Using redirects to hide your affiliate links can significantly impact the success of your affiliate website.
When somebody reads your content and hovers the mouse over your affiliate link, the length of the URL can influence their decision to click.
An obvious affiliate link with a long URL can put people off and reduce the chances of a conversion.
That’s not the only reason why you should be using redirects to hide your affiliate links.
In this article, we’re going to cover the benefits of link cloaking and the different methods and tools you can use to set up redirects.
Let’s dive in.
- What is Link Cloaking?
- When and Why is Link Cloaking Needed?
- Why Create Redirects to Hide your Affiliate Links?
- Does Cloaking Affiliate Links Improve Your Google Ranking?
- 3 Ways to Hide Affiliate Links through Redirects
- 7 WordPress Plug-Ins You Can Use to Hide Affiliate Links
What is Link Cloaking?
Link cloaking is the process of changing your affiliate link’s URL to make it more appealing to your website visitors.
Let’s take a look at what a “naked” affiliate link looks like:
An affiliate link is so long because it contains extra information.
It tracks your website visitors’ clicks so that you are credited with the sales you help to generate.
Cloaking your affiliate link makes it shorter and more attractive to website visitors.
Here’s an example of what a cloaked affiliate link looks like:
The cloaked affiliate link performs the same action as the naked affiliate link.
When a visitor clicks on the link, they are taken to the merchant’s website to complete a purchase.
When and Why is Link Cloaking Needed?
Generally, It’s always a good idea to use redirects to cloak your affiliate links.
However, some affiliate programs do not allow their affiliate partners to use link cloaking.
For example, Amazon Associates have strict rules that forbid their affiliates from using redirects.
If you cloak your Amazon affiliate links, you’ll quickly find yourself in trouble with Amazon and potentially banned from the affiliate program.
The majority of affiliate programs allow their affiliates to cloak links, but you should always check the affiliate terms before you set up redirects.
Why Create Redirects to Hide your Affiliate Links?
Here’s a rundown of the top reasons you should use link cloaking to hide your affiliate links:
Cloaked Links Look More Professional
When you publish an affiliate link on your site, your unique affiliate ID is used to track the internet users you send to the merchant’s website.
When somebody clicks on your affiliate link, a cookie is used to track the click, and you receive credit for the sale and earn a commission.
The problem with a naked affiliate link is that it looks untidy and unprofessional.
A lengthy URL is unusual, and it makes people think before they click your affiliate link.
It gives the impression that you are tracking every move of your visitors, that you’re in it for the money…
...And you might not have the best interests of your audience at heart.
Although you should always abide by the affiliate program’s rules and make it clear you are an affiliate if necessary, an obvious affiliate link can harm your conversion rate.
A cloaked link looks safer, more professional, and more natural.
Improve Affiliate Link Security
Cloaking your links can help improve your affiliate links' security, reducing the chances of any bad actors using malware to hijack your commission.
When a visitor clicks on your affiliate link, malware can replace your unique tracking ID with the tracking ID of another affiliate.
When the visitor completes the purchase, the sale is registered to the second affiliate account...
...And you lose out on the commission you should have earned.
Affiliate networks have improved their security a lot over the years, but some bad actors are still out there looking to steal the commission of hard-working affiliates.
Bypass Ad Blockers
The rise of ad blockers has become a big problem for advertisers and affiliates.
Over 27% of U.S. internet users utilize ad-blocking software to avoid adverts online.
These ad-blocking browser extensions can suppress your webpage because it contains affiliate links.
You can stop this problem from happening by cloaking your affiliate links.
When your affiliate link points to a page on your site before redirecting the user to the merchant's website, ad blocking software won’t see the affiliate link as an ad.
If you use banner ads to promote your affiliate offers, you can use plug-ins like AdSanity to ensure that your ads are hosted on your site, rather than hot-linked from the merchant’s website.
Save Time with Efficient Link Management
If you set up redirects, you can save yourself a lot of time if your merchant changes their affiliate network or linking system.
