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Link Cloaking

Learn The Proper Way To Implement Redirects For Your Affiliate Links

Link Cloaking has become a strong area of interest throughout the webmaster community. When hearing the word 'cloak', one instantly conjures up flash backs to the most famous sci-fi shows and movies, as this is where the term became popular.  Various human and alien races were able to 'hide' their ships, or make them appear like they were invisible. While we are a little more grounded to earth with our use of the term, we are in essence using that very idea to 'hide', or redirect our Affiliate Links in such a way that they do not appear as affiliate based in nature. Why would we do this?

First off, advanced analytical tools have enable us to be able to study visitor behavior while on our sites, showing us which links visitors click through, and which ones they avoid. It has been found that people are drawn to the links that do not appear to be an Affiliate Link, and avoid the links that are obviously affiliate in nature, indicating that Link Masking can be very beneficial. There are several theories on why people do this. Affiliate links are normally long and contain unusual characters in their URLs, something which causes a link to appear suspicious and hence many people will avoid these types of 'ugly' links. Another reason is that people are simply more trusting of a link that seems to be a part of the site they are visiting, and tend to feel less like they are being 'pitched' to. In essence, they prefer the impression of a direct salesman versus a salesman from another location.

To protect our Affiliate Link commissions, and to appeal more to our visitors and thereby improve our CTR %, we use a Link Cloaking process, or redirect process. The goal of this is to allow you to link to a page on your website that does not actually exist, while redirecting the user to your affiliate link or site. When the user hovers over the link, the URL will appear to be a page that is a part of your site and located within a folder in your root directory. It protects your affiliate account information, and brings peace of mind to your potential customers. Its a win win situation for everyone. Below we list the three most common ways to achieve this, all of which are very easy and effective.

Htaccess File Using 301 Redirect

The link cloaking method that we prefer is a simple method which uses your site's htaccess file, which provides several benefits to webmasters. It is an extremely quick and easy process by which you add a piece of 301 redirect code to your htaccess file to effectively redirect and hide your affiliate link.The link will appear to be a part of your existing site.Adding the code will look something like this:

redirect 301 /aladdinsgoldcasino.html http://youraffiliatelink

This will allow your visitors to click on a particular page within your website, then it will redirect your visitors to your affiliate offer without them being aware of the affiliate link, hence acting as an effective Link Cloaker. You can apply this affiliate link cloaker method effectively to multiple links this way:

Steps For Using This Method:

1. Create an htaccess file.
2. Create a new folder in your website - call it "links" or something of that nature.
3. Create a blank page for each gambling site you promote. Then anytime you want to send the visitor to the said gambling site, you simply point the link to the html page inside your links folder.
4. So lets assume you just promoted 2 casinos, clubworld and luckyred. You would create a blank html page for each casino which should be something like clubworld.html and luckyred.html. Now paste redirect 301 /clubworld.html http://youraffiliatelink and like magic it will take the visitor to the desitation.

One of the most exciting benefits to using htaccess 301 redirects is the ability to change links site wide by access only one file. Any additions or modifications you make will be seen throughout your entire site, which eliminates the time consuming task of changing your links one at a time by hand. So not only are your protecting yourself from theft and ugly link avoidance, you are making your life much much easier as a webmaster!! Trust me affiliate programs change your linking code like it is going out of style, and you don't want to have to change every single link on 500 pages. So using this method or similar is a no brainer.

Meta Refresh Link Cloaking

Meta Refresh Link Cloaking is another simple way to hide your Affiliate Links from predators and those visitors to your site who are vulnerable to 'click fear' when it comes to affiliate marketing. In a nutshell, the meta refresh redirects consist of a short piece of code being added to the head section of an html page. It only takes a moment, and these meta refresh html pages can be added to your site anytime you add an affiliate program to your site.It also makes changing the affiliate information easy as you only have to visit that one applicable html page instead of going throughout the site touching each applicable link.

The short steps to creating a meta refresh redirect are as follows:

1. Create a blank html page on your site for the gambling site you wish to promote.
2. Add the following piece of short code to the blank page:

<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0;

You will put your affiliate link information in where I have 'myafffliatelink' in the above code. You will need to create one of these pages for each affiliate you promote on your site.

While the Meta Refresh Link Masking method is highly effective, the htaccess 301 redirect method is our preferred option.

Affiliate Link Cloaker

There are quite a few link cloaker tools available to webmasters. Some of them are free, and some of them are software solutions that you purchase. The idea behind these tools is to protect affiliate marketers from link hijackers, and to improve your CTR % by making your links more appealing. It's also just a sporty way to manage all your affiliate links in one place with ease. Some link cloakers provide you with code to use on your page, while others hid your links using javascript. Several of the free options allow you to type in the link parameters, and will automatically provide you with the exact code to paste into your html page.

Again, using these tools can be an extremely effective way to accomplish Affiliate Link Cloaking, but our preferred link hiding method is the htaccess 301 redirect option, which is also considered to be the most SEO friendly option. Regardless of the method that you feel most comfortable using, it is highly recommended that you use this type of process for increased CTR and for your own protection as a website affiliate marketer.

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