What is the TRUTH about cloaking affiliate links?

14 replies
I'm confused about affiliate link cloaking. I see two camps swear up and down they are right and yet they are opposite ways of thinking.

Some say you must cloak your affiliate links.

Some say link cloaking will get you banned from AdSense or some other nasty outcome.


What is the TRUTH regarding the cloaking of links? And WHY?

Thanks, I do appreciate it.
#affiliate #cloaking #links #truth
  • Cloaking affiliate links helps increase sales on your end.

    Some inviduals (customers) do not like the idea of being "sold" to, or the possibility that a product review, etc is "biased".

    So if a potential customer sees a link like website.com/afffiateID=12345, then they are less likely to trust the link, which means less likely to buy. And, if they do go to the product page to purchase, they may very well clear their cookies first because they don't like the idea of someone else "getting" something (unfortunately some people have that mentality).

    Alternatively, if you cloak your links, i.e., website.com/johnrecommendsthis/productxyz/ it looks less biased, more trust worthy, and you are likely to increase your sales.

    As for what google thinks, etc, it really doesn't matter. Google takes 100's of factors into consideration, and this is only a small part. If the rest of your site is good, this will not really affect it, and in fact may even enhance it (because you have URLs with keywords in them).

    Regards
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    • Profile picture of the author Marakatapolis
      Originally Posted by InternetSuccess001 View Post

      Cloaking affiliate links helps increase sales on your end.

      Some inviduals (customers) do not like the idea of being "sold" to, or the possibility that a product review, etc is "biased".

      So if a potential customer sees a link like website.com/afffiateID=12345, then they are less likely to trust the link, which means less likely to buy. And, if they do go to the product page to purchase, they may very well clear their cookies first because they don't like the idea of someone else "getting" something (unfortunately some people have that mentality).

      Alternatively, if you cloak your links, i.e., website.com/johnrecommendsthis/productxyz/ it looks less biased, more trust worthy, and you are likely to increase your sales.

      As for what google thinks, etc, it really doesn't matter. Google takes 100's of factors into consideration, and this is only a small part. If the rest of your site is good, this will not really affect it, and in fact may even enhance it (because you have URLs with keywords in them).

      Regards

      Thanks for the reply. Regarding Google, I did not mean any kind of algorithm but rather a human review.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kat Bartone
      There are different types of cloaking techniques, at least one of which is not permitted by some product developers' terms of service.

      The type of cloaking that is sometimes prohibited is the kind that 'hijacks' the URL that appears in the browser window and forces your own URL into that window. Not all product developers allow this, even though some do it anyway. Make sure you read the TOS.

      For a great source of information on cloaking techniques, contact Alan Petersen here on the warrior forum. I bought his ebook awhile back called 'The Definitive Guide to Link Cloaking'. It's excellent, he covers it all, and though I don't recall the exact price, it's pretty cheap.

      - Kat
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      • Profile picture of the author Marakatapolis
        I currently use the Pretty Link WP plugin to cloak, or make "pretty", the ugly clickbank hop links which appear on the same pages as AdSense ads.

        Am I okay?
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  • Profile picture of the author SageSound
    Link cloaking ... link cloaking ... link cloaking....

    Why? Why? Why?

    Ever heard of surbl.org?

    if one of your affiliates puts a naked affiliate URL on an email blast they send out and enough people flag it as spam, and their ISP happens to subscribe to a service that uses any of the blacklists thru surbl.org, YOUR DOMAIN WILL GET BLACKLISTED.

    Did you read that correctly?

    joe@somedomain.com sends out an email blast with

    http:// yourdomain.com/?aff=12345

    and YOURDOMAIN.COM gets blacklisted.


    here's another scenario:

    After yourdomain.com gets blacklisted and you have tried unsuccessfully getting it off of the surbl, you decide to get another domain. You send out an email to your affiliates telling them to go sign up for a new affiliate link.

    And several of them reply saying, "I just posted this to 500 sites, now you're telling me it's no good. Go F... yourself!"

    The solution is both cases is the same ... use a REDIRECT.

    Oh, BTW, a "redirect" is nothing more than what people call a "cloaked link".

    As you can see, there are some VERY GOOD REASONS for ALL AFFILIATES to use redirects.

    And they have absolutely NOTHING to do with why MOST people THINK they want to use "cloaked links".

    Smart vendors will PROHIBIT their affiliates from using NAKED URLS in their emails. Why? So THEIR domain name doesn't end up on one of surbl.org's lists.

    REDIRECTS are NOT A PROBLEM. EVER!

    However, the extent to which SOME people will go to hide their affiliate codes DOES create problems. The truth is, 95% of affiliates never make more than one sale. Why in the world do so many of them worry about link hijacking?

