Do you need to cloak your affiliate links?

by xtreme09 16 replies
I'm relatively new to making affiliate sites. I'm reading some articles about building affiliate websites and come across the subject of the need to cloak your affiliate links.

To make it short, some people claim that Google will lower your domain's SERP ranking once it sees for example several Amazon affiliate links in your content. Thus, they suggest that you need an affiliate-cloak plugin to ward off spiders from detecting your affiliate links.

Do you believe/heard or have other opinion about this?

Thanks.
#main internet marketing discussion forum #affiliate #cloak #links
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  • Profile picture of the author Melodican
    I just stick them through a tinyURL :-)
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    • Profile picture of the author James Danh
      Yes in my experience that is true, google seem to be not keen on ranking affiliate sites, so you've got to disguise them (like using cloaking of affiliate links).
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  • Profile picture of the author Rukshan
    Yes we need it. Simple PHP scripts will do that.
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  • Profile picture of the author sallycev
    I also use Bit.ly. Free to set up an account and it tracks clicks.
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  • Profile picture of the author Amy Carczak
    Not many affiliate programs will allow
    this but if you're selling a product
    for a company using an advanced system,
    you can redirect to a page on your own
    site and still see the affiliate tracking
    cookie/ip.

    This takes more effort than slapping a
    simple redirect on your site but it can
    be a VERY powerful strategy for building
    affiliate sales.

    For example, lets' say your website is
    coolstuffreviews.com and you want
    to do a review on a product called "widget".

    All you would do is take your link and point it
    at the page coolstuffreviews.com/wideget-review.html
    but this would really be a redirect to your
    affiliate link.

    But now your affiliate link points the person back to
    a very similar page like:

    coolstuffreviews.com/widget-reviews.html

    Now you have a cloaked link, a customer that
    is being tracked, and increased credibility on
    your site as the person was not simply redirected
    to a sales page.

    Confused yet?

    Just think about how this will work ...it's VERY
    powerful. The key is that this will only work with
    some affiliate programs / software.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ofthemix
    My original answer was going to be that if the product is in the IM niche, I would definitely use a link cloaker. Otherwise I don't(or didn't) think it matters. I know people who make 5 figures a year, sometimes a month, that don't use link cloaking.
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  • Profile picture of the author AndyBeard
    In the IM niche offer a bonus if you care about the sale then you can and probably should flaunt the fact that they have to use that specific link.
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  • Profile picture of the author __internet__
    I usually make a redirect from the site that goes to the affiliate link. You don't have to do it, but people are more likely to click it if they see it from the domain that they are on.
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  • Profile picture of the author FastSuccess
    I put together a site that helps you cloak your affiliate links. It hides the links from spiders by encoding them with javascript. All you need to do is fill out the form, click the generate cloaked page, and copy/paste the code into a file on your site such as link1.html If you have any questions let me know.

    Here is the link: Affiliate Link Cloaker | Free Stealth Cloaker
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  • Profile picture of the author AndyBeard
    base64 encoding an iframe loading an affilaite link and doing a 1 second meta refresh is not stealth, is highly unreliable, and is only suitable for static sites.
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  • Profile picture of the author Colin Theriot
    You know it's funny - everyone USED to say you needed to, because "no customer wants to click an ugly affiliate URL."

    It was a way to "hide" the affiliate relationship. That was never *actually* OK legally, but now with the re-clarified FTC info that came out last year, you need to be explicit ANYWAY.

    Also, since those days, the proliferation of links filtered through innumerable other link-masking services has made it so the URL of the link being clicked isn't as much of an alert for the websurfer at large.

    So if you're NOT in the IM niche, your prospects won't understand the affiliate URL anyway, and it's no longer something they are unused to encountering. Gibberish URLs outweigh normal ones now. And you can't legally hide your relationship anyways, so...

    And if you ARE in the IM niche, we ALL know what affiliate links are. You're not "tricking" anyone by cloaking it.

    Plus, we cloak links, but then tell our email sending software to track, and it changes it anyways. At least mine does. So unless your URL means something and you include the URL itself in the copy, the cloaking doesn't even happen in a helpful way except for adding yet ANOTHER bounce in that link.

    So is the extra work of cloaking EVER worth it? Depends. Here are a FEW reasons I can think of why cloaking could still be beneficial.

    1. I cloak links through Pretty Links on my blog, just to centrally manage them AND track the click counts.

    2. Link branding can be something you want to do IF you use the domain as the URL. I've seen some guys have domains JUST for links like Jeff Johnson's "jjlikes" domain. There's also known benefit in SEO if people link to your domain with a keyworded URL, so bouncing your aff links through your home domain MAY have added benefit there.

    3. Shortening can be a concern - there's already plenty of solutions for that, if you need a shorter link - do it. If you're on Wordpress, you can get a plugin that will do a good job with giving you your own shortener - (unless you have a really long domain).

    So, I "cloak" but not for the reasons most people say to - I do it for tracking and management purposes. I do it to control my links better, not to mask them or make them look pretty (regardless of the name of the plugin).

    So anyways, maybe not what you were looking for, but that's what I got.
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  • Profile picture of the author AndyBeard
    There are a ton o other reasons to cloak in some way... maybe I should write a full list
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    • Profile picture of the author Colin Theriot
      Originally Posted by AndyBeard View Post

      There are a ton o other reasons to cloak in some way... maybe I should write a full list
      Yeah, I mean - if you don't, you're just being kind of a jerk with that post.

      I'd love to hear more about it - I realize the few I came up with are sort of narrowed by my own personal experience.
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      • Clock a affiliate link is a must I think. Just buy a domain name for less than $10 a year, host it for few bucks a months (or for free) and create a simple php or html file to do a automatically link redirect
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  • Profile picture of the author AndyBeard
    Colin I just did a 30 minute brain dump though I am sure I missed a few
    http://www.warriorforum.com/main-int...oak-links.html
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    • Profile picture of the author xtreme09
      Originally Posted by AndyBeard View Post

      Colin I just did a 30 minute brain dump though I am sure I missed a few
      Thanks for the list Andy, that sums it all. As far as cloaking affiliate links are concerned I've found a nice WP plugin called "gocodes" which will provide a redirect to your target URL.

      I also put a "nofollow" rel code on each affiliate link. I think any affiliate cloaking method is okay. It all depends on the person's preferences.
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