Several month’s ago I got pretty deep into affiliate link cloaking in it’s many forms. I intended to post a whole a series on the various methods and tricks to link cloaking and other white/gray/black-hat linking methods… from basic cloaking to cookie-stuffing.
Well, I never did get around to finishing the posts… but I learned a *bunch* of cool (and sometimes slightly devious) things you can do with a little bit of knowledge and some creativity. Especially if you’re an affiliate marketer.
The trick I’m sharing today is about “deep” linking. Deep linking is nothing more than linking to an interior page of a website instead of the home page. It’s obviously very easy to do with a standard link… just point to the page you want to link to.
Things can get tricky for an affiliate, though.
For example, if you’re promoting a Clickbank product you have exactly zero ability to specify your ultimate landing page. Cloaked or not, you send your visitor to Clickbank’s hop link for the vendor and Clickbank drops your affiliate cookie then redirects them to the vendor’s specified landing page.
But what if you want something different?
For example… I actively promote a particular Clickbank product that has been a profitable producer for me for more than a year. Recently I noticed my conversion rate plummeted almost overnight even though I hadn’t changed a thing.
I let it go for a week or so and saw no improvement. So I investigated and realized the vendor had changed their landing page from a long-copy sales page to an email squeeze followed by the sales page.
Now I can’t say what happened to the vendor’s overall close ratio… but it wasn’t working for my visitors. It’s even possible the vendor was improving his bottom line through list-building and promoting other affiliate products at the expense of his own product (and my commission).
Anyway, the obvious solution for me was to direct my visitors straight to his actual sales page and bypass the squeeze. That would be great… except Clickbank doesn’t give me an easy way to direct my visitors anywhere but the designated landing page while still dropping a cookie so I can get credited for the sale.
Enter sneaky deep affiliate links…
So here’s what I did… I created a redirect with a combination of cloaked cookie-dropping (for credit in Clickbank’s system) with a client-side redirect to the page I want my visitors on… the vendor’s sales page.
Don’t let your eyes roll back in your head just yet… it’s really easy to do… Here is it step by step:
Step 1. Get the landing page you want to link to. In my case I just signed up on the vendor’s squeeze page and copied the link of the sales page once I got there. That won’t always work because some vendors will have gatekeeper programs that keep you from easily doing this… but it will work 99% of the time.
Step 2. Create a web page on your site with the following code:
<div style="display: none">
<embed src='http://xxxxx.vendor.hop.clickbank.net' width='1' height='1'></embed>
<META HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" CONTENT="0;url=http://www.domain.com/real_landing_page.htm">
Now, to be totally honest, I have some other code in my actual page that hides what I’m doing to the average user… but that’s the guts of it right there. I also realize that it’s not totally property HTML and there are times when this type of redirect can be unreliable. But all things considered this is far and away my best solution. It works more than 99% of the time and solves my problem handily.
Step 3. Direct visitors to my cookie-dropping redirect.
I have now effectively bypassed the vendor squeeze page while keeping my commission intact.
If you know enough about HTML you may wonder about some of what I’ve done… here’s the explanation for the obvious stuff…
Why do I use embed instead of an iframe or img tag? I only know part of the answer to this… for one thing, an iframe seems to require the page to actually load before redirecting. That can take too much time on graphically intensive pages and it shows in the status bar. Not ideal. The embed does not have the same requirement. Since all I really care about is the cookie getting dropped it seems to work the best.
The bigger reason, however, is that the results say embed is what works best. I split-tested with a random rotation of embed, iframe and img tags for 4 weeks. For no explicable reason (that I could see) the embed tag resulted in a higher overall conversion ratio than the other 2. That was good enough for me.
Why the hidden div? Firefox has an annoying banner that pops up when I do an embed vs. an iframe. Hiding the embed in the div seems to take care of that.
Could my script work better? Sure. Almost everything I know as a programmers is about desktop and database development. I am not a web programmer. I know more than most… but really just enough to do what I need to do. I’m sure others could point out lots of ways to improve my deep linking redirect. If you can improve upon it I’d welcome any suggestions or improvements.
I’m considering writing a program that will build cloaked links for you. Everything from very basic redirects to more advanced deep linking and “clean” redirects. I’ve already built something similar for my own use that also incorporates basic encoding and enough obfuscation to deter most prying eyes from seeing what you’re doing behind the scenes. If you’re interested in such a beast let me know.
Got other questions about affiliate linking and cloaking? Ask away… I’m so excited about comments on my blog that I’m really itching to get some use out of them 😉