Cloak Affiliate Links or Not?

by andrej
46 replies
I wonder if I should cloak the affiliate links on my website or not? Some people say yes, others say no. Can my website get penalized by Google if I have there 2 affiliate links that are not cloaked? - e.g. http://www.company.com/track/myaffid/ad1 - Or should my links look rather like http://www.mywebsite.com/go/company/ ?

I was doing some research and I found out that all the websites that are on top positions on Google have their affiliate links cloaked (redirected). So if they are all on the top, I should rather cloak my affiliate links, too, shouldn't I?

Now my question is how should I cloak my affiliate links to look like e.g. http://www.mywebsite.com/go/company/ (if mywebsite.com is my website). Should I use the htaccess file or just create folders "go" and "company" and create an index.htm file with the redirect code and place it into the "company" folder? And then link the affiliate link to /go/company/ ?
#affiliate #cloak #links
  • Profile picture of the author talfighel
    Originally Posted by andrej View Post

    I was doing some research and I found out that all the websites that are on top positions on Google have their affiliate links cloaked (redirected). So if they are all on the top, I should rather cloak my affiliate links, too, shouldn't I?
    That is not true. I am looking at one guy who has his website on page one of Google for a very competitive keyword and his website has links that are not cloaked.

    This makes no difference.
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  • Profile picture of the author leningovea
    Originally Posted by andrej View Post

    I wonder if I should cloak the affiliate links on my website or not? Some people say yes, others say no. Can my website get penalized by Google if I have there 2 affiliate links that are not cloaked? - e.g. http://www.company.com/track/myaffid/ad1 - Or should my links look rather like http://www.mywebsite.com/go/company/ ?

    I was doing some research and I found out that all the websites that are on top positions on Google have their affiliate links cloaked (redirected). So if they are all on the top, I should rather cloak my affiliate links, too, shouldn't I?

    Now my question is how should I cloak my affiliate links to look like e.g. http://www.mywebsite.com/go/company/ (if mywebsite.com is my website). Should I use the htaccess file or just create folders "go" and "company" and create an index.htm file with the redirect code and place it into the "company" folder? And then link the affiliate link to /go/company/ ?
    Cloaking is better

    Have you heard about adtrackz gold? Is a very intuitive tracking tool that also allow you to cloak your links in a very fancy way.

    If you need more info, please PM me
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  • Profile picture of the author CalinDan
    I sometimes cloak my links, especially on my personal blog... But sometimes I simply forget to, and have seen no real difference!

    It's pretty much a personal choice, since most of the traffic that converts is paid traffic.

    Regards,
    Dan
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  • Profile picture of the author refermoneyus
    I feel your better off cloaking your affiliate links. did you know that if you didnt cloak your affiliate link its possible for someone to steal your commissions from you. so its a must you cloak and no i never heard of google penalizing you for cloaking. Best of luck.

    David
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  • Profile picture of the author Silentkiller1
    It doesn't matter much but still cloaking is better and looks more professional and arranged...
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  • Profile picture of the author bizoppmaster
    Always cloak your links
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  • Profile picture of the author Glen Barnhardt
    The real reason to cloak your affiliate links really has nothing to do with search engine rankings. I have done many tests and weather you have your links cloaked or not does not seem to make a difference. And rightly so because either way you end up in the same location.

    As far as cloaking goes if you are promoting affiliate products you should always cloak your links. The reason is that people can and will steal your commissions.
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  • Profile picture of the author nobluff
    I have sites that are both cloaked and not cloaked and can tell no evidence of a rankings boost. If there is a boost it must be minimal and not worth the effort for ranking purposes. I do however cloak more for my visitors rather than ranking.
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    • Profile picture of the author kindsvater
      Originally Posted by nobluff View Post

      I have sites that are both cloaked and not cloaked and can tell no evidence of a rankings boost.
      That is because, as others have said, cloaking is useless when it comes to Google. All cloaking does is create one link that looks nice, and then there is a redirect using your affiliate link. Google follows these links. That is how the company makes umpteen billions of dollars. Google sees you are an affiliate and probably penalizes you.

      As for those saying cloak your links to prevent someone from stealing a commission.... this is a newbie fallacy that has been around for years.

      If someone clicks on your link, you go through various gyrations before redirecting through your affiliate link to the merchant ... do you really think you accomplished anything?

      If the product is from ClickBank, everyone knows it when the ClickBank order screen comes up. All that happens is someone simply deletes your affiliate cookie, logs into ClickBank, gets their own affiliate link for the product, and then orders.

      If the product is from Amazon, same thing. Someone simply deletes your affiliate cookie, logs into their Amazon account, gets their own affiliate link for the product, and then orders.

