Are you looking to start an affiliate marketing business and curious about how cookies work?
Maybe you’re a product owner about to launch your first affiliate program, but you’re not sure how long you should set the affiliate cookie duration?
Either way, I’ve got you covered with the answers you need here in this article.
– Affiliate cookies track clicks and sales so commissions can be attributed to the correct affiliates
– The average cookie length is 60 days for affiliate programs
– Some affiliate tracking cookies can be as short as 24hrs or as long as 180 days
In this article
A cookie is a small piece of text that is sent from a website and stored on a user’s computer. Cookies are used to store small amounts of data about a visitor to a website.
This data includes things like what language settings the user prefers, whether the user wants to receive emails from you, how many times the user has visited your site, and much more. And, of course, cookies are used in affiliate marketing to help track clicks and correctly attribute affiliate sales and commissions to referring affiliates.
A lot of people are down on cookies, mainly because people don’t like the idea of the small text files being placed on their computer without them knowing. However, when used in the right way cookies help to keep track of a user’s preferences and help make sure that the user gets exactly the experience that he or she expects.
Cookies are usually essential for sites that have large databases, customized themes, and/or require users to sign in because it allows the site owner to remember specific information about each individual user.
The most common type of cookie is called a session cookie.
Session cookies expire once the user closes his or her browser. However, some cookies remain active even after the browser is closed.
These persistent cookies often contain important information such as user names, logins, passwords, shopping cart contents, and more.
For the purposes of affiliate marketing, cookies are used to help merchants and affiliates monitor clicks and track sales.
This way the affiliate can assess the performance of their affiliate marketing campaigns, and the merchant can award their affiliate partners correctly with affiliate commissions based on the referrals and sales they are able to send their way.
The cookie duration is the length of time the product owner has set in order for your clicks to still be tracked.
As long as a customer makes a purchase within the cookie period, and your affiliate link is the last one clicked before the sale occurs (ie the customer does not click on another affiliate’s referral link), you’ll be credited for the sale.
Below, I explain in more detail.
The average duration of cookies used by online retailers to track customer behavior is around 60 days.
Some companies like Amazon use a very short cookie duration of only 24 hours. On the other hand, it is not uncommon to find some online businesses offering an affiliate cookie duration as long as 180 days.
For the affiliate, the longer the cookie life the better as this gives the affiliate more chance to make sales.
Often, website visitors don’t make purchases right away when they are first searching online for products and services. They may want to take a few days to think about it first. So, once the customer returns to their computer and then makes a purchase at a later date, the referring affiliate will still get credited for the sale provided the purchase was made within the cookie duration period, and the customer had not clicked on the referral link of a different affiliate.
So, why can there be such a huge difference in the affiliate marketing cookie durations between merchants?
Well, the affiliate marketing cookie duration is up to the merchant. They can decide how long they want to allow an affiliate the opportunity to be credited for a sale after a customer has clicked on their affiliate link.
Each retailer will likely have different policies, which can influence their decision on affiliate cookies and their duration.
Secondly, if a merchant is providing their affiliate marketing program through an affiliate network like ShareASale, CJ Affiliate (Commission Junction), or Impact Radius, for example, then the network may advise the merchant on the cookie like of their referral program (although the final decision is usually down to the product owner).
Thirdly, the affiliate marketing networks might use different tracking tools, which could influence the decision on how long they want to all for the cookie’s lifetime.
Finally, the merchant might choose to offer different incentives to the affiliate marketer besides a long cookie life. For example, the product owner may offer a shorter cookie life, but higher commission rates. On the other hand, a product owner may offer a lower commission, but a longer cookie life. This is more common for products with low higher conversion rates.
Amazon can get away with offering a short affiliate marketing cookie duration of only 24 hours because they’re such a massive company and they don’t need to rely on affiliates to bring them business.
However, a good incentive for affiliates to still promote the Amazon Associates program is that Amazon Associates will also attribute other purchases made by the customer to the referring affiliate if those additional purchases are made within the same transaction.
For example, let’s say I owned a website about cycling, and you were reading one of my blog posts about the top 10 cycling helmets. Some of the products in my review are on the Amazon website. You then click on my Amazon affiliate to see the product on the Amazon website. You decide to purchase the helmet and place it in your shopping basket. Before you complete your purchase you remember that you also wanted to buy a new kettle from Amazon and a book your friend recommended.
Then, when you complete your purchase at the Amazon checkout, I will receive an affiliate commission for all the items you added to your basket during this session. The other items you purchased don’t need to be related to cycling, they just need to be purchased in the same session after you clicked my affiliate link, and within the 24-hour cookie duration window for me to be credited with an affiliate commission on all the items you purchased.
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Please be aware that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases, at no extra cost to you. However, this does not impact our comparisons and reviews. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.