    The other BENEFIT of using REDIRECTS:

    Redirects let you track your clicks.

    I rarely see emails sent from AWeber these days that are NOT full of redirects used to track responses. Nobody sends out emails with direct URLs these days unless they just don't know what they're doing, or they don't understand something.

    Part of the reason, I suspect, is because of the problem with SURBLs. If all the links in all the emails you send out are for aweber.com, you're probably safe in assuming that: (1) that YOUR domain won't get BL'd; and (2) if aweber.com does, it won't be there for long.

    Please stop belly-aching about nuances around protecting your affiliate codes and start looking at more important things. Like tracking how many people actually click on your links!

    -David
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  • Profile picture of the author Mike Adams
    Absolutely, there is a huge difference between cloaking your affiliate links, which almost every successful marketer does and doing what is called "search engine cloaking" which displays one set of content to users and another set of content to search engines for the benefit of search engine rankings or adsense ads.
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  • Profile picture of the author GeorgR.
    Originally Posted by Marakatapolis View Post

    I'm confused about affiliate link cloaking. I see two camps swear up and down they are right and yet they are opposite ways of thinking.

    Some say you must cloak your affiliate links.

    Some say link cloaking will get you banned from AdSense or some other nasty outcome.


    What is the TRUTH regarding the cloaking of links? And WHY?

    Thanks, I do appreciate it.
    people mistake link-cloaking with the other kind of cloaking (which is a no-no for google).

    Link cloaking is merely a "beautified" or shortened URL...the other "cloaking" means actually to present something to the search engines and something else to the users. So its two different things.

    I dont think that simple link "cloaking" is bad at all, eg. PHP redirects or whatever people use.
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  • Profile picture of the author rayx
    I always redirect (php) even if it is from a url shortener... it's better for tracking and obviously more people will click on the link
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    • Profile picture of the author blue_Tiger
      I use link cloaking plugin and it automatically turns all outgoing links to something like yourdomain.com/goto/link/24/1
      I don't think that Google will have any problem with this kind of link cloaking.
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  • Profile picture of the author DigiCypher
    My understanding of link-cloaking is just so that you can take your normal "www.yourpage.com/abcd/abcd12345fghjk.htm" kind of link and make it more appealing to your prospective buyers. People can be turned away because of a weird link with just a bunch of random letter and numbers.

    So you cloak your link to make it more appealing to the human visitor. You can also slip in your main keyword or lsi keyword into your cloaked link for just a bit of added SEO.

    So the above link would be something like "www.yoursite.com/go/keyword.htm" after you've cloaked it.

    Kind of a balance of SEO and being more pleasing to the human eye, but mostly... It's just for the people =)

    Cheers
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    • Profile picture of the author SageSound
      Originally Posted by DigiCypher View Post

      People can be turned away because of a weird link with just a bunch of random letter and numbers.

      So you cloak your link to make it more appealing to the human visitor.
      You should probably get on the horn with Amazon and tip them off that they're losing sales because of this. Better yet, set up a competing site. You'll obviously CLEAN UP! (pssst.... most people don't give a crap, since the vast majority of web sites have gnarly URLs. It's an myth that's never been proven.)

      Originally Posted by DigiCypher View Post

      So the above link would be something like "www.yoursite.com/go/keyword.htm" after you've cloaked it.

      Kind of a balance of SEO and being more pleasing to the human eye, but mostly... It's just for the people =)

      Cheers
      Did you read what I posted above about SURBL.ORG?

      You're welcome to make your links "more pleasing to the human eye", but it's far more likely to get your domain blacklisted.

      Again, CLOAKING == REDIRECTS. They are one and the same.

      But you want to use REDIRECTS for reasons OTHER than "cloaking".

      There are a bunch of tricks that can be played using REDIRECTS, like a FRAMED REDIRECT that effectively hides the target URL. There are more complicated approaches that entirely obscure the underlying page in certain circumstances. It all depends on what your REDIRECT SCRIPT does. You can call it cloaking or hopscotch or whatever.

      It's just a REDIRECT.

      While trying to hide your affiliate link or make your URL "look prettier" sound nice, there are much more strategic reasons to use redirects.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ross Writer
    I just bought a new "pretty" domain name then I went to my control panel in my host account and then redirected my domain name to the affiliate site I'm promoting...hope this helps!
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  • Profile picture of the author LetsGoViral
    The truth is you should avoid public cloaker services since usually they switch your affiliate links for their own.
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  • Profile picture of the author PCRoger
    To be technical, aren't we talking about "masking" and not "cloaking"?

    I always use php redirects, from my own website.

    http://www.mysite.com/go/product/

    Regards,
    PCRoger.
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