How to cloak affiliate links? You’ve probably often wondered what to do with a strange link you just generated in an affiliate program.
The term link cloaking may sound weird to you and probably some of you don’t know what it means.
Link cloaking is quite common and important especially when it comes to affiliate marketing.
If you’re promoting affiliate programs, you probably know how much competition you have to face.
Every dollar you earn requires a lot of work and effort from your side, meanwhile, there are often cases of “stolen” links, which can mean lost commissions for you.
However, there are other reasons why you should cloak your affiliate links.
That’s why it’s a good idea for you to become more familiar with this concept and know when and how to do it.
Why is it important to cloak affiliate links?
Affiliate links were initially masked to “fool” search engines. Developers of sites that made money from affiliate links tried to hide this fact from the search engine.
That’s how it was in the past. Today, search engine algorithms are rather advanced enough that they probably distinguish between these types of links.
That doesn’t change the fact that it’s worth masking links for other reasons as well.
Affiliate link management
One of them is the easy management of affiliate links.
Let’s say you’ve been blogging for a while and have a fairly large number of posts in which you promote affiliate links.
You get a notice from the publisher that the links to the offer are changing and need to be updated. Or you simply found out that another affiliate program offers better commissions for a particular product and you want to move to it.
Modifying each link manually would be very time-consuming. With plugins or other masking tools, you can manage your links from one place.
All you have to do is change the affiliate address in the masked link to the new one in your dashboard.
The modification itself will take just a few clicks and the link will automatically change in all the locations where you have applied it.
It does not matter if there are 10 or 100 links to be changed.
Reporting and tracking of cloaked links
Another benefit of link cloaking is the ability to report and track links.
Most plugins often have a built-in click counter in addition to the cloaking feature.
In this way you know which links users are most likely to click and what they are interested in on your website.
Tracking is very useful and even necessary when you promote products using paid advertising campaigns.
When spending money on advertising you need to know exactly which are the most effective and which links bring you the most revenue.
In this case, however, you will have to use often paid versions of cloaking tools, because free solutions do not offer full capabilities and do not provide all the detailed information you need to effectively and consciously run marketing campaigns.
Cloaked links look better
It is a common situation that affiliate links generated in affiliate programs are often very long and incomprehensible. Users are not very eager to click on them.
You can quickly change this by cloaking and creating attractive and easy-to-remember links.
As you probably know trust is a key factor in e-commerce. It refers not only to you and your site but also to the links you place on it. You don’t want to raise any doubts in your reader’s minds before they click on an affiliate link.
By cloaking, your links will be shorter, prettier, and easier to remember. They will be more recognizable and associated with your brand.
This is especially important when it comes to affiliate marketing.
By presenting a clean and understandable affiliate link, you will not raise any suspicion from your blog readers.
This situation also applies to placing affiliate links in emails. Our message may be considered spam by the email client when we place a classic affiliate link in it. After cloaking, the problem disappears.
Link cloaking vs. shortening
At this point, you may be wondering if link cloaking means the same thing as link shortening.
At first glance, it may seem that these two operations are similar.
However, there are some differences.
Link shortening is only meant to shorten the link. Apart from the fact that the link itself becomes shorter and slightly easier to remember or share – nothing else really changes.
When you click on the shorter link, you will simply be redirected to the first, longer one.
Link cloaking, apart from the fact that it often leads to shortening the link, also allows you to hide some important information – e.g. the name of the affiliate program you are promoting.
More importantly, it also allows you to change the structure of the link, which will no longer be associated with an external page but will be more related to your site and your brand.
Protect links from malware
So a properly cloaked link will not only look better but will also have a positive impact on the commissions you receive.
The most important thing for you, as a person promoting products online, is that link masking also allows you to hide the ID that you have assigned to your affiliate program account.
This is crucial because malware can infect your computer and replace your affiliate links. This way your hard work goes to waste because even if someone purchases through your link, you will not get the commission.
