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.

Link Masking is making your link look like something its not. The most common reason people mask links is to hide from humans the fact that there link is going to an affiliate offer. The deception actually happens in the status bar of the browser. When you hover over a link it shows in the status bar where the link is going to. You can disguise this to say anything you want. For instance you could disguise a link that is going to a dating affiliate eHarmony offer to look like its going to This is generally done javascript. Here is some example code of masking a link:


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

and in link.php we have:

[php]< ?php $urls = array ( 'azoogleads' => ‘’,
‘xy7’ => ‘’
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).

The only way to block the affiliate company from seeing your keywords and properly protect your direct PPC offers is to use a javascript meta refresh. BUT be careful with this with PPC because the PPC bots will not process the javascript and possibly penalize you for having zero content on your meta refresh jump script page and your PPC prices will soar for not having any matching content.

A simple meta refresh page looks like this in a html file.


So which one is best… well really depends… I just hope I helped clear some confusion in terminology. I think all can be effective if applied correctly. Also many things can be killed with one thing… for instance you could write a javascript script that pretty much does cloaking/masking and redirection. Also websites are not supposed to be penalized or passing PageRank through javascript links.

Just test and see what works best for you ๐Ÿ˜‰

By Jeremy Schoemaker

Jeremy "ShoeMoney" Schoemaker is the founder & CEO of ShoeMoney Media Group, and to date has sold 6 companies and done over 10 million in affiliate revenue. In 2013 Jeremy released his #1 International Best selling Autobiography titled "Nothing's Changed But My Change" - The ShoeMoney Story. You can read more about Jeremy on his wikipedia page here.

102 thoughts on “Guide to Link Cloaking, Masking, and Url Redirection”
  1. BlackHat Planet » Blog Archive » Guide to Link Cloaking, Masking, and Url Redirection - internet marketing, seo, internet marketing online, seo services, internet marketing tool, dw230 seo, internet marketing strategy, company seo, internet ma says:

    […] vikassah wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIts 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 … […]

  2. Way to go on the redirect. I wonder how many people will figure out how to stop it. You are more evil than John Chow.

  3. maybe get the redirect to open in a new window (p.s. did your site go down this morning?)

  4. Oh dear, took me awhile to realise that mr Shoe made a mistake in his post, annoying to keep getting redirected if you dont stop it!

  5. Interesting article. So what exactly do affiliate sites, like, do before they send a person to the affiliate website? Do they have some redirection page, or an internal tracker to capture where the traffic is going? Sometimes I see multiple sites in the status bar changing rapidly. Are these multiple redirections?

  6. […] to Link Cloaking, Masking, and Url Redirection This entry was written by Jeremy Schoemaker. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.Content related […]

  7. haha, GREAT POST! Wonder how long it will take for him to close that [html] tag in wordpress. I hope is at least his site or he just made some guy really happy.

  8. Since I have a hard time understanding all that technical jargon, I use WP Affiliate Pro. It’s much easier and now that they’ve added the newer features like nofollow and internal link juice, it’s even better.

    Since I’ve been using this and making the links look like they redirect to another page on my site, my conversions have increased.

    P.S. WTH? Everytime I’m about half way through the comment, I get redirected to your page. Kinda aggravating!

  9. Affiliate links are ugly. Even if people do not know about affiliate marketing they might be scared by these URLs (you know, internet is scam, scam and…)

  10. Jeremy,

    Great Post I prefer the .htaccess ๐Ÿ™‚ well then again depends on the size of the affiliate site hehe

  11. When I see a link in the status bar that has ‘Recommended’ in the URL, I’m pretty sure it’s an affiliate link. So it’s not really hidden from the initiated folks that might be visiting your site…

    If you’re going to go to the trouble of masking/cloaking links, try not to hint that they might be affiliate links.


  12. Of course it will be more usefull to have an admin panel to set the redirection URLs.

  13. Funny how long some of this stuff has been around. One of my first affiliate sites in 2000 I was doing link masking because I thought it would help the conversions for a Directv site. Good times.

  14. I have been looking for an article like this for a long time. Thanks for sharing!!!


  15. Very well written tips, this would honestly give alot of readers a clear understanding of the terms and when they are applied.

  16. […] This is a bit on the technical side, but if you deal with these issues yourself you have to know these things: Shoemoney just wrote a great post on Link Cloaking, Masking and Redirection. […]

  17. Nice post Shoe. Do you ever use a GET keyword method in your link.php file when you’ve assigned a unique URL query parameter to each keyword? I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this without messing up the redirect. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. By Jove, I think I got it. Double quotes are fine inside a single-quoted string. So something like sid=echo $_GET["keyword"] ;? would work inside the single-quote array where your URL is. Err, maybe…

  19. What a great post. When search engines and affiliates find out that people are doing this, do they punish?

  20. Would it be bad to use .htaccess to redirect something like “” to the affiliate link?

  21. […] Guide to link cloaking, masking and url redirection Jeremy defines the differences between link cloaking, masking and url redirection and provides some handy php and javascript code to illustrate how these can be implemented. (tags: seo affiliate marketing php javascript) […]

  22. Glad to read it was a local booboo and not a hack or the like.

    I don’t read too many blogs directly (preferring agg Ypipes filters instead) and was surprised to find your blog unavailable.

    I know you reboot regularly, but after about ten mins I started thinking.. oh no – not again ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. This is a decent beginners guide, but there are much better methods than the ones listed here as I’m sure shoe is aware. For one never pass your keywords through the affiliate network. Pass an ID instead so only you know the keyword. – otherwise who knows how many eyeballs get to see your data.

