Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle
Affiliate Marketing Tips
How To Hide ("Cloak") Your Affiliate Links
And Make More Sales Like The Super Affiliates
It’s an old axiom in sales that people love to shop and to buy stuff, but they hate to be sold. That is the whole reason behind hiding or “cloaking” your affiliate links: If prospects realize there is a conscious effort being made to "sell them" something (you appear as a “pushy sales person"), or that a commission is being paid to a sales person, their guard goes up and they are less likely to buy.
Solving The link theft problem
Getting fewer sales overall from prospects because they became defensive and skeptical as a result of obvious sales tactics is one thing, but in the affiliate marketing world, there’s even more reasons to hide your affiliate links: Link theft.
Suppose someone clicks through your affiliate link and discovers a product for the very first time as a result of your referral or recommendation. When they land on the product sales page and they like it and want to buy, if they have a clickbank account and they are savvy to clickbank hoplinks, they can clear their cookies and or type in their hoplink URL in their browser and refresh the page. That drops their cookie on their machine, over-writing your cookie. Then they simply order through their own link and they get the commission and you don’t.
If you’re a long time clickbank affiliate or vendor, this is old news to you. If you’re a new clickbank affiliate and you didn’t know about this, you may be freaking out right now, thinking that people can steal your commissions. But relax. There's good news: You can decrease link theft by hiding, cloaking or redirecting your links.
There's also much less link theft in the fitness industry
In the “make money on the internet” sector, link theft is rampant because all internet marketers know how to order through their own affiliate link and that is faster and easier to do through clickbank than any other affiliate network.
Link theft in the health and fitness sector is not nearly as big a problem. I still recommend that you hide your links for other reasons however. For one thing, clickbank hoplinks are ugly and have no sales value.
For example, tell me which of these three links you would be more likely to click on:
Like, Duh! Tough choice huh? You would be more likely to click on the 2nd or 3rd link right? Why? Because one thing many affiliates forget is that link URLS are part of the sales copy. Domain names, in and of themselves are like headlines!
Use Domain Names To Protect Your Links,
Increase Click Throughs And Boost Your Sales
The difference in click throughs of a good URL with sales value and a bad URL with no sales value can be astronomical. Split test it for yourself in your google ad words campaigns and web or e-zine ads if you don’t believe me.
By the way, that reminds me, with the recent “Google slap” and changes in google landing page policies, I’m not sure what google’s policies are on using forwarded or masked URL’s in their ads. Check the google rules for yourself as they seem to be changing often. I also recommend Perry Marshall’s course on google ad words at: www.MarketingWithAdWords.com
Here’s Exactly How To Hide ("cloak") Your Affiliate Links
Okay, so now you now WHY you should hide your links, now let’s get down to the HOW TO do it part.
Method 1: Hide webpage links in your HTML using a different display and destination link
The lowest level of hiding your links is simply to use your clickbank hoplink as the destination link and the actual URL you want the potential customer to see as the display link in your HTML. This requires that you know a little HTML of course and you realize that display and destination are not the same.
If you need help with HTML, go to the bookstore and buy, "HTML for dummies" or "HTML 4 for the world wide web," or you can find numerous free HTML primers online such as www.htmlprimer.com
For example. If your affiliate nickname is XXXXXX, your hoplink looks like this:
Your goal is to hide this obvious sales-promoting link (did I mention these affiliate links are long and ugly too?). If you’ve been leaving your affiliate links raw, exposed and naked for all the world to see, well… oooops! But no worries. That’s why I’m here to help teach you the tricks of the Burn The Fat super affiliates so you can improve your marketing in the future.
When you are putting a link on a web page, always hide the hoplink in your HTML and show the destination link as www.burnthefat.com (or your own URL).
Example HTML code:
This HTML will display www.burnthefat.com but send people through your affiliate link (be sure to replace the XXXXXX's with your affilaite ID. For more info on how to make clickbank hoplinks, visit: http://burnthefat.com/affiliate_area/hoplink_instructions.html.
Method 2: Purchase a domain name from go daddy for the sole purpose of cloaking your affiliate link.
There are more domain name registrars out there than you can count, but if you register your domains with a company that offers free forwarding service with URL masking, then by all means use it. I use www.godaddy.com for many of my domains because it’s only about 9 bucks per domain to register and that includes free forwarding and masking!
All you need to do is register a domain and keep in mind how important the name you choose is to your click throughs. Your choice of domain name alone can give you an unfair “Super affiliate” advantage.
Then log into your account and click on “domain forwarding.” Type in your affiliate hoplink as the domain to forward to. Then click on “mask domain” and enter the display URL to match your new chosen domain name.
The example given above, www.burn-the-fat-now.com is a godaddy registered domain name, so you can see this in action. This domain name is owned by a colleague and Burn The Fat affiliate, Jim Labadie. Jim is a savvy marketer and he knows that it’s best to hide affiliate links, especially when you work in the internet marketing sector as he does.
Please note: burn the fat is a registered trademark and you cannot use “burn the fat” or burn the fat, feed the muscle” in a domain name without my permission first (I gave Jim permission). You also cannot EVER use these trademarks in a domain name that promotes other products. This is important! If you use my trademarks to promote another product you WILL receive a cease and desist, or a DMCA takedown notice from our lawyers.
