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How cloaking your links can save you both time and money

By Hannes Johnson
Posted Sunday, November 14, 2004

You've most likely seen them in ezines, websites, etc. and quite possibly clicked on a few of them. If you've been in affiliate marketing you might have even used them yourself... or at least you should have. Because it can save you both time and money.

What I'm talking about are cloaked affiliate links. That is, small HTML files that hide your referral ID, username, member #, etc... and/or shorten the full URL.

How Do They Work?

Usually the HTML file you use to cloak your affiliate URL forwards the user to the actual affiliated website just moments after clicking your cloaked link (or entering it into the web browser). The HTML file can also be frame-based, meaning that it will put the affiliate URL in an invisible frame so the user will only see the URL to your cloaked link and not the URL of the website you are directing the user to.

What Is The Purpose?

Many dishonest people will do anything they can to prevent affiliate marketers from getting their commission for their hard work. When people see a link that they recognize as an affiliate link they might cut your username off and buy directly from the website or even worse, they might replace your username with theirs and take your commission.

Also, some people might be uncomfortable clicking on a link they recognize as an affiliate link.

What link would you rather click on: ( or

Tests have shown that up to 30% of all affiliate commissions are STOLEN by people who replace with their own link to "buy at a discount" and it's a serious problem.

How Can You Prevent That?

If the service you are affiliated with uses cookies or other tracking devices using a cloaked link that refreshes to the affiliate URL should make sure that you get the commission/ referral you deserve. Because once the user clicks your cloaked link and is redirected to your affiliate URL a cookie with your referral ID is saved on the user's computer and the user should be less likely to succeed in stealing your commission.

Here is a sample of the HTML code you can use to create a HTML file that refreshes to your affiliate URL:

Loading... please wait

Loading... please

If you are not redirected in 10 seconds click here.

Just replace "(" with the referral URL your affiliate program gave you.

However, if your affiliate service/program doesn't use cookies or if you're not sure, it would be safer for you to use framed cloaked links because then the user won't see your full affiliate URL and won't be able to cut off your referral ID.

Here is a sample of the HTML code you can use to create a HTML file that puts your affiliate URL into an invisible frame:

Name of your affiliate program

Just replace "(" with the referral URL your affiliate program gave you. You should also change the title to the actual name of your affiliate program or something else you think is appropriate.

You should know though that people will always be trying to get passed the cloaked links so there is never a 100% way of ensuring your rightful commissions. But using cloaked links will definitely decrease the chance of you losing out on a commission.

But How Can It Save You Time?

Now that we have seen how cloaking your links can save you money how can it save you time?

Well, I realized this recently when I decided to drop out of a certain affiliate program. I had been promoting this program on several places on the internet and the URL I was promoting was a cloaked link I had created on my domain.

You can understand that I no longer wanted to promote a program I was not affiliated with any more. So I was looking forward to at least a half hour of searching the internet for places where I had put a link to this program and either change it or delete it.

But that's when I realized I didn't have to hurry and delete all these links so I wouldn't be wasting money and credits on this program. All I had to do was log in to my website and edit the HTML file I had created to cloak the program's URL and make the file direct people to another URL I was comfortable promoting.

I could then later on when I had the time go find the places where I had been promoting the program and update the information. I could even just skip that if I didn't want to, and if the information promoting that URL wasn't misleading, related to the new URL. But even if you want to update the information or delete the link sometimes you can't. For example, on certain places where you buy text links, etc.; then instead of that link promoting a program you're no longer affiliated with you are able to promote another website, without any major effort.

* Tip: Even after you've gone through the websites where you had put your cloaked link and deleted it I would recommend keeping the file on your domain because there might be a few "ghosts" left out there on the internet who still link to this file.

Resources To Help You Cloak Links

If you don't know how to create HTML files and edit them or if you don't trust yourself to do it there are many services available to help you:

* Affiliate Link Cloaker - makes it all easy and secure: ( * NameStick - cloak a link with an easy to remember domain: ( * TinyURL - cloak a link with 1 click: (
* shorlify - like TinyURL, but with statistics too: (
* - one of the many free forwarding services out there: (
* - another free forwarding service: (
* Free .tk domain - get your own domain for free, pretty cool: (

Here are some places that provide you with free webspace where you can put your cloaking HTML files:

* ( * ( * ( * ...if you want more places just do a Google search.

Although free webspaces are nice I would recommend putting the cloaking files on your own domain, where you have total control and don't risk losing your files or being blocked by bandwidth limits. Therefore I would recommend these hosting solutions >>

* Host4Profit - 300 MB webspace, 10 GB bandwith, great support: ( * iProBuilder - set up a profit-pulling website in 24 hours or less... - unlimited storage space!: (


As an extra bonus, while you're using your cloaked links to promote on various websites you automatically increase your search engine rankings because of all the incoming links to your domain ;) Plus, you'll also be increasing your Alexa ranking because of the extra page views.

So, to save you both time and money:

* Cloak your affiliate URL using the methods and services I mentioned above
* Promote that cloaked link wherever you can * Cash in those bigger commission checks * ..and if you decide to leave the program just edit that one file you created on your domain :)

Thanks for reading.

About The Author
Hannes Johnson is the author of the book "Residual Traffic" ( and maintains The Home Biz Blog (, where this article was first published. To subscribe to his Home Business Tips Newsletter send a blank e-mail to:


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