You know yourself that in the world of internet marketing there is very high competition and effective promotion of products and making money online requires good tactics, a good plan, and a lot of hard work.
Therefore, it is worth ensuring that the effects of your work are not in vain.
Does link cloaking affect SEO?
Another point worth mentioning is the impact of link cloaking on your site’s search engine position. In other words – does link cloaking have an impact on SEO?
A common attitude is that masked links negatively affect a site’s position in search results.
However, you have nothing to fear. Link cloaking does not affect the SEO of your website or blog.
Link cloaking improves the click-through rate.
And as you know, users are much more likely to click on links that they know and know what to expect when they click on them.
How to cloak links for free?
How to cloak affiliate links on WordPress?
Cloaking links is not difficult and you can do it quickly using both paid tools and those available for free.
There are a lot of solutions on the Internet allowing you to cloak links.
These can be appropriate plugins or special software.
If you run a blog based on WordPress and this is how you promote products from affiliate programs, you can use a ready-made solution – a Pretty Links plugin.
This is one of the basic plugins that you should install at the beginning of your blogging adventure.
I wrote more about useful plugins for beginners here.
Pretty Links plugin allows you to mask links in both paid and free versions.
Pretty Links Plugin – Easy Link Cloaker
At first, you should install the plugin.
To do this, go to the Plugins tab and click Add New.
Type Pretty Links in the search box.
Then click Install Now and Activate.
Once the plugin is activated, we are greeted with an interesting welcome screen and a new Pretty Links tab will appear on the side in your WordPress dashboard.
To create a masked link, click Add New.
The first thing you should do is choose the type of redirect.
To start with, you can choose a temporary 307 redirect. This is a good option if you are not sure if your target links will change yet.
This redirect is not treated by browsers and robots as permanent and final.
Next, in the Target URL box, enter the address to which you want to redirect the one generated from Pretty Links.
Let it be a link generated with one of the affiliate programs.
This link is quite long and is an incomprehensible string of characters. For visitors of your site, it will look strange, and certainly, it will not be associated with your blog.
Users may even sometimes be afraid to click on such a link because they may fear malware.
In the last step, create your first pretty links – simply add the chosen slug to your domain and click Update.
It can be for example a product name.
You can copy the link and check if it works properly.
Doesn’t it look much better?
It is easier to remember and share.
How else can I cloak the links?
Cloaking links using the Pretty Links plugin, is a very common solution for WordPress users.
However, it is not the only way.
There are also other plugins that allow you to mask links effectively:
- ThirstyAffiliates Affiliate Link Manager
- Easy Affiliate Links
Thirsty Affiliates plugin is also a very popular and frequently used one. It is also a great tool that will give you full control over your affiliate links.
The main advantage of this plugin is that it does not contain any unnecessary add-ons, thus it does not slow down your site.
Like Pretty Links, it is available in both free and paid versions.
The most important features of the Thirsty Affiliates plugin:
- stats tracking,
- easy link management,
- link cloaking,
- link uncloaking,
- automatic linking to specific keywords,
- integration with google analytics.
The Easy Affiliate Links plugin, on the other hand, in addition to the ability to cloak links, also provides:
- assigning categories to links,
- quick links export/import from XML and CSV files,
- compatibility with both classic WordPress editor and new Gutenberg block editor,
- compatibility with Amazon – no masking of specific links,
- automatic checking for broken links with e-mail notifications,
- and much more.
An interesting solution is offered by Yoast, known for its Yoast SEO plugin.
Instead of installing the plugin, you can use a special script consisting of three files to mask links:
The last file is optional. The first two files are sufficient for the script to work properly.
You should also create a folder from where you’ll serve your redirects. It is usually named /out/.
This solution is faster and independent of WordPress.
Running this script requires some skills, so for people who have no experience in this field, the plugin seems to be more friendly and easier to use.