One of the questions we get asked regularly has to do with cloaking. There is a long-standing dispute regarding the topic of cloaking, and some affiliate networks actively prohibit the tactic. Here’s a look at exactly what cloaking involves. Whether or not you allow it will be up to your particular network TOS.
Cloaking is, as the name implies, a method of hiding something from somewhere. That roughly translates to showing one set of visitors version A of your webpage and showing a different set of visitors version B.
Cloaking also works for hiding affiliate links and showing something else in their place.
For example, if an affiliate link looks like: www.myofferpage/af_id=2367hdj73h99, using a cloaker could shorten that to something like: www.mypage.com/winners
There are some legitimate reasons to use cloaking and some slightly shadier ones as well. Again, we’re not here to judge the use of cloaking. This is about the tactic in general.
Why use a cloaker?
In general, you’ll find affiliates that use cloaking will be doing so for one of two reasons:
To cloak their landing page from their traffic sources
Some traffic sources prohibit certain types of offers. For example, Facebook won’t allow any adult offers or anything related to Bitcoin trading for example. All traffic networks will review your landing pages and will review these through a particular referrer. If you know the referrer, you can show a reviewer a “safe” version of your landing page.
This is a black-hat technique as it contravines pretty much every one of the traffic networks terms of service. Get caught out by the network and you’ll be in for an instant ban and probably banned from setting up new accounts on that particular network.
To cloak landing pages from competitors
This is an industry where everyone spys on everyone else. It takes time and considerable effort to design and deploy a high-converting landing page and as soon as you start running traffic to the page, someone is ripping the page. Spy tools cost less than $100 a month and anyone with a spy tool can copy landing pages.
Cloaking is a way around this. Affiliates will cloak their landing pages, blocking competitor IPs from viewing the actual page. This is a legitiimate practise and serves a way to protect landing pages, effort and time invested.
What to Cloak?
Depending on the setup of the cloaker you use, visitors can be be filtered based on:
- Location – cloak based on the geo-location of the traffic
- Referral URL – cloak based on reviewer referral URLs, for example dev.facebook.com
- IP – many cloakers come with a list of reviewer IPs pre-installed
Having issues with your affiliates and cloaking? Drop us a line and we’ll work with you to address the issue.