Tracking Code Maintenance: Best Practices


Installing the ShareASale tracking code is a big part of the ShareASale launch process, taking up two full steps within the ShareASale setup wizard. Depending on the e-commerce environment where the code is installed, installation can be an easy five minute process or can require several hours of time from a skilled web developer. A lot of ShareASale customers forget about the ShareASale tracking code right after it’s installed, but doing so is risky. The tracking code is the backbone of an affiliate program – all of the tracking, reporting, and payments rely on accurate reporting from the ShareASale tracking code. Errors in the tracking code can cause both underreporting and overreporting of sales to occur, resulting in merchants either underpaying or overpaying on publisher commissions. This article covers some of the common issues that create tracking code errors and references both affiliate industry and development specific best practices for remediating any tracking issues. 

What Causes Tracking Issues 

Tracking generally occurs from a website’s thank you page. ShareASale tracking is an invisible piece of code stored on an e-commerce thank you page that loads a tracking request when a customer visits the thank you page. ShareASale tracking works best if the code is reliably loaded once for each new order. Sale underreporting issues occur when something stops the tracking code from loading. Sale overreporting issues occur when something causes the code to load more than once. While ShareASale does some level of duplication screening, these methods are not full-proof – specifically in cases where more affiliate clicks occur between instances of the tracking code loading or if there is a 15+ day delay between instances when the tracking code was previously loaded. Here are some common causes of tracking issues and some best practices around these scenarios. 

Global Changes to E-Commerce Environment / Cart Versioning Updates 

This is the most common cause of tracking issues and can result in underreporting, overreporting, or loss of sales. These issues can occur when customers decide to change from one e-commerce platform to another, or make version changes to their existing tracking platform. When switching e-commerce platforms, the new shopping cart needs to be configured and a new tracking pixel installation will need to occur. Additionally, merchants will need to update or remove any existing lines of code when installing a new solution. Duplicating the pixel code can cause issues with our duplicate order screening process, resulting in multiple orders to track. As a best practice, always make sure to save a copy of any code as a backup before updating or removing it. Once the new tracking solution is in place and previous integration scripts are removed, merchants need to conduct test transactions within their account to confirm all tracking is working properly. To create a tracking installation plan prior to any e-commerce environment updates, or instructions on how to place test orders; please contact the ShareASale technical services team by logging into ShareASale and submitting a ticket via HELP → SUBMIT A TICKET.

Updates to the Thank You Page 

Most of the time, ShareASale tracking code is installed on a website’s order receipt / thank you page. Making changes to the thank you page may overwrite the ShareASale tracking code and cause sales to be underreported. Shopping carts that have code inject boxes, such as Shopify, are in particular risk of this. New installations of marketing services tend to use the same code inject box as ShareASale’s tracking code. New installations, especially ones that may contain problematic or buggy code, can cause the script that generates ShareASale tracking code to break. When making alterations to an e-commerce environment, especially changes around the thank you page, it is highly recommended that our customers monitor sales activity within ShareASale immediately after making any updates and run a test order if any sales data appears to be suspicious or off. 

New E-commerce plugins 

This one’s a bit of a mixed bag in that some e-commerce plugins will cause underreporting or overreporting of sales. Tracking plugins that change the thank you page are most often responsible for underreporting. Tracking plugins that replay user interactions with a website, such as Hotjar and Crazy Egg, can replay the thank you page and generate an over reporting of sales. The risk here is that some of the plugins that can affect the tracking code, like the user experience ones, aren’t plugins you would natively assume have anything to do with code living on the thank you page. New plugins are regularly developed for many carts and, in the case of Wordpress backed WooCommerce, are designed by third party companies without consideration for any plugins that may already be present on the site. As a rule of thumb, thoroughly test a website after loading any new plugin to ensure that the new code doesn’t cause unexpected issues. For ShareASale in particular, monitor sales activity immediately after installing or removing any plugins to see if there are any adverse effects. 

How To Fix An Issue If It Occurs 

Monitoring is key. The reason is because all ShareASale merchants have the power to fix any tracking issues that occur via ShareASale’s reconciliation tools IF those issues are caught before the affected transactions are paid to affiliates. By default, all transactions are paid on the 20th of the calendar month after we track a transaction. For example, a sale tracked on January 12th, 2019 locked and paid out commission to affiliates on February 20th, 2019. This means that all merchants have a minimum of 20 days (about 3 weeks) and a maximum of 51 days (about 1 month 3 weeks) to review all transactions within ShareASale. Any over reported sales in ShareASale can be voided, which will result in a full refund on those transactions up until the lock and pay date. After a transaction is paid, the funds are not recoverable. Likewise, if sales are underreported, customers can manually insert sales or bonuses from within the ShareASale UI to make up for missing commission payments to their affiliates. Doing so ahead of affiliate payment date ensures that affiliates get paid faster and do not suffer payment delays due to technical errors. If any customer needs assistance with running order reconciliations or inserting sales/bonuses within the UI, please submit a ticket by going to HELP → SUBMIT A TICKET and our staff will be happy to assist. 

Regular monthly monitoring of sales data is recommended for all customers. On a monthly basis, we recommend checking your sales reports for anomalies – either unusual drops or increases in sales volume and spot checking order information to see if any order information was repeated is a highly recommended monthly activity. Doing so can spot any potential issues before they affect affiliates. 

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