Cloaking is a controversial issue in the affiliate marketing world. And that is because this technique, although useful, can often be used for black hat purposes. But what exactly is cloaking?

A Cloaker, Defined


Cloaking, as its name implies, is the act of shielding something from someone’s eyes. In the digital world, it means you are showing one page to one type of visitor, and a different page to another. You can also cloak links so that the display link (for example offer.com/a=36n094&b=cwenlcwne&c=k1n3d8yh32) will be changed to a friendlier-looking link (for example game.com/a=winner).

In essence, you use a cloaking if you want to hide landing pages or information. There are several reasons for an affiliate to cloak his landing page. Some are for legitimate reasons, others are for shadier ones. Let’s discuss a couple of them.

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Why Do Affiliates Use A Cloaker?


To hide the landing page from the traffic source.
Some traffic sources don’t allow specific products or services to be promoted. For instance, an affiliate has an adult offer that he wants to promote, but the traffic provider does not accept that kind of offer. What the affiliate would do is to cloak the landing page so that when a reviewer from the traffic source checks the page, he will be redirected to a wholesome landing page that is acceptable to them. Once the campaign is approved and real users come in, they will be directed to the real offer.

The affiliate then effectively circumvents the regulations of the traffic provider. Is this a legitimate practice? Definitely not. Once the traffic provider catches the affiliate, he will be kicked out of the traffic source and may be banned from creating more accounts in the future. This is considered a black hat practice.

To hide the landing page from competitors.
Spying on your competitors is typical in this industry. Some affiliates work hard to create their own angles and landing pages, and a few days (or even hours) later, another affiliate rips off that landing page (using a spy tool), without changing so much as a word, and just places their own affiliate links.

Wary of such competitors, some affiliates would look for the IPs of their competitors so that when a user comes from such IPs, they are redirected to a different landing page. This way, the affiliate effectively deters competitors from ripping their page off.

Is this a reasonable practice? Yes, it is.

How to Know Which Users to Cloak


A cloaker can hide your real page from other visitors based on the following:
  • Location – use this if you want to hide your page based on the user’s location;
  • Referral URLs – use this if you know the referring URL of reviewers, such as dev.facebook.com;
  • IP list – some cloakers already have a collection of URLs of reviewers, but you can also add your own list of IPs of users you want to redirect to a different page.
Is a Cloaker for You?
It depends. Effective cloakers can be expensive. If not using a cloaker means you are losing money (especially in the scenario above wherein someone is stealing your landing page), then you should get one if your budget allows. But unless you earn more than you are spending on a cloaker, using one may not be worth it.
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