Cloaked Links and RSS Feed Generator: Best Damn Redirect
Best Damn Redirect
If you're an affiliate who is snowed under with long affiliate links and wanting to manage them easily, then this product might just be the Godsend you're looking for. Not only does it enable you to store all your affiliate links, but it provides cloaking, tracking and an affiliate rss feed.
If you have one, or more, domains where you want to be able to produce and maintain content that contains your cloaked affiliate links easily - then the Best Damn Redirector might be the perfect fit.
I stumbled across the Best Damn Redirector when I was trying to solve what seemed a simple problem.... I have a domain and I wanted to be able to produce a "list of....." and output that on my domain, so that all the links were cloaked and so that my website visitors could search through my database too. I'd got to the stage of frustration where I was about to post my first project on Freelancer sites in order to get some quotes in.
All I wanted to do was to produce lists of information for people on my websites. One central, simple, database. But the links had to be cloaked on the site. Cloaking just makes it all look a lot more professional in my opinion.
So, I have a list of 1000 items - probably only 20 of them are affiliate links, but I wanted to cloak them all, so it looked neater.
So, the question is: would Best Damn Redirect help me on this or not?
What made me actually BUY this product, instantly - and I'm never one for instant decisions - is that it is also an rss feed generator. I could, quite literally, generate rss feeds on the fly of the information in my database... allegedly. However, in order to see how this actually worked, I needed to get under the hood and own it.
So let's see how it shapes up. I've written this article as I progressed through the installation and setup of Best Damn Redirect.
Best Damn Redirect Hot Features
The Best Damn Redirect is targetted at affiliate marketers - but this means a lot of starters in internet marketing, or website owners, might overlook the power of this one, simple, script. The features they advertise are:
- Stand Alone Short URL Redirect Script. Multi-Url redirects,
- Integrated Tweet URL Feature,
- Integrated Social Bookmark URL Feature,
- Link Directory Of All Shortened Links,
- RSS 2.0 Feed Feature to display all shortened urls through feed...
Which sounds complex and overkill for many people. But if you read on you will discover how you can use this one simple script to, quite simply, make your life damn easier.
Questions I Asked Myself About the Best Damn Redirect
Firstly, I was convinced the guy knew what he was on about. He spoke my language, the language of affiliates who have huge data needs. Talking the talk went over my head to some degree - I was focussing on the small tasks I wanted to achieve - all that other fancy stuff would be a bonus... and a bonus I could 'get round to' once I've freed up the time I spend trying to work out how to handle my big lists.
Question 1: Do I put this redirect script on my server, or is it hosted?
The Best Damn Redirect is something you host yourself. You buy it, you own it, you put it on your domain. In fact, you can install it on as many domains as you want (that you own).
Installation is straight forward, even if you've never done it before. Using cPanel you simply 'create a database', which actually means press a button that does that and all you do is name it; then 'create a user' - same deal, press a button and invent a username/password. Then a bit further down the screen you just assign that username to that database ... and make sure you've wriitten down the database name, username and password. You then update one tiny .txt file with those three details and upload the files to your server by FTP or your admin panel. And there are some videos showing you all this, which I didn't actually bother with as it didn't seem hard.
Question 2: Why would I want to install it on more than one domain I own?
The question has to be addressed... if you install this redirect script onto one domain, then pump it full of your links, you can instantly generate an rss feed which you can use on any other domain anywhere and it will display your links/their description.... however, the rss feed will be showing the urls from the domain where Best Damn Redirect is installed. If you don't want people to see your other domain name, if you want to keep them separate, then that is a choice you CAN make. If, on the other hand, you simply want one central database that contains and controls all your links then it's best installed in one place.
Having installed it on one of my domains and started putting links into it, I can see that maybe installing it on another domain might work well, with a targetted bunch of links - I'll see.
If you have some spare domain names lying around, you can even install this script on there to act as a parked page - there's a handy basic directory template that comes with it, that you can use as the landing page for your parked domain - and so when visitors turn up you can show them a directory of related products perhaps.
Question 3: Should I get a new domain JUST to install this script?
This is something you might wonder - if you have a few domains you might decide that you want another one, just for this script, just so that the urls in the feeds point back to one generic name. You do not have to have a new domain for this, it does not need its own domain. This is something you'd choose to do, say, if you were using one central database of your links to generate different rss feeds and didn't want your existing domain names to be 'connected'.
