A CPA Network’s Dirty Little Secret

CPA networks make a lot more money than you think.  They make a lot more money than they would like affiliates to also think.

I didn’t realize this until I starting digging deeper with my affiliate managers when running campaigns years ago.

I once had an affiliate manager want me to run a campaign so bad that he offered to upload “overages” to my affiliate account ever night.

Huh? Overages?

I asked him what “overages” were and he told me that it was all the extra leads that the affiliate CPA network misses when the pixel doesn’t fire correctly on the thank you page.

I asked him how many leads that would be and he told me around the 8%-15% range.

I was like… “What?!”

The network statistics miss anywhere from 8%-15% of all the leads that are being registered for CPA offers?

Here is the sad reality.

No matter what, a pixel will never fire 100% correctly.  There are a number of reasons why this may occur and it would take too long to describe it in this blog post.

I am just warning you that you will NEVER get paid for the 100% of the leads you really generate for a network.

I have verified that the “overages” are in fact a sad reality of life as a CPA marketer by having my own Direct Track platform.

Direct Track powers almost 80% of all the CPA networks online today.  I have my own Direct Track platform so that I can work directly with a number of advertisers instead of having to go through a CPA network.

In every single case, with every single advertiser, the lead count in Direct Track was always less than the lead count recorded in the advertisers tracking stats.

Their stats are the most accurate because it can only count leads when an actual lead is created.  CPA network software programs don’t count when leads are created, they count when a pixel is fired.  There is a huge difference between the two.

On average, my advertisers report 10% more leads than I see on my Direct Track platform.  And this is not limited to Direct Track as I have seen this across a number of other CPA networks who don’t even use Direct Track.

Just to give you an example of the impact that this may have on any CPA campaign you are running, here is an example with numbers.

300 leads x $3 payout = $900 affiliate commissions

If you paid $500 in traffic to generate the $900 in CPA commissions, than you have a gross margin of around 44%.

But if the network missed 15% of your leads, this means you really had generated 345 leads.

345 leads x $3 payout = $1035

Your real gross margin is around 52% and your pure profit jumps over 25%.

If you are ever doing a ridiculous amount of volume with a CPA network, it almost makes sense to buy your own tracking platform and work directly with the advertiser so that you are ensured all the commissions and overages from your efforts.

Some CPA networks are nice enough to spread out overages at the end of the month to their affiliates who were running that campaign. But in most cases, they keep these extra profits for themselves.

This is a CPA network’s dirty little secret.

Feel free to leave your comments with your thoughts.


Gauher Chaudhry


  1. Dan

    Great post Gauher ! This really opens my eyes.

    This is blatant Business Fraud.

    The CPA industry is totally unregulated to date. So without any oversight, crooks are plying their business. Its definitely illegal to keep any form of money that the advertiser generated for them. They know it, but without any audits, oversight, regulation its wild wild west.

    Is there any way an ordinary Joe can protect themselves from this Fraud Gauher?

  2. Thanks Gauher,

    I’m with the others requesting that you start your own affiliate network; I, too, would join. Also, it was good to meet you in person last weekend.

    You mentioned looking for some other tangible asset to invest in. I’m better at that than my internet marketing, so far. If I can answer any questions, it would be my pleasure.


  3. @Jay

    Yeah, let’s get the government involved – LOL!!! “Hi, I’m from the government and we’re here to help you”.

    Maybe we could have another Stimulus package just for those whose pixels didn’t fire. Of course that would only be available for Americans.

    But then…

    Whose government are we talking about. US, Canada, England, India?

    Perhaps it’s time for a United Nations resolution. Since people all over the world are getting screwed by non-firing pixels.

    All joking aside… great article Gauher. Due diligence and buyer beware still rule the day. And, while it really doesn’t appear that any companies are out to screw us (who knows). Perhaps your info does provide incentive to work toward affording our own Direct Track software so we might get a better grip on the situation.

    After all, this is business. And business isn’t always “fair.” Short of fraud, it’s really the cost of doing business.

