Protecting Yourself From Affiliate Link Thieves

So, you have worked really hard to build a fabulous affiliate site. You took the time to add your keywords and relevant information about the products. Your pages load quickly, and your site is even listed in the search engines for specified terms. You look at your stats, and you see a regular flow of traffic coming into your site. You get really excited! You log in to your affiliate program manager, and.... WHAMO! You have very few commissions from sales, and your click-throughs are extremely low. Suddenly, you are asking yourself, "what the heck happened here??" The answer... You might possibly be the victim of affiliate link hijacking!

In this revolving world of the Internet, we are constantly being bombarded by spammers, spyware, viruses, and hackers. Now, we have to worry about link hijackers stealing commissions that are rightfully ours. So, what is link hijacking and how do you prevent it?

In the simplest terms, link hijacking occurs when someone replaces their affiliate ID with yours. The result? They get the commission instead of you. You did all that work, but someone else is getting paid? Yes! You may be wondering how this happens.

Let me explain. I first heard about this phenomenon while visiting various discussion boards on affiliate marketing. Many affiliates had experienced a decline in sales while their site's traffic stats remained high. Common discussions found in affiliate forums include various software programs which "steal" information. Many of these programs download themselves onto a person's computer, either knowingly or unknowingly. These programs can override your affiliate links each time the customer visits your site, therefore giving credit to someone else.

Many times, people download packaged programs that contain these types of software. The innocent surfer may not even realize they have a program running in the background. Anyone who takes part in the Internet community, whether it be a webmaster or a surfer, should stay informed about these programs by visiting parasiteware.com on a regular basis.

Link hijacking comes in various forms... not just from downloads. Let's say your affiliate link looks like this: www.url.com/?123456 , where 123456 is your affiliate ID. A link hijacker is interested in the product and wants to purchase it. He also wants the affiliate commission from the product. He takes your ID 123456 and replaces it with his ID 999999 to look like this: www.url.com/?999999 . The result? He gets the commission from the product purchase. He modified the link to benefit himself. You lose.

Here is another example of link hijacking: A customer comes to your website and sees a link to the product that he wants to buy. When he moves the mouse over your link information, he sees your affiliate url in the status bar of his computer. Instead of clicking your affiliate link, he decides to manually type it into his address bar, leaving off the affiliate referral code: www.url.com. This results in no affiliate tracking information and no commissions for you. You lose again!

So how much money could you be losing? I have read that an estimated 10-30% of commissions are lost due to affiliate link hijacking. (In a recent article from "revenue" magazine, the estimate was as high as 40-50%). Can you imagine the kind of potential revenue that you might be losing right now?

Take Action by Protecting Yourself From Revenue Loss

In the constant search for new scripts and software to improve my websites, I have run into several affiliate cloaking devices. Most of them cost around $50 or more. However, I did run into one cloaking script that is free. It is called Affiliate Link Cloaker (ALC). The site owner simply asks that you subscribe to their newsletter.

By golly, I love free stuff, don't you! If you are interested in learning about this script and how it works, you can visit their site at webmasterinabox.net/affiliate_link_cloaker.html . They have other scripts that you might find useful as well. Now, get out there and protect those links!

Stephani Richardson is a work at home mother of 4 who has been actively involved with affiliate marketing and home business opportunities since December 1999. She owns and operates several business related websites including 1 Work At Home Dot Com.

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