Cloaking. What’s that, why do we need it and how to use it

  • 8th Mar 2017


This article will be useful for newbies and those who only make first steps in affiliate marketing, have heard the scary word “cloaking”, but have no idea yet what it means, whether it’s needed or no and how to set up their own cloaker. Experienced users will not find any secrets in this article.


Cloaking (after the word “cloak”) – cover, mask, veil.

Why do we need it?

As a rule, cloaking is used to hide landings, redirects, and other more or less important information – the offer that we are advertising, traffic sources, target geo and so on.

Who are we hiding from? There can be several possible answers here.

– from an advertiser
– from an affiliate network
– from bots/moderators of large advertising networks (Adwords/FB and so on)
– from moderators of other traffic networks
– from competitors
– from spying services


I will not go into detail and explain why affiliates need to hide landings from an advertiser or affiliate network. I think it’s not that hard to guess the punishment that would follow the use of a black landing when it’s not permitted. Besides that, I’m not a fan of hiding my approach to work from normal affiliate networks. It’s way more advantageous to build relations and negotiate the use of some not very white landings. Based on my experience, I can assure you that in a long-term perspective the skill of maintaining and strengthening relations with your partner (and affiliate networks are our partners) is more profitable for both the parties, so such an approach is the most logic for us in the first place, of course, in case you are serious about your work in the industry. If you’re interested in a short run, ok, it’s up to you and I don’t criticize anyone. In that case, you can try to hide your manipulations from an affiliate network at your own risk. Cloaking will be also useful in a situation when you work with an affiliate network for the first time and, for some reasons, the network doesn’t look reliable. By the way, that’s quite logical since so many affiliate networks have emerged on the market. New players appear nearly every day and not every new network treats its affiliates properly. There are even large affiliate networks, unfortunately, most frequently Chinese and Russian ones, that are very problematic to work with. Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to build good relations. You can find a million of comments, posts, and complaints about the negative experience of work with some affiliate networks. If you start working with an affiliate network, find out as much as possible about it. Don’t forget that your money is there.

A case from my experience for your consideration:

When I was yet a newbie affiliate, once I was working with one of the largest Chinese affiliate networks and was directing traffic on a pin-submit offer of one of the third world countries. As an affiliate who was interested in a long-term partnership, I was communicating with the affiliate manager and together we spent nearly two weeks negotiating and approving the landing. In the end, the ready landing didn’t even have any impudent or misleading titles like “You’ve got a virus!” and so on. It was on the edge, not completely white, but not black as well, and, as soon as it was approved, I started working. As it sometimes happens, I was working with the offer, finally broke even and, as soon as the optimization started, the offer was turned off. Ok, I started working with another network and was waiting for the payment from the previous one. Approximately three weeks later, the manager wrote to me and said I wouldn’t get any money because of mislead. Naturally, I asked for an explanation but got no answer. I got ignored for a month until with the help of colleagues I contacted regulators of the network. The next was simple – when they understood that I wouldn’t leave them alone, they started listening. After the examination of the above-mentioned two-week conversation with the manager and review of my redirects (fortunately, they were still working), I was told I would get my money, but only in accordance with my expenses. I explained that I hadn’t got any profit, showed the detailed stats from the tracker, and got my money. That’s my story. What would happen had I just complained on forums? Without a doubt, I would never get my money back and they would even hardly remember me. The conclusion is up to you.

When it comes to traffic networks, the situation is also ambiguous. In some networks, it will be a lot easier to pass moderation if you direct them to a white page. It’s quite individual in every case and depends on a network. Sometimes it saves time, sometimes – prevents from stealing your successful creatives. I won’t go into detail as there can be different cases. Here I won’t write about black sides of affiliate marketing as this blog is not dedicated to them, but I will cover different ways of self-protection from various unpleasant situations.

Why do I need to hide my campaigns from FB and Google? It’s very simple: many don’t use white schemes when working with them, if you don’t work in compliance with all the rules, you definitely need a cloaker.

What’s the purpose of hiding landings from competitors and spying tools? It’s also simple and very logical – the longer your creative is not stolen, the more money you will get. So, if you’ve decided to hide your landings, cloak them using all possible ways. By the way, that’s quite difficult nowadays, taking into consideration adplexity and similar services.


Now the same, but in pictures. There are different types of cloakers – paid, self-made, built in trackers and so on. In this article, I will write about general functions of the main tool for every affiliate – tracker – and ways of cloaking with its help. I will use my tracker, voluum, as an example, but don’t be upset if you use another tracker as they all work in a similar way.

Redirect mode. Meta refresh, double meta refresh.

This method could never be simpler – just click the necessary parameter and your affiliate network won’t see the source of your traffic. If you want more technical information, google “redirect mode”.


Side-effects: you will lose a part of traffic. Actually, a lot of traffic. Split tests with meta refresh turned on and off showed absolutely different ROI. In my personal tests, the difference was up to 50%, leave alone double meta refresh. Use this feature very carefully, and if it’s not so crucial to hide your landing from the network, don’t even look that way.

Cloaking by Geo

It’s also simple. For example, if you work with Spanish traffic only, you don’t need anyone from Russia on your landing. Setting this feature is a piece of cake:

In campaign settings, click “Add rule” and set the country, which traffic you want to access your landing page.


