How To Cloak Your Affiliate Links

by Robert Plank

Cloaking your affiliate links is a good way to keep people from stealing your commissions. All a "cloak" has to be is some sort of a redirect. There is a very easy way to manage as many redirects as you want, that is FREE and easy to manage with just a single file.

There are a couple of problems with linking directly to an affiliate page with your ID. The obvious reason is that someone could steal your commissions if they are also a member of the same affiliate program (which is common if it is a large program like Clickbank).

The other main reason is that a lot of people will be wary of clicking on long affiliate links, things with lots of letters and numbers. This seems to be more and more the case as I sometimes see these mile-long links, with un-needed crap in them like "adminid", "pid" etc. A good affiliate link should have two items MAXIMUM. If the program is specifically towards one URL it should only have one piece of information, your affiliate name (preferably a name instead of a number). But that's not always within your control.

Luckily even a five year old could perform redirects with HTACCESS, my favorite tool.

The common solution I see a lot of clueless webmasters doing is just creating the folder or the file and doing a simple redirect. So if that person needed the URL:
http://www.example.com/mlm

... To send the user to:
http://www.affiliateprogram.com/?affiliate-id

They'd physically make the folder on their site and add in an index.php redirect. Sometimes I've also seen the HTML redirect, which uses meta tags... which means the HTML file has to actually load before the redirect takes place. That makes the trip take even LONGER and in the meantime the visitor is staring at a blank page.

This would be ok, but what if you had 20 or 30 or 40 affiliate programs? That's a lot of folders to get in your way.

Anyway, enough with the crap. Check out an HTACCESS file I use to do redirects. All I have to do when I want to add or remove a redirect is just edit a text file.

Redirect /simplephp http://hop.clickbank.net/?xxxxx/simplephp
Redirect /clicksensor.html http://hop.clickbank.net/?xxxxx/jumpx
Redirect /john-calder.php http://hop.clickbank.net/?xxxxx/bydandy1
Redirect /teresa http://www.tipsfortop.com
Redirect /puddy.crap http://hop.clickbank.net/?xxxxx/hotbobs

(Change the "xxxxx" above to your own Clickbank name.)

You put each redirect on a different line. What you first need is the word "Redirect", and then the relative path HTACCESS is going to intercept. In the first line since my second part of it is "/simplephp", that means if my domain is:
http://www.example.com

... And someone goes to:
http://www.example.com/simplephp

... It will send the user to that third item on that line, the long Clickbank hoplink.

The redirect doesn't just have to be a folder name. You could even make people think you're linking straight to an HTML file, like in the second example. Or, it could even end with ".php" if you want (3rd line) or even something you make up, like "dot-crap" (last example).

So go ahead and add tons of affiliate redirects in seconds. Just modify that above code to your needs, save it as "htaccess.txt", upload, chmod to 755, and rename to ". htaccess" with that dot in front.  [No space between the dot and the "h" though - Ed.]

The file will disappear to you, because it becomes hidden, but if you need to come back to that list later you can still see if with many FTP programs. I use FlashFXP and I go to Options -> Preferences. Then choose the "Advanced" tab. Look in the "List Method" square and change the choice from "Default" to "Show hidden files." I don't know how it'll be in your FTP client... in a lot of them this sort of choice doesn't even exist. But that will allow you to see the HTACCESS file for future editing if you lose the copy on your hard drive. (Hey, these things happen.)

One last thing you should notice is that even though HTACCESS has sort of a "bare bones" feel to it, it doesn't have to be hard to read. Look at what I've done, I've spaced everything up so when I look at the file in Notepad with my fixed-width font everything lines up nicely.

You'll find that with a lot of programming stuff, like HTACCESS, PHP, JavaScript, C++, Java and so on... that the whitespace you put in doesn't matter. You can separate those things above with only one space if you want, or space it out forever, or even use tabs instead of spaces.

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