Q: I’ve been reading a lot lately about affiliate link hijacking and link cloaking. Do you recommend any particular link cloaking software or technique and/or are there any particular ones to steer clear of? I saw one ‘Covert Affiliate’ that in addition to cloaking affiliate links puts a tracking cookie on the visitors computer even if they don’t click on the link. They talk about having the ‘unfair advantage’… that concerns me that if you’re doing something ‘sneaky’ that it could actually bite you in the butt down the road.
A: There are two ways you can go about cloaking your links: set them up yourself or buy a program to automate the process.
Personally, I do it myself. In some cases, I use a little mouseover script, but that’s just to trick the casual observer – it won’t beat the schemers and spiders.
In the past, I’ve also used frames to cloak affiliate links. This has it’s limitations, but it’s quick and easy.
Another method is to purchase a domain and use the domain registrars forwarding service (free with most domain registrars) to have the domain redirect to your affiliate link.
The technique I use most often is the .htaccess redirect. An .htaccess file is a plain ASCII text file you place in the root directory of a Unix server.
The .htaccess technique is much easier than using other redirects, because there’s no HTML required. All of your redirects are in one text file.
One thing to bear in mind when cloaking your links is that you should add the afsrc parameter, so legitimate adware affiliates will recognize that you are an affiliate and not overwrite your cookie.
If you want to get a program that will help you set up the cloaked links, check out CBmall and search for cloaker or cloaking, and you will see lots of programs to consider.
As far as that program you mentioned that “puts a tracking cookie on the visitors computer even if they don’t click on the link” – stay far away from that one.
That is known as cookie stuffing, and it’s a big taboo. By doing that sort of thing, you’re no better than the thieves you’re trying to beat in the first place.