Affiliate marketing is by far one of the best ways of earning a steady income online. This type of marketing requires links on your website that, if not careful, can look like spam. Unfortunately, a lot of the affiliate marketers leave their affiliate links exposed and do not know how to cloak them. This short, but concise article is going to teach you the proper ways of how to cloak affiliate links.
Learning how to cloak affiliate links is an important for every affiliate marketer out there. Cloaking your affiliate links will make them look a lot cleaner and will be easier to manage.
WHY SHOULD I CLOAK MY AFFILIATE LINKS?
There are several valid reasons of why everyone should cloak their affiliate links. Over the years, affiliate marketers cloaked their links to hide their affiliation with various publishers from Google and other major search engines. This no longer works. Google is the number one search engine for a reason.
Anyways, here are two reasons of why I always cloak my affiliate links:
1) EASE OF LINK MANAGEMENT:
In the beginning, it will not be a big deal to add and edit each affiliate link individually. However, as the number of links grows, managing all of your links is going to be a big inconvenience.
Now, imagine that you have hundreds of affiliate links on your website. It is going to take a while to edit these links in the event that the links become invalid or you are simply looking to run a different campaign and/or banner. With the right cloaking plugin, you will be able to add and edit various affiliate links from one centralized location.
2) CLEAN AND USER FRIENDLY LINKS:
Everyone hates ugly and lengthy affiliate links that are being provided by affiliate networks like Commission Junction, ClickBank and ShareASale. Your visitors and readers will hate such links as well. These standard uncloaked links may also affect your commissions as well (more experienced users will see that it is an affiliate link and may not click on it).
Cloaking your links properly will make the links look a lot cleaner. For example, pretend that I am an affiliate for Apple, selling iPhones. My cloaked affiliate link would look like this: http://www.rijalda.com/go/iphone.php as opposed to looking like a bunch of random letters and numbers.
Side Note – You can change the “iPhone” at the end of the link to whatever you want. I used it as an example only.
HOW TO CLOAK AFFILIATE LINKS USING A FREE SCRIPT?
If you do not have a budget for a premium WordPress plugin, I suggest cloaking your affiliate links using a simple PHP script. It is time consuming, but ultimately, has the same end result at the end. In order for this method to work, you must have access to your root directory and complete the following steps in order:
Step One – Create a folder, of your choosing, inside of your root directory from where you plan on serving your affiliate links. Popular folder names include go, recommends, out, try, visit and loves.
Step Two – Block the folder from step one above in your robots.txt file so that Google bots do not crawl and index it. You would insert the following code inside of the robots.txt file:
Disallow: /the name of the folder created in step one goes here/
Step Three – Inside of the folder create in step one, create a text .php file for every one of your affiliate links. For example, if you are an affiliate for Apple, selling iPhones, create a file named iphone.php inside of the folder in step one.
Step Four – Insert the following script inside of the file created in step three:
<?php header( ‘Location: your affiliate link goes here‘ ) ;?>
Your cloaked affiliate link should look something like this: http://www.yourwebsitename.com/go/iphone.php
Step Four – Repeat step three for every affiliate link.
HOW TO CLOAK AFFILIATE LINKS USING PREMIUM WORDPRESS PLUGINS?
Personally, this is my recommend method for cloaking affiliate links. Premium WordPress plugins make the process a lot quicker and much easier.
In addition, if you are not the code savvy type, cloaking affiliate links using one of the plugins below is going to be a better option. Yes, there are several free cloaking plugins as well, but I feel that they lack the necessary tracking capabilities.
I recommend the following cloaking plugins for WordPress websites:
2) LINK TRACKR
This is an all-in-one plugin that does several different things including cloaking links. It also has an advanced tracking and reporting section which is vital. Link Trackr is a great alternative to a PHP script.
This plugin allows you to manage, organize and cloak all of your links. It has several add-ons to further expand your cloaking practices. Thirsty Affiliates is a free WordPress plugin, however, it requires premium add-ons.
HOW TO CLOAK AFFILIATE LINKS – END SAY
Regardless of the method you plan on using, cloaking your affiliate links is a must for every affiliate marketer out there. While premium WordPress plugins make the process a lot easier, cloaking links via a free PHP script is going to work pretty well.
If you are serious about having friendly cloaked links, I recommend using the Pretty Link Pro plugin. However, the other two plugins are good as well.