Why Your Affiliate Marketing Business Loves Cookies

Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting and selling another company’s products or service. Becoming a successful affiliate marketer means understanding cookies. But this has nothing to do with the favorite sweet treat! It’s how your affiliate marketing business ensures you get paid for any sales you generate.

What is A Cookie?

An HTTP “cookie” is a type of message that is given to a web browser by a web server. This is used to identify users and web surfers, customize online experiences and track information. Cookie technology works for numerous things. For instance, it works when your computer “remembers” your password when you log in to one of your online accounts.

How Do Cookies Work for Affiliate Marketers?

Cookies are an affiliate marketer’s best friend. When you promote a product as an affiliate, the product owner will allocate you a unique affiliate URL or affiliate link.

When someone clicks on your affiliate link, a cookie is placed in their browser. This means that their computer stores the information that says you are the person that directed the visitor to that website. If that person makes a purchase, the affiliate company can track that sale back to you and pay you your commission.

Not All Cookies Are Created Equal

From the first time someone clicks on one of your affiliate links, you can earn commissions for the designated cookie length.Different affiliate programs have different lifespans for their cookies.

For example, if you promote products as an Amazon affiliate, your cookie will only be valid for 24 hours. That means that the website visitor needs to buy within 24 hours if that sale is to be credited to you.

This is why you should choose your affiliate companies very carefully. Some affiliate marketing models allow for 30, 60, 90 day or even 1 year cookie duration. Some offer lifetime cookies!

Marketing Affiliate Programs

When somebody buys something from a website that you, as an affiliate, have directed them to, the cookie shares your affiliate ID. The product owner then knows that you are the affiliate and that any commission from that sale should be paid to you. Obviously, it’s extremely important that you use the correct affiliate ID on all your links to ensure you get your commissions.

The one issue to be mindful about with cookies is that if a potential customer uses a different computer to search again to buy the product, your affiliate ID will not be saved on that machine. It’s not a major problem though as most people use the same computer, laptop or tablet to buy products and services online.

Become a Successful Entrepreneur – Build Your Own Cookie Business From Scratch

Let’s get one thing straight. Cookies are great! Everyone from the smallest child to the oldest adult can always appreciate a good cookie. They are made at home, bought at the store or bakery, given as gifts and party favors in nearly every situation imaginable. A stake in the cookie market can be very lucrative, as well as rewarding for you and your wallet.

So if you are looking for a great business opportunity, why not try your hand at selling cookies. Your business may sell the kinds of cookies that you can normally only get from your grandma. Or perhaps yours will be the business to sell the most flavors, or the biggest cookies, or even the smallest. There are literally thousands and thousands of styles and combinations for business ideas that can make you very successful. What about a cookie delivery business where fresh baked homemade cookies arrive at customer’s doors in thirty minutes or less? You could even just go with a basic sugar cookie recipe, but cut them out into all different shapes, sizes and decorations to go with every holiday or occasion.

Personalized cookies are also a fabulous gift, and can also be used to commemorate dates like weddings and anniversaries. In the cookie business, it is easy to see that such cheap ingredients such as flour, sugar, eggs, and other flavorings can easily be turned into a product that is not only eye catching and tasty, but also one that can bring in a fabulous stream of income for years and years to come.

What the New EU Directive on Cookies Means for Webmasters

This article aims to give an overview of what is required by the new 2011 EU Directive on the use of internet cookies and how webmasters and businesses may look to satisfy the new rules.

Overview
The general remit of the original EU Directive, the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications which dates from 2003 is to tackle data protection in digital/electronic media. The 2011 update particularly concerns the appropriate use of cookies. In the UK the Directive is enforced by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO)

The broad requirements of the Directive for businesses and webmasters are to:

  • Provide clear and comprehensive information to users of their website(s) detailing what cookies will be used and how they will be used.
  • Obtain consent to the use of cookies from each user before deploying them, having provided the above information.

Scope of the Directive

The Directive applies to all cookies except:

  • Cookies that are absolutely essential to the working of a service which the user has explicitly requested.
    • e.g., a checkout process which requires the site to remember items in a shopping cart from one screen to another.
  • 3rd party cookies or cookies relating to 3rd party content which must be clearly identified and explained and will require a solution to be found between all parties involved to obtain consent from the user.

Who will have the ultimate responsibility for 3rd party cookies as a rule is a little bit ambiguous and each case will need to be assessed on its merits. That is not to say that it is an opportunity to avoid the requirements of the Directive. In fact the use of these cookies may require more communication from each party involved to explain and obtain consent from the end user.

The Rules

  • The information describing what cookies a site will use and how they will be used must be provided before the user is asked to consent to theme being deployed.
  • The amount and detail of the information that is provided by a website should reflect the degree to which personal information is gathered and the user’s privacy is affected.
  • Once the user has consented to cookies being used for a site, the information and consent request don’t need to be presented again unless new cookies are introduced.
  • An opt-out or similar ‘failure to object’ does not equate to consent. The only exception here is if consent is sought/included as part of a broader process which itself explicitly requests consent. For example, a user signs up to a service and it is explained to the user that by doing so they are consenting to the use of cookies

Potential Solutions

There are a number of possible ways in which the sites can satisfy the requirements of the new Directive:

  • Pop up windows which users see when landing on site (on each visit until they respond)
    • this may cause usability and accessibility issues
  • A Terms & Conditions checkbox which is included when a user agrees to the T&Cs whilst, for example, signing up for a new account.
  • An additional setting which needs to be turned on, for example, within account portals or against particular pieces of functionality.
  • A scrolling information banner which appears on landing pages to inform the user that cookies are not turned on and that they should visit another page (e.g., Privacy Policy) for more information and to turn them on.
  • A prompt that the user sees before using a particular feature or piece of functionality on a site.

In any case, webmasters should look to streamline and monitor the use of cookies on their site to the reduce the risk of a breach and/or the layers of consent and information that are required across the site.

Enforcement

The regulations are enforceable in the UK by the ICO who have the following powers (as per the 2003 Directive):

  • To perform an audit of action that a webmaster has taken to comply with the Directive
  • £1,000 fixed fine for not resolving any breaches that are identified
  • (In the worst case scenario) A fine of up to £500k.
    • These fines will only apply where serious breaches of data protection covered by the Directive result in extensive or serious damage or distress.
    • but relevant if we are dealing with personal data.
  • Request information regarding 3rd party breaches

Timeline

The EU Directive and ICO regulation has been in place since 26 May 2011 however the ICO has allowed a lead time of 12 months for webmasters to work on and implement their solutions.

The key dates are as follows:

  • 26 May 2011 – 26 May 2012: Demonstrable planning and work should be ongoing to provide a solution.
  • 26 May 2012: Solutions must be in place