DIY Link Cloaking, With Pretty URLs

There are plenty of ways to spend money to do link cloaking, and there are tutorials that talk about ways to do it yourself. But I haven’t seen a good tutorial that actually takes you through, step by step, how to do link cloaking yourself if you aren’t already a programmer.

So I decided to write one.

The link cloaking described in this post will be of the “pretty” form, e.g. If you’re writing it yourself, there’s no sense having an ugly URL when you can just as easily have a nice one.

Dot htaccess

The first step is to edit the .htaccess file on your web server.

This is a moderately dangerous thing to do. Screwing up your .htaccess file can take down your entire web site. Luckily, you have a guide who has done just that in the past, and will do his best to avoid having you do the same.

Nevertheless, step 1 is to download a copy of your .htaccess file to your computer now! That way you have an original copy of it to upload to your server if any of the changes we’ll make screws up your site.

The changes you make will depend on what your .htaccess file looks like now. If you have WordPress on the site, it probably looks like this:

# BEGIN WordPress

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

# END WordPress

Everything between the comments (the lines that start with #) are automatically generated by WordPress. Don’t touch those bits or remove the comments!

To add DIY link cloaking to a WordPress powered site, add the following line of code after the “# END WordPress” comment.

RewriteRule ^recommends/([^\./]+)$ cloak.php?req=$1 [L]

The word “recommends” can be changed to whatever word you want to use. If you want to use a different word depending on what product you’re linking to, copy the RewriteRule line multiple times. For example, these lines allow me to use both “recommends” and “endorses”.

RewriteRule ^recommends/([^\./]+)$ cloak.php?req=$1 [L]
RewriteRule ^endorses/([^\./]+)$ cloak.php?req=$1 [L]

If this does not work, if you get a File Not Found page showing up in your blog, try removing the ^ from just in front of the word, so you would have:

RewriteRule recommends/([^\./]+)$ cloak.php?req=$1 [L]
RewriteRule endorses/([^\./]+)$ cloak.php?req=$1 [L]

If you don’t have WordPress, you may also have to add these lines just before the RewriteRules:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /

Don’t add those if they already exist in your .htaccess, but do add them if they’re missing.

So a non-Wordpress .htaccess file might look like this:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /

RewriteRule ^recommends/([^\./]+)$ cloak.php?req=$1 [L]
RewriteRule ^endorses/([^\./]+)$ cloak.php?req=$1 [L]

Basically, these rules tell the server that anytime a web surfer tries to go to /recommends/blah on your site, to instead call the cloak.php file and pass in an argument named req that has the value “blah”.

Writing cloak.php

The next step is to write the cloak.php program. Luckily, I’ve already done this for you, so you can copy and paste the following into a file named cloak.php and upload it to the main directory of your website (the same directory where your .htaccess file was).

This has been kept deliberately simple so non-programmers can work with it. Where the file has “blah” or “GreatNewOpp” put whatever you want at the end of your cloaked URL (generally the name of whatever program you’re promoting). Also, on the header line change the URL to the URL of where they should really go (generally an affiliate link of some sort).

If you want more than two cloaked links, copy and paste one of the if/header pairs and modify the text and the URL for the new cloaked link. Upload the new file to your server and you’re ready to go.

What This Doesn’t Do

This does nothing for ad tracking, which requires more complex code. You can slot in ad tracking easily enough, though, by forwarding the cloaked link to an ad tracking link, and then the ad tracking link forwards to your final affiliate URL.

So there you have it. Simple link cloaking with pretty URLs.

If you have any trouble getting this working, post in the comments. Also, I’ve tested this on a couple 2.2 versions of WordPress, and not at all on 2.3 or anything earlier. Have that backup of .htaccess handy!

Swypefile Update

Just a quick update about swypefile.

Since Sunday, my total earnings have been around $5. That might not sound like much, but I’m very pleased, since I’ve basically been paid to promote my best blog posts. Online Opportunity has gotten a good amount of traffic from swypefile, and on the whole those visitors are willing to click through links in the posts to check out what I’ve posted about. This is highly targeted traffic.