If I owned, say, dogsaspets.com and installed the script there - and if I also owned luxuryholidays.com, I can put all my relevant links for luxuryholidays.com into the script on dogsaspets.com and generate an rss feed JUST of the links relevant to luxuryholidays.com - except my website visitors might be 'turned off' by the fact that a link to a free trial of designer skin cream was apparently available from dogsaspets.com - if you see what I mean :)
So - entirely your choice. Install it on one for now, buy a new domain now - you choose. You'll know your domains and it really doesn't matter - the Best Damn Redirect will work whatever you choose.
Question 4: Is this a Wordpress plugin?
No, it's not a Wordpress plug redirect script. I was originally looking for a Wordpress plugin, but when you think about it this can complicate matters as Wordpress is continually under development and as a plugin this is something that the developer would need to keep updating/fixing. As a standalone redirect script, that you own, there's no worry about this suddenly not working at all - something that's happened to me a number of times when I've clicked on "upgrade" in Wordpress :)
Question 5: What do I need to install it?
You just need a host that gives you php/MySQL. cPanel is handy if you're not a techie as this makes the database/username creation a two click process, but it's not needed.
Question 6: Is this easy, or will I get overwhelmed?
If it didn't seem easy I'd have not bought it. Richard Wing provides some easy to follow videos showing you precisely how to install the script. It is self-installing, but you do need to create a database on your server first and note down the database name you gave it and create a user for that database. This is in the video and, if you've not done it before, is straight forward. The video shows it done in cPanel. It's probably about 4 clicks in total.
10 Benefits of the Best Damned Redirect
The Best Damned Redirect is over-flowing with features, but I was trying to solve one basic problem: data overload. If you're just like me and snowed under with links and lists, then your immediate main benefits are going to be:
- One Central Database: You will have one central database that contains all your affiliate and non-affiliate links. In fact most of my links aren't affiliate links at all. I'll be using it to be able to provide big lists of data across my website, knowing that every time I add something new it'll appear on the right page, based on the keywords I assign each link.
- Your Own Short URLs: You will be able to instantly create and control your own short url, like a tiny url, for any product in your database - no more fiddling about with individual cloaking, the system will generate a short url instantly to post or paste anywhere on your site/s or on the Internet. One admin panel shows and controls everything easily.
- Easy Trend Spotting: You'll have the ability to create and track multiple short urls, with full click tracking for wherever you've used a shortcode link. You will know how many times any of your links have been clicked. You can use this data to spot trends you didn't know you were tapping into. If people are clicking on that link, then you can think about whether you need to provide more pages/posts about that product to bring in more traffic that's interested in it; or you can revisit your information and perhaps give people more information about popular stuff.
- Control: You are in control of your short urls, you're not having to log onto tiny or bit.ly - they're your short urls, in your database - you're in control and it's easy to manage them. You're not screaming "Hey look at me, I can't even work out how to do this stuff for myself, yet I'm telling you how to do things". It's that 'step up' the professional ladder. You're not reliant on a 3rd party provider not changing the rules. If bit.ly or tinyurl suddenly stop allowing affiliate links, affiliate products, Clickbank, or any other system you use - what are you going to do if you've used their system for your short urls all over the Internet for the past 3 years??
- Click Tracking: On the fly short url tracking. By simply adding ?tid-XYZ (or any code you choose), You can track where your links are getting clicks. e.g. if you were to use signatures in two forums, you could use the same short url, but ?tid-forum1 and ?tid-forum2. If one's outperforming the other you can spend more time on that forum maybe....
- No More Dead Links: Ever spent time writing up articles, posts, advertisements - only to find out months later that the product moved to a new ad network? Or has been discontinued? Or changed their affiliate program so you have to re-register and get a new url? Maybe you didn't even spot that for a few months - think of all those wasted clicks out on the Internet going nowhere, losing you income potential. It's easier to keep on top of this now because if this happens you simply log into your admin area and insert the new link.
- More Responsive Ads: Using free classifieds that don't allow a link? You've got a long url to post and it looks ugly - simply use your own short url, on your domain, and it looks nicer, plus it'll bring people to your website homepage as they see your domain name in the advert. Using your own short url, on your domain, will make your adverts more responsive. You'll have more traffic and more sales potential.
- Instant Directory of All Your Products: The system automatically generates an entire directory, which is then spidered by Google. This is SEO optimised, so you've got a great chance of making a sale from zero effort on your part. I should mention that as you add each item you tick a box to either include/exclude it from your directory. So you can use the system to produce links for items you don't want in your directory. e.g. When I am researching for an article I might come up with 3 products, I don't want to "swamp" my directory with three almost identical products in one day, so I'll add all three; put all three links into my article, but only have the best one showing in the directory. At some future date I might tick the box so all three appear in the directory, when they won't swamp my rss feed.
