Link Redirecting Vs Link Cloaking

If you promote affiliate programs, it is important to understand the difference between link redirects and link cloaking. Some affiliate programs permit both forms of link usage, some permit just one, and others may prohibit both. In this article, I will tell you why this is important, how to find out what is an acceptable practice, and what is exactly the difference between redirecting a link and cloaking a link.

Before you decide to put time into making money from an affiliate program, it is a good practice to consider what methods you will use to promote that particular product. One method that I often use to promote affiliate products that works very well is article marketing. (If you want to learn how to promote affiliate products using article marketing, I will be covering this in a future article…subscribe to Richard Cummings below.)

What is Link Cloaking?

I often achieve great affiliate success by doing article marketing combined with link cloaking.

Link cloaking is when you mask the identity of the real website and use YourPurchasedDomain instead. This technique is very easy to do with GoDaddy. You simply buy the name, visit the Domain Manager at GoDaddy, select the domain name that you want to mask, click on the “Forward” tab above, and choose “Forward With Masking” as you see in the photo below:

go daddy link cloaking

Link cloaking has its advantages and disadvantages.

In my mind, the one greatest advantage to link cloaking–and why I use it–is the “one hop” concept. If you create the traditional landing page, the chances of you getting the affiliate click, and thus the revenue, are diminished significantly. Plus, with this strategy, you do not need to create a site of your own. You are simply serving as a salesmen for a particular product and taking your commission.

The largest disadvantage to link cloaking is that you cannot build and promote a brand which you control. The product is not your own and you will forever be at the mercy of others with this strategy.

Finally, one of the biggest reasons that you may not want to use link cloaking is that it is not an acceptable practice with that particular affiliate program. For example, if you tried to cloak a GoDaddy link, I think you might run into some trouble.

What Is A Link Redirect?

A link redirect is a much more common and acceptable practice.

In this strategy, you are not concealing the identity of the affiliate; you are simply redirecting your link to their link.

Here is an example of a link redirect. If you read my blog, you know that I am a big fan of Wordtracker and use it everyday. As a fan of this program, I became a Wordtracker affiliate and promote this product through the redirect link that you see in the previous sentence.

How is this a redirect link?  Well, as you can see the link URL is my site, but the page uses a redirect to get to Wordtracker.

People redirect links for a number of reasons. Some use URL redirection to conceal their affiliate IDs and more easily manage their links while others use it because it is often the only method aside from “cloaking” to place links on foreign sites (not your sites) that do accept affiliate links.

Redirecting a link is very easy. It can be done through a simple php redirect or by modifying your .htaccess file (this method is slightly more technical). To redirect direct a link using a simple PHP redirect, create a blank text file with the following content:

<?php
header(“Location: http://youraffiliatelink”);
?>

Then, you will want to name the file with a .php extension and place it on your website. You can then use this link to redirect visitors to your affiliate link.

If you would like to accomplish this through your .htaccess file, it’s not that complicated.  In a his page entitled Using .htaccess to Hide Affiliate Links, Derek explains this process in easy to understand terminology.

Link Redirect Vs Link Cloaking and Affiliate Usage

Technically, creating a cloaked link or a redirected link is not that difficult as we have seen. What is difficult is figuring out who accepts which form of link redirection.

The reason that this is difficult is because people use these terms–link cloaking and link redirecting–interchangeably when, in reality, they are completely different. For example, an affiliate may say that they do not approve of “link redirection” when they are actually referring to cloaking.

Cloaking would be perceived as “deceptive” by name brand companies and they would surely ban your affiliate account. However, it is generally an accepted practice with Clickbank products–some downright encourage it.

Link redirecting on your own site seems to be a commonly accepted practice that everyone does. However, using these same link redirects on other sites–not your own–is not quite as accepted. It is more of a grey area.

For example, you will read from some people that Commission Junction does not allow link redirecting while you will read on some forums that others do it all the time.

Again, much of this confusion stems from the fact that people use these terms interchangeably. People are saying that Commission Junction does not permit redirecting a link when they are actually talking about cloaking a link.

Link Redirect Vs Link Cloaking: Summary

In this article, we have demonstrated the difference between redirecting a link versus cloaking a link.

In summary, each method directs you to the affiliate link but when you use “cloaking”, the URL address of YourPurchasedDomain.com stays in the URL bar. Many affiliates do not permit this.

Most affiliates permit redirecting a link. If they didn’t permit this, hundreds of thousands of sites would be shut down immediately.

This affiliate acceptance of link redirection is a little less clear if you are promoting your redirected link on other sites. If you are uncertain of what is permitted, simply email the affiliate and ask them.

After all, they are in the business of making money so why should they say “no” to a good idea!

Richard CummingsLink Redirecting Vs Link Cloaking

Comments 2

  1. Rollie

    Hey Richard,

    Good post. Just two things:

    1. You are using the term ‘affiliate’ many times where you actually mean the vendor or merchant of the product of services who runs an affiliate program. An affiliate is nothing but a representative creating leads and sales, but it is the vendor/merchant who w

    Examples: ‘an affiliate may say that they do not approve of “link redirection” when…'; ‘In this strategy, you are not concealing the identity of the affiliate, you are simply redirecting your link to their link.'; ‘Many affiliates do not permit this.'; ‘Most affiliates permit redirecting a link.'; ‘This affiliate acceptance of link redirection is a little less clear…’

    2. You are saying: ‘The largest disadvantage to link cloaking is that you cannot build and promote a brand which you control. The product is not your own and you will forever be at the mercy of others with this strategy.’

    ~~>I don’t see any connection between link cloaking and ‘not building and promoting your own brand’ by engaging in affiliate marketing?

    It is true that creating and selling your own products creates your own brand, compared to promoting someone else’s by doing affiliate marketing. But what does this have to do with what type of linking technology you are using? If either of these two choices helps your own brand in any slightest way, wouldn’t it be cloaking?

    Example:
    Your domain is http://www.sellingtables.com
    The merchant website is: http://www.supercomfychair.com
    Your affiliate URL is: http://www.supercomfychair.com/ref:1234

    If you used a .php redirect, it might be:
    http://www.sellingtables.com/resources/supercomfychair.php which then redirects to http://www.supercomfychair.com/ref:1234 (this latter URL is what visitors will see in the URL bar of their browser).

    Or, if you used link cloaking/masking, you start from your domain:
    http://www.sellingtables.com

    Linking to this affiliate offer by masking the target URL (www.supercomfychair.com/ref:1234) to show within your site, i.e.
    http://www.sellingtables.com/bestchair/

    …or if you dedicate this one domain to this particular affiliate offer, then you can also just use the TLD sellingtables.com

    I would think that when your visitors continue to see YOUR own domain in the browser (URL) bar, as is the case with link cloaking/masking, that THIS would in fact HELP your brand and image promotion, not the other way around!! ???

  2. Richard Cummings

    Rollie, thanks for the feedback. You are right…I do use the term “affiliate” to liberally and/or inappropriately. I simply bundle it all under the one word ;)

    As to the second point, the problem with “promotion” as it relates to “link cloaking” is that you can never get juice on your cloaked domain as it does not have any real content.

    Using “link redirecting”, you presumably have a domain on which you are building link juice, email lists, etc and that simple redirection is just a small part of a big strategy for that domain whereas with a “cloaked link” the domain only contains the one re-directed website and that is the entire strategy with that domain.

    It’s a good discussion that is not talked about enough. Thx for the feedback,
    Richard

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