What is Direct Linking?
Direct Linking (DL) is when an affiliate links directly to the advertiser, merchant, or company they are marketing for. Instead of designing your own website or landing page (also can be referred to as a pre-sale page), you're sending traffic directly to the advertiser's website. For example, if I was an affiliate of Dell.com, and wanted to promote Dell's computers by direct linking to the offer, I would just send customers (or traffic) directly through my affiliate link to Dell.com's website rather than to my own website which may contain my affiliate links for specific Dell offers. Hence the word "direct" as you're linking directly to the advertiser. Please bare in mind this is the basic guide to explaining what direct linking is.
Benefits of Direct Linking
Like with everything, there are benefits and disbenefits to using the direct linking (DL) method. The benefits of using DL for your campaign includes sending the customer directly to the advertiser so you don't have to worry about building up a website or landing page, meaning no webhosting needed, no designing work to be done, etc... In some cases, this is a great benefit because perhaps the advertiser is a name brand company such as Dell.com and having the Dell.com link show up in your display URL for your adcopies is more effective than DellOffers.com (a domain you might possibly own). The branding is there. However this isn't always the case if the advertiser isn't a well known brand, then it's not much of a benefit other than the fact that you can send traffic directly to the advertiser without work on your end to build a landing page or website. Another benefit of using DL could be a simple way to test traffic on certain niches or keywords you're thinking of running without putting much work into it otherwise. These are just some examples of benefits (but not all of them).
Disbenefits of Direct Linking
The disbenefits usually (but not always) outweigh the benefits of direct linking (in most affiliates' opinions), and perhaps this is the reason why most people prefer to build landing pages instead. While you don't have to have a webhost to utilize Direct Linking nor design your own page, if others are direct linking for the same offer and site, you guys are competing on bidding for the same display URL meaning bids can be several times higher, especially if its a hot offer you are promoting. Rather, if you own your own landing page designed on your own domain (or even iframe the offer), there is no competition for the same display URL and typically your bid prices will be lower (depending on your quality score (QS) and a few other factors which we'll discuss in another tutorial later). And since the search engines typically only want to display one unique display URL at any given time, it puts a limit on what DL can do in this case.
In addition, Direct Linking can sometimes give you a bad quality score or is instantly disapproved because it is not allowed. Sometimes the offer page or site you're sending traffic too is very poorly designed and may not convert as well without a landing page first to highlight all the quality and positives prior to sending the user straight from your text ad to the offer page. There are several other factors but these are some to give you an idea. Regardless, there is still a lot of money to be made using direct linking and this method should not be overlooked by any means.
How Direct Linking Works
Simply follow all the steps in the 202 tracking setup for direct linking and it should automatically route traffic directly to the advertiser's offer page. Since we are not using any landing page, skip step 4 and step 6 of the setup. Just make sure you have steps 1-3 completed.
Once you reach step 3, make sure that when you enter your affiliate URL, you enter the appropriate SubID syntax. For some network reference, check out subids.com. Step 5 is text ads. This is the adcopy you use for your campaign. This step is for your own reference and is optional if you don't want to set it up. Lastly, grab your destination URL from step 7 and make sure you select the direct link options as shown in the screenshot below:
If you are having trouble setting up any of the steps, please refer to our video tutorial on Basic Direct Linking Setup for further visual assistance. If that doesn't help, you can always post questions in our Affiliate Marketing Forum where forum members and 202 staff members are more than willing to help answer any questions you may have.