Cloaking is one of the “dark arts” in affiliate marketing. It’s quite powerful if a little dangerous.
Tonight I was talking to my friend Nick tonight who is successful on Facebook and hadn’t heard of it, and realized others probably aren’t that familiar and wanted to know.
Nick wondered if Cloaking was a superpower :). For affiliates it actually is!, and can be very lucrative if used strategically and you’re willing to brave the risks associated with it.
I wonder what she is covering up?
What is Cloaking?
Cloaking is covering yourself to play both sides: angel or devil depending on who’s watching. If you drive a car you know the drill. If a cop is following right behind you drive squeaky clean obeying all rules, if no one is paying attention, you probably talk on the phone while driving, roll through stop signs, or speeding to get where you want to go faster, at least that’s how it works in California.
Just like most driving regulation, most traffic sources (e.g. Facebook, Google PPC/SEO) have rules of the road, to create what they believe is the highest quality end user experience. Rules like no lying, no adult/porn related, no promoting offers that lie, cheat or steal. Just like police, these communities have various moderator teams to enforce these rules and police content and users.
Well sometimes these rules and moderators get in the way of what people actually want. Sex/dating, drugs, biz ops, and alcohol , weight loss, are big money makers but not something you want in the community mall, nevertheless people selling them make good money and there is demand for them, when they can actually connect.
This creates a constant tension between marketers and moderators, and escalation of arms of sorts of the war of each trying to get what they want. Cloaking is a weapon used primarily by marketers to sidestep the rules to get a competitive advantage.
Like undercover agents vs street cops. Cloaking can be used by moderators to infiltrate, but this is less common.
Cloaking means a script that sits between that shows moderator/reviewers what they page content want to see to get approved or ranked for a particular phrase, and end users a different page that is likely to convert to a sale. It actieves this magic this typically by looking at where the person came from. eg. if the user comes from an address known to be from inside facebooks review staff, it uses the safe url. If it comes from a random page inside facebook it’s likely to be a user so show them the sales page.
When setting up an advertisement you point the ad to the tracking/cloaking script eg.
that track.php scirpt internally has multiple urls, one for the safe page the other for the page you are interested in promoting, and some wizardry to sniff who is reviewer from consumer.
A key concern is if the the admin can find the hidden page. Part of the solution is the cloaking is setup to store the ID or IP of the user , every time anybody goes through your tracking/cloaking script they always sure they always see the same page.
Another way is just not cloaking at all in the first setup of a campaign. Then switching on cloaking once approved. Safer as once approved you don’t have as many audits if your still complying, but still a period at the front you’re not making money.
Now it is possible that when they do come back or the reviewers change their footprint and the cloaking script is not kept up to date, that you could get caught. Penalties might be just having your ads stopped (which could mean loss of revenue), or having your account banned. It depends on the network. Some don’t care, some are restrictive some are militant.
Cloaking for SEO
A variation on this deals with making Pages rank well in Google. When Google bots drive by to inspect your page, The cloaking script shows them a wholesome complete page with all the right keywords the Google bots so love to see. When it sees a normal user it will show them something else, like the NewYork times might require user to subscribe to see the whole article, or even a completely different page optimized on making sales.
A variation on cloaking is the ability to also redirect to multiple offer pages, like rotating competing product 1, product2, product 3 for the most clicks, that is very useful for Affiliate marketers.
This sidesteps the problem setting up a campaign you are limited to the original url you submit the ad to, and it’s against the rules to switch that later, even though they don’t always check.
Say you decide to enter the guitar chord training market, you know of 3 guitar training courses on clickbank, they each have very different feel. You want to know which one is best, but don’t know initiallly.
You set up a campaign on Facebook for people who like guitars, plus a a headline of “Learn Guitar”, with a pic of a guitar and a link that goes over to your site learnchords.com/getlink.php?id=123 instead of the real product pages, or 3 different ads.
getlink.php is a rotation and cloak script. that contains urls for the 3 offers we are promoting that get equal amounts of traffic.
