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Affiliate Link Safety Issues


 

Overview

There are several link hiding solutions generally used on the Internet: simple redirects, link cloaking (also called link framing), link branding, covert linking and embedded cookies (also called covert cookies or cookie stuffing).

If you want to read an overview of these different methods, click here.

Some affiliate link hiding solutions, such as link cloaking, are potentially unsafe with some affiliate links. Using an unsafe solution can result in substantial lost commissions (generally over half of commissions are lost when this problem is present).

Below is a full technical explanation of the problem.

 

 

The Two Types Of Cookies

Almost all affiliate programs use things called "cookies" to track which affiliate gets paid for a sale. These "cookies" are small amounts of data stored on each visitor's PC. They record the affiliate ID of the affiliate who referred the visitor to the site, so that the affiliate can be paid when the visitor buys the product.

This much is common knowledge, but the next part is not.

There are two types of cookies - Standard Cookies and Validated Cookies.

A Validated Cookie is a cookie where something called a Compact Privacy Policy is sent at the same time as the cookie that confirms that the cookie will not be used to "invade the privacy" of the visitor.

Internet Explorer is the only web browser that differentiates between Validated Cookies and Standard Cookies, but since Internet Explorer is by far the most commonly used Internet browser, this affects a lot of potential customers.

With Internet Explorer, all Standard (i.e. non-validated) cookies are discarded by the browser unless they come from the same website as the one shown in the Internet Explorer Address Bar.

Hence if the Address Bar shows www.mysite.com/mypage.html, any cookie from mysite.com will be accepted, but cookies from any other website will be discarded unless they are Validated Cookies.

The visitor may override this feature by setting their privacy level to "Accept All Cookies" in Internet Explorer but very few people actually do this (there is no real reason for them to do it - and most users do not even know how to do it).

If you want to know more about this, visit the Internet Explorer website by clicking here.

 

The Consequences

So what does all this mean for you as an affiliate marketer?

It means that if you are using any solution that hides your affiliate link other than simple redirects, the cookie will not get created unless it is a Validated Cookie.

As a result, you will LOSE your affiliate commission.

You will not lose all your commissions, since some customers will use browsers other than Internet Explorer - or will have chosen to "Accept All Cookies". However it is likely that you will lose more than half your commissions.

Note that this problem will arise with ANY tool or script that hides affiliate links, irrespective of what assurances you may get from the person selling the tool. There is absolutely no way of avoiding the problem if the affiliate link uses Standard Cookies.

 

What can you do about it?

You can stick to simple redirects, but you will lose some of the advantages of using the more sophisticated link hiding solutions.

Alternatively you can use a software tool that analyses your affiliate links to determine whether it is safe to use link cloaking with that link.

 

Are "Safe" Links 100% Safe?

An "unsafe" link should never be used with link cloaking because you will lose half your commissions.

However even cloaking a safe link will still lose a small percentage of commissions.

That's because Firefox and most other browsers allow the user to configure the browser to reject all third party cookies.

Most people don't use that option, but some people do - and that means you will always lose a small percentage of your commissions when using link cloaking.

In general, the losses will be less than the gains from using link cloaking, but you'll need to decide for yourself whether it's actually worth using link cloaking.

Note that "Simple Redirects" are always safe in all contexts.

 

Not Sure If You're Using Link Cloaking Or Not?

Any solution other than a "Simple Redirect" is link cloaking of some sort. Simple Redirects come in several forms - PHP redirects, Meta tag redirects and Javascript redirects.

One way to check which type of solution you are using is to enter the original uncloaked link into your browser and note what web address shows in your browser address bar after using the link. Now enter the cloaked link into your browser. If the web address shown in your browser is different, then you are definitely using link cloaking. If it is the same, then you are probably using a Simple Redirect.

 



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Created on April 11, 2017 - RightBiz.com.au