

Self-hosted trackers are, at least initially, cheaper compared to cloud-based trackers.

And, you don’t have to pay for clicks. It’s unlimited

Cloud-based trackers may charge you pennies for each event (Visit/Clicks/Convs).

But all these add up in the long run.

Soon, can end up paying huge overage charges.

Note: Don’t forget to account for the cost of the server AND time to manage your servers as part of your overall cost. If you need to spend 3 months to learn and optimize your servers, you’re probably better off using a cloud-based tracker.

#4 Speed

Cloud-hosted trackers will always be faster, especially if you are running international traffic.

They have multiple data centers strategically located around the world for the best redirection speed.

The slower your tracker, the more money you’ll lose.

A Simple Rule of Thumb

pasted image 0 14

If you:

  • NEED privacy on your campaign data
  • Are okay dealing with Backend Server Installations/Configurations/Optimizations
  • Are price sensitive
  • Are only running on ONE Geo for your campaigns (assuming your tracker is located in that geo)

Then, go with self-hosted.

Otherwise, go cloud-based.

Most cloud-based trackers have infrastructures with multiple access points around the world for faster redirect speeds.

Most also have automated failovers for increased reliability.

If one server goes down, another one kicks in to serve traffic to your audience.

List of Self-Hosted Affiliate Trackers

pasted image 0 2

I’ll compare 3 different areas for you:

  • Pricing: For those who are starting off on a limited budget
  • Support/Documentation: If you need help, will they be readily available for you?
  • Useful Features & USP: What I feel are some features to affiliates should pay attention to & the tracker’s unique selling points.

Pricing 

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

Pricing - Self Hosted Trackers 2018 Comparison

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

Here are some quick tips before investing in a tracker:

  • Play with a live demo account.
  • Watch out for software upgrade fees.
    • Usually, you have to upgrade your tracker for it to perform optimally. That’s an extra fee to bear in mind.
  • Self-hosted trackers require you to install them on your server.
    • Can they do it for you? If you’re not tech-savvy, this is a huge plus – even if you have to pay for it.
    • Do they have detailed setup documentation that you can follow or pass on to your programmer?

Support & Documentation

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

Support - Self Hosted Trackers 2018 Comparison

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

Some quick tips when it comes to support:

  • Support Channel: If you need quick-fixes on your server, will they be able to get back to you fast?
    • I like having the ability to connect with a manager on Skype/WhatsApp.
  • Documentation: Instead of relying on them to respond, do they have a detailed
    documentation/FAQs that you can refer to when you need help?
  • Reporting API: This is a little advanced. Reporting API makes it easy for my guys to programmatically update costs and pull stats to make better decisions. Do they have one?

Useful Features & USPs (Unique Selling Points)

I don’t want to bore you by listing out ALL the features that each tracker provides.

That’s too much.

You can read the details on their sales page.

Here’s the 80-20 of each tracker.

Determine which one best solves your challenges.

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

USP - Self Hosted Trackers 2018 Comparison

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

Picking Self-Hosted Trackers

Ten years ago, I wasn’t very tech-savvy.

I took hours installing my tracker and ended up with tons of weird “undefined config/database” errors.

I hired a programmer, and it was solved.

Months later, a tracker update came.

I had to pause my campaigns and manually upgrade it.

You guessed it! Tons of errors surfaced.

It was just a total pain.

Here are some thoughts and lessons I want to share with you:

  • Ease of Installation: Make sure that a tracker is easy to install. Better still, ask if the company can install for you so that you can focus on marketing.
  • Ease of Updating Tracker Upgrades: Upgrades are great. This means the tracker is always improving its features. But, do you have to pause your campaigns to update it?
  • Fast Redirection: The faster the redirects, the faster your audiences see your landing page, the faster they see your offers, the faster you make money.
  • High-Speed Server: Never run a tracker on a shared hosting like Hostgator. Those types of servers won’t be able to handle your load. Sometimes, being cheap costs you more. Use a VPS like LiquidWeb.
  • Install The Tracker On a Server Located In Your Targeted Geo: If you’re advertising in the US, install it on a US VPS for faster redirection.
  • 24/7 Support: Often, you’re on your own when it comes to self-hosted. When you are stuck, are they able to quickly contact support for an answer? Time is money.
  • List of Features/USPs: Do they have particular features that you need? Make sure you choose the tracker that provides them.
  • Constant Improvements: Is the tracker constantly improving with new features suggested by the community? That’s an indicator of a great tracker. I don’t want to be using a tracker that’s way behind the best technology.

