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[Guide] Self Hosted v/s Cloud Hosted

Discussion in 'Guides, Case Studies and Tutorials' started by jsid1008, Nov 9, 2015.

  1. jsid1008

    jsid1008 Affiliate affiliate

    This is always a point of debate. Some people swear by self-hosting of their tracker. One of the main reasons is 'owning your data' and having greater privacy.

    A lot of affiliate marketers are cynical in this respect, even paranoid, but some have been burned before so this perspective may be warranted.

    In the end it’s up to you to decide on what platform is best for you. I think you should focus on what tracking system can offer you the best solution for your problems at the lowest cost while not disadvantaging your tracking capabilities or redirect speeds.

    For many newbies starting out, self-hosting of a tracker can be a large disadvantage as they are tight on budget,have very little knowledge of servers and will want to run campaigns in geographies well outside the US and Europe where they are likely to host the tracking system.

    Speed matters.

    On the other hand, a self-hosted tracking system may be much cheaper if you are running serious volume due to the usage costs incurred with a cloud-hosted tracker.

    Furthermore if you use a lot of PHP scripts and tools then hosting landing pages on your server is required, and redirection from your tracking system to another page on the same server will happen very quickly.

    If you are more technically inclined then feel free to start with your own VPS and thrive, CPV Lab, etc., just be mindful of the fact that if you are running a campaign in Australia and your server is in the United Kingdom, this gives a large click latency disadvantage.

    This brings me to another topic.

    Click loss!

    This is what we call it when the number of clicks drops as you move further down the chain from traffic source to offer.

    This is not the same as clicks that don’t click through on your lander. We are talking about the involuntary, technical drop off of clicks.

    It happens with every campaign. Guaranteed. And it’s generally worse with mobile traffic. Your traffic source measures 1,000 clicks.

    Your tracking system measures 978. You are direct linking. Your affiliate network then measures a staggering 651.

    Where the f#*k did my clicks go! I’m being robbed!

    Not really. In this situation the first thing you should do is look to your tracking system. Of the clicks that came through, how many were from countries that the offer allows? Usually an affiliate network won’t show clicks in the offer statistics when they were from outside and allowed country.

    At your affiliate network you should also be sure to display gross clicks rather than unique clicks when assessing click loss. In the Cake Marketing platform for example you do this by going to the click report tab and then selecting show duplicates.

    If your tracking system says all the clicks are from the right country and there is still a large deficit with duplicates included, talk to your AM and ask if they can provide a report on out-of-geo clicks. Your tracking system and the affiliate network don’t necessarily use the same database for categorising IP’s by country - so disagreement here may lead to out-of-geo clicks.

    Lastly, you should investigate the redirection path. When a user loads your affiliate link, what URLs do they hop between? How many are there?

    You can test this by loading your affiliate link while connected to a VPN and watching the HTTP headers.

    If there are many redirects (3 or more) this can lead to a lengthy amount of time between a user clicking your banner or your landing page call to action and ending up on the offer page.

    People get bored. People close tabs on leave when things take too long to load. This is very well understood and is why load speed is so important.

    Additionally every single redirect increases the chances of catastrophic failure due to a user’s connectivity e.g. their ISP or mobile connection failing to resolve that URL or dropping their connection.

    This is further exacerbated if the servers involved are geographically distanced from the user. Affiliate networks are terrible for this. You can be almost guaranteed that all affiliate networks have a server or several servers in the US or in Europe only. For example in Dallas or in Amsterdam.

    This kind of sucks because if you are running traffic from South Africa you may have an initial overhead of 200-300 ms for a user to even be told what the next URL they need to go to is.

    I would wager that the majority of click loss that you’ll experience as an affiliate marketer comes from two things:

    1. Affiliate networks having a poorly geographically load-balanced set up, i.e. one server location (pretty bad considering the volume of international traffic dealt with...)

    2. Affiliate network links having 3+ redirection steps to get to the offer page. Incidentally this is one of the reasons why going direct with an advertiser can greatly improve your profit margins, and why you should split test offers between networks.

    All of this scathing review is not without data. I’ve done a rather simple but revealing experiment on affiliate network links and some CDN’s just to see the resolution times for their tracking domain names. This resolution happens at the DNS level so will be an underestimate of how long it takes in a real-world scenario.

    To summarise, click loss is normal and happens for a number of reasons - mainly out-of-geo clicks and network connectivity reasons.

    If everything lines up - the clicks are all within the right geo, your tracking system hasn’t lost many, and your affiliate network says that not many of the clicks from the wrong geo, then you can pin the blame on the affiliate networks tracking infrastructure - I do.

    You can’t do much about it and most people just accept it as an unavoidable loss that is part of the game.
    SadLarry, azgold, tom804 and 4 others like this.
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  3. peterpaul

    peterpaul Affiliate affiliate

  4. internalsoul

    internalsoul Moderator moderator affiliate

    Nice post mate. Keep up the good work.
  5. Dr. Forum

    Dr. Forum Affiliate affiliate

    Thanks for the share. It is a topic that has risen lots of arguments among my friends and even fellow marketers. I a the person who value speed and privacy thus I will always go for the self hosted option. The reason being, I will have all the abilities to determine the speed at which my server are working at. I will also have access to my information without having an intruder who always have malicious intentions. As much as cloud based hosting is always cheaper, there is always a cost implication on it especially when dealing with confidential data.
  6. tom804

    tom804 Affiliate affiliate

    Awesome post. I don't think may people pay enough attention to click loss or speed in general.
  7. ClickWD

    ClickWD Service Manager Service Manager affiliate

    Amazing post. Thank you!