Cloaking To Protect Your Commissions
It is generally a SEO technique to shorten and disguise long affiliate links, thus giving a certain protection against theft in most cases. Of course there are those who are very savvy about internet marketing and can still manage to steal affiliate commissions. The thing is, most people are honest and do not even think of doing such thing.
Though it is not a cast iron certainty in all cases that you get your commissions, it is nevertheless a good method to prevent pay loss, since many people won't go that far once they see that the affiliate link is not so obvious.
Those that prevent you from getting your pay from commissions, might not click the link and instead type in the parent domain in order that the owner of the site gets the total of the sale. They may wrongly believe that buying from your affiliate link, will cost them more money for the sale. And others actually do it for different reasons, to pocket the percentage of the sale themselves…
So the thing to do is to set up your own system for link cloaking your affiliate links. There are sites that you can go to that provide this service with special script software to instantly change your affiliate links to something much neater and practicable.
Or set up a directory inside your domain like this: johncrow.com to recommend a product or service in a subdirectory like this: johncrow.com/recommends/. Thus "recommends" being the subdirectory.
If you promote many products, you will want to have subdirectories for each product, to guide your visitors directly to the affiliate link of the product, without displaying the affiliate link in question. This is done by a redirect file which you can get easily online and which you place in your directory for the product or service.
Cloaking sometimes have other uses as well, mainly regarding SEO, to hide pages or to show different versions of your web page to spiders and this is not considered good practice by the search engines, because sometimes it violates their terms and conditions.
Using scripts for link cloaking is very easy to do and install. It's better than doing it yourself. If you use a simple redirect, you'll have a hard time knowing what traffic you are getting as opposed to scripts which let you know exactly the traffic you've sent to your website.
And don't forget that with link cloaking scripts, you can track your links, thus knowing the amount of traffic going through each link. There are two things you don't want to do and they are: don't allow your affiliate stats to tell you how much traffic you've sent to your sites (often inaccurate data) and through your web server's stats which are not very easy to use and hard to understand most often.
So, you now know that it makes good practice to cloak your affiliate links, because not only you can protect your affiliate commissions online but also through the link cloaking scripts, you can track accurately the traffic you get to your sites and affiliate links.