Now, let’s look at Cloud-Hosted trackers.

List of Cloud-Hosted Affiliate Trackers

pasted image 0 9

Let’s compare the same areas from the self-hosted trackers.

PRICING

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

Pricing - Cloud Affiliate Tracker 2018

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

Here are some quick tips before investing in a tracker:

  • If you are running huge volume, pay close attention to how your events are being charged. Some only charge you by clicks while others charge you by Visits/Clicks/Conversions. This factor alone will drive up your cost, especially if you are running pop traffic. Do your math ahead of time.
  • Multiple Data Centers: Generally, the more data centers a cloud-hosted tracker is in, the faster it will serve your international audiences. The slower your tracker, the more money you’ll lose.
  • Data Retention: How long ago are you able to view past campaign stats? There are some profitable campaigns that I paused but come back to 6 months later. It’s annoying if I can’t view those stats to find out what was working.
  • Live Demo & Trial Period & Coupons:
    • If there’s a Live Demo, play around with it to get a general feel.
      • If there isn’t, check if they have a Trial Period. Cancel it if it doesn’t suit your needs.
  • If there’s a Coupon, apply it, so you get discounted rates when if decide to stay on.

SUPPORT & DOCUMENTATION

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

Support - Cloud Affiliate Tracker 2018

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

Here are some quick tips when it comes to support:

  • Support Channel: Even though your backend infrastructure is being taken care of by the tracking company, there might be some marketing/funnel related questions you need help with.
    • How fast are they able to get back to you? I like having the ability to connect with a Manager on Skype/WhatsApp.
  • Documentation: Instead of relying on them to respond, do they have detailed documentation/FAQs that you can refer to when you need help?
  • Reporting API: This is a little advanced. Reporting API makes it easy for my guys to programmatically update costs and pull stats to make better decisions. Do they have one?

Useful Features & USPs (Unique Selling Points)

Here’s the 80-20 of of each tracker.

Find the one that works best for you.

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

Comparison Cloud Tracker 2018 Unique Selling Points

(Click Image to Enlarge || Click here for Tracker Spreadsheet)

Picking Cloud-Hosted Trackers

Years back, I tried several cloud-hosted trackers for many reasons. Here’s what I learned:

  • Find one with multiple data centers: I run a lot of international campaigns. If a tracker doesn’t have data centers around the globe, it’ll have slower redirects. The slower your tracker, the more money you’ll lose.
  • Volume cost: You want to pay close attention to how an event is charged. You may be able to save a lot on overage charges. For me, I don’t care as long as I’m getting a good ROI on campaigns.
  • 99.99~100% Guaranteed Uptime: I like trackers that can guarantee reliability. These trackers have automatic server failovers to ensure (close to 100%) server uptime.
    • If one server goes down, another one kicks in so that your tracker can still serve your audience.
  • Features: Don’t just choose one with tons of features. Everyone’s needs are different. Ask yourself if you need each feature.
  • 24/7 Support: The great thing about Cloud-Hosted trackers are I can usually go to my rep with account related issues rather than backend server issues.
  • Documentation: Whenever I have a problem, I like to be able to fix it FAST. Getting a response from support may take 24 hours. Make sure their documentation is detailed enough that you’re not dependent on support.
  • Live Demo: Before investing in a tracker, play around with the demo version so you can determine if it suits your needs.

If you’re unsure what to choose, go with the industry “standard” – Voluum.

Focus on the things that are going to move the needle.

Don’t worry too much about cost.

Your profits will easily make up for it.

Action Plan

pasted image 0 3

  1. Decide if you want to go with self-hosted or cloud-hosted.
  2. Decide on your tracker needs.
  3. Make a decision based on the comparison tables for each of the categories.
    • Pricing
    • Support / Documentation
    • Features/USPs (Does these suits your needs?)
  4. (If any) use with the live demo and see if a FREE trial period is available.
  5. (If any) Use a coupon code to get a discount off your registration.

Wrapping Up

I wish I had these created this comparison table when I was starting out. It would have made my decisions so much easier.

I put this together so that you can make a decision on trackers ASAP and so you can focus on launching and optimization.

Remember this, your choice of a tracker isn’t going to make the difference on if you’ll be a super affiliate or not.

If you are unsure and just want my preferred option, go with Voluum.

If it isn’t working out for you, cancel it. Try another one of the trackers above.

 

Please rate this article - it helps me know what to write!