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:

shareasale.com/r.cfm?u=123456&b=654321&m=12345

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:

shareasale.com/r.cfm?u=123456&b=654321&m=12345&afftrack=main_landing_page

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

sampe.evyy.net/c/123456/12345/1234?subId1=value_1&subId2=value_2&subId3=value_3

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:

somecjlink.com/click-1234567-12345678

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

somecjlink.com/click-1234567-12345678?sid=some_desired_value

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:

example.com/some-page?parameter1=value1

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

example.com/some-page?parameter1=value1&parameter2=value2&parameter3=value3

So, without any further ado:

Network Name Parameter(s) Max Length Supported Characters Notes
Affili.net 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 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
LinkTrust SubID SID 500 Chars Alphanumeric & Dashes Up to 10, comma separated values (e.g. SID=1,2,3,4,5…)
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 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!