Rather than going through every webpage and editing each link one by one, you can make changes all at once.
The same goes for any links to a merchant that doesn’t currently have an affiliate program.
For example, let’s say you start an affiliate site about running shoes.
If there’s a top brand in your niche that is popular with your audience, you’re still going to want to mention them even if they don’t have an affiliate program.
If you cloak your links every time you link to the running shoe brand, you can easily set up affiliate links if the brand decides to start an affiliate program later.
Does Cloaking Affiliate Links Improve Your Google Ranking?
As long as you publish content that provides value to your audience, you don’t need to worry too much about being penalized by Google for using affiliate links.
Google engineer Matt Cutts talked about how Google handles affiliate links at a SEM Expo Conference, and Google’s John Mueller spoke about the same issue in a Google Webmaster Hangout.
The critical thing here is adding value.
If you have a page with thin content and ten affiliate links, you’re going to struggle to rank high in search results.
Some affiliates still think it’s good SEO practice to cloak your affiliate links.
When you cloak your affiliate links and add no-follow tags, Google’s crawl spiders won’t follow your affiliate links.
If you’re worried about your affiliate links affecting your ranking, link cloaking can put your mind at ease.
3 Ways to Hide Affiliate Links through Redirects
Redirecting Affiliate Links with AffiloTheme
AffiloTheme is Affiliorama’s very own WordPress theme.
It’s a theme designed specifically for affiliate marketing websites.
AffiloTheme makes it super easy to create redirects for your affiliate links.
The first step is to click on the “Affiliate Redirects” option in your WordPress dashboard.
Click on “Add New Redirect.”
Create the link name you want to go on the end of your affiliate link URL.
Type in the name exactly as you want it to appear in your URL.
For example, if you want your affiliate link to look like this:
You need to enter “rocketspanish.”
The final step is to enter your affiliate link URL and click on “Create” to save your redirect.
Once your redirect is set up, you can place shortened affiliate links in your content, newsletters, etc...
...When somebody clicks on the link, they will be redirected through your new affiliate link to the merchant’s page.
Using PHP Redirects
You can manually set up a redirect by pasting a snippet of code into a blank web page…
...And using that page to redirect your traffic to your affiliate link.
Here’s the code you need to paste into your blank web page.
<?php header( 'Location: http://www.youraffiliatelink.goes.here.com' ) ; ?>
You need to paste this code directly into a blank webpage.
The page shouldn’t contain anything else other than the code.
You’ll also need to save the page as a .php file.
Meta Tag Redirects
You can also use a meta refresh to redirect your affiliate links.
A meta refresh redirect isn’t used much these days and should only be used if you can’t use a PHP redirect.
This method works by placing code into the header of your webpage.
The code will cause the page to refresh after a specified time and redirect the user to a new URL.
The code looks like this:
<meta HTTP-EQUIV="REFRESH" content="0; url=http://www.youraffiliatelink.goes.here.com">
The URL is the affiliate link you want to send your visitors to…
...And the “content= “0;” refers to the number of seconds the page should wait before redirecting.
Using a “0” means the page will redirect instantly.
7 WordPress Plug-Ins You Can Use to Hide Affiliate Links
There are several free and paid WordPress plug-ins you can use to cloak your affiliate links.
Some of these plug-ins come with useful features to help you manage your links and make more money from your affiliate promotion.
In no particular order, here’s a rundown of the top 7 link cloaking WordPress plug-ins.
ThirstyAffiliates is one of the top WordPress plug-ins for affiliate marketers.
It has everything you need to cloak your affiliate links…
...And some great features to make it easy to add affiliate links to your site and manage your links from a single dashboard.
You can easily add affiliate links to your post and pages using the intuitive post editor interface.
Affiliate links can be edited from a single dashboard so you can cloak all your links for an affiliate offer at once.
There’s also a feature that enables you to add affiliate links to your selected keywords automatically.
