This may at first seem like it is not a very important skill to master and I suppose now a days there are marketers that are just plain out lazy and they use things like bit.ly or some other url shortener and they just use that link and leave it for people like you and I to click on. While I will grant you that some people do not pay attention to the links they are clicking on, more and more technological savvy people are becoming aware of security risks that can come from clicking on bogus links on a web page and they will not click on a link that looks like it is not legit.
Let me ask you this, if I were to give you two links right now and ask you which one you would rather click on which one would you choose?
#1. https://yhoo.it/1hxb2XM This one or..
#2. https://www.yahoo.com This one?
You see they both will lead you to the same place but one of these links looks far more suspicious than the other one right? I don’t know about you but I’m gonna stick with the second choice. This is exactly the mentality that most of your clients will have if they come to your website and they see a link that looks like good ol number one up there.
Creating Your Own Link Structure
There are a couple different ways that you can disguise and redirect your affiliate links. We will discuss the old method and the new methods. The older method is laid out for you below. If you are not tech savvy you may just want to do it the easy way though. You can go to ==>Plugins==>Add New==> then in the search box type “Pretty Links” or “Thirsty Affiliates” both of these programs do generally the same thing.
Pretty Links is a bit more pricey and has a yearly charge attached to it. Thirsty Affiliates on the other hand is a one time fee and is a bit cheaper. The only thing I can see that is different between the two is that Pretty Links allows you to use social buttons. You can do your own research on which tool you prefer to use.
I am still locked into the old school era and I make all my links by using the method below. I really recommend that you start off using one of the two newer methods though because of the simplicity to use them and they have all kinds of automatic features that will automatically insert your affiliate links in your posts as you type. After all the faster you can learn to master affiliate link cloaking the sooner you can move on to the next element in your business.
If however, you would like to know how the old school affiliate marketers cloaked their urls perhaps just for the nostalgia of it.. Then by all means continue to read on.
In order for us to discuss link structure you should already be aware of what an FTP is. If you are going through this course like it was designed for you to go through then you have already read about it. If you did not, I suggest you check out our FTP or File Transfer Protocol page by clicking on the link or else navigate to it in the menu at the top of the page.
The hierarchy of a website domain name is quite deliberately done. When you first log into your FTP software you will see a bunch of folders on the left side and a bunch on the right side as I explained earlier. What we want to do is actually control where we are sending people. I want you to look at this link and then I will explain in detail how I built this link and why you would want to do this.
Note: If you have not gone through the Setup Your WordPress Website tutorial yet STOP and go do that first. Then come back here once that is done.
So the first part of this is your main domain name – learnhowtomakemoneyfromhome.net is obviously mine. So now I want you to log into your FTP software using the log in info from your hosting company.
When you log into your FTP software you are going to see probably quite a few folders. In reality you are looking for one named public_html (or httpdocs depending on who your hosting provider is) if you have previously installed wordpress on your domain. Lets take a look at what that looks like.
As you can see when I log into my FTP I only see a couple folders. I want to double click on httpdocs. Once you double click on that folder you can actually create your own substructure of folders. (These are also known as directories and sub directories)
Once I double clicked on that folder it brought me to the contents of that folder. That looks like this.
That brought me to this set of folders. I am looking for the one that I created called recommended. You can create a folder at anytime by right clicking where the other folders are and clicking on “create directory”. When you do that you will then see a new folder appears there and it waiting for you to name it. I named mine recommended.
Once I click on recommended I can see in the image below that I have a few different files in here with different names. Each one of these files has some code in it. That code allows for the execution of something called a php redirect. Don’t worry if this sounds scary. I am going to show you exactly what it is and how you can use it.
So as you can see I currently have 6 different .php files in this folder. Now, I want to explain something and I want to make sure that you understand it because it can be a little confusing at first. Do you see how there is one file that is called index.php? There is a reason for that. That is my main affiliate product that I promote. Because I promote it more often than the others, I have assigned it the name index.php and here’s why. Web browsers in general will always look for a page called index.php first by default.
So, normally you would have to actually type out the whole url structure in order to use s specific url. So in order for me to promote my Click Funnels affiliate link I would have to use the whole url like this: https://www.learnhowtomakemoneyfromhome.net/recommended/clickfunnels.php but for my main offer I do not need to type out the whole url, I can just type it out like this: https://www.learnhowtomakemoneyfromhome.net/recommended because I have it named index.php and I did not indicate a specific name ending at the end of my url name such as clickfunnels.php so the browser just automatically looks for the index.php first. I hope that clears that up for you.
Now, I told you earlier that I would show you the php redirect code so that you could use it in your business. Here is a download link to a file with just that specific code on it. All you will have to do in order to make it work is plug in your personal affiliate link in between the two “” and then upload it using your ftp where ever you want it. Lets take a look at how this works.
Step 1. First of all you will need the code. Copy and paste this code into the text editor of your choice.
