All methods of Affiliate Link Cloaking


You can read plenty articles about that, overspend on Affiliate Link Cloaking software or order ebooks, but you still will not get to know all necessary information about it in one source. That's the reason why I created this post to give an comprehensive overview about all easy-to-understand and easy-to-use Affiliate Link Cloaking strategies.

The target of this post is to optimize your campaigns and to maximize the CTR (Click-through rate) to the top. You do not need advanced skills.

PART 1 of this post: Meta Refresh, Frameset



Using the wrong kind of Affiliate links will definitely decrease your quality score at Google and at AdWords PPC campaigns. Additionally, direct (visual) affiliate links avoid many click throughs, because visitors see them. Often they click on the link, remove your Affiliate link and perhaps clear their cache and reload the site without your Aff link. You let them find the product, but you will never get any commission for it. In some cases you help them to find the product and they use their own Affiliate link to order.

When we would like to know what is recommended to use, we also have to know what is better not to use. In the first part of this post we look at strategies you may better not use, because they are old-fashioned, can cause a penalty or may be not allowed by the merchant. Please read their TOS (Terms of Service) very carefully, before you use anything that is mentioned here. Whatever you do, it is in your responsibility.

What is Affiliate Link Cloaking?


Affiliate link visible in status barIf you link directly with your Affiliate link, the visitor notices the Affiliate link in the Browser status bar, e. g. http://www.domain.tld/aff.php?id=a3f9h2t, and will not click.

"Affiliate Link Cloaking" obfuscates this link, so the visitor will see some other link. Affiliate link visible in Browser Address bar But: after clicking the link they see the Aff link at the targeted site. To avoid this more advanced programming is necessary, but is almost not allowed by any merchant. Only a few merchants help you, because they redirect the incoming Aff link at their webserver to their webpage without including Aff link in URL, e. g.

http://www.sample-website.com/cgi-bin/referer/ctc.cgi?123456789
redirects to
http://www.sample-website.com/

How does Aff link cloaking work?


A file at your webserver redirects to the page of the merchant. This file is stored in a folder. You link from your article or banner to this file or folder. I will show methods with HTML, JavaScript, htaccess and php.

Basic steps: Create and block folder


Create a folder at your webserver. Give it a meaningful name! Do not name it /aff/ or /affiliate/ or /redirect/... Name it /partner/ or /recommend/ or /advice/. Do not use numbers (/4521/) or numbers combined with characters (/rj45h21/, because visitors may will not trust those links.

To avoid Google (and other search engines) crawling this folder, create a robots.txt in the root directory of your webserver and copy and paste this:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /recommend/


(replace "recommend" with the name you have chosen)

Against public opinion, Google will crawl this folder, but will not publish it in their SERPs.

Another method: blocking via Meta Tag. Put this into the <head> of the page:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow">



Method 1: Redirecting with Meta Refresh


Meta Refresh is a method that refreshs the browser's content via a Meta Tag.

Let's test it with two HTML-files. First one "click.htm" and second "refresh.htm" (names only for testing).

click.htm
<html>
<a href="refresh.htm">Click this link</a>
</html>


refresh.htm
<html>
<head>
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=http://www.domain.tld/aff.php?id=a3f9h2t">
</head>
</html>


Download both files as .zip for testing: Test Meta Refresh

How to use this with Affiliate Link Cloaking


Save the refresh.htm into the folder /recommend/.
Insert somewhere in your article a link:
<a href="http://www.domain.tld/recommend/refresh.htm">Buy this now</a>

Affiliate link NOT visible in status barAs you see the visitor will not see the Affiliate link in the status bar at your website:
But at link target...

Disadvantages of Redirecting via Meta Refresh:


  • URL of the target page will be shown with Affiliate link in Browser Address bar

  • many people say that Search Engines do not like this method since 2006



Method 2: "Redirecting" via Frameset (Framing)


Frameset means a set of frames a page is organized in. Any frame of the frameset can load a different HTML file.

Let's test it with two HTML files. First one "click.htm" and second "frameset.htm".

frameset.htm
<html>
<head>
<title>Hey I can write any title for this page</title>
</head>
<frameset rows="100%,*" border="0" frameborder="0" marginleft="0" margintop="0" marginright="0" marginbottom="0">
<frame src="http://www.domain.tld" scrolling="auto" frameborder="no" border="0" noresize>
<frame topmargin="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" frameborder="no" border="0" noresize>
<noframes>
<p>Insert any message for browsers that do not support frames</p>
</noframes>
</frameset>
</html>


Download both files as .zip for testing: Test_Frameset

How to use this with Affiliate Link Cloaking


Save the frameset.htm into the folder /recommend/.
Insert somewhere in your article a link:
<a href="http://www.domain.tld/recommend/frameset.htm">Buy this now</a>

Affiliate link NOT visible in Browser Address barAs you see the visitor will not see the Affiliate link in the status bar AND will not see it in the Browser Address bar at link target. Additionally: the browser back button is cleared. Visitors cannot return to your page.

Of course this was a nice method, but it does not show any credibility when the visitor will look at a website like shopxyz.com with
"http://www.domain.tld/recommend/frameset.htm" in the Browser Address bar...

Gets tricky?


Some people put this Frameset file as index.html at any available domain, e. g. www.brand-name-shop.com. If the brand name was "Toys from here" and this brand had the domain www.toys-from-here.com, they would buy the domain www.toys-from-here-shop.com. To be honest I don't have to advise you that this causes trademark infringement, but some people will never learn as they still use this method today.

Another one?


Some people insert all Meta Tags into this frameset.htm (title, description, keywords, language) and set some links on this page or domain. Visitors find the Affiliate frameset in Google without knowing that this page is a faked one. If Google get to know this, it will remove this domain from the SERPs. If not...

Nowadays this method can normally not be used, because it cannot be tracked by some Affiliate programs correctly and you may lose any commissions. Additionally it may not be allowed by merchant.

Source code cannot be viewed as usual, but...


A normal visitor maybe tries to check the source code of this page without knowing that it is a frameset. He clicks right-mouse and "View source" and will see the source code of the target page. No way to reveal that this page is a faked one. No way? There is nearly always a way. - If you look at the Browser menu bar you find the command button "View". Click it at such a page and then click "Source". Ooops, you will see the source code of the frameset... (Before "Tabbed browsing" it was possible to hide the browser menu bar via JavaScript, so this check was not possible...)

In PART II and III of this post you will learn about Cookie dropping, Framebreaker, and the more interesting methods "JavaScript Link Cloaking", "JavaScript-Redirect", "Redirect via htaccess" and "PHP Cloaking".

I think the upcoming blog posts is extremely interesting. Maybe you want to get informed, then subscribe to this blog's feed! - See you soon at SEM, SEO and SMO at Wulffy's Blog.


This blog post Affiliate Link Cloaking - Part I is categorized under Search Engine Optimization, SEO, Web 2.0, Social Media Optimization, SMO, Search Engine Marketing, SEM.

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