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November 23rd, 2006, 02:06 PM #1(2006) cloaking or sneaky redirects???? (Google)
I was just reading the Google Guidlines and they say in their Quality guidelines - specific guidelines:
> Don't employ cloaking or sneaky redirects.
What exactly are they saying not to do?? I have all my affiliate links in a access database and the user clicks on a link say goto.asp?25 and that in turn gets converted to my affiliate link. Is this the type of thing they are referring to??
November 24th, 2006, 04:29 PM #2
- Join Date
- October 26th, 2006
No, pushing your affiliate clicks through a tracking redirect script will be no problem with Google.
Cloaking refers to a practice of delivering one set of web pages to the Google spider, and another to real visitors. This "black-hat" tactic is used by unethical marketers to fool the search engines.
Sneaky redirects... Hmmm, not sure what specifically they mean here, but I'm confident that normal tracking-type redirects are not an issue.
November 24th, 2006, 09:39 PM #3Lengthy, but important info if you use Google PPC:
There is also a different kind of "cloaking" I've read about but never used myself: using frames to make it appear to the visitor that they are on one site but ending up at another. The AdWords "Display URL", set up as the affiliate's own subdomain (merchant.affiliatedomain.com) or folder redirect (affiliatedomain.com/merchant) is manipulated using some kind of HTML frames trick to appear in the browser's Address bar even after the affiliate URL redirect to the merchant's site takes hold. Once the browser hits this affiliate's site, it immediately redirects to the merchant. This redirect is transparent because of the frames and the visitor still thinks (wrongly) that he/she is on the affiliate's domain. Pretty sneaky, eh?
So this could in theory allow the search-engine-ad-direct-to-merchant-PPC method to work even if you can't get that one merchant spot with the actual merchant's domain in it. Of course, a whole lot (I'd say most) of merchants these days do not allow their affiliates to use the merchant's domain in their ads any more, so many advertisers try to find ways around it. What I described above is not only a form of cloaking, but probably something Google would call a "sneaky redirect" because it's very deceptive to the visitor who ends up viewing one web page while seeing another web page's URL in their browser's Address bar.
My advice: DO NOT TRY THIS STUNT. Google's algorithms, as ineffective and arbitrary as they can be at times, are very sophisticated. If this works for you temporarily, it will almost certainly be caught very soon after. And it's against Google's guidelines and could get you banned. Remember, it's not just people you're trying to fool, it's the Google algorithms. I doubt it's terribly difficult for Google to program these algo's to find this type of stealth framing and flag it, and I'm sure they constantly update the code to catch any stealthy modifications.
kse's method of using a tracking redirect script should be fine, because there is no deception there. The AdWords Display URL used is going to be very similar or the same as the eventual landing page that the visitor lands on after the redirects, and that's what Google wants. In fact, from personal experience that's pretty much all that Google will allow any more. You can have several redirects if you want, and the Display URL and Destination URL set up in AdWords can be very different from each other. But your visitor, after immediate redirects (using for example a planned 10 second delay or "bridge page" and subsequent automatic redirect would be disallowed), MUST end up somewhere within the actual top level domain that is shown in your Display URL.
This makes it very hard if not impossible to bypass the one-domain-per-PPC-result rule that Google instituted at the beginning of 2006. I tried redirects myself for a while early in the year (I should add, without using deceptive framing techniques). I subdomained my own domain name into many pieces, one for each merchant, and tried to pass search engine visitors to my merchants via my subdomain redirects. This may have worked early in the year, but doesn't work any more in Google. You might get one or two days (if you're lucky) where the system allows these ads, until a human at Google sees your flagged ads and finds that they don't conform to the "Display URL domain name matches eventual landing page" rule. And they will disapprove your ad with "Inaccurate Display URL" as the reason. In my case, this happened every time.
Also in July the Google quality score bot killed my domain name with inactive $10 bids for all my campaigns using that domain name (even the campaigns that I had done hard work with and created my own honest landing pages!), to add insult to injury, so I stopped using direct-to-merchant-PPC on Google entirely.