    Jay Douglas

  4. ellen

    Well, Gauher, short time Ihave been associate with Online, I have not really seen too much of straight-forward people that I have come to deal and distantly associate. When it comes to Profit-sharing, why should be a questin at all. Business is Business, such thing as ‘under the take’ is strictly unfair nad dishonest–isn’t it?!

  5. Nick

    What is the best Direct Track Platform to use for people on a budget?

  6. Derrick

    Thanks for the information….

  7. Das

    Thanks Gauher.

    This case experience that you share should make us want to learn the CPA business well and grow out of this situation as you suggested! We can estimate the loss of revenue and add it to our own business expenses.


  8. Ron

    Those bastards! I’ll kill em. I really work hard getting free traffic to some CPA offers. Kinda hurts now that I should be getting paid more.

  9. Tracking glitches or is this the so called shaving by the CPA networks?.

  10. Every time one piece of software interacts with another, there is a great chance of the problem, exactly like you described, Gauher. So, what do we do? Nothing really can be done. Software development is very expensive. CPA networks will continue using Direct Track. Direct Track is not going to change anything, because from their point of view everything is right, most likely. We can either stop doing CPA or take your advice. Gauher, thank you for the information and keeping us posted.

  11. This is a great blog post, but not surprising. I honestly had a feeling about that because even when generating small amount of leads they still don’t pay out. I spent several hundred dollars promoting offers that I know would convert and I didn’t see a single commission. From two networks my commissions literally stopped over night and I haven’t seen one sale since. I’m starting to question if they are even tracking my sales at all. Maybe your next blog post can be more detail about how to get Direct Track or other software for tracking leads better. Thanks for the great info.

  12. Thanks for the insight Gauher.

    As if it wasn’t alredy hard enough as it is! I also had my Hydra account punted… just have to work harder (smarter) yet again!!

    good luck everyone

  13. Hey Gauher, Thanks very much for sharing. Why don’t you start your own CPA Network? You are the man we can trust in this industry!

  14. Mark B

    Excellent article Gauher!

    Being new to internet marketing, I must say any tips that increase profitability is well taken. A couple of days ago I started to investigate the Prosper202 free service. Haven’t begun using it yet. Which leads me to this question:

    What recourse does one have if the stats from direct tracking differ from aff network stats?

    @Steve – great links.

  15. I have been following you for over a year and trying to understand CPA, I guess I should just jump in and work at it. All of your info is really above bd and excellent. Thanks

  16. If the problem is a technical glitch,most of the networks will be aware of it.Only the small,recently formed companies could risk to try and exploit it for extra profit.

  17. It is hard to believe, is it not, that at this day with the level of tech expertise available, “pixel misfiring” is not remedied.

    Furthermore, it is unbelievable that many CPA networks are taking full advantage of that malfunction, and DELIBERATELY taking away WHAT CLEARLY DOES NOT BELONG TO THEM.

    I am wondering, why doesn’t the Direct Track stats take precedence over the pixel counts?
    That ought to be spelled out in the contract.

    Secondly, now that many affiliates are informed of the presence of this “embezzlement”, we need to start to cut out the CPAs and work DIRECTLY with the advertisers.

    Thirdly, it is a matter of time, before an affiliate gets fed up with that CPA behavior, and guess what?,right there and then the FTC will get to hear about it.
    Then what?
    Compensate everyone whose commissions have been deliberately “stolen”, plus punitive damages?

    Here is my final thought: The culprit CPAs need to start to clean up that underhandedness pronto, right now or a swift clean-up will be done unto them.

    Last but not least, all affiliates ought to start to work on getting a CPA’s hands caught firmly in the cookie jar.

    Surely, Mr. Gauher has had enough of his commissions staging a disappearing act, and he is sounding the alarm.
    All participants on both sides, take heed now.

    Many thanks to Mr. Gauher for acting prudently and courageously, in the best interest of all of us and our industry.
    The “bad apples” must be dumped.

