Link Cloaking: Protecting the source of your traffic

Prerequisites: Getting Started: Rules And Rulesets


Link cloaking refers to the practice of hiding your referer data from the destination website it's being sent to. Normally the server handling the destination website has access to the referer data of each visitor as passed along by the web browser that visitor is using. The referer data is the website where the click is originating from. For example, if you place a link on http://jollyniceflowers.com pointing to http://cnn.com, and somebody clicks that link, the webmaster for cnn.com would be able to check their website logs and see that that click originated from http://jollyniceflowers.com, since the referer field for that click would be set that way. 

(Referer data is not always passed along by the browser. In some cases it's left blank. One common example is Google searches - Google doesn't pass along the referer data anymore, so it's not possible to figure out the keywords which led somebody to find your website in a Google search by looking at the referer data).

Although it may sound somewhat shady, there may in fact be very legitimate reasons for not wanting to pass along referer data to the destination site. Internet marketers and affiliate marketers working for a client owning the destination site may not wish their client to have access to the refering websites the traffic is coming from. Typically a large amount of work and research goes into finding well-converting ad placements and simply passing the referer to the client would result in giving away the internet marketer's intellectual property for free. Such a client could presumably look at the referer, figure out the websites where the converting traffic is coming from, and then place ads themselves on those websites. If so they would then no longer need the services of the internet marketer, which is obviously not very fair to the latter. 

If you are in such a situation and would like to protect your referer information from client websites you're sending your traffic to, you can use the link cloaking rule type on Addue to accomplish this purpose. Let's set up such a rule. From your Addue account interface,click "Insert New Rule" in the left sidebar and then choose "CL - Cloaking Rule" to enter a cloaking rule:

 

If you enter the rule as above and hit Submit, you'd have setup a cloaking rule which would route all traffic to http://cnn.com, stripping away its referer data in the process, and replacing it with a referer coming from the addue.com domain. To get the link to use, go to List/Edit/Delete rules, find the rule you just entered, and click on the ruleset ID ("tutorial6" in this example):


The link will be at the top of the ruleset as usual:

http://addue.com/r/cl/246/tutorial6

Try it out and you'll be directed to cnn.com. Since this is a cloaking rule, the CNN webmaster would always get addue.com as the referer when this link is placed on other websites and clicked from there.

We suggest you try this out yourself with a destination website you control and where you can see the referer data of any incoming clicks in your website logs. Place the Addue link on another website and you'll see that the referer is always set to addue.com, irrespective of the website where you place the link.

Note that the referer will be blank if you simply copy and paste the Addue link in your browser. For the referer to be set, the link must be placed on a website. Copying and pasting the link directly into a browser counts as direct navigation and no referer field is set for direct navigation clicks.

Like conversation tracking (TR) rules, cloaking rules are solitary rules. In other words, every ruleset containing a cloaking rule should just have that one rule. There should be no other rules, including any other CL rules or DR rules. When a click hits the cloaking rule, it is cloaked and redirected to the destination URL specified in the cloaking rule.

A final note: Addue uses a powerful proprietary algorithm to cloak links, and we have tested this to work across all web browsers we are aware of, including all the versions of all the major web browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, Chrome, etc.). We believe it works in all cases owing to the way it is coded, even with any uncommon exotic web browsers we may not be aware of. If you ever come across a case where you think a cloaked link is passing along the referer data, or if you have any other questions about the link cloaking functionality on Addue, please feel free to drop us a line.


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