This week, our CEO Landon Ray commandeered our Tip to bring you a very important and urgent warning: browsers are no longer allowing cross-domain (3rd party) cookies! Maybe you know what this (and are already cursing the browser industry), maybe you don’t. Either way, this is a must read.
CEO Landon Ray
This article is a little technical, but for some of our clients this is important news that is going to affect your online strategy. If you currently run an affiliate program, you’ll especially want to read this.
As a quick background, which will be familiar to most readers, here’s a refresher on how our (and most everyone’s) affiliate system works:
1. A user visits any URL that has an OAP/ONTRAPORT tracking script on it.
2. We set a ‘cookie’ in that user’s browser which records basic tracking data. We also update your tracking stats.
3. The user eventually fills out a smartform (or order form).
4. Our system ‘reads’ that cookie and sets the proper referrer and source information in the new contact record.
5. When a purchase is made, our system reads the referrer fields and credits the proper affiliate.
This is all good, and in most cases will continue to work just fine… with one big caveat.
It seems like the browser industry (the good folks who make Safari, Firefox, IE, and Chrome, among others) have decided that it’s a privacy issue to allow one domain to read the cookies that were set by a different domain. What Safari has already done and Firefox is about to do with their next release is to change the default security setting in their browsers to ‘not allow’ cross-domain (3rd party) cookies. Since we can’t expect users to dig into their security settings and change this, for our purposes cross-domain cookies are toast.
What this means for order forms
The issue for our users is that some of you have setup your situation like this:
1. User visits domain1.com and we set the cookie.
2. User is directed to domain2.com where they’ll fill out a form or make a purchase.
Since we can no longer capture the referring info in the cookie that was set by domain1.com, your referrer info will be lost.
What this means for affiliate sites
Another challenge is that we have been advising clients (correctly) for years that if you have a lot of big mailers as affiliates who may not be as scrupulous as yourself when it comes to their email list management practices (read: they’re spammers), their bad practices will destroy your domain reputation and hurt your own email delivery. To avoid that, we’ve recommended that big affiliates send traffic to a separate domain than your main one.
For example, your main domain is mybusiness.com. You create a site for your affiliates to promote at mybusiness2.com. This way any spammy affiliate won’t affect your own email reputation.
That’s still good advice, but in the future it’s going to be crucial that you collect the lead information on the FIRST domain (mybusiness2.com in this example).
What this means for upsells
If you are going to use our upsell forms in your sales process, you’re going to need to keep the order form and the upsell form on the same domain. All the same reasons apply.
Thank goodness you have ONTRAPORT/OfficeAutopilot
This email was not meant to toot our own horn, but I do have to point out that without an integrated CRM/affiliate/payment system, such as the one you have with OfficeAutopilot, you’d have a bigger problem. Because we record the contact with the email address and referrer info, we can afford to lose cookie tracking between first capture and sale while maintaining the correct referral info. Without that, you’d be permanently bound to one domain for each affiliate program from here on out.
A note about subdomains and 3rd party cookies
It works. That is, we can continue to track cookies between subdomain1.yoursite.com and subdomain2.yoursite.com.
So, in conclusion… if you run one single domain for all your stuff (affiliates, lead capture, sales, upsells) then you can safely ignore this. If not, this is a significant change that you need to be aware of.
PLEASE direct any questions or discussions about this subject to our forum post on the topic here. That way we can get everyone’s questions answered at once.