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What Are Cookies and Why Are They Important?

Affiliate links that track the purchase path of a consumer in the Affiliate Marketing game are essential. And in order to track the purchase path, they contain what's called a tracking cookie.
By definition: A tracking cookie is a sample of text dropped onto a browser while viewing a website. This text collects data from a user such as their activity on a website, browsing history, geographic location, purchase trends, and more.
The problem is, they are not fool-proof or flawless. And as of lately, they have been criticized for being intrusive in the amount of data they collect. By law, you now have to acquire consent from users in order to track their data. To make sure your website is compliant, you can get a free website scan from CookiePro for a detailed report of tracking cookies found on your website. Then, tailor a cookie banner to capture consent before tracking cookies are dropped.  
But the better we understand them, and understand what purpose they serve, the more comfortable we are with making sure that we allow them to function in the way that they are supposed to.
Anyone who promotes affiliate links from other brands or is creating their own affiliate links for their personal products needs to know the value that affiliate tracking cookies.
So, let's take a look at where to find affiliate tracking links, how affiliate links and cookies work, what impacts cookies have on an affiliate marketing campaign, and why tracking cookies are essential.

Where to Find Affiliate Tracking Links

You can find affiliate tracking links everywhere these days. They occur in blog posts, all over social media, on YouTube, on Pinterest--you get the picture. They are everywhere you look online. And (for now) they are essential for affiliate marketers who want a seamless, streamlined way to track metrics from their affiliate products and services. They'll often track order ID, clicks, sale amount, transaction type, merchant ID and conversion rates.
(Image courtesy of WeCanTrack.com)
After you click on what you may believe is an affiliate link, you can determine if it is, in fact, acting as one by looking at the url in your web browser. An affiliate link is usually characterized by a question mark + ref, followed by long string of numbers and letters.
This link can (more or less) look like this: https://angelajoymarkham.com/?ref=1234 
Or specifically, in the Amazon Associates program, your link would look like this:
However, there are ways to avoid this with various tools, one of them being my favorite, Thirsty Affiliates. Thirsty affiliate allows you to hide this long string with their link cloaking feature. It's super beneficial for affiliate marketers that want to protect their links.
 (Image courtesy of hellboundbloggers.com)

How Affiliate Links and Cookies Work

So we know the purpose of affiliate links and where to find them, now let's discuss how cookies actually work.
One of my favorite tracking platforms and affiliate networks, ShareASale, has a nice little visual regarding the function of tracking a pixel (or cookie):
 (Image courtesy of ShareASale.com)
Cookie durations range all the way from 365 days down to something like 24 hours (ahem, Amazon). Which means you are SOL if someone loads up their amazon cart after clicking your link, and purchases on the 25th hour. So I say again, make sure that you are doing your research beforehand in order to make an informed decision on whether or not the juice is worth the squeeze for that particular relationship.

What Are Cookies Tracking?

Cookies are harmless, and track data about you and your online browsing activity.
Inside the tracking link is a small text file containing specific data that saves to your browser, such as:
  • sites you've visited
  • what pages you looked at when on them
  • any products you might have clicked
  • purchases that you've made
  • your IP address
  • your geographic location
They are mostly used for marketing and advertising purposes--either from a third-party or first-party site--with a main purpose to increase your odds of purchasing a product or service from a website.


What Impacts Cookies Have On An Affiliate Marketing Campaign

Tracking cookies are safe in the fact that they won't harm your computer or other devices, but beware that, with certain third-party cookies, government bodies, news organizations and social media sites may attempt to track information.
First-party cookies, which aren't at risk of being blocked by Chrome & Apple in 2022, are exactly the type of cookies used in Affiliate Marketing, and are completely harmless.
According to Scaleo.io, "Affiliate marketers will more often have to be mathematically educated to interpret data or adjust models. They must also understand how to link various platforms intelligently and how to do more advanced content management. In the latter case, consider configuring alternative content or landing pages per visitor segment."
Scaleo.io also states, "All we can say for now is that the backend of affiliate programs will probably change. The technology used to collect users’ data and track affiliate IDs will not be the same a few years from now, but it will still operate seamlessly in the background."


Why Tracking Cookies Are Essential

First-party cookies allow many essential website features to a user who is navigating a website, such as:
  • authentication
  • shopping cart maintenance
  • website preferences
  • login information
When you think about browsing a website, going from page to page, putting an item in your shopping cart and continue shopping, it's cookies that allow this to happen. Without them, a user would likely have to log in to each page.
Third-party cookies are the ones posing potential concerns to users because they generally come from a website that the user hasn't been actively engaging with.


As an internet user, you absolutely don't have anything to worry about regarding the future of tracking cookies. Your rights are protected, so the best thing you can do is continue to educate yourself as laws regarding privacy change, and make an informed decision on how you'd like to browse the internet.
As an affiliate marketer, expect there to be changes in the near future. Likely, we'll have to pivot and adjust our strategy as these privacy laws change. Affiliate marketing is far from dying, so expect that tech savvy leaders in the industry will pave the way for Affiliate Marketing success in the coming years and decades.
Wishing you much tracking success in your affiliate endeavors,


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