Deep Linking for Affiliates…

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:

<html>
<div style="display: none">
<embed src='http://xxxxx.vendor.hop.clickbank.net' width='1' height='1'></embed>
</div>
<META HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" CONTENT="0;url=http://www.domain.com/real_landing_page.htm">
</html>

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 πŸ˜‰

Okay… Apparently I’m an Idiot!

Aaargh!

I’m stupid.

I’ve been maintaining this blog on and off for awhile now. And one of the things that always confused me is why no one ever comments on what I write or the software I release. I mean… I think I do a pretty good job here (when I’m actually paying attention to it).

So the no comments thing has kind of ticked me off at times. I know I have readers. I know I give value. WTH?

…Now, for the idiot part…

Today I got an email from a new reader thanking me for the free stuff and sneaky tricks. She says she tried to post a comment… but couldn’t see how to do it.

Doh!

You have GOT to be kidding me! I’ve had comments disabled the entire time. Holy smokes… you’d think I was a noob, or something. I’m genuinely embarrassed.

Whatever. I think I’ve got it all figured out now. I’m doing this over an excruciatingly slow internet connection from a hotel lobby near my cabin in Payson, AZ, though, so I can’t hang around long enough to verify it actually works. I’ve been out-of-touch for 4 days already and won’t be back in Phoenix with a big, bad high-speed connection for a few days still. I’ll make sure I’ve got it all set up right then.

In the meantime, you can finally leave comments! Woohoo! I know that’s the news you’ve been dying to hear all year.

If you’re reading this then LEAVE A COMMENT! Seriously. I’ve been missing the love for almost a year now… I’ve gotta make up for lost time! Don’t make me beg…

Prime Time…

Hi, my name is Matt… and I’m an Amazon junkie.

Seriously. I spend thousands of dollars each year with Amazon.com. Last Christmas I was getting packages every day… and only left my house twice to shop. So I guess I’m not only an Amazon junkie… but I’m also a geek.

So a few years ago I signed up for something called Amazon Prime. It’s a pretty slick service. I get unlimited free 2-day shipping and overnight shipping for just $3.99. It costs something like $80 / year (if memory serves), but it’s incredibly worth it for me.

So why am I writing this post? Because through October 31st Amazon is offering a free 30-day trial for Amazon Prime. If you buy a lot of books and other things through Amazon then Prime is a no-brainer (and you probably already have it). But right now you can try it out and get it free for 30 days. So if you’re thinking of getting anything from Amazon in the next few weeks you should sign up and get 2-day shipping for free.

A Favor?

I give away a lot of very valuable free software on this site. I don’t ask a lot in return. But if you use Amazon.com at all then I have a favor to ask…

Sign up for a free 30-day Prime trial. If you’re anything like me you’ll love it. If not, you’ll at least get 30 days of free 2-day shipping. And I want you to use my link when you sign up. Whether you think you’ll use it, or not, give it a try. It’s free. And it will keep me in a generous mood when I have new software that I want to release πŸ˜‰

Here’s The Link…

Amazon Prime 30-day Free Trial

Link Hopper Updated…

So I’m looking through my analytics last night for my blog… and I notice something interesting. I’ve had quite a few referrals from rentacoder.com recently. I checked it out and turns out there are people who want to hire programmers to knock off my free software.

First of all… that’s funny. What part of free do they not understand? I even have specific blurbs on most my software giving permission to re-distribute and everything.

But I can still understand why someone might want their own version. So I find it interesting that nobody just asked if they could have a private label version, or something. Oh well… their loss.

But I did get some good feedback on some of the changes they wanted made. And now I want to make sure they waste their $200 budget πŸ˜‰ So I implemented the improvements in a new version of Link Hopper. They’re small changes… but significantly improve the accuracy of the tool.

Here’s the download link.

More Sneaky Tricks…

…This time using Google. I recently finished my first mass-market consumer software application. It’s a YouTube downloader called jiffieTube. I was excited to see the market potential… until I found out something very important. Houston… We Have a Problem! I should have done a little more research before starting my project. Turns out I can’t advertise for any YouTube on AdWords. Grrrr! I put some ads up on the other search engines… but they didn’t amount to much traffic. Even with 7+% CTR I was getting less than 50 clicks / day. I tried CPV networks and even experimented with paid traffic. It all sucked (to put it mildly). In a fit of pure frustration I started messing around with some very experimental techniques. And… one of those little tests is working surprisingly well. Especially since it involved creating intentionally obscure ads. You know… since Google wouldn’t allow any ads that actually describe what my software does. So What’s the Sneaky Trick This Time? Watch the video to find out…

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Remember… return the favor and let me know what works for you! Enjoy!