Why would you want to hide affiliate links?
If you know what cloaking affiliate links mean 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?
Why You Should Hide Affiliate Links
Google has a love-hate relationship with affiliate marketing.
- On one hand, affiliate marketing is a fantastic promotional strategy to reward passionate brand ambassadors.
- On the other, far too many abused affiliate marketing — usually in the form of creating “thin” content sites.
Why would you want to hide affiliate links?
- General cleanliness of your link structure
- Tracking and reporting using link cloaking tools
- Easier to remember when using them in other campaigns
Thin affiliate sites are ones displaying only a small portion of information. They tend to 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.
Let’s expand on these link cloaking items…
1. Easier to Manage 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.
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 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.
2. 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.
3. 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 a 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.
4. 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 Hide Affiliate Links in WordPress
As with most things in WordPress, this can be done through a plugin.
Two we love using are:
- Thirsty Affiliates
- Pretty Link
These link cloaking plugins provide the functionality you might need, in an easy to use form.
Let’s use Pretty Link as our example.
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
- 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.
So, should you hide affiliate links?
Cloaking keeps the URL clean and easy to track.
This is a huge relief once you begin promoting dozens of products and promotions.