Do You Cloak Your Aff Links?

by Zeb
22 replies
Do you cloak/mask your links and are there any penalties by google by doing so?

Cause i read in google webmasters guidelines (somewhere but i can't remember where now) that you shouldn't make another site appear to be as your site, which means cloaking/masking right? or am i off here?

Like to hear your thoughts
#aff #cloak #links
  • Profile picture of the author MemberWing
    Yes, i do cloak link. Displaying plain affiliate links on site today is not an option. I haven't read any guidelines stating that using shortened URL (cloaked redirects essentially) is against any TOS.
    I even created a special plugin (on my signature) designed specifically for automation of affiliate redirects and to overcome Google slap problems.

    Gleb
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  • Profile picture of the author TLTheLiberator
    Lots of people will not purchase from you if they know your link is an affiliate link so cloaking of some sort is required.


    Thanks for the WP link cloaker.


    TL
    Signature

    "It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled. -- Mark Twain

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  • Profile picture of the author Ralf Skirr
    Originally Posted by Zeb View Post

    Do you cloak/mask your links and are there any penalties by google by doing so?

    Cause i read in google webmasters guidelines (somewhere but i can't remember where now) that you shouldn't make another site appear to be as your site, which means cloaking/masking right? or am i off here?

    Like to hear your thoughts
    Hm, there's 2 things actually:

    1. you create re-direct links. Then instead of publishing your affiliate link you publish the redirect links that will then send the user to the affiliate link.

    2. Some people actually load the merchant's sales letter into a frame on page on their own domain. Then the visitor does not see the page belongs actually to another domain.

    #1 is what every affiliate should do for several reasons.

    Ralf
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    • Profile picture of the author mikeyman120
      Originally Posted by Ralf Skirr View Post

      1. you create re-direct links. Then instead of publishing your affiliate link you publish the redirect links that will then send the user to the affiliate link.
      This is what I do. I make a folder on one of my domains like:
      mydomain[dot]com/productname

      and in that folder I have a php redirect to my affiliate link. Paste the code below in notepad and then save it as index.php and upload to the folder.

      Use this code:

      <?php
      header("HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently");
      header("Location: http-your-link-here");
      exit();
      ?>



      Works great!

      Mike
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  • Profile picture of the author Lance Johnson
    If I get a couple of sales with a cloaked link, I usually buy a domain like "productnamesite.com" and use a 301 redirect to send traffic that way. Seems way more legit, and not so much of a noticeable URL change.

    Mike Filsaime does something similar with his "productname-review.com" if I'm not mistaken.

    -Lance
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    • Profile picture of the author CliveG
      Originally Posted by Lance Johnson View Post

      If I get a couple of sales with a cloaked link, I usually buy a domain like "productnamesite.com" and use a 301 redirect to send traffic that way. Seems way more legit, and not so much of a noticeable URL change.

      Mike Filsaime does something similar with his "productname-review.com" if I'm not mistaken.

      -Lance
      Easily the best solution in my opinion.

      Take great care if you use a third party URL shortening service as some have failed recently.
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      • Profile picture of the author The Schwa
        I wonder how the new FTC rulings are going to affect link cloaking. It seems likely that disclaimers are going to need to be in effect to let people know you are receiving payment.

        If you are going to need to tell them it's an affiliate link, do you still need to hide it?

        Although it still prevents removal of the aff code I guess.

        Any thoughts?
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  • Profile picture of the author Kim Roach
    As an affiliate marketer, it's essential that you learn how to cloak your affiliate links.

    Link cloaking is going to be the difference in your link looking like this:

    http://www.dietcrusher.com/recommends/truthaboutabs

    as opposed to...

    http://3e6b8dy9t2vosj26v5uflzwi3m.hop.clickbank.net/?tid=ABS

    The link above came straight from Clickbank. Pretty ugly huh?

    You'll notice that the cloaked link actually tells the visitor more information about where the link is pointing to.

    Research has shown that visitors are less likely to click on links that look like affiliate links. Plus, if someone sees an affiliate link, they will be more likely to use their own link instead in order to get the commissions for themselves... especially if they're
    Internet savvy.

    By cloaking your link, you will instantly increase your affiliate commissions and create a much prettier link.

    One of the easiest ways to create cloaked affiliate links is to use a free Wordpress Plugin called Pretty Links - http://blairwilliams.com/pretty-link/

    You can install this plugin on your Wordpress blog and instantly start cloaking and tracking your affiliate links.
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  • Profile picture of the author Lance Johnson
    I don't really see anything massive changing with the FTC rules on cloaking - but I'm not a lawyer, or anywhere close.

    The FTC didn't say that everyone had to stop their affiliate programs, they said it just has to be disclosed. I plan on putting at the bottom of every page (in the body not the fine print), "I am a paid affiliate of %PRODUCT NAME%" and then send that bad boy through the link.

    The whole 301 gig, still improves conversion rates because people think that they are navigating directly to the website. It has "typability" since it's just a .com with no operators on the end of the url.

