How To Direct Link On Google

by Josh Todd on January 6, 2009

Direct linking on Google is a very popular way to test out affiliate offers to see how they convert before you devote the time to building a landing page.  To get started, you need to login to your Google AdWords account and start a new campaign.  You want to start a New Campaign with Keywords, not Placements.

Google Adwords Screenshot 2

Be sure to choose the proper country for the offer that you are promoting.  Google recently threw a monkey wrench into the works by setting the default countries to “United States and Canada”.  A lot of CPA offers will only accept traffic from one or the other, not both.  So pick your country and move on.

Google Adwords Screenshot 1

Creating your first ad will be the next step.  An ad consists of a Headline, 2 Description lines, a Display URL, and a Destination URL.  Go ahead and create a catchy headline and a descriptive ad containing a call to action, you want to get people to click on your ad now, not next week or next year.

The Display URL is an important step, and this is where we are going to trick Google into thinking that you already have a website built out for your offer.  Just do a normal Google search for your main keyword and pick a URL from one of the sites that appears in the organic (non-sponsored) links.  Make sure that the URL is not also advertised in the Sponsored Links on the right side of the page, because if it is, this trick won’t work.  Copy the URL and paste it into the Display URL box.

Now that you’ve got your Display URL, you want to use the exact same URL for your Destination URL.  I know what you are thinking, “But wait, how will I get paid for sending traffic to a site that isn’t mine?”.  Fear not, we are going to fix that in the next step.  This is just to get Google to approve your ad and hopefully assign you with a decent Quality Score.

So at this point your ad should look something like this:

Google Adwords Screenshot 6

Next you will choose your Keywords and enter your Daily Budget and CPC (Cost Per Click) bids.   Keyword generation and selection is a topic for an entire discussion in  itself, so I will just advise you to do your research before hand and have some keywords to get started with before you setup your campaign.  Google’s Free Keyword Tool is an excellent place to start.

We are almost done.  Go ahead and review everything and hit Save Campaign.  Now we need to do the final step to direct the traffic to your affiliate link instead of the website that you are using for your display URL.  Once you have saved the campaign, you will be taken to the campaign overview screen.  Click on the Keywords tab, and then check the box to select all of your keywords.  Once you have them all selected, click the Edit Keyword Settings button.

Google Adwords Screenshot 5

This will take you to a screen where you can input a new Destination URL for each keyword.  Go ahead and put your affiliate link into the first field, then hit the little down arrow button, this should copy the URL into all of the keywords for you.  So, for example, if your affiliate link is (not a real link), it should look something like this:

Google Adwords Screenshot 7

UPDATE: Make sure that you remove the http:// from your affiliate link when you put it into this Destination URL box, because it will give you an Illegal Characters In URL error if you don’t.  There is a drop-down box to the left of where you put the link in that lets you select http:// or https:// for a secure affiliate link.  It defaults to http:// which is what most networks use.

Then just hit Save Changes, and you are good to go.  Congratulations, now you know how to get a direct-linked campaign approved on Google.

Now go make some money!

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

sean January 6, 2009 at 11:32 am

I'm pretty sure this will get your account on Google permanently fucked if they do a manual review on your campaign.


Martin January 6, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Freakin awesome… I've been doing that for a while but didn't know that it turned to be another "shady trick"….lol


Eric January 6, 2009 at 10:24 pm

@sean: You should have an adwords account to test campaigns anyway! If something works, build LP and move to other adwords account.


Val January 7, 2009 at 1:30 am

wow can this really be ? What does the REAL domain owner have to say about this ? any consecuenses? and what will the cpa network do, keep the commissions ? are you serious ?


