Here’s a joke for you. Affiliate marketer X is browsing the Internet and finds a product review on your site. X loves it and wants to go and buy it. You, being the cunning affiliate marketer that you are, have very cleverly disguised you affiliate link, so that there is no other way for X but to click on your link to find the affiliate product page. Of course, X too is a cunning affiliate marketer, and figures that he’d rather get a nice discount on the product by copy and pasting his own affiliate link, instead of bringing referral money into your pocket. That’s right, X can easily do this and in the end, the joke’s on you!
Lets go over this scenario, and this time we’ll take it a little slower, so we can see where we can prevent the affiliate link hijacking.
You have signed up with an affiliate network, and are actively promoting their products. Every one of these networks provides you with your very own affiliate link. These can come in various shapes and sizes, but the general idea is that they stick a little more link after the main URL. (example – http://diythemes.com/?a_aid=mmm) As easy this is for you to copy and paste, as easy it is for X to copy, edit the part after the main URL, paste, and profit.
You affiliate link has just been hi-jacked, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Was this naughty? Yes. Does anyone besides you care? No.
Ok, so you’ve done a bit of research, and you’ve figured out how to ‘trick’ people, by cleverly disguising your affiliate link. The most common methods used today are:
Option 1. You’re so lazy that you figure a URL redirect service will fix your problem. You hit up tinyurl.com or bit.ly, create a nice short URL, and use this. Too bad we can all smell this affiliate link from a mile away.
Option 2. You create a php, or html, redirect file. Your affiliate link now looks like this: http://www.yourblog.com/go/affiliateproduct.php or http://www.yourblog.com/affiliateproductname/. Clever! I bet nobody has you figured out yet! Oh wait, they click the link, find the real URL, either open up a different browser, clear cookies, or just create their own affiliate link to overwrite your cookie, and that’s that. You just missed out on another sale, and X got a discount.
Option 3. Ok, so you’re a bit smarter by now, and you know how to work your .htaccess file and you insert a rewrite rule. You’re so leet! Too bad X will still do the same thing to you like he did in option 2. You’re just not making any sales are you?
Right, I think those three will apply to the majority of you guys. Raise your hand and leave a comment if you do it differently.
Now, here’s how I like to do it.
Let’s take DIYthemes as an example again. Those guys sell the Thesis WordPress theme, developed by Chris Pearson and Brian Clark. It is by far one of the most popular WP themes out there, and because of it’s fantastic quality, a lot of people will buy this. Lucky for us affiliate marketers – They do an affiliate program.
I bought the theme and am using it on my personal blog. I love it, its awesome, and it just works. So when I saw the affiliate program, I was more than happy to promote Thesis, knowing that 99.9% of the buyers would be satisfied with the theme (I believe that you should never promote a product you don’t like, or believe in). Now because I have been through options 1-3 myself, I knew there had to be a different way of doing this. There are certain wordpress plugins that help you cloak your affiliate links, but they usually cost a fair bit, and they essentially still do the same as options 1-3.
If I want to promote a good affiliate product, I go looking for a suitable domain. Something that has the product name in it, and whatever keywords you think would help. All I do then is create an index.php file for the root folder, and add this little bit of code:
All this does is bring up the original affiliate product website in a frame. The beauty of this method is –
A: You can be sure that the affiliate product owner has put in a lot of effort in order to optimize their page for sales. They will make the sale for you.
B: In the browser address bar, the domain you bought will show up. There won’t be any added bits and pieces after the link, it just shows up as an absolute URL.
Because it looks like there is no affiliate link whatsoever, your odds of actually getting the sale have just increased drastically. Obviously X could still figure out this is an affiliate link by looking at the page source, but since there’s nothing to flag him, he won’t even think about checking it.