    So, I think if you tell them "Hey, I'm an affiliate of %PRODUCT NAME%, but here's the link if you want to go" now we should do it as

    Code:
    Here's the link www.productnamereview.com
    versus

    Code:
    <a href="www.productnamereview.com">Here's the link</a>
    Just my 2 cents,

    -Lance
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  • Profile picture of the author rodl13
    I also use the register a .com similar to the product and use a 301 redirect, but my question to all is: Do you mask that redirect?
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    • Profile picture of the author MemberWing
      Originally Posted by rodl13 View Post

      I also use the register a .com similar to the product and use a 301 redirect, but my question to all is: Do you mask that redirect?
      You don't mask redirect, you mask URL.
      And yes, definitely I do.

      If you want to be really "black ops" you detect if that is search engine spider that is "clicking" on redirect and redirect it to non-affiliate location. All normal visitors will be redirected to your affiliate link.

      Gleb
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      • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
        Y'all have left out two more excellent reason to use redirects for affiliate links...

        1. Control

        Now, if you're linking to ProductName, his might not matter. But if you are linking to keyword-phrase, it does. If the original vendor folds, or the link simply isn't profitable, you can change the product offered by simply changing the destination of the redirect.

        2. Tracking

        If you run your affiliate links through a tracking script, you will know which pages are generating clicks, which anchors, and so on. Combined with tracking IDs offered by some vendors (like Clickbank), you can fine tune your approach.
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      • Profile picture of the author Zeb
        Originally Posted by MemberWing View Post

        You don't mask redirect, you mask URL.
        And yes, definitely I do.

        If you want to be really "black ops" you detect if that is search engine spider that is "clicking" on redirect and redirect it to non-affiliate location. All normal visitors will be redirected to your affiliate link.

        Gleb
        Gleb,

        How do you do this with aflinker? Masking the link that is...
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  • Profile picture of the author DrewG
    One thing I like about cloaked links too is that you can usually edit the affiliate link, but your cloaked link stays the same (appearance-wise) which adds SEO benefit.
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  • Profile picture of the author Glenn72
    Yeah, definitely. Clickbank links especially.. Just the name 'Clickbank' alone would look like a spam link to anyone who doesn't know what they are.

    It's funny, I actually saw someone post on a forum where someone posted a Clickbank affiliate link. Another guy had left a reply there which read "There's no way I'm clicking on a link that looks like that".

    Plus, Google will devalue your site if they detect affiliate links on there. It happened to one of my sites.
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  • Profile picture of the author Zeb
    Thanks for the replies guys and like the aflinker plugin MemberWing. So i'll definitely be cloaking my links. As for masking, do most of you do it? cause even after cloaking your links, after the visitor clicks on it, they can see the affiliate site then. I'm thinking of making the affiliate site look a part of my site but how does google take into this? Anyone had any experience where rankings got effected by masking?
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  • Profile picture of the author MemberWing
    Gleb,
    How do you do this with aflinker? Masking the link that is...
    With Aflinker you do this:
    • Create pretty link, such as: www.YOURSITE.com/best/hosting
    • Specify where this link will redirect visitor, such as: http://secure. hostgator.com/cgi-bin/affiliates/clickthru.cgi?id=johnc385
    • Optionally specify where spiders will be redirected such a http://www. hostgator.com (non affiliate link) - so spiders will neither see any affiliate links not redirects to affiliate sites - double guard. This is optional - up to you.
    • Then you place inside article contents your pretty links-redirects: www.YOURSITE.com/best/hosting
    • If you lazy - you may tell AFLinker to automatically put "pretty links"-affiliate redirects around keywords of your choice, such as:
      "web hosting", "webhost", "best web hosting service" etc...
    So with AFLinker you don't even need to create links in contents. You just create "pretty redirect" once, specify matching keywords for this redirect - and these keywords become clickable.

    And you're done.
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  • Profile picture of the author atwellpub
    I would really like to know a way to autocloke ALL outbound links through php.
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    • Profile picture of the author MemberWing
      Originally Posted by atwellpub View Post

      I would really like to know a way to autocloke ALL outbound links through php.
      I might add this feature into AFLinker... But i need to know more specifics.
      What kind of links needs to be cloaked?
      How they look like?
      How does "pretty links" need to look like?
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  • Profile picture of the author atwellpub
    Well, I think that the best way would be to discover the url shortening technique/technology and tie it in internally.

    Maybe
    yourdomain.com/permalink-structure/randomcode/ = htaccess redirect???

    Or you would have to create a separate php server file and input a new table into the wordpress database

    This database would be like this:
    Name: wp_cloaking
    Fields: id, original_url, code

    and while posting material have auto replace of links with:
    http://www.domain.com/ref/index.php?c=uniquecode

    ref/index.php being the redirect server


    the only problem with this is ref/index.php?c=* becomes a footprint, and subject to future detection. What do you think?
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  • Profile picture of the author atwellpub
    I thought you were a developer for the people mate.

    [edit] So what do you think about the way of going about it?
    I figure you were wondering how to go about implementing this in your own available soltuions...
    I am wondering too.
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