      If the product is from somewhere else one simply review the merchant's website for affiliate program information, or does a 3 second search for the merchant + affiliate, and then ... well, you know what happens next.

      Redirects are good for having a better looking link, but don't fool yourself about these other issues.

      .
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  • Profile picture of the author idreesfarooq
    It is always better to cloak your links to avoid any commission stealing issue. If you dont want to cloak your links, you can use clickbank hoplink protect shield to create secure hoplink.
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    • Profile picture of the author Blackman75
      Originally Posted by idreesfarooq View Post

      It is always better to cloak your links to avoid any commission stealing issue. If you dont want to cloak your links, you can use clickbank hoplink protect shield to create secure hoplink.
      How can they steal your commissions exactly?
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  • Profile picture of the author hbhanot
    Its better to cloak if you do not have good content or working with an autoblog. Google knows your website is their to sell something. Do not compare other sites with your sites unless you check their backlinks, authority, domain registration date and many other factors. If you use autoblogs then cloak links and if your blog is one of the best content and information blog on this earth and Google knows it then you are the king.
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  • Profile picture of the author Simiv68
    If you are using WordPress, try Pretty Link Lite. It's free and does a great job of cloaking.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Blades
    If you are in the internet marketing niche, CLOAK THEM.... Marketers will go straight to their cookies to clear them if they see you are making a buck off of them
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  • Profile picture of the author andrej
    Thank you guys for your replies. Which Wordpress plugin would you recommend me to cloak my affiliate links if I want to make them look like /go/company/ ?
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  • Originally Posted by andrej View Post

    I wonder if I should cloak the affiliate links on my website or not? Some people say yes, others say no. Can my website get penalized by Google if I have there 2 affiliate links that are not cloaked? - e.g. http://www.company.com/track/myaffid/ad1 - Or should my links look rather like http://www.mywebsite.com/go/company/ ?
    Hi Andrej,

    Yes, your website can get penalized by Google... But in most cases it will probably not.

    I was doing some research and I found out that all the websites that are on top positions on Google have their affiliate links cloaked (redirected). So if they are all on the top, I should rather cloak my affiliate links, too, shouldn't I?
    Maybe. Besides, you lose nothing from cloaking affiliate links, and you gain all the benefits, like:

    - Preventing people from stealing your affiliate commissions
    - Makes your outgoing links look nicer
    - Increases clickthrough rate on your links

    Now my question is how should I cloak my affiliate links to look like e.g. http://www.mywebsite.com/go/company/ (if mywebsite.com is my website). Should I use the htaccess file or just create folders "go" and "company" and create an index.htm file with the redirect code and place it into the "company" folder? And then link the affiliate link to /go/company/ ?
    I personally find it too troublesome to go fiddling with the everything myself. I used to do the redirect codes manually in the days before there were redirect scripts and plugins, and it was extremely troublesome.

    These days, I use an external script called Easy Redirect Script and it works quite well for me. You can use a Wordpress Redirection Plugin to cloak your affiliate links, but the problem with that is that if your Wordpress site goes down, so do your redirects.

    It's not a bad idea to use an external script...
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  • Profile picture of the author rallenk
    Originally Posted by andrej View Post

    Now my question is how should I cloak my affiliate links to look like e.g. http://www.mywebsite.com/go/company/ (if mywebsite.com is my website). Should I use the htaccess file or just create folders "go" and "company" and create an index.htm file with the redirect code and place it into the "company" folder? And then link the affiliate link to /go/company/ ?
    Andrej..

    Check my signature for a free report and Free tracking script which address this specific issue...

    Good luck.

    Bob
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  • Profile picture of the author andrej
    Thank you all for your suggestions. I have decided to use the Pretty Link Lite WP plugin. However, when cloaking my first affiliate link I'm not sure if I should use the 307 (Temporary) or 301 (Permanent) redirection type. What is the difference between 307 and 301?

    What is better for SEO of my website?
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    • Profile picture of the author Simiv68
      I got your PM but can't PM back yet.
      I'm not sure about the difference. I choose permanent. I think I read somewhere permanent is better for seo, but not sure.
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      • Profile picture of the author andrej
        Originally Posted by Simiv68 View Post

        I got your PM but can't PM back yet.
        I'm not sure about the difference. I choose permanent. I think I read somewhere permanent is better for seo, but not sure.
        OK, thank you for your advice.
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  • Profile picture of the author Stefan S
    You should cloak/redirect your affiliate links, and that for several reasons.
    They look better. Not a major thing, but it has effect.
    You hide and make it much harder for others to steal your commissions.
    And (and this is the reason you should use a script or software) you have the possibility to get stats.

