If you know what cloaking affiliate links means then chances are you’ve been in the affiliate marketing game for a while now…
And if you don’t then here’s a quick explanation: Cloaking affiliate links, or hiding affiliate links is the practice of redirecting affiliate traffic through a normally looking URL instead of using the actual affiliate link.
So for example, if you’re an affiliate for some ClickBank product then your link can look similar to this:
Using such a link publically is fine, but you’re letting everyone know that this is an affiliate link. In some cases, it’s better to use a cloaked version of your affiliate link, which could look something like this:
First of all, it’s much better looking, and second of all, you can’t see that it’s an affiliate link right away.
So what the main reasons for hiding affiliate links are?
Benefits of Hiding Affiliate Links
The first thing worth mentioning here is the fact that Google doesn’t like affiliate links, and affiliates in general. What Google especially doesn’t like is something they call thin affiliate sites.
Thin affiliate sites are ones that display only a small portion of unique information, and focus entirely on getting someone to click an obvious affiliate link. Google thinks that such sites don’t bring much to the web, and that they shouldn’t get high spots in the search results.
One of the obvious indications of dealing with a thin affiliate site are direct affiliate links. If you cloak them, and additionally give them the “nofollow” attribute (Google doesn’t visit links that are marked as “nofollow”) then Google can’t see that your links are, in reality, affiliate links.
Easier to Mange for Link Building
Normally you don’t conduct link building campaigns using affiliate links, but sometimes you may choose to include an affiliate link as part of a guest post, or an article you’ve submitted to an article directory.
If you do this with a normal affiliate link then you have no control over your link once the article gets published. And if at that point the affiliate site goes down, or you start to experience any other problems that force you to switch affiliate programs then you can do nothing about your link.
If you’ve clocked it, however, then you can simply change the settings and point it to a completely different site or program. This way you keep your link, and you have full control over the exact address it redirects to.
Prevent Commission Stealing
More savvy internet users know what an affiliate link is. Actually, affiliate links are very easy to spot once you’ve seen a couple of them.
Picture this scenario. A visitor reads your marketing message and they’re convinced to take advantage of the product you’re promoting. But they notice that you’re using an affiliate link. Since they can see exactly what the link looks like, they can go to the affiliate program provider, signup themselves and then buy the product through their own affiliate link. This means that you don’t get a commission even though it was you who convinced that visitor to buy.
If your links are cloaked then every visitor gets redirected to the merchant’s page directly. This makes it a lot harder for them to locate the actual affiliate program the merchant is using.
People are Hesitant About Strange Links
If a visitor sees a link that’s just too suspicious they can simply decide not to click on it. This usually happens if, for example, you try to use an anchor text like: “domain.com” but set the link to its affiliate version, like: domain.com/?affid=asdjh5737&track=223h
When visitor sees this they will wonder why you’re making the link so complicated instead of just linking to the main domain.
If you’re an US-based affiliate then you have to adhere to the rules set by FTC and disclose all affiliations anyway, but the case still stands – complex links don’t look that credible.
You Get Your Own Tracking
Most link hiding/cloaking tools enable you to track the number of clicks your links receive. This gives you an additional tracking platform which you can test against what your affiliate program manager tells you.
The stats from cloaking platforms are always dependable and not biased … something that can’t be said about some tracking tools provided in various affiliate programs.
How to Cloak Links in WordPress
As with most things in WordPress, this can be done through a plugin. There are many plugins that you can use here, but we advise you to go with Pretty Link Lite.
This plugin provides all the functionality you might need, in an easy to use form.
To create a new cloaked link you just have to go to Pretty Link > Add New Link in your WordPress admin.
You’ll see a form where you can input the link you want to hide (your affiliate link), your desired final link, and you even get to choose the link settings, like whether you like the redirection to be marked as permanent or temporary (for affiliate links go with temporary – default setting), or whether the link should be “nofollowed” by default (recommended). After you have the form filled out click “Create” and that’s it.
From now on you can use your new cloaked link wherever you like, including your own site and every other place on the internet.
The practice of hiding (cloaking) links is one of the few that bring many benefits yet no downsides at all. Or maybe they do? At least we can’t come up with any, but if you have a different opinion then don’t hesitate to speak up in the comments.