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=> linkcounter.com is generic -- it doesn't identify your program so there is an element of "surprise" that will help you get click. People don't click if they think they've seen it before.
=> It's cheat-proof. It is still a URL with a number on end, but if anyone tries to take numbers off this, they'll just get an error or go to linkcounter. If they knock numbers or reference off your affiliate URL, then they may still end up at program, but you won't earn commission.
=> You will find out if anyone actually IS clicking!
Track a whole ad campaign
If you use different linkcounter links, for same URL, but with different ads or for same ads in different ezines, (give each one or "campaign" a title that you'll remember), you'll find out which ones work best so you know where to advertise again or if you should maybe "tweak" your ads for better results.
You can also use this on your website, but you don't need to have one to use it. You can also enter an amount, say if you are in a program that pays you 10 cents per click and it will add them up so you can double-check this against your commission check.
This doesn't mean you should NOT get your own website, domain and home on web. If you have that already, then you can use this to see how many people are clicking away to certain links within your site, both internal or external. Your log files should tell you where people go internally, but if you don't have them, here's an alternative. Your log files don't send you email each day as this does!
You'll also find a similar concept at: http://www.roibot.com/
Or you can do your own ad tracking. At most simple, give each campaign it's own page with a (preferably invisible) counter on.
If you do have access to log files on your site, "key" your URLs with references of your choice so you can count responses to each. Or set up different redirect pages for each ad to see which ones get hits. You can get code for a redirect page, here: http://www.tucats-design.com/eacz/code.html
Just don't leave it to chance, or you'll spend more time chasing your own tail than actually making progress or PROFIT.
Pamela Heywood is webmistress of http://www.tucats-design.com - Building Your Online Business Instinctively. Subscribe to the weekly TuCats Mewsletter (sic) mailto:email@example.com and get regular FREE hints, tips, articles and resources.