Josh Todd January 7, 2009 at 1:41 am

Let me clarify a couple of points… First of all, this was never intended to be used as a long-term business strategy, it is like @Eric says, if something works, build a Landing Page and scale it from there. Also, his suggestion of having a second adwords account to test things is a good one. If you are going to be successful at affiliate marketing, there is always a process of testing the water and seeing what you can get away with vs. what will get you banned from networks and search engines. This is a gray-area technique, and if you exploit it to a massive level, there could be consequences like getting your account banned from AdWords. The best use of this technique is just to test out offers to see if they convert or not, and after you have determined this, either take the campaign down or move it over to your own LP and domain.


sean January 7, 2009 at 1:56 am

Nice points Eric & Josh … I did run into a description of this very technique a few months ago but heard from some sources it will screw up your account so I backed off. Hadn't thought to open a test adwords account for gray experiments like this, great idea. (Leaving to go make more money now) 🙂


Gary January 7, 2009 at 8:49 am

Is there a disadvantage to simply using the domain of your offer and putting it into the display URL field and using your aff link in the destination URL? Or is this post assuming the landing page for your offer doesn't have a good QS?


Josh Todd January 7, 2009 at 8:53 am

There are a couple disadvantages to that. First of all, you are correct, the LP's typically don't have a very good QS. More importantly than that, most advertisers and affiliate networks won't let you use the offer domain as the display URL.

On the Content Network however, it's a different story. It might be worth testing it out.


Timur Alhimenkov January 27, 2009 at 11:36 am

Great! Thank you very much!

I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?

Of course, I will add backlink?

Regards, Timur I.


Josh Todd January 29, 2009 at 8:41 am

Sure, go for it (with a backlink).


Fleetezesmals February 5, 2009 at 10:40 am

Your site displays incorrectly in Opera, but content excellent! Thanks for your wise words =)


Vik February 5, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Good post.

Wouldn't the owner of the actual website have a problem with ads using their destination url (when they know its not them doing the advertising)?

Any way to work around that?




Josh Todd February 6, 2009 at 8:27 am

The way to work around that is to use one of your own domains instead of using an authority site’s domain. This way there won’t be any issues. It’s completely up to you whether you want to use this tactic or not. The worst that could happen is they tell you to stop using their domain…


Aaron March 5, 2009 at 11:47 pm


Thats good info dude… Keep it coming! Your one of the best sources

for good information in affiliate marketing..I will follow your posts for a long time…

Could you explaine pixals and how they work…And, some good places to learn how to build landing pages…Not ebooks but Tutorials and good stuff like that…Thanks lots for your help!! "Keep it up"


Josh Todd March 6, 2009 at 3:24 am has some good Landing Page Tutorials going on right now.


Aaron March 6, 2009 at 6:19 am


That is just what I needed…I think I'm ready to start making some real income online, just with the details you've provided…

Kool S_it!!…

Keep it comin lol


helen May 19, 2009 at 3:44 am


I have just got affiliate prophit so I can do this, but might be getting a refund if I can do this.

do I need a domain name and a server to do this?


Josh Todd May 19, 2009 at 4:10 am

You can either use your own domains and servers or use someone else's, just follow the steps in this post.


Sensual photography June 2, 2009 at 3:02 pm

When I click on a link on Google, it direct me to a different website!!?


Tim Owen with Internet Marketing Guide June 12, 2009 at 1:14 am

Fantastic Josh,

Sure appreciate you giving us options like this, thank you.

Success, isn’t a choice.


Benny July 14, 2009 at 4:45 am

I tried using this technique today and it doesn''t seem to work anymore. All my keywords were disapproved and had the words "Inaccurate Keyword URL" next to them.


BrownFox July 23, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Is this technique still working?


Josh Todd July 24, 2009 at 1:56 am

Only one way to find out…


Sensual photography July 31, 2009 at 10:24 pm

This problem started 3 days ago, when I google something and click on a link, it would lead to another random website instead for the intended link. It only happened on Google though. Each time I click it, it takes me about 4 or more tries to go to the intended website. This is so annoying…Does my computer have a malware infection or a virus? HELP!! What can I do to get the virus out and what programs?


Paulo August 11, 2009 at 12:38 pm

I'm having the same problem as Benny, there it says not approved… i can't figure out a way to fix it.


John Smith December 17, 2009 at 8:12 am

Hi! I just tried some direct linking this week and would like to share

the experiment. I opened an account at both adCenter and YSM. I've

not tried the Biggest Brother yet.

