I finally had the time to go through all the gifts currently available at Santa Sal’s giveaway.
Most were the usual run of ebooks and video/audio courses. There was a nice advertising package available at Croc Ads, and another at ViralURL.
But the one that was most interesting to me was a script that provides for link cloaking with pretty URLs, similar to what I provided in my tutorial post. This script, however, also provided for cookie stuffing.
This was a new term to me, which is always fun to come across when it seems that every ebook you read just rehashes the same old techniques. It turned out to be fairly straightforward, but since I hadn’t run across it before I thought some of my readers might also not have heard about it.
The basic idea is that companies that provide affiliate links to you track sales through a cookie left on the user’s machine. When someone visits a site through your affiliate link, a cookie dropped on their machine tracks that sale, even if they return directly to the company web site later without going through your link again. Most of these cookies are time limited in some way, and many users regularly clear cookies, so it isn’t a fool proof system, but it mostly works.
Cookie stuffing is the technique of dropping cookies without the user needing to visit the company web page.
So let’s say that you use cookie stuffing techniques to drop an Amazon cookie when someone clicks on a link to your product. Later in the day they go to Amazon and buy something, and you get the referral credit because of the cookie (always assuming they haven’t clicked another Amazon affiliate link in the meantime).
Cookie stuffing is clearly a black hat technique, since you’re earning commissions you really aren’t due. The normal techniques for cookie stuffing involve using pop ups to show your affiliate page, or using iframes to hide your affiliate page and not really show it. The link cloaking script in the giveaway supposedly avoids these techniques and sets the cookie directly.
I could see some semi-ethical uses for cookie stuffing, in particular when a merchant’s site doesn’t propagate the cookie for different products on the same website (e.g. if they click through your link for product A, and end up buying product B, you don’t get a commission). You could then use cookie stuffing to ensure you’d get credit for whatever product they purchase on the site, after they’ve clicked through to the site using one of your affiliate links. This would work best when the merchant has a limited number of products.