How to Track PPC as an Affiliate Without a PPC Pixel

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how to track affiliate PPC campaigns
By @vlue / purchased from

One thing that many PPC Affiliates hate is that you cannot place an Adwords or Bing pixel on a Merchant’s site.  That means that there is no way to report to the search engine which keywords are driving conversions.  The reason that some merchants do not want to place the tracking pixel in their cart is that the search engines want one account per store or shopping cart.  This is where Affiliates need to find another solution.

If an Affiliate cannot use a PPC pixel to track and report conversions back to Adwords or Bing, how can they track conversions and sales through Adwords and Bing?

One option is to have the merchant give you a tracking link that can capture the keyword clicked and provide you with a report based on the keywords, if they have an advanced tracking system or the ability to do this.  Unfortunately you’ll be giving them the keywords that you found that convert into sales by search engine, which also means that they can take and use them for themselves.  So unless you can trust the Merchant not to take your keywords, I don’t recommend this.  Instead here are a couple of other possible solutions that could work if done right.  They aren’t guaranteed to work, but if done right can provide you with more data.    I’m going to use Share a Sale as the example in this because I think they are the best affiliate network, and I’m too lazy to find my log ins for other networks right now.  Many of the other networks do have a way to do this, so read through here and then find the tools within the network for the program you want to run PPC ads for.  You can also write to the network you are on and ask them to help find a solution for you.

How to track PPC Campaigns as an Affiliate Without a Pixel In the Merchants Cart.

Start with the obvious:
The first step is to know which merchant you want to promote. I have two that have gigantic opportunities for PPC Affiliates ( and Next is to build out your campaigns.  Once you have your campaigns built out, it’s time to learn how to track PPC campaigns as an Affiliate without a Pixel in the Merchant’s cart.

1.  Create a custom link in the network you want.  Make sure that the url has added parameters and that you have a way to capture and create a report with the parameters based off of sales.

I would recommend starting with adgroups instead of keyword based since it takes less time, but it would be less accurate so you could do keyword based if you want.  Generate the first url which is in the second screen shot and look for the variable that you can change which would be the name of the adgroup, the ad or the keyword.


tracking PPC campaigns with affiliate links
tracking PPC campaigns with affiliate links

2.  Modify your urls and add them to your keywords, ads and adgroups. 

Now take the url with the adgroup name and modify the name to match what you are tracking.  Upload the urls to the proper keywords, ads and adgroups and then hit save.  Once the campaigns start running, the additional words and parameters should either hit your site to let you know which keywords brought which visitor, and they should in theory appear in your referrals and transaction details report.

how to track ppc campaigns as an affiliate
how to track ppc campaigns as an affiliate

3.  Download your reports. 

Once you have sales coming in, download your transaction report for the merchant you are doing PPC on and sort based on the referring URL column.  (This report doesn’t always collect the data for you, so you should have a backup way to track based off of the parameters for you.  One option is to have a folder set up on your site with the redirecting url again that sets the keyword you used for the network.  i.e. you send the adgroup to the url with the affiliate link with the tracking parameter and that may report in the right way instead of going directly to the merchant’s website.)  By sorting the url column you can count the sales via ad group based on the additional parameters (if the network has a report that shows sales by the parameters or urls that show the parameters) you added to know which adgroups, ads and keywords are driving sales.

4.  Now tag your keywords with new urls. 

Once you know which adgroups are driving sales with your affiliate PPC campaigns, you can start expanding the keywords and the groups.  If there are high volume keywords you want to track, by adding another parameter to the url (you may want to use the keyword as the new parameter and the adgroup it’s in) and then modifying the redirects to match, you can start to gather more data based off of keywords, ads and adgroups.   Now when you pull your next transaction reports based off of parameters and added values, you should have which adgroup is driving the sales and which of your top keywords are driving the sales in the adgroups based on the unique urls that you created.

The trick is having a report inside the network that will allow you to see the urls based on the custom parameters and making sure those links are reporting in the right way.  Sometimes your urls will come back without the parameters or keywords and other times they will.  No network is perfect and you won’t get it every time, but this is one possible option.

Tracking Affiliate PPC campaigns without a pixel in the merchant’s shopping cart seems tricky, but there are ways to do it.  The way I showed above is possibly one of the easier ones (if it works for you) if you are not a programmer or do not have one to help build a custom system.  If the merchant allows DTM linking, sometimes the keywords pass through because of the Google url and you can pull your transactions report and sort by the url to find the keywords that way.

If you are more advanced, you can always drive the visitor from your PPC click to your site through a closed folder, or to a landing page, that captures the keyword and then tags them with an Affiliate Link and parameter as they click through.  This is similar to the example above, but you’ll also want to create a database with all of the data and the redirects.  Now the keyword connects to your database and the redirect to the merchant’s website so you have that data and know which keyword sent which sale.  If the person makes a purchase you may be able to connect your database to the affiliate network and have it show which keyword drove which sale as well and give you better reports in one place.

There are lots of ways to track PPC campaigns as an Affiliate without having a pixel in the Merchants cart, but none of them are perfect.  If you have another solution, please feel free to share it below.  (Google URL builder can sometimes be used as well, especially with a media buy.  You would create unique urls and ask the merchant to send you a source and medium report.  The urls from the Google url builder will let you know which keywords and adgroups or ads drove which sales based off of the parameters you create.)

Images purchased from or are screen shots created by Adam Riemer Marketing, LLC.

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9 thoughts on “How to Track PPC as an Affiliate Without a PPC Pixel”

    1. Hi Eric,

      Thank you for the comment. It definitely can be if you set up the right tracking. Someone on Facebook mentioned a tool called Tracking 202…but I’ve never heard of it or used it so I have no clue. Using the redirects and a database should be able to work regardless of network…as long as you can pull sales from the network back into your database or sort by link.

      Thank you again,


  1. Fantastic writeup Adam, thanks a lot. We will be sharing this article on Twitter over the next few days. I’m sure many of our followers will find it very helpful. You can never do enough tracking on paid advertisements. The more the better!

  2. Tracking the campaigns was really a messy job for me since the beginning of my career in affiliate marketing and during the paid advertisements it was like impossible.

    Thanks for sharing such information with us, it would be a great help for the entire affiliate marketing community to some extent.

  3. Hi Adam,
    Great Post! I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing this useful information, explained factors here truly helps to track and manage PPC campaigns. Good job.

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