<?php header("Location: "); ?>
Once you have copied the above code into a new text file you need to open it up in a text editor. I personally use Notepad++ because it helps with visuals if you are going to be coding. However, you can use the regular notepad for this and for this tutorial I will show you how using just the regular notepad that is supplied with all versions of Microsoft. When you open it up it will look like this:
Once you see this then you want to copy your affiliate link and paste it in between Location: and the ” so it will look like this:
Once you have done exactly that you can now save this file to your desktop by hitting File ==> Save As ==> then you name the file index.php and this is a critical step. It must be a php file or else this will not work when you upload it to your server.
Once you have completed that step your file should no longer look like a text file. That is normal and what you want. Then next step is then to upload it to your website via FTP just like we did earlier. So you just open your FTP, create a directory and put the file in it. So then your new affiliate redirect should look like this:
https://www.yourwebsite/yourdirectoryname/index.php but remember when you use this link you won’t need to type out the whole link because it is names index.php and the browser will automatically know. Okay, that is the old way of doing things. Long and drawn out compared to the newer methods available today.
Affiliate ID Cloaking – Why?
It’s simple really. Way back in 1999 or so there was a thing called affiliate id hijacking. This is a lot harder to do now but then there were nefarious people who would just put their link in place of yours and they would reap the benefits of all your hard work. (Putting your links all over the internet to hopefully get people to click on them)
Today however, we do it for a few different reasons. Remember at the beginning of this page I said that marketers are getting lazy and they are using things like bit.ly? It all comes down to professionalism and tracking. I would rather take a few extra seconds to make my link look very professional than to try to get someone to click on a link that looks like it might have a virus attached to it.
Here again we come to a fork in the road. There is an old way of doing things and a new way. The new way to track your links is by using a tool called Click Magick. This tool is fairly pricey and when you are first starting out tracking is probably not on your mind. The thing is it should be because you want to make sure you get yourself into the habit of tracking everything you do. I am going to show you the old way of doing it because this way is free.
Later on down the road when you have built some capital for yourself I welcome you to switch over and use Click Magic because you can do a lot of cool things with it and there is a reason it is number one in the affiliate marketing industry for tracking software. There are others out there to and I have put links to all of this stuff on the Tools of the Trade page within this course.
Lets say that I am promoting an affiliate offer and I have a couple different sources of traffic that I am going to use to try and send as much traffic as possible to the offer. (As a marketer should be doing of course.) We are only given one link from the vendor with which to sell their product. So using the example from the page Start Here of this tutorial we had a link that looks like this:
https://www.xmytzl.hop.clickbank.net = Our example affiliate link to our Fake Product.
Now if I use that same URL or Website Link on all of my different sources of traffic a couple of questions pop into my head immediately and should also be popping into yours.
#1. How am I supposed to know which traffic came from which source? How can I make it so that I know which traffic source sent which traffic? You create a different link for each source of traffic.
Basically what happens is that I create a link that would look like this first: https://learnhowtomakemoneyfromhome.net/listbuilding101 and inside of the directory listbuilding101 I can create multiple php redirect files and inside of each file I would put the same affiliate link BUT I give each file a different name. For example is I was going to be promoting using Google ads I would create a php redirect file names google.php. That link would look like this:
If I wanted to promote using YouTube ads I would then create another php redirect file with the name youtube and it would look like this:
That gives us a professional looking link that we can put out there and at the same time we are able to tell which traffic came from where.
I have said this many times before but I am going to say it here again because I want to make sure we are on the same page. The examples above are linking directly to the affiliate offer. We DO NOT DO THIS. The way that this will actually work will look like this. I create an ad with Google. At the as creation time you put your landing page link in the ad. So when my ad displays its going to look something like this: Full disclosure this is not my ad and I am therefore blurring out the url for legal purposed.
So now lets say someone clicks on my ad, Google then sends them to the link that I specified at the time I created my ad which in this case is my landing page as it should be. It looks like this:
Now when the traffic / client / person puts their email in and hits join with email, the traffic / client / person is added to my list. Simultaneously, in the back end of my auto responder I have set up my opt in form so that when it accepts the name and email of a client it then forwards them to my affiliate offer using my affiliate link.
The only down side to doing this is that in order to efficiently track your traffic you would have to create a separate landing page to go along with each one of those different php redirects. So Google gets it’s own landing page, YouTube gets its on and on and on..
This is why it is better in today’s day and age to go with a sophisticated tracking software like Click Magick because it can track everything for you without all the added hassle.
#2. Why does that even matter? It matters because maybe one of the sources of traffic I am using is a paid source of traffic. Maybe several of them are. The point is I would want to be able to know how many visitors came from each particular traffic source because I am trying to find out how valuable each traffic source is.
How many particular visitors paid for the product from each source of traffic. Maybe one of the sources of traffic I am paying for isn’t really worth the money I am paying for it and it would be smarter to just cut my losses and move on to a different source of traffic altogether. I would never know if I was not tracking everything. That is why you will ALWAYS hear “TRACK EVERYTHING!” Repeatedly if you study affiliate marketing seriously.
Hopefully this explains in enough detail that you can understand how and why we track our traffic and also why we cloak our id’s.