Written by Susan on April 30th, 2009
You know already that it’s probably a good idea to cloak your affiliate links. The more savvy surfers become about affiliate marketing and the links that represent your “paycheck”, the greater the likelihood that someone unsavory is going to hijack your affiliate ID and substitute it for their own. If they’re truly bloodyminded, they could choose to bypass it altogether and simply cut you out of your hard earned commission.
So a variety of solutions have appeared over the years to make it harder for the bad guys to win. There are a number of free services that will cloak your link for you, like TinyURL, KlasLink, and others, which serve the dual purpose of hiding your ID and shortening a very long link into a tidy bit of more manageable code. While handy, surfers are becoming more familiar with them, and jump to the instant (and understandable) conclusion that clicking on one of these links is going to take them directly to a sales page. Unless their credit cards are already out of their wallets and poised for service, most people are going to choose to forego the sales pitch, and your persuasive copy will never have a chance to work its magic.
There are also several small software programs that will cloak your link – of variable usefulness and stability. Although you can download them for free, you’re left with the same problem of not being able to customize the code to de-emphasize the fact that the link is a sales tool.
The best solution I’ve found is a bit of php code that will give you everything you want, with a single initial setup and no cost involved. You don’t even have to know anything about php coding. As long as you know how to upload a file, you’re gold. Here’s how to do it:
Begin by logging in to your host account. Create a directory/folder under your main domain name and call it “recommends” (or any variation you prefer: “likes,” “suggests,” etc.). Whatever you call this directory will be viewable by your visitors, so pick something pithy and upbeat.
Let’s say your domain name is http://marketersdream.com. In your FTP program or on your cpanel, whichever you’re using to access your site files, right click on marketersdream and select ‘create folder’, then give it the name you’ve decided on. Let’s say you name it “recommends.”
Now you have a path that looks like this: http://marketersdream.com/recommends.
Let’s say you now want to promote a product called “winzip.” You create a directory under the recommends directory and call it ‘winzip.’ Now you have a path like this: http://marketersdream.com/recommends/winzip.
Nearly done! Now all you need is an index.php file that redirects the user to your affiliate link. Here’s how you do that:
In Notepad, make a file and name it index.php. Here is all that should be in that file:
Whatever the affiliate program you joined gave you as your unique affiliate link, just paste it over the capital letters above, making sure it includes the http:// part. If you wish to take the cloaking one step further, you can cloak your affiliate link with something like TinyURL, then paste THAT code over the capital letters. That way you ensure that your affiliate ID can’t be seen at any step during the redirection process.
So, in our example, you would paste your complete affiliate link for the “winzip” product over the capital letters in the code, save the file as index.php, then upload it into the http://marketersdream.com/recommends/winzip directory that you just created.
You’re finished. Now, whenever anyone clicks on the link http://marketersdream.com/recommends/winzip, they will be redirected to your affiliate page at Winzip. In future, with each new product you’re promoting, simply create a new folder under “recommends”, name it after the affiliate product, and upload the index.php file with the new affiliate link. Quick setup, easy solution, no cost. Just like it says on the box!