Technologies
Alternative tracking technology, without using HTTP cookie
Accommodation advertisement Flights advertisement

Travelling light in New Zealand

On my recent vist to New Zealand in December 2017, I spent 4 weeks travelling within the Northern part of North Island. After a few days of exploring the city of Auckland and its suburbs, on foot, by ferry and by public buses, I decided to rent a car for my travel to Northland. Currently Best Car Rentals, are running a promo deal offering the "Third week free" offer, which I was able to avail myself.
Click here to read about Tests

The above page is a typical "Affiliate Marketing page".
An Affiliate's website contains specialised content on specific topics, that attracts a specific target group. In this case, it is a travel blog about a journey through New Zealand. Target group is Travellers planning to visit New Zealand or people who are interested in travel stories.

Along the left column and along the top of the page there are banner-advertisements that relate to the page's topic, therfore a higher likelihood that some of the visitors might be interested in checking out or purchasing the advertised products.

By placing the cursor on each banner adverisement, you may notice that each banner has a different web URL, in the following format:

  • https://connex.net.nz/home/click/?a=2&f=20&o=5 - (Car adverisement at bestcars.EcoPng.com )
  • https://connex.net.nz/home/click/?a=1&f=20&o=1 - (Accommodation advertisement at EcoVillageRundu.com )
  • https://connex.net.nz/home/click/?a=3&f=20&o=4 - (Flights advertisement at ExploreAsia.co.nz )

Though the above 3 advertisements represent 3 different e-commerce sites, all three URL links point at connex.net.nz, which is the tracking service provider, which is invisible to visitors. Each URL has a unique set of parameters. Parameter "a" stands for the advertiser id (e-commerce site). a=1 (bestcars.EcoPng.com); a=2 (EcoVillageRundu.com); a=3 (ExploreAsia.co.nz). Parameter "f" stands for affiliate, which is always 20. That is the ID of this affiliate. Those are the only two required parameters, but additional parameters can be passed; e.g.: parameter "o" stands for offer ID, where the same advertiser can have multiple campaigns (offers) with different commission rates. If there were two banners of the same advertiser on this page, they can have two "offer id's", which allow the advertiser to identify, which of the two banners were clicked.

When a visitor clicks on an advertisement, the hyperlink of the "click-pixel" makes a web request to the tracking site connex.net.nz. The tracking server extracts the parameters from the URL, logs the request in the tracking database, and looks up the URL of the e-commerce site (advertiser) denoted by the "a=" parameter value. The tracking server creates an HTTP cookie with an identifier that refers to the click event saved in its database, and sends it to the click-client browser, with an redirect-response to the URL of the advertiser identified by the parameter "a". This happens so seamlessly; a visitor would not notice, that the click took the browser on an intermediary step to the tracking server, before reaching the advertiser's website.

How to test tracking functionality

First, open the tracking results page and note the last tracking result entry in each of the "Click detail" and "Conversion detail" tables. Note the last "Tracking ID"/"ConversionID" and "Click Date".

Your test results will appear in sequence after this last entry. The tables are sorted in descending order, hence your test results will appear at the top of each table.

To start the test, click on any banners on this page, and arrive at the corresponding e-marketing site. Often you would not notice, that your click was diverted first to connex.net.nz, and then on to the e-commerce site. But your click was recorded at tracking site. You can first verify your click record by looking at the click-results page on the tracking server at connex.net.nz/track/results/. The "clicks" are recorded in the second table named "Click Details".

After verifying the click has been recorded at tracking domain, return to the e-commerce site. Simulate a purchase by entering a total value and press the "Pay" button. It will give you a confirmation that payment was successful and the reciept number of your purchase. You can verify your purchase action by clicking on the link "Past sales records" in e-commerce page. Now check the tracking server's results page again. You will notice the "Conversion" record with the reciept number, of your payment has also been recorded in the tracking server, although the e-commerce server and tracking server are in two completely different domains, and usually are in two different geographical locations.

though it was not visible to the visitor (you), that there was any involvement of connex.net.nz during your clicking process or payment process at the e-commerce site, a "Click-pixel" embeded in the banner advertisement records the click-action. On payment at the e-commerce site, a "conversion-pixel" embeded on the confirmation page, triggers an invisible server-call to the tracking server with the transaction number as a parameter. The Http-cookie that was placed by the tracking-server in client-browser (your browser), during click-tracking process allows the tracking server to match the click-ID, thereby, recognize the "conversion", that belongs to a specific "click". This can be further verified, by clicking and observing the "click" being recorded at "Click detail" table, but if you do not simulate a "pay" action, the "Conversion detail" table will lack the conversion record, that correspond to the "click". You may completely close the browsers, and re-open a browser and navigte to the e-commerce site directly, as a later time or even a few days later, and then simulate a "pay action", and you will notice, that the "Conversion details" will record it against your previous click, even after many days. The length depends on the lifespan of the HTTP cookie that was set during click-action.

To examine, behind-the-scene action, you can open your browser using "developer tools" option of the browser, which usually can be navigated through menu, or activatd by pressing "F12" key. Reload the page, and on the network tab you can see the list of server calls to connex.net.nz and to the e-commerce server. Here you can check the content of the cookie, lifespan etc.