Direct-to-merchant affiliate ads are dead on Google, period. Well, almost period. It's so hard to try to use the merchant's own domain name in your Display URL because of Google's January 2006 one-Display-URL-per-page rule and the inability to displace advertisers who already hold these spots on popular keywords, and sneaky methods don't work any more, so I think most affiliates won't even try it anymore if they value their sanity. It's safe to say that it's a waste of time and effort.
If you want to use Google for PPC as an affiliate, you now have to create your own site with real unduplicated content and real landing pages, and put your affiliate links on your own landing pages. And thanks to the July "Google Slap" (the quality score algorithm), you now have the additional burden of having to do Search Engine Optimization on your affiliate site if you want it to just remain alive on Google's PPC. It's really a different game now. No more free ride, and loads of work to have the privilege of using Google to advertise.
Unless of course you're one of those cheesy eBay spammer advertisers who somehow survive every update Google makes. Or an AdWords/AdSense arbitrage spammer site like the MeziMedia group and its henchmen that also seem to stay alive despite search engines explicitly forbidding this arbitrage practice. I'm still waiting for a person from MeziMedia to PM me explaining how their PPC ads have any value whatsoever to anyone. They force the visitor of the search engine who clicks on their ads to go to another page filled with more paid ads (thus more search engine results) and nothing more than a few words next to each ad. This is a waste of everyone's time and does not connect the visitor with useful information or the products they are looking for. It's arbitrage, pure and simple. Profit on the difference between the ad price paid on the search engine, and the amount gained on the second clickthrough on the Made-For-Adsense spam page.
If any reps from the major search engines would like to comment on why they do not get rid of these huge very visible spammers even though they all clearly state in their PPC guidelines that this is not allowed, please... by all means. Or feel free to PM me. And MeziMedia? I'd love to hear from you as to how what you do is not breaking the search engine rules and guidelines. And how it provides even the slightest value to PPC ad visitors.
I'm starting to sound more and more like Mike/ecomcity.
November 25th, 2006, 11:18 AM #4
Thank you both for the reply and good information. The redirect scripts make it much easier to control and update my links.
November 27th, 2006, 09:04 PM #5
Thank You Mike
- Join Date
- November 27th, 2006
I am new to ABW and new to affiliating. Your little tyrantive speel about Google on having display url's and landing url's will save me alot of headaches before they come. I have been thinking about trying a direct to merchant tactic, but have never done it, now I won't. One question I do have...If a merchant gives me permission to display their url as the landing page, is that ok. Reading your post it seems like it would be ok. Thanx again
November 27th, 2006, 11:54 PM #6
Welcome to the forum! If you spend some time here and keep up with current threads, as well as read some of the older posts, you'll find an amazing wealth of information that can save you a lot of time and effort as you set up your affiliate business.
PPC can be very profitable and it's still the fastest way to get your affiliate business earning real money (though more initial work is required lately due to new Google guidelines), and it has plenty of pitfalls too. My advice: follow the rules carefully that your partner merchants have posted, and don't hesitate to contact them if there's something even slightly confusing in their wording. Be honest and don't cheat or deceive your target audience, and don't try to get around search engine rules. You'll be wasting your time, risking getting banned, and risking losing any commissions you gained if you cheat.
Google is not the only player in the search engine game, keep in mind. Both Google and Yahoo require that you have your own content and landing pages, and in most cases they don't allow direct-to-merchant linking. MSN allows it, but they still have a small market share so far. You might try MSN to gauge your success with certain merchants. I wouldn't bother with any other "second tier" search engine PPCs like Miva, etc. Very, very iffy at best.
So direct-to-merchant is not completely dead but it's going out of style fast and has very limited possibilities now. It's better to spend your time on developing your own content. To start, it doesn't have to be fantastic or look that great. It needs to be unique and have your personal touch, and be relevant to the products you are trying to promote. You can create and put many landing pages up without too much effort once you get the hang of it. Tie them together in a main site using your own domain(s) and have a home page for the domain with inbound links from your landing pages and eventually from the outside. As most experts around here recommend, choose one or two areas of products at a time and research them, find good merchant partners, become an authority, and write useful content and landing pages about them. Maybe blog about the subject once you feel comfortable with it.
