Affiliate Link Cloaking: Importance & Benefits For Affiliate Marketers

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we recommended. Read more about Affiliate disclosure here.

Affiliate Link Cloaking
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Want to make passive income from the internet? Try affiliate marketing. It’s one of the best ways anyone can earn money online.

All you have to do is recommend other people’s products and the money will start rolling into your bank account. If you’re promoting a product that has a re-occurring subscription, then you can get a commission for a lifetime (unless the customer cancels their subscription).

You can read about the basics of affiiliate marketing here. If you want to learn everything there is to know about affiliate marketing; you can grab this popular eBook.

But affiliate marketing is not as easy as I’m making it sound. There are lots of people struggling to make it in that field. That’s why it has become so competitive.

It is therefore not surprising why the market is filled with lots of scammers. Lots of unsavory tactics have been devised to rip off innocent marketers from the commissions they’ve worked so hard to get.

Commission theft commonly involves dishonest companies setting up malware in people’s web browsers to replace our unique affiliate links with their link, thereby give these hackers our commissions.

The good news is that a defensive weapon has been developed:

  • Link cloaking.

What Is Link Cloaking?

Link cloaking is the act of shortening the ugly affiliate link for higher CTR and to track users click.

After cloaking the link, a redirect will be performed so that the marketer’s commission is well-protected.

Affiliate links are usually lengthy, difficult to remember, and display an affiliate ID:

  • http://www.vendor.com/products/?product_id=111&affiliate=111

You can see how ugly and untidy the link above is. Link cloaking helps shorten this ugly link and convert it into a branded URL:

  • http://www.yoursite.com/refer/productname
Link Cloaking Example
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Notice that the second link looks better, more organized, and is branded. Instead of just using an affiliate link as is, it’s better to make it look more professional with cloaking.

Why You Should Always Cloak Your Links

Affiliate marketing cloaking
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Here are the main reasons why cloaking your affiliate links is advisable.

1. Commission loss is reduced:

Many affiliate marketing networks often warn their users against malware that can replace one affiliate link with another affiliate link in an attempt to steal commissions.

The truth is, there is nothing much you can do about this, except partner with some networks that discourage these types of affiliates (such as Commission Junction and ShareASale).

Someone can also come to a product page and replace your affiliate link on the address bar with their link. A network like ClickBank that permits users to buy via their link is known for this kind of obnoxiousness. If you belong to such networks, then the only way to prevent this is to cloak your affiliate links.

There are also some consumers that, once they perceive they’re about to click on an affiliate link, will simply chop off the affiliate part and go directly to the main site to make their purchase. I call these people “bypassers”. The best way to prevent this is, you guessed it, to cloak your links.

2. Cloaking helps in tracking:

You know how important it is to track every metric on your site, including your affiliate clicks. Some link cloaking plugins are excellent at this. It will track all the clicks to your affiliate links which will help you determine which posts, pages, or parts of your blog’s layout are driving the most commissions.

3. Increases click-through rate (CTR):

As I mentioned earlier, affiliate links are usually ugly and displeasing to the eyes.

The fact that it doesn’t look good is reason enough for a lot of people to run away. By making them look prettier, and branded to your site, people will be more inclined to click.

4. Increases email delivery rates:

Including affiliate links in your emails often triggers spam filters which might result in your email being blacklisted. It’s always advisable to cloak your affiliate links if you include them in an email marketing campaign.

5. Easy link management: 

If your affiliate network changes the links to its products or decides to close down their business, it will be a very tedious job to replace all of your affiliate links.

Luckily, using a simple link cloaking WordPress plugin can make this process a piece of cake. You only have to change the link in one place, and it will be modified automatically everywhere. Easy, right?

6. Beats ad blockers:

There is a browser extension called AdBlock Plus which prevents internet users from seeing ads. Many of your users might be using this extension on their browser.

Ad blockers look at affiliate links to find out if an image is an ad banner or not. Cloaking your links will usually make the banner appear (provided it’s not hot-linked from the merchant’s domain).

