Sorry about the redirect earlier LOL… the syntax script was not picking up the meta refresh and it was redirecting… DOH.
I see a lot of posts about Link Cloaking, masking and URL redirection as it relates to affiliate marketing and I think there is a lot of confusion out there. I wanted to make a post briefly defining what each is and how they are used. This is by no means a SEO, PPC or affiliate marketing guide.
Link Cloaking is basically when you show search engine bots one thing and humans another. Its generally regarded as Black Hat SEO to link cloak. The reason people link cloak is because they believe the search engines have fingerprinted affiliate links and if the bots see them it will hurt there organic SEO rankings and if they are doing Pay Per Click marketing that it will hurt there quality score and thus raising there prices per click.
The simplest way to link cloak is by UA (user agent). Search engine bots are *supposed* to identify themselves to your website and you can programatically target them based on this UA string. Advanced link cloakers will target by IP Address. There are lists you can buy off the internet of search engine IP blocks.
<a href="http://www.eharmony.com/?affiliate=shoemoney" onmouseover=" window.status='http://www.eharmony.com'; return true" onmouseout="window.status=''; return true">eHarmony</a>
URL Redirection is redirecting a url using a web service or a jumpscript. A lot of times in forums I see affiliates talking about URL Redirection calling it cloaking or actually thinking it serves the same purpose as cloaking. Also people like to use it as a form of link masking… although personally I am more leary of links going through easily recognizable URL shortening services like tinyurl. Jump scripts are a little more technical way to do URL Redirection. For bloggers there are WordPress Plugins like simple link manager ($29.95) that will handle this for you. For those php savy there is simple ways to do this in php… for example you can create an array of urls and keywords for them then call them like http://www.shoemoney.com/link.php?go=azoogleads.
and in link.php we have:
< ?php $urls = array ( 'azoogleads' => 'http://c.azjmp.com/az/ch.php?f=1700&i=12&sub=affiliatecode', 'xy7' => 'http://rapidresponse.directtrack.com/index.html?super_affiliate_code=affilaitecode' ); header ('Location: ' . $urls[$_REQUEST['go']]); ?>
So now you can specify noindex for this link.php file in our robots.txt and *supposedly* search engines wont see it… Organically I believe they will still see the 301 redirect so if you are doing this for SEO reasons… kind of silly.
Another big reason people use URL Redirection is because they are worried about their affiliate companies stealing their PPC keywords. I will be honest this is a good reason BUT using the above mentioned methods will not shield your keywords if you are doing PPC campaigns and using these redirection scripts to the offers. Whoever is hosting the offer will see all of your keywords. The reason is because they are simple header location redirects and the browsers will carry over the referring URLs which contain all your keyword data (or whatever else refer string data there is).
A simple meta refresh page looks like this in a html file.
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0;url=http://www.affiliate.com/?affilate=shoemoney"/>
Just test and see what works best for you 😉