A common feature of link redirection systems is the ability to cloak a link. By using a redirect link, you are cloaking the link before people click it, because people see the redirect link, not the actual destination. For most cases, this is all you need for cloaking. The next level of cloaking a link is to cloak it after the link has been clicked and the person has arrived at the destination, so they still see the redirect link, not the final destination link. This is done by putting the destination link in a full page frame on a page that is embedded in the redirect link URL.
In most cases this is not necessary, and should not be done, as it creates other problems and is not reliable. So, before discussing how to do it in Tracker.ly, here are the pros and cons of cloaking a link in this manor:
PROS: Potential Reasons to Frame a Destination
1) Hide affiliate links in the address bar
When a visitor arrives at most affiliate programs, including ours, the affiliate's id is recorded and then the person is sent on to the home page and they don't ever see the affiliate link in the address bar. In this case, an uncloaked redirect link is fine. Some affiliate programs continue to show your affiliate link after they arrive, which may not be desirable. Cloaking the link can solve this, except it is often against the terms of services to frame the affiliate link - for good reasons discussed below.
2) Inject a header or footer
You can add an extra frame above or below the destination and insert any content. This allows you to increase engagement, by inserting a banner ad, such as an advertisement to return to your site, or whatever else you like.
3) Inject an affiliate link
When you cloak a link, you can optionally put an affiliate link in a second, hidden frame. This is commonly done when bypassing the official affiliate link, but still sending the visitor to something else on the site, like a report. For instance, you can create an awesome review page for a product and bypass a product's poor converting sales page by linking directly from your review page to the checkout page. You're still sending the customer to the product, doing pre-sales for them, and making extra effort, so I personally think you earned and deserve your commission. If you embed your affiliate link into the cloaked redirect link to the checkout page destination, you still get credited for your commission. Note, that you can achieve the same result with a pre-load page instead, leaving the destination link alone, which may be preferable.
4) Inject other tracking codes
Also, using a second, hidden frame, you can inject custom HTML or JS, which can be used to inject hidden tracking codes from other systems, such as a Google Analytics (if it's on a keyword redirect link on your site setup with Google Analytics), or a retargeting cookie for media buyers so you can advertise to people who click your links as they go to other sites. Again, you can achieve the same result with a pre-load page as well, leaving the destination link alone, which may be preferable.
CONS: Reasons NOT to Cloak:
While cloaking sounds awesome and is sold as a must have feature for all your redirect links by many other services, I recommend not using them unless you're sure it's improving your conversions. Here's why:
1) Possibly against Terms Of Services
Some affiliate programs state that it is against the terms of service to cloak their links, including ClickBank and Amazon. Many affiliates do it anyway, without consequence that I'm aware of. Use your own judgement and please share your stories in the comments.
2) Browser incompatibility with embedded links
Most web browsers and add-on popup blockers will block the cookie in framed link, so you won't get credited anyway and the visitor will get a warning message about it too.
3) Frame breakers
Some web sites have frame breakers, which remove the frame as soon as you arrive on the site. If you are cloaking an affiliate link, or embedding an affiliate link in a cloaked link, you may or may not get credited depending on when the site does this. Frame breakers are not common, but if you click on your cloaked link and see the destination URL instead of the redirect URL, they have a frame breaker on the destination site. To see if you will be credited for an embedded link when there is a frame breaker at your destination link, clear your cookies, click the cloaked link, and then see if there is a new affiliate cookie on for that domain in your cookies. Some sites also just appear blank.
4) Hides all subsequent links
Once you send someone to a cloaked link, all the browsing they do will be in the frame, on your site. This means that the address bar will continue to show your never-changing link no matter where they go from there. While this may sound good, this can be confusing to the user, especially if they want to bookmark some page further along, and may result in bad-will towards you.
5) Hides secure page indicators
Some people look for the little lock and “https”, which indicates they are on a secure page before ordering a product. Cloaking hides both of those. Your redirect link and its security status is shown, instead of the destination site you sent them to. This could reduce sales because many browsers will produce a scary warning that the site isn't entirely secure, or the visitor won't buy unless they see the are on a secure connection.
How to Cloak a Destination:
Cloaking is done on the redirect links for a destination. So, start by going to the management page of the redirect link you want to add cloaking to. If you want to add cloaking to all the tracking links for a destination, pick any random tracking link going to the destination, and follow these steps. Click the "Not Framed" button to get started:
On the first step, you enter in the title you want to appear in the address bar in the tab for the window in the browser. Because the framed page is on the redirect link, the title from the destination URL is replaced with this. We fill it in with the title from the destination as the default. Use it, or customize it, and click "Next".
On the next step, you can optionally add one header or one footer. It will list off all the headers and footers you've already created, so you can just select one and insert it. If you do, it will then ask you if you want it to be used as a header or footer. You can also create a new header/footer by clicking the "New Injection" button, and when you're finished, you'll return to this screen. If you don't want a header or footer in the framed link, just click "Next".
In this case, I already have one created, and I can see in the rightmost column that it isn't used in any redirect links yet. I've selected it, so it will appear on the destination:
This step only appears if you are adding a header/footer, so that you can select where it should appear:
Next, you can embed things, like an affiliate link or other tracking code. If you don't have the injection you want setup yet, you can click the "New Injection" button to add it, and then you'll return here. Just like header/footer injections, once it's setup, you can use it on any redirect link. I'm going to skip this step by clicking next, as I would tend to do this using a pre-loading injection instead of a framed injection:
On the final screen, you choose which redirect links for that destination to apply it to. You have four options:
1) No, don't change any other redirect links
Only the redirect links you're working on will get framed. All others will not have it, or can be assigned other ones.
2) Yes, apply cloaking to all redirect links pointed to this destination
All redirect links going to the same destination as the redirect links you're working on will get framed.
3) Yes, apply cloaking to all current and future redirect links pointed to this destination
If you add more redirect links to the same destination as this redirect link, they will also get framed automatically, with the same settings.
4) Yes, I'll pick some of the redirect links pointed to this destination
This will give you a list of all redirect links going to the destination, and you can pick which ones you would like to frame.
I'm going to just apply it to this redirect link and no others:
Once you have finished, you'll see in the management page for the redirect link that the status of the Framed setting button has changed to show that is on, and how it is being used:
Many affiliates report that cloaking links increases their commissions, while others complain that it reduces them. The only way to know is to test it for each link. I recommend you use straight redirects everywhere unless you are testing a header or footer. If you are bypassing a bad sales letter or injecting other tracking code, try using a pre-load page instead.