The newest version of Firefox, and we can assume each moving forward, will be blocking tracking platforms by default. Most notably is Google Analytics, Facebook and other large sites. So before anyone else says it, Firefox killed affiliate marketing and it is now dead.
If you believe that Firefox killed an entire industry with this one change, then you’re done, don’t continue reading and go watch videos on YouTube, which is also being blocked oddly enough. =0)
If you don’t believe that affiliate marketing is dead, then you belong on this post.
Read below and you’ll learn why and how Firefox blocking cookies as well as tracking code placed on the merchant’s own website may impact your affiliate tracking, and your revenue, from both an affiliate and merchant standpoint. I also share a step-by-step with screenshots on how to see what the impact on your own revenue will be. After, I share new tracking options that you as a merchant can implement, or if you’re an affiliate marketer, you can give to your merchants to help provide extra layers of protection for your income.
First, here is the blog post that started the discussion in the SEO industry, but I didn’t see anything from the affiliate blogs and resource sites which was odd (and why I’m writing this post). Here is another post from the Mozilla website which sources the site and solution they may or may not follow for which sites to block ads and tracking from. Now the important one, this is the potential list of sites and ad platforms (including affiliate networks and servers which will possibly no longer be tracked).
If you look at the list, almost every major affiliate network, CPA network and affiliate platform is listed. But remember, this also blocks tracking code within a website. That means your monetization scripts like viglink and skimlinks will potentially be blocked. They’re both on the list too. I hope they are able to find a work around because they do represent a huge network of sites and a lot of my friends use them on their blogs. But no, that is not a recommendation from me that you should work with them, you need to evaluate your own business model.
I didn’t check all traditional affiliate and CPA networks, but everyone that came to mind is there, including the URL redirects and server redirect links…it is very complete. So now that we know sales and traffic may no longer track, and unlike ITP compliance with apple and Safari, I haven’t seen any network give a solution. So let me help either alleviate your fears, or give you reason to invest in a solution.
It’s also important to note that this isn’t only wiping cookies, it is blocking code installed on a merchant’s own website. That is why many of the newer, advanced and cross device solutions may not be effective on this. They rely on code placed within and across a merchant’s website, and this new form of blocking will possibly block that too.
Find How Many Firefox Users Are on Your Website
Log into your Google Analytics account or whatever platform you use. If you are a blogger, affiliate or website owner (this means you promote offers and earn commissions), follow the first steps. If you are an affiliate manager, merchant or offer (you have a network of publishers that send you traffic) follow through to the second set of steps.
Affiliates, Bloggers and Webmasters:
To find how many visitors use firefox in Google Analytics:
- Click on Audience > Technology > Browser & OS
- Now look in the middle section and you’ll see “Firefox”. This will give you the total amount or % of firefox users that go to your website.
- The last step is to click on Firefox and you’ll get a list of the versions. This is where it may or may not get scary.
Merchants, Stores and Offer Providers:
Follow the three steps above and:
- Click on the secondary dimension drop down.
- Now select whatever way you track your affiliate program. It could be source, source/medium, one of the ad variables, and choose that option.
- Now you’ll see a column that shows browser versions and the total referrals/visits from each channel. Look for the affiliate one.
This is how you know what % of your affiliates will lose tracking, and you may be able to see specific affiliate IDs so that you can also create a plan for them. This will help keep their loyalty and set you apart as a merchant who not only knows their stuff, but also cares about them. It goes much further than you’d think.
Ok, so now that we know the world isn’t going to end, well for most of us, how can we protect ourselves? Simple avoid anything related with the affiliate network because the goal of Firefox and what looks like other browsers is to block third party tracking. But that does not mean eliminating them. Again, do not abandon your affiliate networks. They provide more protection than you can image.
Affiliate networks are important, they provide some incredibly technologies, more trustworthy controls to ensure you get paid, and they save merchants time, money and stress. We as agencies, merchants and affiliates can still work with them, even when browsers block their tracking.
How to Track Affiliate Sales When Browsers Block Tracking & Cookies
- Option 1: Custom pages and funnels.
Create a custom landing page on your website for each important affiliate, or ones with potential. Now create a funnel that tracks across your website and follows them to conversion. You can also set up total amount and value.
Once a week, pull a report with the total sales and ecommerce value, then credit the partner for whatever was missing inside your affiliate network. But be warned, this is going to be limiting. Giving this landing page will prevent them from using product links, deep links and defining a custom landing page of their choosing. That can kill conversions.
I have a work around for that, but that is part of what I offer to my clients. The above will work for most programs though and is a starter solution. If you’re an experienced affiliate manager, it should already have “clicked” (sorry, I love puns) how to get around the single landing page so deep links and better techniques work. It’s more obvious than you’d think. If not, here’s my contact form.
- Option 2: Coupons and codes
Regular tracking won’t work, so it’s time to look for other alternatives. If you have a coupon code box, give your affiliates a unique code to apply. Or you can set the affiliate ID to automatically register as a coupon code and apply a discount. If you can do this to generate a signal to the network, it could help to track these sales.
But be careful, this is not a complete solution and it could lead to unearned commissions. I’m just giving you the basics for a solution. You also have to watch out for:
- Codes getting places on coupon websites and the affiliate being paid commissions for transactions they did not refer
- Competition forming between the coupon sites that show up for your brand + coupons in Google, and top funnel or high-value affiliates that are using codes because of Firefox tracking
- Codes going viral from your own efforts that are now firing affiliate commissions
- Customer support finding these codes and using them when helping customers the affiliate didn’t refer
- Option 3: Database and advanced tracking
This is my favorite. By finding a way to gather or collect a unique piece of information like an email, first and last name with a zipcode or phone number, etc… you can tag the customer as an affiliate referral by pulling in the affiliate ID from the URL. This takes place after the redirect and stores it in your database with the unique identifier. (i.e. your website tracks the affiliate ID and unique identifier after the redirect and stores it in a database).
Now set the database record the latest occurrence of the click and set it to stop reporting back to the affiliate network through the cookie life promised. Then add one more line of code which makes sure that if another click comes through and it is referred from the same affiliate, the cookie life resets to the total amount of days.
Because it is tracking in your database and using the actual URLs on your website, if you can get the information (it’s easier than you’d think), Firefox code blocking no longer matters because the cookies and ad code across the site are not needed. You’ll also be posting the transaction data back to the affiliate network through a direct connection, so the traditional cookie and pixel method won’t matter in these cases.
One thing I have always loved about being in affiliate marketing is that we are innovators. Every single channels gives us obstacles and we create workarounds for them. We find ways to drive traffic, we find solutions to enhance tracking and convert more sales, but we never get credit for it. But we don’t need too. We’re the Gen X of digital marketing. We also rely on tracking for all of our revenue, so when browsers, security software, etc… start blocking it, we’re the ones who come to the rescue for other digital channels and that is why I love this industry. If you’d like help with the strategies above, click here to contact me. If you have more solutions, leave a comment below.