Cloaking On Facebook – Is It Really Worth It?
To cloak or not to cloak? That seems to be the question for many disillusioned Facebook marketers these days.
Facebook has grown increasingly picky over the ads that it accepts. I doubt you needed me to tell you this. The endless stream of disapproval notices and the fist-shaped hole in your wall should be evidence enough.
While Facebook seeks to tighten its noose around the necks of certain rogue affiliates, many of these marketers simply can’t stand to give up the ghost. They are head over heels with Facebook’s enormous earning potential, and perhaps the knowledge that it made them good money in the past. So instead of playing by the rule book, they eat the rules and crap them out the window. Cloaking enters the equation.
Cloaking is the mischievous art of showing one page to the Facebook approvals team, and another to the unlucky guy who clicks on your ad. When cloaking Facebook, you can launch a series of pant-wettingly lucrative ads simply by ignoring the strict editorial guidelines that the rest of us are obliged to follow.
Naturally, Facebook doesn’t take kindly to having the wool pulled over its eyes. If you are caught cloaking ads, you can consider yourself banned, along with any other accounts that you may already be linked to.
It’s clear that cloaking on Facebook is a high stakes game. The need to avoid detection has led to the launch of several professional ‘cloakers’, which can cost from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Most of these cloakers rely on huge databases of IPs, and the hope that Facebook doesn’t get any smarter than it already is (a flimsy leg to stand on, if you ask me).
I don’t want to delve in to solutions that are currently on the market. What good would it do for anybody? You need only sign up at a private forum, or pay attention to your email newsletters. They are not hard to find, although their degree of effectiveness can vary dramatically.
If you’re going to skimp on budget for your technology, investing in a half-arsed Facebook cloaker is probably the dumbest decision you could ever make. Well, almost…
My mind boggles at how many affiliates are still fond of the classic ‘bait and switch’ cloaking that was popular 3 years ago.
If you’re not familiar with the technique, well, there’s very little science to it.
Cowboy Affiliate #1039 submits an ad promising dramatic weight loss, while redirecting to an innocuous article on a reputable site. Let’s say “7 foods that will help you lose weight in 30 days” on Men’s Health Magazine.
Facebook follows the link, sees no harm, and approves it for public display.
Roughly 20 seconds later, Cowboy Affiliate is changing his redirect so that instead of the article on Men’s Health, the ad now routes through to a monster flog that’s painted in pictures of the 300 workout. Instead of 7 healthy ‘foodages’ (Thanks, Karl Pilkington), the user is confronted with 2 bottled health supplements, and a recurring billing cycle buried somewhere in the footer.
This classic form of bait and switch cloaking can be achieved without technology. You need only guts, balls and a heavy dose of naivety to get your first ‘cloaked’ campaign live and profitable. Facebook traffic converts so well that having the right ad live for a week can net five figures of profit quite comfortably.
Unfortunately, it’s also about as suicidal as affiliate marketing gets. If your business can only make money with such crash and burn methodology, it’s already infected with a terminal cancer. I give you about 3 weeks.
My recommendation is to avoid cloaking altogether. If you are in this business to make money over the long term, without burning every last bridge along the way, there is little sense in committing to a business strategy where the only person who wins is yourself.
In most cases, it would be more accurate to say that the only winner is your affiliate network. They enjoy the fruits of your traffic, without the risk of getting their Facebook accounts banned.
But there’s the catch. Not everybody is in affiliate marketing to make money over the long term. Some of you guys reading this now have no interest in being full time affiliates. Maybe you have day jobs or other business ventures, and you see cloaking Facebook as a funny little moneymaker on the side. “Hey, Mark Zuckerberg! Suck my berries…”
No words of mine will deter those individuals from investing in the technology necessary to cloak Facebook profitably. So to answer the question, “Is cloaking Facebook worth it?“, only you know the answer.
Are you trying to build a business, or are you trying to pillage quick cash like a bull in a china shop? Your answer should reveal the way forward.
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13 CommentsLeave a comment
Great post Finch. I’ve personally debated whether or not to use a cloaker in the past. The concern for me is when affiliate networks are actually recommending a cloaker and mentioning it in their newsletters. Do you feel these networks are pushing it a bit by doing so?
Absolutely, it’s something I’ve bitched about in the past:
I guess there’s nothing to stop the networks from trying it. Whatever gets them traffic, right? But it’a shame that affiliates will follow the advice blindly without looking out for their own best long-term interests.
[…] sells, then asks, Is it worth cloaking on Facebook? Then, a good read on being committed to a single thing while avoiding the graceless art of ping […]
I know people who have been cloaking traffic successfully for years and rely on it as a profitable and stable business model. I’m not sure what you mean by cloaking is a ‘high stakes’ game, when you only pay traffic sources for traffic that was delivered. What are the stakes? Having to create new accounts? ::confused::
It depends what you define as stable though, right?
Even though it can work over long periods of time, I would be reluctant to call it stable. The traffic sources (Google, Facebook etc) have made it clear that they don’t want certain types of offers being promoted, so cloaking is essentially a battle of wits. But what happens if Facebook chooses to get more aggressive in the way that it combats cloakers? There’s always going to be a question mark over the long-term sustainability, because the business model is only designed to satisfy one party.
If somebody trespasses in to your backyard every day, sets up a stall and starts slinging acai berries to the neighbourhood, how many times are you going to let it happen before you increase the measures taken to stop his access? Or set the police on his ass? He can try to fool you, and he can come back in a million different disguises, but sooner or later you’re gonna get smarter and find a way to keep him out.
Slightly twisted example, admittedly, but it’s the same way I look at cloaking and riding these traffic sources to the bank against their will. Just because it’s always worked, doesn’t mean it always will. I could never see cloaking as a stable business model personally, because the concerns I have about both its ongoing viability and the legal implications in the future would make me, by definition, pretty mentally unstable.
What about cloaking just your identity on FB…is that possible? I’m doing legit biz & will be buying ads, I just don’t want my real name visible in connection with these fan pages?
I have created a tool that cloack the Facebook ips, I can give you a test licence for your use only, so you can test, but I need after that you promote via an affiliate link.
If you are interested, you can visit http://www.fbscriptsensei.com
The web page is in spanish (my native language) but I have tested during 2012 and have updated all new ips from facebook. Curently I’m using that and is working very well for more than two months.
Pd. It works with lead impact to, so you can be approved in ppv with destination url with exit pop ups and other forbiden terms
The process of cloaking can be damaging to all affiliates. It can lead to advertising platforms banning any form of redirection, negating an affiliate’s ability to utilise a tracker in his/her clickpath.
As we all rely heavily on accurate data for split testing and trending, we really don’t want this to happen across the media-buying board.
Cloaking ain’t for me.
I agree with Finch. Having to rely on shady tactics to bank, indicates a very flakey business model.
I wonder if it’s possible to place an affiliate ad on fb for the fbscriptsensei cloaker?
Go on … you know you want to. Just lie back and think of the kudos, as the sun glints off the bars in your window.
So this guy made an AMA on reddit on how he was making 20 K a month on cloaking fitness supplements on facebook and how he was buying a ferrari 360 in the near future. It just amuses me how people will do anything to make a quick buck at the cost of a real long term business. Facebook has been cracking down on these rogue affiliates no doubt and will close down the loop hole due to the recent media sting that showed that facebook ads were 80% garbage.
Out of curiosity, if you were to cloak an offer such as Muscle Enhancement, what type of approved site characteristics would one look for that Facebook would approve. Hypothetically.
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