If you’re not having much success with the site, remember that your audience is other Internet Marketers. Post an article that’s just trying to get referrals to your latest opportunity, and nobody will pay any attention to it. Post an article that genuinely tries to provide value to other Internet Marketers, and you’ll see some results.

For a site that’s just launched, swypefile is off to a great start.

Use Triggit To Easily Add Images And Links To Your Posts

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I received a contact from Zach over at Triggit asking me to review the tool.

I headed over to the site without much in the way of expectations. Since I write a blog that has been around for a while (in Internet terms, at least), I get requests like this a lot. Most of the tools don’t end up being anything all that useful, or they’re only interested in positive paid reviews, which I don’t do.

Triggit is still in a private alpha phase at the moment, but Zach gave me the code to get in. It’s always great to see these sorts of tools before they’re released.

The website is a bit minimalistic right now. The member’s area is a single page of instructions with a video demonstrating how to use Triggit. For Blogger and Typepad, Triggit will automatically integrate itself with your blog. For WordPress users, you have to insert a bit of code just after the opening body tag in your template. Hopefully they’ll release a plugin that will do this for you in the future.

And that’s it. Just the demonstration video and the code to add. No help files, tutorials, etc.

I spent some time wondering if I’d missed something, but finally decided to duplicate what the demonstration video does to see how it all works. Here’s the best advice I can give for using Triggit:

Don’t over think it! It really is as simple as the demonstration video makes it seem.

For those who might want a bit more of a step by step tutorial, here it is:

1) Bookmark the link given in your Triggit member’s area

2) Install Triggit on your blog by clicking the appropriate button on their website for Blogger or Typepad, or putting the code they give you into your WordPress theme just after the opening body tag

3) Write a post and publish it. Write the post as if you had pictures and videos and links to Amazon and Commission Junction products already in it. Put the anchor text for the links, but don’t make the links.

4) View the published post in your web browser and click your Triggit bookmark

5) Enter your Triggit username and password

6) The Triggit toolbar appears, and on it is an Add New Triggit button. Use that button to add pictures and videos anywhere in your post, or make links out of any text you like.

This is especially cool for WordPress users, since WordPress has traditionally had poor image management features. Triggit doesn’t let you do text wrapping around the image, which would be very nice, but it does allow you to easily resize the image to fit your post.

And it does all this without actually editing your post. The downside is that you must publish your post before you can Triggitfy it. So there will be a period of time during which your post will appear without the images, videos, or links. If you use WordPress’ scheduled posting capability, this might be a bit of a pain. Zach says they’re working on a button that will let you Triggitfy your posts as you edit them, so you don’t need to publish first, so this issue should go away soon.

All in all, though, a very cool technology. I’m looking forward to seeing it evolve and improve.

Want to try Triggit out early? Zach kindly gave me an access code to share with a few subscribers, so just ask me for it via the contact form on the blog.

Make Money Getting Telemarketing Calls

I’d posted earlier about a free online voice mail service that would be good to use when signing up for surveys and such online, so you didn’t have the hassle of people calling you at home.

Well, I just ran across Brring!, which makes it a bit easier to bear getting those annoying follow up calls.

What the service does is give you a phone number in any area code you choose. But instead of the number going to a voice mail service, so you aren’t bothered, the number forwards to your actual phone number at home. Why would you want that?

Well, before Brring! forwards the call to your home number, it plays an audio advertisement that your caller must listen to in order to talk to you. And you earn money each time one of your callers listens to the audio advertisement. So spread the number around to all those annoying survey sites, and you’ll earn every time one of them calls you at home.

You typically earn $0.05 for each ad played, but your first ten ads earn you $1 each. Presumably this works even if the incoming call is another machine that wants to play something prerecorded to you (like the political campaigns often use). There’s another thought, sign up for all the political parties using your Brring! number so you can earn from their annoying calls.

You also earn $1.00 for each person you refer to Brring!, so this program gets added to my list of ways to make money online free.

Click here to sign up for your own Brring! number for free.

Update: Thanks to people scamming the system, Brring! has stopped paying for each ad play (people were calling their own numbers just to earn from ad plays). You still earn by profiling your friends, by sharing your number, and by referring others. Without the ad play earnings, though, I don’t see much point to it.

