Follow That Link!

One of the small things I occasionally want/need to do as an internet marketer is see what’s happening behind the scenes of an http redirect.  It doesn’t happen often… but when I need it, I need it.

Originally I would open up a command prompt and manually telnet in to the webserver and issue raw http commands.  There was a variety of problems with that method.  First, that makes me a *huge* geek (not ashamed to admit).  Second, it was slow.  Third, If the page author was tricky and used any sort of redirect cloaking I would have to either give up or manually translate the cloaked javascript… not fun.  Fourth, the method isn’t very portable from one time to the next.  Each time I needed to track a redirect I would have to start over from scratch.

And if you know me at all you know I don’t like to do anything from scratch.

So several months ago I finally broke down and wrote a web-based PHP script that would do the dirty work for me.  It simply used cUrl to request the page and tracked any redirects.  Although it took a little debugging, it was fairly simple in the end.  With one problem… it could only track server-side redirects.  Since cUrl doesn’t do any content processing it missed client-side and javascript redirects.

Well, today I solved that challenge as well.

I needed to use my web-based utility again today.  Only I couldn’t track the link because it involved a client-side redirect.  So I broke down and wrote a full-featured redirect tracker.  It’s client side (runs on Windows) and can track both server-side and client-side redirects… including javascript redirects.

What Good Is It?

As I mentioned… this isn’t a tool I use often.  It’s an occasional tool I use mostly when I’m trying to deconstruct another marketer’s campaign.  Every once in awhile I’ll see an ad or campaign that intrigues me.  If the marketer is smart he/she will at least be using basic link cloaking (through redirects).  If I want to see where an offer comes from or goes to I often have to track the individual “hops” in the redirect.

Probably the most common use, however, is to get at a ClickBank or PayDotCom vendor ID.  All the time I get emails or promotions for a particular ClickBank product.  Often the affiliate link is cloaked.  For example, check out the following affiliate link:

http://www.sitesniperpro.com/Keyword_Elite.html

If you click on it eventually you’ll end up at the Keyword Elite home page.  But what if you got that link and want to know the ClickBank vendor ID to promote the same product?  Or frequently I’ll get a promotion that I like and want to buy.  If the promoter hasn’t given me a compelling to buy using their link I’ll often swap it with my own.  That, of course, is one of the reasons marketers use cloaking.

But now I can just type the original URL into my Link Hopper software:

Link Hopper URL Redirect Tracker Step 1

Click “Check Redirects” and get the results:

Link Hopper URL Redirect Tracker Step 2

Now you can see that this is a cloaked redirect for the bryxen4 ClickBank vendor.  How easy is it now to either promote the same product or switch the affiliate ID?

One other thing to notice about this particular redirect is that the first hop happened on the client.  A cUrl-based link tracker wouldn’t work with this link.  You have to process the client-side page in order to get the entire redirect sequence.

Ok, so now that I’ve created it I can’t see any reason not to let you use it as well.  I suppose there are a lot of reasons why you would want to track a redirect.  And now you can, simply and easily.  I’ve found it to be a great tool when I’m trying to deconstruct another person’s marketing campaign.  You can use it for anything you want.

Download it Free…

Click here to download Link Hopper.  Requires Windows (tested on XP and Vista).