Cloaking Devices

Sorry, Trekkers and Harry Potter fans, I'm going to be talking about URL redirects.

Many years ago, when I still believed that I was going to become an Online Money Mogul, I joined a membership site called WealthyAffiliate. (Kyle and Carson, are still at it, bless their hearts.)

One of my favorite features of WA was the ability to create those cool links that--when you hovered over them--looked like this:

www.mysite.com/go/productyoumustsee

when you clicked one of those links, you would be redirected to

www.productyoumustsee.com

Here is the cool part: behind the scenes, I would have an affiliate referrer code associated with my "mysite.com" URL. Visitors could not see my referrer code and, according to the WealthyAffiliate folks, hackers could not intercept my link and steal my traffic.

That type of manipulation is called a stealth redirect and is often misconstrued as "cloaking." The former will piss off Google, but cloaking will not.

Well, Google pissed me off lots of times, so I didn't mind playing with stealth redirects. WealthyAffiliate became too expensive to continue so, after I left, I hunted around for something to replace that feature. What I found was perfect: EasyRedirectScript.

This now defunct tool had every imaginable type of redirect. I experimented with them all, just for fun, before settling on plain-old 301 redirects.

The links worked perfectly and I was able to track the effectiveness of various placements (email signature vs. web page, for example.)

It worked great for years. However, the developer abandoned it and, at some point, it stopped correctly making the links. Fair enough, as long as the older links continued to work, I was fine.

Then, I changed web hosts. After the migration, the links still worked, but I could no longer get to the admin panel to view stats. It was time to look for another solution.

My search led me to Pretty Links and, in usual Shiny Object Syndrome fashion, I dove in. It's a WordPress plug-in. I have no idea how it works because I have yet to use it! {sigh...}

I figured that writing about it would motivate me, so we'll see.

As a public service, here is Google's take on the matter:

Sneaky Redirects




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