Quick Answer: Yes, affiliate links work in private browsing & you can earn commissions as an affiliate if a user makes a purchase via your link in a private window. However, if lots of your users are using private browsing then you may experience reduced commissions & in this post, we’ll explain why.
More & more people are choosing to use private browsing windows (otherwise known as “incognito mode”) when they surf the web in an attempt to prevent being tracked.
But obviously, this raises a lot of concern for affiliates who essentially rely on tracking & it raises a major question… Do affiliate links work in private browsing?
So that’s exactly what we’re going to cover in this blog post today.
We’re going to explain whether or not affiliate links actually work in private browsing & if private browsing has any implications on how much you can earn in commissions.
First off, however, it’s important to understand what private browsing is, and what it actually does.
What Is Private Browsing?
The immediate thing we’ll point out is that despite its name, private browsing (or “incognito mode”) isn’t actually all that private. In fact, it’s not really private at all.
So, what does it actually do? How is it supposed to make things private?
Well, all in all, private browsing doesn’t really do anything different from normal browsing. The only reason it’s called private is that when you leave a website you’ve visited in a private browsing session, the cookies that that particular website has stored are immediately deleted.
And as you’re likely already aware, most affiliate program tracking relies on cookies & extended cookie durations are what help affiliates make more money.
The longer the cookie stays on someone’s device, the more chance you have of earning money as an affiliate.
So, does this deletion of cookies mean that affiliate links won’t work in private browsing?
Thankfully, not quite & that brings us nicely to the next point.
Do Affiliate Links Work In Private Browsing?
Yes, the good news is that affiliate links DO work in private browsing, however, there are some exceptions to this rule which we’ll discuss below.
Firstly, in case you don’t already know, most affiliate programs drop a small text file known as a cookie onto a user’s device when they click on an affiliate link.
This cookie (the little text file) contains the ID of the affiliate that referred them so that the sale can still be tracked to the affiliate even if it doesn’t happen right there & then.
So, if the user revisits the website at a later date & completes the purchase, the affiliate can still be awarded a commission for the sale providing the cookie was still active on the device at the time.
Now, as we mentioned in the previous section, cookies are deleted at the end of a private browsing session.
This means that whilst yes, affiliate links DO work in private browsing, they will only work for purchases that are actually made in that specific session.
So unless the user buys something there & then as a result of clicking your link, you won’t earn a commission.
And sadly, that’s just the first downside of private browsing.
You see, if a user sets their private browsing window to completely reject all cookies, this may cause some affiliate links to stop working altogether.
The reason for this is that whilst many of the big affiliate networks have sophisticated tracking mechanisms that work without cookies, some of the smaller programs don’t… So when cookies are blocked, their affiliate links “break”, unless your ID is still contained in the URL that the person is purchasing through.
There is some good news here though & that’s that most people don’t reject all cookies. That’s because doing so can break the functionality of the website altogether.
So overall, it’ll likely just be the first scenario that you’re faced with, but admittedly, it’s still not ideal.
Thankfully, there’s a way you can get around it & still keep your conversions maximized.
Earning From Affiliate Links Without Cookies
Basically, whether an affiliate link is clicked by a person using a private browsing window or not, you should just always assume that this is the case.
You see, whilst cookies are great, a big problem is that many affiliates are just too reliant on them.
First off, instead of being reliant on cookies, you should always just try to bag the sale immediately. If many of your sales are happening at later dates, it suggests you’re not giving enough information to your users & that they’re having to do more research before buying.
Secondly, a much better way to generate “down the line” sales is to obtain subscribers – meaning you should get people onto your email list & social media channels, etc.
Don’t leave it to chance & “hope” that the cookie is still on their device when they revisit the website. Get them as a subscriber & get them to physically click via your link again by reaching out to them at a later date.
Wrapping It Up
The reality is that no affiliate ever wants their tracking cookies to be deleted & the increase in private browsing is certainly going to have an impact on affiliate commissions.
But, rather than fight change which is going to happen anyway, it is best (as mentioned in the previous section) to find other measures to increase your commissions to make up for the loss.
And another positive is that as people are becoming more comfortable with shopping online & as companies are offering more payment options (such as spreadable payments), more instantaneous transactions are happening.
So whilst the “death of the cookie” may seem like a bad thing, the fact that more online purchases are now happening immediately is somewhat balancing it out.
For example, 5 years ago a visitor may have had to “go find their credit card” whereas nowadays most people have services such as ApplePay & PayPal set up or they have their card details to hand right there within an app on their phone.
So those immediate purchases are much, much easier meaning you don’t need to be so reliant on cookies.
And the best way to bag those immediate purchases is to send targeted traffic through to your affiliate links which is exactly what we show you how to do in our free affiliate marketing course.
So if you haven’t yet checked it out, definitely do.
And of course, if you happen to have any additional comments or questions feel free to leave them below.