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Tips & Guides — 26 Apr 2021

Pixel Tracking vs. S2S Postback URL

Pixel vs. Postback: Which Tracking Method to Choose in 2021?

Understanding the specifications of tracking protocols is essential for making an informed decision on which tracking method to choose for campaigns’ tracking and optimization. Most marketers choose between Pixel tracking and S2S Postback URL tracking methods. Both methods have their pros and cons, so you need to understand all the differences to select the most suitable one for you.

Let’s explore the difference between Pixels and Postbacks together and find out which tracking system suits you best.

What is Pixel Tracking?

Pixel tracking, also known as client-base, cookie-base, or in-browser tracking, is reasonably the most common method because of its simplicity. The principle enabling tracking events on a user’s page lies in adding an HTML code (pixel) to the conversion page. Then, owing to the pinned cookie with a unique click ID, you can retrieve the converted user’s session values from the browser.

What is Postback URL Tracking?

Postback tracking, also known as server-to-server (S2S), server-side, or server call, is more complicated compared to pixel tracking. This method operates without the user’s browser, instead it relies on the advertiser servers. The tracking is enabled via a click ID generated through an HTTP request.

Not only does postback tracking provide more information about the user’s actions, but it’s also more reliable. Pixel heavily depends on web browsers’ restrictions and doesn’t work for mobile traffic, while postback tracking can function with both mobile apps and e-commerce sites.

How Exactly Does Postback URL Tracking Work?

The process of S2S URL tracking isn’t so simple, so let’s break it down into subsequent acts:

  • 1
    After users see an ad and click on it, their identification data is sent to the server of the management platform that generates and assign an ID to the click;
  • 2
    Then the click with the assigned ID goes to the affiliate network and/or the advertiser, so they receive all data on users’ session;
  • 3
    This whole chain process takes place in a matter of seconds, without affecting users. Thus, after clicking on an ad, a user gets to the landing page without any delay.
Pixel vs. Postback: Which Tracking Method to Choose in 2021?

Pros and Cons of Pixels & Postbacks

Talking about the comparison criteria the most critical ones that come to mind first are strong technology and clarity in understanding the process. Most will agree that the first criteria outweighs the latter.

Tech-wise S2S postback tracking is much superior to Pixel, which in its turn makes pixel tracking a “winner” in the category “simple implementation and use”. You don’t need to have technical resources and programmatic knowledge to use pixel tracking. However, browsers like Safari, Chrome, and Firefox are limiting support for third and even first-party cookie tracking. As you might guess, such browser restrictions cast doubt on the future of pixel tracking.

When Should You Use Pixel Tracking?

Because pixel is so strongly tied to cookies and further it doesn’t support tracking on mobile devices, we suggest using this method only in these cases:

When Should You Use Postback Tracking?

We recommend using the postback tracking in cases:

The only setback for using S2S Postback tracking is a more complicated implementation process compared to pixel tracking. Otherwise, server-to-server tracking has solid advantages. Assuming you run a promising digital business, you won’t chase an easy way out. Especially, as having spent a bit of time on understanding postback tracking you will get more transparency into ad performance in the future. Using Postback URLs is more reliable, secure, and accurate and supports tracking mobile app conversions. Postback tracking protocol doesn’t rely on cookies and contributes to detecting fraud, like adding an offer whitelist, advertiser security token, or hashing.

Pixel vs. Postback: Which Tracking Method to Choose in 2021?

Implementation of Pixel & Postback Tracking Methods at Affise Partnership Management Platform

Now that we have figured out that postback is a more superior tracking method to pixel, you might still have the question. How to collect and analyze all the received data in a more convenient way? There are tools such as the Affise partnership management platform to simplify and automate all this work for you.

With the help of Affise, you can easily track impressions, clicks, and conversions using the pixel or postback S2S tracking method. Let’s take a closer look at how it all works in a cut of different events tracking.

Impressions Tracking

Pixel

With Affise, you can track impressions every time a user loads a webpage with the ad.

How to enable Impressions tracking at Affise:

  • 1 You activate the “Allow Impressions” option in the offer settings;
  • 2 Affiliate receives a pixel on the offer page in his account and implements it into the webpage where an ad is placed.

When a user lands on the page with the ad, the Pixel fires and an impression appears in the Affise statistics.

Full-Cycle Impression Tracking 

The difference between Full-Cycle process and pixel impression tracking is that you can set up an Impression Destination URL, and all impressions that you have tracked with your publishers will be sent to an Advertiser.

Pixel vs. Postback: Which Tracking Method to Choose in 2021?

Clicks Tracking

Click tracking URL

After a user sees the ad on the webpage and clicks on it, the system redirects him through the Affise to the product.

There are several redirects (affiliate’s tracking link > Affise tracking link > advertiser’s tracking link > a product itself) that may not be visible for users at all. Affise records all clicks at that exact moment, and transmits additional information about clicks using parameters (constant) and macros (variable).

Conversions Tracking

Pixel

When you don’t have the technical ability to connect the tracking software to your website, in that case you can use pixel. In order to do this, you need to create a page where the user lands after successfully filling out the form. You place a pixel on this page so that Affise can receive notifications about a conversion. The required code element can be found in the offer settings: Postbacks tab > Integration pixels field.

Pixel vs. Postback: Which Tracking Method to Choose in 2021?

S2S Postback URL

First, you need to take the postback in the offer settings:  Postbacks tab > Integration pixels field > S2S (Postback). 

Second, you need to add required parameters and relevant macros according to advertisers’ integration rules and place them into the advertiser’s system. The conversion appears on the advertiser’s panel, and the postback is sent to Affise.

The same method is used to notify affiliates that the conversion has appeared in the Affise system. In that case, the affiliate adds his postback to Affise (on the offer page or in the profile in the affiliate’s account) and updates it with necessary Affise macros. After that, when Affise tracks a conversion, the affiliate receives a postback.

Now you have a better understanding of tracking methods and a brief insight into the tracking settings at Affise. You can also get acquainted with more detailed instructions that will guide you through the integrations on both an advertiser and an affiliate side. Besides, we have customer success managers who will help you with set-up and explain everything individually.

After all the data has been collected, you can right away start exploring data reports using the extensive capabilities of Affise analytics statistics design. Analyze the received data as it fits you. Optimize your advertising campaigns based on performance analysis. Automate your affiliate marketing with the all-in-one partnership management platform.

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Content Manager

Edgar is a Content Marketer obsessed with analytics & performance statistics. Edgar loves leveling up professionally and search for new effective ways to deliver quality content. After that, he’ll take every opportunity to take on exciting adventures with his GF.

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