Pixel and Cookie Tags in Conversion Tracking

Valentin Shmidov

One of the most important considerations of affiliate marketing is how conversions will be tracked. The two basic methods are cookies and pixels, both of which have unique capabilities. But what is the best method and why should it matter?


A pixel is an HTML Element that lives on a confirmation page and reports conversions when a sale has occurred. When an online conversion occurs, a pixel (or pixels) is fired from a confirmation page, which then passes back information to the affiliate after a successful sale.

There are four main pixel types:
o iFrame
o JavaScript
o Image
o Post-back

An iFrame pixel is the most versatile; it allows for multiple third-party pixels from an affiliate and can track conversions with any other pixel type as well as cookies.

JavaScript is a client-side scripting language that is just as versatile as an iFrame pixel with the exception of one major drawback – users have the capability of dis-enabling JavaScript meaning that conversions will not be tracked if a JavaScript pixel is placed on a java-disabled device.

Image pixels are the least flexible. Image pixels only work with other image pixel sites and cannot hold HTML.

Lastly, post-back pixels are cookie-less trackers and require that the advertiser is able to process sub ID’s which dynamically insert the Hit ID in the pixel when reporting a sale. Post-back pixels have one major advantage over the other pixel types: they do not have to be placed on a confirmation page so they report sales more securely by avoiding any unnecessary HTML.


What are cookies? Cookies are server-based files with a unique ID placed on a person’s computer that enable the server to recognize the user.

The issue with cookies is that they have a persistence – or life span – meaning they expire. They also live on a server and therefore cannot be passed pack to the affiliate which hurts the accuracy of tracking. On average, 40% of cookies get blocked due to users deleting them and only 80% get placed during a successful conversion (HitPath, 2014).

The Winner?

Before launching a campaign with an affiliate, learn what tracking methods they employ. Pixels are inherently more precise than cookies not only because they don’t expire but also because they ensure a successful conversion actually occurred. Their flexible nature permits multiple conversion methods to be used, including database tracking. The ideal tracking situation, however, involves the coupling of cookies with pixels, allowing for the most accurate and reliable conversion stats. Ultimately, find an affiliate with a comprehensive tracking system that allows you the pliability and security that generate the most accurate results.


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