To Cloak Or Not To Cloak

Posted By Stan

It’s strange but when you know something, unless it’s a new discovery, you tend to think that everyone else must know it too.

So, forgive me if you know this already. It occurred to me that this might be a useful tip for you if you are selling things as an affiliate.

We’ve all heard, I’m sure, about link cloaking and software packages that are available to cloak links, truth is you don’t need them.

There are many ways of cloaking your links for free.

The first one, which I have used often is to enclose your affiliate link in a php file and place it on your website. Here’s the code you need

<?php $URL=”https://paydotcom.com/r/80713/scraggz/22695654/“;
header (“Location: $URL”);
exit();
?>

All you need do is paste your affiliate link between the ” “, save it with a recognisable name and upload it to your website.

My preferred method is to create a folder for whatever the offer is on my website, put the php file in there and rename it to index.php. Then I can advertise a link like this http://stancraigie.com/answer/

This hides your affiliate link in the first place but when someone clicks on it, it will show in the address bar of the site to which it takes them and 9 times out of 10 will reveal your affiliate link.

So if you want to hide it at that stage as well here’s a free method that I’ve been using for quite some time. Sign up at http://offto.net it’s totally free. There you can cloak your link for free. Not only that but it also tracks the clicks for you and by assigning a nickname you can create several versions of the link, each to track a different campaign. Something like this http://offto.net/scraggz_5164/

The only drawback I’ve found with this service is that you can’t use the links in Aweber or probably any email or email service as, thanks to some of the jugheads who decided this was a great way to spam people, the site is on several blacklists. Offto works at preventing this but as you can imagine it’s a huge task. So, I only use it in the php example or in the background on websites, purely for the tracking statistics that it offers.

Personally I don’t like the look of that link particularly, so I combine the two methods and put the offto link into a php file where the affiliate link goes. When they arrive at the merchants site they will see the offto link which just looks like one of those url shrinkers no hint of what the affiliate link is. A lot of people will still guess that it is an affiliate link though.

Now I could get started here on why people object to buying things through an affiliate link, it’s a weird bit of psychology and I could rant on about it for ages but I won’t. Unfortunately it’s a fact of life, well a fact of the internet that we have to hide the fact that we are an affiliate. With the FTC’s new rules we now have to declare the fact that we may possibly make some money out of it before people click on the link anyway. So they know we’re an affiliate which leaves me totally confused and wondering, sometimes, if it’s all worth it! Yes, it is!

So do we still need to hide the affiliate links? I believe so, for one they look better and more professional and people will still try and change the link to theirs and steal your commissions which is harder to do if they can’t see them.

I have yet another method which I think is really neat and for this one you don’t even need a website! I only found out about this one recently and it’s so good that you can appear to have as many websites as you want. I know of one person who appears to have 3,000 of them!

The site is cjb.net. On the initial screen just enter your affiliate link into the box and it will create a standard type shortened url like http://abk8o.cjb.net. Why you would want to use that when on the next screen it gives you the option to create a custom url like this http://bloghatter.cjb.net. The extra added bonus of this is when anyone clicks on that link, this is the address that appears in the address bar on the merchant’s site. It appears like it’s your site. Click it and see, it’s brilliant.

Although you don’t need a website for this you do need an email address but then who doesn’t have one of those and if you don’t, just go to Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail or any one of the hundreds of free email services out there.

Just imagine how many virtual sites you could have all linking to affiliate products.

So , to cloak your links there’s three easy free methods which work really well. I hope you’ve found these tips useful.

Feel free to comment on them or, even better, if you have some good ones of your own I’d love to hear about them.

Watch out for my next post in which I list some of my favourite tools.

Mar 3rd, 2010

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