You can choose the URL to cloak your links, set up automatic no-follow links, access detailed statistics on your link performance…
And even geo-target your affiliate offers to users from different locations.
Pricing: From $49.00 per year
2. Pretty Links
Pretty Links is a WordPress link cloaking plug-in with some great features to help you manage your affiliate links.
You can shorten your links, set up redirects, and add no-follow tags.
But PrettyLinks offers much more than that.
You can access detailed statistics on your link performance and automatically replace keywords with affiliate links.
There’s even an auto-posting feature that enables you to automate your posting on twitter.
As soon as you publish a new post on your site, Pretty Links can post a customizable message to your twitter accounts.
Pricing: From $49.00 per year
3. Easy Affiliate Links
Easy Affiliate Links is an intuitive WordPress plug-in that makes it super easy to cloak your affiliate links.
You can set up redirects, shorten links, add affiliate links to your webpages, and manage your links from a single dashboard.
There’s also an option to leave some affiliate links uncloaked - very handy if you promote Amazon products on your site.
It doesn’t have some of the more advanced features you’ll find on ThirstyAffiliates and Pretty Links, but it has everything you need to manage your site’s affiliate links.
The premium version comes with detailed statistics and a broken link checker feature.
Pricing: Free ($29.00 for the premium version)
4. WooCommerce Cloak Affiliate Links
WooCommerce Cloak Affiliate Links is a plug-in for affiliate sites that use the WooCommerce platform.
You can use the plug-in to cloak your affiliate links automatically.
Affiliate link URLs can be shortened in the “Permalinks” page in your WordPress dashboard.
Once you have created the shortened URL, you can insert it into posts and pages.
You can also choose the redirect type for your cloaked links.
This plug-in doesn’t have as many features as some of the others on the list, but it’s a free plug-in tailor-made to cloak links on WooCommerce sites.
5. Simple URLs
Simple URLs is an intuitive link management WordPress plug-in.
You can shorten your affiliate links, set up redirects, and manage your URLs from your WordPress dashboard.
Once the plug-in is installed, it adds a new post type option to your WordPress dashboard.
In the new post, you can create new posts, set up 301 redirects, and manage your URLs.
Simple URLs also stores the number of clicks your links receive so you can easily monitor your links’ performance.
EasyAzon is one of the best WordPress plug-ins for affiliate marketers promoting Amazon products.
This plug-in allows you to easily cloak your affiliate links, set up no-follow attributes, and even set up geo-targeting to show affiliate offers based on the website visitor’s location.
There’s also a feature that enables you to display a popup whenever a visitor hovers over one of your affiliate links.
This can be an excellent way to provide the extra nudge your visitor needs to convert and click on your affiliate link.
You can use the link cloaking feature to cloak affiliate links, but it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t cloak your amazon links.
Pricing: From $47.00 per year
7. URL Shortener Pro
URL Shortener Pro is a well-equipped link cloaking plug-in created by MyThemeShop.
It enables you to set up redirects, cloak your links, and create short custom URLs.
You can also create categories to sort your affiliate links into related groups.
The standout benefit of using this plug-in is the minimal impact it makes on your site speed.
MyThemeShop claims that URL Shortener Pro is up to 40% faster than any other link cloaking plug-in.
URL Shortener Pro comes with some impressive reporting features to help you measure the performance of your links.
It also has advanced targeting features that enable you to target users according to their location and device type.
There is a free version of the plug-in, but you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version to access the full range of features.
Pricing: Free ($19.00 for the premium version)
Cloaking your affiliate links can be a time-consuming task…
...But it’s not a task that you can afford to neglect.
If you ignore link cloaking, your conversion rate can take a hit.
You’ll leave your affiliate links open to bad actors trying to steal your commission…
...And you’ll create more work in the long run if you need to edit your links later.
You can speed up the process of cloaking your links using AffiloTheme or utilizing the tools we mentioned above.
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