After doing a thorough search, I managed to find seven different ways to cloak affiliate links. By link cloaking ( AKA link masking ), I am referring to disguising one’s affiliate link with a different link that does not look like an affiliate link.
I tested each link cloaking method using the latest version of the two major browsers, Internet Explorer 9 and Firefox 5. All methods showed the cloaked link in the calling website’s status bar. But 5 of the methods tested gave the game away by displaying the bald affiliate link in the address bar of the destination website. This, of course, allows unscrupulous people to stop there, and change your affiliate info to their own, thus effectively stealing your commission.
How each of these methods works is not the topic of this article. One thing that I do need to mention, however, is that all but 3 of the techniques require you to create a new file – call it ‘myfile.htm’, to use as a link to which to send people, instead of directly to the affiliate site.
These three link-cloaking methods are pretty easy to use, and need a separate cloaking file. But they all show your affiliate link in the end.
4. .htaccess Redirect. This is the simplest method. All you need to do is add a single line of code to your already-existing.htaccess file. Again, however, your affiliate link shows up later.
5. Frame or Iframe. This is perhaps the worst technique ever devised. It’s not really a separate method. A frame or iframe is used to enclose one of the redirects mentioned above. When this method was first invented, there was a real advantage – the affiliate webpage is actually on your own website, so your affiliate link is never shown.
I still see other websites touting this method – they evidently don’t realize that using a frame causes you to lose most of your affiliate commissions, and not even be aware of it! The reason is that the cookie set by your affiliate site is refused by your user’s computer – only “third-party cookies” can be set from within a frame, and most users have these disabled by default.
6. URL Shorteners. There are two strong reasons to avoid this method of cloaking links.
- All the link-shortening sites – such as TinyURL and Bit.ly – that I investigated give you a link that is very short, and doesn’t require you to have a ‘myfile.htm’ cloaking file on your computer. In fact, you don’t even need to have a computer – such links will work in an email, or on social bookmarking sites. However, they are so unsightly that some people will shy away from their use when they see the URL in their task bar, thinking that they’re being led to a site that may give them a virus.
- If that’s not reason enough for you to shun URL shorteners, spammers have abused them so much that on Bit.ly, for example, clicking one of their links takes you to a “Warning” page that advises you not to use their link – and gives you the original affiliate link to use instead!
7. Base64 Coding. Fortunately, there is a method of cloaking affiliate links that doesn’t have any of the disadvantages mentioned above. In fact, it has the remarkable ability to allow you to redirect the user to any page on the affiliate website, and sets your affiliate cookie before going there! For more information on this remarkable free link cloaker, just visit either of my websites mentioned below.