What is a “Cookie” in Affiliate Marketing?

What is a “Tracking Cookie” in Affiliate Marketing?  An affiliate cookie or “tracking cookie”  is simply a short text file that contains an affiliate identifier or “ID” that is stored on your visitor’s computer or device.   After clicking on an affiliate link associated with some product image or some text on your blog or website, your visitor is forwarded to a merchant’s website where they (hopefully) purchase a product an you then earn a commission.  The “cookie” identifies you and your website as the source of the sale.  So the file is completely harmless and it simply lets the merchant website know which of its affiliates referred the sale.  Most important, the “cookie” has an “active term” that pays you a commission if your visitor purchases with a certain time frame.  If if your visitor does not purchase right away, you get paid even if the visitor buys without clicking through your affiliate link as long as the cookie’s duration has not expired.

An Example of How a Cookie Works

So, for example, let’s say Bill operated a Men’s Gift Blog and refers visitors to Amazon via his affiliate link to buy clothes and accessories. His Amazon Associates link looks like this…


Bill’s affiliate ID in this instance would be 123 and if you made a purchase, he’d be credited a commission for the sale.  Bill’s affiliate ID is in the URL so the company (Amazon in this case) knows it was him who sent the visitor (buyer) there for the purchase.  Even if your visitor closes the product page at Amazon end then come back for or five hours later to make the purchase, you will still be paid because the “cookie” is still active and has not expired.

What is the Cookie Duration?

When an affiliate tracking cookie is set on your device, it can contain 2 things:

  • these are data (in the form of text) that identifies the affiliate
  • an expiration date which outlines the data & time when the cookie will expire

The affiliate cookie duration, therefore, is the difference (in days) between the date the cookie is initially set & the date that it is set to automatically expire.  So, for an example, let’s say an affiliate program offers a 30-day cookie duration.  This means that whenever somebody clicks on an affiliate link from that program, a cookie will be set on their device and it will expire after 30 days from the date of the initial click.  This gives you, the affiliate, up to 30 days to potentially earn a commission from that program from that particular visitor.

So this post provides you with a better understand how affiliate cookies work why cookie duration is so important (among other things).