    One thing though. My recommendation is to not use budurl, bit.ly or equals. Nothing wrong with them as such. They do their work, but you should use one that you have control over. Some that is on your own domain.

    One that is mentioned earlier here, Easy Redirect Script (by Jason and Will) is one that I use and that I like very much.

    /Stefan

    You can also read below some more about 301, 302 and 307

    301 Moved Permanently

    A 301 Redirect is a permanent redirect which passes between 90-99% of link juice (ranking power) to the redirected page. 301 refers to the HTTP status codes for this type of redirect. In most instances, the 301 redirect is the best method for implementing redirects on a website.

    302 Found (HTTP 1.1) / Moved Temporarily (HTTP 1.0)

    A 302 Redirect is a temporary redirect and passes 0% of link juice (ranking power) and in most cases should not be used. The Internet runs on a protocol called HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) which dictates how URLs work. It has two major versions, 1.0 and 1.1. In the first version 302 referred to the status code 'Moved Temporarily'. This was changed in version 1.1 to mean 'Found'.

    307 Moved Temporarily (HTTP 1.1 Only)

    A 307 Redirect is the HTTP 1.1 successor of the 302 redirect. While the major crawlers will treat it like a 302 in some cases, it is best to use a 301 for almost all cases. The exception to this is when content is really moved only temporarily (such as during maintenance) AND the server has already been identified by the search engines as 1.1 compatible. Since determining if the search engines have identified this essentially impossible, it is best to use a 302 redirect
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  • Profile picture of the author ronnieavelino
    Originally Posted by andrej View Post

    I wonder if I should cloak the affiliate links on my website or not? Some people say yes, others say no. Can my website get penalized by Google if I have there 2 affiliate links that are not cloaked? - e.g. http://www.company.com/track/myaffid/ad1 - Or should my links look rather like http://www.mywebsite.com/go/company/ ?

    I was doing some research and I found out that all the websites that are on top positions on Google have their affiliate links cloaked (redirected). So if they are all on the top, I should rather cloak my affiliate links, too, shouldn't I?

    Now my question is how should I cloak my affiliate links to look like e.g. http://www.mywebsite.com/go/company/ (if mywebsite.com is my website). Should I use the htaccess file or just create folders "go" and "company" and create an index.htm file with the redirect code and place it into the "company" folder? And then link the affiliate link to /go/company/ ?
    Better to cloak it. Why? Because sometimes there's a visitors that wants to buy the product from your site and when he/she see your affiliate link they just delete it(sometimes i do it) and open the site
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  • Profile picture of the author shipwrecked
    Don't cloak any link, Google might apply penalty...

    Otherwise, make them "nofollow", so that you don't lose PR leaking away...
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    • Profile picture of the author PerformanceMan
      Originally Posted by shipwrecked View Post

      Don't cloak any link, Google might apply penalty...

      Otherwise, make them "nofollow", so that you don't lose PR leaking away...
      Cloaking runs them through a redirect.

      You get a cleaner URL and you can use robots.txt to keep the affiliate link out of the search engines. Google has no reason to penalize this practice.
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  • Profile picture of the author NelsonSanabria
    what about cloaking with tinyurl is that site good?...can they steal ur commissions if you cloke.with them??
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  • Profile picture of the author icoachu
    Redirecting is easy. Just use your meta refresh paramaters
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  • Profile picture of the author tomtommarketing
    I use adtrackz gold and love it. Others I use include bit.ly, tinyurl, viralurl and budurl.
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  • Profile picture of the author albertfox985
    hmmmm... I'm not cloaking my links and I'm getting a good conversion rate. So I guess it doesn't matter.
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  • Profile picture of the author MA Robinson
    Cloaking affiliate links is a practical idea because one way or another, it can protect your commission from being stolen. But as far as traffic is concerned, i don't think it will have any major impact because the location is the same.
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  • Profile picture of the author Daniel B
    I always cloak my affiliate links. It's better.
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  • Profile picture of the author lastdual
    Do what converts best for your visitors. If people prefer to see a link without an affiliate code, then cloak them for the sake of presentation.

    Obsessing about Google is a lose-lose game. Maybe today they're treating affiliate links and cloaked links the same. Maybe tomorrow they'll punish affiliate links. Maybe the day after that they'll punish cloaked links. Maybe they'll just bury everything and only serve up results from Wikipedia from now on. Who knows...
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  • Profile picture of the author LisaSimpkins
    I was wondering the same thing..trying to do the research and getting the same thing.Should I or Shouldn't I that is the question.
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  • Profile picture of the author biggenius
    I generally cloak for Getting Ads Approved.
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    • Profile picture of the author BarryOnline
      I never cloak my affiliate links, there's no need. I have many pages ranked #1 with nothing but direct affiliate links.