  24. Wow. This was a kickass article. Thanks for just laying it out.

    I plan on using the first piece of code a lot.

  25. Seofinance, seo web finance, search enigne optmization services blog » SearchCap: The Day In Search, February 12, 2008 says:

    […] Guide to Link Cloaking, Masking, and Url Redirection, ShoeMoney […]

  26. This is very informative and I did not know what link cloaking was. This was helpful, thanks for posting it!

  27. I like URL redirection through one file because that will give you one place to make changes if something happens to an offer, instead of changing it on all of your pages. For example, an affiliate of mine was having technical issues so I swapped out all the links for six hours and didn’t lose any conversions (saved me quite a bit of money). Plus it’s just easier maintenance.

  28. from a automated perspective I have not found this the case… although I believe when your site is reviewed by a human if it has too many affiliate links it can be flagged and highly penalized

  29. “The only way to block the affiliate company from seeing your keywords and properly protect your direct PPC offers is to use a javascript meta refresh. BUT be careful with this with PPC because the PPC bots will not process the javascript and possibly penalize you for having zero content on your meta refresh jump script page and your PPC prices will soar for not having any matching content.”

    if someone can help, that means if you were just redirecting an offer from adwords directly to the affiliate page.

    so would this work?

    1. create a landing page.
    2. links point to a page with the meta-refresh code
    3. that page then points to a cloaked affiliate link page

    that way then your keywords are protected?

  30. […] While you wait for the first post, here is a great post about linking from good ol’ shoemoney. […]

  31. Hey jeremy,

    Jim is right that is the reason all affiliate marketers should use some form of url redirection its worth adding that your affiliate links are also not always on your own website so should something change as things do all you have to do is amend it.

    Also you may recommend products offline it is alot easier remembering your own url and the redirect than trying to remember a long affiliate url.

    Great post

    Pete Moore

  32. It sounds like it’s sleeting, but every time I turn on the outside light & look, nothings happening.

  33. It’s great to use, but it’s rediculous you have to because Google hates affiliate links. Do no evil, yea right.

  34. what I do is just pass a general id, not the specific keyword. tracking is not as great, but doesn’t reveal the keyword.

  35. When redirecting, it’s also helpful to mod_rewrite the URL so that it appears static, as that generally creates more trust for the person clicking the link. Instead of redirect.php?go=affiliate, you can have

  36. […] Nice Guide to Cloaking, Masking and Redirection […]

  37. […] between cloaking, masking and redirection. Instead of writing it myself, I provide you with a link. Shoes Guide to Link Cloaking, Masking, and Url Redirection » Post Purchase:  Inline […]

  38. […] Shoemoney recently wrote a post about cloaking, masking and redirecting your affiliate links so you get more clicks on them from other bloggers.ร‚ย  He runs through what the difference between each of them is for those of us that are still noobs to this. […]

  39. Jeremy,

    Great post! I agree, using your technique to redirect does work well. I have about 30 or so sites that point to individual products in eBay. Each url is indexed and I have found that my numbers have gone up since going from a generic eBay “rover” link, to a redirected link from my site.

    Your blog is a definate must read and I have already subscribed. Thanks for the info!

  40. […] with Your Website. Convert Your Clicks. A Twitter / StumbleUpon Combo to Benefit the Blogosphere. Guide to Link Cloaking, Masking, and Url Redirection. Duplicate Content – It May Not be so Bad. Internet Home Based Business Advice. The SEO Sins No […]

  41. […] offers up a great guide to link cloaking, masking, and URL redirection. He does a good job of defining and explaining what each one is. Thanks for the 101, […]

  42. Thanks ShoeMoney for the great article, I was wondering how this was done. I see you do not do this on your ads. Is this a preference or do you think it is not smart?

    I do see this method on blogs like John Chows.

    BTW, I found this because some guy is stealing all the posts and reposting them on DP. I guess he was caught because his blog is offline.

    Keep up the great information!

  43. I was faced one of my site by organic ranking fall down and not able to retrieve them again. But Now I think after getting guide by this article may be resolve the problem.

  44. […] Du kan lรƒยคsa mer om olika redirectstekniker hos […]

  45. […] Nice Guide to Cloaking, Masking and Redirection […]

  46. Thank you for the useful information, I will pass this article on to my affiliates who are unclear about masking url redirection.

  47. […] the list of affiliate links as it grows. People call it link cloaking, masking or redirection (see Shoemoney’s post for semantics) but to make it simple, I’ll refer to it as affiliate link […]

  48. […] URL cloaking services, like tiny url (although you outsource part of your system to an external party, which is not always great) […]

  49. actually what you refer to as lionk cloaking is “page cloaking.” So the bots see one page which could be lots of text and the human sees a different page that perhaps has lots of graphics on it and looks nicer.


  50. Thanks for the explanation.

    I think was I was confused by the difference between cloaking and masking.


  51. Thanks a lot for sharing this.
    But it does not work for me. Am using the Javascript cloaking but i can still see my affiliate link on the status bar.Any reason why this is happening please?

  52. I couldnt get the link to work for me.Can anyone put me through please. The cloaking does not work for me.

  53. Jay,
    changing the status bar with javascript is not reliable, as it does not work with every browser.

  54. That’s how the cookie crumbles. Sunday. The rainfall stays mainly on the plain in Spain. I think. Friday. The sunshine stops mainly on the mountain in France. We think.

  55. I only managed to be able to read this page by clicking the stop loading button in the browser.
    Not sure why you do this Shoey when people are trying to read about cloaking and get redirected in the process?


  56. i really still thinking what is the best method. i like to use wp plugin for mask my affiliate link. and for free blog like i like to use URL Shortener

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