The Definitive Affiliate Sub-Campaign (SID) Tracking Guide + Cheat Sheet

Tracking in the world of affiliate marketing is, at best, a nightmare. We know that. In fact, it’s the whole reason we created Affluent Analytics!

One of the few tricks which can help you step up your analytics game as an affiliate is by using sub-campaign tracking.

What is sub-campaign tracking?

In short, sub-campaign tracking is a way to get more detailed data about your transactions.

In not short (AKA, long), as an affiliate, you run campaigns for different merchants and products. You can see how well you’re doing on those campaigns with basic statistics like clicks, commissions, etc. If you set everything up properly, you’ll also be able to see referring URL data.

However, sometimes you may want to see more than that. For instance, what if you have two different CTAs on your page (e.g. a contextual link vs a banner) and you wanted to see which one got you more sales? Or, for another example, what if you are getting PPC traffic or Facebook traffic from multiple different keywords / ads?

Sub-campaign tracking is a way to track, essentially, any other variable you want. Affiliates who work with paid ads are usually relatively on top of it with this (though some mistakes are still relatively common). Affiliates who rely on organic traffic and email marketing are often behind the curve.

Common things to track with sub-campaigns are different:

  • Websites
  • Calls to action
  • Landing pages
  • Keywords / Ads
  • Sources (Organic, PPC, Email, etc.)
  • User-Types (Personal, SMB, Enterprise)
  • Sub-Affiliates
  • Anything else that can help you optimize

A Rose by Any Other Name (Is Still Just Sub-Campaign Tracking)

One of the things that makes sub-campaign tracking is that there is no standardized terminology for it. In CJ, sub-campaign tracking is “SID Tracking,” in Rakuten it’s “Signature Tracking,” and in ShareASale, it’s “Afftrack.” All of these and more refer to exactly the same thing. Names for Sub-campaign tracking codes include Sub-Campaign, SID, Sub ID, TID, Signature Tracking, Afftrack, ClickRef, Pubref, ctc, customid and others.

How to Use SIDs

For networks that support sub-campaign tracking, it is generally pretty easy to implement. Generally, an affiliate URL looks something like this:

The link will consist of a domain plus parameters which show which affiliate (you) is sending the data, what merchant is receiving the data and, possibly, other details like what landing page you are trying to send traffic to.

Generally, sub-campaign tracking consists of simply adding another parameter to the link. For instance, for ShareASale, it might look like this:

Some networks allow you to add multiple values. For example an Impact Radius link might look like this:

When users click and, eventually, purchase through these links, you will be able to view that data in the affiliate network.

The Advanced Stuff – Using SIDs with Adwords & Facebook

One of the most important uses for sub-campaign tracking is combining the use of SIDs with data from paid tools like AdWords and Facebook. For instance, AdWords appends a unique identifier to every click produced from one of your ads known as a “GCLID.” With a little bit of programming, these identifiers can be passed on to affiliate networks or programs in the form of SIDs. This allows you to know exactly which ad is driving sales, what locations sales are coming from and more.

Using offline conversion tracking, you can then even feed this data back into AdWords in the form of conversions, giving you the full picture of what you spent, where you spent it, and how much revenue that created for you. Affluent can make this process easier by allowing you to export a full list of transactions, including SIDs.

Privacy & Data Security with Sub ID Tracking

Data security can be a concern for some affiliates when using SIDs. For instance, affiliates who rely on AdWords may send keyword data through their SIDs to see which keywords convert better. Especially with smaller individual programs, this can be a concern. For example, if you are promoting the Red Widget Company, in their backend, they would theoretically be able to see all of your SIDs. If, for instance, they saw that “Where to buy Red Widgets” was working well for you as a keyword, they could then start to use that keyword themselves, essentially competing with you. A simple, though not fantastic, solution to this is to maintain a reference table of IDs and keywords. For instance, in the SID, instead of “Where to buy Red Widgets,” you might write “1234.” You would then need to refer to your table to see what keyword “1234” referred to.

The Definitive SID Cheat Sheet

The following table shows what sub-campaign tracking is called, which parameters to use and some other details for most major networks. If we’re missing something, add it in the comments!

