Cloaking software is used to protect your affiliate links right? And that means keeping your commissions safe! Which means more profits for your online home business.

Just recently though, a friend far more knowledgeable than me in matters of this nature, drew my attention to the fact that third party cookies were not being dropped where a cloaked affiliate link was clicked on AND the Internet Explorer 7 browser was being used with the default setting on (usual with most folk).

If you are just someone starting out marketing affiliate products online this may not mean very much to you. But … if this is in fact the case … then you should have good reason for concern. Your bottom line profits are being affected.

If someone was to click on one of your raw, or exposed affiliate links, then a tracking cookie (a tiny piece of code) containing your affiliate ID, would be placed on that person’s computer. This simply means that if the person who has clicked on your link does not go on to buy the product, but later returns to purchase it., then you get credited with the sale. A duration is ascribed to the cookie which may be 1 day, 7 days, 28 days or whatever. If the person returns within that prescribed period … you get the sale!

Why not do this little check .. again using IE7 with the standard default cookie setting on, (there seems to be no problem with the Firefox browser or where you are prompting with IE7). Let’s say your ID was 34556 and you were to click on your own raw affiliate link, a cookie would be left on your machine. You could view that by going to Tools .. Internet Options and then clicking on Settings under General in Browsing History. After clicking on ‘View files’ and then clicking on the little arrow beside ‘Name’ in the left-hand column you could sort your files in ascending or descending order. In amongst your Cookies (displayed as cookie::user@domainname.com) you should find a text document containing your own affiliate ID. Using the example above that would be 34556. And .. that is as it should be.

But if the raw link has been cloaked .. you will see that the raw ID has not been dropped. Your cloaking ID may have been left as a cookie – but your raw ID is not displayed. This means that if you returned to buy through your own link within the prescribed period after you first visited, you would lose out on your commission. Not what you want for your online business.

The fault does not appear to lie with the cloaking software itself, but seems to be due to a recent Microsoft protocol which states that IE7 in the standard setting doesn’t allow third-party cookies to be dropped, unless ‘they have a compact privacy policy’.

The relevant page you might care to check out is page 72 in the “Web Privacy with P3P” book

Further information is available here ..

I have been informed by one of the cloaking providers, who is also researching this in a little more depth that if a site meets the needed privacy requirements, an affiliate program owner can use this free plugin for IE7…

Now .. this all poses an interesting question. Should the person marketing or supplying the cloaking software make it known to prospective purchasers or users that a problem exists with IE7?

Should affiliate program owners before they start recruiting affiliates ensure they have a compact privacy policy in place? And if they have no intention of getting one, should they make that known to their affiliates so that they can make a fully considered decision on whether to procure cloaking software or indeed even join the program?

Should affiliates be contacting the owners of these programs to see what policy exists with their program?

I am delighted to see that one of the program owners I recently contacted is taking immediate steps to make his program P3P compliant. He was unaware of the need for this and thanked me for pointing it out. Kudos to him!

But I would be interested to know what readers think about all this. After all .. it is your online home business profits that are being placed at risk here.

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