- Ideal for Newsletters/Emails: If you produce newsletters, or emails, include your shorturls - and keep a link to your actual directory as part of your template; set your email signature to be your directory too. There are lots of ways you can promote yourself using the directory, your latest rss feed and short urls in newsletters and emails. And remember, you can use the click tracking too to see what was most popular in emails/newsletters you sent out.
- No Image Required: When you add your short url, it will generate an entry in your Directory (if you tick the box). But there's no need (90% of the time) to add an image as the Best Damn Redirect pulls in a thumbnail for you. In the 10% of the time it doesn't do this, it takes just 2-3 minutes to add it using a thumbnail generator.
In short, it gives you control and data - useful data about what your visitors are interested in. If 1000 people have clicked on a link and you know you've not made a sale, it's time to bin that product and stop promoting it! If 1000 people have clicked a link for something you'd forgotten you were promoting, it's time for that product to have its own feature page to convert more traffic.
If you have 2-3 domains that share a common theme - you can use your rss feed on all other relevant blogs/sites. Enter a new item once and it'll appear wherever you've put your rss feed.
Overall I am very impressed so far. But I don't feel I've done it justice in this brief overview and review. Why not read the long blurb yourself. Cut through the stuff you're not interested in and see where it can bring you back in control of your empire.
Not Just for Affiliates - For All Website Owners
While the benefits to affiliates of short urls and cloaking of long, ugly affiliate links are obvious, if you simply run a website you can use this too.
When you're commenting on other people's blogs, in forum signatures, in your newsletters/emails or advertising, you can simply use a short url, and click tracking, to monitor the success of your marketing.
I have one website that's a local town website - and I use Best Damn Redirect on there for simplicity, shorter urls and click tracking. Remember: you can install Best Damn Redirect on as many domains as you own, which is why I've got it on three of mine so far :)
How Did the Installation Go?
It was pretty painless and stress free. I was most worried about creating the database, creating the user and assigning the username to the database - but that was actually a breeze.
Having unzipped the downloaded file to my PC, I then had to edit one tiny text file so it contained my database name and user name and password. I did this, but it wouldn't save - I right clicked on the file on my PC and chose properties and could see it was marked "read only", I unticked that, clicked OK, then saved my file, then set it back to read only again. All easy so far.
I then nervously FTP'd the files across to my server... no idea why I was so nervous, I guess I'm a pessimist at heart :)
I then had to rename one file (the htaccess) file and it was ready to log on - and there it was, the admin panel for the Best Damn Redirect. Phew. So it really is virtually idiot proof :) Although I have high confidence on Richard pro-actively supporting it, I really didn't want to have a problem... and there was no problem. Great.
There's a great support desk provided too though, and they answer the tiniest of questions.
Idiot Proof - Easy - Full Support
The Admin Panel.... What To Do First
Once logged on, I felt a bit confused as to how to use the admin panel - but I had one goal in mind.... I wanted to add a bunch of links to it, to see how it works.
The admin panel seems to be set up for people a bit more heavy weight than me - but this product will help me attain that level soon.
So, the first question was: How the heck do I add a link? And it's kind of hidden if this is your aim, and if you leapt straight in without looking for instructions. Simply scroll down a little and find Step 2.... you could start with Step 1, which is about setting up your (multiple) Twitter accounts so you can easily/instantly auto-tweet, or tweet... but I'm not interested in that today. So it was off to Step2 for me.
In Step 2 I just had to give my Shortlink a decent name/title, as it would appear in the directory, then I could upload an image and I wrote a short description for what the link was; this will appear in the directory view that the public see on my site. Then there's a tick box for it to appear in the directory, or not. And that was it.
But that just created the Shorturl.... then I had to click on an orange "add url" button alongside the newly created entry, in the middle of the screen - and add in my long url that I am trying to shorten. Job done!
Note: there is a video for all of this, I just didn't bother watching it, so it is quite intuitive.
So - if all YOU want to do at this stage is chuck in your links and urls and generate a searchable directory of them, go straight to Step 2 - consider the boxes here your Data Input Fields for your directory.
Note: You can use images in the directory, there's a field for the url.... but then I discovered that if you simply leave it empty the Directory goes off and creates a thumbnail/screenie of it for you - so there's no need to do this. The best thing to do is to put half a dozen links in - then look at the directory/index page and see how it turns out. About 10% of my initial links did not produce the screenshot - this was because the link I was using also had a redirect on it. For these I simply went to http://www.shrinktheweb.com and it generated a thumbnail for me, which I uploaded to my server, then linked to.
