Using Cloakers and Redirects

Safeguarding Your Affiliate Links Using Cloakers and Redirects

We have now covered everything that could be considered basic – though we’ve gone into far more detail than most other articles on the subject. You now know the basic business model that underlies affiliate marketing and you know every step you need to take to start getting lots of sales for products that pay out lots of commission. What’s more, you have tons of strategies and hacks you can use to make more money and to tailor your business model to suit your own skills and interests.

But now we’re going to get a little technical and discuss a precaution that you need to take during all this. We already explained how affiliate marketing works on a technical level – by using your specific link to store cookies on the visitors’ computers – and you might have noticed that this system is incredibly simple. In fact, you might even have thought it was worrying simple and somewhat easy to crack.

By understanding the weaknesses of this system you can not only make sure to protect your income from things going wrong but you can also help to increase your sales and your profits. This is something that many affiliate marketers skip and it can have dire consequences. Download and install this software: http://bit.ly/2u7Z01e

What is Link Cloaking and Why You Should Do It?

When you hover your mouse over any link, you should notice that it comes up with a URL in the bottom of your browser. Normally, this link might be something like ‘www.example.com’. If however the link is an affiliate link, it will usually be obvious because it will have lots of additional information tacked onto the end of it. Often this takes the form of a lengthy URL with numbers question marks and equals signs. So maybe ‘www.example.com/buy/marketID=99123129?referrer=89’.

Not only does this not look particularly catchy or inviting but it also communicates to your audience that it’s an affiliate link. Anyone with any familiarity with affiliate links will thus know that you’re trying to make money from them and this can then  undermine what you’re promoting. Is that really the best piece of software you ever used, or are you just interested in selling something and lying through your teeth?

People are less inclined to click affiliate links and this can therefore cause issues. Another problem is that people can now visit the site while skipping your affiliate ID.   If

they see that the link is to ‘www.example.com’ then they may just type that  route domain into their browser and entirely skip your referral and your affiliate link. They might do this to prevent you earning money from their purchase, or they may do it completely innocently just trying to save time. Either way, you can lose money. This is known as ‘affiliate bypassing’.

Another threat is something called ‘affiliate hijacking’. This means that another affiliate might steal your commissions and get the product for a discount price. For instance, if you’re selling a product someone wants, they might see that you’re an affiliate and then set up their own affiliate account so that they can buy the product and get a ‘discount’ in the form of commission. This cheats you and the merchant out of sales.

Lastly, you might even find yourself at the mercy of a malicious attack. If an affiliate’s behavior is flagged as suspicious, this can sometimes get their account suspended. That means that a competitor could click on your link lots of times or encourage lots of sales through your link on the same IP and result in you getting banned. This is highly  unlikely seeing as it would take a lot of work for very little gain but it is possible and it’s another important reason to protect yourself.

How to Use Cloakers and Redirects 

As you’ve possibly guessed by now, cloakers work by simply disguising the full URL that people are clicking, while redirects send people to another link first.

A link cloaker is a special script or simple page that redirects a simple URL or that uses a ‘frame’ showing multiple pages in the same browser window.

There are a number of different ways to use cloakers or redirects and the best option for you will depend on how much security you want and how advanced you are. Here are some of the options you have available to you:

Third Party Solutions

A number of third party solutions exist to help you keep your links shorter and more memorable and these can double up as link cloakers. On well known one is ‘bit.ly’ while another is ‘TinyUrl’. Both of these were originally intended to be used with Twitter in order to make URLs shorter and thus more suitable for being used in very brief Tweets.

These are incredibly simple to use: all you need to do is paste your link into a box and then you’ll be given a new URL you can use in the body of your text. The only problem with these though is that they mean going through a third party and thereby relinquishing some of your control. Some people are unhappy with this and so they  don’t use that solution.

Using a Plugin

There are a plethora of different plugins you can use to keep your links protected and some of these provide advanced features. Specific link protecting plugins also offer additional benefits such as HTML Unicode encrypting or opening in an iFrame. There are plenty of options, so just take a look through your WP-Admin panel.

Creating a Redirect Page

Another option is to make your own redirect page. This is a page of code that simply includes the following line:

<meta http-quiv=”refresh” content=”0; url=http://www.example.com/affiliatelink”>

The only problem with this is that it’s very easy for people to work out where the link is really pointing just by doing a simple ‘view source’.

Editing HTAccess

Finally, you can edit your htaccess file. Just open it up and add the line: “Redirect product/ http://www.example/affiliatelink”

Here, ‘product’ is a directory on your server. So just log in and use the FTP client to create a new folder on your webhost with that name and then whenever you send someone there, they’ll instead go to the affiliate link.

There are a variety of other strategies available and if you’re very paranoid then you can add some more advanced code to use encryption and iFrames. For most people though, these few tools will be enough protection and you can even combine them to create a lengthy bread trail to your affiliate page.

This software makes everything easy: http://bit.ly/2u7Z01e  or another excellent but more expensive solution is Clickmagick.