To use one of the parameters, simply append it to your link. For example, in CJ, the appropriate parameter is “sid.” So, if your original link is something like this:

You would append ?sid=your_desired_value to the link, giving you:

A quick primer on URL parameters for anybody unfamiliar with them:

URL Parameters are variables tacked on to the end of a URL in a string. If no parameters are present, the first parameter is designated with a question mark. For example:

Additional parameters are appended using a question mark. For example:

So, without any further ado:

Network Name Parameter(s) Max Length Supported Characters Notes SubID Tracking subid 80 Chars Alphanumeric Go to Account -> Tracking -> SubID Configuration to enable
Avangate Link Source AFFSRC Unknown Alphanumeric
Affiliate Future Tracking ID tracking Unknown Alphanumeric
AvantLink Custom Tracking Code ctc 32 Chars Alphanumeric
AWin (Affiliate Window / Zanox) Click References clickref, clickref2, clickref3, clickref4, clickref5, clickref6 50 Chars ASCII Up to six different values per link
CJ Site ID sid Unknown ASCII
Clickbank Tracking ID tid 100 Chars Alphanumeric
ClixGalore Order ID OID Unknown Alphanumeric
HasOffers Sub ID Tracking aff_sub, aff_sub2, aff_sub3, aff_sub4, aff_sub5 255 Chars Alphanumeric Up to five different values per link
iDevAffiliate Keyword Tracking Links tid1, tid2, tid3, tid4 25 Chars Alphanumeric
Impact Radius Sub ID Tracking subId1, subId2, subId3 50 Chars ASCII Up to three different values per link
LinkConnector Affiliate Tracking Identifier atid 100 Chars Alphanumeric
oneNetworkDirect Sub ID subid1, subid2, subid3, subid4, subid5 Unknown Alphanumeric Up to five different values per link
Pepperjam (eBay) SID Tracking sid 100 Chars Alphanumeric
Performance Horizon Group Publisher Reference pubref 100 Chars Alphanumeric
Post Affiliate Pro SubID Tracking data1, data2, data3 Unknown Alphanumeric
Rakuten Linkshare Linkshare Signature u1 72 Chars Alphanumeric
RevenueWire SubID Tracking subId2, subId3, subId4 Unknown Alphanumeric Up to three different values per link
ShareASale Affiliate Defined Tracking afftrack 255 Chars Alphanumeric
TradeDoubler Enhanced Publisher Integradion epi 64 Chars Alphanumeric
Webgains Click Reference clickref Unknown Alphanumeric

The base of any good marketing campaign is strong tracking capabilities and sub-campaign tracking is one of the strongest tools in the affiliate industry for upping your tracking game!


How to Track Data from Multiple Affiliate Programs

It’s a sad and familiar tale for affiliates. You want to see how much revenue you brought in yesterday so, you open 20 different bookmarks and wait for CJ, ShareASale, Impact Radius, and a dozen other affiliate networks or individual affiliate programs to load up and hopefully not crash Chrome.

T-minus 5 seconds to computer explosion

Once they’re all loaded up, you use a password manager or an Excel spreadsheet to log in to each site. Once the sites have loaded up, you go through them one at a time and start investigating what happened yesterday and, if you’re organized, transferring it in to another Excel spreadsheet.

But quick question, how is this month going compared to last month? What about last year? Are your clicks up this week over last week or down? Is there anything important you are missing?

Nananananananana nananananananana BATMAN! (AKA, lots of data, little insight)

The Problem with a Fragmented Affiliate Marketing Industry

According to the 2014 AffStat Report, nearly 50% of affiliates promote over 10 different programs with 14.9% promoting over a whopping 300 programs. Opening up systems one at a time and transcribing data is time-consuming and inefficient, but even more importantly, it doesn’t really give you any sort of proper analytics data.

Think about how easy it is to go in to your Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, or any other system and deep-dive in to your performance. Somehow, with the world of performance marketing, that same sort of emphasis on data does not exist. That being said, any serious marketer knows this information is the pulse of their business.

Difficulties in Tracking

Some networks and programs make it possible to access their data with technical expertise. For instance, networks like ShareASale, CJ Affiliate, Impact Radius and affiliate software like Cake have APIs (code that allows software programs to connect to each other) that you can use to pull data on transactions, clicks, payments and more. However, connecting to APIs requires technical expertise and, in addition, APIs change often change which requires updating your software. Smaller networks and companies don’t have APIs which makes tracking yet more difficult.

Affluent Tracks Your Affiliate Programs

Tracking multiple affiliate programs is possible and beyond that, it is absolutely critical. At Affluent, our mission is to modernize the affiliate industry with the help of technology and we want to start we enabling access to data. With over 80% of brands using affiliate marketing and over 14% of all eCommerce sales affected by it, there’s no more need for the affiliate industry to be living in the 90’s.

Affluent allows you to log in to all of your affiliate programs, just once, via API or login and then your work is done! Affluent allows you to view clicks, commissions (gross, net, disputed, pending, recurring, etc), impressions and metrics like EPC’s and conversion rates over time. You can compare any time period to any other time period, export your data, and view all of your transactions in one place. You can get e-mail alerts on a daily, weekly or monthly basis showing an overview of your performance.

In short, we have built Affluent to make access to data what it is supposed to be. Want to see more? Create a free account and stop wasting time loading reports so you can spend that time making money.