    By the way reader, have you as yet seen the DVD “THE WARNING”? It can be rent or obtained directly from PBS.org
    It is about how our money is being cleverly taken away from us and very appropo to this article.
    Infact, you will be shocked, that fraud is directly condoned by people, you have come to know rather well. Go get it and watch it.

  18. That is both greed and highway robbery in daylight.
    The doers must be made to answer, as and when they get caught.

  19. I am struggling marketer who intend to have a go with CPA marketing. I am therefore very greatful to you for pointing this injustice. I will keep my eyes open now thank again.

  20. Gauher, the CPA biz is all about measuring and more importantly tracking. You gotta know the accuracy of all the numbers including volume. Everyone needs a third party system in place, and there are many valid reasons as you’ve demonstrated why you need to go direct with advertisers and also use your own tracking platform to ensure you’re optimizing results.

  21. 1. Dearly Beloved Gauher Chaudhry:
    2. Greetings!
    3. It is becoming much more clearer that the fundamentals never change.
    4. You have shared so much within the last few months here and it is my personal believe that you have opened so many eyes as well.
    5. As much as the basics remain TRAFFIC ==> SALES ==> PROFIT or Loss, being able to regenerate the traffic as many times as needed is critical to any business model.
    6. No matter the volume of the traffic, if the ability to retain it and re-use it is not there, the margin for waste may be significant.
    7. The reason why it is always key to build a relationship and then communicate with a business community in the way that the message sent becomes clear and that tracking is completely total.
    8. Thank you once again for sharing and wishing you all the very best in life and beyond.
    9. Remain blessed and a blessing with God speed.
    10. Regards, Olakunle Solomon Fatoye.

  22. Emanuel Edino

    Gauher though iam new to cpa networking but this is an opener for me. Thanks for the info.

  23. hnb

    Anyone who believes this happens by accident is wrong. There are several reasons why this happens and several ways to make it happen or prevent it from happing at all.

    – Browser cache on the client side
    – Network gongestion
    – Bad refferers
    – Accidental refreshes
    – Crappy client computers/networks/browsers
    – Poorely Apache setup on the CPA side
    – Crappy webserver on the merchant side
    – Outdated software
    – Scripts that FORCE apache cache to server or not to server the pixels on DEMAND and by % throttling
    – Cookies that get overwritten by FORCE in cases where both cookie and pixel tracking is used

    … and a whole bunch more I’m too lazy to write about

    So. What you can do? Go old school, or go high-tech.

    Use networks/mercants that utilise an API.
    There is NO WAY a lead wont register on all ends yours/network/merchant if all parties use API calls. Pixel tracking is last century.
    And just like AdManagers/Banner rotators it is prone to CRAPPY web server installations
    but most of all, wrong cache setup/behavior

    I havent used pixel tracking since 1997 for crying out loud. EVOLVE people! This is 2010!

    anyway, my 2 cents

  24. Mike

    so when do you release your software to take advantage of these ‘overs’ gauher?

  25. It’s good to know… Thanks for telling us

    Endless Blessings,
    Gilles Vitu

  26. Craig Sway

    It’s part of doing business in the CPA world – I do not worry about what I can’t control.

  27. Derek

    for last week been testing 5 different PPC offers using same search engine for all 5.

    My stats from the mother (affiliate company) are the same or 2-4% higher than those from the search company.

    Example: paying for 20 clicks, mother shows 21.

    Except for one company that is showing 26% lower (uniques 26%, clicks 29%). They are an in-house (meaning they track their own). Should I be suspect?

    Here’s the kicker – yesterday I sent them an email asking what their overage is. Today, my stats are 10% higher. Yes 10%! Uniques are spot on.

    Your views Gauher would be welcome.

  28. Hey! This is rather disturbing. A dirty secret indeed.

  29. Dennis

    @ hnb

    could you explain the API tracking. which networks do this? I think its a great comment I am just not as technical as you are. If you could explain simpler that would help.