Site Build It! Day 4

The Site Build It! process is a 10 day process. Days 1 through 3 have you exploring and identifying niches, finally coming out of day 3 with a niche that looks like it has good traffic and low competition. If you remember from my post, Site Build It! First Impressions, using SBI!’s tools I’d identified a higher traffic keyword for my niche than I’d originally found.

Day 4 is all about deciding if the traffic can be converted into income or not.

Adsense, of course, is one of the monetization models they look at in some detail since it’s appropriate to most sites. Following the guide, I found that my niche has just about the minimum they recommend for relying on Adsense as a primary means of monetization (ten keywords at the $1 a click range with decent search volume).

Relying on a single source of income for a site is generally a bad idea, though, so I also plan to offer some affiliate links to related products. Combining Adsense with affiliate links can sometimes lead to inappropriate Adsense ads, such as ads about the product you’re linking to (you want the sale, you don’t want them to get sidetracked onto the ad for the product).

SBI! has another tool that makes it very easy to build a list of excluded ads you can put into your Adsense account. Their Search It! tool has a wide variety of options. If you choose Monetization in the left hand drop down, Preview Google Adsense Ads in the right drop down, then type a search phrase in the left hand text box and click Search It!, you’ll get a page showing the current Adsense ads for that keyword. You can build up a list of ads to filter by clicking the Filter link below each ad.

So using Search It!, I can easily filter out competing ads while still allowing ads that don’t directly compete with my affiliate links.

The SBI! process looks at a full range of monetization options, and for each one includes case studies from sites that have successfully used that particular monetization option. They have a couple dozen monetization options in their planning worksheet, and a private forum for members to use for brainstorming other ways to monetize specific niches.

At the end of Day 4, I’ve identified Adsense and affiliate marketing as the primary ways to monetize my niche, and made some notes about collecting the content I write for the niche into an ebook to sell on the site as well. Given the niche, dropshipping physical products is also a strong possibility. The niche also works well for a site newsletter, once I think I can generate enough extra content for it. I’ve also identified Google Base as a terrific place to submit content to for extra traffic, given the niche.

One key message of Day 4 is to make every visitor to your site earn for you in some way. Not all of them will click on ads or join your newsletter or buy something, but offer enough monetization options, worked naturally into the site, and many of them will choose at least one of those options.

Another key message is that while you have to know you can monetize your site effectively, you don’t want to do that right away. Creating quality content is the first step…don’t waste time monetizing until you have enough quality content attracting traffic to make it worth your time. This is especially true for someone like me who has a limited amount of time to work on a site each week. Content must be the first priority in the beginning! Their general guideline is to monetize only when you have 30+ pages of original content on your site, and are getting around 30 visitors a day.

Other niche sites I’ve created have been mostly neglected sites, created with as little effort as possible to see if any traffic would arrive and stick. The SBI! process guides you through identifying a great candidate for a site you can invest time and effort into creating original content for, and be confident the effort won’t be wasted.

And to give SBI! the full test, I’ve created one of my neglected niche sites on this same niche. It took me a couple of hours, and I’ll submit it to directories in the coming months to get traffic started to it. The neglected niche site has a head start, but the SBI! site will have quality content and the full power of SBI!’s tools behind it. We’ll see which one does better.

Day 5 is all about figuring out the unique spin the site will have and choosing a domain name. I’ll post again once I’ve finished that step.

Click here for more info about SBI!.

The Demise of My First Ad, and more Swypefile

I’ve removed the DealDotCom widget from the sidebar.

As I’d mentioned before, it was an experiment to see how an affiliate like ad would do on the blog. The results, after two weeks, are in…it did horribly. The widget generated only about 5 click throughs the entire time, and at least one of those was me, testing the widget. And no sales.

Sure, given enough time it would have generated some sales, but I wasn’t particularly comfortable putting the widget in the sidebar in the first place. To overcome that discomfort, it would have had to generate regular sales, which is didn’t.

So the blog is back to being an ad free zone.

Swypefile, on the other hand, has been a success. I’ve put half a dozen of my posts on the site, and Sunday it generated about $3 in Adsense revenue for me. Since the site officially launches only today, that’s pretty good. As traffic to the site increases, the revenue should go up (provided I keep submitting posts).