You can also set different countries for each of your landings or, if you’re working with a global offer but display it, for example, only for certain CIS countries, your steps will be the following:


If the country doesn’t comply with the chosen geo, namely, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, the traffic will be redirected to another landing/another offer/traffic back.

Cloaking by Tokens

This method particularly concerns moderators of traffic networks and methods of hiding from them. Every traffic network gives an opportunity to use its tokens (or macros or UTM-tags, you can call them one way or another, that won’t change much).

Theory: when a user clicks banner #123, tracker gets this parameter with the help of macros, and in statistics we can see that the user was transferred from that banner #123. I guess that’s clear.

Here’s a rough example. Visit trackingtokens website and search for tokens from the plugrush network. Let’s take, for example, a couple of tokens: {$id} and {$cc}, and add the network and tokens to the tracker. Once the campaign is made, the link will roughly look like this:{$id}&cc={$cc}. In this example, I took not all tokens in order not to add many unnecessary details to the article and make it more understandable. The {$id} token transfers the id of a website(pub), {$cc} transfers the information about geo. When a user clicks a link on some adult website, tokens will transfer all necessary parameters, for example, id=122456&cc=US. When a moderator clicks the link from the network, tokens will transfer nothing, well, almost nothing. They will stay the same. 🙂 That means that we always know something about moderators. They rarely visit our landings from their networks’ websites, as a rule, they click links of campaigns from the admin panel. Therefore, theoretically, we can try to cloak moderators using tokens. The mechanism will look the following way: if variable 1 equals {$id}, a user will be transferred to a white landing, if variable 2 equals {$cc}, a user will be also transferred to a white landing.




By the way, you won’t be able to cloak plugrush this way because their moderators already know about our cloaking methods and add different combinations of parameters to tokens, but currently there are yet many affiliate networks that don’t bother about cloaking, and their moderation can be easily passed by applying this trick, or you can just hide from them what traffic you use and where you transfer it. Besides that, you can sit and think of other ways of cloaking moderators with tokens. 😉

IP/ISP Cloaking

The simplest way to hide from competitors and unnecessary visitors is to use cloaking by IP of popular VPN. Some databases are available on the web, sometimes such databases appear on torrents, they are shared in professional chats and forums. This certainly requires time as you need to find these databases and, of course, need to keep an eye on updates. It is also possible to make a separate list with IPs of moderators, spying services, and so on, and use tracking rules to redirect them all over the hills and far away.


Of course, this won’t protect you from adplexity, but if you work with such networks as Adwords and FB, it will be very helpful. You will also protect your work from competitors who spy manually using public VPNs and can even hide your landings from users, who click links from spying tools and ordinary websites, and want to see all redirects.

Cloaking by IPS is not much different, but it would be good to have a fresh database by MaxMind or a similar one. For example, you are interested only in traffic from some small country. You take all ISP of that country and add them to rules. If an ISP does not coincide with ISP1, ISP2, ISP3, such a visitor is transferred to a white landing page.
These are the general rules of cloaking with the tracker. The very basics, I must say, which should be used in case of a need. Of course, this is just a beginning. I cannot tell you everything and I doubt anyone would share info on how to use cloaking professionally to hide from absolutely everyone.

What’s left is to mention paid cloaking variants, which are already quite widespread. Here are the most popular ones:

• Fraudbuster
• NoIPFraud
• JustCloakIt
• SilentCloaker
• Trafficarmor

If you’re interested, simply google these names and see how they work and how much they cost. I will not write about them in detail and give my recommendations as that information is worth a separate article.

Finally, to sum it all up, I want to add a couple more lines.

Cloakers are coded for specific tasks and cost a lot. They are used to hide from user agents/bots/scripts/permissions and so on, and everyone needs to hide depending on their experience and purposes. Besides that, if you think that you’ve found that cool cloaker from adplexity, your happiness won’t be long as in a few days, a month or half a year a new algorithm will appear and you will need to search for new ways of hiding. That’s the reason why such tools are never available in public access and do not come together with popular trackers. It’s simply useless to share them with everyone for almost free. Everything is interrelated – if a cloaker appears in hands of a spying service developer, they will quickly find out why their system doesn’t work and will adjust the code. That’s their business and, naturally, they will not give up every time someone’s cloaker has become popular. That’s why I’ve personally decided that when it comes to spying tools and professional spies, it’s useless to waste much time trying to hide. If someone wants to find you, they will find you. Yes, simple IP rules, some elementary redirects and a couple of lines in the landing’s php, which sort out the unwanted stuff, are enough for me. It’s way more beneficial not to develop new protection every day, but to work and test new offers and landings. It’s simple – it takes time to find my creatives, test them and steal from adplexity. When they do that, I will be already working with another offer, because it’s always more beneficial to be one step ahead of your competitors. In short, in my opinion, it’s better to seek other advantages over competitors. However, I do not impose my opinion on anyone as we all have different wishes, opinions, and purposes. In the past, I found it very interesting to hide my work simply to understand the mechanism of cloaking. We all have different periods of life and different purposes on different time.