When getting started in affiliate marketing, it is wise to track every single link you are publishing. The truth is that most people leave this step out, and then start guessing where their visitors are coming from, or why an offer is not converting. New marketers are not likely to make a lot from their first campaigns and need data to analyze, learn, tweak and test all promotions. This requires tracking traffic sources, conversions and the different landing pages.
The difference between link tracking and link cloaking
Link tracking is set up to gather information about the source of traffic, visitor profiles, conversions and compare different variations of campaigns/landing pages. A simple Google Analytics code installation can provide enough statistical data to enable affiliate marketers to tweak and test their campaigns.
It is important not to confuse link tracking with link cloaking. Although some services offer a combination of both, link cloaking is only disguising the link so it does not appear to be an affiliate link. There are various free cloaking software, and WordPress plugins that do the job. As Google looks at the number of affiliate links pointing outside the site, it is a good idea to cloak them. However, some SEO experts say that now search engines are able to recognize cloaked formats.
Another option is to create a redirect page (automatically send visitors to a different address) on a site that looks like this: www.mysite.com/offer1. However, too many of these redirect pages could damage the site’s reputation, and the offers must be manually changed. This is also against the TOS of some affiliate programs.
Affiliate link cloaking
The importance of keeping track of your links and offers
No matter what the reason for changing the campaign is, time is money when it comes to affiliate marketing. If you find a better paying offer, a more appealing landing page, or change companies, you have to ensure that things can be taken care of quickly. Broken links are also flagged by Google, so link tracking is essential. If you do not want to go back to every article on a site and manually change the links, you are better off using an easily changeable cloaked link system. Affiliate marketing changes fast, and if you are promoting seasonal or hot offers, you can only win the game if you can change with the market.
Particularly in CPA affiliate marketing, the campaigns may come and go every few months. Networks usually have a “cap” on the campaign, which means that once that target number of leads or sales is reached, the offer is deactivated. Affiliates are notified through newsletters and messages but need to act fast if they don’t want to lose money. This means redirecting all the traffic to another offer. Do not worry; you are likely to find similar offers across the networks. For example, if you are blogging about improving credit scores and all your links point to a CPA offer on it, you need to be able to change this target link to a new one once the offer expires. If this is not done, the network may set up a low-quality and low-payout international redirects automatically.
WordPress plugins for link tracking and cloaking
If you are using WordPress for your sites, there are various plugins that make the process of inserting and changing affiliate links a lot easier. Ninja Affiliate is very good at for this. It gives users the ability to manage all affiliate links from one location. Users use this interface to insert, name and categorize affiliate links. They can decide if they would like the link cloaked and what the cloaked link will look like. Then, users can decide what keywords they want the tool to covert to affiliate links and the maximum number of times that link can appear on any one page. If links need to be changed or deleted, the user can do it quickly from one location.
To find out where visitors are coming from, there are a number of free tools. For example, Jetpack, gives statistics about your visitors, the sources of traffic (organic or referral) and the number of clicks to your links. Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools will also give a lot of information to include where visitors come from, what pages they go to, and how long they stay.
3rd party link tracking software
LinkTrackr is a service that offers advanced methods of link tracking a 30-day money-back guarantee, and the advanced customization and reporting features can help you a great deal when it comes to changing and tweaking campaigns. The software also allows you to split test different campaigns as well as landing pages and the simple WordPress plugin is very easy to use.
ClixTrac offers the management of campaigns without any software to download, and you can manage your account online. You can get monthly, daily or custom reports into your inbox or on the site. You can also group different ads and rotate various banners to see which one gets the best click rate. The benefit of this method is that you will be able to see the campaigns based on impressions, clicks and click through rates, so you can select the best-performing campaigns to push in just a few minutes and get rid of the ones that are not. Tracking is extremely important if you pay for traffic, to make sure that you earn more on the campaign than you spend on it.
More tools are covered at traffic testing tools.