At adCenter when I create an ad with destURL of the form, it is immediately mechanically denied.

This also happenes for many CPA network aff URLs. Also, many popular

offer domains can't be used for dispURL and are also mechanically


When I use an aff URL (and offer) which gets thru, I just don't get

any impressions. If I raise the bid very high I might get, say, 10

impressions and 0 clicks. The keywords I tried do have a much higher

volume than the impressions I get.

At YSM I can create the ads but after a day or something the editorial

policy kicks in and I'm out. So be it dating or some innocent

ClickBank offer, it is not accepted. Also, the CPC would be too high.

So, I can't get a single direct linking click from Microsoft or Yahoo.

Should I even bother trying Google? I just don't have time for testing

some tricks to get something very basic done.


Josh Todd December 17, 2009 at 9:25 am

Umm, did you read the post that you are commenting on?


apeshart January 14, 2010 at 1:31 am

Josh, do you think this has changed or what are your views for 2010? I thought this was pretty informative, thanks!


Josh Todd January 14, 2010 at 3:13 am

I do think that there have been some updates since this blog post was written… The ideal method now would be to use a site that you own, not someone else's, but even then it might not work anymore. The only thing you can do is try it out.


Keyla June 16, 2011 at 6:13 am

Thanks alot – your answer solved all my problems after several days sgtrulging


John Ford January 31, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Ok I tried this direct linking approach and unfortunately my adwrods keyword status for all the keywords I used this method on has been 'disapproved' with the reason being 'inaccurate keyword URL'. So the Big G is on to this technique. Any other ideas would be appreciated! – Thanks


Josh Todd February 1, 2010 at 2:39 am

Your best bet now is to buy a domain, then iFrame your affiliate link onto a page and host it on that domain. That way when you set up your ads, you will use your domain that you own for both the Display and the Destination URL. Obviously there are still going to be Quality Score issues just like any Direct Linking technique, but this should help you get your ads approved.


TheBoot February 2, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Thanks, Josh for the updated reply to the Direct Linking approach for testing purposes. You are the most straightforward Affiliate blogger. No one would ever guess you are really one of "them" now. (Just giving you a hard time as a CPA Network Owner!!).


del hickman June 30, 2010 at 11:01 am

Thats just like them.anytime they think someone is getting something from them they shut it down.they shut me down and kept my has too much control over the net.


Puppies Husky July 5, 2010 at 10:43 am

Thanks for the info! I hope it still works!


Adrien Perrault December 9, 2010 at 9:14 am

Thank you so much for the info, i run a alberta mortgage broker company but have had a had time building landing pages for some of out affiliate product. I even bough a couple books and they talk but dont show you exactly to do this stuf.ortgage broker. The banks have been bidding up to $40 per click on words like Saskachewan mortgage broker and edmonton mortgage broker. The cost of doing business against big banks is getting tough. Again thank man.

Adrien Perrault


african movies March 22, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Nice post, hope Google has not caught up with this yet. Going yo try it out on my test account.


Katie March 29, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Hi Josh,
I tried this on google a couple days ago and it still works; conversions are through the roof!!! But I’m not stupid enough to keep doing it without fear of getting caught eventually. I did put in the display url and destination url of a site I own, though, so maybe if caught I wouldn’t get into too much trouble, but still I can’t imagine I could get away with direct linking for long. I do NOT want to get banned from adwords.
I want to build a great landing page for this offer. Can you recommend a good landing page builder/hosting? I’ve never done it before.
And is there a way to cheat like this on YSM? I’m thinking I might open a secret ysm account there specifically to test offers using this direct linking technique.
You rock! Thanks for all the great info!


Josh Todd March 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm

If you are new to landing pages I would recommend trying some templates to get the hang of it. Try or

For the hosting, you can use pretty much anyone, but I use WiredTree.


Tara April 25, 2011 at 11:57 pm

This method does not work anymore on Google Adwords. You get a "KEYWORD DISAPPROVED" after entering the URL Destination.


val August 14, 2011 at 8:04 pm

you are a star!



hemp August 11, 2012 at 2:34 am

bookmarked!!, I love your site!


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