Method 3: Purchase link cloaking software
There are more link cloaking software programs out there than I can even keep track of anymore. All you need to do is search Google for things like “link cloaking,” link cloaker,” “link cloaking software” and so on and you will find many to choose from.
Here are some that were recommended to me or which are currently being used by Burn The Fat affiliates
I have not used covert affiliate myself (yet) but I’m mentioning this one first because I know it is being used currently by Burn The Fat affiliates and it is quite slick and does more than just hide your links. I also know it is used by A-list internet marketing gurus like Mark Joyner.
This is software that sets an affiliate cookie for you then re-directs the visitor
to any page you specify. This is a sweet tool because if you have a website and you are publishing my articles, you can actually drop your cookie on the visitor’s machine before they even hit the burn the fat sales page! I’ve been told this works well, and most people will never know they are going through an affiliate link.
Here are some others to look into, but I cannot vouch for all of them – these were either sent to me by affiliates who are using them or I found them in recommended product lists from respected internet marketers
Method 4: Use third party link redirects or “link shrinkers”
Did you ever see a url that looked like this:
What you see above is an example of a “link that has been shrinked!”
There are numerous 3rd party services you can use to hide your affiliate link and shorten it at the same time. I have used this service in the past with success and it is especially useful in email marketing because it is fast and easy. Click on that link above to see it in action – it will take you to burn the fat.com through a clickbank hoplink. Here are a few examples:
Just a warning about using third party link shrinking services. I would recommend these for email marketing as a last resort, but getting your own domain then forwarding and masking it is the ideal solution. Don’t be an el-cheapo! It costs nine lousy bucks to get a domain. Alternately, purchase a quality link cloaking service or softare app. Many of these, like www.adtrackz.com offer cloaking along with tracking so you can kill two birds with one stone (tracking will be the subject of another lesson).
The trouble with any free 3rd party service is these sites come and go and if they go, your link could go with them if they shut down. Also, some of these sites have been temporarily shut down because spammers have abused these services, so be aware that you have no control over the shrunk link in the long term. I would not recommend using these for any permanent links such as embedding them in PDFs or placing them on web pages.
I shrunk a link once for an affiliate product I was promoting and sent that out in an email to about 150,000 people. The link did not work and believe me, it was painful to watch. Seeing “page not found” errors and getting dozens of emails telling me they couldn’t buy what I was promoting was kind of like watching money burn. This only happened to me once, after using one of these services countless times without a hitch, but once was enough - it’s always best to be in control of your links.
Method 5: Domain forwarding services like ZONE EDIT
I learned about Zone Edit (www.zoneedit.com) from perry marshall, the google ad words expert. This is a 3rd party service that simply forwards a URL to another website. Here’s an example of zone edit in action
This is a simple forward or redirect from one domain name to another – nothing fancy – no masking of the URL, just forwarding from one URL to another. In this example, I’m not using a hoplink, but you can redirect from a domain of your choice to your clickbank hoplink. Then simply use the domain you chose to promote the product instead of your exposed hoplink. This doesn’t mask the ?hop=youraffid once they get onto the sales page, but it is a useful tool to know about.
Method 6: Put your geeky programmer to work!
If you have a good webmaster with programming skills, then you can simply have him or her create a custom script that performs some of the functions listed above, now that you know what to do and look for.
In Conclusion: Be a Good Affiliate With Integrity...
Because What Comes Around Goes Around
There you have it. You are now a stealthy link-cloaking expert and you know all the tricks to increase your clicks and protect your links as much as possible.
In closing, keep one thing in mind: The clickbank system is not perfect and if someone really wants to a steal a commission that is rightfully yours, they are going to do it. Simply use the techniques I have explained above, however, and in this fitness-related niche, you can rest easy knowing that affiliate link theft will be minimal. I speak not only as a product vendor but also as a highly active clickbank affiliate selling other people’s products when I say that.
One last thing – if you don’t want YOUR affiliate commissions stolen, then don’t steal someone elses! If you are a savvy clickbank affiliate, then you know that you can clear your cookies and type in your own affiliate link into the URL and swipe a commission that belongs to someone else.
If you heard about a product from someone else and you click through their affiliate link, then do the right thing and purchase the product through their affiliate link. Give the commission to the person who earned it. This goes for Burn the Fat as well. If you discovered burn the fat from the clickbank marketplace or from a non affiliate source, then by all means, go ahead and order it through your affiliate link. But don’t steal someone else’s commission – its bad karma, and what comes around always goes around.
If you have any questions, if you have any cloaking tips or websites you would like to share with me, or if you notice that any of the links I listed above have gone dead (websites close down from time to time), you can contact me any time at:
- Tom Venuto, Author & Affiliate Manager,
Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle
Disclaimer: Burn the fat.com makes no promises, assurances or
guarantees about earnings, commissions, conversions
or income potential. Results of other affiliates are provided for informational purposes only and are no guarantee that you will do as well. Read the affiliate agreement and earnings disclaimer for more information:
Copyright 2006, fitness renaissance, LLC and Tom Venuto. Do Not Copy! Absolutely no reproduction of this article is permitted.