No matter how long you've been in the affiliate marketing space, chances are you'll eventually come across someone talking about Cloaking.
Infact it's a question I've had a lot of people ask me about.
While I don't recommend you making a habit out of Cloaking, it's important to know what it is.
What Is A Cloaker? Most often Cloakers are used to hide aggressive landing pages from ad network review teams that would be against traffic source's terms of service. The Cloaker attempts to send visitors to a "safe page" who are not the target audience of the campaign. The safe page is a fake landing page that meets the TOS requirements of the ad network in hopes of getting a campaign approved.
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A Cloaker works by attempting to route web visitors based on visitor information such as:
If any of these data points are outside of the allowed rulesets of the Cloaker, the safe page is shown.
The main reason Affiliates use a Cloaker is to get landing pages and offers that otherwise break traffic sources terms of service approved on the platform. Some Affiliates also use basic Cloaking to hide their real landing page and offers from other Affiliates that would likely turn into a competitor if they were able to get access to the same landing page and offer combo.
One of the biggest downsides of Cloaking like anything that is breaking the rules is getting caught. If your Cloaker even lets one reviewer see your aggressive landing page, your ad account will likely be shut down at best. Recently big traffic sources have been taking legal action against affiliate caught Cloaking due to it harming their userbase. While there are ways to acquire new ad accounts, I personally would never knowingly risk my ad accounts from sources like Facebook & Google who know more about myself then I do.
A lot of Affiliates think that Cloaking is the holy grail of making money through paid traffic, but the reality is there are a lot of added costs to your campaigns.
Top-end Clocking tools can run you into the $X, XXX per month, and sometimes higher. The other thing most affiliates don't take into account when it comes to Cloaking is what is known as bleed rate. No Cloaker on the market is perfect, meaning a portion of your "real" visitors will be mistaken as someone who shouldn't be allowed to view your "real" landing page and instead will be sent to your "safe" page.
To me personally, Cloaking is not worth the effort and risk. There are plenty of people I know that have made a killing by cloaking various campaigns, but I also know several that have lost everything because of it. Usually, if you're having to Cloak, chances are it's also likely to be illegal depending on how aggressive the landing page or offer is being run. In my experience, if someone is already risking their ad accounts, they are trying to make as much profit as possible before getting caught, which leads them down a path of throw ethics and concerns about legal action out the window.
Cloaking to hide your pages from your competition, however, is something I've done a lot of. The difference here is that both of my landing pages are, in fact, compliant, and in many cases depending on the traffic source, I'll actually inform my ad rep on what I'm doing. Instead, I show my competitors a landing page and offer combo that, while still compliant, doesn't actually convert as well as my real page. Take note, though, that doing this on sources such as Facebook or Google will still likely result in an account ban if you're caught Cloaking your pages in any way, regardless if both pages are compliant or not.
Honestly, if you're not able to make money through affiliate marketing without the use of a Cloaker, chances are a Cloaker will only cause you more troubles.