7. Easy to no-follow affiliate links:

Google often frowns at do-follow affiliate links, and this can make them penalize your blog which will affect your search ranking.

It would be very time-consuming to manually add the rel=nofollow attribute every time you create an affiliate link. By using a link cloaking plugin, this process is easy.

The good thing is that once you cloak your affiliate link, you can re-use that link over and over again on your blog posts, and it will still be cloaked.

How To Cloak Affiliate Links (Free WordPress Plugins)

How to cloak Affiliate Links
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Today, many plugins on the internet will help you in cloaking your affiliate links. The most popular ones include

1. Pretty Link Lite

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Pretty Link Lite is a free WordPress link cloaking plugin that makes your link cloaking a breeze. It helps you easily manage your affiliate links. With this plugin, you can also auto-add the no-follow tag to affiliate links, shorten links, and redirect them appropriately.

2. Easy Affiliate Links

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This is another easy to use link cloaking plugin for affiliate marketers. It allows you to cloak your links as well as add and manage all of your affiliate links from one dashboard.

3. Geni.us

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You can also use services like Geni.us which cost about $9/month & offer many advanced features such as geo-location-based redirection. I use it for Amazon affiliate links & I highly recommend it to you as well.

Conclusion

Some people might argue that cloaking links is a deceptive practice, but I don’t think so. It’s all about what you have in mind and how you go about it.

I could even argue that cloaking affiliate links is more honest than leaving them naked.

But in case you’re nervous about this practice, there are some measures you can take to ensure you don’t put off your readers.

Have a full affiliate disclosure policy on your site that discloses all of your affiliations and your linking practices.

I have nothing against using cloaked links because I know how important this process is as an affiliate marketer.

If you’re serious about affiliate marketing and you want to protect your commissions, then I would highly recommend you make it a habit to always cloak your affiliate links. This will end up saving you a lot of trouble.

What do you think about link cloaking? Do you think it’s deceptive? What plugin(s) do you use to manage your cloaked links? Let me know in the comments below!

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Affiliate Link Cloaking
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Authored By
A Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

33 thoughts on “Affiliate Link Cloaking: Importance & Benefits For Affiliate Marketers”

  1. I used “WP Dynamic Links” for quite a while, and I really liked it. Then the author suddenly decided to abandon it — and left with no way to easily download a list of the hundreds of links that I had in there, which is a major bummer.

    So one REALLY important thing to consider when evaluating a link-cloaking plugin is how easy it is to export all of your links. A second consideration is how easy it is to *import* those links.

  2. Vishwajeet Kumar

    Hey Harsh,

    Thanks for this awesome post. I am also using affiliate link cloaker plugin for cloaking my affiliate links. It is really very helpful to cover the naked affiliate links which looks ugly and it also help us to generate good sales too.

  3. Hi Harsh,
    I have never heard about link clocking but that the great way to avoid scammer and track our leads. I have heard about these scam but never know this.
    Thanks for helping and to share valuable information.

  4. My understanding is its against Amazon’s policy to cloak links. I use EasyAzon which can cloak links but don’t use that feature. Is it ok to use cloaking feature in EasyAzon?

  5. pranita deshpande

    Thanks Harsh ,for sending this post. Very nice .I clocked links successfully in my file editor but when i am creating ROBOTTXT file i get stacked there as there is not option of save changes & edit section on my site . Please i am waiting for your suggestion.

  6. pranita deshpande

    HI Harsh,

    I forgot to tell that i received one mail from amazon that ”don’t cloak affiliate links.” What is this? Is it any fraud ? Please reply me quickly in my mail.

    1. Curiously, Amazon furnishes its own affiliate link cloaker, which I have used extensively.

      To see the Amazon link cloaker, log into your affiliate account and go to any product. Along the top, you should see “Amazon Associates SiteStrip”. Using that, you can get a text link, an image link, or a combined link.

