The Dark Side Of Affiliate Marketing - Cyber Thieves

Now we're going to talk about the dark side of Affiliate marketing:

Link Theft

It's not ethical, but it happens.

You should know that there are people out there who, for whatever reason, absolutely hate the idea of someone earning a commission off their purchase. These are the cranky, paranoid customers of the online world. There are also fellow Affiliate marketers who would deny you your hard-earned commission as well.

The term "link theft" isn't entirely accurate, though it's what you'll see used to refer to this phenomenon. The accurate term, in a nuts and bolts sense, is "link altering".

Quite simply, the link thief does one of two things:

1. Erases your Affiliate link from his browser window, deletes any cookies set by the link, and then proceeds to the Merchant's site via the main www url.

2. Erases your Affiliate I.D. and replaces it with his. He/she then purchases through his own link and takes his commission as a rebate.

The solution to link theft is "link cloaking".

Essentially, you turn an obvious Affiliate link such as:

into an encrypted link or you mask it behind a short domain name (Note: ClickBank provide encrypted links).

There are pros and cons with each method

Simple Redirect

This is a simple piece of html code which you can use to mask your Affiliate links.

This is particularly useful when you have one of those long, ugly urls that seem to go on forever like this:


turning it into a short, manageable url like this :

Here’s the code for this redirect :

<title>Your Title Here</title>
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=">

Replace with your affiliate link.

Save the page as whatever you want to call it (Using one of you relevant keywords would be ideal), then change the Affiliate link on your sales page to the url you’ve just created. For example if you are promoting a brand of dog food, you could save your redirect as dogfood.htm and change the Affiliate link on your sales page to read:

(Note: You have to upload both your sales page and the redirect to your domain on your hosting company’s server)

The only problem is that your link can, in some cases, still end up exposed once the user reaches the Merchant’s page.

Link Cloaking

Link cloaking software encapsulates your URL into an indecipherable scramble of characters. This prevents anyone from seeing the real Affiliate link at the bottom of their browser window when they mouse over it.

The only problem is that your link can still end up exposed once the user clicks on to the main site. The link often "unscrambles" and appears naked yet again in the address bar.

Domain Masking

Domain masking, when done properly, allows you to use your own short url which redirects to the Merchant site while keeping your url in the address bar. You can use domain masking with any address you choose. For example, you could register one domain name to devote to your Affiliate redirects.

You can use subdomains ( and also directories (

The downside to domain masking: the technique involves what's called an "invisible frame". The frame pulls in the Affiliate site within the main window. Imagine your site has a set of navigation links down the left-hand side, and clicking those links causes the main window to pull up content, while leaving the left column unchanged. This is the basis of the technique – it's just set up on one link and hidden from the surfer's view.

Unfortunately, sites like Clickbank frown upon this practice. There's a good chance that your redirect link will break frames and wind up exposing your Affiliate URL anyway. Nothing wrong with that other than the fact that you went through a lot of work for nothing!

A greater concern: frames have a bad habit of confusing Affiliate tracking applications. Your referral ID might not be recorded and you wind up losing the sales commission.

Obviously, you are free to test out any of these "solutions". Just keep in mind that they aren't fool proof. Ultimately, the link theft problem occurs much more frequently in the Internet Marketing niche than it does anywhere else due to the large number of fellow profit-motivated customers within the niche. Link theft occurs infrequently, if at all, in other niches. Those customers are less likely to know (or care) what Affiliate marketing is – and less likely to take notice of Affiliate URLs in general.

(I would advise you stay out of the Internet Marketing niche and find one that is less crowded especially if you are new to Internet Marketing).

In the next tutorial we will be looking further into the dark side of affiliate maketing - Merchant Fraud.

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To learn how to become a successful Affiliate Marketing I highly recommend you get yourself a copy of this book by Super Affiliate Rosalind Gardner.

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