Tracking is essential to the success of any per click affiliate campaign.  In order to know what keywords are converting, you have to track down to the keyword level.  This used to be a fairly complex thing to set up, but now its very simple.  There are several options, both free and paid.

Free, built in systems

The easiest, fastest, and free way to setup keyword level tracking is use the tracking code built into the PPC service.  Let’s use Adwords and Neverblue and an example.

1. In Adwords click the “Conversion Tracking” link at the top of your account, then click “Create New Action”.  Enter your information and lead payout amount, then click “Save Action and Get Code”

2. Now go into your ad network, in this case Neverblue has a self serve tracking code placement tool.  If your network doesn’t have a tool, your account manager can place it for you.  These snippets of tracking code are commonly called a pixel.  Go to tools, add Pixel.  Enter the code from Google and hit submit.

That’s it, once this is installed you are tracking conversions at the keyword level.  Now you can look at your Google reports, sort by conversions, and see which keywords are actually converting for you.  By bidding higher for those keywords, and removing non converting keywords, your account will be eventually be highly optimized.

If you aren’t working with a network, this tracking code from Google would go on your ‘thank you’ or ‘success’ page after a conversion.  Yahoo, MSN, and almost all PPC services have tracking code that can be installed.

3rd party tracking systems

The other easy option is to use a third party tracking system.  The most popular and best example out there is Tracking 202.  Wes Mahler and the guys at Tracking 202 are very involved in the industry and have great tools especially designed for affiliate marketing.  Their new Tracking 202 Pro software integrates all your tracking results from all the PPC services and affiliate networks into one console.  Once you set up their system, tracking converting keywords is a breeze.

PHP coded systems

Another option, if you are proficient in PHP, is to insert code into your landing pages that will pull the search term used and then echo the query into to the subid of your affiliate link.  Your affiliate reports will show the keyword as your subid, which you can use to see which words converted.   This is more difficult but can have its place if you are building a custom system for yourself.   I used to use this extensively back in the early days, but with all the easy systems in place now, most people don’t go this route.

With all the options out there today, there is really know excuse to run a campaign without keyword level tracking.   That data is just too valuable to miss.  By setting up keyword tracking you have access to the holy grail of stats, the cost/conversion per keyword.