To answer your question, if your merchant lets you display their URL (this is quite rare), yes, this will be fine with Google and MSN, but I don't think Yahoo allows it. Though Yahoo seems to waffle in what they allow and disallow, so I don't have an authoritative answer on that. Yahoo is usually very strict about a policy of "site ownership" required to display a URL of a given domain.
However, in Google specifically it's pretty fruitless to try to use a display URL for merchants that already have other affiliates doing it. Look at PPC results for keywords you are thinking of bidding on yourself. If the merchant itself or one of its affiliates is high up on the PPC results using its display URL, it is darn near impossible to displace them with your own ad. I've tried. Never worked in my limited attempts. So in my opinion it's a waste of time, on Google at least. Maybe you can find a little used keyword or two that others didn't think of, but the most searched words will be taken.
Good luck starting up with your business!
November 28th, 2006, 03:45 PM #7
I just don't understand then, how some of these sites, also known as "link farms" get to have the same affiliates that I do. I will put up content, articles useful info, graphic, logos, etc, to conform with the rules, how come other people can get away with redirecting everything with nothing more than text links?
November 28th, 2006, 04:37 PM #8
That's a very good question, HARTSIGN. I have asked the search engines why they allow these shysters, like MeziMedia (which includes such useless link-only sites as toseeka.com and smarter.com) to continue their arbitrage practices with no useful content. The search engines usually tell me to submit detailed info about where and when these spammers show up when I do test searches. Of course, the big arbitragers show up everywhere on what seems like all search terms. However, the search engines just don't seem to get rid of these big players.
This can only lead me to conclude that the search engines don't want to lose the large amount of advertising income that lines their pockets from these spammers, even though they are in clear violation of the search engines' own rules and guidelines. The big arbitragers have ads on a HUGE number of keywords, and visitors apparently click on their ads a lot. Even if they don't usually take up the top spots for popular keywords, they use so many keyword combos that they show up on what seems like pretty much every search term. It's disgusting. And because they are listed on so many keyword combos including hordes of little-searched terms (where they may be the only one on the sponsored results), my guess is that the search engines *would* lose a lot of income if they got rid of them. And of course Google et al. are beholden to their shareholders, and not truly devoted to giving their search engine visitors a "quality user experience".
In addition to arbitrage spammers, you may also see some direct-to-merchant players still showing on Google even though they've cracked down on that lately. If you see one, give it a few days and do the search again. You'll typically find that Google has gotten rid of them after a manual (human) check of the landing site by a Google rep. So as I said, direct-to-merchant only works for a short period of time and in my opinion is just not worth the effort and frustration with Google.
While I don't personally have an ethical problem with direct-to-merchant search engine affiliate advertising as long as the search terms and ads are relevant and honest, Google and Yahoo just don't allow it. Yahoo won't even approve your ads from the start, while Google's filters may allow them initially but they'll surely be disapproved later ("Inaccurate Display URL").
So in the long run HARTSIGN, keeping on doing what you're doing, creating useful content and following the rules, is the best strategy to keep your ads active. I think what we should all be doing is putting pressure on Google, Yahoo, and MSN to remove all the ads from arbitragers and link farms. Give the customer service reps examples of the ads so they'll have specific references. Maybe they'll eventually get the hint and do something about it. It seems that there are somewhat fewer arbitragers in recent months overall, but the biggest players are still allowed to exist. They need to be stopped!!
June 12th, 2010, 11:29 AM #9
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- June 12th, 2010
Can anyone who can recommend me a free cloaking software
July 3rd, 2010, 08:16 AM #10
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- July 3rd, 2010
A redirect occurs when the visitor of one page is taken to another page
cloaking means showing something different than what you show on search engine spider.
This Google guideline states clearly that one should not use cloaking or sneaky redirects. What it does not clearly state is what exactly "cloaking" and "sneaky redirects" are.
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