  30. Paul Noel

    Thank you very much, it was very instructive

  31. Hi,what a lovely CPA tips.But am tired of all these fake CPA.Could you please tell me the best CPA programmes to join in other to earn good money and to promote my website.

  32. Rob

    You’re forgetting one thing. When a pixel “misfires” there’s only about a 10% chance that the fire itself will even tell you which affiliate generated it. That’s why you don’t get your overages.

    The AM’s don’t know about it, no one does but the people reading the merchant stats themselves.

    E-Mail me if you want more info on this.

  33. Di

    Thanks, Gauher, for this informative post.

    I agree with Lorne who suggested that a knowledgeable group of CPA marketers set up some independent testing of some CPA networks and make the results known to us.

    And, hnb, I would also like an explanation of the API tracking, and which networks use this.

    Thanks again! Di

  34. Ryan

    It’s my understanding the some issues, such as those with p3p, can cause tracking issues (especially if it’s tracking via a cookie)

  35. I have been looking very closely at CPA and I admit to find it fascinating Gauher!

    I look up to guys like yourself, Chris cobb in the UK who are the early pioneers, successful super affiliates who know the secrets, tips to improve campaign conversions whilst working across a number of CPA Advertising Networks and closely with your Network Affiliate Account Managers on a volume traffic basis

    Your latest post has really got me thinking as I read something similar the other week about CPA networks “burning leads” or simply creaming off the profits on a monthly campaign basis

    Hey Ho – thats life I guess who said it was fair right but 25% profit is a lot to give away in anyone’s language?

    Best Wishes
    Mike L

  36. I have been looking very closely at CPA and I admit to find it fascinating Gauher!

    I look up to guys like yourself, Chris cobb in the UK who are the early pioneers, successful super affiliates who know the secrets, tips to improve campaign conversions whilst working across a number of CPA Advertising Networks and closely with your Network Affiliate Account Managers on a volume traffic basis

    Your latest post has really got me thinking as I read something similar the other week about CPA networks “burning leads” or simply creaming off the profits on a monthly campaign basis

    Hey Ho – thats life I guess who said it was fair right but 25% profit is a lot to give away in anyone’s language?

    Best Wishes
    Mike L

  37. Gauher,

    I was surprised to learn the depth of this issue. Everyone knows there are errors, that’s the game but I had no idea it was this bad.

  38. Yea thats one of the harsh realities we live in.. Gotta take the good with the bad though and just keep moving forward.

  39. Wow I haven’t got into cpas yet but am trying to but now I will be more aware thanks again Gauer

  40. it’s like over-riding commision 😀

  41. Very interesting and new for me info.

    Does the own direct track system is very expencive ?

  42. What is you preferred tracking system. Is it Prosper202 or Hypertracker?

    In terms of CPA Ad tracking as well as solo ad tracking.

    I’ve seen both mentioned in here.


  43. This isn’t great news is it – be great if you could respond to some of these comments – did it cost a lot to set up your direct tracking system? Do you teach the best ways we can go direct to the advertisers? I presume you have to be doing a pretty serious amount of traffic first, no?

    Please get in touch! Cheers! Clare x

  44. onyeka

    I noticed that the CPA network that i’m currently with spreads this ‘overages’ because i get two different stats at different time of the day. For instance, i get stats in the morning stating i generated 100 leads and then sometime in the evening i get a different stats saying i generated 140 leads. And the thing is it happens everyday. Lucky me!

  45. Laszlo Kovacs

    Hi Gauher!

    I am one of Your students. Yes, there are some dishonest CPA networks that want just the money but do not give a damn about the help needed for the Affiliate to optimize campaigns successfully! There are great, reputable CPA networks and there are Scums as well!!!

    I had a very nasty experience with one called Affiliaexe.com. Their approach to affiliates is very nasty and dishonest!! I wanted to promote Glassessusa.com. They gave me the idea to promote the offer. And when I started to promote? The network did not like that I start seeing results because I used brand-keywords.

    Do not work with this company and let other Affiliates know to keep themselves out of trouble!!!

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