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How Affiliate Links Work

Updated on 2 Nov 2022

An Affiliate link works by setting a cookie in the browser of the user clicking it, before taking them to whatever the destination for the affiliate link is.

When the customer who clicked the link comes to opt-in to a List or Purchase a Product, the cookie will let us know that they were referred by an affiliate, and which one.

The affiliate link itself can take people to any URL you want. The links work by taking customers on a small detour through a Simplero URL first, to set the cookie, before they're sent on to their final destination.

By default, we provide an affiliate link to the sales page and the order form for each product included in the affiliate program. You can also add External affiliate links, which can go to any URL you choose. These work for truly external pages as well as Simplero landing pages or webpages.

What Affiliate Links Look Like?

Affiliates links, other than "External affiliates links", are generally any URL on with the addition of "?ref=(affiliate-ref)". The affiliate-ref consists of a number, a hyphen, and a string, e.g. "123-michele-rosslyn". You can drop the hyphen and what comes after it, and just use the number.

So these two URLs are equivalent:

Now, there is an exception. Opt-in links look very different to the above:

By copying the link on the Affiliate record you will notice that it actually looks like this:

That is the link that your affiliates will need to integrate to be able to track down the user clicks and opt-ins.


By design, we redirect the Opt-in URL generated with the format: to

If, for whatever reason, the affiliate uses the link instead of the one generated on their affiliate dashboard, we won't be able to track the user clicks, although we will still be able to register any Opt-ins under this affiliate.

To avoid this misleading result, we encourage you to have your affiliates use the link generated on the affiliate dashboard in all cases.

The system is very effective, though not perfect. If customers change to another browser, we won't get the cookie back, and so we can't know they came from this affiliate. If they clear their cookies, we'll also lose the information.

Cookie Settings

When creating your affiliate program, you get to choose how long we should set the cookies for. The default is three years, but you can change that.

You also get to choose between first-cookie and last-cookie. This says what to do in the case where a customer clicks on affiliate links from two different affiliates.

  1. First-cookie wins - the first cookie that was set gets to stay, and the second one is ignored. The commission goes to the first affiliate.

  2. Last-cookie wins - the second affiliate link click will override the first cookie set, and the commission goes to the second affiliate.

You can use this strategically in your campaign. First-cookie rewards affiliates who mail early in a campaign, who gets things going. Last-cookie rewards affiliates who do the final push towards making the sale at the end of the campaign. 

Setting Affiliate for Contacts

When a contact opts-in to a List via an affiliate, we'll register that contact to that affiliate too. If that contact ends up buying something, and the affiliate belongs to an affiliate program that covers the product purchased, then we'll still credit the affiliate with the purchase, even if the cookie has gone missing.

For this reason, it's a good idea to get your affiliates to mail on an opt-in to some free gift ("lead magnet"), so that we get the tracking out of cookies, which are unreliable because people may delete them, and onto the contact record, where it's going to stay.

You have control over how long an affiliate should be associated with a contact via the Side-server policy settings.

  • Don’t store affiliate association server-side: new contacts will not get associated with the affiliate so if unknown contact purchases today from an affiliate, the affiliate will get credit for the purchase. If tomorrow the same contact purchases from your store catalog, we will not credit the affiliate for that second purchase.

  • Store affiliate association server-side forever: new contacts will get associated with the affiliate they got engaged through. Any future purchases will always be credited to the affiliate for this contact.

  • Expire affiliate associaton server-side after a specific period: set up for how long the contact should remain attached to the affiliate they got engaged through so only purchases created during this time get credited to the affiliate. Passed the time, the contact will no longer be attached to the affiliate.