Everyone from the industry is kind of expecting redirect tracking to end soon. It seems almost archaic in 2020. After all, we live in a time when
- Apps communicate with other apps directly via API.
- Internet giants such as Google or Facebook don’t allow redirects
- Users are so impatient they are more likely to bounce than wait 3 seconds for an offer page to load
Despite its repeatedly foretold death, redirect tracking is still here.
But how long will it be in use? What are the alternative ways of tracking if redirects are fine? And finally, what does the future of redirect tracking look like?
Let’s break this down into a list of questions.
What is Redirect Tracking?
It is a method of tracking various user data types by performing a redirect through a tracking domain.
The flow goes as follows:
First, a user clicks on the ad.
Second, a user is redirected through a tracking domain. This is the moment when a tracker records visit data.
Third, a user is immediately directed to a landing page or offer page.
The redirect tracking is the easiest tracking method to implement. It doesn’t require any coding skills, any edits to a landing page or offer page. Everything is done via HTTP links.
What This Method Is Usually Used For?
The simplicity behind this tracking method means that it can be easily used between various components. You can pick an offer from one platform, buy traffic from another, and track with the help of a third platform – and everything will work.
That was, and still is, this tracking method’s biggest advantage.
Is Redirect Tracking Slow?
This should be the first question on everyone’s minds. Does this method take a lot of time? Will the bounce rate increase?
The answer is: it depends. The page-load time consists of several elements and a redirect is only one of them. We have an article about various myths regarding speed in tracking, if you want to know more.
If you use a self-hosted tracker, you will have to stick with tracking traffic close to your geographical location, otherwise the redirect time can go up significantly. Cloud-based trackers have their domains spread evenly across the globe, which minimizes the delays.
In short: a redirect may add a few milliseconds to page load time, which is still next to nothing, as an average page load time is 4.7 seconds on desktop.
What Are The Other Tracking Methods?
Redirect tracking method had its shortcomings. Chief among which was the lack of support from the Internet giants.
Facebook and Google don’t like the lack of control over where the user actually goes. They don’t want their users being misled by redirects that advertise one thing and show another, so they’ve banned all redirects, including the ones used for tracking.
Direct method of tracking
To combat that, another tracking method was used. It is often referred to as the direct method of tracking, to distinguish itself from its older sister. It is also known as pixel tracking, zero-redirect tracking, no-redirect tracking, and so on.
This method boils down to a small script, often referred to as “pixel”, being implemented on a web page (landing page, offer page, “Thank You” page). This script is activated on page load, and when that happens it makes an HTTP request to a tracker with visit info.
The direct method of tracking has some serious advantages over classic redirects:
- There is no redirect time, a user is directed towards their destination instantaneously.
- This method is in line with Facebook and Google’s policies
As I have mentioned at the beginning, apps use API to talk to each other. It’s a gateway toward more futuristic tracking that exceeds the standard information exchange and spans to control.
With API integration, you can pause or resume your campaigns from a tracker without the need of logging into a traffic source platform. An example of such a solution is Voluum Automizer.
Why Aren’t We Sticking To One Method Anyway?
This is the question that will also provide an answer to the one from the title.
It is not entirely correct to view new tracking methods as evolution and constant progress on the way to the tracking heaven. Although a redirect method of tracking is the oldest, and API integration is the newest one, it is better to view them as complementary methods, not replacements.
Each of the methods described has its shortcomings:
- Redirect method is often banned by big ad networks
- Direct method requires you to have control over the landing page, and sometimes the offer page, to edit them and implement the script, which is sometimes not possible.
- API integrations require a lot of development work and have to be supported by both parties.
Because of these reasons, each method of tracking fits some user cases and some it does not. The redirect method of tracking is good for most setups. Direct method of tracking is required with some traffic sources. There are instructions on which tracking methods you should use for most popular traffic sources in our documentation.
And whenever you have a chance to use integrations with a given traffic source, go for it.
What Is The Future Of Redirect Tracking then?
I can give prophecies for the near future, let’s say for the next two years. In this time frame, redirect tracking should work fine. After that time, Google plans to phase out 3rd party cookies, which will make redirect tracking more difficult but not impossible. First steps towards this have been made with the Chrome 80 update (a step that has been rolled back due to COVID-19 pandemic).
After that time, redirect method will have to be updated to stop relying on 3rd party cookies.
It appears that redirect tracking will stay with us for now. It is simple, easy, and reliable. It works for many stakeholders.
Voluum tracker is the top-market solution that supports both redirect and direct method of tracking, as well as is integrated with many traffic sources and an affiliate network via API.