- first user gets sent to clickbank product 1,
- second user gets sent to clickbank product2
- 3rd gets sent to clickbank product3
say you run it for 600 clicks, so that each offer gets about 200 clicks. So we have some certainty on what is actually working. Given many good campains will only get 2 to 5 clicks out of 100 impressions, You need at least 100 clicks in most cases to know if it’s good or not. 200 clicks is better.
At the end you see that breakdown
- product1 got 40%
- product2 got 55%
- product 3 got 5%,
So now you know which to pursue. Typically stopping product 3 which is getting much lower clickthrough.
If you were super advanced, you’d try to create a hybrid of all the most successful elements with a tool like visualwebsiteoptimizer
e.g. take all the sales bullets, pictures from each rotate them too, see what produces the most sales
create a frankenstein get et a page that outperforms both
The Product Warning: Auto Traffic Avalanche == Bait and Switch
Part of what spawned this was an Clickbank product that was being promoted in my email box by Frank Kern and others, I ran across this morning that is centered around cloaking.
It’s called “Auto Traffic Avalanche” Frank usually promotes good stuff so that got me to click over.
The marketing page was a good study, it had many of the hot buttons for the get rich quick niche:
- use of video and text, down to earth.
- hometown boy makes good,rags to riches story line
- newbie with no prior experience and hates computers makes millions
- discovers exploitable glitch makes millions with a 13 clicks in just a few hours.
- this is only available to next ~23 people (if you see this on clickbank you should know this is most often a lie)
- do it for you script makes this all easy and does the work for you
- risk reversal double your money back if it doesn’t work
- big screen shots of proof (I guess they are in the UK so don’t have to be compliant to FTC)
The front door price was an impulse buy price for curiosity alone $39 and supposedly amazingly included this magic do it for you software.
Given the front door price was low, and Frank was promoting it, I expected to see some major upsells. I was right and got one of the longest upsell grids I’ve experienced on clickbank. Guessing 3 deep x2 wide. Claiming one time offers (not true actually) and really vague on what exactly some of them did.
From it claiming to have “copy and paste” profits with an enhanced program with 10x the power I got the second upsell, despite it being very vague as to what it was, partly trusting clickbank knowing I could return it.
From all the hype, I was like most pretty excited to see what was in the inside. Then I felt like I had hit a different world the friendly face man was gone and there was a geeky looking guy with a occasionally hard to understand british accent and slightly fuzzy screencapture movies.
The course was about 2hr long and after getting through it I felt like a bait and switch. I was so pissed I asked for a refund immediately.
It wasn’t that course was crap. But it had almost NO resemblance to the pitch. There is nothing Auto about it, it’s straight up affiliate marketing cloaked as a auto traffic machine when it’s not.
The secret glitch is actually a basic script for cloaking, not a do it for you as was implied. I don’t even know how good it is as I didn’t test it, and of the cloaking it doesn’t directly do rotation. If you are okay with the risks, it might be better than nothing.
The traffic education part was ok, core education: setting up ads, demographics ( this did have a gem ), tweaking them a few tips to scale them.
For traffic sources it used Facebook and PlentyOfFish.
- Facebook should need no introduction, it’s a highly targeteable traffic source and the largest social network with more people than many countries using it, often hours a day. However it’s finicky.
- PlentyOfFish claims to be the worlds largest dating website, very high traffic according to Alexa with very deep demographic targeting and relatively not much affiliate competition on it relative to other sources.
With right offers, combined they do have enough potential traffic to compete with saturated or complicated Google PPC/SEO.
If you are curious about Facebook, or PlentyOfFish and/or need a Facebook cloaking script, it’s ok value for $39 guide I’d just ignore the hype, and skip the upsells. Here is my link if you are so inclined. if you are not interested in Facebook or PlentyOfFish primer please skip it completely on principal alone.
Do you use cloaking? also If you know of a good cloaking script for other non-facebook purposes, sound out!