If you write in the Internet Marketing arena, I highly recommend heading over to swypefile and putting some of your own posts on the site. You’ll get paid a bit for promoting your own blog. If you don’t write in the Internet Marketing arena, but read Internet Marketing blogs, you can also put posts from other blogs onto swypefile and earn from the Adsense on those pages.

Click here to get your free swypefile account.

Put Your Blog Posts On Swypefile and Earn

Why are product launches always on Monday?

I ran across this today, and it’s a bit time sensitive, so I’m breaking my normal “no weekend posts” rule to let you know about it now. Swypefile is, basically, a place to get extra exposure for your blog posts, if you are in the Internet Marketing arena.

Write a great post about how to cloak affiliate links, but can’t get many people to read it? Post it on swypefile. It’s like Digg and numerous other sites out there, in that other members can vote for articles, and the most voted for ones rise to the top of the front page. It’s just for Internet Marketers, so you know that your desired target audience is reading the article.

And, they do a 50% ad sharing using Google Adsense. Put your Adsense ID into your profile, and you’ll get half of the impressions for the ads on your article pages. Write a really popular article, and it could earn you a little extra money. Or, you don’t even have to submit your own articles. Say you find a great article on another blog that hasn’t been submitted yet…if you’re the one to submit it, you’re the one who gets the Adsense impressions.

You also get some ad sharing from the impressions your referrals to swypefile get.

This is the time to join and submit some of your best posts (or someone else’s best posts) to be well positioned for the launch Monday. And if you can also get a few referrals at the same time, all the better.

Click here to go to swypefile.

How To Create A Database In CPanel

In my How To Make Your Own Website For Free series, I’d written a post for users of about creating a database and its associated user.

But I realized while reading a thread at the Bloggeries blog forum that I hadn’t really helped the majority of people who are not using So here’s a tutorial on creating a database using CPanel, which should hit the majority of people out there.

The database is where an application, such as WordPress, stores data. Most CPanel installations have one click installs for common applications that create the database for you, but they don’t have one click installs for every application you might want to use.

Getting Started

Once you’re logged into your hosting account, you’ll find a screen that looks similar to this one. If you use something other than CPanel, you’ll still have similar options available.

Main CPanel Screen

Click on the icon for MySQL databases, and you’ll see something like this:

MySQL Admin Screen

This single screen contains three different actions we’ll have to take. We’ll want to do them in the reverse order that they’re presented, so we’ll start by creating a user who will be able to access this database. I recommend creating a unique user for each database.

Creating The User

Go to the section of the screen that looks like this:

Add User Screen

Enter a user name and password and click the button next to the edit field. A user will be created with a name that is a combination of your CPanel user name and the name you entered. So if you entered “john”, and your CPanel user name is “jack”, the full name of the user is something like “jack_john”.

You will not need to remember this password for long, so make it fairly complex. And then before you click the button, copy and paste the password into Notepad to remember it. Also add to Notepad the full name of the user, which you’ll need when you setup your script.

Creating The Database

Now we’ll go to the section of the screen that looks like this:

Add Database Screen

Enter the name you want your database to use, and click the button. Keep it short, since generally the name will be truncated to 8 characters or so. The name of the database is also combined with your CPanel user name to create the full name of the database.

So if a CPanel user named “jack” created a database called “links”, the full database name might be “jack_links”.

Granting The User Permissions On The Database

Now we’ll go to the section of the screen that looks like this:

Set Permissions Screen

In the user drop down box, choose the user that you just created. In the db drop down box, choose the database you just created. Make sure the All check box is checked, then click Add User to DB.

This allows the user you created to actually work with the database you created.

Also, note that the names of the user and the database in the drop down box should be the full names. Note those for later use if you haven’t already.

Connecting To Your Script

So you’re doing all this because you have a script you want to use that requires a database. I can’t give much specific direction because I don’t know which script you’re using, but the basics are the same.

You will either edit a configuration file before you upload the script to your web host, or you will enter the information through a web interface after you have uploaded the script. Which way depends on the installation instructions for your script.

If you’re editing a configuration file, you’ll have spots where you need to put the database host, the database name, the database user, and the user’s password.

