Even with the technical background, I found it hard for myself to understand graphs like this:
When I saw pictures like this I was wondering – I get it, it’s a complete flow but where does it start? How an affiliate network is going to my tracker? What is postback? No source I’ve read so far got it covered in a straightforward way.
Let me tell it by a story:
Campaigns are based on three pillars:
OFFERS from AFFILIATE NETWORK
Those three pillars are separate companies, having no data about each other (in most cases).
Now Mr.Affiliate comes and wants to make money online.
Mr.Affiliate is not stupid.
He knows that you can track campaigns.
He knows that you can optimize campaigns.
He knows that you can track conversions.
Thing is, that he does not know how to connect each of the three pillars together.
Mr.Affiliate asks for help – he wants to earn his money online but techy stuff holds him up. Mr.SuperAffiliate and Ms.SuperAffiliate give him a bunch of new confusing words to remember and search on the web.
Mr.SuperAffiliate and Ms.SuperAffiliate are both launching campaigns for such a long time that they are setting everything on autopilot and could do it by now blindfolded. Good for them, not so good for Mr.Affiliate.
Mr.Affiliate is even more lost right now.
Then he decides to split it into the smallest pieces possible – Keep It Stupid Simple
He does not need flow graphs.
He needs to understand everything, step by step.
Starting from the Affiliate Network –
He figured out that affiliate network is a place to look for offers to promote and each offer have their own URL – he slowly scribbles “Affiliate Network – Offer – OFFER URL” in his notebook.
When clicking through affiliate network links Mr.Affiliate notices something that Mr.SuperAffiliate and Ms.SuperAffiliate mentioned before – input for global postback.
He is still not quite sure what exactly it is but again, scribbles it in his notebook “Affiliate Network have input for S2S GLOBAL POSTBACK URL“
Then he goes to Traffic Source –
The first thing that Mr.Affiliate sees is the New Campaign button.
He clicks it and he lands on a form that has some other URL – Mr.Affiliate opens his notebook and scribbles “Traffic Source – Campaign – CAMPAIGN URL“.
Mr.Affiliate is not quite sure yet how to set up the campaign so he decides to click around the platform and to his biggest surprise he yet again lands on a page with global postback, but something is different, there is no input there, only a link he can copy/paste.
Mr.Affiliate yet again opens his notebook and scribbles “Traffic Source have S2S GLOBAL POSTBACK URL link that I can copy”
Lastly, he goes to Tracker –
He looks at his tracker as a middleman that collects every possible detail about traffic (traffic source) and conversions (affiliate network).
He can set up both there but Mr.Affiliate is still so much lost.
But then, he opens his notebook yet again and reads everything that he wrote there so far.
“Okay” – he thinks – “Let’s see how I can connect everything I wrote so far with my tracker”.
Mr.Affiliate clicks the Affiliate Network tab on his tracker, he sees that he can add his network there.
Mr.Affiliate is using one of the predefined networks so he selects it from the list and a URL appears – S2S Postback URL – something clicks for our Mr.Affiliate – “I already have that noted in my notebook!”.
He double-checks if his postback URL has 2 fields, one for clickid and other for payout, and copies that URL from his tracker and paste it directly in Affiliate Network, in the S2S Global Postback input that he found out before.
Next, he goes to the traffic source tab in his tracker and adds his traffic source.
And again, something clicks – there is input for S2S Postback on his tracker – “I can paste here the link that I saw before on my traffic source!” – Mr.Affiliate logs in to his traffic source, copy S2S Postback URL and paste it into his tracker, to the traffic source he just created.
“Did I just connect everything together? I finally start to understand what Mr.SuperAffiliate and Ms.SuperAffiliate told me.” – Mr.Affiliate thought.
EVERY campaign can be split into two flows USER FLOW and DATA EXCHANGE FLOW (i made that flows up, it’s just to give you a better understanding).
Both flows must be executed to track everything correctly and USER FLOW must be completed (conversion) to start DATA EXCHANGE FLOW.
USER FLOW – it is directly affecting the users that you point traffic to. This flow is represented by the blue arrows on the graph image linked above.
DATA EXCHANGE FLOW – it happens in the background after conversion is made on the offer page. This flow is represented by the red arrows on the graph image linked in this post.
USER FLOW: traffic source redirects user to CAMPAIGN URL -> tracker checks campaign settings and determine which lander should it point user at -> redirect the user to LANDER URL -> user interacts with the lander and clicks CTA -> redirect the user to CLICK URL -> tracker checks which offer should it redirect the user to -> redirect the user to OFFER URL -> user makes action – submits email, address, CC numbers, etc -> Conversion
If you want to get a better general understanding of this flow and Campaigns, Offers, and Landing Page URLs go HERE
If it comes to details and nuances of setting up campaigns it’s best to follow Amy’s 40-day guide as it’s got everything covered.
DATA EXCHANGE FLOW: Conversion -> Affiliate Network is noticed about conversion -> Affiliate Network executes Tracker S2S Postback URL -> clickid and payout is passed to Tracker -> Tracker executes Traffic Source S2S Postback URL -> clickid and payout is passed to Traffic Source
DATA EXCHANGE FLOW is happening in the background, AFTER CONVERSION IS MADE and like the name suggests it exists only to exchange conversion details (payout, clickid) between services.
S2S Postback = Service 2 Service Postback. Services, in that case, are: Affiliate Network, Tracker, Traffic Source.
In real-life, both flows are connected together and one results from the other, so in order to exchange any data between services (DATA EXCHANGE FLOW) there must be data to exchange, so the user needs to make conversion first (USER FLOW).
So, after concatenating both flows we end up with this super long flow that is happening each time someone converts:
traffic source redirects the user to CAMPAIGN URL
tracker checks campaign settings and determines which lander should it point user at -> redirect the user to LANDER URL
user interacts with the lander and clicks CTA -> redirect the user to CLICK URL
tracker checks which offer should it redirect the user to -> redirect the user to OFFER URL
user makes action – submits email, address, CC numbers, etc -> Conversion
Affiliate Network is noticed about conversion -> Affiliate Network executes Tracker S2S Postback URL -> clickid and payout is passed to Tracker
Tracker executes Traffic Source S2S Postback URL -> clickid and payout is passed to Traffic Source
But how exactly we know which person converted when and what device, isp, browser etc he or she used? We only pass clickid and payout so what kind of mysterious magic is happening in the background?
This, my dear reader will be covered in the next post. Stay tuned.