      I'm sure Google can easily see a cloaked affiliate link.
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      • Profile picture of the author JonPL
        I used to cloak all links because it seemed to be the recommended thing to do at the time. But over the last year or so I haven't cloak most links - Amazon links for example, and haven't noticed any difference regarding ranking or conversions. But I still cloak Clickbank links for reasons others have mentioned in the thread.
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  • Profile picture of the author japaneseinked
    I am new to affiliate marketing and promoting an offer through 7search with the link destination going directly to the offer. So my question is how would you cloak an affiliate link for a 7search.com ad? What methods are you guys using, as far as this type of marketing channel, to cloak links. I am in the process of building an squeeze and landing page, but for now I want to know if there is a way to cloak an link on PPC ad networks.
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  • Profile picture of the author brentb
    From an experienced affiliate and experienced advertiser:

    1. Always cloak your link.

    2. Makes no difference to SEO, PPC rankings, anything...! Why? Google bots are smart enough to see the URL of the landing page and don't care what the link is to them, they look at the destination. Don't believe me? Set up a cloak link and backlink that out over the net, guess what? Your ranking will increase! I personally do not believe in SEO but I have PR3ed a brand new domain in a week as part of a case study on backlinking (pre-panda, full disclosure) as well as run some back-linking services and do lots of PPC and never seen a single problem with cloaking period.

    3. Always cloak your links! Advertisers will steal your traffic source, steal your landing pages, and people will steal your commissions and mess up your tracking. Yeah you could never have this problem if you work with legit people but if you are doing offers all over the place or you end up on the wrong network, you are really hurting yourself.
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    • Profile picture of the author Blackman75
      do you blank so they don't steal your landing page?

      Originally Posted by brentb View Post

      From an experienced affiliate and experienced advertiser:

      1. Always cloak your link.

      2. Makes no difference to SEO, PPC rankings, anything...! Why? Google bots are smart enough to see the URL of the landing page and don't care what the link is to them, they look at the destination. Don't believe me? Set up a cloak link and backlink that out over the net, guess what? Your ranking will increase! I personally do not believe in SEO but I have PR3ed a brand new domain in a week as part of a case study on backlinking (pre-panda, full disclosure) as well as run some back-linking services and do lots of PPC and never seen a single problem with cloaking period.

      3. Always cloak your links! Advertisers will steal your traffic source, steal your landing pages, and people will steal your commissions and mess up your tracking. Yeah you could never have this problem if you work with legit people but if you are doing offers all over the place or you end up on the wrong network, you are really hurting yourself.
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  • Profile picture of the author Randall Magwood
    Cloak your links. You will get more sales. Nobody wants to click on an ugly affiliate link - or even URL shortener. Furthermore... some people don't like the idea of you making money (or earning a commission) from them. So cloak the link so that they dont know.
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  • Profile picture of the author UMS
    Lots of people stating incorrect information in this thread.

    Firstly, strictly speaking, we're not talking about cloaking links, using redirects is masking links.

    Cloaking is a blackhat method that uses an iframe to make it appear that the target site is still part of your website.

    Next, there is a general fallacy that masking your links protects you from people "stealing" your affiliate commission.

    That's complete hogwash. Makes no difference if you mask your links or not, if someone doesn't want you to buy via your affiliate link, they simply will buy through a non-affiliate link or through their affiliate link.
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    • Profile picture of the author Blackman75
      Originally Posted by UMS View Post

      Lots of people stating incorrect information in this thread.

      Firstly, strictly speaking, we're not talking about cloaking links, using redirects is masking links.

      Cloaking is a blackhat method that uses an iframe to make it appear that the target site is still part of your website.

      Next, there is a general fallacy that masking your links protects you from people "stealing" your affiliate commission.

      That's complete hogwash. Makes no difference if you mask your links or not, if someone doesn't want you to buy via your affiliate link, they simply will buy through a non-affiliate link or through their affiliate link.
      Finally a voice or reason. Thanks for that.
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  • Profile picture of the author Nikib3
    Came on here for some guidance on whether to cloak affiliate links or not. I, like others, have been told that your sales/commissions can be stolen if not disguised in some way. I would always let people know that I will get a commission if they use my link - not trying to hide anything here or trying to be deceptive. But - after reading the comments on this page I have to say I am even more confused. So many people with equally passionate opposing views. Yipes - this stuff is really hard work!
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