The database host should be localhost, unless you know that you have a good reason to have it be something different. The database name and database user should be the full versions of those names. The user’s password should be whatever you typed in when you created the user (copy and paste this from Notepad, don’t trust your memory).

This should get your script running and connected to the database. There might very well be more that you need to do after that to fully configure the script, but that’ll be script specific.

Link Directory Submitter Review

I’ve been promoting Directory Maximizer for directory submission for some time now. I use it myself, and count at least a portion of the blog’s PR4 to the links from directories I’ve gotten from them. And while PR itself isn’t particularly valuable to a blog that doesn’t sell advertising, it does represent a large number of backlinks that provide SEO benefit.

I just bought Directory Submitter, though. Why?

Directory Maximizer is very inexpensive, at about $0.14 for each submission. It’s actually a bit less than that, because every time you pay them anything they give you a small rebate that can only be used to pay for other submissions. For a person who has a single site that needs directory submissions, that’s not bad.

I submit multiple sites to directories quite a bit, though, and the cost adds up. Directory Submitter is a one time payment, so after a certain number of submissions I’ll effectively be making the submissions for free.

The program has over 2,700 directories it knows about, and you can add your own, too. Sorting their initial list by PR shows Dmoz at the top, followed by a handful of PR7 and PR8 directories, a bunch of PR6 directories, a whole lot of PR5 directories, on down to PR0 directories.

Each website you want to promote via directory links is added via a profile in the program. Each profile can have multiple link titles, descriptions, and keywords that are used in a rotating fashion. Having some variety in your site’s descriptions can help avoid search engine penalties, so this is a nice feature. I was able to easily copy and paste this information from my Directory Maximizer account.

A bit more annoying is needing to go through and mark all the directories that you’ve already submitted a site to as used in the program. It’s far more convenient if you start using the program from the start on a site, so you don’t need to do this. But it’s a one-time chore and after that you keep track of new submissions from within the program.

If you use directories that require reciprocal links, Directory Submitter comes with a script you can upload to your website that allows the program to automatically configure the reciprocal links, saving your from an administrative chore. I can’t say how well this works, since I don’t use those sorts of directories, preferring one-way links.

Directory Submitter is not an automatic submission program. Rather, it will prefill all the fields on a submission form for you with the appropriate information from your site’s profile, rotating descriptions and titles as directed. You then choose the most appropriate category for that directory, click the Submit button, and move on to the next directory. What used to be a time consuming chore to do yourself turns into a fairly quick thing to churn out dozens of submissions.

I still recommend spacing your submissions for a single site out, so that you’re gradually accumulating links in a manner that search engines find natural. Dumping a link for a site out to all 2,700 directories as quickly as possible isn’t going to do your site much good in search engine results. You’ll end up with a great PR, but it’s search engine results positioning that drives traffic, and search engines look for continued growth in backlinks over time to maintain your position.

The program also came with some free bonuses, including an article submitter, article generator, and an article directory script. I haven’t had a chance yet to play with those, but will report back if they look like they’re worth using.

Click here for more information about Directory Submitter.

Second Life And Making Money Online

I’m pretty late to this party, but I’ve just started checking out Second Life.

I’m looking into it for possible use in an academic setting, providing students with a platform for creating educational and business related games, and possible for creating an online presence for our college.

Technically, Second Life isn’t anything more than a lot of other online multiplayer games have already done. But from the start, they’ve focused on player created content and the economy.

The result is that many people make more money on Second Life than in their real jobs. An artist friend of mine is planning on opening a shop to sell her artwork. Digitally created media seems to do quite well in the game.

The current in the game is Linden Dollars, L$. There’s a very real exchange rate for converting to and from L$. When I just checked, for one U.S. dollar, you can get 186 L$. You use L$ in the game for purchasing other player made content, for buying land of your own to open a shop on, or whatever.

Big name companies have gotten into the act, too. An entire island can be purchased for $1,675, with a $295 monthly fee. Perfect for someone like IBM to hold online meetings.

Second Life is free to sign up and play, but you start out with no L$. You get that primarily by buying it at the current exchange rate.

Anyone have any great successes marketing in Second Life?