• http://www.traphic.co.uk/ Traphic

    With regards to link cloaking, this is a problem for affiliates too, it is often used as a workaround as Google will penalise a site that has mainly outbound affiliate links, such as coupons sites or comparion sites. Now, without link cloaking these sites struggle to stay in the SERPS due to the Google policy against affilate links. I feel affiliate sites need more attention from Google so we can build sites which people like. Alot of us in SEO can often do a better job of optimising than some corporations so should be rewarded for their efforts. True there are always rotten apples, but the majority are trying to build sites with value and not trick the system.

  • http://www.sugarrae.com Rae Hoffman

    Do you actually DO affiliate marketing or do you just “advise” on it? Because to call link cloaking “unsavory” is ignorant at best. Link cloaking (on an organic website) allows for better search engine optimization efforts, allows affiliates to track the success (or lack thereof) of specific link placements, ad copy and marketing campaigns, allows the affiliate to ensure the merchant is reporting all clicks to the merchant site (works a bit better than simply trusting their counts)… oh, and let’s not forget – is one of the two suggested methods by Google to let them know not to “count” a link (running it through a redirect or using nofollow) for those merchants who utilize affiliate programs as nothing more than a glorified link development campaign. And since “nofollow” depends on the engines to treat it correctly while a redirect is under my full control, I’m going to go with the redirect every time. The rest of your article brings up good points, but the link cloaking section is FUD.

  • Michael Gray

    Bidding on competing brands is a perfectly legitimate tactic. Don’t believe me check out the Dr. Seuss Book, Star Bellied Sneetches. I’d much rather be Sylvester McMonkey McBean than a Sneetch any day of the week.

    Yes I’m 110% serious.

  • http://www.thesearchmonitor.com Lori Weiman

    Yes Rae and Traphic – Link Cloaking has legitimate uses. This article is specifically an advisory for merchants who are having issues with affiliates purposefully hiding in order to violate the program on paid search. It is not directed toward SEO efforts or toward affiliates with legit and smart tactics like the ones you describe. Thanks for your comments!

  • Moxley

    Hi Lori,

    I have mixed views on this post – on the one hand I think you’ve done an excellent job at detailing some of the more advanced tactics ( I thought myself quite thorough in this area and had no idea about the css visitor hack), I really don’t like way you almost dive in to a post asserting affiliates aren’t to be trusted and are ‘unsavory’. You then proceed to describe some (potentially) genuine tactics as underhand.

    I would hope that a new affilaite manager, perhaps taking over from an experienced AM, wasn’t to read this post and subsequently start trashing affilaite relationships.

    It’s better to build good honest relationships with affilaites and have an open transparent conversion with your affiliates about what they do, than try and catch them out. The software, and methods you’ve mentioned are certainly a good backup for big programs, but it doesn’t replace real realtionship building.