How To

Format Your Ezine - Long Links

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Formatting Your Ezine - Long Links

Sometimes you might want to link to a really long URL (especially if you participate in affiliate programs) - but will it display correctly in the reader's email program?

Affiliate or associate programs can be a great way to earn money online. The general idea is you put links to a merchant on your web site, and earn a percentage of each sale you refer. (See How To Make Money with Affiliate Programs).

Some affiliate programs (but not all - read the rules for the programs that you're in) also allow you to place affiliate links in e-mails, and opt-in e-mail newsletters.

If you run an Ezine (or can buy Ezine advertising cheaply), this can be a easy way to earn extra money. Especially if it's your own Ezine, readers who trust your opinions, will buy, if a given strong personal recommendation (but don't recommend a duff product and risk losing your hard-earned reputation).

One program with affiliate programs, is that some affiliate programs generate really long link URLs. These don't work well in e-mail, as they either tend to break in mid-line, or the reader's e-mail program may not make such long links clickable.

Here's a fictional example affiliate link which illustrates the point:
http://www.merchant.com/buy.cgi?affiliate=name&product=prodname123456&track=789

There are a number of ways round this problem, that allow you to use shorter URLs:

(In each case replace URL with the full affilate link URL including the initially http://).
  1. Use a Perl script which redirects to the affiliate URL:

    In order to use this technique, you will need access to CGI scripting on your web site. Here's a sample Perl script (check your web site's Perl path as you may need to modify the first line, upload in ASCII, and CHMOD to make sure it's an executable program):

    #!/usr/bin/perl
    print "location: URL\n\n" ;


  2. Use an ASP script which redirects to the affiliate URL:

    This is for those of you with NT hosts. Here's an example:

    <%
    Response.Buffer = true
    Response.Redirect "URL"
    Response.Flush
    Response.End
    %>


  3. Use the meta-refresh tag.

    This is the crudest solution, but works fine, and doesn't need any programming knowledge. Here's an example:

    <HTML>
    <HEAD>
    <TITLE>Please wait</TITLE>
    <META HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" CONTENT="1; URL=URL">
    </HEAD>
    <BODY>
    You should be redirected to the correct site in the next few seconds.
    <BR><BR>
    <A HREF=URL>Click Here</A> If you are not redirected.
    </BODY>
    </HTML>
Once you have a page or script installed, then give the name of the page or script instead of the affiliate link in your newsletter.

Most web hosts allow you to add a default file to each directory (index.cgi, default.asp, index.html, index.htm or some such name), so if you make a special directory containing just the relevant file, you'll be able to give a really snappy URL like this:
  • If http://www.yoursite.com/merchant/index.cgi is the name of the script (and index.cgi is the default name for your host).

  • Then http://www.yoursite.com/merchant is a short and snappy URL you can use in e-mail marketing.


Advanced Versions



While the above is a great basic technique to have in your arsenal, one of the limitations is that it doesn't allow you to track which ads are generating responses.



I am a firm believer in tracking your advertising (the proof of the pudding is the fact that it works as a method of incrementally improving results and increasing revenue), so I highly recommend that you don't just stick to the basics. There are lots of sophisticated scripts which allow tracking, see resources for ad tracking.



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