      I’m a bit puzzled by Amazon telling you not to cloak links when they supply a link-cloaker… The only problem with their cloaker is the lack of the ability for you to track the clicks.

      I wonder how they would be able to tell that you are using your own link-cloaker, anyway.

  7. Karim Toulba | Growcheap

    Thanks Harsh for the awesome post. I’m using Easy affiliate links and I’m very happy with their free version especially after their recent update.

    One question: can you tell us more about the correct approach to use affiliate links without raising up Google penalizing alerts ?

    Thanks

  8. Good reminder for new affiliate marketers. I’ve been cloaking for years because tracking the clicks is what helps me find out what is not working or where I make the most money or clicks at/on.

  9. Thanks for sharing Link Cloaking tools. It’s an awesome tools for sharing link with a good looking. Sometimes link shorter doesn’t work for shorting affiliated link. Thanks again for blogging inspiration last year.

  10. Thanks for the info!. I’ve seen your affiliate links as shoutmeloud.com/recommended/ Whuch plugin is used for that?

  11. Hi Harsh.
    Happy New Year.
    I am not into affiliate marketing.
    But I can understand
    From your post
    How important it is
    To cloak one’s affiliate links.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Best wishes and regards.
    Ved

  12. Thinh Nguyen Van

    I love Pretty Link. Once I create a cloaked affiliate, it has a handy copy. Thus, I easily paste that link in my post. Also, use the plugin to cloak affiliate link save me tons of time if I must update affiliate link. Instead of finding and replacing links in various posts, now I only need to update link in one place.

  13. Harsh, I’m really inspired by how all your tips, tricks and guides are just mind blowing that you can’t get such quality articles in the world if not on SHOUTMELOUD.
    You’ve helped so many millions and uncountable number bloggers in the world and also through this you gain the popularity and recognition that you’ve now in the world, to be honest a person that has attain such heights in life definitely we know that he would be a very busy person, but one thing is missing, let me just explain my point clearly, the reason I said one thing is missing is that you don’t answer some important comments, like someone asking you to explain or shed more light about something he wants to be sure about and know, but instead you just skip such comments and answer some that are less important than that, I know you’re a busy man that’ll be very hard for you to maintain all time and I believe you’re the most responsive blogger I’ll ever know, I can’t say you’re not trying with that because if I’m to score you I would surely score you 70% responsive to your audience but the remaining 30% is taken out because you don’t answer some important comment like direct question. But one last thing don’t be mistaken and say I’m your enemy, I’m 100% fans of SHOUTMELOUD because you helped me a lot in the way that I would never forget you in my life and all my lifetime work would be credited to you. Thank you.

    1. @Mama
      I agree with your point on not replying to all the comments, but this is only due to time issue. I try to reply as much as I could but with so many things its not possible for me to reply to all comments. This is where I let our other experienced users reply to comments.

      I don’t let others manage comments as my primary target is that what even information (Even limited) it should be authentic & comes from someone who has experience.
      I truly appreciate your honest comment. 🙂

  14. Pretty link lite is the best of them all. I have been using it since day one and will keep using it as long as I am into affiliate marketing.

  15. I Could be wrong, but for bloggers based in the US, this may be illegal because we have to disclose that we are using affiliate links on our pages. Maybe someone could enlighten me??

    1. Sherisse it is not illegal to cloak links in the US. You simply need to disclose that you use affiliate links per FTC guidelines. There is an article on this site about that also.

  16. Happy to know about cloaking , I don’t have knowledge about this topic.

    This blog aware me about link cloaking. Really informative Article.

  17. Link cloaking is an emerging topic to make passive money and this article has aptly explained the bit. Very useful from top to bottom. Full marks writer. Keep it up.

  18. Hi Harsh,
    Great info . Wondering “Thirsty Affiliates” is not in the popular list. You recommended this plugin in your affiliate ebook.

    Is “Thirsty Affiliates” not popular now ?

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