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Pixel Vs Postback URL Tracking? Which One is Better in 2020

As a marketer, when it comes to conversion tracking the biggest question that slugged is which tracking protocol you should use in 2020 to record conversions. At present, there are two dominant tracking modes Pixel tracking and Postback URL tracking or S2S tracking.

Most of our visitors last year asked about this question. So here we are with the answer; We will explain and specify the contrast between both methods and help you concede what protocol should you use.

What is Pixel Tracking?

Pixel tracking is usually called client-side, cookie-based or in browser tracking.

Whenever a visitor comes to the site by clicking on your offer or ad/link a cookie is placed in the browser. On conversion, this cookie is called again to validate the click ID and user attributes.

This is most common among marketers as it is very easy to set up. For pixel-based tracking, you just need to place an ad exchange-generated HTML code(Pixel)  on your conversion page this is as simple as this.

What is Postback URL Tracking?

Postback tracking or server call, server-side or server to server S2S tracking relies entirely on the advertiser’s server to log conversions.

postback url

In this method of conversion tracking, you don’t need to place a piece of code on your landing pages. As conversion occurs postback URL is fired using the affiliate ID. This affiliate helps to validate the correct conversion.


  • Pixel-based tracking is very simple and easy to place. You don’t need any kind of programmatic knowledge to set a pixel. In the S2S tracking, parameters are passed through URL, so it is very important to pass & record the correct parameters. 
  • If any user cleans up cookies and browser cache the cookie stored by the pixel will be removed and the conversion will not be registered while in S2S there is no need to save cookies.
  • For pixel-based tracking, you need unique pixels for each network you are affiliating this will make your landing page bulky while for S2S tracking only some parameter is appended to the original URL.
  • Sometimes pixels don’t fire up,  nobody knows the reason while in S2S if parameters are set up correctly each conversion is recorded.
  • Pixel tracking is much apt to hoax as the cookie is stored on the client-side. It’s a handy game for tech-savvy guys to fire up the pixel without any conversion occur.
  • You can look up your server log for the errors if the Postback URL doesn’t work properly, every time there will be an error reported in the log file but in pixel tracking, you have no control over this.

Final Words

With the ITP 2.0 update last year Apple Safari has blocked access to the third-party cookie-based tracker and iframes access to cookies. Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firebox all are working to improve the user’s browsing experience.  Cookie-based tracking methods will no longer seem to work in 2020. 

As a digital marketing agency, we strongly recommend using S2S tracking for affiliate marketing. It is harder to implement at first but once you are familiar with the parameters it will be a minute game for you.

Third-party S2S trackers like Voluum and Tune are quite helpful when it comes to centralizing all the things. Stay tuned for more updates.

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