Built-in Directory Template Provided
The Best Damn Redirect provides you with a basic directory layout, which you can change if you want to. I've tweaked it a bit, added in links where placeholders existed - but it's a job to go back to. The directory works straight out of the box without this... tweaking it is good though as you can insert your own sections, links, even ad slots. You can do what you want with the template, it's a straight forward plain html file using external css.
Big Deal... What Else Does it Do Then?
Well ... as I said, I was trying to solve one problem I've had since day 1, way back in 2006... links overload - and not being able to quickly change/update and add content to my lists.
I discovered the script by pure accident as I had given up trying to find a "one size fits all" quick solution - and had started chatting to a programmer friend who offered "Well, I don't really understand what you want, but I can give it a go next week" - and I was trying to explain and I found it. He was over the moon as he wasn't really sure what any of it meant. Spoken to him now, 2 days on, and shown him my directory page and he was blown away and said "Oh you'd have not got anything nearly as good if I'd done it" - and it would all have been re-inventing the wheel... not to mention the fact that the script does things that are really handy, but I didn't even know could be done before I started enterting data/links and seeing how it works.
Generate RSS Feeds From the Database
Now my data and links are in the database, the Directory simply "just works" and provides my website visitors with a searchable directory - but there's more. The script also generates rss feeds, full of my cloaked links. I can use those rss feeds wherever rss feeds are 'allowed' on the Internet. e.g. within one of my Wordpress pages or posts; within Facebook; as a link in a forum signature. This is handy and powerful stuff!
What I've done is to take my Directory rss feed and placed it in my main site as an rss feed, so my site always has a link showing to my latest additions. I use Wordpress, so I drop the rss url into an rss widget and stick it in the sidebar. This generates click throughs without me doing anything more!
Note: How about creating a short url in your system that links people to your rss feed?
Remember though - if you don't understand this, or see the point, you don't have to use it. There are features I've no idea about, don't know what they're for .... but one day I will and then they'll just be there. I always say you should buy a product to do what you want, if it comes with other goodies then that's great as it means you won't outgrow it.
And that's the beauty of this. It's now my data, my links, in my database - and will remain so for years to come. I'm not relying on somebody else providing me with a service, or disappearing into the night, or deciding what I am doing is against their Terms of Service and cutting me off..... had that happen a few times due to misunderstandings and/or changed TOS at the drop of a hat!
It's MY data and I'm keeping it!
Submit your RSS Feed to RSS Feed Directories
Because the Best Damn Redirect has an rss feed, this gives you another site marketing tool to submit your site to rss feed directories. Now my site has two separate rss feeds:  My actual site  My directory.
Google Loves My Directory
And why wouldn't they? I typed in each description, it's unique. It's unique content on the Internet.
So Google visits - and indexes it all.... MORE Google juice.
But that's a minor win to me ... I bought this for the database/linking, the RSS feeds completely sold it to me. The Google just made me giggle with joy a little :)
A Script You Own, Unencrypted
Usually when you buy a script, there's tons of stuff you can't see, you've no idea what's going on and can't change anything.
This script is unencrypted, so (if you're able to/want to) it is possible to make changes to it. Certainly you'd want to change the template, but you could change the actual script if you wanted to.
You can't modify it and resell it as your own, or anything underhand like that - but this means your investment is safe as not only will it work probably forever, but should the Internet, or your needs, change in the next 1-20 years you could simply hire a programmer to tweak it for you. I don't expect to ever do this, but I love the fact I COULD.
Best Damn Redirect Update
It's now a month on and I'm still ecstatically happy with what the Best Damn Redirect is doing for me. I've now installed it onto three of my domains - and this morning I've received a new/improved Best Damn Redirect, containing upgrade files and the files for a new installation, so later I'll be installing the new version on a fourth domain, to see what the new version does extra before I upgrade the first three.
I am finding it much better/quicker to manage my links through my Directory - a lot of my short urls I simply remember without looking them up, which is handy.
I am using the tracking too. If I am writing a blog post then for my tracking I use the blog post ID number. Once the short url is set up I can simply use it as it is, or type any tracking ID on the end instantly to be able to track specific links.
Just Check it Out
So, probably not the best product review in the world, but a heartfelt one. I really like the Best Damn Redirect - and if you can see the same problems emerging in your online life then make sure you check it out to see if it'll help you out too.
My mate, a wholly competent programmer, reckoned he could not have written this for me - it'd have taken him weeks - and we'd have had a lot of misunderstandings along the way - and I'd have definitely ended up with a lesser (unsupported) product. We both SO pleased I found this neat script... I think he's more ecstatic than even I am now he's seen what I bought.
Ignore the fact it's "one of those damned long letter jobs" - and just check out the features.